‘O Mary Conceived Without Sin’
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady falls on 8th December. But since this year it falls on a Sunday, the Feast is transferred to tomorrow (Monday). This Solemn Feast is often confused with the conception of JESUS in the womb of Our Lady. However, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s Conception in the womb of her mother St Anne. The Dogma as proclaimed by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854 said:
“The Most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of JESUS Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind, preserved free from all stain of Original Sin.”
In 1830, twenty four years before the proclamation, Our Lady appeared to St Catherine Labouré who was a Daughter of Charity at the Rue de Bac convent in Paris. She gave her the mission of arranging for and promoting what later became known as the Miraculous Medal which is still very famous today. But what is less well known is that it was originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. On the one side of the medal Our Lady is standing on a globe crushing the head of the serpent (Satan) with her foot. Satan and his followers are helpless before her (Genesis 3:15). Our Lady also holds out her hands as the Mediatrix of All Graces. Rays are coming from the rings on her hands and then there is the inscription, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” On the reverse side of the medal is a cross with a large “M” representing Mary beneath it. Beneath the cross are two hearts, one surrounded with thorns which represents JESUS, and the other heart pierced by a sword represents Mary, recalling the words of Simeon that a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). The entire image is surrounded by twelve stars (Apocalypse 12:1). Our Lady said that those who wear the medal properly blessed and repeat the prayer above, “O Mary conceived without sin …” will have great graces, especially if they wear it round the neck. It was due to the great number of miracles, conversions and graces received by the wearing of the medal it became known as the “Miraculous Medal”.
Then just four years after Pius IX had proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858, and when asked who she was she replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” So the apparitions in Paris in 1830 and the Miraculous Medal prepared for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to be proclaimed in 1854, and the apparition at Lourdes in 1858 confirmed it. St Catherine Labouré died in 1876, but when her body was disinterred in May 1933 at the time of her beatification, like St Bernadette, it was found to be incorrupt. She was canonised in 1947. If anyone would like a blessed Miraculous Medal, please ask me.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC
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