Hello everyone. Today is a day of great rejoicing and celebration. Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. As Catholics, we believe that Mary, the Holy Mother of God, was preserved, by the grace of God, before-hand from all stain of original sin. As Pope Pius IX so beautifully said, in his infallible statement of 1854 concerning this dogma:
“The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the very first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin (Saint of the Day p. 339).”
Now, I am neither a theologian or a professor nor do I have any real teaching authority, however please allow me to offer some of my simple knowledge to unpack these powerful words.
“The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the very first instant of her conception–” Notice how unmistakable the Pope conveys this dogma, in this first phrase. He leaves no room for guessing or speculation. He states that from the very instant of her conception, was Mary preserved from original sin. The statement does not say moments or hours or even days after she was conceived was she preserved, but at the very instant of her conception was Mary preserved from the stain of original sin.
“by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race-” Holy Mary was granted a singular grace and privilege. This means that After the Fall, she alone would be offered this great gift of being conceived without the stain of original sin on her soul. And she, all by herself, did nothing to deserve or merit this enormous privilege. Mary was immaculately conceived “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race.” As the Mother of God, and our Mother, Holy Mary is just as dependant upon her Son, Jesus Christ, for her salvation as we are.
“was preserved free from all stain of original sin-” Mary was preserved, at her conception, from the stain of original sin. This meant that her judgment and intellect were untainted. Her conscience functioned as Adam and Eve’s did before the Fall – it did not have a tendency toward sin, rather it was balanced. This did not mean; however, that Mary couldn’t sin. Mary had a free will, just like all of us, and she freely chose God. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word (Luke 1:38a).”
Mary is our perfect example. She is “the Fairest Honor of our race.” She is “the White Dawn announcing His rising.” She is “the glory of Jerusalem and the Joy of Israel. The robe she wears is as white as spotless snow; her face is as radiant as the sun.” Mary is the “Immaculate Conception.”
As I mentioned above, Pop Pius IX made his infallible statement, concerning the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, on the 8th of December, 1854. In 1858, about four years later, Holy Mary appeared to a simple shepherdess in Lourdes, France, identifying herself as the “Immaculate Conception.” “I am the Immaculate Conception,” Our Lady told St. Bernadette Soubirous. In under a year, in October of 1859, Our Lady appeared again to a simple girl. This time, though, she appeared on the other side of the world, in Champion Wisconsin. To Sr. Adele Brise, Our Lady identified herself as: “The Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners.” Holy Mary gave Sr. Adele a mission to pray as well for the conversion of sinners and to instruct “the children of this wild country in what they need to know for salvation.”
Last year, on this day, Bishop David L. Ricken, D.D., J.C.L., made the following statement:
“It remains to me now, the Twelfth Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay and the
lowliest of the servants of Mary, to declare with moral certainty and in accord with
the norms of the Church:
that the events, apparitions and locutions given to
Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of
supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions
as worthy of belief (although not obligatory)
by the Christian faithful.”
He went on to encourage the faithful to “frequent this holy place as a place of solace and answered prayer.”
I heard this decree straight from his own lips. I served that Holy Mass as his Miter and Crosier Bearer.
It was incredible to attend this Mass – “A new chapter in the history of the Shrine” as another one of the servers put it. The moment seemed to transcend time. Though we were not present with Sr. Adele when she was gifted with the visions from her celestial visitor; though were not present when the chapel was miraculously spared the ravages of the Peshtigo Fire, we were present at this humble shrine (our “little shrine”) to hear that the “apparitions had received the full approbation of the Church. How wonderful! How beautiful! God be praised!