by Father Ronan Murphy
In the year of our Lord 1683, a mighty army from the Muslim Turks that had threatened Europe for over 250 years, made a last and deadly thrust into the heart of Europe. Their target was the great Catholic City of Vienna, the Capital of Austria, that was then the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor and the center of Christendom.
If the Turks managed to take this city, all of Christian Europe would have been vulnerable to its military power and might. Again, the Turks far outnumbered the Christians. After a heavy siege, conditions in the City became more and more desperate. Every day the people of Vienna gathered to pray for Our Lady’s aid invoking her sweet name.
When all seemed lost, the devout Catholic King of Poland heard the call for a crusade by Pope Innocent XI to save Vienna. On the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, August 15, King John III Sobieski of Poland commanding an army of 50,000 soldiers left Poland to save Christian Europe from its ancient foe. Although far outnumbered by the Turks, they took them by surprise on September 12, 1683. Mary’s name was written on their banners and cried aloud by the soldiers. The victory was so overwhelming that the Muslim army was destroyed. King John wrote to Pope Innocent XI saying, “We came, we saw and God Conquered.”
Vienna and Christian Europe had been saved from its greatest enemy. Soon afterward in appreciation of Our Lady’s intercession in obtaining such a great victory, Pope Innocent XI declared September 12th to be celebrated as the feast of the Holy Name of Mary.
Our salvation began when the Archangel Gabriel spoke the name of Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God.” And because of Mary’s Fiat: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word”, Our Savior, Jesus, the Son of God became Man. Thus, we have been praising Our Lady with the “Ave Maria!” from generation after generation in thanksgiving.
There was once a woman who had a great devotion to Our Lady. Like Our Lady, she had one child, but he was “brain-damaged,” and never learned to talk. He could say just two words, which his mother had taught him with patience: “Ave Maria.” He seemed to love repeating those words over and over. If someone asked him his name, he would only answer “Ave Maria.” Everyone grew to love this “Ave Maria Boy,” as they called him, and they were all sorry when one day he died.
On the day of his burial, a marvelous miracle happened. As soon as the grave was covered over, a green shoot appeared, and by evening, it was a tall and beautiful lily growing out of the grave. The mourners were startled and insisted that the gravedigger uncover its roots to find where it grew; as he removed the covering, the face of the child came into view, and the mystery was solved — the miraculous lily was springing from the child’s lips.
The mother and everyone rejoiced at such a wonderful sign from heaven; her little boy had been dumb in life, except for his “Ave Maria,” but now from his grave he was preaching a most eloquent sermon on Our Blessed Mother and her goodness to those who have confidence in her Name! [Thanks to Father L. Hull, C.SS.R. for this story.]
“Thy name and thy remembrance are the desire of my soul: my soul hath desired thee in the night.” (Isaiah 26: 8)
When we honor the Holy Name of Mary on September 12, we are simply following the unwavering devotion of the Church from the dawn of Christianity. This devotion is appealing and powerful. There are about seventy different meanings for the name of Mary. The most appealing one is that Mary means “beloved of God.” It is from two words, one Egyptian, “myr,” which means beloved, the other Hebrew, “iam,” which means God. Myriam was Moses and Aaron’s sister, who was the first woman in the Bible to be known as Mary.
This explanation seems most correct when we consider that the Blessed Virgin was truly beloved of God. Of all men and women, she was the only one who was always pleasing to God, because she alone was always free from sin, and thus always beloved of the Almighty. From all eternity God loved her. Out of love, He created her; out of love He preserved her from sin; out of love, He adorned her with grace and beauty. In every sense, her name is ‘Beloved of God’.
“You have been blessed, O Virgin Mary, above all other women on earth by the Lord the highest God; He has so exalted your name, that your praises shall never fade from the mouths of men.”
Father Murphy is the Coordinator for Marian Devotions of the Diocese of Brooklyn.