Yesterday was quite a day!
First, it was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It’s one of my favorite feasts… but more on that later.
Second, for the first time on American soil, a Marian apparition was officially approved—that is, was called “worthy of belief.” More on that later, too!
But third, what I really wanted to talk about, is just what it means to be called to religious life.
* * * * *
I had the privilege yesterday of attending Mass with the sisters who are currently in treatment at Guest House’s Women’s Treatment Center in Lake Orion. They are good, strong women of faith, yet they have been troubled—as are the rest of us—by desires of the flesh. For some, that weakness is revealed in alcoholism or drug dependency, the turning to drink or drugs in a vain attempt to quench their deepest fears. Others suffer with eating disorders—anorexia or compulsive overeating.
The sisters who are in residence at Guest House will be here for four to six months, maybe longer. Guest House’s treatment regimen requires that clients stay until they have confidently overcome addiction and have focused, instead, on their Lord and the vocation to which He has called them.
For the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM sisters), and perhaps for other women’s religious orders as well, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is their major feast, and the day on which they renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Things were buzzing at Guest House yesterday as clients in residence—who came from different religious communities and different states, but who have forged deep friendships with their fellow sisters—planned the ceremony to renew their vows.
During the 4:30 p.m. Mass, 19 sisters stood and recommitted their lives to service of God and His creation. Perhaps when they return to their communities they will be educators, or nurses, or social workers; but wherever they go, they will go prayerfully and with joyful hearts to serve their bridegroom Christ. The disciplines of poverty, chastity and obedience help to sharpen their focus on what is truly important, in this world and in the next.
* * * * *Now to touch briefly on the other two good things about the day:
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.
For a Catholic this feast, observed on December 8 each year, is a holyday of obligation—a day on which Mass attendance is required, even when it falls on a weekday.
Just what is the “Immaculate Conception”?
A. Mary was a virgin at the time of Christ’s birth.
B. Jesus was born without sin.
C. Mary was conceived without sin. Like the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant, which was beautifully crafted because it held the precious Torah, so Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, since she carried the Christ Child in her womb. Since she was destined to be the Mother of God, she was preserved from any stain of original sin, and she remained sinless throughout her life.
If you guessed “C”, you’re right! The Immaculate Conception is one of the four main Marian dogmas.
APPROVAL OF A MARIAN APPARITION RIGHT HERE IN THE UNITED STATES.
Bishop David Ricken, bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, announced yesterday that he officially approves the Marian apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, Wisconsin.
The announcement was made during a special Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion.
Reading from his decree, the Bishop stated, “I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”
Today’s declaration makes Our Lady of Good Help at Champion the first and only site in the United States of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.