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The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Celebrating the Patronal Feast of Penzance Catholic Church - December 8th

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Penzance Catholic Church was officially consecrated on 26th October 1843. At that time there were very few Catholics in the area. The dedication was probably influenced by the fact that the ages old devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was to be defined and promulgated in 1854, by Pope Pius IX (1846-1878).
 It may be of interest that in 1497 the University of Paris and subsequently many other seats of learning demanded of their students, an oath to defend and uphold the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Our Penzance Church History

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It was at Lourdes that Mary introduced herself as "The Immaculate Conception". 

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes: May we be assisted, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the worshipful intercession of Thy glorious Mother, the ever-Virgin Mary; that we who have been enriched by her perpetual blessings, may be delivered from all dangers, and through her loving kindness made to be of one heart and mind; who livest and reignest world without end. Amen

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The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Our Lady’s place in Roman Catholic theology is often misunderstood. As a human being, she is venerated as ‘the highest honour of our race’, but never worshipped. Her Immaculate Conception (without stain of sin) in the womb of her mother was first introduced as a feast by the English Crusaders returning from the East in the mid-eleventh century. Thus, by the time Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 – exercising as he did so his power of infallible teaching – Mary’s freedom from original sin had long been acknowledged. The Church views this preservation from sin as a fruit of divine grace and a special privilege conferred by God.

Many people pray to the Lord through Our Lady, especially when struggling with sin and feeling unworthy to face him directly. Mary is gentle, non-judgmental and able in her maternal way to embrace the sinner without censure. As we look at the stages in Mary’s life, we feel her strength, her faith and her love. As we ask for her intercession, we sense her motherly touch and our hearts are softened and made fertile.

What, then, does the Gospel story of the Annunciation mean in real terms? Given the Trinitarian doctrine of ‘Three Persons, One God’, it means that Mary is being called to give birth to the One who made her! Even the most sophisticated theologian would struggle with this, but Mary is an ordinary girl, with mundane, unambitious plans. God’s message terrifies her. Indeed, the angel senses her anxiety and tries to calm her fears. We know, too, since she asks the angel how she, a virgin, could possibly be pregnant. However, the misgiving is short-lived, as Mary’s sinless and faith-filled heart trusts in God and she makes the ultimate self-offering. Mary finds a way forward through her utter simplicity, her very sense of being so ordinary for such a huge assignment. As the Carmelite poet Jessica Powers wrote: ‘If you have nothing, gather back your sigh/and with your hands held high, your heart held high/lift up your emptiness’. This is exactly what Mary does.

‘Mary, intercede for me with your Son, that I may be more like you; that I may step forward into the dark, trustingly, daringly, expansively and lovingly.’

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Tribute at the statue of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piazza di Spagna
Prayer of Pope John Paul II - Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Monday, 8 December 2003

1. Queen of Peace, pray for us! On the feast of your Immaculate Conception I return to venerate you, O Mary, at the foot of this statue that from Piazza di Spagna allows your motherly gaze to sweep across the ancient city of Rome, so dear to me. I have come here this evening to pay you the homage of my deep devotion. In this act countless Romans join me on this square; their love has followed me always, through all the years of my service to the See of Peter. I am here with them to set out on the journey towards the 150th anniversary of the Dogma that we celebrate today with filial joy.

2. Queen of Peace, pray for us! To you we turn our gaze with stronger trepidation, to you we hasten back with more insistent trust in these times scarred by a multitude of doubts and fears for the present and future destiny of our planet. To you, the first-fruits of humanity redeemed by Christ, set free at last from the slavery of evil and sin, we raise together our heartfelt, trusting plea: listen to the cry of pain of the war victims, of the victims of the many forms of violence that bathe the earth in blood. Dispel the shadows of sorrow and of loneliness, of hatred and of revenge. Open to forgiveness the minds and hearts of all!

3. Queen of Peace, pray for us! Mother of mercy and of hope, obtain for the men and women of the third millennium the precious gift of peace; peace in hearts and families, in communities and among peoples; peace above all for those Nations where people fight and die every day. Obtain that every human being of every race and culture may encounter and accept Jesus, who came down to earth in the mystery of Christmas to give "His" peace to us. ... O Mary, Queen of Peace, give us Christ, the world's true Peace!

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Dedication prayer to the Immaculate Conception. (contributed by e-mail)

O  Immaculate Virgin,  Mother of God and our Mother, We honour you as the protector of the children of God, The model of all virtue and the faithful servant of God's holy will. Hear our sincere prayer of praise and our plea for your intercession on behalf of the Church.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, We share in the life of your Son through Baptism; We celebrate God's grace that is continually lavished upon us; We bask in in the Father's love that envelops us; We give thanks for our redemption that was won by your Son.

On this day,  we dedicate ourselves to your Immaculate Conception. Help us to follow your example of generous cooperation and loving obedience. Help us to grow beyond the challenges of our hurts, suffering and disappointments. Help us to live humbly in joyful hope as followers of your Son.

Placing our Church under your care and protection, We pray that you remove any barriers that prevent us from realizing the Good News of your Son, And any evil that touches our hearts and spirit. We pray that you entrust us to the transforming power of your Son.

Heavenly Mother,  Immaculate Mother of Christ,  our Saviour, Help us to follow your example of trusting in God's will. May God's mercy transform our fears into hope,  our angers into love, our questions into belief. We pray that you intercede with your Son to strengthen our hearts and open our minds to work for the reconciliation and peace He came to bring.

O  Mother of the Word made Flesh,  receive our dedication and our hope. Be not deaf to our petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer us forever and ever. Amen.

Sinless Mother,  you are the image of what the Church is called to become. By God's grace and favour,  you were kept free from original sin.  By the work of the Holy Spirit,  you bore for us Jesus,  the Saviour of the world.   Help the Church to always be a vessel of holiness.  As you were filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost,  may the Church be filled with that same Spirit to witness the Good News of salvation throughout the world. 

We ask this through Christ our Lord.   Amen.

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Meditation on the Feastday (contributed by e-mail)

No matter what else we may say about today,  the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is first and foremost a celebration of the Father's perfect plan.  It is a recognition that even Mary's conception was carefully planned so that she could become a perfect vessel for the Son of God.   Just think: From all eternity God had planned that He would bring his Son into the world through a woman whom He would preserve from original sin.  Imagine how intricately God must have worked in Mary's life so that she could play her part!

   Do you believe that God created you with as much care and love as He did Mary?   He did!   Do you believe that He is as proud of you and what He has called you to do as He is of Mary?   He is!   Everything about your life has been carefully attended to so that you could fulfil your destiny,  and God is always with you to help you.

   None of us is just a random occurrence.  We have not been left here to evolve alone.  Every part of our lives fits into a master plan,  something we can learn about and embrace as we spend time in prayer and Scripture.  Parts of this plan are common to all of us.  For example, we know that God wants us to be holy and full of love and praise for him  (Ephesians 1:4-6).  But each of us is designed to fulfill these callings in our own unique way.

    Mary was destined to take up a particular role in salvation history.  And it is no different for you.  You were uniquuely created to play a vital role in His kingdom.  Seek God in prayer,  Bible study,  fellowship and selfless giving.  As you do,  He will show you what part He has called you to play.  And don't worry---what the Father intends for you to do with your life, He will empower you to do.  Only you can fulfill your role,  and He will provide the grace you need to carry out His plans.  Seek Him and trust the Holy Spirit to help you accomplish all that God needs you to become.

    "Almighty Father,  how mysterious and inscrutable are your ways!  I want to fulfill your plan for my life.  Lead me to trust more fully in you as you work through me to bring about your kingdom."

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Homily of the Day (contributed by e-mail) Title: She Was Almost Invisible, but She Gave Birth to Him!
Author: Monsignor Dennis Clark, Ph. D. Date: Wednesday, December 8, 2004. Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Ephesians 1:3-6 11-12; Luke 1:26-38

As we look across the span of recorded history, we find the exploits of leaders, scholars, adventurers, inventors, and explorers whose achievements changed forever the world that we live in. And we wonder how they rose to greatness, as often as not from humble beginnings. More often than not, our wonderings go unanswered, because there is rarely a useful record of their formative years, and even less useful records of those invisible people who did the forming and shaping of their intellects and their souls.

The feast we mark today celebrates that simple peasant girl whose heart was so open to God that she gave birth to God's only Son, whom she then tended and guided for the many years that followed. What an extraordinary privilege that was, and with what grace Mary lived up to her special calling at every moment. At the very first moment of it all, she said to the angel, "I don't understand how this can be, but my answer to God is 'Yes.'" And so it was all her life long.

That is why we celebrate this and all the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she, a human being just like us, had both the ability and the willingness to say "Yes" to God at every moment. In doing that, she made the right home and formed the right heart in God's Son and her son, Jesus.

Mary is the almost-invisible woman in the Gospels, but her gift to Jesus was beyond calculation. The gifts that we have to give will in the long run also be almost entirely invisible except to those who can read the fine lines of cause and effect from generation to generation.
Give your gift as Mary did. History may never notice, but God will, and so will many of His children.

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Litany of the Immaculate Conception  

God the Father, Source of all sanctity, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, uncreated Sanctity, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Spirit of Sanctity, Have mercy on us.
Most sacred Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, immaculate, Pray for us.
Virgin of virgins, immaculate, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin, by predestination immaculate, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin, in thy conception immaculate, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin, after thy conception immaculate, Pray for us.
Daughter of the Father, immaculate, Pray for us.
Mother of the Son, immaculate, Pray for us.
Spouse of the Holy Ghost, immaculate, Pray for us.
Seat of the most Holy Trinity, immaculate, Pray for us.
Image of the Wisdom of God, immaculate, Pray for us.
Dawn of the Sun of justice, immaculate, Pray for us.
Living ark of the body of Christ, immaculate, Pray for us.
Daughter of David, immaculate, Pray for us.
Guide to Jesus, immaculate, Pray for us.
Virgin, triumphing over original sin, immaculate, Pray for us.
Virgin, crushing the head of the serpent, immaculate, Pray for us.
Queen of heaven and earth, immaculate, Pray for us.
Gate of the heavenly Jerusalem, immaculate, Pray for us.
Dispenser of graces, immaculate, Pray for us.
Spouse of Saint Joseph, immaculate, Pray for us.
Star of the world, immaculate, Pray for us.
Impregnable tower of the Church Militant, immaculate, Pray for us.
Rose amid thorns, immaculate, Pray for us.
Olive of the fields, immaculate, Pray for us.
Model of all perfection, immaculate, Pray for us.
Cause of our hope, immaculate, Pray for us.
Pillar of our faith, immaculate, Pray for us.
Source of Divine Love, immaculate, Pray for us.
Sure sign of our salvation, immaculate, Pray for us.
Rule of perfect obedience, immaculate, Pray for us.
Pattern of holy poverty, immaculate, Pray for us.
School of devotion, immaculate, Pray for us.
Abode of chaste modesty, immaculate, Pray for us.
Anchor of our salvation, immaculate, Pray for us.
Light of Angels, immaculate, Pray for us.
Crown of Patriarchs, immaculate, Pray for us.
Glory of Prophets, immaculate, Pray for us.
Lady and Mistress of Apostles, immaculate, Pray for us.
Support of Martyrs, immaculate, Pray for us.
Strength of Confessors, immaculate, Pray for us.
Diadem of Virgins, immaculate, Pray for us.
Splendour of all Saints, immaculate, Pray for us.
Sanctity of all Christians, immaculate, Pray for us.
Companion of devout souls, immaculate, Pray for us.
Joy of those who hope in thee, immaculate, Pray for us.
Health of the sick, immaculate, Pray for us.
Advocate of sinners, immaculate, Pray for us.
Terror of heretics, immaculate, Pray for us.
Protectress of all mankind, immaculate, Pray for us.
Patroness of those who honour thee, immaculate, Pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us.

V. In thy Conception, O Virgin Mary, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father, Whose Son Jesus, conceived of the Holy Ghost, thou didst bring forth.

Let us pray, O Almighty and Eternal God, Who didst prepare for Thy Son a worthy habitation, by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: we beseech Thee that, as Thou didst preserve her from every stain of sin, through the merits of the pre-ordained atonement of Jesus Christ, so Thou wouldst grant that we also may come without spot to Thee. Through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.

Source: Kyrie Eleison — Two Hundred Litanies by Benjamin Francis Musser O.F.M., The Magnificat Press, 1944

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Mary, Mother of the Church; Patron of Penzance Catholic Church and our Holy Family Parish Primary School; Queen of Peace & Reconciliation; Help of the sick & Comfortress of the afflicted; please pray for all who have recourse to thee and for Love, Peace and Justice in our troubled world.

"Through Her we see Him, made sweeter, not dim; And Her hand leaves His light, sifted to suit our sight."  G.M. Hopkins

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