Wednesday, December 07, 2011

On Mary Immaculate

“We take this occasion, brethren, to communicate to you the determination, unanimously adopted by us, to place ourselves and all entrusted to our charge throughout the United States, under the special patronage of the holy Mother of God, whose Immaculate Conception is venerated by the piety of the faithful throughout the Catholic Church.

By the aid of her prayers, we entertain the confident hope that we will be strengthened to perform the arduous duties of our ministry, and that you will be enabled to practice the sublime virtues, of which her life presents the most perfect example.
--Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of the United States
Sixth Provincial Council
5 May 1846
* * *
A year after the petition of the early Stateside bench -- then numbering less than 30 bishops -- the declaration of Mary Immaculate as patroness of these shores was confirmed by Pope Pius IX.

Notably, the move came almost a full decade before Pius formally defined the dogma of the Theotokos' conception without original sin. The patronal feast, however, wasn't made a holy day of obligation in the US until 1866.

Ergo, tutti auguri per una buona festa dell'Immacolata to all the Yanks among us... even if the de facto saint's day of American Catholicism's modern era is still four nights away.

Yet in the meantime, whose voice could mark this solemnity better than that of the most accomplished and celebrated evangelist -- and son of Mary -- in the history of this national church, with the poem he made famous for a generation... and, indeed, not just among our own:

After a 60-year ministry that saw him create and host the most-watched TV hour in the land -- and in prime time, no less -- Friday marks the 32nd anniversary of the death of the great and beloved "Bishop Sheen."