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Fr Paul Schenck on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Pro-Life Mission
By Fr Paul Schenck
December 8th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
I offer an analogy for the pro-life mission. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary did for the understanding of Christian doctrine what the pro-life movement does for the understanding of human dignity. The Immaculate Conception endows Mary with Redemption, salvation and holiness, her eternal worth, rights and personhood " from the first moment of... conception."
HARRISBURG, PA. (Catholic online) - The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the Feast we celebrate on December 8th in this way:
"To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role." The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
"Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
"The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin."
"The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son". The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love". (Eph. 1:3,4)
"The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature". By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long." (CCC #490-493)
What comes to mind as I reflect on this beautiful Feast is a vital analogy I offer to the Pro-Life movement to help in the mission. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary did for the understanding of Christian doctrine what the pro-life movement does for the understanding of human dignity.
The Immaculate Conception endows Mary with Redemption, salvation and holiness, her eternal worth, rights and personhood " from the first moment of conception." Let me explain the analogy.
By withholding the recognition of personhood from the unborn child, the Supreme Court in Roe V Wade, made the human child in the womb a worthless blob waiting for value and meaning to be conferred upon her at some later time. That judgment would be made by others, all of whom would be less noble, certainly more sinful than she.
The personhood of the unborn child is the most compelling moral issue of our time. It is so precisely because it defines who is a human being - and who a human being is. We all know that we must treat each and every human being with the ultimate respect and never deem any person "disposable." Genocide, homicide and murder must never be condoned, because it unjustifiably destroys a human being.
The reason the unborn child is at the very essence of the question of human dignity, human rights and protection is that, if it is unknown who is a human being, then how can human rights be defined and protected? If any human being can be deprived of the right to life, then all human beings can be deprived of life.
It is no longer possible to avoid the question of when a human begins - too much is at stake. We must end the debate and resolve that each and every human being is a person - and that person begins in their first moment of conception.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that "the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her Conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."
The Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary lists three Scripture passages that imply the Immaculate Conception: Genesis 3:15, Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42.
The Genesis passage points to Mary as the Mother of the Redeemer who bears and brings to birth the one who will reverse the curse of Adam and Eve. In this respect, she was the New Eve. The first Eve's disobedience brought death, the Second Eve's fiat brought life.
Luke tells us that Mary was full of Grace. For the Church throughout the ages this meant that she possesses every aspect of God's Grace, all the moral and theological virtues, all the extraordinary gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
And Luke says that she was blessed among women. The Church embraces Mary as unique and unrepeatable. Among women she is singular. As daughter, virgin, wife and mother, she is the supreme example of woman and the fulfillment of every woman's aspirations.
The Immaculate Conception teaches us that everything that Mary would become she already was in the first moment of her conception." Mary was not less than Mary before her birth. She possessed, albeit in a hidden way, all the Grace and spiritual attributes granted her by the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, from the first moment of her conception.
What does this teach us about ourselves? That we possess our full potential - our full personhood - from the first moment of our conception.
There is no one reading this article today who was not who you are now ever since the very first moment of your conception. Let me try that again: Everyone of you has always been who you are today.
You have grown in knowledge, experience and even faith - but you have never been anyone but yourself, you have never been anyone other than you, you have never, ever been anything less than a unique, unrepeatable, human person.
The Immaculate Conception demonstrates that God created each one of us with a unique purpose and plan for our lives, and that plan began the first moment of our conception.
+ Hail Mary, full of Grace.
Fr. Paul Schenck, a Priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA., is the founding Director of the National Pro-Life Center (NPLC) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Center gives the Justices of the Supreme Court, their high level staff, members of the federal judiciary, members of the US Senate and other public policy makers the information, education and inspiration they need to better form their consciences so they will make better decisions. He is a Champion of the Pro-Life movement.
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