Such is the anthem of the Church in today's festival in honor of Mary. Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin and we are therefore full of joy.
From time immemorial the Church has conceded this privilege to Mary; the ancient doctors and saints taught it; but it was only in our day that it was made an article of faith, when Pius IX., in the year 1854, supported and surrounded by two hundred cardinals and bishops assembled in Rome from all parts of the world, proclaimed it as a dogma that Mary the Mother of God was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception; that she did not need to be purified from stain of sin; that God had created her pure and immaculate. The decree was applauded by all, amid demonstrations of the most profound respect and liveliest enthusiasm.
No less should be our joy at the recurrence of a festival that marks so wondrous a grace. But will you content yourselves with joy and exultation? Do you think it will suffice to Mary to know that you are happy? Mary desires above all that you imitate her purity. If your souls have been stained with sin she wants you to seek pardon at once, and in order that you may succeed the better she is anxious to come to your assistance. She herself wants to intercede for your pardon at the throne of the Most High. She herself wishes to be your advocate, for she is the refuge of sinners. Under this title invoke her today; with the grace of God I will prove to you how well she merits that title. Mary, who is all pure and all holy, deserves that we all should be pure and free from sin. Sin renders us abominable in the sight of God. Our soul is like a horrid desert filled with wild beasts; the vile passions of anger, revenge, and impurity dwell in it. Mary sees our unhappy condition, feels the greatest pity for us, and seeks to make us know the miserable state we are in. Many feel this and are converted, but, on the contrary, many, and among them a larger number of young people, have hardened their hearts and live in the indulgence of their vices because they prefer to walk in the broad road of sin which eventually leads to eternal death.
They get further and further away from that influence which could lead them back to conversion; they avoid the church, the sacraments, the word of God, the counsels of pious people and associates, and give up the little devotion they had to the Blessed Virgin. Mary has great compassion on even the most wicked men, and she does not desert them. She is the refuge of sinners, and provided they have a wish to lay aside the habit of sin, provided they say at least a little prayer, that bright immaculate Queen will strike off their fetters and they will be converted to God. St. Bridget says that this sweet Mother is a bait to catch souls for heaven. Honor her then, ye sinners! Find a joy in doing it and she will obtain for you grace and salvation.
A criminal once said, "What has the Blessed Virgin ever done for me?" "What has she ever done for you, ungrateful creature!" answered an interior voice. " Do you remember the sudden death of this and that sinner? It might have been the same with you, but she obtained for you the grace of a longer life and an opportunity to do better." She thus does good, even to those who are ungrateful.
Mary of Egypt, when twelve years old, went to the wicked city of Alexandria against the express command of her mother, and there she lived a most sinful life for seventeen years. One day she saw a big crowd going to the shore to embark for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. She took a notion to go along. On the ship she behaved most scandalously and led many of the pilgrims into sin. The feast came, and she wished to witness these festivals also. When she arrived before the church she made an attempt to enter, but she felt a hand restraining her. Three times she attempted to cross the threshold, and though she made the greatest effort she could not succeed. Then she understood that her great sins were the cause of the mysterious force that prevented her from entering the church; that in her condition she was not worthy to enter the house of God and look upon the sacred relics of the Cross of Christ. She wept at the remembrance of her sins; she did not know what to do, when by the side of a house she saw a painting of the Blessed Virgin. Throwing herself at the feet of Mary she exclaimed, "Holy Virgin, who didst conceive an omnipotent God, I know well that since thou lovest purity so much and wert so pure thyself, thou oughtest to abhor such a person as I am. But 0, most merciful Mother, have mercy on me! The greater my misery, the greater is my right to thy intercession. Obtain for me the grace of seeing that holy wood of the cross; and I will go where thou leadest me to do penance." Mary heard her prayer, and obtained for her the grace to enter the church and adore the holy cross. Having come out of the church the sinner went to the desert and there did penance and became a great saint through the intercession and help of the Blessed Virgin. Thus you see that Mary feels compassion for the greatest and most disgusting sinners.
A youth of twenty-five years was dying. He had led a most sinful life, but having been converted, he was very devout to the Blessed Virgin, and became a model young man. He was on his sick-bed and held in one hand a crucifix and in the other an image of the Blessed Virgin. He looked from one to the other and in turn kissed them. When he had received the last sacraments he confidently said: "Father, I am going to heaven, for Mary has obtained for me this grace." You also, my dear young friends, if you commend yourselves to Mary, if you are converted with a sincere heart and abandon sin, you will surely go to heaven.
But you, my dear young friends who are still innocent, do not forget on this beautiful day of the Immaculate Conception to pray to Mary. You, too, have need of Mary's protection that you may preserve your baptismal purity. Pray to her in this wise: "Obtain for me, immaculate Virgin, that no sin may come into my soul. Obtain for me that my eyes may be preserved from the contamination of impurities; obtain for me that my ears may not hear any impious discourses against religion, purity, or charity; obtain for me that my tongue may not utter bad words, that my hands may do nothing wrong. Obtain for me, immaculate Virgin, that my whole heart and my body may be the temple of the Holy Ghost fitted for this divine habitation by the most scrupulous purity."
"Thou art all fair, Mary, and no stain of sin is to be found in thee."
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900
Below you will find coloring pages for the children. On our download page there is also an entire coloring book filled with images of our dear Blessed Mother.