Photo: Felix Carroll
"It is precisely by Mary's Immaculate Conception that each and every one of us receives the graces necessary to grow in holiness," said the homilist, the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Cambra, MIC, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Dec. 8.
"It is important that we come here at the feet of Mary, Our Mother, and commend ourselves to her care, her protection, and her guidance," said homilist Fr. Daniel Cambra, MIC.
The Shrine's statue of the Immaculate Conception serves as a reminder that Mary always is there waiting patiently for us to turn to her in prayer.
How is it that Mary's Immaculate Conception goes to the very heart of Christianity? Let us count the ways.
• By her Immaculate Conception, Mary was kept free of the stain of original sin. That is to say, she was made worthy to become the Mother of the Son of God.
• By being preserved from original sin, she became living proof to the mystery of Divine Mercy — that sin had been conquered by Jesus Christ, whose merciful love is more powerful than evil.
• By her Immaculate Conception, we are reminded of the purity and holiness that she possessed and to which we are called.
• She who bore the Christ Child teaches us to be "bearers of Christ" — bearers of God's merciful love — for others.
This is why she is called the Mother of the Church. This is why the Marians of the Immaculate Conception bear her name.
Going back to the font of their vocation, Marians around the world celebrated their patroness on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8. At the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., Marians and pilgrims gathered to celebrate Holy Mass and to especially contemplate Mary Immaculate and how her example can lead us to holiness.
"It is precisely by Mary's Immaculate Conception that each and every one of us receives the graces necessary to grow in holiness," said the homilist, the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Cambra, MIC, who serves as Provincial Superior of the Marians' Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province.
Calling Mary "the chosen channel of God's grace in our lives," Fr. Daniel said, "It is important that we come here at the feet of Mary, Our Mother, and commend ourselves to her care, her protection, and her guidance."
He explained that just as the Archangel Gabriel visited upon Mary at the Annunciation, each of us is called.
"Come. Participate in God's grace," said Fr. Daniel. "Walk in holiness. Make your lives pure and holy, that you, too, might share in the eternal splendor that the Virgin Mary enjoys always."
A Special Year
This year, the celebration of the solemnity had an especially rich meaning for the Marians. This was the year the Marians' Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, was raised to the honors of the altar. Not only did Blessed Stanilaus count the ways Mary's Immaculate Conception goes to the very heart of Christianity, he bet his own life and the future of the Marian Congregation to it.
Nearly two centuries before the Church proclaimed as doctrine that Mary was immaculately conceived, Blessed Stanislaus (1631-1701), made promoting the Immaculate Conception one of the main aims of the Congregation that he founded in 1673.
"I believe everything that the holy Roman Church believes," he wrote, "... but first of all I profess that the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, was spotless from original sin, from the moment of her conception."
Since that time, Mary's Immaculate Conception and her virtues have shaped the life of the Marian Congregation, who in turn have shaped the spiritual lives of countless laypeople.
That was all duly noted in Rome this week where the Marians' Superior General, the Very Rev. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC, sent a letter to his confreres that was written for the occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. He wrote of how the mystery of Mary's Immaculate Conception "is the particular sign, strength, and joy of a Marian vocation. In this mystery, we may contemplate in a particular way, the beauty of a new life in Christ, to which we were called first through our Baptismal Consecration and then through our Religious Profession."
Service to Others
Father Jan took the occasion to call on the Marians worldwide to draw upon the graces of Mary Immaculate and Marian Founder's beatification to lead to a "renewal of an Apostolic Spirit."
As all Marians know, they need only turn to Mary, who is called Most Merciful. It is Mary who serves as the model, par excellence, for how to lead a life in service of others.
How so? Let us count the ways.
• While untold sufferings awaited her, she chose to become the Mother of God for the love of sinful man.
• She brought forth for us Jesus Christ — Mercy Incarnate.
• Think of Mary nourishing the Child Jesus with her own milk.
• Think of how Mary saved the Child Jesus from the persecution of Herod by carrying Him to Egypt (Mt 2:14).
• Think of Mary's concern for the wedding couple at Cana when the wine ran out: Jesus heard Mary's prayer and worked His first miracle by changing water into wine (Jn 2:1-11).
Mary, who is never distant to those who are sick or being persecuted or lacking, shows us how to live with an open heart, always trusting in God.
In the Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues, which the Marians hold dear, we are all told how we are to cultivate mercy in our own lives in imitation of Mary. The Rule says we nourish Jesus with milk when we "love with holy feelings none other than Christ." We carry Christ to Egypt by "meditating in times of temptation on death." We minister wine and instructions to our neighbors by practicing the "corporal and spiritual works of mercy."
Like Mary did when she remained with her cousin Elizabeth for three months before the birth of Jan the Baptist (Lk 1:56), we must hold others' needs above our own.
Mary Immaculate does nothing less than lead us to discover "how beautiful and attractive holiness is," wrote Fr. Jan. He added:
The Immaculate Conception is the sign of the gratuitous love of God, which is the deepest sense of our life and vocation. ... The secret of holiness is to open one's heart to experience this love and to allow oneself to be guided and formed by it. ...
The truth of the Immaculate Conception reminds us that Christ saves us. He waits until we come to Him with all our misery and helplessness. Before every miracle that Jesus intended to do, He expected only faith. He first loved us, before we were conceived in our mother's womb, and He does not withdraw His love, seeing our life marked by sin. He chose us, and destined us to "be holy and without blemish before Him" (Eph 1:4). The experience of God's love allows us to conquer sin. What matters most in the spiritual life is this: do we believe, that we are loved by God without earning it? We need to respond with our trusting faith because of this love, just as Mary did, when she said: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Your word."