Monday, September 15, 2014

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

This year, the new administration of the Cathedral decided to do something different for its annual devotion to the Sweet Name of Mary. As per a parishioner's report, a statue of the Nina Maria was brought out on the final night of the Novena and the parishioners were informed that the annual devotion to the Cathedral's patroness would heretofore be directed towards a celebration of Mary's childhood.  

According to this comment, Archbishop Apuron offered an explanation:
Anonymous September 14, 2014 at 6:02 PM
The archbishop explained at last night's fiesta mass that the Nina Maria statue had been used for processions before WWII and that a family had donated the statue to the church. And that in the future the statue will be used in processions. He said it is important to remember that Mary was a child first before she was the mother of Jesus. And that we are celebrating Mary's childhood.

The commenter went on to express surprise and suspicion, wondering if this wasn't another manifestation of the "neo-takeover". We'll get to that another time, but here's why I titled this entry A MISSED OPPORTUNITY. 

First, there is no official Catholic Church feast of the "Sweet Name of Mary". Rather, it is a term of affection like the other many affectionate titles bestowed on the Mother of God. There is, though, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary which, today, is an optional memorial celebrated on September 12. 

Like many feasts, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary began as local devotion and spread. In the case of the Holy Name of Mary, it appears to have begun in 1513 in Cuenca, Spain and was celebrated on September 15. It went through a variety of transformations and different dates until 1671 when the feast was extended to all of Spain. 

The most significant transformation of the feast was when it was extended to the universal Church by Pope Innocent XI in 1684 to celebrate the Christian victory over the Turks (Muslims) at the Battle of Vienna on September 12 of the previous year - the Christian troops having been placed under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the polish King and military commander, John III Sobieski. 

The victory was no small matter. Since Mohammed began his quest to subject the whole world to Allah in the 7th century, Islam had continued to expand exponentially through the centuries, and a loss by the Christians at Vienna would have soon opened the gates for the Islamization of Europe, a fate that had already befallen most of the East, the Holy Lands, and northern Africa.

Historians see the defeat of the Turks at Vienna as the beginning of the end of the powerful Ottoman Empire and a major turning point in European history. However, as we now know, Islam did not go away, and on September 11, 2001, this ancient war once again exploded in our faces as the Twin Towers collapsed into a smoldering ruin. 

The date of September 11 is not coincidental. The Battle of Vienna, which was concluded on September 12 with the death of some 20,000 Muslims bringing the spread of Islam to a halt, began the day before on September 11. Three centuries later, the battle would resume...on the same date. 

For nearly three centuries, the Church honored Mary as its protectress against the "Mohammedans". However, in 1969,  probably in the post Vatican II spirit of "can't we all just get along", Pope Paul VI suppressed the feast and it disappeared from our calendar. Meanwhile, as we now know, the sword of the saracen has once again arisen from the desert dust and is hacking Christians into pieces. 

The ominous significance of the date and the meaning of the attack on the Twin Towers did not escape Pope John Paul II. One year later, he restored the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. The date: September 11.

With all this as the history of the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, and given the Holy Father's recent universal call to pray for those who are suffering the greatest persecution of Christians since the onslaught of the Ottomans, the celebration of the patroness of the Agana Cathedral could have been a mighty statement of solidarity with those who are being hacked to death, nailed to crosses, and burned and buried alive in what is left of the oldest Christian civilizations on earth. 

But it wasn't. 


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