In popular practice, December traditionally has been devoted to the Immaculate Conception. Here are some ways to practice that devotion with your family this month.
by Brian Smith
Back in the Middle Ages, many Catholics began observing special devotions around a particular theme each month — the Holy Name of Jesus in January, for instance. Today, many families are reviving this practice as part of the way they observe the liturgical calendar at home. By practicing monthly devotions, the core values of the faith will become more alive within your family. The beauty of monthly devotions is that there is no set way to celebrate. So, be creative, make it fun, and adapt your celebration to your own family.
Here are some ways to celebrate the popular devotion for December, the Immaculate Conception.
Talking with Kids about the Immaculate Conception
From the moment Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, she was free from the stain of original sin. Before Mary was even born to Sts. Anne and Joachim, her parents, God wanted Mary to be the mother of Jesus. God, with his infinite wisdom, knew that Mary would need his sanctifying grace. And so, God preserved Mary from all types of sin, even original sin. Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s preservation from original sin.
When Mary was a teenager, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. He greeted her by saying, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). Gabriel greeted Mary this way because he knew that Mary had been fully preserved from all sin and that such was only possible because of the grace of God.
Mary was blessed by many of God’s graces. Yet God always respected Mary’s free will. When Gabriel asked Mary if she would bare the Savior in her womb, Mary replied, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38).
So why did God want Mary to be kept free from sin?
Jesus is the only person to ever have both a human and a divine nature. Because of this, God wanted Jesus to be born in the purest way possible. We know that nothing that is unclean may enter heaven. The Immaculate Conception teaches us that, in turn, God did not want heaven (Jesus) to enter the world in an unclean manner. And so, God protected Mary from sin (especially her womb), so that Jesus could be born in the most divine, yet human, way possible.
Feast Days & Memorials
The following days can be connected to this month’s devotion. Click to learn more.
3 St. Francis Xavier
4 St. John Damascene
7 St. Ambrose
11 St. Damasus I
13 St. Lucy
14 St. John of the Cross
26 St. Stephen
27 St. John
28 Feast of the Holy Innocents
29 St. Thomas Becket
31 St. Sylvester I
A take away for kids to memorize and/or include in their daily prayer.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
Questions to help propagate the faith with your children.
- Do I put all of my trust in God?
- How does God grant his grace to me?
- Do I embrace God’s will and do everything I can to please him?
Incorporate this month’s devotion with the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Recite the following prayer as a family.
Once Mary received the news from the angel Gabriel that she was to bare Christ in her womb, she traveled quickly to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. We call this the Visitation. Elizabeth was also with child; the baby in her womb would grow to become John the Baptist.
When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth said, “most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42).
Mary responded to Elizabeth by giving praise and thanks to God. The words Mary spoke are recorded in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 1:46-56). We call this prayer the Magnificat or the Canticle of Mary. Consider ending each day by praying the Magnificat with your family members.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
In every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
For He has remembered His promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning.
is now, and will be forever.
Amen. — Magnificat from “The Catholic Family Book of Prayers”
Learn about God’s infinite mercy.
St. Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844 in Lourdes, France. Bernadette’s family was very poor. From a young age, Bernadette suffered many illnesses including cholera and severe asthma. Because of her many sicknesses, Bernadette was not able to attend school. As a result, she was very poorly educated and could not read or write.
In 1858 at the age of 14, Bernadette was preparing to cross a small stream when she had a vision of a lady dressed in white, wearing a blue sash and holding a rosary. The lady asked Bernadette to visit with her with her every day for the next 15 days. During this time, the lady had many messages for Bernadette. The lady desperately wanted to heal people, both spiritually and physically. The lady told Bernadette to encourage others to go to confession. In addition, the lady told Bernadette to dig a whole in the ground. The whole filled with water and soon after a stream would appear. The lady told Bernadette to tell others that they should drink and wash with the water from the spring.
Many physical and spiritual miracles have taken place at this spring and continue to this day. Bernadette completed all of the 15 visits with the lady. The lady had not revealed to Bernadette who she was.
On March 25, 1858, (the feast of the Annunciation), Bernadette felt an urge to visit the spring. She did not expect the lady to appear to her, but she did! Bernadette summoned the courage to ask the lady who she was. The lady replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The lady was Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes and the Immaculate Conception.
Having been poorly educated, Bernadette had never heard the words “immaculate conception” before. Just four years prior in 1854, Pope Pius IX had declared that Mary is the Immaculate Conception. The apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes reinforced Pope Pius IX declaration that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin; Mary is the Immaculate Conception.
Help the Church to grow within your own community.
Do you know someone who is sick?
By the grace of God, the waters of Lourdes have been known to cure the ailments of many people. The grotto in Lourdes is a pilgrimage site for those who seek the healing grace of God.
For many, it is not possible for them to travel to Lourdes. The Marist Fathers of Boston recognize this difficulty and are committed to bringing Lourdes water directly to God’s people!
Since 1950, the Marist Fathers of Boston have been the officially approved distributor of Lourdes water in the United States and Canada. Anyone can request the water. A donation of $3 is suggested, per 1.25oz bottle. If a donation is not feasible, they will send you a bottle, free of charge.
Consider having your children give a bottle of Lourdes water to someone that you know who is sick. Invite your children to pray with them and to invoke the intercession of St. Bernadette.
To request water from Lourdes, visit the Marist Fathers of Boston’s website.
For more information about monthly devotions, see the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: #20, #32, #190-191 and the Catholic Encyclopedia: Special Devotions for Months.