September: a month of Marian devotions
As a young child baptized Mary Cathleen, I had a certain curiosity about the Virgin Mary and why my mother had chosen to give me both those names. After all, most of the time she and the rest of the members of the family simply called me Cathy.
I learned the source of my name when I was preparing for my first communion and was assigned to find out why I had been given the baptismal name I had. My mother had a very straight forward explanation. As a strong woman of faith, she told me that when she was pregnant, she had entrusted me to the care of the Blessed Mother because she had conceived me after a miscarriage. She named me for Mary because she wanted to assure that I would safely come into the world. She also had a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary which she passed on to me as a toddler.
Each year therefore, I have found myself celebrating the month of September as a second season of Marian feasts that complements those in the month of May. Likewise, as a Sister of Providence, I also have come to appreciate that many of these feasts have special meaning as part of our calendar of community celebrations as well.
So, I invite you to take a few moments to pause and reflect on the devotions to Mary to come in the days ahead. This is not an exhaustive list, but one that points to some of the most important.
My research indicates that Marian feasts are found in the Liturgical cycles of not only the Roman Catholic Church, but also the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches as well in the traditions of Anglicanism and Lutheranism. The earliest feasts seem to have grown out of those that linked Mary to how she was part of events in the life of Jesus, although the exact origins of many of the specific feasts are only vaguely known.
So here are a few dates to mark on your calendar and a special way for remembering Mary on that day as part of your Providence journey:
September 8: The Birthday of Mary
Sources say that celebration of this feast dates back to the fifth century. The opening prayer for the feast asks that “the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her son was the dawning of salvation.” In this time of our own history, may it bring us peace amid the chaos of the headlines we read and hear daily.
September 12: The Holy Name of Mary
For many Sisters of Providence in recent years, this date was entrance day. On it they arrived to begin their postulancy, or first year of formation as a sister. Each one signed the register and then went to prayers at 5 p.m., thus beginning years of formation. I always take time on this day to remember Sisters of Providence who have Mary in their names and others like me who were baptized as Mary or Miriam or other forms of this holy name. I also pray for women currently discerning vocations to religious life.
September 15: Our Lady of Sorrows
The Liturgy for this feast invites us to remember the steadfastness with which Mary participated in the suffering and death of Jesus. As I approach this feast each year, I think of the countless mothers in various regions of our world today who steadfastly suffer with their children. I pray for Sister Tracey Horan, SP, who witnesses to the mission of Providence as she ministers to migrant families at the Southern border. And I pray, too, for other Sisters of Providence who minister to prisoners on death row. Actually, I pray for all those who need strength and courage as they confront challenges in their lives.
That’s probably enough calendar marking for one day. In the days to come, we will turn the page and see how Christians honor Mary in October as well.