On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theological College community gathered to celebrate the beginning of Advent and the end of the semester. On the eve of a long weekend that would likely be spent immersed in studies for upcoming exams, the convivial air of a night dedicated solely to good cheer and relaxation was most welcomed by all.

During the homily, Father Bud Stevens set a tone of contemplation and deep gratitude for the gift of our Catholic faith, focusing on the celebration of the Blessed Mother. What does it mean for us that she had the singular privilege of being without sin since the moment of her conception? By gazing upon the face of the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart, we can know, really, what possibilities exist for the human creature, once we strip away sin, Father Bud explained. “As I learned from the great theologian and spiritual writer Louis Bouyer, no one can claim to know human nature, the human story, who is not Catholic. Why? Because only the Catholic has a realistic vision, a perfect vision, of what  life looks like without sin. Fallenness and finitude are not what God wanted for us from the start. We are not defined by abuse, or sin, or our limitations but by our openness to grace. When we are able to say fiat as Mary did, we will know what it means to be a human person.”  Father Bud encouraged all present to look at the face of Mary, that it might inspire us to allow His grace to radiate in us as she allowed it to. This singular privilege is one in which we too can participate, as we let His Word and His plan for us define our existence without fear, without reserve, and not counting the cost.  He concluded his stirring reflection with an Advent prayer, “Immaculate Virgin, may your fiat, may your submission, may your ‘Yes’ be ours.”

As the TC community transitioned from this beautiful celebration of the Eucharist to the banquet, gratitude remained on center stage as SGA President, Elias Hazkial, offered the dinner blessing of thanksgiving for faculty and CUA professors, spiritual directors, staff, the Sodexo team, and especially for the fraternity and friendships born and matured in the years of seminary. He prayed, “Lord, we ask you to continue to cultivate in our hearts fraternal and pastoral love for one another and your Church, so together we may praise, glorify, and honor you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God to whom be glory forever.”

May the prayers and praises offered during this evening of celebration resound in our hearts throughout the Christmas season!