1) What does this holiday mean?
This celebration which takes place at the beginning of Advent, on the supposed date of Mary’s conception, reminds us that Mary was preserved from original sin from her birth.
2) Why was Mary preserved from original sin?
“By a singular grace and favor of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, (Mary is) preserved intact from all taint of original sin,” tells us the Catechism of the Catholic Church .This grace (free gift of God) cannot therefore be conceived without the vocation of Mary.
It is because she was going to give birth to the Son of God that Mary was preserved from sin. She is “redeemed in an eminent way in consideration of the merits of her Son” (Lumen Gentium 53 – Vatican II).
As an anticipated fruit of the forgiveness offered by Jesus on the cross, Mary (who was conceived normally, by the union of her father and mother) is immaculate, pure from all sin, and preserved from original sin, this separation of ‘with God who marks man from the beginning of his existence.
3) A dogma, in 1854, proclaimed the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
The dogma (indisputable affirmation of the Catholic faith) of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed on December 8, 1854 by Pope Pius IX. Throughout the centuries, the Church already had the intuition that Mary, “filled with grace” by God (Lk 1:28), had been redeemed from her conception. In 1477, a mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception received the approval of Pope Sixtus IV.
4) Apparitions which confirm this very special place of Mary.
This dogma was confirmed by apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Four years before her proclamation, in 1830, in the chapel on rue du Bac, in Paris, Mary appeared to Saint Catherine Labourée, crowned with this sentence: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you”.