Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Why the Immaculate Conception?

What does this dogma mean? Why did Pope Pius IX bother to proclaim this small point, surely unimportant for our salvation, and that while Europe was reeling in the aftermath of continent-wide insurrections and revolts? Didn't he have more important things to do?

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception firstly reminds us of the Virgin's sinlessness. In doing so, the dogma indicates our great worth - the heights of which we are capable, supplied with grace.

Secondly, the dogma implicitly reminds us of our own sinfulness. The fact of her sinlessness is noteworthy enough precisely because of our sinfulness. Far from being irrelevant to the times, the timing for the dogma's proclamation couldn't have been better. The revolutions that rocked Europe in 1848, and whose effects lingered in men's minds for decades, were predicated on Enlightenment ideas. One of those ideas was articulated by Rousseau, among others; namely, the people are born as tabulae rasae, as blank slates. Only corrupt institutions corrupt people, and by changing the institutions, we can change the fundamental character of the people in them, and thus of society as a whole. That was one of the Enlightenment's major conceits about the nature of man. One hundred and fifty years before the Enlightened West lost all faith in that proposition, Pius IX shouted - "No! There is ONE fresh start for humanity, one clean slate! Humanity is fallen, and we cannot trust ourselves apart from God!" Not many people listened, and for the following 150 years, Enlightened leaders have continued bumbling around like bulls in a china shop, smashing hundreds of millions of human lives in countless social engineering programs to show us how infinitely malleable man is, trying to remake the world in their own image.

Jesus Christ, too, is remaking humanity in his own image. The differences are immense. Most importantly, Jesus Christ never quenches a smoldering wick or crushes a bruised reed. He does not impose his plan upon humanity, but rather invites us to join in his work. There are no gulags or inner-city ghettos in Jesus' way of doing things.

Christianity's central message is something like, "Human beings are sacred creatures fallen into sin and in need of a savior. Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity. If we do what he says and unite ourselves to him, we will grow in joy here and now, and hereafter as well." The Immaculate Conception speaks to that first sentence: it reminds us that we are sinners and do not need a new system, but a savior; it tells us that we are not junk to be crunched in the social machine by the worldshapers, but jewels in God's crown, worth the labors of the Almighty (or so he seems to have thought) to save us - each individual precious and beloved.

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