I’m always struck by the fact that Michelle passed on the Eve of the Immaculate Conception. Michelle was modestly Marian in her practice of her Catholic Faith. Certainly she could relate on the level of being a wife and mother, and she had frequent recourse to the Rosary, especially in trying times.

I was digging through my personal email early this morning. Sometimes it feels a bit like triage, doesn’t it? I’m so grateful for Keyboard Shortcuts to make scrolling, filing, deleting, etc. much faster. I so much prefer handing email behind a keyboard rather than my phone or a tablet.

While skimming through my email, I came across this gem from Catholic.Store about today’s solemnity. I’d known about the dogmas of it since my youth, but these insights gave me a bit more of “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey might say. A bit of historical context I was unaware of:

Today the Church around the world celebrates the Immaculate Conception. Sadly few Catholics understand how important this feast day is and why it matters.

In 1854 the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX. In Europe enlightenment philosophy had corrupted men into the belief that secular society could self-govern outside the law of God. The first step to implement this was to destroy the Church. The French Revolution led to the murder of many faithful Catholics and its effects continued for decades. In 1848 the Archbishop of Paris was murdered, the Pope’s right hand administrator was murdered and shortly thereafter Pope Pius IX fled the Vatican to safety.

Europe was embroiled in a debate around an ancient lie - with many claiming each man could attain divinity through reason alone. “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil…”

In 1858 Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes with the name, “I am the Immaculate Conception” affirming the dogma proclaimed by Pope Pius IX. But as an illiterate peasant, St. Bernadette didn’t come to this through reason, she came to this through revelation. More importantly, if Mary is THE Immaculate Conception, the rest of us are not. We are still subject to the corruption of sin (including our reason) and in need of grace through the mercy of God.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the closing argument to a widespread philosophical heresy. The founding bishops of the United States were prophetic in understanding this. In 1792 a half century before the apparitions at Lourdes, the first bishop of the United States consecrated the nation to Mary, under the title ‘the Immaculate Conception.’ In 1846 the US bishops unanimously voted to make her patroness of the United States. While our country was founded on enlightenment ideals, the bishops had the wisdom to place the success of the American experiment under Mary Immaculate. It is truly the most American feast day and a sign that the United States has an important role to play in the life of the Church.

Holy Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us!