A Meditation in Preparation for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V.M.
August 15, 2006

by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

As the fourth Marian dogma proclaimed by the Catholic Church (dogmatically defined in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus) the Assumption of Mary has a very interesting historical context. By understanding the historical and theological situation of the early-to-mid twentieth century we can gain many insights into how the Church seeks to provide answers to the challenging questions of our times.

For example, during the early 20th century there was a movement in western Europe that was being spearheaded by Cardinals and Bishops to have the Holy Father dogmatically define Mary's role as Mediatrix of All Graces. This movement had many supporters and was very much supported from Rome. Yet, as the century continued and humanity began to experience all kinds of atrocities against the human body, namely, genocide, concentration camps, and world wars, Pope Pius XII wanted to define a Marian dogma to honor Our Lady and, therefore, decided that in light of the times that a Marian dogma that would be appropriate for the times would be one in which the dignity of the human body was highlighted. Thus, the dogmatic definition of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace was put on halt so that a dogmatic definition of Mary as bodily assumed into heaven could be articulated and defined as a truth of our faith. This would bring about a greater understanding that the human body is from God and needs to be treated with dignity.

This is partly why the definition of Mary's Assumption was defined in 1950. First of all, in 1946 Pope Pius XII asked all the Bishops of the world to offer to him their thoughts on whether or not it should be defined at that time. The vast majority were in agreement that it would be a wonderful time to define such a dogma. In addition, Rome was also receiving many petitions from Catholics all around the world noting that such a definition would be wonderful. This is important because what the Church teaches about Mary ultimately has a connection to what the Church teaches about the dignity of the human person, Mary being the most honorable member of mankind.

As history shows, Mary's Assumption has long been a part of the doctrinal teaching of the Church. What the dogma of the Assumption did in 1950 was to highlight a precise aspect of the human person that was seriously being threatened. What this teaches us is that God is in charge of history, and saves the further articulation of certain truths of our holy faith for just the right time in history.

Through Mary's Assumption we come to understand that we, too, are called to share in the blessings of Jesus' redemption. The human body is called to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, and this is seen most perfectly in the Blessed Virgin Mary.