The year 2004 marked the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. On December 8, 1854, with the Bull Ineffabilis Deus, Blessed Pope Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma of faith. The dogmatic formula was that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her Conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin” (DS 2803).
Unfortunately, many Catholics, even those actively involved in the Church’s pastoral mission, have only a superficial or insufficient knowledge of the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Very few know how to apply this dogma of faith to their daily Christian living. It is in this regard that Pope John Paul II stated that the one-hundred-fifitieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary “may be an opportunity to renew the theological, cultural and spiritual endeavor to communicate to the men and women of our time the meaning and the genuine message of this truth of faith” (1).
John Paul II presented the mystery of the Immaculate in a way that speaks to the heart of men and women of our time. Whereas in the past centuries Catholic dogmatic theology has expressed this truth of faith at times in a rather impersonal and abstract way, John Paul II preferred to speak about Mary in a personal and concrete way. Thus the spiritual, historical and cultural meaning involved in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception can come alive for us and in this way, too, its close connection with the most fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith becomes apparent. Hence, if one wishes to communicate to the men and women of our time the meaning and genuine message of Mary’s Immaculate Conception all we have to do is explore the extremely rich and enlightening teachings of John Paul II on this truth of our faith. […]