On December 8, the universal Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Feast Day is uniquely Catholic. It marks Mary’s conception, without sin, which was officially established as dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his Papal Bull ineffabilis Dei. The Papal document explains that Mary was conceived free of the stain of original sin since she was to serve as the pure vessel for God-made-flesh.
December 8 is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics worldwide. In the Diocese of Raleigh, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the Solemnity with Mass at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh. In his homily, Bishop Burbidge spoke of Mary accepting God’s request “to do something mysterious and far greater than she ever imagined,” and that “through the grace of the Holy Spirit, she said ‘yes’ to God’s will.”
Bishop Burbidge spoke to the students about Diocesan seminarian Philip Johnson, who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The Bishop noted how December 8 is the final day of a nine-day prayer Novena for Philip that the Bishop requested of all Catholics in the Diocese that would culminate on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
“We have prayed for Philip through the intercession of Mary asking Our Lord Jesus to bless Him with amazing graces, and Philip asked me to thank each one of you,” Bishop Burbidge said, adding that while Philip has not received a physical cure at this point, “God has already responded to our prayers.” The Bishop said Philip has grown “stronger in his faith, reflecting serenity, courage and perseverance, while inspiring and helping others who are struggling. He has never lost hope,” the Bishop said, “and renews his 'yes' to the Lord each day, ready to accept whatever God asks of him. In God’s will, we always find our peace!"
Following the homily, Sr. Laura Downing, a faculty member at Cardinal Gibbons High School, renewed her vows to religious life as a Sister of Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Burbidge asked the 1,200 students and faculty to join him in the Novena prayer for Philiip. (See previous story.)
Above: Cardinal Gibbons High School students attending celebration of Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Below: Sr. Laura Downing, IHM, renewing her religious vows during Mass at Cardinal Gibbons High School.