The convocation of priests to discuss the new parish pastoral planning efforts took place on Monday as planned. The documents associated with the parish pastoral planning process can be found here, along with several videos of the main presenters. BCI will go into the plan, FAQ, and presentations in separate posts as time permits.
For today, we are keeping this post very short with two spiritual thoughts.
First, tomorrow (Thursday) December 8 is a Holy Day of Obligation–the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That means all Catholics are obliged to attend Mass, either this evening, on the vigil of the Holy Day, or tomorrow, on the actual Holy Day. Check your local parish for their Mass schedule.
Just to clarify some frequent confusion, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is dogma of the Catholic Church which tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. It is completely distinct from the Virginity of Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus, though the two are often confused. Mary is sometimes called the Immaculata (the Immaculate One). Since she was free from original sin, she was from the start filled with the sanctifying grace that would normally come with baptism after birth.
Those readers looking to read more about this can find an excellent description at the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”
As Catholics, we do not believe Mary was the product of a virginal conception herself–tradition tells us she was the daughter of a human father St. Joachim, and a human mother, St. Anne. An easy way to clarify for others that the Immaculate Conception of Mary is different from the conception of Jesus is to remind them that the feast of the Annunciation–which commemorates the virginal conception and the Incarnation of Jesus–is celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day, when Jesus was born.
Of course, to confuse matters further for everyone, the Gospel reading in the lectionary for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is the story of the virginal conception of Jesus. Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel is one BCI often prayerfully ponders, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Secondly, the first reading from this past Sunday, Is 40:1-5, 9-11 is a personal favorite of this blogger. This passage in particular has been a source of much prayer and spiritual reflection over the years:
A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
On a personal basis, BCI has much to still do to live these words. In addition, given what BCI has been chronicling over the past 18 months about the workings of the Pastoral Center, we hope and pray that these words might also inspire some much-needed changes at 66 Brooks Drive.