“Mondays with Mary” – St. Francis de Sales on the Immaculate Conception

As we enter the month of December, we enter the Season of Advent – four weeks of hopeful preparation anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day. As important as the Season of Advent and Christmas are in the life of the Church, we also celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. This is the feast where the Church commemorates the Conception of Mary immaculately in the womb of her mother. On Friday, I will post a special edition of “Mondays with Mary” explaining the fourth doctrine which is so important in the life of the Church.

As for today’s post, I want to share with you some words of wisdom from one of the great Doctors of the Catholic Church – St. Francis de Sales St. Francis de Sales. Over the past months, it has been my great pleasure to share with you the words of this holy and learned saint. On August 6, I wrote the post, St. Francis de Sales on the Assumption of Mary and on November 19, there was The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today’s post is St. Francis de Sales on the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It is important to note that at this time in Church history, the Immaculate Conception had not been formally declared dogmatic as of yet – that came in the year 1854 by Blessed Pope Pius IX. It was also not a holy day of obligation in France yet, where St. Francis de Sales lived and preached.

The excerpt below is from a sermon given on December 8, 1622 –

“As for Our Lady, the most holy Virgin, she was conceived in the usual way of generation. But since in His plan God had predestined her from all eternity to be His Mother, He kept her pure and free from all stain, although by her nature she could have sinned. There is no doubt about that, as far as actual sin is concerned.

Let me make a comparison in order that you may understand better. Do you know how pearls are made? (Many ladies desire pearls but they do not care about their origin.) Mother-of-pearl fish do as the bees do. They have a king and choose for that role the largest among them, the rest following him. They come on ocean waves when the air is freshest, which is at break of day, principally in the month of May. When they are all there they open their shells toward Heaven, allowing drops of dew to fall into them. They then clamp shut upon these drops in such a manner that they incubate this dew drop and convert it into a pearl, which is then considered so valuable. But notice, they close their shells in such a way that no salt water enters.

This comparison will serve my purpose well. The Lord has done the same for the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady, because at the instant of her Conception He placed Himself between her and sin – or rather, one might say, under her, to prevent her from falling into Original Sin. In the above example, if the drop of dew does not find the shell to receive it, it will fall into the ocean and be converted into briny and salty water. But if the shell receives it, it is changed into a pearl. In the same way the most holy Virgin was cast into the sea of this world by the common way of generation, but preserved from the salty water of the corruption of sin. It was fitting that she have this particular privilege because it was not reasonable that the devil be able to reproach Our Lord with the claim that she who had carried Him in her womb had [in Original Sin] been subject to him. It is for this reason that the Evangelist does not make mention of the father and mother of the Virgin, but only of Joseph, the husband of a Virgin named Mary. It was of her that Jesus who is called the Messiah was born. [Matt 1:16]. Thus by a special grace her soul possessed nothing [of Original Sin] from her earthly parents, as is the case will all other creatures.”

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You can see why St. Francis de Sales is a saint and Doctor of the Church. In three small paragraphs, he explains with the eloquence of angels the beauty of the Immaculate Conception. We are truly blessed to have such words at our disposal in the Church today. These words help us understand the mysteries of God’s kingdom more and more each day. They also display the importance of the Blessed Mother immaculately conceived through the power of God.

2 replies »

  1. So he used the word predestined. Does the church believe in predestination and he made it sound like she was saved from original sin but not every day sin. I thought she was totally sinless?? Did I read it incorrectly?

    • Amanda – I believe he is using the word “predestined” as meaning she was the one picked by God from the beginning, not as in the meaning that Calvinists use. On the account of her sinfulness, we must remember that in 1622, although the Immaculate Conception was a doctrine, it had not been formally declared dogmatic yet. The Church more than likely was still investigating and examining it. From my studies in Mary, I have found that she did not commit any sin, even venial sins, her entire life.

      Just because the saints profess something does not mean it’s always the correct teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas did not think and believe that Mary was conceived without sin. It just shows us that the saints are not always correct. The Magisterium, the Pope and Bishops together, have the final word on the teachings of the Catholic Church. Jesus gives Peter and the Apostles authority to declare and not to declare truth in the Scriptures.

      I hope that helps a bit.

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