In December the Church celebrates one of my favorite days, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast celebrates the truth that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin from the first moment of her existence, which is a beautiful testament to the power of God’s grace. If we did not believe this truth, we might doubt that the grace of God could truly set a person free from sin.
This pillar, set up in Piazza di Spagna in Rome, commemorates the formal declaration of the dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. On the feast day every December 8th, the Pope blesses a wreath which the firemen of Rome then place on the arm of Our Lady. It looks like she needs a new wreath soon.
The column is part of a long Roman tradition – St. Peter and St. Paul also stand on top of columns that date from the Roman Empire – but I personally prefer an image of Mary who is down among the people, as she truly is by the power of her love for her children. I do like the way this image of Mary is praying to God with one hand, and pointing down to us with the other, reminding Him that we are in need of so much help.