Our Lady at Lourdes and the Immaculate Conception

Where did the Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception originate? I once believed the immaculate conception refers to the conception of Jesus. Rather, it refers to Mother Mary’s conception without original sin. This doctrine has ancient roots in the 2nd century when Irenaeus and Justiin Martyr referred to Mary as the “new Eve.” The first Eve was conceived without sin, yet she disobeyed God, while the “new Eve” Mary was conceived without sin and was obedient to God. In the Bible, the angel Gabriel’s reference to Mary as “full of grace” is another indicator. Through the centuries, Catholics have sometimes believed and sometimes doubted Mary’s immaculate conception, which was formally declared a church doctrine by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Mother Mary confirmed her immaculate conception to a fourteen-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous at a grotto in Lourdes, France. She appeared eighteen times to Bernadette between February and July of 1858. When Bernadette asked the Lady to identify herself, Mary said, “I am the immaculate conception.” Bernadette didn’t know how to interpret that line, since the church doctrine on the immaculate conception had only been in the church for a few years and she was unaware of it. Mary also instructed her to “pray and do penance for the conversion of the world.”

The Catholic Church carefully investigated and approved of Bernadette’s account prior to erecting a shrine at Lourdes. Since then, the Catholic Church has further investigated thousands of claims of miracles, formally approving 70 of them.[1] Most recently, these include restoring Sister Bernadette Moriau’s ability to walk in 2008 and removing an inoperable tumor in Danila Castelli in 1989.[2]   

Mary’s immaculate conception is recognized by the church on December 8th each year. It is one of five joyful mysteries. The joyful mysteries are the annunciation to Mary by Gabriel of the conception of Jesus, the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the nativity of our Lord, the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and the discovery of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple.

Thank you for your time.


[1] Anonymous Staff at Catholic News Agency (2018). The 70th miracle: Lourdes healing officially declared supernatural. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/37743/the-70th-miracle-lourdes-healing-officially-declared-supernatural

[2] Ibid.; Anonymous Staff at Catholic News Agency (2013). Lourdes shrine officially records 69th miracle.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/27675/lourdes-shrine-officially-records-69th-miracle

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