Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate!
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her,
‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
(Luke 1: 26-28)
Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, declared as dogma the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. We stated it in these words: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." The Catholic Church believes and teaches that from the very moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from all stain of original sin. Mary was in a state of grace, sharing in God's own life, and she was free from the sinful inclinations which have marked human nature after the fall. The Immaculate Conception represents Christ's saving grace operating in Mary in anticipation of His redemption of man and in God's foreknowledge of Mary's acceptance of His Will for her.
Virgin of the Smile or Oblate Madonna
According to an Oblate tradition, on August 15, 1822 the statue of Mary Immaculate which was blessed that day in the church of Mission at Aix in France, opened its eyes and nodded its head slightly in the direction of St Eugene de Mazenod while he was praying. The same day St Eugene wrote a letter to his friend and companion, Fr Henry Tempier in which he described what happened to his soul during the prayer before the statue:
Firstly, St Eugene, who from the beginning of his spiritual life considered Mary as his Mother, achieved a deeper understanding of the meaning of this motherhood and what it meant "to place all his hopes in her".
Secondly, he saw the Oblate Congregation in an entirely new light "as it was in reality". He perceived it as beautiful and "of service to the Church".
Thirdly, that day he internalized the call to holiness. He understood that he was to seek the cause of problems in the Congregation, not only in others or in historic circumstances, but also in himself.
Finally, with serenity, he looked realistically at the difficulties his young Institute was facing. He even saw "the obstacles as if drawn up in battle array" and became aware that an enemy wanted "to bring all efforts to naught".
In 1903 when the Oblates were expelled from France they took with them the “Virgin of the Smile”. They eventually placed her in the General House of the Order in Rome. Today it is in the chapel above the main altar.