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  At Quito, Ecuador, in the year 1594 of the 16th century, Our Lady made reference to Her Immaculate Conception as follows:  "The Pope's infallibility will be declared a dogma of the Faith by the same Pope chosen to proclaim the dogma of the mystery of My Immaculate Conception.  He will be persecuted and imprisoned in the Vatican through the usurpation of the Pontifical States and through the malice, envy, and avarice of an earthly monarch."

  At Lourdes, France, in the year 1858 of the 19th century, Our Lady made reference to Her Immaculate Conception when she said to Bernadette:  "Que soy era Immaculado Conception, (I am the Immaculate Conception)".

   At Amsterdam, Netherlands, in the year 1945, of the 20th century, Our Lady made reference to Her Immaculate Conception when she said: "Satan's hand is passing over the whole world, holding a die.  Do you know, Church, Community, what this means?  Satan is still the prince of the world.  He holds on to everything he can.  That is

why the Lady of All Nations had to come now, at this time.  For she is The Immaculate Conception and thus the

Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  These three thoughts in one.  Theologians, do you hear this well?"

  Our Evangelical brothers and sisters sometimes say to us:  "It may be that the titles given to Mary by the early Church -- New Eve, Mother of God, and Ever Virgin -- can be justified from Scripture.  But the Bible also tells us that God's plan of salvation was to rescue the world by His grace alone, through His Son Jesus alone, and not through anyone else's good works, not even those of His mother Mary,"

  Now, in a sense, Catholics do not really disagree with that.  The Church has always taught that we cannot do any good deeds at all that lead us even one step closer to salvation apart from divine grace.  The same holds true for Mary.  She did not cooperate with God's plan of salvation for the world by some personal effort all her own; rather, she was prompted, assisted, and strengthened to surrender to God's will every step of the way by His grace.  In fact, Catholics believe that everything good in Mary's Heart and everything good that she ever did was the result of God's grace working within her and through her, from the first moment of her existence until the day she was enthroned at the side of her Son as Queen of Heaven and on into eternity.  This doctrine that Mary's heart was full of grace from the very beginning of her life is called the doctrine of her "Immaculate Conception."

  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (entries 491-492):  "Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the first moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confessed, as Pope Pius proclaimed in 1854:  "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

  "The splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more excellent fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son."

  The "Immaculate Conception", therefore, means that from the first moment of her existence, Mary's soul was preserved from the effects of the fall of Adam and Eve, which means she was "full of grace' right from the start.  This special gift was given to her on the basis of the merits of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Since God exists beyond all time, and all times are present before Him, He can apply the graces of Christ's redemptive work to people living at any time in human history (for instance 1 Cor 10:4).   It was on this basis that He poured out graces upon the patriarchs and prophets even before the coming of the Savior.  He did so for Mary, too -- but uniquely, in her case, right upon the moment of her conception.

  In his book Mary's Journey, Father Louis Cameli explains how the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception tells us something about our own Christian journey:  "We can speak of a combined celebration taking place on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  We celebrate who Mary is through a unique gift of God, and who we are by reason of a similar gift ... We are saved or redeemed from original sin when we are baptized and make our profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  Mary was saved or redeemed by being preserved from original sin from the first moment of her conception ... The way God moved in Mary's life from the very moment of her conception is similar to the way He moves in our lives.  The Church's journey of faith with Mary brings us to a deeper understanding of the way God works in our lives."

  As disciples of Jesus, called to follow Him in everything, let us also honor His mother by celebrating God's special gift to her, Mary's Immaculate Conception," her "original grace."  After all, it was given to her, not just for herself, but for the good of the whole world, for with the aid of this grace Mary welcomed the Christ Child into the world for the salvation of us all.


PRAYER:  Father, You prepared the Virgin Mary to be the worthy Mother of Your Son.  You made it possible for her to share beforehand in the salvation Your Son Jesus Christ would bring by His death, and kept her without sin from the first moment of her conception.  Give us the grace by her prayers to live in Your presence without sin.  We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.


SOURCEMARY Who She is and Why She Matters, by Robert Stackpole, STD

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