Father John Catoir

The Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the Church’s calendar, was born Sept. 8. She became the mother of Jesus Christ, who is the King of Glory and the eternal Son of the Father.

Even before the world knew of her existence, she was the mother of the Church. The cherubim and the seraphim praised her. Today, the glorious company of apostles praises her, the noble fellowship of prophets praises her and the white-robed army of martyrs praises her. Throughout the world, the holy Church acclaims her as our spiritual mother.

What must her birthday be like in heaven? Certainly it is celebrated every year in a glorious way. I wonder how? If it is possible to make an analogy with an earthly queen, surely the recent celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary on the throne serves as a model.

A heavenly celebration must be much more magnificent. What if we, as members of the Church, did our best to show our affection and gratitude to our queen in heaven?

There is no doubt in my mind that Mary’s birthday is lavishly celebrated each year in heaven. They honor her birthday because Jesus Christ wants her to be honored. As a man, he is bone of her bone, blood of her blood. As God incarnate, he is our divine savior who has come to set us free from the sting of death and to open the kingdom of heaven to all who come to him.

For more than a year now, I have been obsessed with the idea of co-celebrating Mary’s birthday, along with those in heaven. As preposterous as it may seem, I’ve been hoping that one day we will see a stadium like New York’s Yankee Stadium filled with happy birthday well-wishers, offering hymns of gratitude to Mary. United with our deceased parents and grandparents, and our friends and relatives in heaven we can join the party here and now.

We honor Mary as Jesus does. We do not worship her. We honor her because Jesus wants us to honor her. We are his mystical body on earth. We can express our love for her any way we please. I decided to take action.

I went to my local diocesan Legion of Mary chapter and asked for their help. They had been planning to make a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, and I persuaded them to reconsider by having a diocesan birthday party for Mary. The idea met with great support.

The group consulted with various Legion of Mary chapters throughout the diocese. Our bishop, Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., is a great supporter of the Legion of Mary, and he happily agreed. The pastor of St. Paul Parish in Prospect Park, N.J., Msgr. Edward J. Kurtyka, welcomed us with open arms.

As a result, on Sept. 8 both heaven and a little corner of the Catholic Church in New Jersey will be uniting to give honor and respect to Mary. After Mass, we will cut birthday cake and have gifts, contests and prizes for children.

If you have a special devotion to Mary and would like to join in the fun, why not create your own event? Maybe one day, all together, we can build the momentum and fill a big stadium to wish our Blessed Mother a happy birthday.