Every year our Parish hosts a celebration for the Birthday of the Virgin Mother on September 8th. It is a huge deal. Our Parish has a Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima and a Rosary walk. Technically the Shrine belongs to the Diocese but it is in our care. It is because of the Shrine that we are the host for the festivities.
The celebration lasts all day. There are displays in the Church basement that depict the Virgin Mother as she has appeared during various apparitions. There is information on Fatima of course as we have the Shrine. Our Lady of Guadalupe is also often represented. This year Our Lady of Walsingham was featured. This very old approved Marian shrine in England was new to many of the day’s visitors.
Throughout the day there is a continuous Rosary, all twenty Decades with the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminance Mysteries. In the basement a table was setup to teach people how to make their own Rosary and many finished Rosaries were given away free, a special delight to many of the young children who were brought by their parents. A display showing all of the Media outreach from Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) complete with program guides offered visitors a means to continue to educate themselves about the Catholic faith.
An interesting thing about the visitors is that all of them are NOT Catholic. I have attended the event for nearly 25 years now and can attest that we are visited by many of our Protestant brethren. I have even seen visitors who I know are of the Hindu and Moslem faith in the past. Our Lady has the ability to bring together diverse people leading them all to her son.
The Knights of Columbus also had a table on display in the basement. It was there because first off, the Knights are a Marian organization. Many councils start their evenings off with the recitation of the Rosary before they begin the business meeting. Second of course the Knights were hoping to recruit a Few Good Men! A popular feature at the Knights table were magnets and window clings that stated “Keep Christ in Christmas!” These items fund the purchase of a local billboard that proclaims the same every Advent/Christmas Season. They make great Stocking Stuffers !
The highlight of the day is the evening outdoor Mass. The opening procession is led by the Color Guard of the Knights of Columbus. Mary’s statue is carried in on an ark carried by four men. The Mass is celebrated by a visiting Priest, often many Priests, and Music is provided by a group of Cloistered nuns who leave their convent to join in the event. A candlelight procession after Mass during which the Rosary is said follows. The Rosary is broadcast through loud speakers so the prayers can be heard in at least part of the local neighborhood. Following the procession there is Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This closes and then a Social in the Church basement is held.
This event is made possible by a core team of volunteers who plan and toil for months before the day’s celebration. Every detail of the day is worked out from what displays to feature for the year to who will be the Principal Celebrant of the Mass. Volunteers to lead the all day Rosary are lined up, work crews to setup chairs, tables and displays are found. Volunteers to man the displays are arranged. Dozens of people work diligently so that hundreds can benefit from their efforts. They labor in the vineyard to mark the Celebration of the Birthday of the Mother of God, Our Mother and Our Queen! Their hope is that all who come will grow closer to Mary and in doing so grow closer to Her Son, Jesus Christ!
If there is a Marian Shrine near where you live, does it celebrate Mary’s birthday? If so have you made the effort to go or better yet get involved in the planning. You can be absolutely certain that Jesus will be smiling at anyone who works to give honor to His Mother!