Today we celebrate the birthday of Mary. We do not know the time or place of Mary’s birth. Even our understanding of her parents being Joachim and Anna is something that an unknown second century writer passed along, or made up.
When I was young I had difficulties with devotion to Mary. Please forgive me for filling this space with an account of those troubles. Perhaps some of you have had similar difficulties. Having grown up among Protestants, when I started at the seminary I was out of step with boys with strong devotion to Mary. Wanting to catch up with them, I said a “Hail Holy Queen” every night, asking Mary to bring me close to her. After a couple of years it worked. I came to feel I was there with St. John under the cross when Jesus said, “Behold your mother.” From then on I’ve had a good son to mother relationship with Mary.
However, when I reached the major seminary I found some of the older students had an advanced devotion to Mary. They had been reading Blessed Grignion de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary,” and they were calling themselves slaves of Mary. They offered all their prayers and good works through her. They likened our prayers to beautiful pieces of fruit, and they said that offering them through Mary was like getting her to present my gift of fruit to God on her silver platter.
I couldn’t see that, so I presented my difficulty to Father John Kerr. He was a holy old priest who after twenty-five years in an isolated Chinese parish had been driven out by Mao Tse Tung. His answer to my hesitation was that the Holy Father had approved of people making themselves slaves of Mary. “But, father, I just can’t see my prayer being like a piece of fruit on a silver platter.”
Father John Kerr’s answer to that was, “I don’t know, Thomas. I wish you could be like me. Anything the pope says I fall for it”