Marian feast days and solemnities in December point to the ultimate celebration – the birth of Christ

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

As Catholics around the globe begin the fourth week of Advent and the celebrations commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, they are also reminded of the maternity of Mary, and how her selfless “yes” to God set the stage for the Redeemer’s birth, resurrection and gift of redemption of mankind.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, celebrates the fact that Mary, by special spanine favor in anticipation of her role in salvation, was without sin from the moment she was conceived.

Msgr. David E. Diamond, pastor of Immaculate Conception B.V.M. Parish in Jenkintown, Montgomery County, describes how his parishioners, and particularly the children of the parish, have a special place in their hearts for the Blessed Mother. {{more}}

“Every time we gather for the first Friday Mass, there is some part of the celebration that calls their attention to our Blessed Mother,” Msgr. Diamond said.

At the parish’s Dec. 13 confirmation liturgy celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, the Bishop asked a confirmand why she chose the name Bernadette for her confirmation name. According to Msgr. Diamond, the girl said she chose the name because “‘Bernadette received the news about the Immaculate Conception and that’s the name of my parish.’

“I was struck by the fact that a young woman had that spiritual insight and made such a connection,” Msgr. Diamond said. “It was one of those moments when Catholic culture all comes together in a sacramental celebration. It was terrific.”

Msgr. Diamond considers the fact that he received his pastorate at a parish that bears the Blessed Mother’s name a blessing. At Christmastime, throughout the month of December and in January, “there are so many unique moments of our Lady’s presence in the life of the Church,” he said.

In addition to the Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception, the celebrations include the feast of St. Juan Diego on Dec. 9, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, the feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 26 and, on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

“The interconnectedness among all those celebrations addresses the power of her presence in our life as a Church and how meaningful it can be for the practicing Catholic.

“The reality of Mary is, she’s such a presence in the spiritual life of a believer. Here at Immaculate Conception, her presence is continually a part of our praise of God. We really try to inculcate awareness of Mary for all in the life of believer as a means of drawing closer to her Son.”

The Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception – the fact that she was conceived without sin – is a grace itself, Msgr. Diamond said. “She gives us such hope as a model of faith. Although not burdened with original sin, she shared in our humanity. She, too, knew headaches and responsibilities and housekeeping,” he said. Moreover, “she knew the pain of watching her Son die on a cross.”

“She is not distant from us. Although marked for a separate honor, she is one who joins us in her humanity as well,” he said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Buckingham, Bucks County, considers it a badge of honor that its namesake honors both St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. “In a very practical way, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been watching over and protecting us through the whole experience of building a church in her honor, with her name,” said Msgr. Joseph P. Gentili, the pastor.

Since its founding a decade ago, the parish has had to meet the annual challenge of celebrating Mary’s feast without a church proper.

“We greatly look forward – and I’ve been asking for her protection and intercession so that we can get this church up – to giving her the honor that is due to her on her feast. By next year, we will have a church.”

The parish anticipates the church’s dedication in April 2011.

A shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe will serve as a seal of the parish’s devotion to her, the pastor said. The shrine, complete with candles and an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, will be situated in area of the church reserved for the sacrament of reconciliation.

When Catholics reflect on Our Lady of Guadalupe, there is much to keep in mind, Father Gentili said.

“Often times, people think of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a devotion of Central America and Mexico, but Pope John Paul II reminded us that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all the Americas,” Msgr. Gentili said.

“There is a lot of spanersity in all of the Americas – culturally, religiously, linguistically and geographically.

“We as a parish are really a microcosm of that universality of the Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe in Buckingham Township in Bucks County is a perfect place to celebrate the cultural spanersity of the Church and the rich resources of the Church through her faithful.”

The Blessed Mother, under any of her names, is a powerful intercessor for God’s people because of her special role in salvation history, Msgr. Gentili added.

“Although I’ve only been a part of it for two years, I’m grateful to Father (Joseph J.) Quindlen and Father (Robert B.) McDermott,” who served as the previous pastor and parochial vicar, respectively. “I am particularly mindful of her intercession for us in this challenge and pilgrimage these last 10 years.

“Her mantle has been able to be draped over” the massive undertaking of the building of the church, Msgr. Gentili said. As a result, “I have seen a growth and development in people’s commitment to the parish, in the township’s support of the parish, in the builders and architects and all those involved coming together despite the difficulties and challenges.

“I have seen fruitful graces coming forth in finalizing this dream of developing a parish site. Our people have huge hearts. I can only imagine that our Lady is smiling upon us,” he said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe made herself known to a simple, faithful peasant man in Mexico, in a time of cultural and historical upheaval.

Five hundred years later, Our Lady of Guadalupe remains a valiant intercessor, Msgr. Gentili said, “in a time, a history and a culture that is not all that different.”

“Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message continues to be very real in transforming the culture and giving a sense of hope to us all of changing hearts and changing society.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or