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.

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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.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Maria - Dec 10, 2009

Thank you for the above very interesting comments and the good article.
Since many of the pagan legends seem to try to contradict the truth of The Truth , the pilgrimage honor given to a diety in a place called Sabarimala , in S.India might serve to throw some light in this too ; it is the second largest pilgrim center in the world,with 50 million pilgrims a year , second to only Mecca ( and sadly, right in the only mostly Christian state in the country ) ; the diety's name is the combination of the phrase 'ayyo appan' -' shame on you father '!and this diety is said to be from the carnal union of two male gods, one of whom takes on a female form ; this god does not much care for women ; at the start of the festival every year , a bird of the eagle family is said to appear spontaneoulsy , to lead the participants !

Would not the evil one be trying to destroy the purely holy and spiritual nature of The Holy Spirit ; could this somehow be the cause also for the filioque controversy and Church separation for all these centuries !

if The Spirit causes us children to groan,' AhBaaa ...' could the combination of the word roots in there also serve as a pure concept of who The Spirit is ...the latter part from The son, the Pure Lamb ( and wondering if lamb is also a creature that never keeps grudges and hatreds and is thus meek !Seems in the two major competing faiths , our fallen nature's desire to cater to our hatreds is the power that possibly keep them going !

Glory be to Our Father , His Word, our Lord and the Pure and Holy Spirit who sanctifies us through The loving Merits of The Passion, a Father's love for us His children and our Mother who loves us , to keep away from us the lies and hatreds of the evil one , for us to be led by The Spirit !

Bob D - Dec 9, 2009

An interesting note to add:

Today, December 9th was the original date of the feast of The Immaculate Conception at the time Our Lady first appeared to Juan Diago as the "All Immaculate Mother of The True God" And this date December 9th is the day of the enterence to Heaven of the servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He prayed every day of his priestly life that he would be taken to Heaven on a feast of Our Lady or a Saturday of Our Lady. (Saturdays are honored for Mary) What a perfect answer to prayer by such a Loving Heavenly Mother we have because this country USA is where Archbishop Sheen was a citizen is dedicated to The Immaculate Conception and the National Basilica bears this exalted title. Also, Our Lady said to Juan Diago; I am Mother to all united in this land (meaning: Nothern, Central and South America!

Also, St. Max Kolbe, OFM stated that there are two Immaculate Conceptions:
The Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception and Mary is the created Immaculate Conception.
May Mary's Immaculate Conception be our health and protection.