THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. PART 3.
The Spanish nation, which has always particularly signalised itself in this devotion, has so thoroughly adopted it, that not a single preacher mounts the pulpit without prefacing his sermon with a profession of faith in the conception without stain,1 and that it has been introduced even into the familiar forms of speech pronounced when people meet. 2
Finally, in 1771, while the destructive blast of philosophy violently shook the belief of Christians in France and several other countries of Europe, the King of Spain, Charles HI., instituted an order in honour of the Virgin conceived without sin, and solemnly declared her, with the concurrence of the Cortes, and a brief from the Holy See, " Universal Patrona de Espana e Indias." 3
In France, in spite of the licentiousness and infidelity which the flood of revolutions left behind it as it subsided, this belief gains ground, and penetrates even to the most secluded hamlets. The diocese of Paris is especially distinguished for its zeal in embracing this pious belief, which flourishes beneath the protecting shade of its archbishops, 4 and which is confirmed by the supernatural things related of the miraculous medal struck in honour of the mystery of the immaculate conception.
If the tradition of the apostles, the favourable disposition of the Church, the authority of councils, the adherence of universities and religious orders, the assent of kings and nations, the dedication of temples and altars, the foundation of offices, the institution of confraternities and of royal orders may be taken into account in a controversy which has astonished the very pagans, 5 the cause of the immaculate conception of Mary, so long before the tribunal of Catholic opinion, appears to us to be won; and we do not believe that it would be rash to suppose that God, preserving his divine Mother from the original stain, may have said to her, as Assuerus said to Esther, " This law is not made for thee, but for all others."
Addition by the Translator
[The foregoing chapter was written by the author before the ever memorable 8th of December, 1854, when it was solemnly defined by the infallible authority of the Catholic Church, that " it is a dogma op faith that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."]
1 "Alabado sea el santisimo Sacramento del altar, y la immaculada concepcion de la Virgen Maria, concebida sin pecado original en el primer instante de su ser natural."
2 In going into a Spanish house, the first words which visitors pronounce, before they wish "Good day," are these, " Ave Maria purisima;" the masters of the house immediately answer, "Sin pecado concebida, santisima,"
3 "Por la devocion que desde nuestra infancia hemos tenido a Maria santisima en su misterio de la inmaculada concepcion, deseamos poner bajo los divinos auspicios de esta celestial protectora la ....... Nueva Orden, y mandamos que sea reconocida en ella por patrona "—(Leg. 12, t iii. lib. vi., Noviss. Rec.)
4 "Cest un fait que nous sommes jaloux de constater, et nous desirons que la connaissance en parvienne jusqu'aux lieux les plus recules du monde Catholique: dans notre diocese cette devotion a jete avee le temps des racines de plus en plus profondes, et les malheurs sont encore venus raffermir, l'accroitre, et l'etendre avec un mervoilloux progres."—(See the Mandement of the Archbishop of Paris, on occasion of the consecration of the Church of Notre Dame de Lorette.)
5 "What then!" exclaimed Julian the Pelagian, addressing himself to a bishop who maintained the universality of original sin, " what then ! do you subject the birth of Mary to the empire of the devil ? "—(St. Aug., lib. iv. Op. imperf.)