By John Heuertz
Special to The Catholic Key
KANSAS CITY — More than 200 people made the Bishop Helmsing Institute’s “Mary, Help of Christians” conference at Bartle Hall a part of their Feast of the Immaculate Conception observances the weekend of December 7-8.
Father Michael Gaitley from Massachusetts opened the conference with a discussion of how Mary, especially in her trust in God, is “an incredible guide to this Year of Faith.”
Mary’s own faith in God was perhaps best embodied when she stood at the foot of the Cross. And when Pope John Paul II included her on his papal crest it was to teach the world that “you need your mother to form you in the Faith,” he said.
Saturday morning, Dr. Taylor Marshall discussed “Mary as Mother of Fair Love in the Liturgical Tradition.” Father Gregory Lockwood, pastor of Christ the King Parish and assistant Vocations Director of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, talked about the early history of Mary as Intercessor, drawing on the Church Fathers and on the discussion of Mary in the Second Vatican Council document “Lumen Gentium.”
“It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the Cross, that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve,” he quoted from this document.
In “Modesty and the Virtues of the Blessed Mother,” Colleen Hammond reviewed the modesty that typified women’s dress, with very few exceptions, from pre-Christian times to about 1965.
Even 18th century courtesans after the French Revolution were relatively modest, and dressed in ways “which I will see at Mass tomorrow.”
Mary is a special help to Christian women, Hammond explained, by being the model of feminine virtue, because she raised to perfection the normal feminine instinct for modesty by her dress, speech and bearing.
“We lost our feminine dignity with Eve, but got it back with Mary,” Hammond said.
In a simple and succinct, but also magisterial, address internationally known Catholic communicator Raymond de Souza discussed the question of “How Is Jesus Really Present in the Eucharist?”
“The devil knows the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is real,” he said. “But how are we training our children to act and dress in the presence of Christ?”
In breakout sessions, Hammond spoke on “Marian Devotions for the Family,” Father Gaitley spoke on “Mary’s Gift of Mercy,” Father Lockwood spoke about Mary in the writings of St. Ephrem, a Doctor of the Church known as the “Harp of the Holy Ghost,” and Dr. Mark Miraville delivered Saturday’s keynote address on “The Whole Truth About Mary.”
De Souza spoke on the Biblical and Patristic foundations of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption —promulgated only in 1950 after percolating through the Church for over 1,500 years.
BHI Director Scott McKellar’s “The Biblical Basis for the Immaculate Conception” outlined the first foreshadowing of Mary in the story of Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden.
“The story of Mary in the Old Testament is like the threads of a tapestry,” he said. “The Daughter/Woman of Zion becomes Mary, the New Daughter of Zion.”
Dr. Marshall discussed St. Joseph’s virtues and privileges Saturday afternoon. He recalled the Gospel story in which Sts. James and John asked Christ to grant them seats at the right hand and left hand of God, which Christ told them “is not in My power to give.” Dr. Marshall then made an interesting argument that it is actually Mary and Joseph who sit at Christ’s right and left.
“There was never a Jewish man more faithful to God than Joseph,” he said.