Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

This past Jan. 14, I celebrated Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis for the intention of the young men and women of the archdiocese.I prayed that they may know their vocation in life and respond to God’s call with an undivided heart.The Mass was offered, in a particular way, for the young men whom God is calling to the priesthood, and for the young men and women whom God is calling to the consecrated life.

St. Gianna, wife, mother and physician, is an inspiration for our young people in responding to their vocation. What is more, she will intercede for them, so that they will unite themselves to our Lord, above all, in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, doing whatever He asks of them (John 2:5).

Vocation and prayer

Our vocation in life, whether it be to marriage, the dedicated single state, the consecrated life or the priesthood, is a call from Christ to give ourselves, with Him, in faithful and selfless love of God and neighbor.We know our vocation, therefore, through prayer, asking God the Father what His special plan is for us and seeking the grace from Him to do His will in all things.

St. Gianna is an outstanding example of someone who came to know her vocation through prayer, especially through participation in Mass each day, daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the daily recitation of the Rosary.Her parents formed her in the habits of daily Mass, prayer and devotion.She also was helped very much by the priests and religious Sisters whom she came to know in the parishes to which her family belonged over the years, and in the schools in which she received her education.

Vocation and suffering

Uniting ourselves to Christ, above all, in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, we understand that our vocation is, in essence, the pouring out of our life in selfless love.In other words, our vocation requires the acceptance of many sufferings, if we are to be truly faithful and generous in following Christ.St. Gianna practiced a life of generous self-giving, especially through her involvement in Catholic Action, a lay spiritual movement which helps its members to follow Christ by the threefold way of prayer, action and sacrifice.

At the end of her life, St. Gianna offered her life in death, to save the life of the infant in her womb.When she was urged to save her life by a surgical procedure which would have destroyed her unborn child, she responded that nothing could justify taking the life of the child.At the same time, she embraced the suffering of her approaching death with serenity, seeing her suffering as a true share in Christ’s Passion and Death.

Vocation and trust in Divine Providence

At the Baptism of our Lord, the voice of God the Father was heard, declaring: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).In other words, our Lord Jesus Christ was perfectly united in will with the Father, accepting fully His vocation and mission of Savior.Our Lord trusted in the Father’s promise of salvation through His suffering and death.During the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus prayed to the Father: ‘(N)ot my will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42), and, as He died upon the cross, He prayed to the Father: "Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit" (Luke 23:46).

In coming to know our vocation in life and in helping others to know their vocation, it is essential to develop a humble trust in God’s providence.All that we are and have is God’s gift to us in love. Humbly recognizing that truth, we then trust that God will provide all that we need to do His will and will bring us through our suffering to an ever greater love of Him and one another.

St. Gianna was taught trust in Divine Providence by her parents. She practiced it to an heroic degree as wife, mother and physician. Trust in God’s never-failing love permitted her to enjoy deeply the beauties of nature, to respect the dignity of every brother and sister, to embrace the hardships of daily life in the family with generous joy, to practice medicine by caring for the patient as a child of God, and to give up her life for her last child, trusting that her other three children would receive the love which she so desired to give them.

When she was dying, St. Gianna was heard praying repeatedly the words: "Jesus, I love you!" Indeed, St. Gianna loved Jesus, doing God’s will with trust in His promise of salvation.

Daily prayer for vocations

The special Mass which I celebrated on Jan. 14 fulfilled in the most outstanding manner possible the duty to pray daily for those who are called to the priesthood and consecrated life, the duty which all of us as members of the Body of Christ are called to fulfill.The young people whom Christ is calling to the priesthood and consecrated life depend upon our prayers that they may hear God’s call and respond perseveringly.

Let us all pray each day that our young men and women will come to know their vocation through prayer and will embrace the sufferings which responding to their vocation inevitably entails.Let us pray that they, like St. Gianna, will trust in God’s providence, doing His will with confidence that He will provide for them in all things.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On this past Jan. 1 and 2, I had the great privilege to visit the holy places of St. Gianna, wife and mother and physician, who, on Easter Saturday of 1962, at her home in Mesero, in Northern Italy, offered her life to save the life of her infant daughter in the womb. The newest parish of the St. Louis Archdiocese, St. Gianna Parish in the St. Charles Deanery, has been given St. Gianna as its patron.

In visiting the places made holy by the heroic Christian life of St. Gianna, I had the even greater privilege of meeting her husband, Pietro; the daughter whose life she saved, Gianna Emanuela; her other living daughter, Laura; her brother, Father Giuseppe Beretta, a retired priest of the Diocese of Bergamo in Italy; and her sister, Sister M. Virginia, a Canossian Sister.I also met other relatives and friends of St. Gianna.When I visited with Pietro, her husband, he presented me with a first-class relic of St. Gianna to be placed in the altar of the church of St. Gianna Parish when it is consecrated.

Those with whom I visited repeatedly spoke of St. Gianna’s extraordinary humility, her trust in Divine Providence and her generous love toward all. One of her classmates told me that she always knew that St. Gianna was an extraordinary person, although Gianna never drew attention to herself but rather acted very humbly and generously with everyone.

It was clear to all who knew Gianna that the heart of her holiness of life was a great love of the Holy Eucharist, manifested in a devotion to daily Mass and visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and a closeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary, expressed by her daily praying of the rosary.

I learned that her parents educated St. Gianna, from her earliest days, to love the Holy Eucharist and to call upon the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially by praying the rosary.As her sister, Sister M. Virginia, somewhat humorously commented: "It is all the fault of our parents that Gianna became a saint."

St. Gianna and vocation

One of the essential signs of St. Gianna’s holiness of life was her response to her vocation.When she was 15, she made a three-day retreat with Father Michael Avedano, SJ, who focused his conferences on cooperation with God’s grace in the circumstances of everyday life. From that time, St. Gianna devoted herself to doing God’s will in all things.As she entered into her adult years, she naturally pondered, most of all, how God wanted her to give herself totally to Him and to her neighbor through her vocation.

After she had finished medical school, she thought that God was calling her to join her brother, Father Alberto Baretta, OFM Cap, a physician and missionary who was founding a hospital in Graja, located in the southern Amazon region of Brazil. Her spiritual director and her bishop, however, were convinced that God was calling her to form a marriage and family, in imitation of her saintly parents. They did not believe that God was calling her to be a missionary because her health would not support the intense heat of Graja.

Although she was greatly disappointed at having to abandon the idea of a missionary vocation, she gave herself, heart and soul, to the vocation to the married life. God brought Pietro Molla and her together on the occasion of the dinner following the First Mass of Thanksgiving of Father Lino Garavaglia, native son of Pietro’s home parish at Mesero, in which Gianna was practicing medicine.From that meeting, their love of each other grew ever stronger.They were united by Christ in marriage on Sept. 24, 1955.The purity and generosity of their love is documented in the love letters of St. Gianna to Pietro, which were published in English in 2002 under the title, "Love Letters to My Husband" (Boston: Pauline Books and Media).

Vocation Sunday

On this coming Sunday, Jan. 14, at 10 a.m., I will celebrate a Mass for vocations at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, praying for our young people that will know the will of God for them and respond to it with a completely generous heart, following the example of St. Gianna.The Mass will be offered, in a special way, for those called to the priesthood and consecrated life.

In praying for them, those who participate in the Mass will also imitate St. Gianna, who prayed that one of her children would be called to serve the Church as a priest or consecrated religious.

I invite you to participate in the Mass on Jan. 14 at the cathedral basilica.As we recall, in these days, the manifestation of the vocation and mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ at His Baptism in the Jordan, let us all pray that our young people will know their vocation in life and find their deepest joy in doing all that God asks of them.

Following the Mass, there will be a reception in Boland Hall, next door to the cathedral basilica, during which those considering the vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life will be able to visit with priests and consecrated persons.

Please pray that God will bless our archdiocese with many young men who will hear the call to the priesthood, and with many young men and women who will hear the call to the consecrated life.Please pray, too, for the young men and women who are responding to God’s call and are presently doing seminary studies or are in the novitiate of a religious community.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On the coming weekend of Jan. 13-14, you will be asked to renew your annual subscription to the St. Louis Review, our archdiocesan newspaper, by remitting the subscription fee in one of the special-collection envelopes.Because of the importance of the St. Louis Review to the life of the Church in the archdiocese, I urge you to renew your subscription.

In appealing to you for the renewal of your subscription to the St. Louis Review, I want also to reflect on the importance of the archdiocesan weekly newspaper.In the Church throughout the world, the weekly diocesan newspaper provides an essential contribution to the new evangelization, to the teaching and living of our Catholic faith with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples of our Lord and of the first missionaries to our area.

Pope Benedict XVI

On this past Nov. 25, Pope Benedict XVI met with the members of the Federation of Italian Catholic Weeklies.The 150 dioceses in Italy publish some 161 weekly newspapers.Some of the archdioceses publish not only a standard weekly newspaper but also a weekly newspaper directed to a special group in the Church or a weekly newspaper distributed as an insert in a local secular newspaper.

In speaking about the work of diocesan Catholic weeklies, Pope Benedict XVI used the words with which I have entitled my reflection. He declared:

"The objective of the diocesan newspaper is to offer to all a message of truth and hope, emphasizing the events and situations, in which the Gospel is lived, in which good and truth triumph and in which, with hard work and creativity, people weave and repair the human fabric of small community realities" (Pope Benedict XVI, "To Italian Catholic Journalists," L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, Dec. 6, 2006, p. 17).

The distinctive service of the diocesan weekly newspaper is the communication of the truth of the Gospel, as it is lived in the rich variety of local communities which make up the Church in a particular area. No other newspaper provides such an important service to the faithful who indeed, through the various articles in the diocesan newspaper, read the truth in the context of their daily lives and the daily lives of their fellow Catholics.At the same time, they are given hope that, notwithstanding the many challenges in leading a Christian life in our times, faithful Catholics are giving witness to Christ alive for us in the Church.

Referring to the service of the diocesan weekly newspapers in Italy, Pope Benedict went on to make an observation which surely applies in every nation: "In recounting daily events, you make known that quiet reality woven of faith and goodness that constitutes the genuine fabric of Italian society" (p. 17).The stories told in the diocesan newspaper are not considered newsworthy by the secular press.For people of faith, however, they are most noteworthy, for they give witness to the new evangelization as it is taking place in the many and different situations of life in which faithful Catholics find themselves. As Pope Benedict noted, the diocesan weekly makes important connections for the faithful and among the faithful, connections which lead us to reflect more deeply on the truth of the faith and to give ourselves more confidently to Christ in living the faith.

St. Louis Review: Source of information and inspiration

For me as archbishop, the St. Louis Review is my principal means of communicating regularly with the whole archdiocese.It provides me with an apt instrument of teaching the faith and of drawing together in unity the many individuals and communities who make up the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The weekly newspaper is a familiar way for me to visit the homes of the faithful each week.

The faithful of the archdiocese rightly rely on the St. Louis Review as a source of information about the life of the Church in the archdiocese and in the world.The faithful receive not only information but also inspiration for their own daily living.The stories and commentaries in each edition of the paper highlight the Christian virtues at work in the lives of many Catholics and underline the Catholic culture which enriches so much of our lives.

Through the St. Louis Review, the parishes of the archdiocese make important connections with each other, to use Pope Benedict XVI’s words.The faithful of each parish are enabled to share stories which are mutually encouraging and also inspire new initiatives in carrying out the Church’s mission in the circumstances of everyday living.Making such connections is critical to the new evangelization, providing new ideas for the teaching and living of the faith, and inspiring courage to take up the work of the new evangelization in the particular situations of each of our lives.

Conclusion

As archbishop, I strongly desire to communicate weekly with all of the faithful of the Archdiocese of St. Louis by means of the St. Louis Review.It is my hope that, through the coming subscription drive, all of the active Catholics in the archdiocese will receive the Review into their homes, each week.It is also my hope that our archdiocesan weekly by coming into and remaining in our homes will be read by others who may have grown tepid or cold in their practice of the faith. Often enough, those drifting from the faith will pick up the diocesan weekly in the home of a Catholic relative or friend and will be inspired to return to the active practice of the faith.

Please renew your subscription to the St. Louis Review.Please encourage your fellow parishioners to do the same. Finally, and most importantly, please pray that the St. Louis Review will be always an effective instrument of the new evangelization.

‘Be not afraid!’

Introduction

On Dec. 15, I visited with the members of the St. Benilde Society at Christian Brothers College High School (CBC).The St. Benilde Society is a student organization devoted to the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life through prayer and personal vocational discernment.Father Matthew O’Toole, chaplain at CBC, is the faculty adviser of the society.St. Benilde (1805-1862) was a French Christian Brother who, during his years of teaching, was instrumental in more than 200 young men responding to the call to the priesthood or consecrated brotherhood.He was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1948 and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1967.

The St. Benilde Society was founded by a student at CBC who is currently in his senior year and completing his application for admission to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.Thirteen young men took part in the Dec. 15 meeting, in which Father Michael T. Butler, director of the Office of Vocations, and I participated.Throughout the meeting, I was impressed by the young men’s sincere interest in and enthusiasm for the priestly vocation.Not all of them are hearing the call to the priesthood or consecrated life, but all of them are asking the question regarding their own vocation. As you can imagine, it takes strong faith and character to be active in a club that prays for and promotes vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.The hour that I spent with these young men filled me with new hope and new joy in carrying out my fundamental responsibility to assist those who are hearing the call to the priesthood and consecrated life.

New priestly vocations

My meeting with the St. Benilde Society at CBC is indicative of something happening throughout the archdiocese.God, in a most generous way, is inspiring many young men to consider the vocation to the priesthood.This past September, I admitted 11 new archdiocesan seminarians to the college program at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, four to the pre-theology program and four to the theology program.In addition, three of our archdiocesan seminarians who graduated from the college program in May of this year entered a theology program, two at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and one at the Pontifical North American College.

While new men are beginning their priestly formation, Father Butler continues to help me in assisting other young men who are hearing the call to the priesthood but have not yet entered the seminary.Already, a good number of young men have expressed an interest in entering Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in the fall of 2007 in order to prepare themselves for priestly service in the archdiocese.Three have already completed their application process and have been admitted.

It is certainly not just a question of the number of our seminarians.Through the process of application for the seminary and after entrance into the seminary, I am blessed to get to know our seminarians.I visit with them at length on walks which we take together and at other meetings, and I am with them as often as possible at our seminary.The quality of our seminarians is excellent.Many of you have witnessed the excellence of our seminarians through their pastoral work in your parishes or through their presentations, at this time of the year, inviting your support of the annual seminary collection.God is indeed blessing us.

Priestly vocations and the birth of Christ

Why do I write on priestly vocations just before Christmas?Because the call of young men to the priesthood is one of the outstanding signs of Christ’s faithful coming into our lives in the Church, since He first came at Bethlehem.In the call of priests, we see in a wonderful way the desire of Christ, as our Head and Shepherd, to be with us always and in every part of the world.The profound hope and joy which we experience in young men praying about and responding to the call to the priesthood has its source in the experience of the immeasurable love of Christ for us all through the ministry of His priests.

Yes, the greatest sign of Christ’s faithful dwelling with us in the Church is the Holy Eucharist.Christmas is, above all, a eucharistic feast, for Christ was born in time, in order to sacrifice His life for our salvation on Calvary, the sacrifice which is ever new for us in the celebration of the Holy Mass.Our hope and joy at the new priestly vocations in the archdiocese is directly connected with the Holy Eucharist, for the heart of the priestly vocation and mission is the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the person of Christ.

So many other encounters with Christ in the Church are directly connected with the priestly ministry. Christ’s gift of new priestly vocations is the gift of Himself to us in many and wonderful ways.

Our grateful prayer and sacrifice

Christmas, then, is a time when we pray for priestly vocations with special fervor.We pray for those who are hearing Christ’s call, that they will have the wisdom and courage to respond with a totally generous heart.We pray also for our seminarians, that they will be granted the graces of purity of heart and perseverance in responding to Christ’s call.

Fittingly, Christmas is also the annual time when I ask all of the faithful of the archdiocese to make a sacrifice from their means for the preparation of the future priests of the archdiocese.One of the greatest blessings God has given to the archdiocese is Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.Having received the gift of the seminary, it is our responsibility to make the sacrifices necessary so that it can continue its more than 175-year tradition of educating and forming men to receive priestly ordination and to exercise the priestly ministry on behalf of countless souls.Please be as generous as you are able, when the annual seminary collection is taken in your parish on Christmas.

Be assured that you and your many intentions will be remembered in my prayers on Christmas, especially at Midnight Mass and Mass on Christmas Day, and throughout the Christmas Season.May God grant you a special measure of His joy and peace through our annual celebration of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

The power of the final days of Advent

Final preparation of Christmas
Dec. 17 to 23 are days of strong grace for our preparation of Christmas.While the entire Season of Advent is rich in grace for the joyful preparation of the celebration of Christ’s coming, the Church receives especially strong grace to intensify our preparation on the seven days before the Christmas Vigil.
On each of the seven days before the Christmas Vigil, at Evening Prayer, the Church addresses the Savior, with particular ardor and devoted love, by one of the titles given to Him in the Scriptures which announce His coming.The title with an invocation precedes and concludes the praying of the Magnificat. The titles also are used in the Alleluia verse at daily Mass as the Season of Advent reaches its completion.
The special invocations of the Savior are called the "O" or Great Antiphons.Each invocation begins with the interjection, "O," expressing the solemnity of our eager anticipation of the celebration of the Lord’s birth.You will be familiar with the titles and invocations from singing the traditional Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."In each of the seven verses of the hymn, we pray for the coming of our Lord, invoking him by one of the titles in the "O" Antiphons.

The evening of the world
The special invocation of the Savior takes place at Evening Prayer, recalling that Christ came in the evening of the world, when the world was lost in the darkness of sin. From the moment of the sin of our first parents, the rebellion of man’s mind and heart before God and His law has left us and our world in darkness.Made for the love of God and neighbor, sinful man seeks love where it cannot be found, in prideful and selfish pursuits.Man, in his pride, abuses the created world of which, in truth, he is the steward, and, in a particularly tragic way, he violates the inviolable dignity of his fellow man.
The story of the people of God from the time of Adam and Eve repeatedly illustrates the profound unhappiness and other deadly fruits of our sinful rebellion before God. We all know the sad effects of sin in our personal lives and in our society.One of the most frightening effects of man’s sinful pride in our time is the culture of death in which we live, which accepts and even protects the killing of innocent and defenseless human life for the so-called "good" of others in society.
The last days of Advent are a powerful time for us to reflect upon our nothingness without Christ.Had Christ not come and died on the Cross for us, we would not have received the grace which helps us to overcome the disorder of sin in our lives and to obey God’s law which disposes us to the selfless love of God and neighbor.As we pray the "O" Antiphon on each of the last seven evenings before the Christmas Vigil, we are filled with humble gratitude for the light which Christ brought to the world at His birth and through His saving death and Resurrection.We also are given the grace to welcome the light of Christ into our lives, especially into any part of our lives which we have kept from Christ’s saving grace, and to bring the light of Christ to the world in its darkness.

The ‘O’ Antiphons
The seven "O" Antiphons, with the references to the Word of God, from which they are taken, and the days on which they are sung are: O Wisdom (Sirach 24:3; Wisdom 8:1; and Isaiah 40:3-5), Dec. 17; O Adonai or Lord of the Covenant (Exodus 6:2, 3 and 6; 6,6), Dec. 18; O Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 5:15; Hebrews 2:3; Romans 15:12; and Hebrews 10:37), Dec. 19; O Key of David (Isaiah 22:22; 42:7; Psalm 107:14; Luke 1:79; and Revelation 3:7), Dec. 20; O Dayspring or Rising Sun (Zechariah 6:12; Malachi 4:2; Isaiah 9:2; and Luke 1:78-79), Dec. 21; O King of Nations (Haggai 2:7-8; Isaiah 28:16; Genesis 2:7; and Ephesians 2:14), Dec. 22; and O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; 33:22; and Genesis 49:10), Dec. 23.
Each antiphon contains a prayer for the coming of the Lord. The texts of the prayer are drawn from the Holy Scriptures and express not only our desire to celebrate worthily the birth of the Lord in time, but also to receive Him at His faithful coming to us in the Church and, ultimately, His coming at the end of time.
Space does not permit me to comment on each prayer.I offer the text of the prayer for Dec. 17, as an example:
"O Wisdom, O holy Word of God (Sirach 24:3), you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care (Wisdom 8:1).Come and show your people the way to salvation" (Isaiah 40:3-5).
The invocation of our Lord Jesus as Divine Wisdom contains the prayer for the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom, so that we may be good stewards of God’s creation, caring for it in accord with the order He has placed in all of His creatures and which He teaches in the Holy Scriptures. The coming of the Lord gives us the grace to fulfill the mission which God gave to man at the creation of Adam and Eve, the mission of stewardship of His creation.

Conclusion
A practical guide to meditation on the "O" Antiphons by Ann M. Brown is published by the St. Martin de Porres Lay Dominican Community at New Hope, Ky. (270-325-3061). It is pamphlet No. 4018 in the Faith Guild Series.If you wish a copy, please request one from my office.
May we respond to the powerful grace of the final days of Advent by welcoming our Savior more completely into our lives.May we welcome Him especially through our participation in the Holy Mass and our eucharistic devotion, and by the making of a good and humble confession of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

‘Be not afraid!’

Immaculate Conception

Two important liturgical celebrations in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary fittingly occur during the Season of Advent.They are the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, a holy day of obligation, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. The two celebrations are closely related to each other, for Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared for the first time to St. Juan Diego on Dec. 9, 1531, which at that time in the Spanish Empire was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.In appearing to St. Juan Diego, she identified herself as "the Perfect Ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the Most True God" (Nican Mopohua, n. 26).

By the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, God the Father prepared Mary to be the Mother of His only-begotten Son Whom He was sending into the world as our Savior. Mary, daughter of Joachim and Ann, was preserved, from her first moment of life, from all stain of original sin. Her womb was the all-pure vessel in which the conception of God the Son could take place through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
This is the meaning of the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe who identified herself as the "Perfect Ever Virgin Holy Mother."

Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Quite frequently the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is confused with the Virginal Conception of our Lord Jesus Christ.The two events of our salvation are closely related to one another.God the Father ordered the Immaculate Conception of Mary to the Virginal Conception of Jesus in her all-pure womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. But it is spiritually important to understand the distinct event of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, in order to appreciate fully the great mystery of the Incarnation in the Virginal Conception of Jesus in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary.

In Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Christ’s work of the Redemption was anticipated, that is, Mary, from the first moment of her life, was freed from all sin and filled with the Holy Spirit.The gift of her Immaculate Conception is the fruit of the Passion and death of God the Son who was conceived in her womb. The Immaculate Conception is a wonderful manifestation of God’s immeasurable love of us, expressed in its fullness by His coming to dwell with us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 490-493).

The Immaculate Conception is also a striking manifestation of our call to holiness of life. We are called to imitate the perfect cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which we see in the Virgin Mary. We are called to treasure the grace of Redemption, which we see in her Immaculate Conception, and so grow in the likeness of Christ. The Immaculate Conception inspires us to seek the purification of all sin in our lives and to give an ever fuller cooperation to the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

Patroness of our nation

The Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our nation. The Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., is a magnificent tribute of our affection for the Mother of God, who has interceded so faithfully for the intentions of our nation.

The patronage of Mary Immaculate also inspires in us a renewed dedication to the common good of all the citizens of our nation. The mystery of the Immaculate Conception leads us to reflect, in a particular way, on how human life, from its beginning, is to be treasured and fostered. It also leads us to restore the respect for all human life in our state and nation. Conscious of the grave evils of procured abortion, the destruction of embryonic human life and human cloning, let us, with Mary Immaculate, pray to God our Father for the end of these evils, which are the deadly fruit of our human pride.

Given the unimaginable situation of our State of Missouri, at present, with the passing of the amendment to the constitution that guarantees the right to human cloning and the destruction of embryonic human life, let us place ourselves once again under the protection of our Blessed Mother, trusting that she will lead us to Christ who alone makes us free from sin and free to serve the good of all our brothers and sisters. As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I ask you to continue the Rosary Crusade for the Safeguarding of Embryonic Human Life.We need the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary now more than ever.

Mother of America

The Mother of God has shown her particular affection for the entire continent of America by her appearances to St. Juan Diego in 1531.The Blessed Virgin Mary came to our continent to show us her loving care in all of our needs and sufferings, and to bring us to her Divine Son, the Mercy of God Incarnate for us.After her apparitions and through her intercession, in a truly miraculous way, literally millions of Native Americans received the grace of faith and baptism, and the horrible practice of the human sacrifice of hundreds of thousands was ended.What is more, the Native Americans and the Europeans who were on the brink of a deadly conflict, were brought together in unity to form a new people and culture, the mestiza culture, which has its identity in the Virgin of Guadalupe, affectionately called La Morenita. Let us entrust our continent to the prayers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so that the faith may be brought to all and the inviolable dignity of the life of each brother and sister may be fully respected.

The Rosary Crusade for the Safeguarding of Embryonic Human Life on our continent is under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization. In the challenges which we face daily to safeguard and promote the common good, let us invoke the intercession of the Mother of God. In carrying out our daily responsibilities, let us imitate the faith, hope and love of St. Juan Diego, her faithful messenger.

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us.

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