By Larry Peterson
Why do we honor the name of Our Lady and hold it in such high esteem? Why not just honor her as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Why did Pope Innocent XI, in 1683, proclaim that September 12 is the Feast day of the Most Holy Name of Mary? ( In 1970, with the revised Roman Missal, the feast day was removed from the calendar. However, Pope St. John Paul II, reinstituted the feast in 2003 as an “optional memorial.” Check your missalettes; it is there).
The name, Mary, has its origins in ancient languages such as; Aramaic Maryam; Old Testament Greek Mariam; Hebrew, Myriam, and from the New Testament Latin, Maria.
Some background about Our Lady and her name is as follows: It begins with why she was named, Mary. Her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, inspired by God, gave her the name of Mary. The name means a number of things; it means, ‘Lady,” “The Enlightened One,” “The Light Giver,” “Star of the Sea,” “Myrrh of the Sea,” with “Stella Maris,” being the favorite. Most importantly, just by saying her holy name is saying a prayer. It pleases God and has power over Satan. Its significance is so profound.
The feast day o\f the Most Holy Name of Mary originated in 1513 in Cuenca, Spain. At the time it was a local celebration and was held on September 15. In 1587, Pope Sixtus V moved the feast day to September 17. In 1622, Pope Gregory XV expanded the feast to the Archdiocese of Toledo, and in 1671, the entire kingdom of Spain was included.
But in the year of 1683, this feast day was inserted into the Roman Calendar. That was when Pope Innocent XI, made it a feast everywhere in the Catholic world. The feast was designated to be celebrated on September 12, four days after the birthday of Our Lady. Why did this happen?
The Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571 resulting in a great victory by the Holy League organized by Pope St. Pius V. The naval forces of the Holy League conquered the overwhelming power of the invading Muslims. The date was October 7 and this day is celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was on this day that Catholics all through Europe prayed the Rosary for the Holy League Navy. Their victory saved Christianity in Europe.
In 1683, a huge Muslim army of over 300,000 had marched through Hungary destroying everything in its path. The army was now on Austria’s border preparing to vanquish Vienna. The papal nuncio and King Leopold of Austria pleaded with King Jan Sobieski of Poland, to help them stop the invading Muslims. King Sobieski immediately agreed to help. He had beaten back the invading Muslims a few years before, and although the army he commanded was small, he was undeterred.
On his march to Austria, King Sobieski and his army passed by the Shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa, The King pleaded with the Blessed Mother by invoking her name. He asked for her blessing and intercession. King Sobieski, allied with German warriors, tricked the Muslims into thinking they were retreating. As Sobieski’s forces feigned retreat the Germans attacked from the rear. The Muslims became confused and fled Vienna and Christian Europe. King Sobieski presented the Muslim standard, which read “Death to the Infidel”, to Pope Innocent XI. The Holy Father proclaimed the Polish King as the savior of Christendom.
King Sobieski triumphantly entered Vienna on September 12. He attended Mass and praised the Blessed Virgin as the cause and reason for their great victory. Pope Innocent XI thereupon declared September 12, as a date to honor the Most Holy Name of Mary, whose motherly intervention had saved Christendom.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux says:
“O most holy Virgin Mary, your name is so sweet and admirable that one cannot say it without becoming inflamed with love toward God and You.”
Blessed Raymond Jordano says:
“that however hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced that heart will be wonderfully softened.”
copyright©Larry Peterson 2019