Tag Archives: Immaculate Conception

Hidden Annunciations

Renee RodenRenée Roden, ND ’14

Teacher and Playwright, New York City


And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [Mary], having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of greeting this should be. (Luke 1:28-29)

The Annunciation is a moment in history that is frequently depicted in Western art. And for good reason, given that the moment when the eternal God took up form as a human inside the womb of the Virgin Mary is certainly a contender for the title of Most Important Moment in all of Creation. Throughout the millennia since that moment, myriad artists have captured the moment in paint and pen—from ancient iconographers to pre-Raphaelites. Take, for example, this famous painting by Leonardo DaVinci. The painting’s composition is fairly typical an image of the Annunciation: Mary sits in a landscape that combines both elements of a private bedchamber and a garden landscape, to emphasize the private and intimate moment of conception occurring. She is a “garden enclosed” (Song of Songs, 4:12) In her chambers, the Virgin is pondering the Scriptures—the Word of God—and lo and behold Gabriel appears, and announces the Word of God will take flesh inside of her.UntitledOne of the most captivating images is, in my mind, Botticelli’s mystical and intriguing image of the Annunciation. For in this painting, the Virgin and the angel appear to be in separate spaces. In the Da Vinci painting, Gabriel and Mary exist in a common visual world. But in the Botticelli painting, a strong column cuts the picture in half, demarcating a clear, sharp divide between the world of the angel and the world of the virgin. Although Mary humbly inclines her body in response to the words that Gabriel speaks, indicating he has had some effect on her, she does not seem to see him. There is a distance between the two figures that implies a divide between their two planes of reality. In this moment Botticelli has captured the divide between the supernatural and the natural that the Incarnation bridges.

This painting suggests to me that perhaps the revelation of Gabriel to Mary was, like many revelations of the divine in our lives, not as clear as we imagine it to be. As we ponder this great mystery from our privileged position of the future, we see the story clearly. Oh, of course, Mary, the Immaculate Conception, must, in this moment clearly understand and accept God’s will for her life, because she was conceived without the stain of original sin, and thus she is fully open to God’s will, etc., etc. The story is quite clear to us.

But Mary, even in this moment of divine revelation, during which she learns of her role as the Mother of God, does not have a full understanding of what is occurring. Gabriel greets her with the words: “hail, full of grace” and Mary, the Evangelist tells us, is troubled. She does not understand what this greeting means.

Untitled 2When Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, she identified herself in a manner that was also troubling for Bernadette’s contemporaries. She identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. Not just as “one immaculately conceived,” but as “The Immaculate Conception.” St. Maximilian Kolbe dedicated his life to understanding this mystery, and teasing out the mystery of who Mary Immaculate is, and why she identifies herself as THE Immaculate Conception. Maximilian begins with attempting to understand the relationship between Mary, the Mother of God, and with the Holy Spirit, her spouse and the Third Person of the Trinity.

In the reflections he wrote in the hours before he was arrested by the Gestapo, on the night of February 17, 1941, Maximilian Kolbe wrote that the Holy Spirit is “The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son.” Thus, “the Holy Spirit is, therefore, the “uncreated, eternal conception,” the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe. The Father begets; the Son is begotten; the Spirit is the “conception” that springs from their love.”

Maximilian Kolbe describes the Holy Spirit as the “uncreated Immaculate Conception,” the eternally conceived in the love between the Father and the Son. And Mary, who was so closely united to God, “most completely filled with this love, filled with God himself, was the Immaculata, who never contracted the slightest stain of sin, who never departed in the least from God’s will. United to the Holy Spirit as his spouse, she is one with God in an incomparably more perfect way than can be predicated of any other creature. Thus, Mary is the created Immaculate Conception.

St. Maximilian goes on:

“In the Holy Spirit’s union with Mary we observe more than the love of two beings; in one there is all the love of the Blessed Trinity; in the other, all of creation’s love. So it is that in this union heaven and earth are joined; all of heaven with all the earth, the totality of eternal love with the totality of created love. It is truly the summit of love.”

The title of Immaculate Conception is truly magnificent. Mary has been given the gift of belonging to the fundamental reality of the Trinity in a very intimate way. Thus, the Immaculate Conception, meaning Mary’s intimate union with the Trinity, becomes an image for us of how deeply God loves us, and how keenly He thirsts for our union with Him. He desires each human being to be brought into the deep union of the trinity, with no spot of original sin, no obstacle to mar the perfect gift of love between Creature and Creator.

Mary’s revelation at Lourdes is truly astounding: for Mary reveals herself using a name for herself that she would never have been able to fathom during her earthly life. This humble handmaiden of the Lord did not know who she truly was, during her life here on earth. Mary of Nazareth could not have known she was the Immaculata, for the accomplishment of the mission of the Immaculate Conception was the death and Resurrection of her Son. Mary’s own purpose on earth would never be fully clear to her unless viewed through the lens of the Paschal Mystery.

Certainly, Mary knew something of the mission God had given to her: to be the mother of Jesus, who she knew was the Son of God, the one who would redeem Israel. But she did not know the depth of her own vocation. When we see Mary as the Immaculate Conception, we see her as an image of how God wishes we all could be: united so intimately with Him, with no blot of sin to mar our union with Him. Mary knew nothing of this. She did not know that, as the Immaculate Conception, she would become a model of discipleship, the pinnacle of all creation, a sign for all time of how God wishes for each of us to be united to Him.

Although Mary proclaims in her Magnificat that from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1: 48-49) she could not have fully understood her own importance, nor how true that statement would be. For the historical Mary of Nazareth could not see herself with the clarity with which we see her today. The full truth of her own Magnificat would remain hidden from her her entire life on earth.

For Mary would never know this name for herself–the Immaculate Conception–until she had entered into the beatific vision of heaven. The hiddenness of her own vocation reiterates the great beauty of this sign of God’s love for us all. It causes me to wonder what sort of graces we all have been blessed with, that we will never fully understand until we have finished our pilgrimage and are finally home with God.

This brings to mind the fifth of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary: Mary is crowned queen of heaven and earth. Unlike the other mysteries, this mystery of the rosary is not in Scriptures, or apocryphal sources (such as the narrative attributed to St. John, that narrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin), But perhaps it deserves its place in the mysteries of the rosary, as a marker of the “most highly favored one,” the one who is full of grace, finally coming fully into her own, finally understanding that mysterious greeting of the angel so long ago. What a surprise it must have been to Mary, the woman who identified herself solely as the handmaid of the Lord, to learn how highly exalted her place was in heaven.

Perhaps we will not be able to fully understand ourselves this side of heaven. What marvels God is working in us and through us now, that we will never be able to see until we have finally fully entered into heavenly union with God. In the words of St. Paul:“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, is what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2,9).

To Stay on Target: The Immaculate Conception

Danielle Peters-cropDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt, Sisters of Mary

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

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On Thursday, March 25, 1858, standing in the Grotto of Massabielle, Lourdes, Our Lady identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. This self-revelation, four years after the proclamation of the dogma of this mystery of our faith, belongs to the core of her message to St. Bernadette and is unique compared to other apparitions. As the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary resembles and proclaims God’s authentic, i.e. immaculate concept ofLourdes the human person created in His image and likeness. To say it differently: in Mary’s person radiates forth the authentic blueprint that God designed for each of His children. It follows, that she is the ideal and we are the unfortunate rule of God’s wish for us!

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrated on December 8 honors Our Lady as the personification of the re-created order in Christ. Having been pre-redeemed and fully redeemed, Mary’s spiritual wealth constitutes that dimension of her being which is veiled to the outside and transcends time and matter. In its depth it is fully known only to God. St. John Paul II emphasized that while Mary’s earthly pilgrimage can be compared to that of all human persons bound to “the concrete circumstances of history” (RM 8), the extraordinary gift of her Immaculate Conception highlights that “Mary is wholly exceptional and unique” which refers above all to “the singularity and uniqueness of her place in the mystery of Christ” (RM 9). Long before she had reached the state of consciousness, the interior disposition of her personhood was “fashioned by grace and the object of divine favor to the point that she can be defined by this special predilection.”

GiottoContrary to some who opine that Mary’s privilege compromised her freedom, Catholic doctrine argues that Mary is supremely free for God and thus with every fiber of her being receptive for His call. The interpersonal dialogue between the Handmaid of the Lord and the Angel underscores the effect of grace in her life and action. Since grace does not destroy nature but leads to nature’s true nobility, Mary’s fiat—let it be done—is an expression of the integrity of her person in action leading her to self-fulfillment and self-transcendence. Thus, in virtue of her Immaculate Conception, Mary is the first to share in the “new self-giving of God” (RM 36) thereby assuming her mission to cooperate in the salvation of the human race like no other human person!

Each one of us has encountered God’s grace working in and through us. We are also at times painfully aware of our flaws and sins which weaken or even prevent the effects of grace to unfold. The Immaculate Conception reminds us dramatically of the true meaning of sin. The Greek word for sin is harmatia which translates “to miss the target.” Thus, each time we freely and consciously give in to sin we fail to stay on target and fall below our possibilities of being and becoming fully human. The Catechism attributes three lacks to the person who is off target: the lack of harmony of the soul over the body, a lack of harmony between men and women, and a lack of harmony with creation (cf. CCC 400). This threefold harmony, lost through original sin and its effects, remained intact in Our Lady.

Father Joseph Kentenich, the founder of the International Schoenstatt Family, emphasizes that the Immaculate Conception draws attention to the dignity and value of the human person. Thanks to her preservation from original sin and her intimate union with Christ, Mary possesses the fullness of natural and supernatural life. Owing to her receptivity to the gift of integrity—donum integritatis—, “there is at least one human being who walked upon this earth completely pure and untouched.” Schoenstatt’s founder was convinced that our desire “for the perfect harmony between our animal nature and our spiritual nature, and between our spiritual nature and our supernatural nature, is like the eagle’s cry of the soul for… the Immaculata ideal.”

The second reading on the solemnity of the Immaculate ConceptionImmaculateConception taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (1:3-6, 11-12) confirms that we are all chosen and called “to be holy and blameless in His sight and to be full of love.” Mary Immaculate is not only the archetype of this universal calling of God’s children but also our mother in the order of grace who cooperates in the work of our salvation through faith and obedience (cf. LG 56). Let us ponder some lessons the dogma teaches us in order to stay spiritually on target:

  • The Immaculate Conception conveys to us God’s pure and unconditional desire to share His love with us! True love is not utilitarian! It involves risking rejection and disappointment: will she be living up to her calling and election? At our baptism we received the gift of baptismal innocence, “a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1279). While invisible to the natural eye, the indelible baptismal seal is God’s loving invitation to eternal communion with Him! Is my life an expression of integrity leading me closer to God?
  • The Immaculate Conception emphasizes the true grandeur and nobility of Mary. She is full of grace from the first instant of her existence, i.e. without personal merit. Embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, and thus was “exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe” (LG 59). Does my life reflect the state of royal freedom proper to Christ’s disciples where to serve means to reign (cf. RM 41)?
  • The Immaculate Conception reveals the original unity of our relationship to God, self, others and creation. Challenged by this immaculate concept we are led to discover the wealth of our human and religious identity. At the same time, the Immaculate Conception is also our spiritual mother who forms the likeness of Jesus Christ in us. Christ’s perfecting love, however, always leads via Golgotha where our conformity to Christ is perfected. Will I go along?
  • The Immaculate Conception is our champion and challenge to attain the natural and supernatural harmony of a child of God! Mary’s privilege helps us to understand more profoundly the gift of redemption as a gift of God’s free and gratuitous love. God’s Gift beckons for our gift of self in return. As we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, who is at the same time our Redeemer, what will my gift to Him be? Couldn’t we consciously try to stay on target? We live in a competitive culture. Striving for holiness in a somewhat ‘competitive’ manner can help us not only to stay well-balanced but to reach out for God’s concept of us as well! Let us turn to Our Lady asking for her intercession to live in God’s presence without sin (cf. Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception).

Blessed feast day!


Three Things We’re Reading: Immaculate Conception, Teaching, and Parenting

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) Kate Mahon on the feast of the Immaculate Conception at Daily Theology:

But this Gospel reading was chosen because we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in light of the Annunciation and the event of Christ’s conception. We celebrate how, at the moment when the angel Gabriel announced God’s plan for the salvation of the world to the Virgin Mary and Mary said “yes” to God, this became the pivotal moment in human history and in space and time when God became human, the moment upon which the redemption of the world and the totality of time—all that came before and all that would follow—hinges. Just as we trace our redemption to this moment, so we can trace the “singular grace and privilege” of Mary’s Immaculate Conception to this unique event in salvation history.

2) How teaching has become a “religious” vocation through film:

Far more frequently, movies reinforce the notion that in secular society, teaching is the closest thing we have to a religious vocation. You don’t decide to teach, you’re “called” to teaching as a profession. And as with religion, this “calling” is one in which the basic job hasn’t changed in a thousand years:

You stand in front of your flock, which expects you to be above reproach both on and off the job. Your authority comes from on high. You need the patience of a saint, the wisdom of a rabbi and the endurance of a martyr. And, at day’s end, the rewards are largely spiritual.

3) A piece over at First Things on whether we should let our children make up their minds about religion from Jason Stubblefield:

We—the Christian parents of America—should not leave our kids to make up their own minds about religion. We need to go against the grain. If we really believe the Gospel, we ought to join the shrinking ranks of those pushy parents who insist their children attend church with them. We make our children eat their vegetables. We make them brush their teeth. Let’s make them go to church. In doing so, we will be no more guilty of indoctrination than the parents who let their kids “make up” their own minds about religion, because all reason is tradition-based. After all, we Christians do not think that the Gospel is merely a matter of personal opinion. We believe it is true. What could be a kinder gift to our children than teaching them to see the world as truthfully as we do? What could be a kinder gift to our children than making them go to church?

The Beauty of the Immaculate Conception

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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The celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of beauty and fittingness. It is one of harmony and order as an integral part of God’s plan to redeem the world in Christ Jesus. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the first sign that the promise of salvation is about to be fulfilled, the first indication that the long night of sin and death is about to give way to the dawn of the Sun of Justice. As Msgr. Ronald Knox writes, “When God created the first Adam, he made his preparations beforehand; he fashioned a paradise ready for him to dwell in. And when he restored our nature in the second Adam, [Christ], once more there was a preparation to be made beforehand. He fashioned a paradise for the second Adam to dwell in, and in that paradise was the body and soul of our blessed Lady, immune from the taint of sin, Adam’s curse.” Indeed, Mary is the one spoken of in the book of Genesis at the dawn of creation; she is the woman of whom God says to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers” (Gen 3:15). It is that enmity – that void between Mary and Satan – that God fills with His grace.

We see in the Genesis passage the inextricable link between the woman and her offspring, between Mary and her Son, Jesus. All honor given to Mary is only given by virtue of her relationship to Christ, including the grace of the Immaculate Conception. In his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultis, Pope Paul VI explains the importance of this relationship: “In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him. It was with a view to Christ that God the Father from all eternity chose her to be the all-holy Mother and adorned her with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else” (§25). As the Catechism states, “The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first instant of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ… The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person ‘in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ and chose her ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (CCC, §492). From the dawn of time, Mary is redeemed by the salvific sacrifice of her Son, Jesus, and because of the outpouring of God’s grace, she is able to “[give] herself entirely to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace” (CCC, §494). It was fitting that Mary be conceived without sin so that she, in turn, might bring forth the Sinless One. She was immaculately conceived so that, empty of sin, she might be “full of grace.”

Indeed, a key to a greater understanding and appreciation of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is wrapped up in the greeting of the angel Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace!” (Lk 1:28). The angel addresses Mary, not by the name given her by her earthly parents at her birth, but by the name given her by her heavenly Father at the birth of creation. She is, from all eternity, “full of grace.” In this angelic salutation, Gabriel reveals Mary to herself as God truly sees her. Once Mary is enveloped in this revelation that God has chosen her as His own, protected her as the apple of His eye (see Ps 17:8), she is then able to see how the fullness of God’s grace will continue to act in her, to overshadow her, to bring about life in her virgin womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in that fullness of grace that she is able to surrender her self and her life completely to the divine will: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).  And it is in that fullness of grace, in seeing herself as God sees her, that Mary is able to serve not only as a dwelling place for the Incarnate Word, but also as a magnifying lens through which we see the beauty and harmony of a life lived in God, a life void of self and full of grace, a life that proclaims for all eternity: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk 1:46b-47).

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Nothing is Impossible for God

Rev. Fr. Benedict Ukutegbe

Catholic Institute of West Africa,

Port Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria.


It goes without saying that Mary occupies a special place in the life of the Church and her worship because of her role in the history of salvation.  There is no Eucharistic celebration, for example, where Mary is not venerated as the Mother of God along with all the saints who had done God’s will.  Today is one of such unique moment when the Church contemplates and thanks God for his wonderful works in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Divinely elected, she was to be the channel through which God’s predestined plan of salvation through Christ was to be realized.  The Immaculate Conception celebrates the singular privileged enjoyed by Mary whom God preserved from sin from the first moment of her life because she was to bear the spotless Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world.

Rationale of the Feast

The early Church spontaneously understood that the Blessed Mother of Christ could not be linked to any kind of sin, actual or original.  When the Christ was to take flesh it was necessary that the vessel to harbour him should be one of honour, pure and spotless because the Son of Man, the Holy One of God is the Lamb of God without blemish. It stands to reason to believe that the all-holy God can only take flesh in an unblemished womb.  Consequently, God prepared her from conception by preserving her from the stain of sin so she can be a worthy vessel of honour because the “child to be born will be holy; he will be called son of God” (Luke 1:35). This is why the angel addressed her as “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:28) and her cousin Elizabeth, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared: “Of all women you are the most blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).  Biblical references such as I Kings 8:11, Ps 87:1, 7, and Sir 24:4 have all been traditionally interpreted to refer to the purity of Mary. In the fourth Century, St. Ephrem described Mary as “sinless, immaculate and integral.” Like every human being, Mary experienced salvation or redemption but in a different way. Every other human being experiences liberative salvation since they are set free from sin and made holy.  However, Mary had no sin from which she needed to be liberated;she experienced preservative salvation, that is, she was preserved from the stain of sin in view of the redemption in Christ. These constitute the foundations for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.


Origin of Liturgical Celebration of the Feast

About the 8th century in the East, a feast in honour of the Immaculate Conception of Mary by Joachim and Ann was granted at the request of couples without a child. This was celebrated on December 9 in honour of the parents of Mary. When it spread to the West, it was celebrated in honour of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.In 1050 at the Council of Vercelli, Pope Leo IX recommended that the conception of the Virgin Mary be honoured. In 1166, Emperor Emmanuel Comnen made it a precept for the feast to be celebrated and in 1846 the title of “Immaculate Mary” was chosen as the principal patron of the United States of America. It was in 1854 that Pope Pius IX, on December 8, official declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma of faith. Thereafter, it came to be celebrated universally under the title of Immaculate Conception of Mary.

A renewed Call to Holiness

In celebrating this feast, the church places before us the triumph of God’s grace in the Blessed Virgin Mary whom God preserved from every stain of sin. She becomes a model of holiness and purity for all Christians and in a special way for Priests, religious and members of Consecrated life. She is so full of grace that there could not have been any disgrace of sin found in her. She cooperated with the grace of God, submitted humbly to God’s will and led an exemplary life.  In the first reading (Gen 3:9-15, 20) the woman Eve along with Adam was the source of disgrace and God promised the great woman whose descendants would gain ultimate victory over the devil. In the gospel reading, the great woman Mary, full of grace, gained victory over the wiles of the devil by being pure and submissive to the will of God. She cooperated with God’s plan and became the mother of the Saviour who through his passion, death and resurrection crushed the head of the devil and set the records straight with God. Yet the battle is not over, since as St. Peter says the enemy, the devil is still antagonizing the children of God, luring them to the contamination of sin but they must remain strong in faith (I Peter 8-9).

Mary, the new Eve, is a shining example of purity and total submission to the will of God. As Mother of God and Mother of the Church, she calls us to submission to God’s will,  purity of heart and holiness of life for only the pure of heart will behold the face of God (Matt 5:8). This invitation to holiness resonates with the admonition of St. Paul (Second Reading) to the Ephesians: “Before the world was made he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence” (Eph 5:27). This also echoes God’s demand of his children, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48). This vocation becomes quite challenging in a world which seems suspicious of the name of God and celebrates the liberty of humanity as the determinant of its destiny; a world where the human heart appears coerced by sin and rebellion; a world where individuals prefer and seek to do their wills in defiance of God’s; a world where godly values seem toppled by ungodly ones and divine standards short-changed for mundane pleasures; a world where those who strive for holiness are labelled as “twisted” and moral deviants are celebrated as icons of human freedom. It is true that today’s world pose a great obstacle to the Christian vocation to holiness that some Christians are already acquiescing to the fact that it is impossible to be holy in the present age. In the midst of these, the encouraging and consoling voice of the angel must be heard anew “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you … for nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1: 35-37). Our vocation to holiness of life and purity of heart may be an uphill task, but we should be willing and ready to take it on believing, like Mary, that God’s promise will be fulfilled in us. He promised to be with us all the way on this journey (Matt 28:20).

Mary, Model to be Emulated

In celebrating this feast, we give thanks to God for his grace which bore fruit in the life of the Blessed Virgin, but we also look forward with admiration at her unique virtues and are therefore challenged to emulate her. In our world which seems to be losing the sense of sin, the Immaculate Heart of Mary is given to us as an example to imitate. We must listen to God’s word, meditate on and live by them as Mary did. This season of Advent offers us a fresh opportunity to purify our hearts of sin and remodel our lives according to the Gospel values exemplified in Mary, our Mother. We must remember that shortest route to failure is reliance on self.  Thus, through the intercession of Mary conceived without sin, may God’s grace bear fruits of purity and holiness in our lives as it did in the Blessed Virgin Mary.

O Mary Conceived without Sin. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.