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THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

An awed silence fell over the throng that had gathered in St Peter’s for this history-making ceremony. The tall stately Pope Pius IX had just celebrated Mass at the great main altar. Now he was stepping forward to read his proclamation. Tears of joy glistened in his eyes. In a voice loud and clear but ringing with emotion, he read: “We declare, affirm and define that the doctrine which states that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved and exempted from all stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all mankind, is a doctrine revealed of God and which, for this reason, all Christians are bound to believe firmly and with confidence…”

As he reached the end, his voice broke and tears ran unchecked down his cheeks.

Forty-thousand voices sang the hymn Te Deum Laudamus. The dome of Michelangelo resounded with the triumphant notes. The bells of Rome’s churches rang joyously. That night, Rome was ablaze with light.

This happened on December 8, 1854.

A DOCTRINE REVEALED OF GOD

For centuries, millions of Catholics had believed that the Mother of God had been conceived without the stain of original sin; anything else would have been unthinkable. But the Holy Ghost had reserved the solemn definition for modern times. Our Lady had told Venerable Dominic of Jesus and Mary, a Carmelite who had lived at the time of St Louis Marie de Montfort, that the promulgation was “saved for the latter days of the Church.” This was part of the divine plan, foretold by St Louis Marie, to make our Lady more known, more loved and more honoured in our time than she had ever been before. The Blessed Mother herself had paved the way for the proclamation in 1830 when, to Catherine Laboure, she had called herself “Mary conceived without sin.”

MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN

The doctrine was an especially appropriate one for the nineteenth century. The great heresy of the day – which has persisted into our own time – was man’s elevating himself to equality with God. The Immaculate Conception reminds us that only Mary, of all human creatures, was conceived without the stain of original sin. All the rest of us came into the world with this mark on our souls. As a result of this sin, we are weak and inclined towards evil. Only God’s help will keep us on the road to salvation. We are absolutely dependent on God.

As the Blessed Virgin was intensifying her campaign, so was the devil. This very city of Rome, which was outdoing itself to honour the great Mother of God, had, just six years before, been the scene of the wildest disorders. They had been directed principally at Pope Pius IX, Christ’s vicar on earth.

WE ARE ABSOLUTELY DEPENDENT ON GOD

In those days the Pope, besides being the head of the Universal Church, was a king. He ruled a country known as the Papal States, and Rome was its capital. In the city there were many “liberals” who opposed the rule of the Pontiff on the pretence that they were in favour of a democracy. Actually, they hated the Church, and they knew no better way of fighting it than by attacking its visible head.

Riot followed riot. The revolutionaries managed to get control of the civic guard, so the Pope was powerless to stop the riots. Events reached a climax in November, 1848. On the 15th, a group of conspirators stabbed to death the Pope’s Prime Minister, Count Pellegrino Rossi. The mob celebrated the murder by carrying the bloody knife triumphantly through the streets. It was even carried to the home of the widow who was alone with her daughter.

Later that night, the mob marched to the Papal Palace. Shots were fired, and some found their mark. Several people were wounded. Monsignor Palace, the Pope’s secretary, was shot dead.

On November 24, 1848, the Pope was forced to flee from Rome. The city was left in the hands of the “liberals,” the men who were “to usher in a new era for mankind, the glorious era of a redemption far different from that announced by Christ.”

ONLY GOD’S HELP WILL KEEP US ON THE ROAD TO SALVATION

It was different all right – horribly different. Under the “Roman Republic,” freedom of the press and freedom of speech were rigidly suppressed. Taxes were increased. All bank deposits, all gold, silver and jewellery were confiscated, as was all the property belonging to the Church. People were thrown into jail without trial. The Minister of Finance requisitioned all hospitals, orphan asylums and other charitable institutions. The inmates were turned into the streets.

In 1830, our Lady had struck in the heart of the enemy territory – Paris. Now, eighteen years later, the devil had struck at the city which was the capital of Christ’s Church – Rome. As things are usually judged in this world, the devil seemed to have the better of it.

MARY HAD APPEARED TO A HUMBLE LITTLE POSTULANT

Mary had appeared in the quiet of the night to a humble little postulant in a convent chapel. So far as anyone could tell at the time, she had had no effect at all on the city or the world. The enemies of religion, on the other hand, were in complete control of Rome. The Holy Eucharist was defiled in public ceremonies. But this control did not last long.

Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, had become head of the French government. He decided to help Pius IX, who was in exile at Gaeta. A French army marched against Rome, and the “republic” fell on June 30, 1849. The Pope returned to the city on April 12, 1850.

His return did not mean the end of his troubles. He was kept in power only by Louis Napoleon, who was ready to sacrifice him the moment he could gain thereby. Rome was still filled with “liberals” who were ready to repeat their revolution of 1848. King Victor Emmanuel of Piedmont and his crafty premier, Cavour, were campaigning for a united Italy with Rome as its capital. Most people were sure that eventually they would be successful. In addition to the troubles in Rome, there was scarcely a country in the world where the rights of the Church were not being infringed upon. Switzerland, Russia and Prussia were especially violent in their persecutions.

With the Church beset on all sides, there were many who freely predicted that its days were numbered. It was not possible, these people said, for any institution to withstand so many attacks coming from so many quarters at the same time.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST CHRIST’S CHURCH 

From a strictly material viewpoint, these people were right. But they forgot Christ’s promise that He would remain with His Church always and that the gates of hell should not prevail against her. They forgot – or did not know – that “Mary must be terrible to the devil and his crew, as an angel ranged in battle, principally in these latter times.

In the midst of all her troubles, the Church had one of her most glorious moments, when Pius IX proclaimed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Less than four years after the proclamation, Pope Pius IX was to learn with joy that our Lady had appeared at Lourdes and had put what seemed to be the seal of approval on his action by saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954

 

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2019 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“WE EMBRACE ALL LANDS, ALL PEOPLES AND NATIONS IN AN INSTINCTIVE SENTIMENT OF PATERNAL AFFECTION” – POPE PIUS IX

OPPOSING VIOLENCE AND WAR

“After a rapid ecclesiastical career in which he became a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church at the young age of 41, Giovanni Mastai Ferretti was called by God to the burden of Supreme Pontiff on June 16, 1846, and took the name of Pius IX. He immediately began various reforms of the Pontifical State and the liberals of that time wanted to make of him the leader of the united Italian states against the Austrian Empire; but the Pontiff, faithful to his call to be Father of all peoples, opposed the war while approving of Italy’s independence.

FIRST, IT LOOKED AS IF HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO BECOME A PRIEST

Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti was born in Senigallia on May 13th, 1792 of the Count Girolamo Mastai of Cesena and Caterina Solazzi. He studied firstly at the Scolopi of Volterra, then, having interrupted his studies for affairs to be tended to in Naples, he took them up again in Rome with his uncle. Being affected by epilepsy, it was believed that he could not approach Holy Orders; however, having happily overcome this difficulty, he was ordained a priest on April 19th, 1819.

APOSTOLATE AMONG THE YOUTH

From his youth he engaged in the apostolate among the youth of the Institution Tata Giovanni in Rome to which he always remained attached in his heart. In 1823-25 he assisted as auditor to Msgr Giovanni Muzi, the Apostolic Delegate for the Republics of Chile and Peru. Upon his return from this mission he was made Rector of St Mary’s in Via Lata, director of the Institution of St Michael and, on June 3rd, 1827, he was consecrated Bishop of Spoleto. In 1833 Gregory XVI transferred him to Imola and at the same time made him titular Cardinal of Ss Peter and Marcellinus.

PRE-EMINENT PASTORAL GIFTS

In the Conclave which followed the death of Gregory XVI from June 15-16th, 1846, one of the briefest in recorded history, Cardinal Mastai was elected Pope and chose the name of Pius IX. The qualities which attracted the attention of the electors to him were principally the pre-eminent pastoral gifts which he had demonstrated and his knowledge of the needs of the Pontifical State. Pius IX selected the young Prelate Giovanni Corboli-Bussi, Bishop of Urbino and Secretary of the Conclave, as his principal collaborator who, together with Cardinal Pasquale Gizzi, named Secretary of State, became his right arm.

ORDERED THE ABOLITION OF THE SEGREGATION OF THE JEWISH GHETTO

Already, in the first months of his Pontificate, he lightened the condition of the Hebrews in Rome by ordering the abolition of the segregation of the ghetto. He immediately set to work in remedying the evils afflicting the Pontifical State by instituting a special Congregation of State to look into some of the more urgent affairs: the railroads, the order of finances, of courts and of the military.

AMNESTY TO THE CONDEMNED AND REPATRIATION OF EXILES

At the same time he began a series of reforms which made him very well liked by the people: indeed he granted wide amnesty to condemned politicians and repatriation to exiles through a simple declaration of faithful submission to the public authorities. This amnesty, published in the historic ‘Proclama’, gave rise to frantic demonstrations of joy towards Pius IX which seemed to be unending. With the Edict of March 15th, 1847, he mitigated the censure of the printed word, yet, in spite of this, he left many liberals who would have liked to have seen the abolition of all restrictions disappointed. With the ‘motu proprio’ of June 18th he instituted the Counsel of Ministers, while on July 5th he instituted the civic guard at Rome and gave normative dispositions for the same in other cities of the Pontifical State.

He also promoted a trade Alliance among the pre-united Italian States which represented the most important political-diplomatic attempt of the time on a federal level towards realising a united Italy.

AFTER THE REVOLUTIONARY ACTIONS 1848

On March 14th, 1848, after the revolutionary actions which impacted all of Europe right from the beginning of that year, Pope Pius IX granted the Constitutions (The Fundamental Statutes for the Temporal Government of the Ecclesiastical States) which set up two legislative Houses and opened the Institutions to the laity as well (both in the legislative and executive orders).

STRONG PRESSURE WAS PLACED UPON THE PONTIFF

At the end of the same month on the occasion of the Five Days of Milan where the Italian States began to rebel against the Austrian Empire, strong pressure was placed upon the Pontiff to follow the example of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the King of Naples who had sent their own troops to the frontlines against the Austrians. Pius IX only allowed the constitution of a band of volunteers with the exclusive mission of protecting the State borders along the Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice. Despite the Pope’s intentions, the formation of this troop dedicated to the war against Austria placed the Pontifical State in favour of the cause of Italian independence.

A COURAGEOUS STAND AS HEAD OF THE CHURCH

HIS REFUSAL OF WAR MADE HARDLINERS CALL HIM A TRAITOR

As a result of this, however, on April 29th, 1848, Pius IX, with the Papal Allocution and the Consistory of Cardinals, made evident the particular position of the Pope who, as head of the universal Church and at the same time head of the Italian State, could not place himself in war against a Catholic kingdom: ‘Faithful to the obligations of our supreme apostolate, We embrace all Lands, all peoples and Nations in an instinctive sentiment of paternal affection.’ His determined defence of Italian independence had little worth in a despatch to the Austrian Emperor; for not a few, unfortunately, he was simply a traitor.”
– This article was published entitled “Hagiography; Bl. Pius IX, Part I” in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries), Year VII – Number 9 September 2013.

 
 

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