During the month of September there are three notable Marian celebrations which signify different aspects of Marian devotion in the Catholic faith. These days are the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Most Holy Name of Mary and Our Lady of Sorrows. The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. There is no account of the birth of Mary in the Scriptures, but other sources such as the apocryphal work Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child who will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Since the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary takes place on December 8, the birth of Mary falls nine months later on September 8.
The celebration of the Most Holy Name of Mary falls on September 12 and had been observed by the Church since 1684, when Pope Innocent XI included it in the General Roman Calendar to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. It was removed from the Church calendar in the liturgical reform following Vatican II but restored by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2002, along with the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Our Lady of Sorrows was a devotion started by the seven founders of the Servite Order, in 1239, five years after they established themselves on Monte Senario. They took up the seven sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order. The principal biblical references to Mary’s sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon’s prediction about a sword piercing Mary’s soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus’ words from the cross to Mary and to the beloved disciple. In 1668 this feast was set for the Sunday after September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross. The feast was inserted into the Roman calendar in 1814, and Pope Pius X fixed the permanent date of September 15 for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary (now simply called the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.) May we continue to venerate Our Blessed Mother, seeking her intercession and trust in her protection.