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December 6, 2007 Edition

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A Culture of Life
• Guest commentary -- Blessed Mother: God's masterpiece, immaculately conceived

God's will can be trusted

photo of Kimberly Hahn

A Culture 
of Life 

Kimberly Hahn 

Our culture is fixated on the idea that a planned baby is most valued. Yet many people who do not intend to conceive are thrilled with their unplanned child. They find that they had struggled with the idea of another child, not with the actual child.

Though we want to have an attitude of heartfelt openness toward each child, we may have to wrestle with the Lord in prayer if his plan differs from ours.

Whether or not your parents planned to conceive you - or you planned each of your children - God did. No one is an accident.

Before the world was created, each one of us was a thought in the mind of God. He chose us in Christ to be his children. Just as he blessed Adam and Eve with a blessing that requires obedience to his commands, he blesses us to be holy. God lavishes grace on us so that we can live in a way that gives him honor and glory. He will act in and through us to fulfill his will because he accomplishes what he plans to do.

Is it possible to conceive a child God has not planned? For a young Pittsburgh couple, three miscarriages followed three normal pregnancies. A friend of the wife offered the following explanation: "Sue, don't you get it? God does not intend you to have a fourth child. You need to stop trying."

Sue asked me whether it was possible for couples to conceive children that God takes in miscarriage because he didn't plan those children. I assured her it was not.

Every conception is a unique act of God in cooperation with the parents. As the psalmist says, "Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Ps 139:16). God's plan includes all our children, no matter how brief their life.

Our heavenly Father has chosen us to be his children and to lead fruitful lives, faithful to his call. For those of us in the vocation of marriage, this means giving him our marital relationship and those children who result from it so that he is glorified in our family. For he is the eternal Father, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Eph 3:15).

God our Father can be trusted to plan our families. We have a past that reveals the trustworthiness of God in countless ways. And we have a future.

Jeremiah the prophet records God's words to Israel after they returned to faithfulness to him: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer 29:11-13). These promises apply to us as well.

If we seek him with all our hearts, he will provide the faith we need to entrust this area of our lives to him.

This column is syndicated by www.OneMoreSoul.com and is reprinted from Kimberly Hahn's book, Life-Giving Love (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

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Blessed Mother:
God's masterpiece, immaculately conceived

Guest commentary 

Fr. Don Lange 

When I taught religion at Beloit Catholic High, I asked some of my students to share their impressions of the Blessed Mother.

What did they think of Mary? How has Mary influenced them? Some of their responses surprised and delighted me.

Impressions of Mary

One girl wrote, "If I could be anyone else, I would like to be Mary. Mary shows us how to live, regardless of the circumstances."

Another girl added, "When I think of Mary, I see a beautiful young girl fully in love with God. I see her loving and caring for all with whom she comes into contact."

Finally a boy wrote, "Mary is the mother of the Church as well as the mother of all persons on earth. She is the symbol of peace, love, and joy."

William Wordsworth seemed to reflect the respect of these teens for Mary when he wrote poetically that Mary is ''our tainted nature's solitary boast."

Free from sin

In the words of The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Mary is God's masterpiece, transformed by him into a luminous witness of grace from the moment of her conception.

These words describe the Church's teaching of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception that "from the moment of her conception, Mary was free from sin." The angel Gabriel rightly addressed her as "full of grace."

Mary is the model of who we should be as Christians. She is the sign of what we would have been if there had never been original sin. The longing to be like Mary is reflected in the words of the first girl who wanted to be like Mary.

God preserved Mary free from original sin from the moment of her conception so that she could be the worthy mother of Jesus. It was the dream of every Jewish girl to be the mother of the Messiah.

Wisdom and grace

The second girl said that Mary was fully in love with God. God chose Mary, graced masterpiece of love, so that she could nurture Jesus with pure love and help him in his human nature "to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man" as stated in Luke 2:52.

God chose Mary, a prayerful reflective person, so she could prayerfully ponder the mysterious graced events of her life, respond in faith, and continue to do God's will.

It is a grace that we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 during Advent, because it is the season when we wait patiently for the birth of Christ at Christmas.

Mary is the patroness of Advent because she waited for the birth of Jesus as no one else ever waited. For she conceived and carried Christ in her womb next to her heart. Mary longed to give birth to Jesus and offer him to the world.

The first girl stated that Mary can teach us how to live, regardless of the circumstances. Despite the distractions and hurried pace before Christmas, Mary's example can help us to use Advent to prepare for Christmas. We can strive to pray as Mary prayed.

Mary can inspire young and older persons to live holy and chaste lives. She is a model for mothers and she can inspire us to respect the lives of unborn babies. Mary can offer us guidance and strength in our battle with evil. She can inspire us to imitate Christ and her in many other ways.

Mother of all

Under the title of Immaculate Conception, Mary is the patroness of our country. In Washington, D.C., a beautiful basilica has been built to honor Mary.

Mary can inspire us to thank God for the blessings of our country. At the same time through Mary's intercession, we can ask God to mend our flaws and the flaws of our country so we can become more like her.

The words of the boy remind us that Mary is not only the physical mother of Jesus, but she is also our spiritual mother. The boy added correctly that Mary is the symbol of peace, love, and joy.

Therefore, we should honor her and ask her intercession to help us to bring God's peace, love, and joy to others. Mary placed Christ in a manger, a feeding trough, to remind us that Christ came to be food for our souls in the Word, the Eucharist, and in other ways.

Fr. Kevin O'Shea, in a Marian series of talks, said that Mary was so in love with God that she conceived Jesus in her heart before her womb.

May the Advent season inspire us to conceive Christ in the crib of our heart and share him with others not only on Christmas but every day.

May each of you enjoy a blessed Advent that prepares you for Christmas like Mary.

Fr. Don Lange is pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.

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