The Immaculata has left this earth, but her life has only grown the richer; and it develops and flourishes more and more in the lives of Christians. If all the souls that have lived on this earth, and all those that still struggle here could make known the all-powerful influence the Immaculata has exercised on them, and her maternal solicitude for these souls redeemed by the precious Blood of her divine Son, what an incalculable number of volumes would be required! All these people would recount only what they had been able to discover as special graces received through Mary. But in fact every grace that comes to a soul comes from her hands, for she is the Mediatrix of all graces; and at every moment new graces penetrate into the souls of men. There are graces which enlighten the intellect, which strengthen the will, which draw us towards what is good. There are ordinary and extraordinary graces; some directly concern our natural life, while others have to do with the sanctification of our souls. Only at the Last Judgment, only in Heaven will we discover with what loving attention our heavenly mother watched over each one of us without ceasing, over every soul individually, because all are her children. She strives to shape them after the model of Jesus, her First-born, the archetype of all sanctity, the Man-God.
It is a fact that from the first instant of her existence the Mother of God never experienced the stain of original sin, and that from the earliest days of the Church the faithful acknowledged that our most Holy Mother was the purest of creatures, purer than the angels, entirely free from the least stain of sin.
Now God, who desired to glorify his Immaculate Mother more and more allowed it to happen during the Middle Ages that theologians should scrutinize more closely the texts of Holy Scripture, without succeeding in grasping the link between this truth of Mary’s exemption from original sin and the inspired words: “In Adam all men have sinned.” So they labored long to discover the truth about this matter.
Many attempts were made; many discussions took place. Among others, the Franciscan school especially defended and spread the thesis that in truth the most Blessed Virgin, from the first instant of her conception, had never known the slightest taint of original sin, and that her soul had never been subject to Satan’s empire. Such was the Franciscan position.
The Council of Trent made it clear in its canons that Original Sin affected all our race, with the exception of the Virgin Mary.
Then, after so many centuries, the time came when Holy Church reached the conviction that this truth could be definitely affirmed for the greater glory of the most Blessed Virgin and the greater good of the faithful. Pius IX, by his Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” defined this truth as a dogma of faith.
“For the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the glory and honor of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith … by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first instant of her conception, and by a singular grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved from every stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God; and that consequently it must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
About the same time there was an answering echo to all this in the world: the revelation of the Miraculous Medal, the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, and the apparitions of the Immaculata at Lourdes.
The preceding was taken from Fr. H.M. Manteau-Bonamy’s The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1977.