What the month of December means to Catholics and how to honor it in your home…
The Church taught of the Immaculate Conception for ages, but it was in 1854 that Pope Pius IX officially proclaimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”
This teaching refers to the conception of Mary in the womb of St. Anne, her mother. Redemption was applied to our Blessed Mother from conception, by the merits of Jesus Christ, her son — a truly awe-inspiring reality. Preserved from original sin, Mary has been called “our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” in the words of the great poet William Wordsworth.
Mary remained free of sin for her entire life. Honoring her purity is an antidote to the sometimes garish bustle of December, and a complementary devotion to our usual Advent activities culminating in the festive splendor of Christmas.
Continuing our monthly series on ways to showcase each month’s Catholic theme in your life, here are 10 ways you can honor the Immaculate Conception this September…
1Invoke the Intercession of Sts. Anne and Joachim, parents of our Blessed Mother
Ponder Giotto’s beautiful “Meeting at the Golden Gate” (1304–1306) fresco painting — which depicts the saintly parents of Mary coming together in a holy kiss, upon discovering the news St. Anne is pregnant with Mary. Their two faces, which join together to form one face of love, are full of emotion. Consider praying one of these prayers or novenas to Jesus’s Grandparents.
2Practice gratitude for your baptism and bear the goal of heaven in mind
Let us thank God that by our baptism we were cleansed of Original Sin and labor each day to keep and live the faith as we are reminded that those who go to heaven will be freed from all stain of sin, and will therefore someday become immaculatus (Latin for “stainless”). What a gift we’ve been given and what hope we must hold onto as we continue to work for the Kingdom.
3Clean up your soul
This month, inspired by the desire to someday be in heaven with the Holy Trinity, work to “clean up” your soul by going to confession, giving to the poor, and performing acts of mercy. Think of what way(s) you’d like to do this during December.
4Clean up your mind and heart
In order to make our minds and hearts more pure so they might be more like our Blessed Mother and be true temples of the Holy Spirit, consider what television shows you watch, what you read and look at. Try to live according to the advice of Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Look at great religious art by the Renaissance masters; listen to some Gregorian Chant; watch Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life!
5Clean up your environment
In honor of Immaculate Mary, why not clean as a way to practice humility, give your hands meaningful work, and be reminded of Mary’s purity as we do so? Christmas is coming at the end of the month. Why not scrub your home, your desk at work, even volunteer to help clean your church? This small and modest act of love, if done prayerfully, can be dedicated to Our Lady.
6Create something lovely to honor Mary
In honor of the Immaculate Conception, come up with a special way to honor Mary. That is, come up with a way to give her special honor. Maybe you’re an artist and can dedicate a painting, poem, or song to her. Maybe you’re a business owner and can give to a charity in her honor. Maybe you can think of a work of love in her name. Here’s a book with exercises to help you devote yourself more deeply to Mary. It makes a great gift, too.
7Wear your Miraculous Medal and make a home display honoring Mary
Remember that the Miraculous Medal bears these fitting words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Wear it proudly all month! Set a table in your home with a white cloth and consider placing a bouquet of white roses near a picture or statue of Mary. You can write the words of the Miraculous Medal on a card and place it on your altar as a daily aspiration, or place an extra medal or even a computer-printed image of the Miraculous Medal in a prominent place. Start a special prayer In honor of the Immaculate Conception. Entrust yourself to her with this famous prayer written by St. Maximillian Kolbe.
Our Lady is the Patroness of the United States of America under her title of the “Immaculate Conception.” This is a good month to place a little American flag on your home altar or near your statue or picture of Our Lady, and as for Mary’s intercession for the United States.
9Play music fit for a queen
Enjoy listening to “Immaculate Mary,” the Lourdes hymn, and if you know the words, sing along! Also, the hymn honoring Mary for the feast of the Immaculate Conception for Vespers is “Ave Maris Stella” so why not end your evening with that stunning chant all month long? Any Marian Gregorian Chant is a great way to celebrate.
10Look to famous art to study the symbols of the Immaculate Conception
Throughout art history, certain symbols continue to appear in images representing the Immaculate Conception. These depictions are similar to the representations of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Marian apparition at which Our Lady said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” If you have an Our Lady of Lourdes image or statue, this is a great month to feature it more prominently in your home. Many of the great paintings in history show Mary just moments after her assumption looking skyward in gratitude and awesome wonder. Beneath her foot is the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, referencing Rev 12:1-2. You will frequently notice the presence of putti (childlike angels), roses, lilies and clouds swathed in golden light. Here are a few links to such art.
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