To neglect someone’s birthday is to say we do not love them. God forbid that we would even forget our own mother’s birthday. Yet, this is what many Catholics do with Jesus’ mother. There is only one reason why we should celebrate. It is the birthday of the mother of Jesus our Savior and Mary being our heavenly mother. It is just the same as saying that to forget our own mother’s birthday is unthinkable.
In conception, Mary was created and filled with spiritual gifts and blessings but she was shrouded by the mystery of the womb. When She was born, she was introduced into the society of man. Born to the light of the world, her mission to be the universal mediatrix and co-redemptrix officially began, much in the same way the birth of Jesus Christ had.
I have had the privilege to have endless conversations with my father, (known to many of the legionaries as Bro. Diony), about his love and devotion to our Blessed Mother and his undying support to the Legion of Mary. He opened his publishing business after realizing that being in mainstream journalism would only endanger his life and he named his company, Madonna Printing Press after the The Madonna and Child or The Virgin and Child and is often the name of a work of art which shows the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The word ‘Madonna’ means “My Lady” in Italian. Artworks of the Christ Child and his mother Mary are part of the Roman Catholic tradition in many parts of the world including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, South America and the Philippines. Paintings or otherwise known as icons are also an important tradition of the Orthodox Church and often show the Mary and the Christ Child. That was the first manifestation of my father’s profound love to Mama Mary.
He met my mother through the Legion of Mary which my father thinks is the best gift he ever received. She was a legionary too. His prayers to Jesus through Mary was to be blessed with a loving wife and obedient children to the Catholic faith. In my opinion, Mama Mary answered all his prayers. His love for Mary never ceased till his last breath as we celebrate his 1st year death anniversary on October 27, 2016. I know that in exchange for all the blessings and the goodness of the Lord to his family , there were sacrifices to be made, and that is his one hundred percent devotion and attention to the Blessed Mother. He missed some of his family’s celebrations such as birthdays, bienvenida and despedida parties and many more, all because he had to go to a retreat, or attend a Curia meeting, go to the darkest and deepest streets of the slums to bring the message of Christ, September functions, Nativity, Immaculate Concepcion, Assumption celebrations and what not. All about the Blessed Mother. My mother would be disappointed and one time in my early teens, I confronted my father. I literally told him that he is never around on family gatherings. He simply uttered, ‘we are blessed because of my absence at home’. His love for the Blessed Mother got us to better schools, live decently and experience the finer things in life. I am not saying that he was not around all the time, rather, he spends more time with the Legion. I know how much he loves us all. Not even going through heart infractions stopped him from serving. To my father, it was through the Blessed Mother that despite the turmoils we face, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves up, see the light at the end of the tunnel and continue to live a spiritually fruitful and happy life.
Let us make a space to remember always in our hearts on what the ‘Handbook’ says: ‘Especially does the Legion aspire after her humility and above all her faith, that virtue which has in her alone been found in its utmost extent and never equalled.’ And it is the one thing each of us prays for every day. Again, Humility and Faith.
As I write this, I believe in my heart that my father is in control of the keyboard, typing these words and I am just his messenger. As legionaries of Mary, we look at her as our heavenly Mother and the Queen of all queens. Is it appropriate to question whether her birthday has to be celebrated or not? Let us not forget the reason why we chose to be in the Legion. We are given the opportunity to show our affection and respect to our Heavenly Mother. On behalf of my father, Bro. Diony Cifra, Happy Birthday Mama Mary. You will be forever loved, adored and hailed as the Mary full of grace.