A Time of Grace: Our Lady's Thirty Days
by Nelson Hertel
September 9, 2017
Catholics recognize a number of numerical connotations. We associate three with the Most Blessed Trinity, and three for the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity; five for a set of Mysteries in the Rosary, and the Five Wounds of Our Lord; seven for the seven Sacraments, and the Joys and Sorrows of Our Lady and St. Joseph; thirteen of course for Fatima and St. Anthony of Padua, but not too many make a connection with the number thirty. We do find in old prayer books different versions of a “Thirty Days’ Prayer” to Our Lady or St. Joseph. We also know of the Gregorian Masses, thirty consecutive Masses for a deceased soul.
But not many Catholics know of the period called “Our Lady’s Thirty Days,” a special month of various feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some are celebrated throughout the Universal Church, others are commemorated only in certain countries or religious orders. Just preceding the Thirty Days is the feast of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners on August 13.
The period officially begins on August 15th with the feast of the Assumption. We recall, of course, the fact that Our Lady was taken body and soul into Heaven, as Holy Church acknowledges in the dogmatic definition of the Assumption by Pope Pius XII in 1950. But few know of the unique blessing of fruits, herbs and wild flowers performed on this day, the text of which is in the Roman Ritual. This tradition derives from the Apostles finding fragrant flowers and herbs in Our Lady’s empty tomb, at Her Assumption. Our Lady’s Thirty Days, called Der Frauendreißiger in German, was associated by Catholics in the Middle Ages with the harvest, particularly the grain harvest. It is for this reason that many depictions of Our Lady’s Assumption include grain. Besides the ripe grain, various herbs, also used for medicinal purposes and fortified with the Church’s blessing, were also ready in August.
The feast of the Immaculate Heart occurs on the octave day of the Assumption, August 22. Following this is Our Lady of Consolation, an Augustinian feast, celebrated on the Saturday after August 28, and Our Lady, Health of the Sick commemorated on the Saturday before the last Sunday of August.
On September 3 is the feast of Our Lady, Mother of the Divine Shepherd. On September 8, we celebrate the Nativity or Birth of Our Lady. On September 12, we honor Her Holy Name, a feast instituted to commemorate the Christian victory possible only through the intercession of Mary, at the Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683. On September 15, the month closes with the feast of the Seven Sorrows.
There are different, local feasts of Our Lady also celebrated during these thirty days in various towns and cities in Catholic countries. Often, they coincide with other liturgical feasts. Our Lady of Divine Providence, for example, is commemorated on August 24 (coinciding with the Apostle, St. Bartholomew) in Montalbano Elicona, near Messina in Sicily. The feast of Our Lady of Grace is held on September 8 in Udine, a city in northern Italy, although it is the day of the Blessed Virgin’s Birth, for the universal Church.
In the Divine Praises at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, we recite: “Blessed be the Name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.” But how often, in moments of temptation and in times of trial, do we remember to beg the aid of Her, Who is Mediatrix of all Graces? Do we call on that most beautiful and holy Name of Mary?
In the Divine Office for the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, is found the following, moving excerpt of a sermon by St. Bernard, a great Doctor of the Church:
“‘And the Virgin’s name was Mary.’ Let us speak a little about this Name, which is said to mean ‘Star of the sea,’ and which so well befits the Virgin Mother. Rightly is She likened to a star. As a star emits a ray without being dimmed, so the Virgin brought forth Her Son without receiving any injury. The ray takes naught from the brightness of the star, nor the Son from His Mother’s virginal integrity. This is the noble Star risen out of Jacob, Whose ray illumines the whole world, Whose splendor shines in the heavens, penetrates the abyss, and, traversing the whole earth, gives warmth rather to souls than to bodies, cherishing virtues, withering vices.
“Mary is that bright and incomparable Star, Whom we need to see raised above this vast sea, shining by Her merits, and giving us light by Her example.
“All of you, who see yourselves amid the tides of the world, tossed by storms and tempests rather than walking on the land, do not turn your eyes away from this shining Star, unless you want to be overwhelmed by the hurricane. If temptation storms, or you fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the Star: Call upon Mary! If you are tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary. If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of your soul, turn your eyes to Mary. If troubled by the enormity of your crimes, ashamed of your guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, you begin to sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary.
“Let Her Name be even on your lips, ever in your heart; and the better to obtain the help of Her prayers, imitate the example of Her life: Following Her, thou strayest not; invoking Her, thou despairest not; thinking of Her, thou wanderest not; upheld by Her, thou fallest not; shielded by Her, thou fearest not; guided by Her, thou growest not weary; favored by Her, thou reachest the goal. And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: ‘And the Virgin’s Name was Mary.’”
Encouraged by this beautiful tradition of Our Lady’s “Thirty Days,” we should not be saddened that they are coming to a close. As Queen of Heaven and earth, every day of the year, indeed all time and eternity, is in Our Lady’s domain. She is ready to assist us at every moment. Let us continue to fulfill all of Her Fatima requests and especially pray Her Holy Rosary daily, invoking Her maternal aid more and more frequently in these days leading to the 100th anniversary of Her sixth apparition at Fatima, and the Miracle of the Sun, on October 13, 1917.