Pop Quiz: During which month of the year do Catholics traditionally honor the Blessed Virgin Mary?
Most of us would probably answer May, and that is certainly correct, for May has been a traditional month to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary since the Middle Ages. (I remember Sr. Lorraine telling us in 4th Grade that if you take the “r” out of “Mary”, then you get “May.”) The confluence of the joy of the Easter Season and the beauty of Spring, the prevalence of flowers and budding plants, and the modern celebration of Mother’s Day make May a fitting month to honor Mary.
But some may also have thought of October, and that would also be correct. October is the month of the Rosary, and the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on October 11, so during that month Catholics are especially encouraged to reflect on the lives of Jesus and Mary as we pray the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
So, yes, May and October are both months when Catholics traditionally honor the Blessed Mother, but I’d like to propose another: December. Sure, at this time of year our thoughts are turned toward Christmastime, and we’re busy preparing, decorating, shopping, baking, traveling, and the like. We’re thinking about the baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us. We are praying “Come, Lord Jesus!” Still, I’d like to propose that December – maybe even more than May or October! – is the premiere month to honor our Blessed Mother Mary.
First of all, December is the month of arguably the most important feast day of our Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception. On December 8, this past Friday, we celebrated our Lady, who was kept free from sin from the moment of her conception in her mother’s womb, in order to be a perfect dwelling place for her Son Jesus, who was also her Lord and God. Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States of America, and her feast day is always a holy day of obligation in our nation.
December also brings us another great Marian Feast, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas, and her feast is one of great rejoicing in this hemisphere, especially for our Hispanic and Latino brothers and sisters. Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 to encourage the native people who were suffering. Her feast reminds us that our God – and our Lady – are always on the side of the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the suffering.
Besides these great feasts of Mary, the Scripture readings in late Advent often speak of the Blessed Mother, as we hear once again the stories of the Annunciation, the Visitation to Elizabeth, and the birth of Mary’s Son in the stable at Bethlehem. More than anyone, Mary is the personification of Advent itself. Her patient waiting, her anticipation, and her fidelity are qualities that we try to emulate as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Finally, almost every one of us will put up a Nativity scene in our home this month, and the figure of Mary will be front and center. After the Christ child, she is the most important figure in the Christmas story! Because of her “YES” to God’s will and her fidelity to God’s promise, she was the first to rejoice at the birth of the Savior, and she is the first redeemed by his coming. In your prayer this December, I encourage you to draw near to the Blessed Mother, and to pray that we may be more like her and more like her Son, whose coming we anticipate and celebrate during these holy days.