Monday, December 8, 2014

A Mom's Advent Meditations: the Immaculate Conception

Today's feast is a special one for me.  Because Bernadette is my middle name, I've always had a particular fondness for anything relating to the maiden of Lourdes. She was always my saint and I was her little girl -- and wise and loving patron that she is, she took my hand when I was a child and through the years has led me to the beautiful Lady in the Grotto, to Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.  As an adult I consecrated myself in St. Lous de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary under the title of  the Immaculate Conception, an association that glows with meaning, especially in the Advent season; Lourdes and Bethlehem are connected by heavenly bonds.

Most of us, I think, imagine Bethlehem in sparkling starlight, ringing with the song of angels, warm in the love of the Holy Family.  Likewise, everything about Lourdes is beautiful and magical, tingling with the music of heaven: the beauty of the image of Our Lady of Lourdes, the yellow roses under her feet, the blooming of the rectory's roses in winter, the miraculous spring bubbling up under the hands of St. Bernadette -- but, most importantly, Our Lady's message there at the grotto, her affirmation that she is -- and always has been - the Immaculate Conception.  That she was conceived without the stain of sin.  That she remained always perfect and pure, as the Mother of God must be and is -- there at the side of the manger in Bethlehem, here with us, the Universal Church, our Mediatrix of All Grace.  The thought transports my soul.  

But, then there are the other sides of the stories, the pictures that ground them in earthly reality:  the abject poverty of Bernadette's family; the derision she received for being the recipient of such a divine gift, an ignorant, backward, and unhealthy child of no obvious merit; the lowly place the Queen of Heaven chose to be seen -- literally the town dump.  Such contradictions: the glory of heaven, the grittiness of earth. The scene mirrors Bethlehem and the lowly stable where the King of Heaven chose to be born... The glow of heaven in the most unlikely places.

It's a wondrous thing to know, isn't it?  That God can appear anywhere -- in the most unlikely of places.  That He actually seems to seek these places out -- like the Good Shepherd climbing down the cliff, hunting out His stray lambs.  He comes to dwell in the hearts that are prepared and beautiful in their love for Him, but He also comes into the poorest and most unprepared of hearts, seeking a place for Himself. 
In my best days and my worst, Christ seeks to dwell in my soul and His Mother's only interest is to help me make this soul of mine a good place for Him to be.  On this feast honoring the perfect purity of the Mother of God, I hope and pray that I can always keep Mary, the Immaculate Conception, my close companion, that I can manage to make her a comfortable and constant place in my heart.  Where she is, He is; Jesus is always at home where His Mother is staying.

  Mother Immaculate, make my heart a Bethlehem!

Know Mary; Know Jesus
No Mary; No Jesus
*  Story of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes, here.

*  History of the feast the Immaculate Conception here.

*  A wonderful prayer for the day, one of those recommended for those consecrated to Our Blessed Mother, but a beautiful devotion for anyone anywhere:  The Prayers of the Little Crown of Mary

*  The Catholic Toolbox has a slew of links to activities, coloring pages, and recipes, here.

*  As always, Catholic Cuisine shares some wonderful recipe ideas for today's feast: look here.

*  Charlotte's (Waltzing Matilda's) lovely coloring page here.

* More beautiful coloring page links for the day here, many specifically for the Immaculate Conception (others for the Annunciation, etc.) -- we printed off this one:

Our Best Wishes for a Happy, Holy
Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

On this Holy Day of Obligation
  we unite our prayers with our friends and family at  holy Mass...

The ideal way to be close, even when we're far away!

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