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Header-Celebrating The Immaculate Conception

In 2014, the Church celebrated the 160th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception which affirms that Mary was conceived without Original Sin.

For centuries, the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was defended by saints, theologians and laymen. However, it took centuries of theological debate to establish a consensus in the Church. Only in 1854, did Blessed Pope Pius IX, after consulting with the bishops of the whole world, proclaim this dogma in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, thus affirming as revealed truth that Our Lady was preserved from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception.

Many defended this position because they felt that the glory of the Most Holy Trinity would be tarnished if the Mother of the Word Incarnate were not the most perfect of all creatures. It would also be against God’s wisdom and mercy if the Savior’s mother did not receive the highest transcendental gifts of nature and grace.

 

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The Immaculate Conception and America

The Immaculate Conception is particularly significant for Americans.

Americans join with Catholics the world over in celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. They were filled with joy in 2014 which marked the 160th anniversary of the proclamation.

However, this feast is especially dear to Americans because Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the nation’s patroness. Even before the proclamation of the dogma, the American bishops collectively placed the nation under the protection of the Immaculate Conception at the first Council of Baltimore in 1846. The pope ratified this decision on February 7, 1847.

The special place of Our Lady under this invocation led Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington to ask the Holy See to grant a plenary indulgence for those who visit the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the nation’s capital for the year ending on December 8, 2004.

 

Reconciling Christ’s Universal Redemption

Although the Immaculate Conception can be found in Revelation and is part of the Deposit of Faith, it is not expressed with all the clarity of other truths like the Resurrection of Our Lord.

The Immaculate ConceptionThe main objection to the dogma revolved around the fact that, according to the dogma of Christ’s universal redemption, all men were redeemed from Original Sin by the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. However, if Our Lady was conceived without Original Sin, it would seem that she could not be redeemed from it by the merits of Christ.

How can these two assertions be reconciled? How does one explain the truth of the whole matter?

As Pius IX explains in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Mary Most Holy by the same merits of her Divine Son has been redeemed in a special, preventive manner, preserving her from Original Sin. As the Pope says, “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God …. her soul, in the first instant of its creation and in the first instant of the soul's infusion into the body, was, by a special grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and the Redeemer of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin. And in this sense have the faithful ever solemnized and celebrated the Feast of the Conception."

While this simple formulation resolved the problem, it took several centuries to uncover. This is not surprising since the solution of delicate theological problems often takes a long time to resolve. Thus, in 1854, the Pope used the authority given him by Our Lord Jesus Christ to safeguard and infallibly interpret Revelation and defined the dogma once and for all.

 

Popular Piety Affirmed Dogma

Already in the fifth century, Saint Augustine affirmed that “piety imposed the recognition of Mary as not having sin.”1 Popular devotion took up this belief and the feast of the Immaculate Conception was already celebrated in the Oriental Catholic Church as early as the sixth century. Beginning in the eleventh century, theologians made detailed studies into the matter and verified the fact that popular devotion had grown. Popular enthusiasm for the feast increased so much that it was celebrated all over Europe in 1476.

 

Taking a Vow

In the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth century, the topic became such a burning issue that “in Spain it became impossible to sustain from the pulpit a contrary opinion [to the Immaculate Conception] since the people would react against such preachers with murmurs, clamor and even violence.”2

Beginning in 1617, the University of Granada in Spain began the custom of making a “votum sanguinis”, which was a vow to defend the Immaculate Conception even to the point of shedding blood in its defense. This practice soon spread to religious orders, universities, confraternities and other entities.

The heretical theologian Muratori contested the vow labeling it imprudent, “unenlightened” and even gravely irresponsible. He started a debate on the subject arguing that one cannot risk one’s life for a doctrine that has not yet been defined. This thesis was refuted by the great Catholic moralist Saint Alphonsus Liguori. He favored the vow for two reasons: a) there was a universal consensus among the faithful in respect to the subject; b) a universal celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception was already established.3

 

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In Defense of the Immaculate Conception

Great defenders and preachers of the privilege of the Immaculate Conception included: Saint Leonard, Saint Peter Canisius, Saint Robert Bellarmine and many others.

The desire to defend the Immaculate Conception was so great that some universities would refuse to admit any students who did not swear to defend this special privilege of the Virgin. Even civil authorities would demand such an oath as was the case of the congressmen who declared Venezuela’s independence. They swore to defend independence, the Catholic religion and the mystery of the Immaculate Conception.4

 

Was the Debate Justifiable?

Some modern Catholics who are not well informed or deformed by today’s religious relativism might object: Was not such an obstinate defense of this privilege of Our Lady exaggerated?
The Immaculate Conception 2Such Catholics do not understand the profundity of the dogma and its implications. As Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explained: “the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, considered in itself clashed with the essentially egalitarian spirit of the Revolution that since 1789 has despotically reigned in the West. To see a simple creature so elevated over others by an inestimable privilege conceded to her at the first moment of her existence, cannot help but pain the children of the Revolution that proclaim absolute equality among men as the principle of all order, justice and good.”5

This is one more reason why the Church celebrates this marvelous privilege of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. This justification of the privilege was so well expressed by the French orator Bossuet who said the Immaculate Conception represented “flesh without fragility, senses without rebellion, life without stain and death without suffering.”6

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is an excellent opportunity to ask her special intercession for our country. May she protect us against the evils of abortion, same-sex unions, and so much promiscuity that is destroying the family. May she protect our brave troops that are selflessly shedding their blood in Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other places. Let us pray for all families struggling to be faithful to the Church and to raise their children in the love and reverent fear of God.

  


Footnotes

1. André Damino, Na escola de Maria, Ed. Paulinas, 1962, p. 39. [back]
2. “A cura di Stefano de Fiores e Salvatore Meo, Tratado De Natura et Gratia,” Nuovo Dizionario de Teologia, 42, PL 44, 267, Ed. Paolinas, 1986, Milan, p. 614. [back]
3. Ibid, p. 614. [back]
4. Caracciolo Parra-Perez, Historia de la Primera República de Venezuela, Biblioteca de la Academia Nacional de la Historia, Caracas, 1959, II Vol. [back]
5. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, “Primeiro marco do ressurgimento contra-revolucionário,” Catolicismo, February 1958. [back]
6. André Damino, op. cit., p. 36. [back] 


 

Also Read: Three Reasons why the Enemies of the Church Hate the Immaculate Conception

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 23, 2019

The prayer of the sick person is his patience and his accept...

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April 23

 

The prayer of the sick person is
his patience and his acceptance of his sickness
for the love of Jesus Christ.
Make sickness itself a prayer, for there is none
more powerful, save martyrdom!

St. Francis de Sales

 
SIGN Against this Blasphemy of the

HEARTS OF JESUS AND MARY

 

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. George

George loudly proclaimed himself a follower of Christ before...

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St. George

Though the story of St. George is intertwined with legend, especially the account of him slaying a dragon, the historicity of his life is certain.
He was of Greek origin, seemingly of a noble, Christian family. His father was Gerondios, from Capaddocia, a prominent officer in the Imperial army. His mother was Polychronia, from the city of Lyda, now in Israel.

As a youth, he lost first his father and then his mother, after which he enlisted in the Roman army under Emperor Diocletian. The latter favored him in honor of his father’s service, and George was made an Imperial Tribune.

By imperial edict, Roman soldiers were forbidden to practice Christianity. Notwithstanding this prohibition, George loudly proclaimed himself a follower of Christ before the Emperor Diocletian and his fellow soldiers. Upset at the news, the Emperor offered George an abundance of earthly goods in exchange for his Christian Faith, but George was unmoved. He endured various tortures and was finally beheaded. The Empress Alexandra was converted by his courageous example, and some interpret that while the dragon often depicted being slain by St. George is the pagan Roman might, the lady in the background is the Empress.

Devotion to St. George spread throughout Asia Minor, and already early in the fourth century churches were being dedicated to his honor.

Throughout the history of Christian battles there have been reports of St. George’s heavenly assistance, Richard I of England and other Crusaders also confirming such intercession. It is not known how St. George was chosen as patron of England, though it is certain that his fame had reached the isle long before the Norman Conquest.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the dead silence that ensued, all present heard a voice c...

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The Miraculous Christ de la Vega

There was once in the city of Toledo, Spain a soldier, Diego Martinez, and a young woman, Ines de Vargas, who were in love.

Diego was called to fight in Flanders, so, at Ines’ insistence, before a crucifix known as The Christ de la Vega, Diego solemnly swore to marry her on his return.

With Diego gone, Ines felt lost and alone, and often sought solace at the foot of the Christ who had witnessed their solemn engagement.

Years went by, Ines always on the lookout. One day, at the head of a returning cavalry, she beheld her fiancé. She screamed and rushed to meet him, but he feigned not to know her, and passed on.

Successful in war and prowess, he had not only been promoted to captain, but had been knighted by the King, and no longer considered Ines a worthy prospect.

Tears being of no avail, the spurned young woman took her case before the governor of Toledo, Don Pedro Ruiz de Alarcon, claiming that Diego Martinez had sworn to marry her. But the captain denied such a vow, and with no witnesses, the case was about to be dismissed when Ines cried:

“Indeed, there was a witness–the Christ the la Vega!”

There was a stunned silence. But, this was Catholic Spain, and finally, judge, Diego, Ines, court and the curious repaired to the Basilica of St. Leocadia* , which housed the carved Christ.

Kneeling between Diego and Ines before the life-sized crucifix, Don Pedro held up a Bible and asked if He, Jesus Christ, Sovereign Lord, would indeed swear to the couple’s solemn vow to wed each other.

In the dead silence that ensued, all present heard a voice coming from the statue,

“I SWEAR.”

At the same time, to the astonishment of all, the statue’s right arm, descended, its hand coming to rest on the Bible which the judge held up.

So struck were Diego and Ines, that giving up all earthly plans, they entered religious life.

As to the Christ de la Vega, to this day, His right arm remains in the same position, and, some affirm, His mouth slightly open in the utterance of His witness.

By A.F. Phillips

*Now the Ermita del Cristo de la Vega

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In the dead silence that ensued, all present heard a voice coming from the statue,