“Hail Mary, full of grace…” Many Catholics grow up hearing these words, but what does it mean to say that Mary was “full of grace”? This is the mystery we celebrate on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Mary’s Immaculate Conception means that from the moment she came into existence she was so full of God’s grace that she was preserved from original sin, and she was kept safe from sin throughout her entire life.
God knew that Jesus’s coming to earth would be an event unlike any other in human history, and Mary would play a special role in making it possible. That’s why God made Mary the first to benefit from Jesus’s saving mission.
Mary of the Immaculate Conception is also the patron saint of the United States, so all Catholics in the US can celebrate December 8 as their feast day.
Here are the Mass readings for this Holy Day.
And here’s more about the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Pope Francis’s Prayer for the Immaculate Conception (12/8/16 at the Spanish Steps in Rome)
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to you,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted to me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That you may bless them and preserve them from harm.
I bring to you, Mother, children,
Especially those who are alone, abandoned,
And for this reason are tricked and exploited.
I bring to you, Mother, families,
Who carry forward life and society
With their daily and hidden efforts;
In a special way the families who struggle the most
For their many internal and external problems.
I bring to you, Mother, all workers, both men and women,
And I entrust to you especially those who, out of need,
Are forced to work in an unworthy profession
And those who have lost work or are unable to find it.
We are in need of your immaculate gaze,
To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things
With respect and awareness,
Without egotistical or hypocritical interests.
We are in need of your immaculate heart,
To love freely,
Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other,
With simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.
We are in need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
We are in need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin;
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But, trusting in your constant help,
Let us engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
Originally published here on the Vatican’s website.