Although the Church’s liturgical Christmas season officially ended with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the old calendar it continued through February 2, the Presentation of the Lord, or, in the old tradition, the Purification of Mary. This was coupled with what is called “Candlemas Day.” On that day, the priest blesses the altar candles that might be used throughout the year. Participants sometimes process into the church with candles.
Since 1972 various “Respect Life” efforts have been undertaken in the Catholic Church in the United States. Although this attention to the immutable value of human life is proper at all times, October has traditionally been observed as Respect Life Month.
A considerable element in the recent battle for the confirmation of now Associate Justice Kavanaugh, and the vehement opposition to his nomination, appeared to focus on his potential future role in overturning the January 22, 1973 decision of Roe v Wade, which together with Doe v. Bolton, opened the door to abortion on demand in the U.S.
St. Joseph, whose Solemn Feast Day is March 19, was a man chosen by God to share in the mystery of the Incarnation. God called him to be the Husband of Mary, Guardian of the Redeemer, and Head of the Holy Family. He is a model of masculinity; of chastity and purity; of holiness and the interior life; of hard and honest work; of justice.
In the Old Testament we hear the account of a different Joseph, and his brothers in Egypt. At the time of the famine, Pharaoh sends the starving people to Joseph, his appointed representative. He tells them, “Ite ad Ioseph,” “Go to Joseph” to receive their grain. The Church uses these same words in reference to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church.
Because Mary never sinned, and because she was preserved from the first moment of her conception from the sin of Adam and Eve (in the Immaculate Conception), it is fitting that Mary would not have experienced death. St Alphonsus Ligouri says that, because death is the “punishment for sin,” it would seem that Mary was thus exempt from dying. “But,” he writes, “God was pleased that Mary should in all things resemble Jesus; and as the Son died, it was becoming that the Mother should also die.” (Glories of Mary, Discourse VII). However, the sinless Virgin Mary was preserved from the decay of death. She was taken into heaven in the Mystery of the Assumption.
In the celebrations following Christmas the Church continues to contemplate the mysteries of the Incarnate Christ. In a beautiful and profound way these include the extraordinary work of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It may be asked whether Mary’s role was necessary for our salvation. In the absolute, the answer is no. God could have accomplished our redemption in countless ways.