Hope in the Lord — Happy birthday, Mary Most Holy

Archbishop Kurtz
Archbishop Kurtz

I love birthdays, my own and others. I caught this spirit from my older brother George, a true teacher of joy who was born with Down syndrome.

All birthdays were a big deal in my family, and even my older sisters tolerated George’s insistence on proudly announcing the age of the person of the day.

Our Church shares that special fondness for births. That is why this past Sunday, Sept. 8, we all celebrated the birthday of our blessed mother, Mary. To satisfy my brother’s penchant, I calculate that this was her birthday number 2,025, give or take a year or so.

To be true, the Church celebrates not only the birth but also the first moment of existence for some special persons. Thus, nine months before her nativity, we celebrate the Immaculate Conception, that moment in which Mary was conceived in the womb of St. Ann. Likewise, we rejoice at Christmas as we recall the birth of Jesus, Word made flesh, and nine months before on March 25, we rejoice in his conception in the womb of our Blessed Mother Mary on the
Annunciation of the Lord.

You can imagine how thrilled I was in October of 1999 to be appointed bishop of Knoxville in East Tennessee, only to find that the diocese’s founding date is also the birthday of our Blessed Mother. Thus, it was fitting that my ordination as bishop occurred on Dec. 8 of that year, celebrating the first moment of her life on earth. This year marks the silver anniversary of the Diocese of Knoxville, and I will be honored to travel to East Tennessee this Saturday for a special Eucharistic Congress to celebrate the event. Congratulations to Bishop Richard Stika and all the faithful of Knoxville. We, in the Province of Louisville, rejoice with them.

Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13 in Fatima next month. It is just one more way that he is leading us spiritually to become more deeply one family in Christ. When an estimated three million gathered for World Youth Day on the Brazilian Copacabana beach, we experienced the depth of his call to become good citizens of heaven while being good citizens of the earth.

In Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis has reminded all of us that the light of God’s face shines upon us most especially through the faces of our brothers and sisters. He exhorts us to keep our eyes on Jesus, and we will begin to see as Jesus sees. How helpful, then, to imitate our Blessed Mother, whose face was constantly on the Lord Jesus and who can help us to see his face in each brother and sister. Ultimately, our devotion to Mary ought not to lead us away from the world, but with our eyes on the redeemer Jesus, it should lead us to bring out the truth of creation in our common humanity and to be the best we can be.

At the end of Compline, which is night prayer in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, an ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, said to be the oldest Marian prayer and found on an Egyptian papyrus from the 3rd century, seeks her intercession: “We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.”

October and the Blessing of the Child in the Womb

As Respect Life Month approaches in October, I remind you of the resource for pastoral use in our Church: the “Blessing of the Child in the Womb.”

A wonderful way to reach out to parents and to the child in the womb of the mother and extend the gracious greeting of Christ, the “Blessing” is explained and extended in a booklet I co-authored called Gift of Joy. Please consider sharing this booklet with any expectant parents you may know.  If they happen to be a little distant from Christ and the Church at this time in their life, this is all the more reason to reach out. To order, go to www.osv.com or www.amazon.com.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

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