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Photo: Felix Carroll
By Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC (Jul 1, 2009)
In my childhood, I learned a prayer practice that has stayed with me ever since. I would pray three Hail Marys daily and ask Our Lady to help me to be pure in thought, word, and deed. It was like asking her to wrap her mantle of protection around me — to protect me from the snares of the evil one.
As I have grown and matured throughout my formation process as a Marian priest, I have discovered how important it is to pray the Rosary daily. This is one of the spiritual practices of the Marians.
Our Lady is the great helper in our quest to be holy. God desires that all of us become like Mary, pure and spotless. Her Immaculate Conception is a sign of what we can be. God preserved Mary from the first moment of her conception from all stain of sin, because she would become the Mother of God. God gave her this gift. She had done nothing to earn this privilege. Since Jesus would die on the cross to save us from sin, God applied this grace to Mary before she could be touched by sin in any way.
He also preserved her from concupiscence, that is, the tendency toward sin — a tendency toward disordered desires — that affects us, even after confessing our sins. Yet, while sin is still attractive to us in our weakened state here on earth, God desires that we become holy and free from all sin.
Jesus taught, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). This applies to Mary above all other creatures. She never saw sin as attractive, since she was "full of grace." With her purity, she could see clearly what God's will was for her.
In heaven, we will be pure of heart. God, however, wants us to begin the process now, while we are still here on earth. God's plan is that the Church, which is made up those who are baptized, would become a Church in splendor, "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27).
We Marians, who have Mary Immaculate as our patroness, are called by our rule to flee from sin — even the slightest one — so we would not purposefully offend God. We do sin out of weakness, but we especially try to avoid serious, premeditated sin.
This is the life God would have us lead. In becoming like Mary, we find the grace and courage to live such a life.
Father Joe Roesch, MIC, is general councilor and adviser to the Superior General of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He is based in Rome, Italy.