It would be virtually impossible to list all the feasts of Our Lady throughout the world: there are so many that they would very likely fill up a year's calendar by themselves.
Through the centuries people of all lands have vied with one another to do honor to the Mother of God in establishing feasts and pilgrimages. In countless tiny villages are shrines recalling an apparition of Our Lady of perhaps many centuries ago; tradition has grown up locally regarding a treasured visit of the Queen of Heaven to some poor child or peasant workman. Even today in the midst of war, reports are sent in from this part of the world or that, telling of what is thought to have been a visit of Our Lady. We know that she loves us and that through the weary years she has appeared from time to time to encourage her children. But it takes a long time to have such an apparition authenticated, as the long process of Lourdes has demonstrated in modern times. Many such shrines remain authorized only for local devotion and so are never recorded for universal veneration. Consequently such local or national feasts are listed only in the country in which they are authorized, and only the main feasts of universal observance are commonly seen in the missal.
Two of Our Lady's feasts, the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) and the Assumption (August 15th) are Holy days of Obligations in the United States.
Certain religious congregations keep with special solemnity the feasts of Mary which give them their name— that of the Visitation and the Presentation, for example. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is especially dear to the Carmelites, the feast of the Most Holy Rosary to the Dominicans. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is especially celebrated in Mexico. It would seem that among the great variety of feasts and titles with which the calendar is jewelled, there is one to suit every Catholic, of whatever walk of life.
With regard only to type of feast, and not to its classification as to liturgical rank, the first group of feasts of Our Lady have to do with events in her life. The principal ones of these are:
The Immaculate Conception: December 8
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: September 8
The Holy Name of Mary: September 12
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: November 21
The Espousals: January 23
The Annunciation: March 2$
The Visitation: July 2
Expectation of Our Lady: December 18
Maternity of Our Lady: October 11
The Purification: February 2
The Flight into Egypt: February 17
Feast of the Holy Family: Sunday within the Octave of
Our Lady of Sorrows: September 15
Feast of the Seven Dolours: Friday in Passion Week
The Assumption: August 15
Time after time has Our Lady, good Mother that she is, appeared on earth to encourage her children, or to give some favored one a task to perform or a message to carry to the world. Some of these visits were very long ago, like the apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar at Saragossa in Apostolic times; some were recent, like those of Lourdes and La Salette. Feasts commemorating such an appearance or a message from Our Lady are those of:
Our Lady of Mount Carmel: July 16
Our Lady of Guadalupe: December 12
Our Lady of Lourdes: February 11
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal: November 27
Our Lady of the Snows: August 5.
Similar to these are the feasts which were established in gratitude for the great victories over the infidels won by the power of the Rosary:
The Feast of the Most Holy Rosary: October 7 (kept in Dominican churches on the First Sunday of October)
Our Lady of Victory: October 2
Our Lady Help of Christians: May 24. ^
Of the many pictures and statues around which tradition has thrown the cloak of Our Lady's blessing there are three which have been recognized, through miracles and through continued devotion, to have been specially privileged. The feasts are kept as follows:
Our Lady of Perpetual Help: June 27
Our Lady of Good Counsel: April 26
Our Lady of the Way: May 24.
The messages given to various favored children by Our Lady on these occasions have had to do with the increasing of devotion to her and to her Divine Son, by many means.
When she appeared to a nobleman and his wife on an August day in the fourth century, it was to trace out in a miraculous fall of snow the outlines of a church she wanted to be built.
When she appeared on Mount Carmel, it was to give to the world the wonderful promises of the brown scapular which today is worn by so many thousands of her grateful children.
To Sister Catherine Laboure she described the medal we now know as the Miraculous Medal, worn and loved by nearly every Catholic today.
Saint Dominic and Saint Bernadette she sent to promote the Rosary, the one by preaching it, the others by establishing a place of pilgrimage and promoting a spirit of penance.
A frightened Indian in the mountains of Mexico heard her tell him to go to the archbishop and have him build a church in her honor; and to show him that she meant it, she stamped her image on the rough cloth of his mantle.
Hundreds of legends tell us of other commissions she gave—of how she dowered Saint Albert the Great with his science, or sat beside an artist at work, handing him the colors he should use, or sang for a devout client the melodies heard only in heaven. Not all of her visits have been official ones; mothers do not always stand on ceremony with their children.
Established for some particular religious order or diocese, and not all of universal observance, are many dearly loved feasts of the Queen of heaven. Some of these are:
Our Lady, Mother of Divine Providence: Saturday before the Third Sunday of November
Our Lady, Mother of Mercy: Saturday before the last Sunday of July
Our Lady of Suffrage: Saturday after All Saints Day
Our Lady of Consolation: Saturday after August 28
The Joys of Our Lady: Monday after Low Sunday
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners: Saturday before the Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces: May 31
Our Lady, Help of Those in Their Death Agony: Last Saturday in July
Our Lady, Mother of the Good Shepherd: September 3
Our Lady, Queen of All Saints and Mother of Fair Love: May 31
Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles: Saturday within the Octave of the Ascension
Our Lady, Health of the Sick; Saturday before the Last Sunday of August
Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners: August 13
Our Lady of Grace: June 9
Humility of Our Lady: May 12 or July 17
Translation of the Holy House of Loreto: December 10
Most Pure Heart of Mary: Saturday after the Octave of Corpus Christi
Purity of Our Lady: October 16
Patronage of Our Lady: a Day in October or November
Miracles of Our Lady: July 9
Our Lady of Ransom: September 24
Our Lady Queen of Peace: July 9.
Saturday has been kept as a day of special devotion to Our Lady from at least as far back as the twelfth century. Many people show their devotion on this day by attendance at Mass and Communion, by some act of self-denial in the way of food or amusements, or by saying the Litany of Loreto or some other prayers. Very often when a priest has choice of a Mass on Saturday, he says one of the several Votive Masses in honor of Our Lady. Besides the special feasts and the dedication of Saturday, two months—May and October—are designated for devotions to Mary. During these months evening devotions are held in some parishes; the Rosary is said in common; classrooms and homes show their love in an artistic way by erecting small altars of blue and white, by processions and hymns.
An ancient devotion now little employed except by religious is the recitation of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There was a time when every devout layman (and some who did not pretend to be devout in the least) said daily the Divine Office, as a matter of course. The world moves faster now: only clerics and some few religious orders say the Divine Office. But many, both religious and a growing number of the laity, recite daily or frequently the Little Office of Our Lady. Other shorter forms of prayer—the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception is an instance— are frequently recited either by groups or by individuals as a way of fostering and showing devotion to Mary.
Highly indulgenced and repeatedly recommended to the faithful by many illustrious popes is the devotion of the Rosary. Said privately or publicly, it is rich in spiritual rewards. The custom of saying the family Rosary, once the natural thing in a Catholic home, has unhappily declined. A revival of this devotion would do much to bring blessings on the home, on the individuals, and on the country.
One of the common means of devotion to Mary is to use her name as a part of one's own. For this reason many religious communities follow the practice of making "Mary" a part of every sister's name. There are hundreds of variations of Our Lady's name, in all languages. Some of the most common are: Marie, Marietta, Marita, Marilyn, Moira, Maura, Maureen, Miriam, Marian, Mary anna, and May, from Mary; Virginia, Dolores, Grace, Estelle, Alma, Lillian, and many others, which are adapted from Our Lady's titles.
In medieval times not only Our Lady's faithful children, but even the flowers and shrubs, were named for her. It must have been delightful to walk down a garden path and greet the flowers as "Our Lady's Thimble" or "Our Lady's Lace" or "Our Lady's Eyes," or to recall the lovely legends of why the aspen trembled or where the mistletoe got its berries. Today we have ponderous Latin names for everything that grows, and people have forgotten, amid the whirl of factory wheels, that there ever was a time when the world was Our Lady's garden.
Devotion to Our Lady is the least common denominator under which all human sanctity is measured; it would be impossible to find a saint who was not devotedto her. However, some saints more than others have promoted devotion to her. Saint Bernard, whose prayer "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary . . . " has been the solace of many a dark hour, was known both during his lifetime and after his death as a tireless singer of Our Lady's praises. Saint Thomas Aquinas, great theologian and doctor of the Church, tried out his quill pens by inscribing on the borders of his manuscripts "Ave Maria," showing that she was always present in his thoughts. Bonaventure, Dominic, Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Stanislaus Kostka, and Louis de Montfort are names that always bring to mind devotion to Mary.
Religious orders and congregations carry on a pious rivalry in doing honor to the Mother of God. Many orders were founded under her inspiration; many of them have felt tangibly her protection through the years. The Seven Holy Founders of the Servites were in her special charge; the Carmelites owed to her the design of their habit, as did also the Dominicans; the Redemptorists treasure and promote devotion to her picture under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help; the Jesuits, in the sodality movement, bring thousands of young souls under her protection. Indeed it is reckless to begin naming even the most ancient orders which showed great devotion to her, because immediately all others would point out truthfully that every religious must be, as well as a spouse of Christ, a child of Mary.
But it is not to religious only that Mary's love was promised on that dark afternoon on Calvary. She is Mother to all of us, and to us all is given the tremendous privilege of calling on her for help in this valley of tears. "Let us go with confidence to the throne of Grace: that we may obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid ...I have lifted up mine eyes to the mountains whence help shall come to me."
Source: Our Lady's Feasts, Imprimatur 1945
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!