8 September, the Nativity of Our Lady

Below is a video about pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health at Vailankanni in the state of Tamil Nadu, in mainland India’s lowest southern region. The Lourdes of the East, as it is often called and 8 million Christians, Hindus and Muslims go there annually.


Some iffy bits in the video, but on the whole it is really very interesting. In it we can perhaps see, partially at least, why pilgrimage was so great a feature in Europe in the past. These pilgrims aren’t wearing webcams on their bicycle helmets or making daily entries on their personal blogs. These are only the poor and lowly.

8 September is commemorated as the feast day of the shrine under the title of Our Lady of Good Health.

Well worth watching for a few reasons. Miracles aplenty for the plebs, for instance, or at least prayers answered  and it’s also good to see such devotion to the Mother of the Lord outside Europe and the Americas. It also seems to have much in common with other appearances of Our Lady two or three centuries later in Europe.

What most intrigues me is that people of all the religions of India will go there, annually in so many cases.


About GC

Poor sinner.
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21 Responses to 8 September, the Nativity of Our Lady

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    Something’s wrong with the “Like” button.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GC says:

    It worked for me, JH (as they say). 🙂


  3. ginnyfree says:

    Thank you GC. I enjoyed the video. She is amazing and beautiful. Ave Maria, gratia plena. Happy B-day dear Mother! God bless. Ginnyfree.


  4. GC says:

    ginnyfree, we can all add our birthday wishes to the half million or so She would have got from all the pilgs today at Vailankanni.


  5. kathleen says:

    Except for “the iffy bits” that you mention, GC, and yes, I agree there were some, the story of these apparitions of Our Blessed Lady, and the devotion of the millions (wow, mind-boggling) of pilgrims, is lovely. It would be interesting to learn how many of the non-Catholic pilgrims to the shrine, following the logical reasoning of devotion to Our Lady as Mother of Christ, eventually convert to Christianity. Do you have any idea?

    Time for a hymn to honour our most beloved and Blessed Mother on this, Her Birthday…


  6. Gertrude says:

    ‘Mirror without spot, red rose of Jericho’
    Blessed Mary, moder virginall,
    Integrate mayden, sterre of the see,
    Have remembraunce at the day fynall
    On thy poore servaunt now prayng to thee.

    Myrroure without spot, rede rose of Jerico,
    Close garden of grace, hope in disparage,
    Whan my soule the body parte fro
    Socoure it frome myn enmyes rage.

    The birth of the Virgin (BL Arundel 109, f.203)

    This is a fifteenth-century two-verse prayer to the Virgin, fairly straightforward but appealing in its simplicity. The poem is from Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce 1 (SC21575), a manuscript of Latin and English prayers intended for private devotional use. Here’s a modernised version of the poem:

    Blessed Mary, mother virginal,
    Integrate maiden, star of the sea,
    Have remembrance at the day final
    Of thy poor servant now praying to thee.

    Mirror without spot, red rose of Jericho,
    Close garden of grace, hope in disparage, [disgrace, trouble]
    When my soul the body parts fro [from]
    Protect it from mine enemies’ rage.


  7. GC says:

    Lovely, Gertrude. Metaphor and prayer rolled together in all simplicity.

    They say the feast today, of Maria bambina, is big in Milan:


    Of course, we all realised that today September 8, the Nativity of Our Lady, is exactly 9 months after the feast of her Immaculate Conception, December 8.


  8. GC says:

    kathleen @September 8, 2015 at 17:40
    It would be interesting to learn how many of the non-Catholic pilgrims to the shrine, following the logical reasoning of devotion to Our Lady as Mother of Christ, eventually convert to Christianity. Do you have any idea?

    kathleen, I’ve been looking for an answer to that today but couldn’t find anything that clear. But I think Fr Xavier, the rector of the shrine, is giving us a bit of answer to that in the video

    Narrator: One wonders how such a spectacle of devotion could be possible in a country with a small Christian minority.

    Father Xavier: The popularity is . . . God is working here through our Blessed Mother, that’s a fact. Everybody has to acknowledge that, because Jesus, He has chosen it . . . it is attributed to Him only, glory goes to Him. So here our Blessed Mother, His own mother, is glorified in this way.

    So this is a particular place where Jesus Christ is glorified though His mother..

    In the context, I think Father is suggesting that Our Lady is indeed drawing non-Christians in India to God , perhaps as she did in Mexico at Guadalupe in the 1500s.

    I rather suspect that advertising lots of conversions as a result of Vailankanni would not be the most prudent thing to do, as you know there are many groups in India, some very violent, trying to prevent people converting.

    Here’s a good article on the phenomenon of Hindus going in such numbers to the Catholic shrine.

    Why Hindus In India Venerate Mother Mary

    Dr. Matthias Frenz of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Academic Foundation) in Bonn, Germany, posits that Mary strikes a deep chord in many Indians, regardless of faith. “Mary is the mother par excellence,” he told IB Times. “For her devotees, Christians and non-Christians alike, she embodies the ideal of a benign and well-wishing mother.” But particularly for Indians (who not coincidentally refer to their nation as “Mother India”), the motherly figure has an immediate, emotional appeal, because people can connect their own family experiences with Mary, Frenz added. Frenz further noted that understanding the ‘Matha’ (mother) does not require theological expertise nor even any Biblical knowledge. “Visitors of Marian shrines in India rarely care about Catholic theology, but they follow the call of ‘their mother,’ as they say,” he noted. “Although Catholic tradition has developed sophisticated teachings and doctrines around Mary, the ordinary clergy will mostly stress the motherly qualities of Mary.

    And another (who would ever think that we would one day link to an article in the National Fishwrap? Talk about miracles):
    India is a rising Catholic power too



  9. kathleen says:

    Thank you so much, dear GC, for giving such a full and complete answer to my question. I read your two links with great interest. Yes, it makes sense, given the opposition to Christianity of the Hindu radicals resulting in many violent attacks, and that have worsened since this (surprisingly good 😉 ) 2009 ‘Fishwrap’ article was published, that there must be caution on reporting on the numbers of converts to the True Faith. Even so, it is clear that Catholicism is on the rise in India, which is a most encouraging sign to see for us in the West inundated with problems of growing Secularism and indifference.

    Although it is imperative to bear in mind that a pantheistic type of approach towards devotion to Our Blessed Lady should be avoided (re the first link you give), we can echo the words of Father Fernandes quoting from the Memorare:
    “[A]nyone who is devoted to Our Lady is on the right track. It was never known that anyone who fled to her protection was left unaided. Mary will never let any devotee stop at her, but will always lead people to God.”


  10. Michael says:

    I haven’t read the articles linked to by GC above yet (though will do later on, as I was wondering exactly the same thing myself!) but this all reminds me of an excellent article that I read a while back by Ven. Fulton Sheen on Our Lady and Islam:



  11. GC says:

    Michael, I have heard of this on a number of occasions but do not know of any place where this (Our Lady leading muslims to Our Lord) might clearly be happening. No sign of it here that I know of in Malaysia and Indonesia, the region that has the largest number of Muslims in the world. While quite a few muslim girls and women may bear names such as Mariam and Maria, I feel this is to show that Muhammad was even more important than Jesus. This is although Jesus, even according to the Qur’an, was conceived by God’s direct action and without a human father. Muhammad really must be the summit of the prophets if he was sent even after the miraculously conceived Jesus.

    It is similar with Hindus, of whom we have many here also, though Christians are more numerous. I suspect Our Lady could easily be “assimilated” by popular Hinduism as something like a goddess, as the articles point out.

    Still, we know God seems to be in no great hurry (unlike Papa Francesco) and Father Xavier may have direct knowledge of the situation in India that we may not. And we may not be around long enough to see how Our Lady eventually might draw muslims and hindus to Her Son.


  12. Michael says:

    GC @ 18:39, September 11th:

    No, neither do I know of any details on where this sort of thing might be happening, nor do I know how one would go about finding out. It is difficult enough to catalogue the particular reasons why people convert (as there are such a wide variety of reasons, often highly personal, and anecdotal evidence is hard to collect in a systematic way anyway), but even more so in Islamic countries where conversion to Christianity is a very difficult thing to do, and one would have very good reasons not to talk about it too much.

    Certainly though, what Ven. Fulton Sheen outlines in his short piece about the elevated role of Our Lady in the Qur’an does at least in theory suggest that she would be a good ‘starting point’ for missionaries to preach the Gospel. Going straight into talk about Our Lord is immediately controversial because, knowing what Christians believe and what Islam specifically denies (the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and therefore also the Resurrection) people are almost always going to have their Islamic apologetics hats on straight off the bat. Talking about Our Lady on the other hand might allow a very small grace period, where shared devotion to her can allow for the missionary to elaborate on why it is that she should be so revered (and how this veneration makes more sense in a Christian context).

    As you say though, all this, if it does happen, will do so over a much longer period of time than we will be able to observe. As Sheen says in his concluding paragraphs, missionaries have in the past broken down anti-Christian prejudice* through their charitable works, despite the situation not looking very favourable, so who knows what joining this to an increased focus on Our Lady might achieve in time?

    *Again, I have no idea how many conversions have come about by this path. Does anyone know of any sites dealing with conversions from Islam to Christianity? All I know is that, given the intense (and often violent) retribution exacted against those who do convert in many parts of the Islamic world, there are often great incentives not to do it. Which of course makes it all the more inspiring when people do!


  13. GC says:

    Michael @September 14, 2015 at 11:35

    Does anyone know of any sites dealing with conversions from Islam to Christianity?

    Dear Michael, I have never found a site that is devoted to this, though it would be very interesting if there were one!

    Over the years I have only managed to find bits and pieces on this here and there.

    One chap who I followed for a while was Abu Daoud, a very mild-tempered American gent, I think, but he seems to have gone off the air this last year. He was intelligently interested in the possibility of evangelisation in Arab countries and would insert himself in these countries to gather more thoughts. I’m not surprised he may have found himself more and more unemployed these last few years.

    He would often refer to the St Francis Magazine. This is still being published, as far as I can see, and has editions for 2015, though I’ve found that such editions are often difficult to locate on the website. I just press everything on the webpage in the hope of finding their more recent material, not to ignore their older material of course.

    Dear Michael, I hope you can find some stimulating material in these two places. I’m sure you are just the man to “get amongst it”. If you do, please to share your thoughts with us here on good old CP&S!


  14. Michael says:

    GC @ 17:08, September 14th:

    Thank you for those links – I shall certainly try and ‘get amongst’ them 🙂 and if I do find anything interesting there or anywhere else I shall indeed let you know. Also, I did finally get around to reading the links you posted earlier – very interesting!


  15. GC says:

    Michael, here for instance is a recentish article from the St Francis Magazine, which I think you might find informative, about the barriers to Christianity built into Islam’s DNA:


    With some links to follow up too.


  16. Michael says:

    GC @ 10:27, September 16th:

    Thank you for that link – it was very interesting indeed! The two central points do seem to be that a.) Islam is fundamentally opposed to the very core doctrines of Christianity – i.e.; at both a natural and supernatural level it is deeply anti-Christian (in fact, as the article says, perhaps the only explicitly anti-Christian religion), and b.) the way in which Islam sees no boundaries between the religious and the political, thus allowing its animus against Christianity (and other things of course) to penetrate the life of the Islamic believer at every level.

    What I also found particularly interesting though, was what was said about the Islamic sense of superiority, which is extended to the kinds of witnesses allowed in courts. This reminded me also of the Islamic attitude to lying, wherein it is permissible to lie outright to ‘unbelievers’ (taqiyya) – presumably precisely because they are not Muslims and thus do not deserve the truth – and not only to preserve oneself in a dangerous situation, but in debate with the non-Muslims as well:




  17. GC says:

    Michael, I think another thing the writer is clearly getting at is the “pride”, rather than humility, that Islam gives to its followers. Islam is the “best ” religion and muslims are the “best” people because, well, they’ve got the “best” religion. They are the “winners”, which would tend to make them immune to anything that religious “losers” (such as Christians) might have to say to them.


  18. Tom Fisher says:

    the “pride”, rather than humility, that Islam gives to its followers

    Islam is such an awful creed. And it will become increasingly influential with each passing decade.


  19. Michael says:

    GC @ 12:37:

    Yes, I agree. I think this is what I mean re the link to ‘justified’ lying – that because Islam is the ‘best’ (and correspondingly, because Muslims are ‘the best’) this means that the truth needn’t be extended to non-Muslims. This also, as you rightly say, is what makes Muslims particularly immune to anything Christians (or representatives of any other religion, but particularly Christians, for the reasons the article gives) might say.

    Also, I think this attitude of Islam being ‘best’ and Islamic culture ‘winning’ over other cultures is behind a lot of the extremism we see coming out of the Muslim world. Western intervention in Muslim countries may well have made things worse in some respects, in that it allowed terrorists to throw extra fuel onto the fires they were lighting, but the fires were already there. Islamic expansion during Muhammad’s time and immediately after his death, and the continued affluence of Islamic lands thereafter, tied in very nicely with the self-image of ‘winners’.

    When that disappeared, the Muslim world was left feeling something had gone awry – if they were the ‘best’ and most ‘successful’ religion, what had gone wrong? Thus a lot of the desire to ‘take on’ the West, whilst cloaked in talk about our decadence (which to be fair, is an accusation that has a lot of truth to it) and the way Western governments throw their weight around, is really based on a need to reinstate the Islamic world as ‘winners’ again – they see the validation of their religion in earthly achievement.


  20. GC says:

    Michael, I particularly liked that quote from Blaise Pascal in the article:

    Muhammad took the way of human success, Jesus Christ took the way of defeat.

    I often think that Pascal should be reinstated as a thorough Catholic. I know his sister was in the Jansenist abbey of Port-Royal (just to bug the Jesuits and all that, not a completely unappealing avocation, I must admit), but reading him you feel that you’re very much in the company of a deeply Catholic and philosophical soul. Like Toad . . . (who?) . . . well maybe.

    Tell me if you know this already, but you will know of the muslim call to prayer, will you not? In that call, they are called to “come to prayer, come to success”. On our television screens here it is usually translated as “come to prayer, come to prosperity”. Although I’ve seen “success” and “prosperity” explained as not purely material prosperity in this life but also prosperity in the after-life, there are not a few of my countrymen who are particularly attracted by the prospect of the prosperity idea in the here and now if they come to prayer more or less on time, with the after-life prosperity bit as a bit of a bonus.


  21. Michael says:

    GC @ 17:22, September 16th:

    Yes, I absolutely agree with the Pascal* quote as well – it seems to summarise the difference in overall outlook very nicely (personally I tend to imagine the Islamic crescent as a scimitar as well, which makes for a similarly apposite comparison in iconography – between the Cross and the sword; self-sacrifice and a rather aggressive march towards victory).

    Thank you for the info on the call to prayer – I did not know at all about the ‘come to success’ part! As you say, such things can be explained as heavenly prosperity as well, but I’ve always been struck by how materialistic the Islamic concept of heaven seems to be – again, this is something that can be interpreted symbolically (as their mystics no doubt do) but given the way in which the Qur’an is seen by Muslims, it is doubtful that this would be the majority view – rather, it seems that the Islamic view of heaven really does involve, as a significant part of its makeup, an array of physical pleasures, as opposed to its joy being rooted primarily in beatific vision.

    The pleasures of the Islamic heaven also seem to be rewards as opposed to gracious gifts of God’s self – a genuine ‘works-righteousness’ if you will! This all, I suppose, would be in keeping with the view of victory, superiority and achievement that the article outlines so well.

    *Pascal is a difficult one isn’t he? I agree with you that much of his work is greatly edifying, and in reading him you do certainly feel as if you’re in ‘safe’ territory for the most part. However, there is the issue of his association with Jansenism, but also (and perhaps more importantly) his emotionalism. I remember reading a short study by Hilaire Belloc in which he compares the two figures of Pascal and Descartes, with the latter being emblematic of the naked rationalism which was to come, and the former representative of that impulse which sees the individual emotions and will as foundational.

    Despite both of them being orthodox themselves, Descartes’ rationalism would lead to the corrosive scepticism of later centuries, and Pascal’s emotionalism would lead to fideism on the one side and modernism (or theological liberalism) on the other. I think it is this over-emphasis on feelings that may have led Pascal to remain on the outskirts somewhat – to officially bring him into the centre of Catholic life would be to affirm that distortion; on the other hand, he was no heretic, and has been helpful to a great many in their faith, so he clearly must remain within the fold, approved and beloved. I still think his ‘Wager’ is an underrated piece of apologetics too! Not something to base one’s argument(s) on certainly, but at a certain stage in the game, and properly understood, it has great persuasive power.


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