Mary’s birth is not recorded in the Bible. What we celebrate on September 8th each year is not Mary’s birthday in the traditional sense, but we honor the blessing of her being born. The word nativity refers to the circumstance or occasion of one being born. We honor the Nativity of Jesus, celebrated on December 25th, the date nine months after the celebration of the visit of the angel, Gabriel at the Annunciation. In a similar way, we remember Mary´s nativity, coming exactly nine months following the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the December 8th Solemnity when we commemorate Mary’s gift of prevenient grace allowing her to be born without Original Sin.
We kayaked across Yellowstone’s Lewis Lake, up the Lewis River and halfway across Shoshone Lake to the campsite. Stepping out, stepping back, a different perspective unfolded as we celebrated the Eucharist on the shore. This gaze opened into infinity, finding and awakening vision: the faculty to be able to see and to understand, where sometimes only nature can reawaken this sense. At the same time, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, in a similar and complementary way awakens our vision, yet with even greater clarity and depth.
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It’s great to visit the Father Peyton Center in North Easton, Massachusetts for a few days! As I was born and raised around here and I have served in Family Rosary for so many years, this area will always be “home” for me. Some will remember that our Provincial Superior asked me to go to Santiago, Chile, so I moved at Christmas. As I have also served in that part of the world before, I was happy to say “yes,” and I have been getting settled in there well.
I am blessed to have served as a priest for 17 years in our Holy Cross ministries in Peru. I love Christmas in Peru. As night falls on Christmas Eve, a quiet settles, along with a sense of waiting. Christmas Eve Mass is celebrated around 10 p.m. The Churches are packed for beautiful celebrations as the feast begins, and people return to their homes, yet there is still a sense of waiting—until midnight!
The great majority of people in North and South America have seen the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, including non-Catholics — thanks, particularly, to the migrations of Mexicans. Hilary Clinton expressed her appreciation of the beauty of the image when, as Secretary of State, visiting Mexico City, she was brought to the Basilica of Guadalupe and she went on to ask in all sincerity, “Who painted it!" I hope Hilary’s heart was touched to hear the story of how the image miraculously appeared and remains. I hope our hearts are touched today too as we contemplate both the intimacy and the power of what happened.
It is not by accident that two major Marian feasts fall in the middle of Advent—the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12. They draw us more deeply into the warmth, the mystery, and the power of the season. Reminiscent of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, Mary came to Guadalupe seeking a home where she could stay among us with her Son whom she carried in her womb. She invited families who did not yet know Christ to become part of His Holy Family, and, in doing so, healing the wounds of division.