DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 9, 1998     vol. 9, no. 176


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          As the Age of Marian Apparitions swung into full force a tremendous lift was given to Our Lady's role when Pope Pius IX proclaimed on December 8, 1854 the glorious dogma of the Immaculate Conception, decreeing it infallible. It was a culmination of eighteen centuries of belief that finally was made official in proclaiming that Mary, the Mother of God was truly conceived without original sin. Though long believed and observed by the Hierarchy, it was not until just after the phenomena of Rue de Bac and La Salette that God chose to make it official dogma through His Vicar on earth for the world was indeed entering upon a very special time in the history of mankind - the Age of Marian Apparitions. All that our Blessed Mother imparted to the visionaries at La Salette in 1846 took effect almost immediately with the famine, the In this eighteenth installment, we explain this wondrous dogma and its significance to all of us. No matter the age, Our Lady has been imparting the same message: "Pray! Pray! Pray!" It is only through constant prayer, taken as a bouquet in loving, motherly intercession before the Throne of God, that the hearts of mankind will eventually be softened and all her little ones brought into accord with the Will of God. This continuing in-depth series on the grace-filled mystical phenomena of Our Lady's appearances through the ages and the meaning of her messages will open eyes and hearts because she is the mother of us all and her words of wisdom and warnings must be taken seriously...very seriously!

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

          In the period between the Mother of God's appearance at La Salette in 1846 and her famous apparitions to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes in 1858, there was a landmark dogma proclaimed that truly signaled the Age of Marian Apparitions. That of course was the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854 when he proclaimed ex cathedra, "We declare, announce, and define that the doctrine which states that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of God Omnipotent and because of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, free from all stain of original sin, is revealed by God and must be believed firmly and with constancy by all the faithful."

          The eminent scholor Cardinal Ferrata, born during Pius IX's papacy, presents a vivid picture of the Blessed Mother's role and of the Pope's part in the overal picture when he writes, "On Gaeta's rock, in the land of his exile, Pius IX had resolved to proclaim the sweet and consoling dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception. This pious and prudent design was carried out in Rome a few years later, when, on the 8th of December, 1854, in the presence of 192 bishops, the august and infallible voice was heard, that, beneath the glorious vault of Bramante and Michelangelo, proclaimed to the Church the preservation of the Blessed Virgin from the taint of original sin. The definition of this dogma so dear to the hearts of the faithful, assigned to the Mother of the Divine Word her true place in the plan of our redemption, encircled her virginal brow with a new crown of light, and formed the sublimest glorification of moral beauty, a thing much forgotten in these days. That announcement fell upon the world like a chaste effluence of grace and love; it transported the children of the faith to a pure region, where they might contemplate as in a vision celestial the matchess Virgin who hovers like a spotless dove over the muddy waters of the deluge."

          The Holy Father's proclamation of this beautiful dogma was not something that he thought of, or that he'd been pressured by, or that threatened the Church as a schism or heresy would. Rather it was a willing, spontaneous feeling and acceptance among all Catholics for centuries and many had long clamored for this in love because of their veneration and respect for so important a personage in the salvific nature of God's Providence. Therefore, it was something that had long been overdue and Pius IX saw no reason to procrastinate but to act on this belief in the sinlessness of the Mother of God from conception. This proclamation was a culmination of a mystery that is supernatural truth but in essence easily understandable because of our familiarity with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the syllogism that follows. If Jesus Christ is truly the Incarnate God, and He is without a doubt, then it follows that Mary, who was God's human instrument in effecting His only begotten Son's conception and birth, would have to be a perfect recepticle - a perfect, holy tabernacle to hold within her womb the Son of God. Jesus became Man and Mary became the Mother of God. In a sense, the more He descended, if you will, to the human state, the more the Blessed Virgin was elevated by the Triune Divinity. Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, clothing His Mother with this glory. Jesus raised His Mother from her position among men and women, endowing her with supernatural powers and supernatural graces. As Jesus descended, His Mother ascended and Mother and Child were united in a mystical union and this union would be given forever to the world in the fact that They live forever in our thoughts. They are inseparable. If we do not honor Mary, we do not truly honor and adore Jesus. If we venerate the Blessed Mother in the right manner, we cannot help but be brought closer to Jesus. This is the mission Our Lady has been given and which she has carried out for nearly 2000 years through her apparitions to countless of her chosen children and the respect and veneration accorded her by Holy Mother Church.

          It was this respect for Mary that finally prompted the Holy See to declare that she was conceived free of original sin for she is the chosen daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Divine Son, and holy spouse of the Holy Spirit. It is verified in the Book of Sirach, chapter 24, that Holy Mother Church applies to Mary, "Then the Creator of all things ordered and said to me; and He that made me rested in my Tabernacle. And He said to me, Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered unto Him. And so I was established in Sion, and in the portion of my God His inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of the saints...I am the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth; in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come to me all you that desire me, and be filled of my fruits. For my spirit is sweet as honey and the honey-comb. My memory is unto everlasting generations." Just as the Messiah was to be the second Adam, so also Mary was to be the second Eve. It was through Adam that sin came into the world and through sin death. Through Jesus grace should be given to the world, and with that grace - life. Just as Eve was the first cause of the fall, so Mary was to be the means through whom life entered the world in the Person of Jesus, though she herself was not the Life. Sin then was introduced into the world by Adam through Eve; and grace was introduced into the world by Jesus through Mary. The syllogism continues. If we are to conclude that Jesus, the second Adam, was infinitely superior to the first, then we may also conclude that Mary, the second Eve, was superior to the first, and therefore could not in any way be subject to the misery of sin which was inflicted on the world by Eve.

          Mary is therefore the link between Heaven and earth. The angels adore their queen in speechless awe at her surpassing beauty of body and soul and all of hell trembles at the conception of a woman destined to destroy evil. It is a fulfillment of many passages in Sacred Scripture from the Psalms to Isaiah to the Canticles that "The Most High hath sanctified His Tabernacle" (cf. Exodus 29: 43, Leviticus 8:10, Numbers 7:1, Psalms 46:4; 57:2; and 91:1). Mary indeed was conceived Immaculate as Doctor of Divinity Father P.A. Sheehan relates in his treatise "Mary, the Morning Star", "fairer than the unfallen Eve, our second Mother, who retrieved through her Son the fall of the first, and freed us in her own person from the taint upon our race that man was necessarily the slave of sin and the enemy of his Maker. Conceived Immaculate - to be the source of joy to millions of unborn Catholics that were to be proud to acknowledge the high privileges of their Queen. Conceived Immaculate - and not priding herself on her purity to despise us as impure, but constituting herself by reason of her very sinlessness our advocate with God - the defense of our virtue and the apologist for our crimes - our shield on the one hand from the fiery darts of the evil one, and on the other from the anger of the living God."

          Yes, it took over eighteen centuries for Holy Mother Church to proclaim that Mary, the Mother of God was truly conceived without original sin. Though long believed and observed by the Hierarchy, it was not until Pius IX's time that God chose to allow it to be made official dogma through His vicar on earth for the world was entering upon a special time in the history of mankind: The Age of Marian Apparitions!!!

          In the next chapter, we will continue on our journey through this special time as we examine the Apparitions of Lourdes in which our Blessed Mother confirmed all that Pius IX had proclaimed, when she stated: "I am the Immaculate Conception."

September 9, 1998       volume 9, no. 176


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