We don’t always pay attention to the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15. In allot of cases people are getting ready to start or finish their summer vacations, preparing to return to college, or grade school and trying to squeeze in the last bit of summer before returning to the usual work and school activities. However, this feast is especially significant in the history of 20th century Catholicism because of the papal proclamation on November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII that infallibly declared and proclaimed that the Virgin Mary was physically taken into heaven at the time of her death. For the most part, other than the proclamation of papal infallibility this is the only example of an explicit proclamation of papal infallibility in the entire history of the Church.

Quite often Catholics are not always quite clear about papal infallibility. The secular press and anti-Catholic organizations most certainly misunderstand the concept and erroneously apply just about every papal proclamation as infallible…from Vatican weather reports, to figuring out the Papal odds for the Kentucky Derby! Whenever Catholics are criticized the issue of papal infallibility always comes up as a part of the anti-Catholic rhetoric that has become a familiar part of every Catholic believers need to practice apologetics.

The papal encyclical Munificentissimus Deus , declares that the observation of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a celebration of the highest solemnity and dignity. It also indicates that this feast is not just the result of a papal decree, but uniquely reflects the ancient axiom of lex orandi, lex credendi. Namely, the Church prays, as the Church believes. The primitive Catholic Church has always held the Mother of God in the highest esteem, and roots of the observation of this feast date to apostolic times.

For us modern Catholics, the Marian feast is sometimes overshadowed in the United States with our routine activities of summer vacation and activities. In my own life, August 15, was always commemorated with the celebration of the Blessing of the Waters, and Mary’s role for me always took on a bit of “shore” solemnity, as the feast was celebrated with sun and sand before going to Church for the celebration of Holy Mass. However we celebrate the feast, we really need to thank the providential proclamation of Pius XII for placing Mary’s life and death in its proper theological perspective.

This week, in addition to celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, I am going to reread the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus and really appreciate two critically important things: Mary and her unconditional “Fiat!” to God’s plan in life and death & the revel in the theologically astute and appropriate proclamation of Papal infallibility, which often misunderstood shows the world and all Catholic believers the importance of papal doctrinal teaching as one of our greatest Catholic assets.

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