The Passionists - Compassion

Mary in Christian Tradition

Other Feasts of Mary

The major feasts of Mary and feasts of our Lord in which she has a special place present the essential teaching of the Church about her.

Mary is also honored in other feasts, some ancient and others of more recent origin.The feasts of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Presentation in the Temple arose from stories and celebrations of the early Jerusalem church. Other feasts of Mary, like the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, celebrate more recent appearances and devotions.

One should remember that the Catholic Church's approval of apparitions, like Lourdes, or of private revelations, like devotion to the Miraculous Medal, is not an infallible confirmation of their historical truth. Rather it is an assertion by the Church, after investigation, that this special place or way of venerating Mary can bring spiritual nourishment to those who are drawn to it. These signs encourage people to prayer, penance and the celebration of sacraments.

"Even when a 'private revelation' has spread to the entire world, as in the case of Our Lady of Lourdes, and has been recognized in the liturgical calendar, the Church does not make mandatory the acceptance either of the original story or of particular forms of piety springing from it. " (Behold Your Mother, NCCB 100)

The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8)

Three important births are celebrated in the Roman calendar: the birth of Jesus, of Mary, and of John the Baptist. (June 24) Mary's birth has been celebrated from ancient times, though her birthplace or time of birth are not mentioned in scripture. As far back as the 5th century a church was built on the traditional site of her birth in Jerusalem on the site of the pool of Bethsaida, (John 5,1-9) near the Temple and a feast in honor of Mary's birth was celebrated. (see p ) By the 8th century the feast was celebrated in the Church of Rome.

The family record of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Matthew is the principal reading for this feast. (Matthew 1,1-23)The list of generations finds its completion in Mary. "It was of her that Jesus who is called the Messiah was born." Like a shining star, her birth prepares for the dawn of the Savior. She is the culmination of a long line of people who prepared for the Word to become flesh.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (November 21)

The present memorial of Mary's presentation in the Temple as a child originated in Jerusalem at the church built there in her honor. It celebrates Mary's dedication to God. (see p ) The feast became popular in the western church in religious communities, where members renewed their vows on this day, remembering the one who called herself "the maidservant of the Lord."

Dedication of St. Mary Major (August 5)

This optional memorial celebrates the dedication of the great church of St. Mary Major, built in Rome after the Council of Ephesus in 431 (illustrated above from a pilgrim map of 1571). A small chapel inside was built to resemble the grotto of Bethlehem; thus, the church has been called "Bethlehem in Rome". Still one of the main churches of the Eternal City, the church was built to honor Mary as the Mother of God and reflected the growing devotion to her among Christians everywhere. One of the great icons of Mary is revered in this ancient Roman Church. It has been carried through the city in solemn procession on occasions of plague and danger.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 16)

The feast, an optional celebration, was originally celebrated by the Carmelite order in Europe in the Middle Ages.(see p ) It was first listed in the Roman calendar in 1726

Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7)

Originally this feast was celebrated in thanksgiving for Mary's intercession, after the defeat on October 7,1571 of Turkish naval forces that threatened Europe. Today the feast is a special remembrance of the spiritual power of the Rosary. (see p)

Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15)

Christians of the Middle Ages and later centuries developed a lively devotion to Mary in her sorrows, which were foretold by the old man, Simeon, when she brought the Child Jesus into the Temple. (Luke 9.23) As the first disciple of her Son, she entered into his paschal mystery; her motherhood matured and took new form as she accepted her part of his cross.

In fact, Mary is a model for Christians who wish to follow the words of Jesus, "Take up your cross each day and follow me." We seek in her faith support for our own. Over the centuries her sorrows are remembered in various feasts and by devotions that influenced some of the great works of Christian art, such as the Pieta and the Stabat Mater.

In the western church, religious orders, especially the Order of Servites, promoted devotion to the Sorrowful Mother.

Traditionally, seven sorrows are ascribed to her:

  1. Mary hears the prophecy of sorrow from Simeon.
  2. Mary flees with the Child into Egypt.
  3. Mary experiences the loss of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem.
  4. Mary meets her Son on the road to Calvary.
  5. Mary stands beneath the cross of Jesus.
  6. Mary receives the body of Jesus taken down from the cross.
  7. Mary sees her Son's body placed in the tomb.

Today the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated the day after the feast of the Holy Cross.

Queenship of MaryThe Queenship of Mary (August 22)

In the Old Testament, royal titles are commonly given to God and those specially anointed by God. Titles of royalty were given to Jesus and Mary from earliest times by Christians as signs of the special power they possessed. In prayers and hymns like the Salve Regina and the Regina Coeli, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is called Queen. (At right: Fra Angelico's depiction of the crowning of Mary)

Instituted in 1955, this feast follows the feast of the Assumption, as it points to Mary's privileged place in heaven. Mary "was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things." (Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 59)

Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12)

Under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mary is honored as "the patroness of the Americas." The feast originated in the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Juan Diego, a humble Mexican worker, in 1521.

Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11)

Pope Pius X included the feast of our Lady of Lourdes in the Roman calendar in 1908, just 50 years after the report of Mary's apparitions at the grotto of Massabielle near Lourdes, in France. There Mary identified herself as the Immaculate Conception.

Immaculate Heart of Mary (Saturday after the Feast of the Sacred Heart)

Closely related to the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the optional memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was instituted in 1942. The feast honors Mary who treasured the mysteries of Jesus and "pondered them in her heart."

Other feasts and times dedicated to Mary

Besides the feasts of Mary in the Roman calendar, she is honored in the particular calendars of various rites, nations, regions and religious communities.

Since the 18th century, the calendar months of May and October have been devoted to Mary in the Roman Catholic Church. Originating in Spain and Italy, where Mary was honored with "May Devotions", litanies, the rosary and other special prayers, the practice, spread worldwide.