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The Months Of Mary… The Immaculate Conception

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By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY

This is the second in a series of articles on our Lady in connection with some of the themes found in the Fatima message and some of her other major apparitions. As indicated in the last article, the Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus appeared to Sr. Lucia, at Pontevedra in Spain, in 1925, when she spoke in more detail about the Five First Saturdays devotion of reparation.
Then in May 1930, when Sr. Lucia was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she received an interior locution — an inner revelation from God — which explained why it was necessary to have the Communion of reparation on five Saturdays. She understood the reason for this was that there were five main types of blasphemies and offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The first of these concerned offenses against the Immaculate Conception.
This principle involves the idea that the Blessed Virgin, from the first moment of her existence was, unlike the rest of humankind, free from original sin. So she was born without stain of sin and hence, immaculate, and in a state of sanctifying grace due to the foreseen merits of Christ’s death and Resurrection.
This was a general belief in the Church, dating right back to the early days, but it was only dogmatically defined in 1854, when on December 8 of that year, Pope Pius IX promulgated the bull Ineffabilis Deus. This declared that belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception was now to be held as an article of faith by all Catholics.
The Immaculate Conception was a crucial element in the Blessed Virgin’s message to St. Bernadette at Lourdes in France in 1858, only four years later. The apparitions to the young seer began on February 11, but it was on March, the Feast of the Annunciation, that the final revelation was made to Bernadette.
On this occasion, she asked the beautiful Lady her name; she merely bowed and smiled but said nothing. So Bernadette asked a second and a third time, and was given the same response. She persisted and asked again, and now the Lady extended her arms to assume the position shown on the Miraculous Medal before rejoining them at the breast, looking up to Heaven and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
The important point about this statement is that our Lady didn’t say just say that she had been immaculately conceived, but that she was actually the Immaculate Conception. St. Maximilian Kolbe taught that there are two Immaculate Conceptions — the created Immaculate Conception, which is Mary, and the uncreated Immaculate Conception, which is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is, of course, God, and He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and so can certainly be described in that way. And this connection indicates the incredibly deep relationship and bond between our Lady and the Holy Spirit, such that she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
But it wasn’t just at Lourdes that the revelation about Mary’s Immaculate Conception was made. This also happened during the apparitions at the Rue du Bac convent in Paris in 1830, 28 years earlier. Here, during her final visitation on November 27, our Lady appeared to the young Sr. Catherine Labouré, a Sister of Charity, for the third time, in a beautiful vision.
Among other things, she asked Catherine to have a medal struck showing her standing on a globe with graces coming from her hands. This design included an oval frame with golden lettering, which read, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Catherine then heard a voice saying: “Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence.”
This promise was borne out as the wearing of the new “Medal of the Immaculate Conception” became widespread. Soon, there were many reports of miracles of grace and nature, such that it rapidly became known simply as the “Miraculous Medal.”
But it’s worth noting that its focus, as in the inscription, O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, is definitely on the Immaculate Conception.
Ten years after the events connected with the Miraculous Medal, a series of little known private apparitions took place again at the Sisters of Charity house at the Rue du Bac in Paris. Our Lady appeared to a young novice named Justine Bisqueyburu during a retreat in January 1840.
She was wearing a long white dress with a blue mantle. In her hand she held her Immaculate Heart pierced with a sword and surrounded with flames. This apparition was repeated several more times during the retreat, and later on the major Marian feasts.
One of these took place on September 8, 1840, our Lady’s birthday. Here an extra detail was added as Sr. Justine saw her holding a scapular of green cloth in her left hand. On one side there was a representation of Mary as she had appeared in the apparitions previously, and on the reverse, a heart all burning with rays more brilliant than the sun and as transparent as crystal. This heart, surmounted by a cross, was pierced with a sword, and around it were the words, “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”
Through an interior voice Sr. Justine understood, that our Lord desired a more tender and confident appreciation of the love of our Lady through devotion to her Immaculate Heart. In return, those who practiced this devotion and wore the scapular, would receive graces and favors especially regarding physical and mental health, peace of mind, and also spiritual favors.

Fatima June 1917

Papal approval for the use of the Green Scapular came from Pope Pius IX in 1870, and there is no need for any enrollment to wear this scapular — it suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn with confidence. The only prayer obligation attached to use of the scapular is to say the brief prayer, “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death,” at least once a day. It can also be used to pray for someone’s conversion.
The Green Scapular, with its connection with devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, can be seen as a development of the cult of the Immaculate Conception as exemplified by the Miraculous Medal. But whereas the medal focused on the fact of the Immaculate Conception, the scapular focuses more on the person of our Lady, and the fact that her Immaculate Heart is ultimately a consequence of her Immaculate Conception.
The devotion attached to the Green Scapular can also be seen as pointing to the devotion to our Lady’s Immaculate Heart which she spoke of at Fatima in June 1917. She said then that our Lord wished to establish the devotion to her Immaculate Heart throughout the world, and also promised salvation to whoever embraces it.
So the theme of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and hence her Immaculate Heart is one that unites the major apparitions at Rue du Bac, Lourdes, and Fatima, and it is still very much an important theme today.

+ + +

(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theotokos
.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published later this year — details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk.)

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