I grew up as a cradle Catholic yet have not memorized the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God. I can’t explain it. Mary is even my middle name. You’d think I’d do better.
The Holy Spirit calls me to continue to learn about her. In this blog post, I share some of what I’ve learned with you, suspecting you may be like me—Mary plays too small part in my daily life.
This is a “mistake” that needs to be corrected according to Sister Ann Shields, a renowned author and member of the Servants of God’s Love. So here I am correcting it in my wee way for my wee life.
The History of Mary’s Birthday
By long tradition, the Byzantine Church celebrated the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God, the Blessed Mother of Jesus, on the first day of their liturgical year, September 8. (The Catholic Church places Mary’s Divine Maternity at the beginning of the fiscal year but still celebrates her nativity on September 8. See the list of feast days below).
By the 7th century, her birthday made it to the western church and its liturgical calendar. September 8 is nine months after we celebrate Mary’s conception without sin, the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.
The Church honors its saints and holy ones by commemorating the date of their death or martyrdom. The only birthdays the Church celebrates are those of Mary and John the Baptist because their birthdays are so intimately connected with the birth of Jesus.
John, the last of the prophets, was so sensitized to the Presence of Jesus that he did uterine somersaults when pregnant Mary approached her cousin Elizabeth in her sixth month of carrying her long-prayed-for-son about whom the angel Gabriel prophesied.
John’s mission was to announce the coming of Jesus. Mary’s mission was to bear Jesus in her womb and give birth to Him. Tradition and the Bible state both sets of their parents were not fertile. Their conceptions and births to women beyond their prime were notable and celebrated, and in John’s case, promised by the angel Gabriel. Both John the Baptist and Mary always point to Jesus.
He who loves the Immaculate will gain a sure victory in the interior combat.
Maximilian Kolbe, martyr
Mary, the Mother of God—We Celebrate Her Life Almost Every Month
The Church dedicated the month of May to Mary. I remember that much growing up. We had a May crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven, each year in elementary school and the teachers chose some special boy and girl to place the crown on the head of the church’s statue of Mary as we sang the hymn Immaculate Mary. This tradition continues in my parish today at St. Rita Catholic Church in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.
I did not realize that except for April, the church celebrates some part of Mary’s life to honor Our Mother. Some of Jesus’ last words were to His Mother and beloved disciple, John. “Woman, behold your son.” Jesus gives His mother to John and the entire world. “Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.'” Jesus wants us to go to Him through Mary, just as He came to us through Mary.
Her Special Feast Days
One way to improve your relationship with Mary and honor her as one of your teachers—she’s always pointing to Jesus—is to choose a few of these special days and on them, ask her to lead you closer to her Son. She wants nothing more than this.
Jan. 1: Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (holy day)
Jan. 8: Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Feb. 2: Presentation of the Lord in the Temple
Feb. 11: Our Lady of Lourdes
March 25: Annunciation
May 13: Our Lady of Fatima
May 31: Visitation
June 27: Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Aug. 15: Assumption
Aug. 22: Queenship of Mary
Sept. 8: Birth of Mary
Sept. 12: Most Holy Name of Mary
Sept. 15: Our Lady of Sorrows
Oct. 7: Our Lady of the Rosary
Nov. 21: Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Dec. 8: Immaculate Conception (holy day)
Dec. 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Some of Mary’s Titles
Mary, the Mother of God, is known by many titles (Blessed Mother, Madonna, Our Lady), nicknames (Star of the Sea, Cause of Our Joy), invocations, (Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope, Mother of Good Counsel), and names associated with places (Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima).
Mary is the Mother of Christ, and Christ is head of the Church, so Mary is the Mother of the Church.
We also see Mary as the model of the Church, for she agreed to God’s will to give birth to Jesus despite the possibility of being stoned to death for conceiving a child outside of marriage. She supported and displayed her faith in her Son throughout his ministry.
Some of her titles include:
Ark of the New Covenant. (The original Ark of the Covenant contained the man
na of the Holy Eucharist, Moses’ tablets of God’s Laws, and Aaron’s staff. Jesus called himself the New Covenant at the Last Supper, forgiving all sins and restoring the path to eternal life with his Father in heaven. Mary, who carried Jesus within her, therefore bears this title as the new ark.)
Tower of Ivory
Refuge of Sinners
Comforter of the Afflicted
My mother-in-law had a special devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. She kept an image of her on the fireplace mantel and lit a votive candle before her image whenever she prayed for a special request or when my husband and I were travelling. Whenever she got mad at Mary, she’d blow the candle out.
Click this five-minute video on the Litany of Blessed Mary for more titles.
Prayers to Mary, the Mother of God
Besides the Hail Mary, my favorite prayers involving Mary are songs.
Mary, Mother of Jesus,
help me be humble, patient, pure of heart
to the will of God.
I love that Mayr’s last recorded words in the Bible are “Do whatever He tells you.” May we always follow her counsel and instructions.
Read another post on obedience and how God’s reaching out to you in everyday moments. Click here.