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Mary Immaculate: Patroness of the United States [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Archdioces of Chicago.org ^ | 2004 | Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Posted on 12/07/2008 6:51:43 PM PST by Salvation

 

Mary, mother of Jesus, as the Immaculate Conception.

 

Mary Immaculate:

Patroness of the United States

A patron is like a sponsor, someone who takes responsibility for another, who protects

another. Catholics rely on our patron saints not only to inspire our lives by their example

but also to pray for us and protect us in our life of grace. A patron looks out for us, sometimes

in ways we don’t always recognize.  Mary Immaculate was officially declared the

patroness of the United States in 1847. A year earlier, the U.S. bishops had written to the

Catholics of this country: We take this occasion 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.

 

Even earlier, in 1843, shortly after coming to Chicago as its first Bishop, William Quarter

wrote that he placed the new diocese, which was then the entire state of Illinois, under the

protection of “the Immaculate Mother of God.” Cardinal Bernardin recalled this

dedication on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Archdiocese in 1993.

In 1849, the U.S. bishops asked the Pope to declare the Catholic belief that the Blessed

Virgin Mary was free of sin from the first moment of her conception to be a dogma

of the Church. When the Holy Father did so in 1854, the Bishops of this country

decided that December 8 would be observed in every diocese as a holy day of obligation.

This year, 2004, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration that

Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a dogma of the faith, a belief that every Catholic must

hold as integral to the faith that comes to us from the apostles.

 

This faith had shaped the American continent long before there was a United States of

America. In all the lands of North and South and Central America colonized by France

and Spain, devotion to Mary marked the lives of the people. In the British colonies, where

the public practice of Catholicism was forbidden, any external sign of love for Jesus’

mother was impossible. Still, the Catholics of the newly independent United States

were instructed in 1792 by their first Bishop, John Carroll:

I shall only add this my earnest request, that to the exercise of the sublimest

virtues, faith, hope and charity, you will join a fervent and well regulated devotion

to the Holy Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; that you will place great

confidence in her in all your necessities.

 

Having chosen her the special patroness of this Diocese [the whole country at that

time], you are placed, of course, under her powerful protection; and it becomes your

duty to be careful to deserve its continuance by a zealous imitation of her virtues and

a reliance on her motherly superintendence.  Imitating Mary’s virtues is easier than reading

Bishop John Carroll’s eighteenth-century prose! His instructions about praying to Mary,

however, were well received in the eighteenth century and reinforced by the devotional

practices of the many Catholic immigrants who began to come to the United States early

in the following century.

 

There is some irony in the choice of Mary  Immaculate as our patroness. One of the

hallmarks of our society is self-reliance, getting the job done on your own, being

independent and doing things your own way.  The meaning of the dogma of the Immaculate

Conception is that Mary was always totally dependent on God, that her mission in life

was given to her, and that she never did anything on her own but always did things

God’s way. Never touched by sin, nothing in her resisted God’s will for her and for the

salvation of the world through her Son.  

 

Of the few words attributed to her in the Gospels, the most basic is, “Let it be done

to me according to your word.” From this free decision on her part flows her instruction

to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.”

 

Mary Immaculate is our patroness. She speaks to us of God’s initiative in her life and

ours; she witnesses to the primacy of grace in her life and ours. She tells us, proud of our

own initiatives, to do it God’s way. 

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Copyright © 2004 Archdiocese of Chicago. Illustration by Suzanne Novak, from Clip Art for Parish Life, Liturgy Training Publications.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; conception; immaculate
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