By KATHY SCHMUGGE
LEXINGTON — On Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Columbia area young adults group, Capital City Catholics, aware of the great significance of the Blessed Mother, gathered to gain greater insight into the feast day and dogma proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
After praying the rosary and attending Mass at Corpus Christi Church, they participated in an informal question-and-answer session on the Immaculate Conception led by the parochial administrator, Father Bob Sayer.
During the homily, Father Sayer said that he always reflects on the saint of a feast day, looking at their lives and seeing what he can imitate and what lessons he can learn. With Mary, the Mother of God, he sees a model for Christian life since everything she ever did pointed to her son, Jesus.
“The death from original sin was overturned by the Savior, born of a sinless Mother,” said Father Sayer. He then made two additional points about the Immaculate Conception. “It took a miracle for Mary to be born without sin just as it takes a miracle for us to be cleansed from our sins,” he said. Both miracles resulted from the miraculous love of God.
“Without the Immaculate Conception, there could be no Incarnation,” said the priest. During the session he stressed that God saw something so special in Mary that he chose her to be the mother of his divine Son. He pointed out that although the Blessed Mother had nothing to do with her immaculate conception, she did have something to do with the way she lived her life. “She drew herself and draws us to the praise and worship of her Son,” he continued.
Father Sayer also encouraged the group to try to imitate her and not be discouraged by the fact that they were born with original sin and Mary was not. “In our baptism the stain of original sin is washed away. We also have the Eucharist and confession, (additional) opportunities of grace,” said Father Sayer.
A number of questions regarding Marian teachings were discussed. One person asked whether Mary remained a virgin (perpetual virginity), since her college religion professor said that Jesus had brothers and sisters.
“An uneducated reading of the Bible (Mark 3:31-35; 6:3) might result in that conclusion, but when we examine the original text in Greek, accompanied by our knowledge of Jewish culture, we see that the words “adelphos and adelphe” translated in English as “brothers and sisters” includes relatives such as cousins, nephews, and nieces,” responded Father Sayer.
He also explained why Mary had to be born without original sin. Before the Holy Spirit can bestow all the graces during anointing of the sick, the priest forgives the recipient of their sins. For the Holy Spirit to fully act in Mary, she had to be sinless. Christ as both man and God had to be conceived in a sinless womb.
Participant Christine Balts was perplexed how Muslims seem to have a reverence toward the Blessed Mother, something her husband witnessed while stationed in Pakistan; yet Mary appears to be a stumbling block for some Christian denominations. Father Sayer, pulling from his own experience growing up in a Protestant area, guessed that it might be a combination of things. Errors being professed from some ministers (like the false statement that Catholics worship Mary, when they do not worship, but honor her as Christ honored her) cause aversion to any devotion. Also the fact that these religions had broken away from the Catholic Church may cause them to be more critical of its teachings. But despite the generalization, Father Sayer was quick to acknowledge that he knows many non- Catholic Christians who have reverence for the Mother of God.
“Priests, as the persona Christi and alto Christi, have a special relationship to Mary as their mother,” he said, but added that it was the unwavering belief and devotion of the faithful that led to the formal doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.