August has numerous days and feasts related to Mary - the Assumption of Mary, the Queenship of Mary, the feast of St. Dominic to whom tradition ascribes the revelation of the Rosary, the feast of St. Bernard who had a great devotion to Mary. On September 8, we celebrate the birth of Mary. September is also dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and there are several other Marian-related feasts in September as well. In just over a month, October begins the month of the Holy Rosary. Mary is an inescapable part of being Catholic. Her feasts remain some of the more important feasts in our calendar, and we know what an important role she played in the life of Christ (and thus, all of our lives).
This coming Friday is dedicated to the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which highlights her role as mother of the King of kings. As the 1954 encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam ("To the Queen of Heaven," encyclical Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary) states, "We are instituting a feast so that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God" (51). The hope was (and remains) that through the intercession of Mary and through a common belief in her queenship, peace might come to people and nations suffering from crises. This feast is celebrated on the octave of the Assumption of Mary, which we celebrated last Friday, because it is closely related to that feast. By her Assumption she was given the same gift that Jesus experienced with his Ascension. Declaring her as queen, which she had been called even in the early Church, gives her honor as mother of the King and mother of the Church.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast day we celebrate today, knew Mary's important role, and had a deep devotion to her throughout his whole life. He is considered the last of the Church Fathers and is a Doctor of the Church. He lived during the end of the 11th century through the middle of the 12th century, and was always a virtuous person. By the time he was 19, he decided he no longer wanted to be a part of the secular world and wanted to live a life of prayer instead. So in 1113, Bernard along with 30 other young noblemen joined the order at the monastery of Citeaux, which was under the Rule of St. Benedict. A few years later Bernard was sent with a band of monks to found a new house in Clairvaux, which quickly became a very popular monastery. Four of Bernard's brothers had entered religious life with him, and they were eventually joined by his other brother and his widower father.
Eventually, Bernard started really writing the works for which he is well-known today. He worked hard to defend the faith against heresies while founding many monasteries all across Europe, which numbered over 100 by the time of his death at age 63. He was the first Cistercian monk to be put onto the calendar of saints, and was canonized in 1174. He is still remembered and referenced today for his Mariology, a subject that was very important and dear to him.
This week, we have two days to celebrate Mary even more than usual - the day to remember her queenship, and the day to honor a man devoted to Mary throughout his inspiring life. Luckily for us, there is no shortage of days that give us extra reason to give Mary the honor she deserves in our Church. It is also impossible to honor Mary truly without first honoring Christ, the reason she is the Queen of Heaven and so revered in the Church. So while you're remembering the last Church Father today, say a rosary, and say an extra hello this week to the Mother of us all.
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