Mass this morning in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the North American College was, as is every liturgy as NAC, truly splendid. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò was the main celebrant but there were at least 100 in the sanctuary at the offertory, including cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, and acolytes.

Lunch later was a wonderful moment as well – a great menu, lots of terrific conversation and untold laughs as well. I cherish every moment I can spend with these young men, the newly ordained priests and deacons or the men now in their first, second or third year from dioceses around the U.S. and also Australia.

I did not take a single photo today, just enjoyed every moment. I prayed for everyone who has asked me for prayers for whatever reason and I handed those petitions over to Mary!


December 8, the Solemnity of the Immacolata, the day devoted to the Immaculate Conception, is a holy day and a national holiday in Italy and hugely important for Italian families. Occurring as it does this year on a Thursday, many working Italians will take Friday off as well, creating a ponte or bridge to a long weekend.

Several main streets in the center of Rome are closed for the traditional afternoon visit by the Pope to both St. Mary Major basilica and to the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, to pay homage to the image of Mary there. This famous square in the heart of Rome is named for the Palazzo di Spagna, a magnificent building on the piazza that has housed the Spanish embassy to the Holy See since 1647.

Every year, early in the morning of December 8, Roman firemen place a garland atop the statue of Mary Immaculate and by day’s end, thousands of Romans will have followed in their footsteps, offering floral homages to Mary. The column and statue were originally erected with the help of 220 firemen, which is why the floral tributes always include a garland of flowers placed in Our Lady’s arms by a member of Rome’s fire department. The tradition of offering flowers to her image here on this feast day was begun by Pope Pius XII.


Single flowers as well as bouquets are placed on a table at the foot of the column bearing the statue and, for many hours, Conventual Franciscan Friars and Minim Friars arrange them in an orderly fashion, often creating elegant wreaths.

The ancient Roman column of cipolin marble was found in 1777 in the monastery of Our Lady of the Conception in central Rome and brought to Piazza di Spagna on September 8 (birthday of the Virgin Mary), 1857 to celebrate the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception three years earlier.

Here is the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception as declared on December 8, 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his Bull Ineffabilis Deus: “We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that 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, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”


At the Angelus on Thursday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s readings about the Fall of Adam and Eve and the Annunciation, saying “The readings of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary are two crucial passages in the history of the relationship between man and God:  We might say they lead us to the origins of good and evil.”

The first reading, hr said, tell us about the origins of sin, man’s first ‘no’ to God, when “he preferred to look at himself, not his Creator, thus shattering communion with God. … This makes sin, but the Lord does not leave man at the mercy of his evil; He immediately seeks him out and asks a question full of apprehension: ‘Where are you?’ It is the question of a father or a mother searching for a lost child…and this God does with much patience, in order to bridge the distance which arose at the beginning.”

The, we have the Annunciation, said Francis, when “God comes to dwell among us, [and] he becomes man like us. … And this was made possible by ‘a great yes,’ that of Mary at the Annunciation. Through this ‘yes’ Jesus began his way along the road of humanity; it began in Mary, spending the first months of his life within mother’s womb; not appearing already an adult and strong, but by following the entirety of the path of what it means to be human.”

Pope Francis underscored the fact Mary is described as “full of grace,” meaning there is “no room for sin…without a shadow of evil.”

The Holy Father then encouraged Christians to give their “Yes” to God, as this allow the Lord to create for us a “new story,” as opposed to sin, which makes us “old inside.”

In Advent, especially, said the Pope, “God desires to see us and awaits our ‘yes’.'”

After reciting the Marian prayer, Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims and families of the 6.5 earthquake that the Aceh Province of Indonesia on Wednesday, killing at least 100 people. The same region of Indonesia was hit by the December 2004 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed over 100,000 people in just this one province and tens of thousands more in faraway lands.

“I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, for the injured and for those who have lost their homes. May the Lord give strength to the population and support the rescue efforts.”


Pope Francis visited the Piazza di Spagna in Rome on Thursday for the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, where he laid a bouquet of white roses near the Column of the Immaculate Conception and prayed especially for families and for workers. He made his way to Rome’s Spanish Square to pay homage to the Immaculate Virgin, just as the Bishop of Rome has annually for the past 50 years.


Flanked by the Rome’s mayor, Pope Francis placed a bouquet of white roses at the base of the column of the Immaculate Conception and led those present in a prayer for her feast day. He prayed especially for abandoned children, for families struggling to make ends meet, and for men and women in search of work.

He said, “We have need of your immaculate heart, to love freely, without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other, with simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.”

Above all, the Holy Father prayed Our Lady to “Let us not give in to discouragement, but that, trusting in your constant help, we may engage ourselves fully in renewal of self, of this city and of the entire world.”

After the prayer, the Pope greeted many of those gathered in the square and blessed the sick and elderly. He then made a short stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major’s, before returning to the Vatican, to pray silently before the image of Maria Salus Populi Romani, the protectress of the people of Rome.

Click here for his full prayer: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/12/08/pope_makes_traditional_visit_to_immaculate_conception_statue/1277760