WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8: It’s the feast of the Immaculate Conception today for Roman Catholics, and Pope Benedict XVI marked the event this morning by praying before a statue of Mary—and officially inaugurating the Christmas season in Rome. (Read more, and view photos, in the Washington Post.)
This can be a confusing doctrine for non-Catholics, who tend to focus on the birth of Jesus in the Advent season. However, this Catholic teaching about the Immaculate Conception goes back to the conception of Mary herself, affirming that Mary was conceived “without any stain” of Original Sin—in a state of grace that others only achieve after baptism. This has become one of four dogmas in Roman Catholic Mariology. (Wikipedia has details.)
Today’s feast has been celebrated for centuries, but it has only been a Holy Day of Obligation since 1708. Mary’s parents—SS. Anne and Joachim—are the patron saints of grandmothers and grandfathers, respectively.
In light of Mary’s grace, St. Benedict spoke to an audience in Rome, asking people to reject evil and choose good “even when it’s costly and when it requires going against the current.”