By Kelly Wahlquist
Our ways are not the Lord’s ways—thank God! Because God’s ways are so far beyond ours and let’s face it, they are much neater. We can plan all we want, but when it comes down to it, the Lord always finds a way to not only appreciate our “loaves & fishes” efforts, but He multiplies them.
Take today—a simple day in the liturgical year, the 23rd Sunday of ordinary time; but not ordinary by any means. Today is the day we recognize the Blessed Mother’s birthday. A few years ago, as I prepared to travel to the west coast on this same weekend, my friends and I had a thought: Why not have a birthday party for Our Lady? My friend Rita ran with the idea!
Rita planned a little birthday party for 4,500 families for the Mother of God, not a small undertaking. For the record, when you talk about charisms, Rita oozes the gift of hospitality. So much so, she invited everyone to be a part of the party. Not sure if that was her gift of hospitality shining, or the way Catholics get people to volunteer! Either way, it worked, and many gifts came together to create a marvelous celebration for the Queen of Heaven.
In her planning, Rita met with the various parish committees to make the day special. With the Liturgy Committee she decided the recessional song would be “Immaculate Mary” and that once the priest walked up the aisle, the congregation would sing Happy Birthday to the Blessed Mother. With the Knights of Columbus, she planned to swap out the weekly donuts and coffee and have them sponsor blue cupcakes and punch.
The Spanish Liturgy Committee was in charge of the decorations, and the Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Perpetual Help ministries hosted the cupcake soiree after each Mass. Rita made throwing this party an enjoyable collaborative endeavor for the members of St. Clare’s.
All of this was impressive enough, but when the Lord saw Rita’s remarkable efforts, He multiplied them. He took her beautiful efforts to bring awareness to the importance of recognizing the birth a woman whose “yes” to God’s will would change the world, and He made sure thousands were “fed.” And He did it in ways that we never imagined.
Though we never saw picking up cupcakes at Sam’s Club as an opportunity to evangelize, the Lord did. Three times on the cupcake pick-up excursion Rita was asked if the 500 cupcakes were for a wedding, and she joyfully responded, “No, they are for the Blessed Mother’s Birthday.” You can imagine the looks exchanged, and the great conversations started at the sound of those words.
Though it was planned to sing Happy Birthday to the Blessed Mother after the first verse of “Immaculate Mary” during the recessional hymn, it wasn’t planned to have it broadcast on Immaculate Heart Radio. Well, at least it wasn’t planned by Rita and her committee. It appears Our Lady doesn’t mind how many people know she’s another year older because the 9:30 am Mass at St. Clare’s was aired for all to hear, birthday wishes and all. I can’t help but think of the discussions generated as people listened to the congregation singing Happy Birthday to the Blessed Virgin.
As if being an outlet to share the Good News wasn’t enough, Our Lady used her birthday celebration to teach the littlest among us how to live the Gospel. As the children left the church to hear the Gospel read to them, they had to walk past a table of beautifully decorated delicious looking cupcakes and not touch a one! The Gospel that Sunday was about carrying your cross. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger cross for a wide-eyed hungry 5-year-old, than a tower of untouchable cupcakes with mountains of frosting.
After all, was said and done, crosses endured became blessings as chocolate crumbs littered the floor and blue frosting stained little teeth. In fact, birthday blessings were abundant that day in ways beyond our ways. Various committees got to be of service to their parish family. Workers at Sam’s Club may have found themselves pondering the birth of the Mother of God. And listeners of Immaculate Heart Radio perhaps smiled hearing “Happy Birthday” sung to a mother who is always a reminder of the most important birth of all, the birth of Our Lord.
Happy Birthday, Mary!
Kelly Wahlquist is a wife, mother of three, inspiring Catholic author and speaker residing in Minnesota. She is the founder of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization and the Director for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. Her book Created to Relate: God’s Design for Peace & Joy encourages and inspires women to live fully their beautiful God-given gifts for building relationships.
She is the editor of Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing the Passion of Christ through the Eyes of Women and Gaze Upon Jesus: Experiencing Christ’s Childhood through the Eyes of Women, which are innovative collaborative works that allow women to enter into their relationship with Jesus in the way in which they were created to—as women. Kelly travels the country speaking on the New Evangelization in an effort to encourage all to spread the message of Jesus by living the joy of the Gospel, and leads women’s pilgrimages (WINE & Shrine) through Italy. She enjoys speaking to all groups but has a special affinity towards speaking at Catholic women’s conferences and retreats. (KellyWahlquist.com) (CatholicVineyard.com)