SINGAPORE – When Catholics go to the Singapore Indoor Stadium for the Lourdes Experience on Saturday Dec 6, they will be reminded of the miraculous healings that have taken place for decades in the little French village of Lourdes in France.
The year 2008 will mark the 150th anniversary of the great miracle of Lourdes when Mary appeared to a simple 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous. A steady stream of pilgrims have
been coming to Lourdes to honour Mary since then and to pray for healing. Many of them returned home cured of their maladies. When Mary first appeared to Bernadette, she told her to drink from a previously invisible fountain of water that sprung up spontaneously from the ground. Bernadette returned to report the incident. Doubting church officials told her to go back and ask the lady’s name.
“I am the Immaculate Conception,” was the reply.
The church’s teaching on this is quite positive. On Dec 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX solemnly declared in a papal bull titled Ineffabilis Deus (Indescribable God) that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Christ Jesus, saviour of the human race, was preserved immune from all stain of original sin”.
This privilege was not merely a personal gift to Mary, unrelated to her mission. Mary’s twofold vocation was to receive Jesus into her body and to give him away to the world for the salvation and sanctification of God’s people.
Both the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and that of the Assumption of Mary into heaven tell us that we too are destined for glory, not merely as pure spirits but as human beings in glorified bodies. After death, both body and soul will be reunited for eternal life.
The Immaculate Conception dogma thus says that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed that she lived a life completely free from sin. Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, by normal sexual intercourse, should not be confused with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on Dec 8, was established as a universal feast in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV but he did not define the doctrine as a dogma then, thus leaving Roman Catholics free to believe in it or not without being accused of heresy; this freedom was reiterated by the Council of Trent. The existence of the feast was a strong indication
of the Church’s belief in the Immaculate Conception, even before its 19th century definition as a dogma by Pope Pius IX. The Church believes the dogma is supported by Scripture (e.g. Mary’s being greeted by Angel Gabriel as “full of grace” or “highly favoured”), by the writings of many of the Church Fathers, as well as sensus fidei (belief shared by the faithful and the Magisterium). Catholic theology maintains that, since Jesus became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, it was fitting that she be completely free of sin.
The dogma gained additional significance from the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1858.- cns, wikipedia