This year’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception rightly inspires much reflection on the profound truth that the Maiden of Nazareth was preserved—thanks to the abundant grace of God in view of the merits won by the God-Man Jesus Christ on Calvary—from Original Sin in order to be a fitting mother for the King Who was to come. Would that this Sesquicentenary usher into our weary world a lasting period of new and deep adoration for the Messiah, intense reverence for His Ever-Virgin Mother and a more genuine commitment to fulfilling the Almighty’s wise plan for our lives, regardless of the sometimes seemingly high cost!
We also hope that this commemoration of the definition of 1854 may convince all peoples of good will that the magnificent and unrepeatable gift of human life is precious and deserves our every effort, no matter how heroic, to protect, cherish and promote it.
We often—and justly—associate the pro-life cause with the Solemnity and the mystery of the Annunciation. Yet, there is a strong respect life dimension emanating from the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The astonishing action of God in protecting Our Blessed Lady from the audacious and reckless sin of our first parents Adam and Eve occurred precisely at the first moment of her conception. When Mary’s father Joachim and mother Ann provided the human matter necessary for conception, the Lord, as He always does, infused the soul that would coalesce with the human ingredients to form Mary. And when the beneficent Creator did so, He ensured that Mary would never experience even the slightest stain of Original Sin.
What God did for the very young Mary underscores the fact that human life does begin at conception. Our Blessed Mother was not preserved from Original Sin before she came to be. Exactly when her existence began God worked His miracle that we gladly cherish and refer to as the “Immaculate Conception.”
We gain much whenever we mull over the challenging, reasonable tenets of our Catholic Faith. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception is no exception. By meditating on and striving to penetrate what God did for Mary, we obtain fresh insights into the Lord’s goodness, the Virgin’s holiness and human life’s beauty and splendor even in its preborn state.
Although large sections of Western society may slight a fertilized egg as being nothing of import—in effect, a sorry blob of tissue, nevertheless we labor under no such error. We have no doubt as to what God thinks of a newly conceived person. The Almighty considers a preborn child of any age and size to be dignified and worthy of love and respect. With unspeakable love and esteem, Our Lord shielded Mary from Original Sin promptly at the instant she blossomed into being.
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a wake-up call for our darkened and too-often stone deaf era. We must, nurtured by God’s light and strength, finally overcome the immense spiritual blindness surrounding us and recognize that human life is sacred. It may not be disposed of. Innocent human life may never be attacked, notwithstanding “just” wars, legitimate police actions meant to stem violence, etc. Innocent human life is absolutely and always inviolable. And one day we will be judged in part on how we have loved, nourished and guarded the weakest among us.
The humanity of the preborn infant is one of the numerous truths that are attached to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Imagine the positive change in our universe if all men and women were to accept the inarguable reality that children even before their birth are our brothers and sisters. Like Mary, they, too, are vital members of the human family; the Lord is preparing them even now for future service in His Kingdom.
O Mary, conceived without Original Sin and Mother of Human life, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.
Msgr. Charles M. Mangan, is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.