Mariologists consider 1830 to 1954 the “Age of Mary”. Not only did this age witness a number of major Marian apparitions. There were also the official declarations of two Marian dogmas: the Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption (1950).
Blessed Pope Pius IX was the Pope who defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Pius IX was pope for 31 years from 1846 to 1878. He suffered from epilepsy all throughout his life. When he was studying for the priesthood, he suffered from such an intense epileptic seizure that he was dismissed from the seminary. However, he did not give up. He threw himself at the feet of Pope Pius VII and begged to be reinstated. Pius VII allowed him back into the seminary. When he was elected Pope in 1846, he chose the name “Pius” in honor of Pius VII. Pius IX died on February 7, 1878 of a heart attack as the result of an epileptic seizure. He was the longest reigning pope in the post-apostolic era of the Church.
On December 8, 1854, Pius IX promulgated the Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
During the official announcement of the dogma, as Pius IX began to pronounce the authoritative papal formula, a beam of light descended into St. Pater’s Basilica and shone directly on him. Pius IX was very touched and began to cry. He had to cease reading the declaration until his tears subsided.
Four years after the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady appeared in Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous. On March 25, 1858, Our Lady told Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception”.
The apparition of Lourdes was known as a rosary apparition. As Bernadette prayed the rosary, Our Lady’s fingers glided over the rosary beads. In 1862, when the Lourdes apparitions were approved by the local bishop and affirmed by Pius IX, a worldwide renewal of rosary devotion was sparked.
Pius IX was an ardent promoter of the rosary. On May 23, 1877, he said to a group of pilgrims: “Have courage, my dear children! I exhort you to fight against the persecution of the Church and against anarchy, not with the sword, but with the rosary.”
Pius IX urged family rosary. He said, “Let the rosary, this simple, beautiful method of prayer, enriched with many indulgences, be habitually recited in the evening in every household. These are my last words to you: the memorial I leave behind me.”
Pius XI helped foster devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. At the end of the 15th century, the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was taken from the island of Crete to Rome. It was at a private home for several months, but Our Lady appeared to the girl of the household, requesting the icon to be placed in a church between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran.
After Napoleon’s invading army destroyed the church in 1798, the icon was forgotten for about 60 years. When the Redemptorists built a new church on the same site, they asked Pius IX to allow the image to be returned to the spot that the Blessed Virgin had requested. Pius IX granted the request and asked the Redemptorists to “make her known throughout the world!”