Friday 17 August 2018

Body and Soul in Celestial Glory

Cardinal McGuigan leads a procession at Notre-Dame-du-Cap Shrine in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August, 1950. The church is Canada's national shrine to St. Mary.

PH 09N/04P
ARCAT Photograph Collection

On 15 August we marked the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the day on which we celebrate God taking Mary, body and soul, directly to heaven at the end of her earthly life. Though Catholics have believed in the Assumption for centuries, it was not official doctrine of the Church until 1950, when Pope Pius XII defined the 'Dogma of the Assumption.' 

The 2 November, 1950 issue of The Globe and Mail explained, 
"Vatican officials said that a world-wide movement for that dogma was started in 1863 by the initiative of Queen Isabel of Spain. From that time the Vatican has received 2,600 petitions from cardinals, archbishops and bishops; 83,000 from members of the secular and religious clergy, and 8,000,000 from Catholic laymen. Pope Pius referred to these requests and said that they had become so numerous that on May 1, 1946, he decided to ask all bishops whether "your clergy and the faithful so desire." The replies were almost unanimously in the affirmative, the Pope said."

Here in the archives, we have a copy of the letter that Pope Pius XII wrote to the bishops: 

Deiparae Virginis Mariae

"In order that We may receive the gift of heavenly light, do you, Venerable Brethren, in pious competition, unite your entreaties with Ours. But, while paternally exhorting you to do this, thus following the example of Our Predecessors, and particularly that of Pius IX when about to define the dogma of the Mother of God's Immaculate Conception, we earnestly beg you to inform us about the devotion of your clergy and people (taking into account their faith and piety) toward the Assumption of the most Blessed Virgin Mary. More especially We wish to know if you, Venerable Brethren, with your learning and prudence consider that the bodily Assumption of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith, and whether in addition to your own wishes this is desired by your clergy and people."

1 May 1946

MG RC268.09
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

Cardinal McGuigan was an ardent advocate of the dogma and had received many letters of support from clergy in the archdiocese. He replied to the pope's letter via telegram in August: 

"With heart overflowing spiritual joy have received Encyclical letter asking for expression opinion definition dogma Assumption Blessed Lady. Glad recall to Your Holiness occasion taking possession Titular Church Santa Maria Del Populo publicly expressed hope and ardent wish that this common belief faithful be solemnly proclaimed in these words: "What exulting joy would fill our hearts if, as Pius IX proclaimed her Immaculate Conception, it were the will of God that our present Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, should give to Mary her most radiant crown, and amidst the jubilation of the Church Universal, solemnly affirm the dogma of her Assumption into Heaven and declare her the Queen of Angels and of Saints, the mediatrix of all graces, the co-redemptress of mankind."

"Hence in the name clergy, religious, faithful express most ardent desire that Your Holiness declare corporal Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Dogma of our Holy Faith. 

"On this glorious feast, all diocesans pray that she may indercede with her Divine Son for your continued health, strength and happiness. May God through her loving intercession preserve you to give serene courage and spiritual fortitude of soul to all who join you throughout the world in preserving precious heritage in Holy Faith." 

14 August, 1946

MG RC268.19
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds 

Cardinal McGuigan wrote a pastoral letter to the faithful of the archdiocese explaining the importance of devotion and prayer to Mary:

"The solemn definition of the dogma of the Assumption may well be one of the predestined ways of increasing devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and thus bringing down God's mercy to save mankind from the abyss to which it seems rushing, body and soul ... It is my most earnest wish that the faithful of the Archdiocese of Toronto, priests, religious, and laity, engage in a crusade of prayer that the Supreme Magisterium of the Catholic Church should soon give this glorious tribute to the Mother of God. St. peter, the first Pope, preaching on the day of Pentecost and proclaiming the truth of Our Divine Lord's Resurrection, applied the words of the psalmist, that God would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. The three great prerogatives of Mary are her sinlessness, her charity or union with God, and Her royalty or Queenship over the universe. It is on these prerogatives that we base our belief that her body, from which the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity took His flesh, was not left in the tomb but was reanimated by her soul, full of grace, and was raised to Heaven by the side of Her Divine Son, where she reigns as Queen of Angels and of Saints and as Mother of all mankind through whom God bestows the treasures of His grace.

"Let us pray, then, for this special intention, that the dogma of the Assumption may be defined by the Church for the glory of God and the greater honour and love of His Mother among the faithful on earth. Let us strive in every way to increase our devotion to Mary, which simply means love of our Heavenly Mother. The Gospel tells us that the wise men from the East found Jesus with Mary His Mother, and assuredly we shall always find Jesus when we go to Mary."

14 August 1946

MG DA02.347
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII spoke ex cathedra in St. Peter's Square. The next day, The Globe and Mail described it this way:
"Pope Pius XII today proclaimed the dogma of the assumption. The pontiff spoke ex-cathedra as the supreme pastor of the church and the teacher of Catholic doctrine during an open-air ceremony of unprecedented pomp and magnificence to an audience of 36 cardinals and 480 archbishops and bishops in the grandiose setting of St. Peter's Square.
"A crowd of 200,000 faithful, including Holy Year pilgrims from so many countries that they could truly be said to represent the whole Catholic world, packed every inch of space of the oval-shaped square, which had been transformed for the occasion into a vast Christian temple.
""We pronounce, declare and define to be a dogma, revealed by God: That the immaculate Mother of God, Mary, ever a virgin, at the end of her earthly life, was taken up into celestial glory, in soul and body," the Pope said."

The new dogma and the reasoning behind it were published:

"Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages."

1 November, 1950

MG PS132.03
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

To get a sense of the scale of the proclamation of the Assumption, check out the video posted by the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ). See if you can spot Cardinal McGuigan!

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