December 8 ~ Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Hail, Full of Grace!
Today we celebrate a feast of the Blessed Virgin, Mary, Mother of God, who was born without sin. She was a child of grace from the first moment of her life. Whilst all human beings are born in sin, the words of the angel, “Hail, full of grace!” are truly said of our Blessed Mother even in her birth. She, a creature of God and as human as we, never committed even a venial sin. During her whole life she never lost any of the sanctifying grace given to her by God at the very instant of her birth.
While still a child she was brought by her parents to the temple at Jerusalem, there to spend the early days of her life away from the noisy, sinful world. In that sacred place, among innocent children and virgins, she worked and prayed, laying the foundation of the wonderful holiness which made glad the heavens and the earth. The house of her parents and the temple of God were to her the dearest places. When the archangel Gabriel brought her the message that she was the one chosen by God to become the mother of His Son, he found her alone in her little room, engaged in pious thought.
St. Edmund had been brought up with a great devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. When sending him to school at Paris, his mother begged him never to let a day pass without praying to his divine protectress. The holy young man remembered the wishes of his mother and always showed himself most zealous for the glory of Mary. He went several times a day to pray before her statue; and, to mark his engaging in the service of Mary, he placed on the finger of her statue a ring, on which he had the “Hail Mary” engraved. You shall see how pleasing that devotion, so sincere and so lasting, was to the Blessed Virgin. After the death of Edmund it was noted that this same prayer was engraved on his episcopal ring to which it gave so great a power that it was used in a large number of miraculous cures.
Mary was industrious; she did all her home duties with great care. Her place in life was lowly; she was poor and had to work to support herself. She worked, however, not only because she was poor, but also because she knew labor to be a duty for every one, as well as an excellent help to virtue. In this, too, you may take Mary for your model, since an industrious, active life is one of the surest means of obtaining grace. Those who work hard close their hearts to temptation. The devil cannot fill our mind with bad thoughts when our attention is occupied with business. So let us labor cheerfully, for work drives away sinful thoughts and helps us to think of holy things.
St. Teresa was blessed with a good and virtuous mother, who taught her when a little child to love the Blessed Virgin. Teresa was not twelve years old when her mother died, and she was almost in despair at her loss. In the midst of her sorrow she threw herself before an image of Our Lady and begged her with
many tears to be a mother to her, now that her earthly mother was taken from her. This act, done with all the fervor and simplicity of childhood, brought little Teresa the special love and protection of Mary; and the saint tells us that she never begged the help of her heavenly Mother without obtaining relief.
How zealous was Mary in the exercises of devotion and prayer! As we have heard, she spent the years of her childhood in the temple at Jerusalem, where she daily spent several hours in prayer. She prayed, as she herself revealed to her cousin Elizabeth, at three different times of the day, and even at night she arose from sleep to adore God before the altar of the temple. The last years of her life were entirely devoted to prayer and pious thought.
We must imitate Mary in her fervor at prayer so that we may be able to preserve sanctifying grace. So long as we live we will meet with temptations, and we cannot overcome them by our own strength; we need the grace of God to do it.
A young man who had many times fallen into mortal sin, went to confession. The good priest was greatly affected on learning that the young man had sinned so often. But to encourage him the priest said:
“My child, I will tell you an easy means of overcoming: the tempter, to whom you have so often yielded. If you do what I tell you, you will never sin again.”
“O my Father,” the youth replied, “tell me what it is, for with my whole heart I desire to overcome evil habits.” “Place yourself entirely under the protection of the Blessed Virgin,” said the priest. “Say a ‘Hail
Mary’ every morning and evening in honor of her sinless birth and her holy life, and whenever you are tempted to do evil say to her at once, ‘O Mary, help me, for I am thine!'” The young man followed his advice, and in a short time was entirely freed from his evil habits.
Children, how can we live like Mary? The answer is contained in these words, which Mary spoke to the angel: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” We can live like Mary by doing the will of God. Whatever we do, we ought to ask the question, “Is this what God would have me to do?”
In a large eastern city of our country there is a great asylum where hundreds of poor orphans, boys and girls, are tenderly cared for by Catholic Sisters. This orphan asylum was built a great many years ago by a merchant, who gave all his money to it. If you were to go and visit that asylum they would show you the ledger in which the man who founded it used to keep his business accounts. At the top of every page, at the beginning of every day, he wrote, “To the glory of God.” In all his business dealings he tried to think of the honor and glory of God, and when he died he left all the money he made to be used for the caring of poor little orphans—for the glory of our Father who is in heaven. This is a splendid rule for us to follow. When we go to school, when we go to play, whatever we do, let us make up our minds that we are going to try to do it just as we know God wants us to do it; that is the sure way to make the most of our time and to live the best life here on earth to gain heaven in the life to come.
My dear children, take Mary as your model and try to live as she did. She lost none of the grace God gave her; until her death she kept every particle of it bright and pure as she received it from Him, and she did this because she lived humbly and quietly from the sinful world and because she loved work and prayer.
Taken from Anecdote – Sermonettes for Children’s Mass by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter