Joyfully encountering Mary on her birthday

By Maria V. Gallagher

The date Sept. 8 will be forever etched in my mind as a day of promise and possibility, celebration and sweetness. It is the date on which Great Aunt May was born — a pivotal figure in my life who, as a devoted Bride of Christ, was known to the world as Sr. Celestia. Aunt May modeled for me the importance of religious life in action, serving her community and the Lord with a fervent heart. 

It was also Aunt May who stressed to me the privilege that had been accorded to me at birth, when my mother gave me the Italian version of Mary’s name. Aunt May reminded me that the Blessed Mother had been invoked as my patron saint, and that I should not hesitate to go to Mary with all of my cares. 

Model of Grace
It was only later in life when I learned that Aunt May’s birthday was the same day that the Church celebrated the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Nativity of Our Lady, falling nine months after the Dec. 8 observance of the Immaculate Conception, is a joyous feast day when I remember, in a special way, the model of grace that Mary represents. 

As an adult, I have come to see the threads that tie Mary’s life to mine. It was this connection that prompted me to write my first published book, Joyful Encounters with Mary: A Woman’s Guide to Living the Mysteries of the Rosary (Marian Press, 2022). In this work, I explore how an individual can achieve joy through a relationship — or a stronger relationship — with the Blessed Mother. A number of people who have read the book tell me that they have experienced a new closeness to Mary as a result of Joyful Encounters. I give all the glory to God for that, as well as for my own richly blessed relationship with Our Lady. 

Mother, Mentor, Confidante
As we mark the month of Mary’s birth, it is a good time to assess just what role Mary plays in our lives. Over the years, I have come to see her as Mother, Mentor, and Confidante.

Mary’s role as mother became all the more real for me after the death of my own biological mother. With Mom gone from this earthly life, I had to look to Heaven for consolation. The struggles that I once entrusted to my mother I now give over to Mary — especially in her role as Undoer of Knots. I find that Mary can untangle the worst of my problems, helping me to find solutions that might otherwise prove elusive. Whether you yourself have had a positive relationship with your mother or a strained one, I encourage you to look to Mary to mother you at this stage of your life.

In addition, it is entirely possible to look to Mary as a mentor in the spiritual life. At the wedding feast at Cana, Mary issued the instruction: “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you” (Jn 2:5). I can imagine her saying the same thing to me as I go about my day. When I listen to Mary, I am required to listen to Jesus, and, as a result, I experience peace of mind.

Finally, it can be helpful to reach out to Mary as a confidante. I can freely confide in her, knowing that she will never betray me. When I feel as if my heart is breaking, I can turn to her and receive consolation as a result. It is a special sense of solace that not only draws me closer to Mary, but to her Son Jesus as well.

As we celebrate Mary’s birthday, let us turn to her as mother, mentor, and confidante, allowing her to love us and treasure us as her beloved. The more we connect with Mary, the greater will be our relationship with God.

And isn’t that what our earthly journey is all about? 


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