Father’s Column 12/4

Posted on December 4, 2016

Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!

This coming Thursday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, so please be sure to make it to Mass this coming Thursday. Please see parish news on the next page for information regarding Mass times here at Old St. Mary’s.

The bishops of this country, in 1846 at the First Council of Baltimore, declared Our Lady, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, to the be the patroness of our country. During this time, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was highly disputed. Throughout the centuries, even saints debated the matter. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, doubted the Immaculate Conception. It was the Franciscans, starting with Bl. Duns Scotus, who advocated for the Immaculate Conception.

Contrary to so much of what we will read, the Immaculate Conception is not the conception of Our Lord. Rather, it is the conception of the Blessed Virgin. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command, they committed the first human sin. As a result, they lost many of the original gifts that God enshrined within human nature. Gifts such as immortality, complete health, and perfect happiness. They lost the grace that God originally gave to humanity, and as a result Adam and Eve could not pass these gifts on to their children. This, in a simplified form, can be understood to be Original Sin. Adam and Eve caused their children to not be born in the friendship of God.

This is what Our Lord came to correct, while restoring all things in Himself. The Immaculate Conception teaches, that in anticipation of the act of redemption by Our Lord (called prevenient grace), that Our Lady was preserved from Original Sin, being born full of grace. The first human since Adam and Eve to be born in Sanctifying Grace.

It wasn’t until 1854 that Bl. Pope Pius IX settled the matter, and solemnly defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Four years later, on March 25, 1858 (the Feast of the Annunciation and the Patronal Feast Day of Old St. Mary’s), Our Lady gave Heavenly confirmation of the dogma at Lourdes, when she declared to St. Bernadette that she was ‘the Immaculate Conception.’

The Feast, as we know it, began to be celebrated in England in the eleventh century. There was a Feast of the Conception of St. Anne (the mother of the Blessed Virgin) since the seventh century, but the Feast made no reference to Mary’s sinlessness. By the fifteenth century, the Feast was extended throughout the Church. It became a Holy Day of Obligation in 1708. It is from this Feast that the Church has adopted the practice of celebrating a special votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturdays where there is no other feast.

We entrust our parish to Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception. We pray for her continued intercession for us, and that through her, more grace will flow into the world through the Sacraments. Have a blessed week ahead!

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