“The greatness and dignity of this Blessed Virgin are such that God alone does, and can, comprehend it,” St. Bernardine once said. The Blessed Virgin of whom he speaks is Mary – the most excellent of God’s creatures – and today we celebrate her nativity. Not only is she the most excellent, but also she has the highest mission ever commended to any creature – to be the Mother of God!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. ‘Full of grace,’ Mary is ‘the most excellent fruit of redemption:’ from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life. (CCC, 508)

Mary occupies a unique place in the history of salvation. She was born to become the physical Mother of the Redeemer and the spiritual mother of all mankind. Although God could have chosen any means by which to redeem the world, he chose to have his Son become man through the body of a woman – Mary. Without Mary’s fiat, her free will consent to God’s request, his plan of salvation could not have been effected as he had foreseen. Mary is immaculate and full of grace and, through her, grace is given to men. Through her intercession and guidance, man becomes more like her Divine Son. Through her beauty and purity, all human nature is exalted.

“We should increasingly direct our hearts and glance toward heaven in order to take in the fullness of Mary’s radiance until we fall to our knees, until our awed lips lead and our everyday lives boldly and courageously respond in prayer, ‘Mary! O, you, our Mother!'” said Servant of God and Founder of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, Fr. Joseph Kentenich.

Mary’s is one of three birthdays the Church celebrates in the liturgical year. The other two are the Birth of Jesus (December 25) and the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and has been cause for celebrations of other kinds, too. In many parts of the world, September 8 is a day of thanksgiving and blessing of the summer harvest. In France, the winegrowers herald this day as “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest” and bring the best grapes to the local church to be blessed, attaching some bunches to the hands of the statue of Mary. New grapes also become part of the day’s festive meal. September 8 is “Drive-Down Day” in the Alps section of Austria, On this day, the cattle and sheep are led from their summer pastures in the slopes to their winter dwelling in the valleys as part of a large, festively decorated caravan. Also in parts of Austria, this day’s milk and all leftover food are given to the poor in honor of Mary’s birthday.

What a great idea! Of course, we want to give Mary our spiritual gifts today. And of course, she will be most grateful for them. But, don’t you think that giving to others in honor of her birthday would bring her even more joy? Every good mother loves to see her children love and do for each other. We are all Mary’s children, and I have no doubt that our loving and doing for each other in honor of her birthday would give her the utmost delight.

Let’s celebrate the Nativity of Mary by reaching out – way, way outside of ourselves – and giving, doing something very special for others in her honor.

Happy Birthday, Mother Mary!

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