Monday, December 08, 2014

Motherhood: A Vocation Which Has Been Forever Exalted And Sanctified By Mary’s Immaculate Conception

The Zunigas

(Immaculate Conception 2014: This homily was given on December 8, 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Luke 1: 26-38.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Immaculate Conception 2014]

When we were on vacation in Houston a few weeks ago, Fr. Brian Sistare and I did a number of enjoyable things.  We went to a Houston Rockets basketball game; we went to a Houston Texans football game; we spent an entire day at the Johnson Space Center; we went to the local zoo (we always go to zoos when we’re on vacation); we even went biking a couple of times.  The weather was cool during most of the week (at least it was cool by Houston standards!), but that didn’t stop us from experiencing a lot of the city.

But the most inspiring thing we did (at least from my perspective) occurred on Saturday, when we spent the better part of the afternoon and evening visiting with Heide Zuniga, her husband, Lou—and their 5 children.

Heide is originally from Westerly.  She’s the daughter of Sharon Feist (who’s the secretary at our school)—and she’s a former member of my youth group.  I consider Heide to be one of my many spiritual children, and I’m happy to say she turned out to be a really good one!  She and Lou are very serious and committed Catholics, who have been deeply involved in many aspects of parish life and ministry over the years (especially when they lived in Arizona).   They’ve participated in everything from marriage preparation programs to youth ministry.

And she’s a great mother!  In fact, that’s what impressed me most about Heide during our visit.  Because we were there for several hours, I was able to observe how her children interacted with her, and with Lou—and with one another.  Well after a few hours it became very clear to me that these 5 children (although they’re not perfect) are respectful, and courteous—and are being given a solid moral and spiritual foundation to build their lives on.

I was even impressed by how Heide exercised discipline.  At one point one of her sons misbehaved a bit, and Heide responded by very calmly and very quietly taking him by the hand and leading him off into the next room where the two of them had a little “discussion” (actually it was probably more of a monologue: SHE talked and he listened—whether he wanted to or not!).  Then, after a few minutes they came out, and life went on.

Problem addressed.

So what’s the point, Fr. Ray?  Why are you talking about this on the feast of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception?  Well, very simply, it’s because Heide’s motherhood is a vocation.  All motherhood is a vocation; that is to say, it’s a call from Almighty God himself.  It’s not a disease—which is what the pro-abortion and pro-contraception and pro-sterilization crowd would have us believe.  And I would say that it’s a vocation which has been forever exalted and sanctified by the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother!

First of all, we need to remember what the Immaculate Conception refers to and what it does not refer to.

The Immaculate Conception does NOT refer to the virginal conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary—which is what many people mistakenly believe.  The event that led to Jesus’ conception is called “the Annunciation.”

The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception in the womb of her mother, St. Ann.  Here’s how Pope Pius IX defined the dogma: the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin.”

All of us are saved by being delivered from sin by Jesus; Mary was saved by being preserved from sin by Jesus.

She was saved as we are—but in a different way than we are.

And the reason she was preserved from all sin—original sin and actual sin—is because she was called to be the human mother of the divine Son of God.

That was her sacred vocation!
The reason that the story of the Annunciation is read at Mass today is because the Immaculate Conception prepared Mary for that event—and for everything that followed afterward.

Which is precisely my point here!  Think about it, my brothers and sisters: God, our heavenly Father, considered the vocation of motherhood to be so important—so influential—so essential—THAT HE ACTUALLY INTERVENED DIRECTLY IN HUMAN HISTORY TO MAKE SURE THAT THE MOTHER OF HIS SON WOULD BE THE PUREST AND HOLIEST PERSON SHE COULD POSSIBLY BE!

As Pius IX put it, Mary was given “a singular grace and privilege.”

That’s what Almighty God thinks of motherhood.  That’s how much Almighty God thinks of motherhood.  If you ask me, it’s about time that more people in our world started to think like God thinks.