Friday, September 7, 2007

september 8th, Mary's birthday

I'm off to Canada's vast northlands (does a hundred miles northeast of Toronto qualify?) for a boy's weekend of beer and barbecues, so I'm posting my September 8th blog a day early. Tomorrow is the feast of the Nativity of Mary, one of only two saint's birthdays celebrated by the Catholic Church, along with that of John the Baptist (most other saints being remembered on the day of their death or martyrdom).

The Bible has no birth records for Mary, but this day was allotted to her in both Byzantium and Rome from at least the 7th century. It falls a neat nine months after December 8, the feast of her (immaculate) Conception, and at the point of transition from summer to autumn, the time of the harvest. It is an occasion for lively local pilgrimages in many parts of the world.

Fitting, then, that it was on September 8th, 2002, that the first image of Mary, accompanied by a strong scent of roses, appeared in the window of a greenhouse in the Metis community of Ile-a-la-Crosse, northern Saskatchewan (Canada's real northland). The image of a hooded, standing woman was followed by others, including a rosary, and soon crowds estimated at up to a thousand were making the pilgrimage to the greenhouse from all over the vicinity. The following months brought new images, in Fond-du-Lac, Black Lake and several other Dene and Metis communities, which drew new crowds of the prayerful, the sceptical, the curious.

There was some reporting of these incidents at the time, but soon, as usually happens with such things, public interest loped off elsewhere and there has been no news since - at least none that I've been able to scare up on the Internet. But I'll come back to this next week, to see if the images -- and the pilgrimages -- have persisted.

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