Photo: Dan Valenti
Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, holds high the Word of God prior to the Gospel reading at the 2 p.m. Mass Dec. 8 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, Mass., in honor of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Brother Michael Opalacz, MIC, left, prepares the incense.
By Dan Valenti (Dec 9, 2009)
The Marians of the Immaculate Conception celebrated their eponymous feast day Dec. 8 with three Masses at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, Mass., honoring the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, celebrated the Masses at 7:15 a.m., 2 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. After the homily at the evening Mass, attending Marians renewed their vows. Following Mass, the Marians hosted a reception at the monastery adjacent to the Shrine for friends and family.
The One and Only
At the start of the 2 p.m. Mass, Fr. Anthony pointed out to worshippers the uniqueness of this feast day: "This is a great day because there is only one Immaculate Conception in the Church. There are not two. There are not three. There is only one."
In Mary, he said, "There is not one spot, not one stain of sin," calling it a preview of what the experience of heaven will be like for us.
In the first reading, from Genesis, lector Br. Michael Opalacz, MIC, read from the story of Adam and Eve, immediately after their fall from grace. In his homily, Father Anthony made the link to Mary as the new Eve and then referred to the words of Pope Pius IX. It was Pius IX who proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. He did so with these words:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful. ...
Father Anthony said it "took the Church 1,854 years to define the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He said the debate over Mary's nature was "one of the controversial topics, internally, in the history of the Church." He mentioned that numerous saints, for example, denied that Mary had been immaculately conceived. Pius IX's declaration united the Church on this point, that Mary was immaculately conceived at the moment of her conception, body and soul preserved from sin.
He then mentioned the appearances of the Blessed Mother to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France, in 1858. On March 25 of that year, the apparition, when asked her name by Bernadette, replied that she is "the Immaculate Conception."
Church officials were astounded when Bernadette reported this. They wondered how this poor, uneducated girl could have known this, since the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was little known as such, if at all, in that rural part of France.
To Jesus through Mary
Pius IX called Mary "the virgin undefiled, ever clear, and saturated with the Holy Spirit through the singular providence of God."
In his remarks when he prayed the Angelus in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI referenced Genesis: "As opposed to Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the Lord's will. With her whole self, she pronounced her 'yes' and places herself fully at the disposition of the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true 'mother of the living' — that is, of all those who by faith in Christ receive eternal life."
Father Anthony also brought up the Christological aspect of the Blessed Mother:
"When the Church honors the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary," Fr. Anthony said, "it says that [she] is our model. This is what we are striving to be ... We admire her, we honor her, because she is the one who will lead us to Jesus Christ."
Everything Mary did, Fr. Anthony said, was totally conformed to the will of God, making her "singularly holy." That is why, on Dec. 8, "we do all that we can, in every way we can, to honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal.