Celebrating the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother

lourdes-grottoTomorrow, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a holyday of obligation. You are welcome to join us for Mass at Saint John Bosco this evening at 7:00 pm, or on the holyday, Thursday, at 7:30 am in the morning, 12:00 noon, or 7:00 pm in the evening.

As we prepare for this Marian celebration, I vividly remember our parish pilgrimage in October that took us to the beautiful shrine of Lourdes. It was my first visit to this place that I can only describe as peaceful and sacred. The Grotto of the Apparition where Bernadette encountered the Blessed Mother is holy ground. A peaceful tranquility marks the place, with pilgrims of all ages and races deep in prayer. Many of them praying for a miracle in their life or in the life of someone that they dearly love. The candlelight pilgrimage on that Sunday evening was extremely moving, as we prayed the rosary in five different languages walking with hundreds of pilgrims throughout the grounds and singing “Ave Maria” – beginning and ended at the Grotto.

This little town is one of the most well-known pilgrimage sites in the Catholic world. Though hidden in a corner of France, Lourdes has a universal vocation to all humanity. It has lived this vocation since 1858 when the Blessed Mother, herself a model of humility sought out a humble sister in faith – Bernadette Soubirous.

Both Mary and Bernadette were sent by God, each in their own time and places, to bear a message of hope to the world. The initial skepticism of the local Catholic Church authorities served as a time of refinement of the great message of Lourdes that continues to resound throughout the world. Lourdes is a constant invitation to all men and women that we are all pilgrims on a journey of faith that leads us to Jesus.

At Lourdes, Mary revealed herself to the peasant girl, Bernadette, with the words: “Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou,” spoken in the local dialect of the girl – neither French or Spanish, but Provencal, that is translated, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The Immaculate Conception is a complex dogma that has interested theologians more than the faithful. Many people still wrongly assume that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Christ. In fact, it refers to the belief that Mary, by a special divine favor, was without sin from the first moment of her conception. Prepared by God from the very first moment of her life to receive Jesus Christ in her womb, God’s grace preserved Mary from sin from the womb to the end of her life – because of her role in the mystery of salvation as the mother of God. Her “yes” to the invitation to be the mother of Jesus was her continuing commitment to doing God’s will.

When we honor Mary under the title “Immaculate Conception,” we recognize in her a model of purity, innocence, trust, reverence, and respect – living peacefully aware of God’s presence in her life even when she didn’t understand all that her “yes” would entail.

While we were not conceived without sin as was Mary, and do not live our entire lives sinlessly as did Mary, we can, like Mary, choose to say “yes” to God’s will. We say yes to God when we put another’s well-being before our own wants; when we take time to hear God’s will for us through Scripture, through others, and through prayer and the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments. We say yes to God’s will when we let go of our fears and grow in awareness of God’s presence to us and within us.

I have to say that while I and the other pilgrims with me may have passed quickly through Lourdes, that holy place has left all of us changed forever. As we celebrate Mary under the title of “Immaculate Conception,” let us give thanks to God for the graces, blessings, messages and meaning of Lourdes. They continue to work many miracles throughout the world today


December 7th, 2016 |