Why We Celebrate the Immaculate Conception

How can we invite God to give us a share in the grace of the Immaculate Conception by preserving us from sin? First, we need to imitate the humility of Our Lady, recognizing that we do not deserve such a gift. 

By Br. Ryan Asensio, MIC

On Dec. 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation), God’s greatest act of mercy for any human being — God preserved Mary, His mother, from inheriting any stain of original sin. Since Our Lady couldn’t have merited this grace given at the moment of her conception, it was simply a free act of God’s infinite mercy. Similarly, one of the ways God seeks to preserve all Christian people from sin is by the unmerited grace of Baptism.

As Marians, we are tied to Our Lady insofar as we strive to imitate her virtues and promote her veneration. But bearing the “Immaculate Conception” in our name also binds us to what that particular mystery represents in God’s plan — His infinite Mercy. 

Special entitlement
It’s no wonder then, that we were the ones chosen to spread the Divine Mercy devotion given through St. Faustina! As Marians, we are also entitled in a special way to a share in the grace of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. After all, what good mother wouldn’t share her most precious gifts with her children? We participate in the grace of the Immaculate Conception insofar as Mary’s intercession prevents us from falling into many sins. 

We Marians are not always a particularly learned, virtuous, or mortified bunch, but we have a powerful mother who wonderfully arranges things behind the scenes for our unearned success. Any good that we do and any bad that we don’t do can all be attributed to her!

Patroness of the USA
It’s beautiful that we also have Immaculate Mary as the patroness of our country. What does this mean for us Americans? I don’t know for sure, but I think that it gives us special access to God’s gratuitous mercy. I think that God has a special plan for our nation and that He will bring it about despite our failings, despite our lack of having “merited” the fulfillment of that plan. 

I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that, even before Immaculate Mary was officially proclaimed our patroness in 1846, there was already great devotion to her under the same title throughout the country. Mary chose us before we chose her! 

Now, I mentioned that we Marians participate in a special way in the grace of the Immaculate Conception. But it would be remiss of me not to mention that all Christians can share in this grace. You see, Mary is a “type” of the Church. Whatever God does for Mary, He wants to do for His Church in an analogical way. In order to begin His work of redemption, God, by a singular and gratuitous grace, preserved Mary from sin. How else could a creature, a human being, be fit to bear God’s Son? And so, in order to enact His redemption in us, in order for us to bear Christ to the nations, maybe God needs to do something similar for us. Maybe He needs to simply preserve us from sin, because we are too weak and unfaithful to avoid it on our own. 

Imitate Mary’s humility
How can we invite God to give us a share in the grace of the Immaculate Conception by preserving us from sin? First, we need to imitate the humility of Our Lady, recognizing that we do not deserve such a gift. As she said, “He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:48). We, too, are from a “low estate.” Second, we can ask for this grace with a prayer! We can say: By the grace of the Immaculate Conception, Preserve us from sin and error!

Or, in the words of Marian Founder St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701): “May the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception, be our health and our protection.”

Third, we need to do our part to avoid sin, for God’s mercy “is on those who fear him” (Lk 1:50), not on any old Joe who says “Lord, Lord!” (Mt 7:21). Finally, we should express gratitude for what God has done for us. Mary sang, “my soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46); we, too, should be glowing with gratitude for all that God has done for us. 

The more faithful we are to God’s grace, the more He gives. So let’s be humble, pray for a share in the Immaculate Conception, fight against sin, and give thanks to our merciful God.

Brother Ryan Asensio, MIC, is a seminarian for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. On Dec. 16, he will profess his perpetual vows at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.


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