Archive | December, 2012

Notes from the Cliff: 2012 highlights to help you forget the fiscal uncertainty

December 31, 2012

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Photo/LindsayT   Licensed under Creative Commons

Photo/LindsayT.  Licensed under Creative Commons

As we move into 2013, I wonder if we should rename the “Fiscal Cliff” the “Cliffs of Insanity” as in The Princess Bride. If you saw the movie, the characters mostly climbed up those cliffs, rather than crashing onto the rocks below. When they got to the top things were fine for a while–except for the kidnappers. Regardless of what the government does or doesn’t do, hopefully things will turn out OK.

2012 had enough insanity but through it all, Faith and Reasons tried to offer a rational response–with the help of priests and theologians who generously offered their expertise and reviewed the posts.

I’ve put together some of this blog’s highlights from the year, trying to keep each of them at about tweet-length. They’re in order of appearance; if you want to read more, click on “older posts.”

May God bless you in the New Year and keep you away from the cliff.

Grace vs. Karma: Grace is God’s free gift of help offered when we need it while karma is payback for good or bad actions in this or a past life.

Conscience is our “secret core and sanctuary” where God has inscribed a law calling us to love and do what is good, and avoid evil.

Satan isn’t responsible for all evil–we contribute some through our wrong choices–but he brings intelligent direction to evil tendencies and forces.

Natural Law: a human instinct given by God, which when understood through right reason, calls for using things in accord with their nature.

Confession:  The sacrament is valid if we’re truly sorry for our sins, confess grave sins or some venial sins, and perform the penance the confessor gives.

Ordaining will vs. permissive will: God’s ordaining will is His holy plan. His permissive will is what He allows through our free will, the laws of Nature and the actions of angels and demons.

Complementarity in marriage:  Man and woman are “two reciprocally completing ways of being a body.” In marriage they enrich and give each other the positive influence of the opposite sex.

Fruitfulness  in marriage:  Because fruitfulness is at the core of love, a husband and wife’s sexual union creatively overflows beyond itself, physically or spiritually.

Marriage and Society: The interest of the Church and society in protecting the biological family “cell” is for the well-being of children and the entire nation.

Church and State: The Church’s position on social questions comes from our moral conscience; she addresses them with a view to promote the common good.

Truth, beauty and goodness are the chief attributes of God. The more we seek them, the more godly we become.

The Other Immaculate Conception: Our Lady shares the name “Immaculate Conception” with her spiritual spouse, the Holy Spirit, who lives in her and makes her fruitful.

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The journey to Bethlehem from the carpenter’s perspective

December 24, 2012

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KABUL, Afghanistan - International Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians celebrated Christmas Eve with a non-denominational candlelight service, Christmas carols. Photo/isafmedia.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

International Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians celebrated Christmas Eve in Kabul, Afghanistan, with a non-denominational candlelight service and Christmas carols. Photo/isafmedia. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Joseph’s wooden staff left a trail of small, evenly spaced circles in the dusty road. So many miles they’d traveled on the road to Bethlehem. Though he was a strong man accustomed to hard work, Joseph could feel the long days of travel in his back and feet. He glanced at his wife riding on the plodding donkey and saw that she was near exhaustion.

“Not far now,” he said softly. Mary smiled and gently caressed her abdomen.

“Oh Lord, lead us the place where this baby is to be born,” Joseph prayed silently.

The sun would soon set, and the trees and rocks cast shadows across the deserted road. Finally, they could see the outskirts of Bethlehem. When they reached the first small houses, Joseph stopped a woman carrying a jar of water and asked for a drink for Mary. The woman smiled kindly.

“Have you come for the census?”  she inquired.

“Yes,” Joseph replied. “Do you know of an inn nearby where my wife could rest?”

“It’s nearly your time, isn’t it dear?” the woman asked kindly.

Mary nodded.

“I fear most of the inns around here are full,” she said. But you might try Jacob’s. He’s got a nice big place. Follow this road until you reach a small grove of cedars. Go to the right and you will find it.”

Joseph thanked the woman and led the donkey down the road.

As daylight faded, they reached the place the woman had told them about. Warm light and the smell of dinner beckoned from the windows. Before Joseph could knock, a neat, rather portly man opened the broad wooden door.

“Yes?” the innkeeper asked.

“Sir, I wondered if you might have a room for the night,” Joseph asked with fatigue in his voice.

Cradling his chin in his left hand, the innkeeper studied the tired travelers. Joseph’s cloak was worn, and the donkey thin and bedraggled. Mary looked as if she were ready to give birth at any moment.

“I could take them in out of charity,” he thought, “because they certainly can’t pay enough. But I don’t want to deal with childbirth tonight.”

“Yes, well, I would like to offer you a room,” the innkeeper said to Joseph. “I have one left and the price is two denarii.”

Joseph’s face fell. “Sir, we can’t afford that. Please, my wife must rest.”

The innkeeper hesitated, and then crossed his arms. “I’m sorry, I have expenses.”

“Thank you,” Joseph said patiently as he turned to leave. After a bit, Mary said to him: “Don’t worry, Joseph. That wasn’t the place for us. When I close my eyes, I can sense a simple and peaceful spot where He will be born.”

As they continued into the city they came to another inn, more modest than the last.  A group of travelers waited at the door.

“Are there any rooms here?” Joseph asked one of them.

In an agitated voice the man replied, “The innkeeper has one room left and he wants to get his price. I’ve got my wife and two girls, and I don’t know where we’ll go if we don’t get it.”

Before Joseph could get the innkeeper’s attention,  another couple put a bag of coins in the man’s hand.

“Please sir—” he started.

The innkeeper eyed Joseph with irritation. “You people come for the census and expect to be treated like royalty. You may be of royal David’s line, but you’re no better than anyone else. I have no more rooms, so you’ll have to keep looking.”

“Sir, I just want to know if you could recommend another inn. My wife is—“

“Continue on this road to the edge of the city,” the innkeeper snapped, “and you will find another place. Good luck and good riddance.” He turned and entered the inn, slamming the door behind him.

Joseph sighed and wondered how much longer Mary could travel before they would have to stop … somewhere. Dejected, he told her the bad news. Mary touched his arm and said, “God will provide, Joseph, and He will not be one minute late.”

He marveled at her faith as he coaxed the donkey onto the road. Mary was so young, barely reaching his shoulder, yet there was a grace and maturity about her. And she was to give birth to the Holy One of Israel—with his help.  Joseph didn’t fully understand how this could be happening to him.

They passed through the darkening city and into the surrounding hills. At last they came to the place the other innkeeper had mentioned. Located at the base of a large hill, this inn was small and poor. Mary shifted her weight on the donkey, in obvious discomfort. “Our King will arrive soon, Joseph. Won’t it be wonderful to see Him?”

“Yes, yes it will,” Joseph said, the worry lines on his face giving way to a gentle smile. Joseph knocked on the door and a tall, thin man answered. He looked at Joseph and Mary on the donkey and said in a tired voice, “I’m sorry but we don’t have room for you tonight.”

Then the man’s wife came to the door and said, “David, look, she’s going to have a baby. Couldn’t we find a place for them?”

The innkeeper thought for a moment and said, “You could stay in our stable. It would be warm and dry, and I just filled it with fresh hay. It’s humble, but it would be peaceful.”

Joseph thought indignantly, “So it’s come to this. What kind of provider brings his wife and child to stay in a stable? What must she think of me…?” He glanced tentatively at Mary.

She calmly asked the innkeepers: “Are there many animals in your stable?

“Ma’am, an ox, a donkey, a ewe and her lamb, along with the dog and cat. But don’t worry. They’re all as gentle as can be.”

Mary turned to Joseph and said, “This is the place, I am quite sure. Our King has chosen a humble birth.”

The innkeeper led them to a cave where they could feel the animals’ warm breath. The innkeeper helped Joseph make a fire and a bed for Mary. He promised to bring water, clean cloths and food.

After the innkeeper left, Joseph looked around at how God had provided for them. Then kneeling on the hard ground, he said a silent prayer of thanks.

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The Empty Manger

December 22, 2012

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The Empty MangerIn these last few days before Christmas, life can get hectic.  I have wrapping to do, Christmas cards to send, cookies to bake and my house to clean.  It is very easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas and remember what we really need to do to prepare for the coming of Christ.

The empty manger was set out earlier this week at our parish.  This was done for convenience, as the turn around time from the bare and purple Advent feel of the church to the bright and joyful church filled with evergreens and gold is very short for those who set up the church decorating.  I was in charge of this transformation at our church for 6 years and I know that it can add it’s own layer of hectic to the preparation for Christmas.

But it was the emptiness of the manger that struck me.

Along with scripture, I sometimes find that it is pieces of art or architecture that moves me to prayer and meditation.  This empty manger caused me to reflect on how well I am prepared to be filled by Christ’s love.  It is clean, swept out and ready for the next occupant.  Growing up on a farm I know that a stable has lots of muck to be hauled out. I am thankful that I made it to confession lately and cleaned out some of my own muck.

I also reflect on “who would I be” on the way to this manger scene? What is the Shepard doing today? He has no idea that he will be led to this manger by angels.  The wise men are traveling to see a great king.  Their expectations will be met, but not in the way they expect.  A lot of my life turns out that way.  Will I be able to see the true path to the manger and Christ child or will I get distracted by the idea of a different kind of King on a throne? What would Mary and Joseph be thinking the days before the birth of our Savior?

“Waiting in joyful hope.”

Every week we hear those words as part of the liturgy.  This season of Advent is a reflection on that joyful waiting.

I will take time in the days and hours before Christmas to do just that.  I hope to spend this time of preparation for Christmas to also prepare the empty manger in my heart for the coming of the Christ Child.

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Winter photography can be beautiful

December 20, 2012

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CathedralWhen the first major snowfall happened more than a week ago, I got a great photo opp the next day without having to go much farther than the door of my office.

Fortunately, I work right next door to the Cathedral, and late in the day I happened to go outside to give someone a CD with photos.

I looked up and saw a crisp blue sky and some striking clouds over the dome of the Cathedral. I quickly went inside and grabbed my camera. I stepped out onto the sidewalk of our building on Dayton Avenue and started snapping away. It didn’t take long – only about 10 minutes. I was able to capture some beautiful images of the Cathedral, which once again confirmed that winter has a unique beauty worth recording.

IMG_0329Another bonus was a thick blanket of snow on some tree branches in the Cathedral courtyard. I got a few photos of that, too. I’m sure we can use those photos. Don’t be surprised if you see one or two published in the coming months.

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The First Baby “Snowman”

December 18, 2012

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Saints Peter and Paul Church in Rustenfelde, Germany

A mother’s selfless love

(Based on information from a German newspaper article. This is how I envisioned the story happening…)

Large snowflakes planted themselves like kisses on the bundle a mother held in her arms. It was a hard winter that year of 1726 in Rustenfelde, Thuringen of central Germany. The mother was thankful she had swaddled her infant in a woolen blanket.

The woman willed her feet forward as she ambled along the cobblestones. The snow lay twinkling like Stern on the ground and was starting to accumulate, so she tread carefully. Her destination was the Catholic Kirche in the middle of the town. It was named after two strong disciples: Saints Peter and Paul, and she yearned for some of their strength at that moment. When the mother came to a large, stone wall she knew she was almost there. She pressed the child closer to her chest and trudged forward. Wiping a tear from her eye, she whispered to the sleeping babe, “I love you, mein Leibling. That is why I am doing this.”

Perched high on the church grounds, the young Mutter paused to take in the view and bide more time. The timber-framed homes in the village were constructed from wattle and daub and were topped with thatched roofs. Candles glowing in the windows gave a sense of warmth to the scene. Tufts of smoke rising from the chimnyes created a feeling of hominess, for which the mother craved. The farmlands and woodlands beyond were beautiful even at dusk. To her right, at the outskirts of town, she saw a deer family foraging in the wheat field near the treeline. On the distant mound, the castle called Rusteberg loomed like a protective fortress. This was where counts and knight crusaders often lived during the past 500 years. Hanstein Castle, granted to the Archbishop of Mainz in 1209, still sat atop the hill above the Werra River. “It will be a safe place,” she whispered to the baby.

The mother turned to face the impressive Kirche. All was calm, all was bright–except for her heart. Votives were lit witinin, near the altar. Seeing them pacified the mother.

Someone hustled on the road below. The woman lowered her head and put her cheek to the baby’s. When the man had passed them, she made sure nobody was around to see what she had to do out of love for her little Leibling. After one last embrace the mother tenderly placed the baby on the front step of Saints Peter and Paul and then knocked on the wooden door. Fleeing to an enclave nearby, she watched from the shadows.  She felt like Miriam must have while serving as sentinel to the baby Moses adrift in his basket until his adoptive mother found him.

The young  Mutter whispered to the Blessed Mother: “You were alone and frightened, too, weren’t you Mary? Will you wrap your shielding mantel around my baby and safeguard him, bitte? Just like you did the Christkindl?”  The door was opened by a holy man. A light from inside the church poured onto the stoop illuminating the wrapped gift. An expression of surprise and joy crossed the priest’s face as he looked down. Bending, he picked up the Bundel; the child fit perfectly into the crook of his arm. He hastened outside and spent a moment looking around, but he didn’t see anyone. With his right hand, the man dusted away the white fluffs of Schnee which had collected upon the swaddling. The woman saw a smile on the priest’s face before he closed the door.

Geh mit Gott, meine Engel,” the birthmother said from the shadows. “Go with God, my angel.”

The foundling is named

The priest brought the baby into the sanctuary of the church and unwrapped das Bundel. The infant was no bigger than a doll. He awoke, displaying luminous blue eyes for just a brief moment.  Das kleiner Junge licked his lips and mewled. The man comforted the child and told him not to cry: “Hab keine Angst.”

There arose the question as to what he should call the baby boy. The holy man must have had a sense of humor, so he gave him a name that recalled how the child was covered with white Schnee on the church’s doorstep.

The priest decided to name the baby Schneemann (the surname of my husband’s family). We are told it is not a usual name in Germany–just as you wouldn’t find ‘Snowman’ used as a surname in this country.

Baby Schneemann is adopted

Eventually, the babe was adopted, but we do not know by whom. Perhaps the priest himself took the child in, or maybe he was raised by a couple living in the area of Rustenfelde. All we know is that he was christened Ambrosius Schneemann. He may have possibly been named after the 4th-century theologian and doctor of the Church, St. Ambrose. The name is Latin, taken from the Greek word “ambrosia” which is known as the food of the gods. It also has other meanings: “immortal,” “undying,” or “divine.” Maybe the child’s Christain name was chosen because the name-giver was challenged, as my husband and I were, by the question: What works with the last name ‘Schneeman’?

This baby was indeed created–as all babies are– from the breath of God. They are a blessings bestowed to mortals. Likewise, Ambrosius Schneemann’s birthmother was accessing God’s grace when she chose for her baby the gift of life. And wasn’t the newborn blessed because she did so? She could have left him in an unsafe place like the Werra River, a dark alley, a trash heap, the woods, or one of the nearby culverts, canals, channels or wells. But the desparate Mutti made two unselfish decisions: She willed her baby to live even though he was born in some sort of crisis, and she allowed another woman to call him “meine Sohn” through the gift of adoption.  For he truly was a “treasure.”

And the first Baby Schneemann bestowed a gift to the world, too–which was his undying lineage.

“Baby Boxes”

All babies–planned and unplanned–are gifts, and deserve to live. Throughout Germany today, there are nearly 100 warm incubators built into hospital walls. They serve as “safe places” for mothers to leave children whom they wish to place anonymously for adoption. These “baby boxes” receive considerable public support because they save little ones from infanticide.

“They are a revival of the medieval ‘foundling wheels,’ where infants were left in revolving church doors. In recent years, there has been an increase in these contraptions –also called hatches, windows, or slots in some countries–and at least 11 European nations now have them [Germany has by far the most–Poland and The Czech Republic are next, and they have more than 40], according to United Nations figures.” (Associated Press, December of 2012)

Sadly, some human rights advocates think these boxes are  bad for the children. That they avoid dealing with the problems that led the baby to be abandoned. But how, pray tell, can saving the life of the baby be a negative thing? Hundreds of babies in Europe have been placed in these boxes in the last 10 years. It is estimated that one or two infants are placed in each “safe place” every year.

According to the Associated Press article, Germany’s Health Ministry is considering other options. “We want to replace the necessity for the baby boxes by implementing a rule to allow women to give birth anonymously that will allow them to [place their] child for adoption,” said Christopher Steegmans for the ministry. (This sounds like our Safe Place for Newborns campaigne here in the States.)

Schneemann Baby’s ripples

In the summer of 1947, a couple named Wilma and Kurt Schneemann of Köln, Germany were married. A family tree fell into their hands. The newlyweds did some research in Rustenfelde and found the story of the Schneemann family beginnings in the church records there. “This child is the forefather of all Schneemanns” wrote a joyful relative to our cousin back in 1999 at Christmastime.

Ambrosius Schneemann obviously had had at least one child, and that child went on to produce more offspring. And so on, and so on, and so on. I like to think that Ambrosius’  birthmother continued to watch him from a distance. Maybe she also witnessed her grandchildren thriving. Today, many descendants are living in America, and the name was Americanized to ‘Schneeman.’ She’d be happy to know there are successful artists, musicians, students, architects, business managers, doctors, nurses, military leaders, teachers and lawyers, to name a few. One descendant went to Germany to play professional football in 2012, and some kin have returned as tourists; unable to resist the pull of their heritage.

Today, Rustenfelde has a population of about 500. Two Schneemanns sit on the city council under the Bürgermeister Ulrich Hesse.

What a ripple (er, snowball?) effect  one baby–and one choice–can make in this Odyssey called Life.  If we are open to God’s gifts, even during the Schneesturms (snowstorms) of our journey, He will give us so many graces in return.

Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!

(Danke to my Mutti, Cecelia MacDonald, for editing this blog. She also corrected my German and taught me that ALL nouns in the German language are capitalized. And a big Danke to the birthmother of that first Schneemann baby!)

Hanstein Castle in the 1600s

Hanstein Castle in the 1600s

 

 

 

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Ready for Christmas? How about for Jesus’ coming this Sunday?

December 17, 2012

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As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ coming at Christmas, it’s good to remember His coming in every Eucharist. Photo/khrawlings. Licensed under Creative Commons.

As the holiday storm hits me again, I’ve been wondering if I spend more time getting ready for Christmas than I do all year preparing for Jesus’ coming at each Eucharist.

I’m afraid Christmas probably wins.

We know Advent is about preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem on Christmas. And in the pre-Advent readings we’ve reflected on His coming again at the end of time.  But the Church also reminds us that the Lord is coming today and tomorrow and next Sunday at Mass.

Thinking about Jesus the baby born in a stable surrounded by angels or Jesus the king coming on a cloud to save us is more exciting than reflecting on Jesus as we’re most used to seeing Him: in the form of a humble piece of bread.

For “so great and so holy a moment”

The Catechism tells us that in order to respond to Christ’s invitation to the Eucharist “we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment.” (CCC1385)  The Church requires preparation for receiving the Lord and there are a number of other ways we can make ourselves ready both before and during Mass.

The most basic preparation for communion is living the Christian life well. In the early Church, St. Justin wrote about the Eucharist, “… no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.” (CCC1355)

The sacrament of Reconciliation is necessary preparation for communion for anyone who is conscious of having committed grave or mortal sin. Regular confession is also good preparation in general for the Eucharist because it “strengthens us against temptation and sin and helps us cultivate a life of virtue,” the U.S. Bishops state in their 2006 document, “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper:” On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.”

Fasting from food and drink (except water) for one hour before receiving the Eucharist is another requirement. Canon law states that the elderly, the sick and their caregivers do not have to observe this fast.

Preparing every day and right before Communion

The Bishops offer guidelines for preparing for the Eucharist before coming to Mass, as well as right before receiving the sacrament.

In daily life we can prepare by:

  • Reading scripture and spending time in prayer;
  • Being faithful to our state in life; and
  • Seeking forgiveness daily for our sins and going regularly to confession.

When we arrive at Mass we should:

  • Be dressed modestly in respect for the dignity of the liturgy and one another;
  • Spend time in silence and prayerful recollection or read the Mass readings;
  • Participate actively in the liturgy; and
  • Approach “the altar with reverence, love, and awe as part of the Eucharistic procession of the faithful.”

Jesus made the Apostles aware of the “simplicity and solemnity” of the Eucharist when He told them to prepare carefully the “large upper room” for the Last Supper, Bl. John Paul II wrote in an encyclical on the Eucharist.

Preparation is thinking of the Lord and making “fervent acts of faith, hope, love and contrition,” according to EWTN television. It’s also important to approach the sacrament each time as devoutly and fervently as if it were our only communion.

I’m sure Christmas wouldn’t be the same this year if we knew it was our last one. How differently would Jesus’ coming in the Eucharist this Sunday be if we considered it the same way?

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Turning to our Mother in Times of Tragedy

December 17, 2012

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Madonna and Child

In the wake of the school shooting on Friday, I went to find solace in daily Mass on Saturday.
As I entered the church, the first thing I noticed was the Our Lady of Guadalupe picture in the sanctuary. The picture was left there as a remnant of the Wednesday night celebration. It was then that it occurred to me that the tragic killing of the 20 children and 6 adults in Connecticut is not something unique to our culture today. At the time of the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego in 1531, child sacrifice was common place. After her appearance, eight million natives were converted to the Church in the next 7 years – virtually eliminating the Aztec practice of sacrifice. Is our wonton cultural lack of seeing life as precious any different? Is this tragedy any different than the atrocities of child sacrifice?
In the wake of this recent tragedy we are left asking why, but maybe more importantly we should be asking what should we do? Stricter laws concerning guns –yes, more help for the mentally disturbed – of course, but maybe we should be turning to Mary in this year of faith to help bring about the conversion that was seen in Mexico 500 years ago.
In this Year of Faith I have made a personal commitment to get to know our Blessed Mother better. I have always been one of those people who just didn’t “get” Mary. I never had an aversion to praying for Mary’s intersession like some of my Protestant friends, but I just didn’t quite understand why I needed an intercessor – why not go directly to the ‘Big Guy?”
To get to know Mary better, I have started with memorizing some of the Marian prayers that I have never gotten around to knowing by heart.
I have been working on memorizing the “Hail Holy Queen.”
In the wake of this tragedy  it was the first prayer I turned to. Maybe it is something about telling your heart ache to your mother and if anyone knows the heart ache of the loss of a child, it is our Blessed Mother. The words are especially haunting; calling us all the “poor banished children of Eve” and the description of  “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears” is what drew me to first look to Mary in this time of tragedy.
If you read this blog post, maybe you will join with me in asking Mary’s intersession.

 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

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The Other Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2012

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Virgin Mary by Carlo Dolci Photo/JonDissed Licensed under Creative Commons

Why did Our Lady call herself the Immaculate Conception when she appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes more than 150 years ago? If she’d called herself the Mother of God or Holy Virgin, the French authorities might not have given St. Bernadette such a hard time.

It turns out that Immaculate Conception is the Blessed Mother’s married name.

No, that doesn’t mean St. Joseph is Mr. Immaculate Conception. According to St. Maximilian Kolbe, “Immaculate Conception” is the name Mary shares with her spiritual spouse, the Holy Spirit. Since she’s a creature and He is God what brings them together so intimately that they share a name?  As St. Maximilian writes, it has to do with their unique relationship and the Divine fruit of their union: Jesus.

Preparation for her vocation

What exactly is the Immaculate Conception? In the Blessed Mother’s case it means that from the beginning of her existence God willed that she would be free of original sin and filled with sanctifying grace. The Church teaches that He gave her this special grace to prepare her to be the mother of Christ. As the Catechism states,

“…In order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.” (CCC490)

I learned about this recently while reading Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory, a preparation for Marian consecration. (It’s a great book that presents Marian consecration from the point of view of not only St. Maximilian but also St. Louis de Montfort, Bl. Mother Teresa and Bl. John Paul II.)

A human being, Mary was conceived. But obviously the Holy Spirit wasn’t. So what makes Him the Immaculate Conception? Father Gaitley explains St. Maximilian’s thought that the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception because He is the Life and Love that springs from the love of the Father and the Son.1

In Dwight P. Campbell’s Catholic Culture article, he quotes St. Maximilian as saying that the Holy Spirit is “the flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine ‘conception.’” This Love is the model for all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.

The Holy Spirit makes Mary fruitful

Clearly, fruitfulness is part of this. Where does Mary fit into this? Because the Holy Spirit is fruitful He produces divine life in her in the womb of her soul which makes her his spouse, the Immaculate Conception, St. Maximilian writes.2

“In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very being. He makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity.”3

Because of the grace of her Immaculate Conception, Mary is totally receptive to God’s love, Campbell states. She receives that love at the Annunciation and “in cooperation with the Holy Spirit makes that love fruitful — infinitely so — in conceiving the Incarnate Word.”

The fruit of the uncreated Immaculate Conception and the created Immaculate Conception is Jesus! St. Maximilian said it makes sense that as a married couple and as parents, the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother would share the same name.

“…If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband because she belongs to him, is one with him, becomes equal to him and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom he lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace?”4


Endnotes

1 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Michael Gaitley (Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M, 2011), p. 52.
2 Ibid., p. 54.
3 Ibid., pp. 53-54.
4 Ibid. p. 54.

 

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