Today's Solemnity confuses many Catholic's because it is often thought to be a celebration of the conception of Jesus, but mathematically this would be a confusing time to celebrate Jesus' conception with the celebration of his birth in just a few weeks.
In fact today's Solemnity celebrates the conception of Mary who was filled with grace inside her mother, St. Anne's, womb. We see this when the Angel Gabriel greets Mary at the Annunciation with "Hail, full of grace". If you know your Greek, which I'm sure you all do, you know that this phrase translates to "Chaire, Kecharitomene". Kecharitomene is in the past perfect participle, so it is an action that has been and continues to be, so it would be better translated "Hail, you who have been graced".
This truth of Mary's Immaculate Conception was further expressed when Mary appeared to the young St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France 150 years ago. When St. Bernadette asked Mary what her name was she responded "I am the Immaculate Conception", a phrase that puzzled the uneducated St. Bernadette and shocked the clergy of the time who were still trying to understand the nature of Mary's conception. It's not that this truth about Mary had changed, it always was and will be, it's just that it took the Church a while to fully understand it and the fulness of it's beauty.
This May, while in France, we were able to visit the grotto where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, it is pictured above. It was a truly beautiful and moving experience. We were amazed at the overwhelming amounts of pilgrimages who continue to travel to this holy place entrusting their illnesses to the healing waters of the miraculous spring (5 million each year).
Kevin had the day off today because working for FOCUS is awesome. All major solemnities (holy day's of obligation) are taken as a day of prayer and observance for the staff. To celebrate today we started off with a yummy cinnamon flop with blue icing, for Mary of course.
I love the recipe because it take about 10 minutes to mix up. The recipe says 5 minutes, but I must be slow. I would definitely add the egg and vanilla, which say optional. It is a great alternative to the painstaking task of homemade cinnamon rolls.
We also read the pro-life book Angel in the Waters to the kids which introduces the idea of life starting at conception. You can get it for FREE(!) here, they even pay for the shipping.
This book was a great way to start a conversation on what Immaculate Conception means, as well as why Mary was so special from the time she was conceived in St. Anne's belly.