We Catholics are doubly blessed today. First, we celebrate the Feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception. This is the day Mary, not Jesus, was conceived by the loving embrace of her father, St. Joachim, and her mother, St. Ann. Not only was she conceived, but she was conceived without sin, i.e. immaculately.
She is the only creature upon whom God bestowed this standing. She is also the only creature whose Fiat, "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word", primed the opening of the gates of heaven for our salvation.
In the Eastern Catholic Church, this Feast is celebrated on December 9.
Second, we have exciting news in the United States. For the first time in our country, an apparition of Mary has been formally approved. There were actually three of them and they occurred in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Our Lady appeared in 1859 on three occasions to a young Belgian immigrant named Adele Brise. Bishop David Ricken announced his formal approval today with moral certainty.
The incident is captured well in the article, Worthy of Belief.
This blog entry also shines some light on the importance of this event.
Click here to read the formal decree by the Bishop.
Click here to read some Basic Information About Apparitions. I found this to be particularly edifying.
"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray
for us who have recourse to thee."
images - http://ellampson.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/joachim-and-anna-on-marriage/