Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which refers not, as many people mistakenly think, to Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus, but rather to Mary’s own conception without sin.
In an 1954 Apostolic Constitution entitled Ineffabiles Deus, Pope Pius IX declared “that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance 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, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Although there is no direct scriptural support for Mary’s immaculate conception, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “to become the mother of the Savior, Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role. The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace.’ In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcment of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.”
The immaculate conception of Mary is not a doctrine I tend to give a lot of thought to; I don’t think my devotion to, or my friendship with, Mary is at all affected by her conception without sin. It is her life that moves me. Yet, at odd moments, I find myself praying, with no conscious prior thought, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”
And so, with concious thought I pray this day, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”