Celebrating the Immaculate Conception
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception may be one of the Church’s most misunderstood feast days, yet it is also the one most closely tying the College to the Holy Father, to the United States, and — of course — to Our Lady. Referring to Mary’s freedom from all sin from the moment of her conception, the College has has been connected to this feast day from its very conception.
During his homily at the vigil Mass with about a hundred concelebrants, His Eminence William Cardinal Levada (’62, C ’69), explained the relationship between the Immaculate Conception and the College. The initial proposal for the College was in 1854, the same year Pope Pius IX solemnly declared the Immaculate Conception in Ineffabilis Deus. On the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1859 — the five anniversary of the promulgation of the dogma — the Pontifical North American College was officially opened, a fitting tribute to the Patroness of the United States. Cardinal Levada went on to preach about the Blessed Virgin Mary under the titles of Mater Ecclesiae (Mary as mother of the Church and every believer), Mater Viventium (Mary as the New Eve and true mother of all the living), and Mater Misericordiae (Mary as the mother of mercy), which is especially pertinent in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which opened on the same day as the feast we were celebrating.
After feasting at the heavenly banquet of the altar, we gather round for the banquet in the refectory, which ends every year with three toasts. This year, the toast to the Holy Father was delivered by Rev. Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv.; to America by Rev. Charles Samson (St. Louis, ’13); and to the College by Rev. Mr. Daniele Russo (Sydney, ’16). Afterward, in singing the Salve Regina, the banquet officially ended the way the Feast and College began, in praise to our Lady, for the greater glory of God.