Autumn is a time of transition, a season in which the creation around us changes from the vibrant colors of summer into the aging colors of fall which eventually die away with the winter cold. In our Holy Catholic Church, October is a month in which we celebrate human life in all its seasons, from its vibrant beginning at conception through its lifelong change and growth, leading eventually to the stark beauty of natural death. Many people today view pregnancy as an inconvenience and aging as if tragic; at all ages and stages of life, society tells us we are unwanted. However, as Jesus’ chosen ones, consecrated to Him at our baptism, we take joy in the anticipation of new life; marvel while watching its beauty unfold over a lifetime; and sorrow as we hand that once-vibrant life back to our Creator God.
Fittingly, in this month of the Holy Rosary, we celebrate Our Lady’s victory at Lepanto in 1571. Then, on October 11, we celebrate the divine maternity of Mary, a celebration of life and motherhood. Mary’s maternal role as our mother implicitly began with her fiat to Gabriel’s annunciation. Now her role as mother of Christ is one over all of Christ’s body. Jesus made this explicit when, on the cross, He handed her over to John and to us.
October 12 we are blessed with another feast for our Holy Mother: Our Lady of the Pillar. While Mary was alive and living with John in Jerusalem (January 4, 40AD), she bilocated and appeared to his older brother James who was in Roman Hispania (Spain). He and his companions were discouraged. Their great effort to overcome challenges and bring people to Jesus was met by few conversions. Mary appeared to him surrounded by legions of angels and gave him a wooden statue of her holding baby Jesus, who Himself was holding a bird. This was the first Marian apparition and the first church built dedicated to her!
Our Lady of the Pillar, our pillar of strength, is not only patroness of Spain but of all Hispanic peoples throughout the world. Since Christopher Columbus landed in America on October 12, 1492, she is also looked upon as a patroness of the Americas. It was on her feast day that the first mass in America was celebrated! And just as her Spanish shrine has stood ever-firm against the bombs of war, she stands firm with us in the battles of life.
A miracle child given to the aging Joachim and Anne, Mary was born immaculate. Around age 12-13 she gave her fiat and became Mother of God; around age 45-46 she gave her only Son back to His Father; in her early 50’s she appeared to James, her spiritual son, in Spain. She died in the presence of her family, her spiritual sons the apostles, sometime thereafter. In Mary’s life we see exemplified the beauty of all life from conception to natural death, a life grounded in family who came and remained together through thick and thin to the very end. She remains with us, her spiritual children, this very day unto our dying breath too.
Holy Virgin of the Pillar: increase our faith, strengthen our hope, revive our charity. Help those who suffer misfortune, those who suffer from loneliness, ignorance or hunger or lack of work. Strengthen the weak in faith. Arouse in the young an availability for a total surrender to God. Amen. (St. John Paul II consecrating Spain to Our Lady of the Pillar)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
Image: Our Lady of the Pillar by Francisco Goya, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
This post was first published on The Face of Grace Project and is reprinted here with permission.