Skip to comments.Mary Immaculate: Patroness of the United States [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Posted on 12/07/2008 6:51:43 PM PST by Salvation
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 dont 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 IXs declaration that
Marys 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 Marys virtues is easier than reading
Bishop John Carrolls 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
Gods way. Never touched by sin, nothing in her resisted Gods 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 Gods 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 Gods way.
Francis Cardinal George,OMI
Copyright © 2004 Archdiocese of Chicago. Illustration by Suzanne Novak, fromClip Art for Parish Life, Liturgy Training Publications.
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