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