This was a very special week for us over in “Catholic Land.” On December 6th we celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, the holy bishop the rest of the world knows as Santa Claus, and on December 8th we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
First, St. Nicholas. He is an amazing saint. He was born during the third century in a village known as Patara. Both his parents died when he was very young, and he used the inheritance they left him to tend to the poor. He became a bishop when he was still quite a young man, and he was well-known throughout his land for his generosity and love of the poor.
He was alive during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian and suffered for his faith even to the point of exile and imprisonment. However, he remained steadfast and proved his faithfulness soon after at the Council of Nicaea, where the heretic Arius wrongfully proclaimed that Jesus Christ was not God but a mere creature only, created by God the Father. Unable to endure this slight against the Christ, St. Nicholas rose up and struck Arius across the face! He was punished for this act of violence by having his Pallium and Gospels stripped from him, and was imprisoned for a brief while, but he was released after Christ and the Blessed Virgin visited him in his cell and restored him his Pallium and Gospels.
He is a wellspring of many legends and tales, and it would seem that men of all classes have taken him for their special patron.
He died in Myra on December 6th, AD 343.
Now for the Immaculate Conception!
The Immaculate Conception is the term that is applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to her alone. It is a term that proves to the world that from the very moment of conception, from the very instant that she was first formed within her mother’s womb, she was immaculate, without sin.
Some people think that this term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb, and others think that this means our Lady was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost as Christ was conceived within her womb, but both of these are incorrect. It means that she was conceived from the very first without that stain of Original Sin which has tainted mankind since the fall of Adam and Eve. She alone of all creatures is the only one conceived without sin.
There are very few religions that tolerate our Blessed Virgin. They simply cannot accept the fact that she was the Mother of God and a sinless woman. If she were without sin, would that not make her equal to God? Why would it? God created Adam and Eve without sin, and he created the angels without sin. Yet he gave them free will, the right to do what they will. He will not tyrannize his creations. He seeks to win them through love. Some creations reject that love, as in the case with Lucifer. He committed the First Sin. He called that first cry into the world, “I will not serve!” Through his malice he caused Adam and Eve to commit the first sin on earth, and now we are all tainted with that sin. Yet we were created sinless!
Catholic.com has a gorgeous analogy that they provide, which I’d like to share here:
“Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, and someone reaches down to pull him out. The man has been “saved” from the pit. Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is to fall in, someone holds her back and prevents her. She too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: She was not simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting stained by the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ’s grace at her conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired in original sin and its stain.”
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially defined in 1824 by Pope Pius IX. A doctrine is formally defined when there is a controversy surrounding a certain teaching, or when the magisterium wants to show the faithful the importance to some already-existing belief. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not instituted because of any widespread doubts concerning the truth of our Lady’s conception. It was instituted because Pius IX hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion of her.
Catholics truly love Mother Mary. She is our sweet mother. She will do all she can to save us from the fires of hell and lead us to heaven with her Jesus. She gives us many ways and means to do penance and attain heaven. One of her most powerful prayers is the Hail Mary, a gentle prayer that she gave to St. Dominic (but that is a story for another day!)
Here is the prayer down below. A good virtue to acquire is to say this pray three times in the morning and three times at night, as a safeguard against impurity. There is another prayer you can say between the Hail Mary’s, if you’d like, but they are mostly optional. The important prayer is the Hail Mary. If you so desire, by all means please say this prayer as fervently as you can to our dear Mother Mary.
THE HAIL MARY
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
– Prayer that can be said between Hail Mary’s: “Oh most holy and immaculate Virgin Mother of God, keep my body pure and my soul holy. Oh most holy, Immaculate Heart of Mary, keep me this day from mortal sin.” –