08 December 2010

8 December - The Immaculate Conception; Two Queens

Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  As the feast of the patroness of the United States, today is a Holy Day of Obligation for us.

Catholic Culture has a good history of the celebration of this aspect of Our Lady; it is interesting to find that it started with the Eastern church and moved to northern Europe before coming to Rome.  The site has a page which will be useful in teaching the meaning and reason for this feast, and several activities with which to honor it, like a Mary Candle with a silhouette cut-out of Baby Jesus or a plastic baby figure pressed into it, covered by a white cloak until Christmas.  Plant a rose-bush in honor of the "Rose e'er blooming".  Have an All-White Dinner.  Make Spice Cookies to remember the words in Sirach: I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatical balm; I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh; and I perfumed my dwelling as store, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes, and as the frankincense not cut, and my odor is as the purest balm.

It is a beautiful day in the smallest state for all of the above activities - albeit, a bit chilly for putting in a rosebush.
Today is also the birthday of two queens - Mary, Queen of Scots in 1542, and Christina, Queen of Sweden in 1626.

by Clouet, c. 1555
Mary was the daughter of James V of Scotland and his wife, Mary of Guise.  Her father dying six days after her birth, she immediately became Queen and was crowned the following September.  By the time she was 26, she had grown up in France, become the Queen Consort of that country, been widowed, returned to Scotland, put down rebellions, married again, had a son, been widowed again when her husband was assassinated, married again, failed to put down a rebellion, was captured and imprisoned by her own subjects, and forced to abdicate her throne.  She escaped imprisonment, raised an army, lost the battle, and escaped into England.  That's quite a bit of living for a 26-year old.

You can read a detailed biography of her here, and an even more detailed one here from the Marie Stuart Society.

by Bourdon, c. 1652
Christina was the daughter of Gustave II Adolph of Sweden and his wife Maria Eleanora of Brandenburg.  [Note: Sweden did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the 18th century; Christina was born on the 8th, not the 18th]  Her father wanted her to be raised as a prince, and she received an extensive education in ancient and modern languages, philosophy, history, and religion, and training in horseback riding, fencing, and the use of firearms.  She became queen at the age of six years, when her father was killed in battle, but put off her coronation until 1650.

And abdicated, by her own choice, four years later.

The rest of her life is also interesting, and you can read various accounts, some more sympathetic than others, here, and here.