Some non-Catholic Christians criticize Catholics for our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are afraid that celebrations like today's take away glory from Jesus Christ, the one Lord of life and history, the one Savior. They are afraid that because we give so much veneration and respect to Jesus' Mother, we will fail to give enough respect to Jesus himself.
But those are foolish fears. Have you ever known anyone who resented compliments being given to their mother? Jesus himself, in fact, started devotion to Mary, by choosing her to bring him into the world. After all, he could have become incarnate just by forming himself from the clay of the earth, as he had done with Adam. But instead, he chose to give himself a human mother, to whom he was devoted, following his own commandment to "honor your father and mother." And he passed that devotion onto his Church, by entrusting his disciples to her care while he hung on the cross.
True devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, then, does not distance us from Christ; it brings us closer to him. Today's celebration is a perfect example of how that happens. Today we commemorate and celebrate two things:
•first, the conception of Mary in her mother's womb (Saint Anne);
•and second, the dogma (officially defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, after being believed and celebrated by the whole Church for centuries) explaining that that conception was "immaculate", that Mary was protected from the stain and effects of original sin from the very first moment of her existence.
Why did God give Mary such a unique privilege? Because of Christ, and because of us.