Today in the Catholic Church, we commemorate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A glorious day that focuses on the birth of the immaculate woman who would conceive and bear the Messiah, the Christ, the Word of God Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Although we study, reflect, and focus our attention mainly on Mary’s role in Salvation History from the moment of her fiat, her “Yes” to God, we must remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary was also a child.
The school of Mary’s childhood provides for us lessons in obedience, purity, innocence, humility, and simplicity. In her childhood, Mary displays the perfect ideal to all of humanity on how to be a child of God. In commemoration of this Marian feast, I draw upon the 17th century document from Saint John Eudes titled, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God.
St. John Eudes writes on this part of Mary’s immaculate life for two reasons: first, unlike Eve who was created as an adult, he praises the notion that Mary was born as a child and lived and grew in childhood. As a daughter of Adam, the blood that flows through her veins also flows through our veins. She is the highest creature of the human race. Mary is our sister in Christ as well as our Mother leading us closer to Jesus. Second, the kingdom of heaven belongs to the innocence of children – “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As Christians, we must hear the Gospel with joy and become like little children.
Now let us turn to the 12 Means of Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in Her Childhood. These twelve means, a unique devotion to the Mother of our Redeemer will provide a multitude of blessings for those who make use of them.
1st Means: “Exhort all Christians to this devotion, in preaching, in teaching catechism and in familiar conversation. I conjure all preachers, all catechists, all priests and religious, by the ardent zeal of Our Savior has for the honor of His most worthy Mother, to lose no opportunity, especially upon feasts of the Blessed Virgin, of making very particular mention of this devotion” [Excerpt due to length].
2nd Means: “Endeavor to imprint in the hearts of children, especially little girls, a true devotion to the amiable little Mary. I exhort particularly fathers and mothers, teachers and all religious who apply themselves to the instruction of children, to persuade their charges to dedicate and consecrate their childhood and their whole life, to the honor of this gracious Child” [Excerpt due to length].
3rd Means: “Furnish clothing every year for one or more little girls in honor of the holy Child Mary, or, if you have the means, educate and provide for them, assuring yourself that whatever you do for these poor children in honor of the Child Mary, will be as agreeable to her as if you had done it to herself.
4th Means: “Fast or abstain on the vigils of the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity, and the Presentation, which are the principal feasts of Mary’s holy infancy.”
5th Means: “Consecrate to the honor of the lovely infancy of Mary the month beginning September eighth, and during this time perform all your actions in her honor. I shall repeat here the practice recommended by the sacred Virgin to St. Mechtilde, which is, to say during the octave of the Nativity the Hail Mary as many times as the blessed Babe remained days in the womb of her mother. She declared to St. Gertrude that those who would practice this devotion, would participate in heaven, in a very special manner, in the joys she had in this world, and will have eternally in heaven. By reciting, every day during the octave, thirty-five Hail Mary’s, you will make up the exact number of days the blessed Infant passed in the womb of St. Ann.”
6th Means: “During the above time dedicated to the holy infancy of the Mother of God, say daily the Litany of the holy Childhood.”
7th Means: “As the twenty-fifth of each month is dedicated to the honor of the adorable Child Jesus, the eighth of each month is dedicated to the amiable Child Mary. Do something on this day in her honor; communicate, give alms, say her Litany, or perform some act of piety or devotion. When a solemn feast falls on the eighth of the month, these practices should be deferred to some other day.”
8th Means: “There is a little chaplet in honor of the Divine Infant Jesus, composed of three Our Fathers followed by twelve Hail Mary’s. This chaplet may be said at the same time in honor of the holy Infant Mary.”
9th Means: Either say Holy Mass or have it said in honor of the sacred infancy of the Mother of the Savior, to thank the most Holy Trinity for all the graces bestowed upon this marvelous Child, and through her upon all the human race. For this purpose the Mass of the Immaculate Conception, or of the Nativity, the Holy Name of Mary, or the Presentation should be selected.”
10th Means: Have special devotion to St. Joachim and St. Ann, for they have given us our estimable Child. Honor them particularly on the days on which the Church celebrates their memory, and still more on the feasts of the infancy of their blessed daughter. Have also a great devotion to St. Gabriel, the Angel whom God appointed as Mary’s guardian.”
11th Means: “Have a strong and earnest will to imitate this blessed Child in all the holy virtues she practiced, for in this, above all, consists true devotion. “The sovereign and perfect devotion is to imitate what we honor,” says St. Augustine.
12th Means: Mediate upon the mysteries, the prerogatives and the virtues of the holy childhood of Mary. This is a means that renders imitation of our Model pleasant, easy and useful.
As we enter the octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we ask Mary to help us be like children before the throne of God. Let us offer these days in honor of Her Childhood and the Childhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. O Holy Mother of God…Pray for Us.