The
Catholic Weekly
Online

Sydney
5 December 2004

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Marian feast is reason for us all to celebrate

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Marian feast is reason for us all to celebrate

By Sandra Murphy

This year’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a reason for Australian Catholics to celebrate.

Five regional Masses in the Archdiocese of Sydney will acknowledge the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration in 1854 that the Immaculate Conception was a dogma of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Pell will celebrate the Pontifical Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.

A youth procession from Waverley to the cathedral is also being organised by the Catholic Youth Service at 2pm on Sunday. Co-ordinator Lubica Jovanovoc expects a turnout of more than 250 young people.

“ We hope people will come out and join our pilgrimage in honour of Mary from one parish to the other,” she said.
Bishop Julian Porteous says the feast has special significance for the archdiocese because St Mary’s Cathedral, the Mother Church of Australia, has been known since the definition of the dogma in 1854 as “Mary Immaculate, Help of Christians”.

“ The Feast of the Immaculate Conception provides an opportunity for us to give honour to the Mother of God, at the beginning of the Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate the great mystery of the birth of the Son of God, ‘born of a virgin’,” the bishop said.

Mindful of the rapid changes that mark contemporary society, Pope John Paul II has encouraged Catholics to maintain their relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary. He explained this in a letter to Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, Archbishop of Palermo.

“ In a rapidly changing world, there are some things that should not change,” the Pope wrote.

“ Among them, surely, is the bond of filial love between members of the Church and the Virgin, ‘full of grace’, whom Jesus, from the cross, entrusted to us as Mother.”

“ Amid the joys and hopes, sadness and sorrows of life, Mary is the sign of consolation and sure hope,” he said.

“ She is so for the elderly and youth, for families and consecrated persons,” the Pontiff added, imploring “the maternal protection of Mary Immaculate”.

The feast celebrates the teaching that Mary herself was conceived without original sin, living a life that from its very beginning was suffused with grace, a total gift from God, before she agreed to be the mother of Jesus.

In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of December 8, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin”.

The proclamation expresses the essential datum of faith.

Pope Alexander VII, in the Bull Sollicitudo of 1661, spoke of the preservation of Mary’s soul “in its creation and infusion into the body”.

Pius IX’s definition, however, prescinds from all explanations about how the soul is infused into the body and attributes to the person of Mary, at the first moment of her conception, the fact of her being preserved from every stain of original sin.

A quarter of a million prayer cards are being distributed to all Catholic schools in the archdiocese and through catechists to every state school child in Special Religious Education classes.

The Catholic Adult Education Centre at Lidcombe will host a seminar (Tuesday, December 7, at 7.30pm) on the Immaculate Conception. Fr Anthony Robbie will present The devotion and the dogma and Fr Christopher Sharah will present The Immaculate Conception: Its relevance today. Call 9643 3660 or visit www.caec.com.au