(Illustration by Michael van der Hout)
(Illustration by Michael van der Hout)
“Hey, something kind of bothers me.”

“Yeah. What’s that?”

“Well, you know, Mother Mary’s birthday is Sept. 8.”

“Yeah. Sept 8. That bothers you?”

“No. Not at all. What bothers me is that I went online and Googled “notable birthdays on Sept. 8”, and they listed everyone from Richard the Lionheart to Sid Caesar to Peter Sellers and Patsy Cline.”

“Yeah, and?”

“And no Mother Mary. And she’s a lot more popular than all those knuckleheads combined.”

“A lot more popular, for sure! In fact, the most famous female in history!”

“So then, what’s the deal here anyway?”

“Here. Hang on for a sec. Let me go online and look something up first.”-Click-click-click-click-

“Aha! Just what I thought.”

“What’s that?”

“I just Googled “notable birthdays on Dec. 25,” and they don’t even list Jesus Christ, the most influential person of all time! You know what that means?”

“No. What?”

“That Mother Mary shouldn’t feel slighted.”

“Oh, okay. But I don’t think she would ever feel slighted. She’s an unflinching Jewish girl. I mean, just think of the 95 miles she traversed sitting side saddle on a donkey when she was pregnant.”

“Yeah, you got that right, absolutely. But you know what else her absence from the list of notable Sept. 8 birthdays might also mean?”

“What’s that?”

“It means we’re dealing with some people out there in cyberspace that might have a problem.”

“You got that!"

“But really, who cares? Their loss, right?”

“Sure, but what about Mother Mary, the most popular woman in history? What do we do for her birthday?”

“Okay bud, birthday party for our beloved Mother Mary. Let’s see what gals did for their birthdays back in the First century.” -Click-click-click-click- “Okay, well, a few strikes against that. The Romans celebrated birthdays in a pagan tradition, lighting candles to ward off evil spirits. So, it wasn’t necessarily a celebration and was exclusively for men. The Christians didn’t pick up on birthdays until the Fourth century. But to their credit, they made the birthday the fun time it became, with the candles lit for hopes and wishes instead of for fear of evil. And, uh” - Click-click-click-click- “let me see” -Click-click-click- click- “Whoa! Women didn’t get to celebrate their birthdays until the 12th century. Bummer!”

“Well, we can still make her a cake, can’t we? What sort of cakes did they bake in Mary’s day?”

-Click-click-click-click-

“Date cakes and raisin cakes. Both mentioned in 2 Samuel 6:19.”

“How about flowers and candy, like a box of chocolate?”

-Click-click-click-click-

“Lilies. Mary loves lilies. For candy in the first century, it was…”-Click-click-click-click- “Ashishot”

“What was that?”

“It was a sweet bread made of honey, red lentils, flour, cinnamon, and olive oil.”

“Okay! Good! We’re set! Let’s head over to Safeway, then, and get to work!”

-Click-click-click-click-

“What are you looking up now?”

“Here — this is what it says we’re supposed to do for Mother Mary’s birthday. Okay, first we bake the cake. That’s covered. Then we wear blue and a Marian medal. Then we call mom, you know, make sure she’s home first, and then we bring her the cake and some flowers. After that, we all go to Mass, say a rosary, donate and make a pilgrimage together. And we can go to The Grotto to do all of this, and make a day of it, a birth day of it!”

“Is there a Safeway near the Grotto?”

“Not too far away. Maybe twelve blocks. Why?”

“Well, um, maybe a slight change of plan: You see, neither of us has ever baked a cake in our entire lives, and Safeway has the Strawberry Tres Leches cake that mom likes. And I have a coupon for it. And they have good Chinese food in the Safeway deli, too. And, voila, we can get some balloons for Mary’s party as well and make it unforgettable!”

“A modest birthday party for our beloved and humble Mother Mary!”

“Happy birthday, Mother Mary, long ago and forever, the most famous woman of all time!”

Van der Hout attends St. Pius X Parish and Mount Angel Abbey.