The St. Thomas campus community was blessed to celebrate its annual Mother/Son Mass honoring the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast vividly shows the beauty, coherence, awe, and wisdom of God’s plan, that life is in His providential hands.
The morning liturgy with President Fr. James Murphy, CSB serving as celebrant in Reckling Gymnasium was an affirmation of faith recognizing the great joy of God’s gift to humanity in Mary. The congregation was asked to consider with greater clarity the truth that God has created each and every human being to fulfill a particular mission that only they may fulfill. Following Mary’s supreme example, we are called to do nothing less than repeat her words in response to the Angel Gabriel’s greeting – “May it be done in me according to Thy will.” – and embrace our vocation to fulfill the mission prepared for us since before the beginning of time.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX’s solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus, clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin. Mary was granted this extraordinary privilege because of her unique role in history as the Mother of God. That is, she received the gift of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception.
Even though Mary is unique in all humanity for being born without sin, she is held up by the Church as a model in her willingness to accept the plan of God for her and completely direct her life toward Him and others.
St. Thomas also traditionally honors the spiritual bond that unites Eagle scholars and their fathers with a morning liturgy and affirmation of faith that speaks to the very fabric of the school’s Basilian identity.
November 1 celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, an annual observance dedicated to remembering, honoring, and being inspired by the lives of past saints and martyrs who now stand in glory of the beatific vision.
The Most Reverend Italo Dell’Oro, CRS, Auxiliary Bishop of Galveston-Houston, served as the principal celebrant in Reckling Gymnasium with President Fr. Murphy the concelebrant. Since 2015, Bishop Dell’Oro has served the Archdiocese as Vicar for Clergy and the Secretariat Director for Clergy Formation and Chaplaincy Services. He was named Vicar General in 2021.
Vice President for Advancement Mark deTranaltes ‘83 continued the solemn All Saints Day tradition for St. Thomas alumni who had passed in the previous 12 months, those who have gone before in the Eagle Family, destined for judgment, and how they lived to enter their heavenly homes, some renowned but infinitely more simple and hidden who through everyday holiness helped carry the world forward.
The Meaning and the History
The feast is dedicated to those who have been recognized by the Church as saints, as well as those who have not been canonized yet attained heaven.
The origin dates to the earliest centuries of the Church when Christians commemorated the many martyrs who died at the hands of their Roman persecutors. Those facing death for Christ include a modern-day St. Thomas alumni who enrolled from his home parish Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Bellaire.
Fr. William Woods, MM ‘49 was killed along with four American civilian passengers November 20, 1976, in the crash of his small plane in Guatemala. He had been a member of the Central American Region since ordination with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in June 1958.
Fr. Woods was working on several humanitarian projects aimed at obtaining land for the otherwise landless poor of the mountains of Huehuetenango. A 10-year program of enormous scope, it involved the resettlement of several thousand families, the introduction of community development techniques, and the training of local leaders for the people involved. As a pilot, Fr. Woods provided air transport for the elderly and sick, and those otherwise incapable of traveling overland.
Fr. Woods was also involved in an enterprise on the outskirts of Guatemala City, designed to alleviate the housing shortage brought about by a disastrous earthquake.
At the time of Fr. Wood’s death, the cause of the crash was not been completely reported other than “under suspicious circumstances.” There is a belief that his exhaustive missionary efforts and extensive apostolic work of the Church ran contrary to the government’s agenda and his plane was shot down. Fr. Woods is buried in Huehuetenango with a monument at the site.
When notified of his death in 1976, his mother said, “He died just as he lived, working with his people.”
Taking Notice Today
In 2006, Pope Benedict posed the question, “Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this solemnity (All Saints’ Day), mean anything to the saints?”
“A famous homily of St. Bernard for All Saints’ Day begins with this question,” he said. “It could equally well be asked today.”
St. Bernard offered that “the saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs … But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning’ (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff.).
Pope Benedict then shared that “this is the meaning of the Solemnity – looking at the shining example of the saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them. Happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends.”
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