Monday, December 13, 2010
I Am the Immaculate Conception
Rose Sunday. Pink candle on your advent wreath. Advent is flying by isn't it? A time of preparation and there is no time to prepare! Old nuns can't keep up.
Happily we have our readers to keep us in line:
Dear Sister Mary Martha,
I am a cradle Catholic now in my third year of college. My friends are very supportive of my beliefs, though very few are also Catholic. I get a lot of questions that I can't often answer to my satisfaction. Today was no exception.
How do I explain the Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception to my non-Catholic friends? I feel like a poor example of the faith when I can't answer their questions.
It would help enormously if we knew what their question actually were. Let's hope they were asking because they saw you headed for Mass on Dec. 8th.
I have had some knock down drag outs over the Immaculate Conception. I actually had a woman who teaches RCIA classes tell me that I was wrong in stating that the Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived without the stain of Original Sin on her soul. If it wasn't a sin, I would have clonked her on the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Although it wouldn't have done much good, since I only have the paper back version.
An enormous number of well meaning and well educated people confuse the Virgin Birth with the Immaculate Conception. They believe that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Jesus without sex. Which is perfectly understandable, since the word "conception" is right in there. But no, that's the Virgin Birth.
I find it helps if we employ a time line. First, Mary's parents make a baby the way all babies are made (except for one person in history). But, unlike the the rest of us, this baby is conceived without the stain of Original Sin on her soul. Conceived without the stain of sin=Immaculate Conception.
Then quite a few years go by. Mary lives at the temple, she learns to sew seamless garments, she leaves the temple and gets married.
Then and angel visits her to tell her that she is to be the mother of Jesus. (We call this "The Annunciation.) She becomes pregnant in a way that no one ever has and gives birth to Jesus.
Immaculate Conception_(Mary plays with her dolls , sews, grows up, marries Joseph)__Virgin Birth
14 or 15 BCish 1ADish
I find the time line clears things up for most people, misguided catechism teachers not withstanding.
If they want to know how we know this, you're going to be knee deep in some thick theology. I suggest you order a pitcher right off the bat. They're going to want to know 'where in the Bible it says this', and of course, the words "Immaculate Conception" are not in there. The Catholic Church has always maintained that Mary was born free from Original Sin, because that makes sense since she was the Mother of Jesus. Jesus is also God, so He is not going to have Original Sin. But Original Sin is passed on to each person born of the human race. So it makes perfect sense that Mary couldn't pass Original Sin onto Jesus, so she was born without it.
Then they'll want to know how that happened. The answer is "God can do anything He wants." So, then they'll want to know "if God can do anything He wants, why didn't he just have Jesus born without Original Sin?" And the answer to that is, "It's a Sacred Mystery."
"Sacred Mystery" is "Catholic" for "let it go."
We know for a fact that Mary was born without the stain of Original Sin because not only did the infallible Catholic Church tell us so, but Mary has showed up more than once and introduced herself as "the Immaculate Conception." When St. Bernadette asked "the lady" her name, Mary responded with "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Mary also showed St. Catherine LaBoure a picture of a medal Mary wanted Catherine to make. The medal said, "Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."
So, straight from the horse's mouth on this one.
You'll need a keg for The Assumption.