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The Immaculate Conception

 

(10.5 minute read - Enjoy!)

When Garcia-Moreno1 fell under the blows of the assassins who struck him down out of hatred for Religion, a last flicker of light shone in his eyes as he murmured: “God does not die.” This is an extremely magnificent declaration of faith and hope. Truly, the Almighty cannot be vanquished!

Yet by choosing to manifest His abundant love through the work of Creation, it seems that the Lord suffered failure after failure. He created the angels to be companions of His infinite delights, yet many of them preferred to indulge their pride rather than enjoy the beatific joys of divine love.

He created our first parents for a happiness that far exceeds the most demanding expectations of the human heart. Yet they turned away from their Sovereign Benefactor out of ingratitude.

The Lord could not suffer what seemed to be a “double defeat.” Rather, He deserved a brilliant restitution. The incomparable Artist returned to work, conceiving the idea of an admirable creature whose beauty would far surpass man in the brilliance of his original innocence, and whose radiant perfection would outshine the light of the most splendid angels. When the time was fulfilled, He completed this masterpiece of His intelligence and love: He created the Virgin Mary.  The first privilege accorded her was her Immaculate Conception.

 

Blessed is the day the Queen of Heaven was conceived!

Our Lady of the Immaculate ConceptionWe must fully understand what this unique privilege means.

With the conception of Mary, the Most High did more than just condescend to obey the universal laws governing the coming of men into the world. He did not form Our Lady miraculously by virtue of the Holy Ghost as was later done with her divine Son.

Indeed, she had both a father and a mother. But the Lord, Who from all eternity had chosen Joachim and Anne to give life to the Queen of Heaven, had raised them to a great degree of holiness. Their noble mission places them so much higher than the other Saints that they undoubtedly deserve special homage.

We are too often unmindful of this, yet we could benefit by recognizing their sanctity, for these two great souls enjoy a powerful influence over the heart of their beloved daughter.

The privilege of the Immaculate Conception consists in Mary’s exemption from the fatal inheritance we carry into the world at birth. The same moment that gives life to our bodies gives death to our souls. We are born children of wrath—“natura filii irae.”2

 

Throughout our fleeting lives, we endure the heavy burden resulting from the fall of Adam.

Allowing ourselves to be seduced by error, we lack the self-mastery to resist the temptations that challenge us. Our corrupted flesh is seared by the abominable fire of concupiscence. Our hearts are rent by affliction, our bodies tortured by sickness. Finally, hideous death overcomes us—and we must suffer the supreme ignominy of the putrefaction that consumes our corpse and the worms that vie with one another for our remains!

How the curse from heaven due to Adam’s sin oppresses us! How understandable is the cry of anguish uttered by Job in his misery: “Let the day perish wherein I was born.”3

On the contrary, many, many times blessed was the day the Queen of Heaven was conceived! From the solemn moment when Our Lord created her soul and united it with her small virginal body, He made it, by the work of His powerful hands, to emerge all white, all radiant, all pure. Not a single minute, not a single second, not a single infinitesimal fraction of a second was this magnificent soul sullied by the stain of Original Sin. Not even for an infinitesimal fraction of a second could the serpent glare at Mary with a look of hateful pride nor covet her as his prey. Seeing this, the serpent recognized with overwhelming anger that the woman who had been promised had come, the immaculate one who would crush his head with her virginal heel.

Since Mary was preserved from Original Sin, it logically follows that she would not be subject to the consequences of that sin. Let us then contemplate how this is reflected in her virginal soul. No narrow-mindedness limited her intelligence, for hers was the most wise, penetrating, and enlightened intellect after that of Our Lord.

 

No weakness impaired her will, the most vigorous and ardent will ever created.

Our Lady of Miracles in RomeNo selfishness restricted her heart, the most all-encompassing, generous, and caring heart ever known after that of her Son.

This glory of her Immaculate Conception was reflected in her body. She did not experience the concupiscence that wreaks such havoc within us. Sickness did not harm her. Finally, unlike the rest of men, Our Lady was subject to neither pain nor bodily death. Nevertheless, God willed that she experience both suffering and death that she might know the same torments we suffer. With this store of shared experience, Our Lady’s compassion for us is all the more maternal and merciful.

We have so far studied only a small part of this great mystery. The Almighty did much more than create Mary in a state of grace like that of the angels and our first parents. He graced her soul with the sum of all virtues to such an imminent degree that our minds cannot grasp its splendor.

Theologians teach that from that first moment, the Blessed Virgin surpassed in perfection not only the highest angel, but all angels and saints put together.

Her incomparable beauty is such that the Holy Ghost exclaims in admiration: “Thou art all beautiful, O my love, and there is no blemish in thee”—Tota pulchra es et macula non est in te.4

When Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Catholic world cried out with joy. The cannons of Castel Sant’Angelo, where the pontifical flag still waved in Rome’s brilliant light, fired and announced the glad news to the world. All over the world, the faithful proclaimed their joy. In many big cities, homes were spontaneously decked with banners and illuminated with candles and lanterns.

Christian hearts understandably rejoiced in seeing another flower of glory adorn the crown of their Mother. Does this privilege of the Virgin Mary, however, communicate the same kind of moral well-being to our souls? Does it not rather elevate Our Lady to such great height that she appears even farther removed from our misery? Quite the contrary! 

Our Catholic consciences would be poorly schooled indeed if we did not find the Immaculate Conception of Mary as the very basis for her virtually infinite goodness.

All men are endowed with a fundamental generosity rendering them at certain times capable of the most admirable self-sacrifice. Those who survived battles can testify to the unfathomable heroism that can spring forth from the human soul. Indeed, how many young people have requested dangerous missions in the place of their older comrades? They knew the dangers involved yet proceeded to their deaths with smiles on their lips. They believed their sacrifice would deliver a father whose small children were also smiling in the distant purity of their cribs.

Unfortunately, many obstacles prevent the full maturing of such natural generosity, a magnificent vestige of our original state of beauty. We know these obstacles all too well from personal experience. Are our hearts not moved at the sight of another’s distress? Yet does not the bitter voice of self-interest all too often cover up the instinctive response which springs from the heart? Are we not often insensitive to our neighbor’s suffering because of our love of comfort and pleasure?

Our selfishness paralyses and often completely stifles the goodness of our hearts.

The Queen of Heaven knows no such pettiness! No selfishness can prevent her from merciful gestures of compassion and tenderness toward her children.

 

There is more. God formed the soul of Mary as the most faithful image of His adorable perfections.

God’s infinite goodness causes Him to fill us with more and more abundant blessings; indeed, this led the Incarnate Word to the supreme folly of the cross. Like her Son, the Blessed Virgin carries within her heart a ceaselessly burning fire of love for us. She would gladly sacrifice her life a thousand times over for our benefit.

Since she is a mere creature, her suffering on Calvary did not have infinite value like that of Jesus, but it did almost equal in intensity that of the Savior. That she did not die of sorrow at the foot of the cross is, in fact, a veritable miracle.

Does it not seem that Our Lady herself wanted to explain to us the relationship between her original purity and her goodness? Recall the miraculous grotto at Lourdes on the banks of the Gave, where she established the throne of her mercy. Prodigies occur without ceasing. How did the pure lady of the apparition answer when Bernadette asked her name? Joining her hands, her countenance lit with a most luminous smile, and lifting her eyes to heaven, she said with an expression of ineffable gratitude:

“I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Speaking thus, she implicitly told us:

“Let us join together in thanking the Most High for having preserved me from Original Sin. Since I am all pure, I am also all good.”

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

May these considerations inspire you to a practical and unshakable faith in Mary’s goodness.  With Saint Bernard, believe firmly that you will never invoke our Heavenly Mother in vain.

Confide the desires of your soul to her. She will fortify you in your temptations and give you a small spark of her love for Jesus. This spark will enkindle the sweet fire of divine charity in your soul.

Confide the cares of your heart to her. Are you hurt by moments of ingratitude or scorn, which can be so especially cruel when coming from the persons you love? Are you broken by sorrows that suddenly extinguish the joy of your meager existence?

Tell Mary your troubles; she will console you, and your tears of grief will turn into tears of gratitude.

 

Confide your material cares to her.

She will arrange everything according to your true best interests. In all of your difficulties, in every circumstance, at every moment, look to the gentle Star of the Sea, invoke Mary!—“Respice stellum, voca Mariam.”5

 


 Notes:

1. Gabriel Garcia-Moreno, president of Ecuador in the mid-nineteenth century, was martyred and died for the Faith by Freemasons after receiving Holy Communion in 1875. back to text
2. Ephes. 2:3. back to text
3. “Pereat dies in qua natus sum, et nox in qua dictum est: conceptus est homo.” (Job 3 :3). back to text
4. Canticle of Canticles, 4:7. back to text
5. Saint Bernard. Second sermon on the words of the Gospel “Missus est angelus Gabriel” (“The angel Gabriel was sent”). back to text

This devotional article is taken from Crusade Magazine, November-December, 1999; a Special Edition dedicated almost entirely to the Most Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the form of a work by Fr. Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent as a token of reparation for the many blasphemies and insults that are continuously hurled against them.

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 5, 2020

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do...

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July 5

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Her goodness went as far as raising her husband’s illegiti...

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St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth of Portugal known as “The Holy Queen” was born Isabel of Aragon in Zaragoza, Spain, the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon and Queen Constanza of Naples. She was named after her great aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

From childhood, having received a most Christian upbringing, she learned to practice self-discipline, mortification of wayward tendencies, the avoidance of sin and the pursuit of virtue, prayer and union with God’s holy will.

Beautiful, talented and good, she was sought in marriage by several European monarchs, and was ultimately betrothed by proxy at the age of thirteen to King Dinis of Portugal.

A year and a half later she arrived in Portugal to assume her responsibilities as queen. Although he was an able ruler, her husband had an irate temper and sinful habits. While he respected and revered his queen, he was unfaithful to her and had several illegitimate children.

Elizabeth bore the conjugal betrayal with exquisite patience and heroic magnanimity, praying continuously for her wayward spouse. She and Dinis had two children: Constanza and Alfonso.

The young queen started her day with Mass and prayer, and then proceeded to see to the governance of her palace. In the free moments she sewed and embroidered with her ladies for the poor, and personally tended to their needs. Afternoons were dedicated to the care of the elderly, the poor or anyone else in want.

Amazingly talented, Elizabeth mastered several languages, sang beautifully, and enjoyed a remarkable understanding of engineering and architecture. She herself designed and oversaw the building of several churches, monasteries and hospitals, developing her own “Elizabethan Style.”

One day while inspecting a construction site, a girl approached and gave her a bouquet of flowers. The queen then distributed the flowers, one to each of the workers saying: “Let’s see if today you will work hard and well for this pay.” The men reverently placed their flower each in his own satchel, only to find, at the end of the day, a gold coin in place of the flower.

In her city Elizabeth built hostels for the poor, a hospital, a house for repentant wayward women, a free school for girls, and a hospice for abandoned children. She built bridges in dangerous places, visited and procured doctors for the ill, and endowed poor girls for the convent or for marriage. She kept a beautiful tiara and wedding dress to lend to poor brides so they could “shine” or their special day. Her goodness went as far as raising her husband’s illegitimate children.

A great devotee of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Most Holy centuries before the dogma was declared; she obtained from the bishop of Coimbra the establishment of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, which was afterwards observed with great solemnity throughout the whole country.

A constant peacemaker, the holy queen ironed out many a conflict between bellicose rulers and nobles. Twice she reconciled her husband and son, on one occasion, even interposing her person between them in the battlefield.
In the end, Dinis died a most repentant man. In one of his poems he left his ultimate tribute to his ultimate queen:

God made you without peer
In goodness of heart and speech
As your equal does not exist,
My love, my lady, I thus sing:
Had God so wished,
You’d made a great king.  

After her husband’s death, Elizabeth took the habit of a Franciscan Tertiary and retired near a convent of Poor Clares which she had built, dedicating herself to the sick and the poor.

The saintly queen died at age sixty-five invoking Our Lady, and was canonized in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII who had vowed not to canonize anyone during his pontificate. He made the exception for Elizabeth at being promptly healed of a serious illness after praying to her.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. N...

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A Young Man and His Lady Love

In twelfth century England, a group of young men had gathered and were bragging of their various feats, as young men have done since the beginning of time.

The lively conversation went from archery to sword fighting to horsemanship, each trying to outdo the accomplishments of the others.

Finally, the young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

Thomas of Canterbury meant the most holy Virgin as the object of his affection, but afterwards, he felt some remorse at having made this boast. He did not want to offend his beloved Lady in any way.

Seeing all from her throne in heaven, Mary appeared to him in his trouble, and with a gracious sweetness said to him: "Thomas, what do you fear? You had reason to say that you loved me, and that you are beloved by me. Assure your companions of this, and as a pledge of the love I bear you, show them this gift that I make you."

The gift was a small box, containing a chasuble, blood-red in color. Mary, for the love she bore him, had obtained for him the grace to be a priest and a martyr, which indeed happened, for he was first made priest and afterwards Bishop of Canterbury, in England.

Many years later, he would indeed be persecuted by the king, and Thomas fled to the Cistercian monastery at Pontignac, in France.

Far from kith and kin, but never far from his Lady Love, he was attempting to mend his hair-cloth shirt that he usually wore and had ripped. Not being able to do it well, his beloved queen appeared to him, and, with special kindness, took the haircloth from his hand, and repaired it as it should be done.

After this, at the age of 50, he returned to Canterbury and died a martyr, having been put to death on account of his zeal for the Church.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

The young men began to boast of some foolish love affairs. Not to be outdone by his peers, a noble youth named Thomas declared that he, too, loved a great lady, and was beloved by her.

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