Thursday, 8 September 2011

Gift suggestions for the the BVM's birthday.

Icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos
The Church has celebrated the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary since at least the sixth century, if not earlier; this may seem strange to you and if you are protestantesque in your outlook it might even seem sacrilegious! There are some protestants who will after some discussion reluctantly admit that it may be acceptable to ask for the intercession of the saints, but to honour, venerate and celebrate them... nuh uh! Well why are such celebrations integral to the Catholic faith? Are such celebrations not a distraction from our saviour?

It's impossible to define exactly how many Marian feast days the church celebrates. There are three solemnities (really important ones);  The Immaculate Conception (December 8), Mary Mother of God (January 1) and The Assumption (August 15). Then there are a whole host of lesser feast days such as today, and an immeasurable amount of memorials which often are only celebrated in certain regions or by certain groups (often when the BVM has appeared or worked a miracle in a certain area). So why all of this emphasis on celebrating the Virgin?

Firstly we should ask, what has Mary's role been in salvation history? I have been told many times by protestants that 'Mary didn't die for me'. It's True (at this point I usually don't mention the Catholic dogma that at the end of her earthly life she was assumed body and soul into Heaven).  But having admitted that she is not our saviour, we must also be honest that she has like many people (the Apostles, Moses, the Prophets, Adam and Eve...) played a role in salvation history, and not only that - but the most important one! In the second century the Bishop of Lyon, St Irenaeus said 
' ...Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race'. 
Amongst the singular graces
granted by God to the
Blessed Virgin was her
bodily assumption into Heaven
We know that this does not mean that Our Lady herself won for us our salvation, therefore in order to understand this we must briefly look at to the book of Genesis where we see that it was through the Eve's disobedience that original sin entered the world. Therefore we see that what was lost through Eve's disobedience (Gen 3: 6) was won by Mary's obedience(Luke 1: 38); namely that a saviour, Jesus Christ, was brought into the world (Hence, she is referred to as the new Eve). Mary because of her obedience was the first human to experience Communion with Jesus during her pregnancy and she was the first person to kiss and adore the God-Man. Not just accepting the invitation of Christ to carry her own cross(Luke 9: 23), she also supported him whilst he carried his, our sins, and stood with him at the foot of the cross whilst the other disciples ran away. We are all called to be co-redeemers with Christ (Col 1: 24, Luke 9:23), and we can see in Mary that she has taken this role upon herself fully, and this is why she is styled as the co-redeemer par excellence. It is no wonder then that God has decided to bestow upon her many great gifts and graces not only on Earth (Luke 1: 46, Luke 1: 42) but also in Heaven (Rev 12: 1). It is not simply acceptable to imitate God in venerating the Virgin, but it is also our duty (Luke 1: 48).

Okay, so it is our duty to imitate Christ by honouring her and to love her as he does, but does it not lead us away from him? didn't St Paul tell us there is 'but one mediator between God and mankind' (1 Tim 2: 5)? Again this is true, so we must consider; if our veneration of Mary pleases Christ, surely it should also lead us closer to Christ himself? The answer to this question lies on the Cross. When the Virgin took the baby Jesus to the temple for purification, you might recall how the holy man Simeon foretold of the death of Jesus when he told the her that 'a sword will pierce your own heart also' (Luke 2: 35). Our Lord, whilst he hung there for our sins was indeed cruelly pieced with a lance in his heart, but I ask you to recount the time when Our Lady was pierced? Well, you will have some difficulty because it was not so. We have seen already how she united herself to her son during Calvary, but to what extent? The only answer can be completely and without reservation, she was and is the co-redemptix par excellence, not a little bit, not I don't eat meat on Friday's - but par excellence. Furthermore, from her 'be it done unto me according to your word' we know that it is her very nature to give totally, completely and freely - without reservation. That very sword which so cruelly pierced the side of our saviour also dealt a grievous blow to her own, and as our protestant friends say - 'That's Bible truth'! The hearts of Jesus and Mary are therefore inextricably linked by such extravagant love that the union between is real and substantial and a prototype of our promised destiny in Heaven. How then can anyone say that when they offer praise to Jesus that they do not actually honour his mother also? and how can anyone say that when they venerate the Virgin that she does not lead us most quickly and surely to the heart of her son, as she did to such magnificent effect in Cana - 'Do whatever he tells you'(John 2: 5)?

So it is our duty and a joy to venerate her, the New Eve, the co-redeemer par excellence, and today is an opportunity to do so by giving her a gift of thanks for her role in salvation history on this day that we remember her birth. Stuck for a gift?

  1. Light a candle or buy some flowers - next time you go to church light a candle or take some flowers to the Lady Chapel and give a real physical gift.
  2. Pray the rosary - Our Lady gave the Rosary to St Dominic and attached to it many promises not only for those who recite it, but also for the whole world. In many of the apparitions which have taken place since, Our Lady has stressed the importance of this prayer, and even instructed us to 'pray the rosary every day' in Fatima. Give it a go today. Click here for more info.
  3. Put an image or statue of the Blessed Virgin up in your home - In you bedroom, living room, garden, office... it doesn't matter where, but you can honour Our Lady by this simple action, but remember it should always be united to prayer.
  4. Wear a miraculous medal - Our lady asked St Catherine Labour to cast this medal as a sign of her role as the Mediatrix of many graces and promised many graces too to those who devoutly wear one. Many miracles have been attributed to wearing the miraculous medal, however it should be remembered that the medal is neither magical or superstitious, but a sign of the devotion of the wearer.
  5. Wear a brown scapular - Like the miraculous medal, the Brown Scapular was another gift of Our Lady, this time to St Simon Stock (an English man) in the thirteenth century. This time however the wearer is granted a pledge of salvation, you can find out more about this and the miraculous medal here
  6. Say a prayer of consecration - this is a big subject explained very well here.
  7. Read The Glories of Mary by St Alphonsus Liguori - apparently this is a fantastic work, I say apparently as I havn't read it myself. I guess this can be one of  my presents!  an Amazon link


  1. Mr Gough, did you write this... or paste it from somewhere else?


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