Thursday, December 17, 2015

Honoring Mary in December

In the Catholic Church, it is widely known that May is the month of Mary, the Blessed Mother.  All the flowers that April showers bring are picked and brought to statues and shrines of Mary.  Beautiful crowns are created by school children and May crownings are carried out worldwide.  That is all well and good, but I ask, “What about December?”  From the end of November to the first of January, there are five major feast days or holy days that either directly or indirectly honor the Blessed Mother.  Today, I am thinking about these amazing days.

The first comes on November 28, the feast day of St. Catherine Laboure.  St. Catherine was a young nun in France in 1830 when she received three apparitions of the Blessed Mother.  In these apparitions, Mary asked Catherine to make known her (Mary’s) wish that a medal be struck.  The medal was to be Mary’s design and have the following prayer inscribed on it:  “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”  People who would wear this medal (now called the Miraculous Medal) around their necks were promised to receive great graces.  I wear this medal around my neck every day and say the prayer every morning as I put it on.  Catherine’s body was exhumed fifty years later as was found to be incorrupt.  Note that the prayer includes the phrase “ … conceived without sin … .”

The second is the holy day, the Immaculate Conception, on December 8.  Catholics are obliged, under pain of serious sin, to attend Mass on this day.  It celebrates the fact that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin, hence the reference “Immaculate Conception.”  Protestants oppose honoring Mary in this way, saying that the idea of Mary conceived immaculately is unbiblical.  Catholics agree that it is not in the Bible, but honor her for this nonetheless because it is found in Sacred Tradition.  Besides this, Mary herself made reference to her Immaculate Conception in two of her apparitions.  One was to St. Catherine Laboure (see above) and the other was to St. Bernadette at Lourdes when she said “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The third is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12.  This feast celebrates the apparition of Mary to St. Juan Diego near Mexico City in 1531.  During this apparition, Mary left us an image of herself on St. Juan Diego’s tilma.  His tilma is still on display near Mexico City in the chapel that Mary asked to be built and has shown no sign of deterioration after nearly five centuries.

The fourth is Christmas Day, December 25.  This, of course, is the day we celebrate Mary giving birth to the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, as told in the Gospel of St. Luke.  To give birth to the Savior of mankind is the highest honor that has ever been given to a human being.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Finally, on January 1, we honor Mary for all that she is and all she represents.  It is the day we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.  Protestants do not like to call her the Mother of God, but that is a beautiful title given her by the Catholic Church.  For all that we know about the Blessed Mother, even if you want to limit her to just the biblical accounts, it is mystifying to me that some people do not want to honor her.  These people say that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I say I have a personal relationship with both Jesus and his mother and I’m lovin’ it.

In the Photograph, a man and his daughter sit in front of the giant statue of the Blessed Mother on the grounds of the Trinity Heights Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

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