In this year of big anniversaries – the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage, today's 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II, this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Pius XII in the Jubilee Year 1950. If you go on YouTube, you can find an Italian newsreel video from that year that shows some of the ceremony [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuodbm1sb1U&t=499]. It begins the night before with the procession of the image [photo] of Maria, Salus Populi Romani (Mary, Protector of the Roman People), from the church of Ara Coeli, through the ancient Camidoglio, across town to Saint Peter’s Basilica – the first such procession with that ancient image since 1854. Normally that image resides in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, which was where Isaac Hecker went to venerate it after his expulsion from the Redemptorists in 1857 and where Pope Francis regularly venerates it before and after his journeys. Of course, now there are no more journeys. Imprisoned like the rest of us by this pandemic, the Pope has nonetheless continued to venerate that famous image and invites us to do so too. His pandemic prayer, which appears at the end of my daily email messages is addressed to Mary, Health of the Sick and Protector of the Roman People.
With Pope Francis, in this desperate time we too turn to Mary, whose body-and-soul exaltation in the kingdom of heaven we celebrate today. Like the mother being attacked by the dragon in the book of Revelation, we too seem surrounded on all sides by dangers of all sorts. This pandemic itself has highlighted so many social problems and inequalities that blight American society. Alongside the terrible tragedy of widespread sickness and death, we’re witnessing economic collapse, seemingly stable societies unravelling, and once-trusted institutions breaking down. The Assumption reminds us that God has already acted on our behalf by raising Jesus from the dead and given us all an alternative future. In Mary, Christ's resurrection has, so to speak, become contagious. Today, Mary magnifies the Lord on high. Where she is, there we hope to be.
Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville TN, August 15, 2020.