Today, September 8, is the date on which the Roman Catholic Church has, since approximately the Sixth Century, (in other words, for no more than about 1500 years) celebrated the birth of Our Lady, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary. While it is far from the most solemn Marian feast day on the Church calendar, it's still a big one, because it's her birthday (or at least, the day we've chosen to celebrate it, because we don't really know exactly what day she was born.) We love and honor Mary because Jesus gave her to us as our spiritual Mother as he hung in agony on the Cross, and because ever since that dark day her sole occupation has been to lead each and every one of us closer to her divine Son, all glory and honor to him forever and ever, Amen! This, not to mention that as any good Catholic knows, we are pretty sure Jesus loves his Mother a lot, and that it makes him happy when we love her, too.
Now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a nice email service that sends out the Scripture readings for each day's celebration of the Mass, very early in the morning. They also have a general communications email service. Anyone can subscribe to both of them at no cost by going to the USCCB website. I get the daily Mass readings and also subscribe to the general email blasts because every now and then they actually send out something really interesting or helpful. So on the day the Church celebrates the birthday of Mary, our Blessed Mother, does the USCCB mention this, and perhaps suggest ways in which we might honor her in prayer, and ask her to intercede with her Son for us, and for others in need? No. In fact, there is no mention whatsoever of today's feast.
Instead, we get this:
"In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited faith communities across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on September 9th.How nice. But not one word about the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. That was the best that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could do today?
To assist in observance of this occasion, USCCB is offering a Prayer for Peace in Our Communities prayer card."
Now, don't get me wrong...I'm as big a booster as you'll find anywhere of prayer as our number one tool against everything bad in the world and in support of everything good, in this world and the next. All prayer is good, and when groups of people get together to pray for the same things, it's even better. It's especially handy for the salvation of souls through the redeeming grace of our Lord. (You know, that's sort of why we think it's important to go to Mass at least once a week!)
But to the USCCB communications team I have to say: You, of all people, should be aware that in the entire liturgical year, the Church only celebrates the nativity of three people--Jesus, Mary, and St. John the Baptist. Every other saint is honored either on the date of their death (i.e., their birth into eternal life), or some other important date, such as being ordained a bishop or being elected Pope. That would tend to suggest that, well, maybe the Church thinks those three people are kind of important, you know? Nevertheless, your email blast completely ignored today's celebration of Mary's nativity.
This is just poor judgment, at best. The bishops are supposed to be the shepherds of the CATHOLIC Church in the USA, the Church that still gives the Virgin Mary the honor she deserves, when very nearly all others who profess the name of Christ have thrown her overboard except for a couple of weeks around Christmas each year. But instead of making even the merest mention of today's celebration, a very Catholic day, the USCCB PR machine sends out a release that could have come from any Protestant.
Now, here's the other kicker, another complete swing and miss that really makes me wonder if anyone at the USCCB communications office ever looks at a Church calendar. Did you perhaps wonder why the bishops chose tomorrow, September 9, as the day to call "faith communities" to prayer to end racial tension? I have an idea: September 9 is the feast day of another Catholic Saint, St. Peter Claver. Ever hear of him? He was a 16th Century Spanish Jesuit priest, whose missionary work in South America was primarily dedicated to the corporal and spiritual needs of the thousands of Africans who were transported into Cartagena, Colombia to feed the slave trade in the New World. He is now revered as the patron saint of slaves and African-Americans, so his feast day is a perfect time for this prayer effort. But the email communique' from the USCCB managed to miss that, too! Not a word about St. Peter Claver!
Next year, my suggestion for the USCCB is: By all means, have another call to ecumenical prayer for the end of racial tension in the US on September 9, the feast day of St. Peter Claver. But try to remember to mention him in your announcement, and send it out a few days in advance. Then, on September 8 you can send out a reminder for all us to celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See how easy that is?
Good thing the bishops have me around to straighten them out, right? :)
Laudator Jesus Christus!