Friday, August 14, 2015


I first wrote this a a post for August 13, 2012. But I think it merits some more reflection on my part, and, I hope, yiours as well.

The Latin question “Quid mihi?”, “What’s it to me?", was posed by certain non-Catholic theologians in protest when Pius XII declared in 1950 that the Assumption of Mary was a dogma of the Catholic Church: "Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

When I do my daily lectio divina (reflective reading) with sacred scripture, I always ask myself "Quid mihi?": What does this reading mean for me? What is it saying to me? I think it’s a great question to ask as we celebrate the feast of Mary’s Assumption on August 15, not in protest but in an earnest effort to find some answers.

The following selection is from The Water and the Fire by Gerald Vann, O.P. The paragraph headings and any italics or emphases are mine. I hope you enjoy Father Vann’s answer to the question “What’s the Assumption to me?”


The gulf between matter and spirit, between material things and the praise of God, is widening at a pace and to an extent hitherto unknown: it would be very easy to despair of this civilization of ours, very easy to despair of the future of our race, very easy to feel that, so far from marching triumphantly forward to a golden age, we are rushing headlong into an abyss; very easy to feel that our world is doomed because all the physical and material side of life must continue to drag man down and degrade him till the heavens are closed to him. But it is just at this moment that the voice of the Church comes to us like a challenge: we are on the contrary to shout aloud our belief in the dignity and holiness of material things; we are to affirm our faith and our hope in the future of man's flesh. The woman who stands in the heavens, the Mother of God, is also the mother of men, and her glory is the guarantee of theirs.
The doctrine of the Assumption is of supreme importance not only to Catholics but to all men and women because it means that there is still in the world, there will always be in the world, a voice to affirm and a power to defend the dignity and the ultimate glory of matter, of material things, of human flesh and blood, of the lovely mystery of human love, of the beauty which is the work of men's hands. There is a voice which affirms, there is a power which defends, all the material things which make life worth while; and they bid us be of good heart because we can hope in the end to achieve our own lives, full, rich, deep, unified, free, not by escaping from the flesh and material things, but by the healing and sanctifying of the flesh and material things.

In the greatest of the Church's definitions of doctrine concerning our Lady, the doctrine that she is the Mother of God, it was her Son that the Church was defending. But she is also the mother of all men; and here, in the doctrine of her Assumption, it is all her sons that the Church is defending. Just as the figure of motherhood is at the very center of the earthly history of every human soul, of the earthly history of the human race, so the figure of this Maiden-Mother is at the very center of the eternal history of individuals and of the race. If she is attacked, later on her Son will be attacked, and in the end her other children will be attacked. Men will begin by denying some part of the God-given greatness and glory; they will go on sooner or later to deny the divinity of her Son; and in the end there will be no defense for the greatness of humanity itself. The Church's voice is a challenge because, while it tells us to hope because in Mary the flesh is sanctified and glorified, material things are sanctified and glorified, it also tells us to beware because the dragon, defeated, went elsewhere to make war on the rest of her children. ...And he stood there waiting on the sea shore.

-- Gerald Vann, O.P. "The Water and the Fire" (New York, Sheed and Ward, 1961), pages 175-176. 


In a world that seems to have lost a sense of reverence for the human body and everything related to it, the feast of the Assumption seems to have a lot to say to me. And to you, too, I hope!




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