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The Story of the Virgin Mary’s Miraculous Birth

Aletia: Saturday, September 8, 2018 – Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

According to tradition, Mary’s parents were barren until God answered their prayers.

Little is known authoritatively about the Virgin Mary’s early childhood and family. However, an ancient text from the year 145, called The Protoevangelium of Jamesprovides a narrative that many saints have turned to when wanting to learn more about the Virgin Mary.

According to the unknown author, a man named Joachim was saddened at not being able to conceive a child with his wife, Anne. It’s recorded, “Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and did not come into the presence of his wife; but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying in himself: I will not go down either for food or for drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, and prayer shall be my food and drink.”

Similarly, Anne “mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness.” Then Anne “saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son Isaac.”

The Angel Appears

In the midst of her prayers an angel appeared and said, “the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” At the same time an angel appeared to Joachim, saying, “Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anne shall conceive.”

The two conceived a child shortly thereafter and then according to the story “her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anne brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A girl. And said Anne: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anne was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.”

The account echoes many of the stories in the Old Testament, where couples were barren until they cried out to God. Angels are often the bearers of good news to them, proclaiming that they will bear a child. Yet in this case, instead of a boy, the announcement is a girl who “shall be spoken of in all of the world.”

The Catholic Church’s Beliefs

While the story is not known to be a factual account, the Church does refer to the parents of the Virgin Mary as Joachim and Anne.

Whatever happened, it would have been fitting for her birth to be miraculous, as the Church teaches that the Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin in the womb of her mother. The Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is celebrated annually on December 8, nine months before the Feast of the Birth of Mary on September 8.

 

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Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua
Patron Saint of Lost Things
(1195-1231)
Feast Day: June 13

If St. Anthony specializes in anything, it is in finding lost objects. In America there’s even a little rhyme about it:  “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please look all around. There’s something that’s missing and cannot be found.” It’s not great poetry, but it makes its point.

The life of St. Anthony is brimming with miracles, and one of these stories explains how St. Anthony became the heavenly finder of lost objects. A novice in St. Anthony’s community decided to run off without telling his superiors. Before he left, he stole a valuable copy of the Psalms that belonged to Anthony.

Distressed at the loss of such a beautiful book, Anthony prayed to recover it. meanwhile, as the thief was making his getaway, he saw a terrible apparition blocking his path. “Return the book to Anthony!” the vision commanded. Frightened out of his wits, the young man ran all the way back to the monastery to restore the book to its rightful owner.

Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal. How he wound up in Italy is a long story. Here’s the short version:

Anthony had entered the Augustinian order in Lisbon. The bodies of five Franciscan missionaries who had been martyred in Morocco arrived in Portugal. Filled with admiration for the holy men, Anthony decided to switch orders from the Augustinians to the Franciscans and join the mission in Morocco. This he did.

However, on a trip home, a storm at sea blew Anthony’s shop off course. instead of landing in Portugal, Anthony came ashore in Sicily.

His timing was good: the Franciscans were gathering in Assisi for a general meeting, or chapter, and St. Francis himself would be there, It was at the chapter that Anthony decided to remain in italy.

On one occasion, Anthony made it his mission to bring back to the Catholic faith a man belonging to the Cathars, a sect that hated the Church and especially hated the doctrine of Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Nothing Anthony said made any impression on the man, Then on a holy day, Anthony carried the  Blessed Sacrament in procession through the streets. People knelt as the Sacred Hot passed by. When Anthony encountered the Cathar, the obstinate man remained standing. But his mule went down on its knees. The miracle of the mule convinced the Cathar, and he returned to the Church.

After Anthony died, so many miracles occurred through his intercession that Pope Gregory IX declared him a saint just one year after his death. Almost 800 years later, Anthony still holds the record the the fasted canonization.

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St. Joseph – Feast Day

The Holy Family

St. Joseph’s Feast Day – March 19th

Saint Joseph, Patron Saint of Families, is the silent man of the New Testament. He plays a vital role in the first chapters of the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. However, neither evangelist records anything St. Joseph said. But if he does not speak, he certainly does act.

St. Joseph’s Ancestry

Joseph was born in Bethlehem, the hometown of David. In fact, Joseph could trace his ancestry back to the shepherd boy who became king of Israel.

Joseph’s Early Life

Joseph the Carpenter

When we first meet Joseph in the gospels, he has moved north to the town of Nazareth in Galilee. He works as a carpenter. In Nazareth, Joseph became engaged to Mary. Sometime before their wedding, the Archangel Gabriel made the announcement to the Blessed Virgin that she was going to be the Mother of the Savior.

The gospels do not say when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant. What we do know is that Joseph assumed Mary was unfaithful to him and that she was to bear some other man’s child. Feeling hurt and shame, Joseph, being a righteous man, made plans to break off their engagement quietly. Before Joseph could act, however, an angel visited him saying, “Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take Mary as your wife, for the child within her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.”

This is how the Holy Family began, with an angel assuring Mary and Joseph that what was out of the ordinary to them was in fact all part of God’s plan to redeem the world.

Joseph’s Role as Step-Father

Joseph & Mary on their way to Bethlehem

Every time we see Joseph thereafter, we see him taking loving are of Jesus and Mary. In Bethlehem on that first Christmas night, he wanders the streets looking for a decent place where Mary can give birth. When King Herod schemes to murder the Christ Child, it is Joseph, warned by an angel, who gets Jesus and Mary safely to Egypt. And when Herod is dead and it is safe to come home, Joseph brings his family to Nazareth.

Finally, the last time Joseph appears in the gospels is when he and Mary search Jerusalem for three anxious days, looking for the Child Jesus.

The evangelists never mention Joseph again. Biblical scholars always assume that he must have died before Christ began His public ministry. If he had been alive, there would have been no need for Jesus, as He hung from the cross, to ask St. John to look after Mary.

Joseph – Our Heavenly Protector

Families have always found comfort in having St. Joseph as their heavenly protector. Blessed Pope Pius IX probably had that in mind in 1870 when he named Saint Joseph the Patron Saint of our extended family, the Catholic Church.