FIRST HOLY COMMUNION. Congratulations to all the children who received First Holy Communion yesterday! May the Lord Jesus bless you and keep you in His care, especially through the Holy Eucharist, all the days of your life.
MONTH OF MARY. Since the Church sets May aside as a month of particular devotion to the Blessed Mother, we begin this month with the traditional “Crowning of the Blessed Mother,” or “May Crowning.” Please join us and many of our First Holy Communicants for this short richly symbolic ceremony immediately following the 12:15 Mass. If you go to another Mass, come back for this!
Also in observance of this special month, I thought I’d review what are called the Marian Dogmas with you today. A “dogma” is a doctrine (a teaching) that is revealed by God, either in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition. There are four dogmas about Mary that have been formally declared as infallibly held as such by the Church. There are many other Marian doctrines that are also infallibly held by the Church, even if not formally declared as such.
Mother of God. The first Marian Dogma to be formally declared by the Church was the declaration by the Council of Ephesus, in 431, that Mary is “Theotokos” (in Greek), or “Mother of God. This was part of the Council’s condemnation of the Nestorian heresy which denied the full divinity of Jesus: in declaring that Jesus was truly always fully God, they also declared that, therefore, Mary was truly the Mother of God. Directly related to this dogma is the doctrine of the “Queenship of Mary, that she is “Queen of Heaven and Earth” (and Queen of Apostles, Saints, Peace, Priests, etc.….). After all, if she is the Mother of God/Jesus, she is the surely the mother of the King/Jesus, which makes her the Queen.
The Perpetual Virginity. The second Marian Dogma to be formally declared is her perpetual Virginity (Second Council of Constantinople, (553), and also the First Lateran Council (649), the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), and the Second Council of Lyons (1274)). The Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin: she is called “ever-virgin Mary.” This means she was a virgin all her life: “ante-partu, in-partu, et post-partu.” So, she was a virgin before the birth of Jesus (“ante-partu”) so that Jesus was conceived by the singularly miraculous act of the Holy Spirit and no act of man. Moreover, she remained a virgin after His birth (“post-partu”) until the end of her life on earth. Finally, Mary was a virgin during the birth of Jesus (“in-partu”). The Church has always used the term “virginity” to mean not just “never having sexual intercourse,” but also to mean that the “bodily integrity” of the female remains intact. In Mary’s case, her virginity in-partu means that the actual physical act of giving birth to Jesus did not occur in the same way as every other human birth. He did not pass from the Mary’s womb physically in the same way all other babies pass from their mothers’ womb, so that Mary’s body was not damaged, altered or “defiled” in any way, and she incurred no birthing pains whatsoever, so that the birth itself was somehow miraculous. We do not know the details of how this happened, and the Church has strongly discouraged too much speculation on this, out of reverence for our Blessed Mother’s modesty. Even so, we do have recourse to quoting St. Thomas Aquinas (ST III, 28, 2) quoting St. Augustine (Sup. Joan. Tract. 121): “To the substance of a body in which was the Godhead closed doors were no obstacle. For truly He had power to enter in by doors not open, in Whose Birth His Mother’s virginity remained inviolate.”
Immaculate Conception. In 1854 Pope Pius IX, in Ineffabilis Deus, solemnly declared the Dogma that Mary from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother (Ann), Mary had never been tainted by the stain or effects of the original sin of Adam and Eve, as all other human beings have been (except, of course, for Jesus). Although in centuries past some had questioned whether and how this was possible, nevertheless, this doctrine was taught consistently in the Church back to antiquity. The reason God gave this singular gift to Mary was to prepare her to be the Mother of Jesus, i.e., so that no sin would touch Baby Jesus and so that Mary might be the very best and holiest mother to Jesus possible. All this in fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to the devil (Genesis 3): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Moreover, a related Marian doctrine has always been taught clearly throughout the Church: that Mary never committed even the slightest act of personal sin: her perpetual sinlessness.
The Assumption. The dogma of the Assumption of Mary was formally proclaimed in 1950 by Pope Pius X (Munificentissimus Deus). Rather than formally ending any historical theological debate or question, this formal declaration was more of an act of honoring the Blessed Mother by declaring something that had always been held by the whole Church without debate. The only question that had ever been raised was whether Mary actually died or if she just sort of fell asleep (“the Dormition”). Pope Pius deftly refused to settle that debate, as he taught: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” So now, Mary is enthroned in Heaven with her Resurrected Son, body and soul, the first of the faithful to experience the Resurrection of the Dead, which we all believe in hope to experience at the end of time.
Knights of Columbus. A tip of the biretta (my funny looking hat) to the Knights for the exceptionally good work they’ve been doing for the parish this year under the leadership of Grand Knight Phil Fick. I encourage all the men of the parish to consider joining the Knights, and I encourage all those who are Knights to become more active with them. They are the “go-to guys” when we need volunteers or other help in the parish. So join!
Unfortunately, sometimes they can get too busy and overworked, especially since many of the same guys do most of the work—although, again, that’s gotten a lot better this year. I think that was particularly the case this year with the Italian Dinner, which was scheduled for May 13, but we had to cancel (see the Knights’ note below): a smallish group of dedicated Knights worked so hard on other projects they lost focus on the last big project of the year. I don’t blame anyone for this, I just want more of you men to step up so we can continue to the Lord’s work, and provide lots of opportunities for good Catholic fellowship for all our parishioners. I know you will step up, and I thank you for that.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles