Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Interesting fact: four years after this dogma was formally defined, Bernadette Soubirous claimed to see an apparition at Lourdes: a beautiful woman who said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It was unlikely the 14-year-old Bernadette had heard of the term, which helped her credibility.

If our Lady did say this at Lourdes – and the Church has declared the apparition worthy of belief – we have a heavenly vindication not only of this dogma, but of papal authority. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was an old one, and Our Lady has appeared many times over the centuries, but only now, after the Church had formally defined the dogma, did Mary explicitly identify with it.

That’s probably something to keep in mind, if you come across an apparition which is pushing for something innovative.

Another interesting fact: Muslims believe in the Immaculate Conception too. I didn’t know that either. But Universalis told me, so it must be true.

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is the doctrine that the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin, that twist in our nature that makes our will tend not to follow what it knows to be right. It was this grace that enabled Mary to give a true and considered “Yes” to the request, conveyed by the Angel Gabriel, that she should consent to be the mother of the incarnate God.

The doctrine was almost universally believed over the centuries but was only formally defined as a doctrine of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Because it is so old, it is one of the Marian doctrines that Islam shares with the Catholic Church, though of course the theological details are very different.