Whether as a drive-by or as your intentional destination, chances are that, if you have ever been to the University of Notre Dame, you have been captivated at one point or another by the glistening light of candles that cast their shadows upon the inside walls of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Or, perhaps your attention goes directly to the statue tucked discreetly inside a relatively small niche on the upper right side of the striking stone structure.
“Am I not here who am your Mother?” These very words were spoken by Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Mexican indigenous man nearly five centuries ago, and they changed the course of evangelization in the new world. The Spanish had already spent several years trying to convert the new world, but nothing was working. Hostility between the indigenous people and the conquistadores was the only thing coming out of their many attempts. Into this environment of hostility, our Blessed Mother came to the aid of those in need. She came to St. Juan Diego and gave him all of her motherly love and compassion. Now, she is known as the Queen of Mexico and Empress of America.
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Occasionally this dogma is confused for the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. According to the Catechism, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception pertains to the “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” that, among humans, belongs only to our Blessed Lady, because she is “enriched from the first instant of her conception”—a singular grace coming wholly from Christ. Mary is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son” (CCC, §492).
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The memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows directs our attention to sorrows of Mary. Traditional devotion has identified seven moments of sorrow, seven sorrows or “dolors,” chosen to concentrate our attention on the suffering of Mary. Contemplating these sorrows exposes our hearts to the wellspring of continuous interior conversion, namely, the Passion of the Lord. For, in contemplating the sorrows of Mary, all of which arise from that same wellspring of conversion, we see the Passion as it came to dwell in a mother’s heart.