Today is the commemoration of Blessed Pope Pius IX, (13th May 1792 – 7th February 1878), born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, who was Pope from 16th June 1846 to his death on 7th February 1878. He was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving for over 31 years.
On December 8, 1854, having spent all of his holy life – his boyhood, his priesthood, as bishop, cardinal and Pope – at the feet of the Mother of God, the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and having deeply considered also, in his exile at Gaeta, the earnest petitions of Catholics all over the world in its behalf, Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra, in the glorious Basilica of Saint Peter’s before one hundred and seventy bishops and innumerable pilgrims come literally from the ends of the earth, the divine dogma of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. The voice of the Sovereign Pontiff broke and tears filled his eyes as he paused before uttering the infallible words:
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful….”
As the Holy Father finished speaking, the cannon of the Castle of Sant’ Angelo boomed and the bells of the basilicas and churches of Rome long rang out the glorious news, which ushered in the Age of Mary – the last age of the world. The Catholic faithful rejoiced, and grace flooded their souls as they prayed the prayer Our Lady herself had given twenty years before to Catherine Laboure, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”