Discovered by a fishermen in 1717, the image has been associated with many miracles and is iconic of Brazilian Catholicism
The first is that God is alive and at work in the world. He has not abandoned the human race, but he cares enough to be involved. Through a special act he preserved the Virgin Mary from the stain of original sin, and through this unique action he reminds us that he is still engaged with the human race in our eternal struggle. This world is not empty of God and empty of grace, but it is still charged with the grandeur and humility of God. Rationalism is not the final answer. The miraculous is still alive in the world.
Secondly, the Immaculate Conception reminds us that human life is sacred from the first moment of conception. We are taught by divine revelation and by divine interaction with the world that the first moment of human life is the moment of conception. In a world threatened by genocide, suicide, war, murder, abortion, and euthanasia, the Blessed Virgin – under her titles of Aparecida and Guadalupe – speak to the world of the sacredness of human life and of God’s care and love for the human race.
Finally, it is no mistake that the Immaculate Conception is the primary image of the Americas. The Americas are the ultimate battleground in the war between secular, godless humanism and the divine mercy of God in the world. The blessed Virgin, Immaculately and miraculously conceived, offers her son for the Redemption of the world and the conversion of the Americas.
The Pope’s visit to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida echoes this call and reminds us all that God’s secret plan for the world is far greater than we can ever imagine, and that Jesus Christ – born of the Virgin Mary – is not finished with us yet.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Visit his blog, browse his books, and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.
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