Happy Birthday, Mom!
That salutation is repeated often this time of year. Just as we have Mother's Day in May, we like to refer to this as the end of "Mother's Week." The last day of August and the first week of September are filled with the birthdays of three mothers in our family. August 31st, the day devoted to Our Lady of Light is the birthday of Cyndi's departed mom Dolores which of course means "sorrowful." It was Dolores who dedicated Cyndi to the Blessed Mother at birth and dressed her only in blue and white for the first seven years of her life in honor of Our Lady. As for Cyndi, my bride and the mother of our two teen-age sons celebrated her 1/20th of a millennium or 1/40th of two millenniums birthday on the feast of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. Quite possibly because of that dedication and Cyndi's deep love for Our Lady and her own fiat, Our Lord chose her as an instrument to convey some of her messages to His children from His Blessed Mother through the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart. No one ever really knows why someone is called to do this or that, only that if we say "yes" God will do the rest. And that is exactly what a young virgin did just over two millenniums ago when the angel Gabriel appeared to her on what is the Annunciation. But Mary had been prepared well by her mother Saint Anne who gave birth to her "bundle of joy" roughly 2013 years ago today. Yes, today we celebrate the birthday of the greatest mother of all time. First of all, our gratitude goes to our Heavenly Father and then Saint Joachim and dear Saint Anne for without their cooperation and fulfillment of God's Holy Will, we wouldn't have their grandson Jesus and we wouldn't have His Holy Mother Mary - God's daughter who was all any daughter could ever be. She was and is everything a mother could ever be for her Divine Son and for all God's children. And today we honor the birthday of the Blessed Mother of God, a joyous celebratory day that is a bright, shining light in an otherwise laborious, boring day as everybody's back at work after the long Labor Day weekend which also signals school is in full swing for students everywhere. Students of Mariology realize this is a very special feast that surpasses the millennium for Blessed Mary was born in that time referred to as B.C. which means "Before Christ" - the Son she would carry in her womb for nine months. Many Church historians and theologians place Mary at about the age of 15 when she was guided by her chaste spouse Joseph to a cold hovel of a stable or cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem on a brisk December evening when the stars were shining bright. That means Mary's second millennium anniversary would most likely have been around 1983 and it's doubtful few gave it much thought in 1983 - both Mary's 2000 year milestone or the next millennium.
The idiom "you're not getting older, only better" - surely applies to the Blessed Virgin who is busier than ever as we near the third millennium, the millennium foretold in Sacred Scripture as that time of peace and Our Lady is preparing us for a great celebration of countless of her children returning to her Divine Son and His Church. What a celebration it will be! But we must be prepared for the "party." You can't throw a party if you're not prepared, if you don't have the facilities or "goodies" so to speak, or the participants. In this case the facilities are the parishes and the "goodies" are the knowledge of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith both catechetically, scripturally, and doctrine-wise. The participants are Catholics who are well-versed in their faith to evangelize and minister to others - the millions of others who, like the prodigal son, will return to the fold. There will be great rejoicing, but there is plenty of hard work to pull it off and God depends on us to be His legs, His arms, His mouth, and His ears to help make it the great success expected. One other thing He depends on us to have - His heart, which means giving ourselves heart and soul to fulfilling His Will. No wonder Our Lady constantly harps on praying with and from the heart! She has been doing this since her first apparition to Saint James in Saragoza, Spain quite possibly when she was in her "fifties" or "sixties." Since that time she has been appearing all over the earth. For a young girl born near Bethsaida, she has been quite the world traveler! There is likely no country in the world she has not visited over the past two millenniums and her message is always the same: Pray from the heart and come home to her Divine Son. And yet, for nearly 2000 years we still haven't gotten it right. Either we argue amongst ourselves preferring our own wills over what she asks - to adhere to the Divine Will, or we argue over Mary's role - Protestant vs. Catholics - and the sad, sad fact is that over these 20 centuries more people have died over the "cause" of religion than any other cause. That's not what God wants, that's not what the Blessed Mother wants, and, in truth, that's not what mankind wants. Yet all faiths have gone into battle from the early Romans to the Crusaders to the Papal State armies to the wars during the Protestant Reformation to the French Revolution to Northern Ireland to Palestine today. Mary is not the "Queen of warriors" but rather the "Queen of Peace" and that peace cannot be achieved without prayer from the heart, without totally submitting our will to God's will.
Today there are wars throughout the world as we stand on the brink of an even greater world prophesied in Scripture and by Our Lady to so many visionaries over the years. There is no continent where there is peace save for Antartica. Africa is in a shambles as Moslems and Christians are engaged in bitter fighting from Sudan to the Congo to South Africa; Asia is reeling from persecution in China and Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India not to mention Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia; Australia is embroiled in fierce name-calling between factions as the gay-rights and abortion advocates infiltrate the culture down-under as the bishops fight to preserve the truth; Europe is crumbling in moral decay. The Holy Father has warned so many countries of this - from the guerrilla tactics in Northern Ireland between militant Protestants and Catholics, to the disregard for the culture of life in Scandinavian countries and Germany to the disregard for the faith and concession to modernism in France and Italy. In fact, possibly the only country still strong is Portugal which Our Lady also foretold at Fatima. In the "new world" things aren't much better, in fact possibly worse. In South and Latin America there is so much fighting in practically every country that no one knows if there will be a coup the next minute. Governments that have come to power this way are fighting with the Catholic bishops over abuses and practices as Catholics weigh the delicate balance between caring for our fellow man and liberal theology as thousands die from senseless massacre and even more from starvation. In North America Mexico is in dire straits and Canada is treading the economic waters as the Canadian dollar loses its value in a very unstable market while the bishops of Canada reveal an even more liberal bent than their neighbors to the south. Ah, yes, the United States - the country dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, the land more blessed with material possessions than any other in the history of mankind. What about America? While there are no formal military wars within our boundaries the war for life has been going on for thirty years on the front lines of the abortuaries; faiths have fueded longer; and the most revered position in the country - that of President, has been made into a mockery because of Bill Clinton's total denial of God's will in favor of his own selfish wants. The Baptists, of which he supposedly belongs, have called for his resignation or impeachment. We're still waiting to hear from the bishops of the United States in making a united stand against the immoral regime of the nineties. Because the prelates are experts at politics it may not be soon forthcoming. As we have mentioned so many times on these pages, the moral fiber of America is spreading so thin that will unravel soon unless we return to her Divine Son and heed all Our Lady asks. But there must be unity for this to happen and even as we prepare to welcome the countless souls back into the Church, there is still too much in-fighting amongst ourselves; not only between the conservative and liberal elements of the Church but within the Marian movement itself. How can we heed the messages if we are not willing to listen to them? Too many hold the messengers up for scrutiny without truly hearing what Mary is saying. We judge too quickly and pay more attention to the messenger than the message. The majority of messages this century have been the same and yet so few truly hear and even fewer heed what Our Lady asks. And so there is misery throughout the globe. No wonder the Blessed Virgin weeps so. With all the efforts she has put out one would hope for better results. But Mary is not dismayed and, like the loyal daughter of the Father, devoted mother of the Son, and faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit, she perseveres.
Liturgically her birthday is the beginning of a week that includes the feast of The Holy Cross, formerly the Triumph of the Cross, and then the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. We begin joyously and lead up to two feasts that connotate much sacrifice and suffering, but without which we would not have the graces we have been afforded by God today. Without the Cross and Mary's fiat think where we would be! It's not a nice thought and it's not a nice thought to think of the countless souls who could lose out if we do not intensify our prayers and evangelization efforts immediately. We must be ready for the onslaught. One way is through the special Novena for Life sponsored by Father James Moroney, Executive Director, National Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for the Liturgy. It began officially last night on the eve of Our Lady's birthday and will continue through to the Feast of the Sorrowful Mother. Each day will be included in our PRAYERS & DEVOTION section with suggested scriptural readings. This is an excellent way to begin our readiness exercises. That readiness, that willingness to be part of God's "volunteer faculty" is the best present we can give our Blessed Mother today on her birthday...that, and a good ol' fashioned "Happy Birthday, Mom!"