Faith and inspiration: Encyclopedia of saints for today

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Feast Day: 08Dec.

It seems that the English Crusaders brought the feast of the Immaculate Conception from the East in the middle of the eleventh century. It originated in Greek monasteries and spread in England in the twelfth century and was adopted by the Franciscans, especially after Duns Scotus defended this dogma in 1263. It was listed in the Roman Calendar by Pope Sixtus IV in 1476, and the Sistine Chapel was dedicated to the Conception of Mary, after the Council of Basle decided to make it a universal feast (1439).

Pope Clement XI made the conception of Mary a feast of obligation in 1708. In 1846, the bishops of the United States made the Immaculate Conception the patronal feast of the Church. The definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was made by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, and the name of the feast became the Immaculate Conception. The pope proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant 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.” In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset. The apparitions of Mary at Lourdes, France in 1858 have been seen by some as a heavenly confirmation of the dogma.

The Church has always reserved a special dignity and honor for Mary, she is prayed to in much the same way as one would pray to the other saints, or for that matter, as some “pray” to other Christians when asked to be prayed for. Since the earliest decades, Christian people have honored the Virgin Mary, not worshiped her, and venerated her as the greatest of saints because of her pre-eminent fidelity to God and her Son. She is attested to often in the New Testament because of her intimate relationship with Jesus, who acquired his human flesh from her.

For Catholics, there is an even more personal reason. Since Christ received from her his life as the incarnate Son of God, and since Jesus shares his life with those who believe in him, she is also ‘our’ mother. The Church has, in fact, always recognized those precious words of Jesus from the cross to John the Apostle, “Behold your mother.” These words are addressed t the whole Body of Christ on earth, whom Mary loves, cares for, and prays for as her own children. This is the reason for one of the loveliest titles given for Mary, calling her Blessed Mother.

It is important to note that Jesus is Mary’s Savior as he is ours (see Lk 1:47), and that as Son of God, he is the source and infinite exemplar of whatever saving love she or any of the rest of us may have. To even imply that she outshines Jesus in mercy or compassion and that if one is really in trouble she will do for us what he will not, only dishonors the Mother of Christ!

As long as we keep this perspective, the honor that we give to Mary can be nothing but a source of joy and pleasure to her Son. Beginning with the Gospels themselves, she has never been in any competition with him, nor has he with her.

“Salve, Regina” (Latin)

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae. Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te Suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, Advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

“Hail, Holy Queen” (Translated)

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Bibliography:

Dietzen, Rev. John, M.A., S.T.L. “Catholic Q & A: All You Want to Know About Catholicism.” New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2009.

Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.

Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.

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