September 8th: The Feast of Mary’s Birthday


I’ve always been a sucker for birthday wishes. As a kid, there was something so dramatic about having a birthday cake set in front of me, its candles dripping wax into the frosting while I came up with a quick, silent statement of my heart’s desire. It was always exciting: would I get all the candles out in one breath? Would my wish come true? It was hard not to think of it as a magic moment.

Thinking back over the last three decades of wishing, I notice that they fall into general categories. They didn’t all come true, but some did:

Up to age 12 or so: I wished mainly for things (a pink Barbie house, a Strawberry Shortcake doll).

Ages 13-18: I tended to wish for new experiences (a leading role in the school musical, acceptance to the college of my choice).

Ages 19-27: This was a long stretch when I wished for my dream man to enter my life — prefereably a Renaissance Man who was fully conversant with the works of Jane Austen and who had a high Ruggedness Quotient. (NOTE: At age 27, I found him. He doesn’t know Austen, but he does clean up the dinner dishes, which is more than a fair substitute.)

28-33: I wished that the aforementioned man and I would someday have a family of our own.

34-35: I wished that I’ll always be grateful for the many previous wishes which — amazingly and miraculously — did in fact come true.

It makes me wonder what Mary’s list of lifelong birthday wishes would be like. What did she wish for at age eight, at fourteen, at twenty-five? Normally I’d dive right into a writing exercise like this, but I’m about a week from my due date (see wishes for ages 28-33, above), and need to direct my energy into washing the newborn clothes we’ve pulled down from the attic. So I’ll just think about Mary in the moment: what is she wishing for today — right now?

Here’s what I think. I think her fondest wish is that we take the time to get to know her son. I think she’s wishing for all of us to be jolted awake by this extraordinary man who ate dinner with outcasts, who smashed stereotypes, who rocked the boat of our prejudices and narrowness. She knows that if we really look at him, we’ll find someone who exhorts us to grow beyond ourselves, to give up the petty grudges that we’ve savored for years. We’ll find a man who calls us to look ridiculous in our willingness to forgive and to love others, hard as it seems at first, because that’s when we ourselves are actually the most balanced and the most at peace.

So happy birthday, dear Mary. May this be the year that your wish comes true.

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