3 Reasons Catholics Celebrate the Birthday of Mary

According to 20th century Scottish author William Barclay, “There are two great days in a person’s life—the day we are born and the day we discover why.” Everyone had a birthday.  Birthdays are universal. Celebrations of life. Reminders of impending death. Or a view somewhere in between. Why do you celebrate your birthday?

Happy Birthday

Each new year of our life allows us to learn from our past shortcomings and hope future successes. Celebrating our birthday helps us to live in the present moment. On September 8th, the Catholic Church observes the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The topic of the Mother of God is a point of contention for Protestants. There are a lot of misconceptions that Catholics worship Mary. I even had a conversation with a co-worker last week who asked me, “Why is it that some Catholics worship Mary?” My reply was concise and the same as the official stance of the Catholic Church, “Catholics don’t worship Mary. She is not God. We never, ever worship her. Instead, we honor her.”

Honor Mary not Worship her

Some of you might still be skeptical. You might be thinking, “Well, if you don’t worship Mary why does the Church has a specific feast to celebrate her birthday [along with the countless other feasts!] It all seems too much.” That certainly is a valid concern. I can understand how non-Catholics perceive Catholics’ devotion to Mary as being excessive or over the top. This article will discuss three reasons why Catholic do celebrate the birthday of Mary— and how authentic honor should always end in the worship of Jesus Christ!

An Anchor to the Incarnation

Birthdays celebrate a real and historical event. Your parents received a birth certificate a few weeks after you were born. In the modern era, people use their date of birth on loan applications, online activity, account openings, as passwords, and other situations where you have to prove your identity.

Jesus Fully God and Fully Man

When the Catholic Church celebrates the birthday of Mary, her existence as a real figure, in history, is recognized. Why it is important that Mary was actually born,  a real person like you or I? Her existence is absolutely necessary for the doctrine of the Incarnation—the teachings that Jesus is fully God AND fully human. During the Nicene Creed, the priest and the laity bow at the following line: “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.” 

Before I studied theology it always seemed peculiar that we would bow during those words. For my master’s course on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I had to write a paper discussing the internal consistency and unity of the doctrines. The doctrine I choose to study was the Incarnation. I discovered that Mariology [the theological study of Mary] was closely related to the Incarnation.

The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. formally rejected the heresy of Nestorianism— a belief that rejected Mary was the Mother of God and thus also rejecting the humanity of Jesus. Mary as the Mother of God secures the reality that Jesus was fully human along with being fully God.

Obeying the 4th Commandment

Another reason Catholics celebrate the birthday of Mary is out of honor. According to the Second Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, ” [Mary] she is our mother in the order of grace” (no. 61). This truth is in keeping with Scripture when Jesus gives her mother to the Apostle John (see John 19:26-27) and Sacred Tradition.

The vast number of Marian feast days throughout the year point to her holiness and complete obedience to God. Just like our earthly mother, we should honor our spiritual mother as well!

True Devotion of the Mother Ends with Worship of the Son

Early Christmas

Each year it seems like retail stores put out Christmas displays and products earlier and earlier. Already I have heard people at work lament that the radio is not yet playing Christmas music. The birth of Christ is definitely something to get excited about. Catholics celebrate the birthday of Mary as a type of early preparation for Christmas!

The Catholic Church is quite clear that Jesus is the sole Mediator. According to St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human,d who gave himself as ransom for all.” We only honor Mary as a means to get closer to Her Son. St. Louis de Montfort said it best, “We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son” (True Devotion to Mary ).

Nativity of Mary

While we are members of the Body of Christ, Mary is the “neck of the Body of Christ” connecting us to the Head—Jesus. Celebrate the birth of Mary because it was through her decision to fully obey God that the Savior of the World was born. Happy Birthday Mary and happy early birthday Jesus!

Related Sources

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p6.htm

http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19740202_marialis-cultus.html

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/05/13/reconciling-mary-as-mediator-with-1-timothy-25/

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Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi

What are the qualities of a good doctor? Is it talent alone? Medical training? Ability to communicate? Or a combination of these skills plus others?

Medicine is a broad field and so is the term doctor. I always have been interested in the process of healing, treating, and combating infirmities. I even contemplated getting thought about pursuing a science degree in college! Lately, my wife and I have been re-watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning of the series. While I don’t condone the morality of many of the characters, I do admire their strong desire to best care for their patients.

spiritual surgeons

Humanity Needs Healing

Humanity is a broken race in need of healing. People suffer from physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses. Outwardly and historically, physical ailments have been most obvious and most attention focused to resolve. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I am pleased with the efforts made in the 21st century to spread more awareness of mental illnesses. What has definitely fallen by the wayside is spiritual health.

Side effects from failings to treat spiritual health include the following: selfishness, greed, envy, laziness, lust, despair, and self-doubt to just name a few. We need spiritual healing just as much, actually more so than other kinds of healing. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 386,

Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

The false philosophy of materialism rejects the idea that humanity is in need of spiritual healing. This is a dangerous and slippery slope to follow. While Jesus is the Ultimate Divine Physician, God sometimes raises up particular saints whose writings provide prescriptions to remedy sin. These individuals are known as the Doctors of the Church. This third installment of Spiritual Surgeons will focus on probably one of the least known Doctors—St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi

The Capuchin Franciscan’s ability to promote peace amidst strife, Scriptural shrewdness, and voluminous insight on the Virgin Mary rightly place him among the greatest spiritual specialists.

Deft Diplomat

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his March 23rd, 2011 General Audience, “Thanks to his mastery of so many languages, Lawrence was able to carry out a busy apostolate among the different categories of people.” Living during the 16th century, the Franciscan priest was a key figure in refuting the heresies of the Reformation. Benedict XVI described the diplomacy of Lawrence as effective against the Protestants arguments. “With his calm, clear exposition he demonstrated the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of faith disputed by Martin Luther.

Catholic Diplomacy

Along with the German pope’s accolades, St. Lawrence maintained the peace promoted by his predecessor and spiritual father—St. Francis of Assisi. In his First Sermon for the Feast of St. Francis St. Lawrence declared, “‘God is wonderful in his saints’ for if the works of nature are marvelous much more marvelous are the works of grace.” At select points in history God raises up saints to combat the errors of the time. Just as St. Francis was raised to fight the corruption of the 12th century, St. Lawrence fought charitably against the errors of the Protestant reformation.

Bible Brilliance

Another gift the Holy Spirit granted St. Lawrence was an ability to interpret Scripture both skillful and faithfully.

studying the bible

The Apostolic Doctor’s Three Sermons for the Feast of St Francis displays his penchant for reading and applying the Bible. He  makes frequent references to Old Testament figures such as Jonathan, Jacob, Daniel, Mordecai, and Moses to describe how God clothes a “lesser” figure with grace. Lawrence wrote in his First Sermon, “As the servant is sometimes dressed in nobler clothes than the Lord, so it will be permissible for me to say that Francis is the more wonderful Crucified than Christ, as God has so arranged for His greater glory.” Wow! His high praise of Francis definitely resonates with the biblical tradition that God selects the imperfect to testify to Divine Love and Truth.

Master of Mariology

Before researching this post, I honestly knew very little about St. Lawrence of Brindisi. As impressive as his diplomacy and academic knowledge are what impressed me most about the Apostolic Doctor is his mastery on the subject of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Capuchin saint as “a highly qualified Mariologist” (March 23rd, 2011 General Audience). According to Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M. Cap, S.T.D. in St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Apostolic Doctor, “Specialists in Mariology declare that the sixty-two sermons of Lawrence’s Mariaele form a complete summa of this matter, prominent in Marian literature not only at his time, but ever since!” (emphasis mine).

Mary Clothed with the Sun

A reflection on the Annunciation demonstrates Lawrence’s masterful understanding of the significance of Mary. Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you.’ This is a new form of greeting, never heard by another, never encountered before,” Lawrence writes. What makes the Capuchin priest exemplary in his study of Mary is the combination of simplicity and unwavering truth.  In his First Sermon in the Mariale, Lawrence reflecting on Revelation 12 tells us,

Moreover, for this has She been clothed with the Sun, that we might know, that just as the Sun, one though it be, nevertheless illumines each and every man and warms with its heat as if it had been founded by God for each individual man, for there is not one who can hide himself from its heat;94in the same manner the Virgin Theotokos is the Mother of each and everyone, thus common to all as the very own Mother of each.

 Here in this sermon Lawrence seamlessly discusses all four major doctrines pertaining to Mary: Her Virginity, Motherhood, Assumption, and Excellent Virtue (Immaculate Conception). Never have I read such a clear, consistent, and intriguing homily on Mary.

Although St. Lawrence of Brindisi is not a household name like an Augustine or Therese of Liseux, his sundry of vocations throughout his life as a diplomat, teacher, preacher, and scholar are second to none!

 Collect Prayer from Feast Day for St. Lawrence of Brindisi

O God, who for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls bestowed on the Priest Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a spirit of counsel and fortitude, grant, we pray, that in the same spirit, we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Related Resources

http://www.franciscan-archive.org/laurentius/lau01005.html

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110323.html

https://napcc.net/images/uploads/documents/Threesermons.pdf

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 13— Queenship of Mary

According to Martin Luther, “The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.”  Wait! Stop the presses! Is this the same Martin Luther that incited the Protestant Reformation with his 95 theses? Yes. Martin Luther recognized the significance of Mary. In a sermon on September 1st, 1522, he made that claim (http://catholicbridge.com/catholic/martin-luther-on-mary.php).

wow gif

Catholics honor Mary

 

Veneration refers to honor. Catholics honor Mary because she is the Mother of God. In this 13th installment of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D., we will examine another important Marian theme— her as Queen of Heaven. Old Testament queens prefigured the intercessory role of Mary. We will also look at New Testament evidence supporting Mary as Queen. Lastly, evidence from Sacred Tradition will be outlined to demonstrate the significance of Mary’s title as Queen of Heaven.

Old Testament—Queen Figures

In ancient times, queens acted as a mediator between the king and the people.  Understanding the role of the queen in the time of the Old Testament requires use to examine the culture during that time. We cannot determine the queen’s authority based on current governmental structures. According to George F. Kirwin in his work Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother,

 I believe that Mary is best understood as the “Gebirah,” the Queen-Mother
who as mother and queen is intimately associated with Jesus in the establishment
and maintenance of God’s kingdom among the men and women of this world.
It is the formality of motherhood which best describes her relationship with
her Son, the King, and with his subjects, members of God’s redeemed people
who form the Church of New Testament times (p. 9). 

Bathsheba

The most famous queen-mother in the Old Testament is Bathsheba—mother of Solomon. Her role as advocate for the people is evident in 1 Kings 2:19-20: “Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. 20She said, ‘There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.’ The king said to her, ‘Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.'” Kirwin points out that although the queen-mother did not exist at the beginning of the Israelite monarchy that Bathsheba certainly was the  first in this role (Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother, p. 30). 

Along with Bathsheba’s intercessory role in the Old Testament, she even is implicitly mentioned within the genealogy of Jesus. According to Father Johann Roten, S.M., “In Matthew’s genealogy, without mentioning her name, (1:6) Bathsheba is described as the “wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba is essential to the genealogy in Matthew” (Old Testament Types of Mary). Such a reference hints at the importance of the queen-mother (Mary) as an advocate— later in the Gospels and throughout Church history!

Queen Esther

Esther

Another example of a queenly figure is Queen Esther. Just like Bathsheba, Esther intervenes on behalf of her people. “Esther is the heroine and is the paradigm for a fully liberated woman who places all her confidence in God. Through prayer and fasting she is able to challenge the evil perpetrated by the Persians and to intercede for her people Israel before King Ahasuirus,” writes Fr. Roten (Old Testament Types of Mary). Esther’s trust in God mirrors Mary’s faith in the Holy Spirit (cf Luke 1:38). 

New Testament Hintings

While clear examples from the Old Testament point to the authority of  the queen within Israelite government, the New Testament does specifically call out Mary as queen. As Monsignor Ferdinand Vandry put, “Although the Scriptures afford our faith no clear testimony of Mary’s queenship, nor of its universal nature, that dignity of the Mother of God is nevertheless acknowledged unanimously by Christian tradition (The Nature of Mary’s Universal Queenship). John’s Gospel presents Jesus as a king. Not specifically mentioned Mary as queen we can deduce her role as queen-mother because she is mother of Jesus. 

Kirwin discusses the need to view Scripture as a whole in order to truly see Mary’s queenly role. He purports in Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother, 

Peinador believes that if there is any hint of Mary’s queenly prerogatives
in the text of the Apocalypse, this will depend upon the relationship one can
establish between it and the Proto-gospel. In order to show how the Protogospel supports the doctrine of Mary’s queenship it is necessary to insist upon
the victory over sin and death and as a result the establishment of a kingdom
on the part of Christ and Mary. He has no doubts about the Marian sense of
Genesis 3:15. There Mary is depicted as the partner of the divine Redeemer in
the battle and victory over their common enemy and consequently we find in
this text the foundation for her queenship (p. 36).

Thus, isolating Mary’s intercessory role from the Old Testament foreshadowings and lens of Sacred Tradition limits our ability to view her as queen-mother. Next, we will examine how the Church viewed Mary as queen.

Mary Queen of Heaven

Church Tradition

From the beginning of the Church, Christians always viewed Mary as the Mother of God. During the 4th century, a rampant heresy called Nestorianism rejected that claim.  To clear up any confusion, the Council of Ephesus in 431 formally declared Mary as the Mother of God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 495, referencing the fourth ecumenical council,

Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord’.144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).

St. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary) logically flows from the Council of    Ephesus’ charge as Mary as Theotokos (the God-bearer). Pius XII declared, “In this matter We do not wish to propose a new truth to be believed by Christians, since the title and the arguments on which Mary’s queenly dignity is based have already been clearly set forth, and are to be found in ancient documents of the Church and in the books of the sacred liturgy (no. 6). Lumen Gentium points out Mary’s role as queen as well, “exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death (no. 59). 

Conclusion

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 22nd, 2012 Audience, “Mary is Queen because she is uniquely conformed to her Son, both on the earthly journey and in heavenly glory. Ephrem the Syrian, Syria’s great saint, said of Mary’s queenship that it derives from her motherhood: she is Mother of the Lord, of the King of kings (cf. Is 9:1-6) and she points Jesus out to us as our life, our salvation and our hope.”

Mary leads to Jesus

Old Testament queens Bathsheba and Esther prefigured the intercessory authority of Mary as queen-mother. The proto-evangelium of Genesis 3:15 foreshadowed the battle between the Woman (Mary) and Satan. As partner to the King of the Universe (Jesus), Mary rightly is called Queen of the Universe (Redemptoris Mater, no. 41). Catholics honor Mary because she brings us closer to her Son! Benedict XVI wrote, “The title “Queen” is thus a title of trust, joy and love. And we know that the One who holds a part of the world’s destinies in her hand is good, that she loves us and helps us in our difficulties.” Let us thank God for the gift of our Queen, Mary Mother of God!

Sources:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_11101954_ad-caeli-reginam.html

https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/o/old-testament-types-of-mary.php#anchor14

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater.html

https://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1143&context=ml_studies

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/queenship-has-its-privileges

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