Pondicherry Archdiocese

Dear Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and my dear People,

            As we enter the month of September our attention immediately goes to the 8th of September, the feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother. It is celebrated all over the world in a grand way. In Tamil Nadu we are very much blessed to have the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni, which celebrates the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady as its main feast. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims walk several miles for several days to Vailankanni. Among them there are many Hindus and Muslims who take up this penance of walking to Vailankanni. Standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary became the Mother of humankind. Today we see that all are drawn to the maternal love of Mary irrespective of creed, caste, culture, language. The mother’s love unites all humankind as one family in love. That is why it is right and fitting that we celebrate the birthday of our heavenly Mother Mary.

            The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Proto Evangelium of St. James gives us some details regarding the birth of Mary. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but prayed always for a child, they receive the promise of a child who will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. St. Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed”. 

            Birthday celebration bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary’s offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth, we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.

            Devotion to Mary Our Mother should help every person to imitate her life of faith in God, total surrender to His word, and His mission. At the world youth day in Lisbon, Pope Francis exhorted the youth with this message. Just like Mary, who after the annunciation went in haste to serve her kinswoman Elizabeth who was in need, similarly every youth, the Pope asked, having experienced Jesus, arise and go in haste to serve the brothers and sisters in need.

            Another important aspect of the devotion to Mother Mary for me is to restore the image of every woman. But in todays world the image of a woman is commercialized. The world of advertisements earns so much money by manipulating the image of women. To sell their products they use the distorted image of a woman. For example, they bring out new brand car. To advertise it they will make use of improperly dressed models standing in an enticing way around it. In this way companies, world markets distort the image of a woman and use it to sell their products. This way the women who are the image of God, are made cheap and treated as a commodity to be used and enjoyed. As a result, the respect for woman is reduced and lots of atrocities take place against the women. The family or the society that does not respect the woman cannot grow. That is why I feel that the image of women in society should be restored. The only way I think is presenting Mary as the right image of a woman, can renew the image of women in the society.

            Deep within every good woman is a desire for the qualities of both virgin and mother. She wants a meaningful purity both physically and spiritually a purity of mind, heart and will. She desires to be a mother that is to give life. A mother gives life physically, but even more spiritually, by giving life its value, by giving meaning and purpose and encouragement to others. These two images or ideals, ‘Virgin’ and ‘mother’ are not contradictory but complementary in the character of a woman. They manifest the two tendencies of the human personality 1. Self-containment that means holding oneself faithful to one. 2. Self-abandonment that means giving oneself away for others. Both of these qualities taken together make up the ideal of woman. God realized this ideal perfectly in one person: His mother Mary. She was both virgin and Mother in every sense, physical as well as spiritual.

            God calls every woman to be spiritually both virgin and mother, regardless of her state of life, married, single or religious. See these beautiful virtues in both Mary and Elizabeth as they meet. How beautiful is the woman who combines these precious qualities. Happy is she who keeps safe her gift of wisdom and sanity, her trust, her ability to understand and sympathize. She is then ready to respect others, to support them, to have compassion. She has the capacity to bring everything to its most useful, fruitful, lovely and precious purpose. That is what Our Blessed Mother is. As we celebrate the birthday of Our Blessed Mother as “girl child” day, let us respect, protect and promote the dignity of every woman in the world.

            As a birthday gift to Our Blessed Mother let us take the message of our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis to the Youth, “to rise and go in haste to serve our needy brothers and sisters”. Pastorally I would expect every Priest and religious in our Archdiocese to rise and go in haste to all the families in our Parishes. Family visit is one of the very important ministry of the Priests and Religious. Family visits enriches us spiritually and emotionally. When we visit our people in the families, we come to know them as the good shepherd knows his sheep. We become aware of their challenges, problems, hardships and the difficulties of looking after the family. This will help us to understand them, give up some of our luxuries and reduce our material needs. We will learn to live a simple and austere life, A home going priest makes a Church going people. Thus, I appeal to all our Priests to visit families and also encourage the religious to visit families. Wish you all a very Happy Feast of the birthday of our heavenly Mother.