Did you know …? The First Council of Baltimore in 1846 proclaimed Our Mother Mary: "Mary in her Immaculate Conception Principal Patron of the United States." The Bishops of the United States on February 7, 1847 affirmed it by: "… unanimously placing the Catholic Church under the special patronage of the Blessed Virgin."
Our Lady has been trying to get the message of Her Immaculate Conception across many of her apparitions to the people of God?
In Paris in 1830, she gave us the Miraculous Medal. But it was not supposed to be the Miraculous Medal. It was originally called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. If you read the prayer that circles the edges of the medal, it reads "Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee." The first time Our Lady appeared to Catherine Labouré, she said to her: "The times are evil. Misfortunes will fall upon France. The king will be overthrown. The world will be overcome by evils of all kinds ….. But come to the foot of this altar. Here, great graces will be beloved upon all those who ask for them with confidence and fervor. "
Our Lady appeared to Catherine again on Saturday, November 27, 1830. There was none of the inconvenience, none of the special closeness that they shared in July. Mary did not even look at Catherine during this apparition, nor did she speak to her directly. Catherine received the message through inner location. Our Lady had a definite purpose for this visit. She went directly to the heart of the matter. Catherine was in the chapel for evening meditation. All the sisters of the community were there also. It was quiet time. A reading had been given, and the sisters were now meditating about how this insight affected their lives. Catherine's reflections were interrupted by a familiar sound. It was the rustling of the silk dress of her Heavenly friend. Catherine thought her heart would burst. She immediately opened her eyes and looked in the direction of the sound.
To the right of the altar stand Our Lady, more resplendent than Catherine could remember. When she wrote of the apparition years later, she recalled in detail how Our Lady was dressed. The vision was indelibly etched on her soul. Mary stood on a globe, and held a golden ball at arm's length, as if she were offering it up to God, her eyes directed toward heaven. In an instant, brilliant lights radiated from her hands downward. Catherine could see that the lights came from rings Mary worm, three on each finger. They were of different sizes. Catherine noticed that rays did not shine forth from each ring.
Mary explained the reason as she spoke to Catherine's heart. The Lady said, "The ball which you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular. These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them." The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for Which souls forget to ask. " Catherine was in a state of ecstasy, completely rolled up in the joy of the vision. The golden ball vanished from Our Lady's hands. Her arms went down, hands pointing out, in an attitude of welcoming. The rays focused themselves down to the globe on which the Lady stand. An oval frame formed around Mary, with the following words written on it. OH MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN, PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO YOU.
The voice of Mary spoke to the heart of the young postulant again. "Have a Medal stuck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence." The image turned. Our Lady disappeared, to be replaced by a large M. A bar went through the M, from which extended a cross in the middle. Underneath the M were two hearts, one surrounded by thorns, symbolizing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and one pierced by a knife, with droplets of blood dripping from it, symbolizing the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Twelve stars surrounded this image in the shape of an oval. Slowly the image faded, and disappeared. The medal which was stuck in 1832 was not originally called, nor was it meant to be a "Miraculous Medal". It was called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady had promised "abundant graces", and she kept her promise, more than anyone could have imagined in their wildest dreams. Reports by wearers of the new medal flooded the little convent of the Sisters of Charity on the Rue du Bac. Physical cures, conversions, miracles of every sort were reported.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This summary caused more problems than it meant to solve. Rumbling went on inside the Church, and outside in Protestant circles. It was outrageous, they said, to give this singular honor to a woman. In 1858, The Immaculate Conception of Mary was affirmed by Our Lady Herself to Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto at Lourdes, France.
THURSDAY, MARCH 25, The Feast of the Annunciation. Bernadette wakes up like a shot, in the middle of the night. Her body is raised out of the bed to a sitting position. Her heart pounds so loud she is sure it will explode. She knows; She can feel the call of the Lady, her "Aquero". The girl's entire body tings with anticipation. She has to go to the Grotto. Before 5 in the morning, she can wait no longer. She tells her parents, bundles up as best she can, and leaves. As she walks out of the "Cell", the Cachot, a blast of winter wind hits her full force.
The powers of darkness are screeching, calling in all the evil spirits available, to make it difficult, even impossible, for this moment to happen, for the young girl to keep her rendezvous with the Lady. This has to be an important meeting; Satan has pulled out all the stops. He lashes out at her with torrents of cold wind. As she walks the distance to the Grotto, a small crowd builds behind her. It's as if there's a radar screen, a network, something uncanny, that the people of Lourdes know her movements so early in the morning. They follow behind her. She is oblivious to everything but the direction in which she walks. At the Grotto, there is already a small crowd of believers assembled. Word has gone quickly from door to door in the small village.
Soon lights go on in the homes, and people file out, half dressed, rushing to the Grotto. Bernadette sees, as she arrives, that Our Lady is waiting for her. She runs to her special spot, where she kneels. Her aunt passes her a candle, which she takes unconsciously. The winds stop suddenly. She is blanketed by the warmth of the vision. Bernadette goes into a trance. This is the deepest ecstasy she will ever experience. As in previous apparitions, she gets up at times and walks deep within the grotto, talks very seriously with the Lady, and returns to her spot. This happens a few times.
Bernadette tells us that in this apparition, she asks the Lady to identify herself three times. The Lady smiles. The child pictures Cure Peyramale, her parish priest, shouting out his demand that the Lady tell Bernadette who she is. Bernadette tries a fourth time. In her own words,
"Aquero (the Lady) drew apart her clasped hands, and let both her arms hang down. Then she put her hands together again at the level of her breast, lifted her eyes towards Heaven, and said," I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION ' "
The sky opened up. The clouds disappeared, and the Heavenly Hosts of Angels shone as they had on that Blessed Day in Bethlehem. Choirs of Angels sang in praise of the Glory of God. A beam of light shot down from Heaven to the alcove, surrounding the magnificent creation God had made. Cherubim and Seraphim floated down and positioned themselves around Mary. A soft breeze enveloped the child and the Lady. Bernadette could feel the tingly flush of warmth that emanated from Our Lady.
The Cycle was complete. A Miracle that had occurred before the beginning of time, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, passed down through the years as tradition, proclaimed on earth by Pope Pius IX in 1854, was confirmed by Heaven in 1858 in this little grotto nestled deep in the Pyrenees , In a hamlet of no consequence, to this chosen saint, who had no idea what the words of the Lady meant.