Today marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A mouthful? Well, isn't that the signature or trademark of most things Catholic. And I'm beginning to love it.... yup, yup, yup.
Back to this post. Now I'm definitely NOT going to write volumes about what the feast day is about. You can easily google it. Instead, this feast brings back to mind a very funny memory from my teenage years.
I think I should be about Form 2 or 3, which means about 14 or 15 years-old. We were in our Catechism class in my school (sadly, a thing of the past. These days there are no more public missionary schools in Malaysia) and the topic of the day was Immaculate Conception.
Mrs Connie Chan (our teacher) decided to ask a class of cradle Catholics: "Who can explain what Immaculate Conception means?"
As usual, total silence (you can hear a pin drop, and girls start to look down in case they get called). What do you expect from a class of cradle Catholics. I think mostly the silence was because of indifference and of course ignorance. This round I think ignorance scored close to 100%.
Well, that day my friend Sophie Chen and I were feeling pretty brave, so she put up her hands and tried to answer. Out of her mouth came these words: "I think it is Mary becoming pregnant with Jesus, but she still remained pure (hehehe... think she was trying to use a word other than virgin, you know la, all girl-Catholic Convent school vocabulary in front of the teacher)."
Mrs Chan immediately said that it was not the answer. I did not know what spirit possessed me (I'm sure it was not the Holy Spirit, cos' it would have given the right answer) but I then blurted out that: "Mary was still a virgin although she had conceived Jesus."
And I could see some heads nodding in agreement but still silence loomed in the class, till Mrs Chan opened her mouth again, this time with a smile or perhaps even a little laugh.
What she said next I could not remember clearly, but this experience has definitely cured me of the misconception of what the Immaculate Conception is all about.
It is definitely not about Mary's virginity. Rather it's about Mary herself being conceived without original sin as she was already chosen to be Jesus' Mommy. So the Ark of the Covenant definitely needed to be a spotless vessel. That's what our Church believes and so should we.
And that's that.
Now why did I choose to share this embarassing blast from my past. Well, reason being many Catholics that I meet today still use the term Immaculate Conception to describe themselves or others getting pregnant without the presence of some sperms in the picture.
I do not know whether they do it because they were like me and Sophie many years ago or that they just came out with their own teachings (hmmm). Just kidding.
As a cradle Catholic myself I understand completely if you have been confused all your life about this or just know vaguely about most teachings of the Church.
However, having said that, perhaps this new Liturgical Year, you might CHOOSE to make a change? If your answer is YES, then great... I will have one more friend to journey with as I stumble upon many truths about this Faith I inherited from my grandparents and which now I cherish more with eash passing day.
P.S. Happy Birthday Marie... you are one Catholic who taught me much in my walk. Btw, she was named Maria Conception Valerio (hoped I got that right) - no brownie points for guessing why, right?