Celebrating the patronal feast day of the U.S.

| Father Michael Van Sloun for The Catholic Spirit | December 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 is a holy day of obligation

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of God, is the patron saint of the United States.

A patron saint is a canonized man or woman who has been designated by the church or chosen by the people through a long-standing popular devotion as their special intercessor and protector before God, either on behalf of a nation, ethnic group, locality or for a group of similar people (e.g., cooks, St. Martha; musicians, St. Cecilia) or a special concern (e.g., headaches, St. Theresa of Avila; lost articles, St. Anthony).

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is the day when we Americans celebrate Mary as our patron saint. Dec. 8 is a holy day of obligation, when we are required to attend Mass.

What it celebrates

The first generation of Christians steadfastly believed what the Archangel Gabriel declared, that Mary has always been “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). It seemed perfectly logical to them and every subsequent generation that if Jesus, the savior of the world, was without sin, then his mother, who carried “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32) in her womb, if she were to be a suitable vessel, must also be without sin. Thus, it has been our constant tradition that Mary was free of all sin from the first instant of her life, that she had an “immaculate conception.”

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was the first infallible pronouncement ever given. The declaration was made by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1854, in a papal bull called “Ineffabilis Deus.” It states: “The most Blessed Virgin was, from the first moment of her conception, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 491-493).

This teaching was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which stated that “the mother of God [is] entirely holy and free from all stain of sin from the first instant of her conception” (“Lumen Gentium,” No. 56).

Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.

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Category: Holy Days