As today is the feast of the nativity of my confirmation saint, I am re-posting my thoughts from last year. Saint John the Baptist, pray for each of us!
Today, June 24, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. For the Church, this is a special day—one of the only feast days of a saint falling on the date of birth, rather than the date on which the saint died (Of course, we also celebrate the beheading of Saint John the Baptist in August). Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint's death as his feast, because that day marks his entrance into heaven. To this rule there are two notable exceptions, the birthdays of Blessed Mary (celebrated on September 8) and of Saint John the Baptist. All other persons were stained with original sin at birth, preventing a liturgical celebration of the event. But through the grace of God—in preparation for her special role as Mother of God-- Mary, from the first moment of her existence, was free from original sin. Similarly, John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother, jumping for joy at the greeting of Mary to Elizabeth during her visitation (the second Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary).
"Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our Savior's birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist. (The feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin had not yet been introduced when he wrote this.) In the case of other saints or of God's chosen ones, the Church, as you know, solemnizes the day on which they were reborn to everlasting beatitude after ending the trials of this life and gloriously triumphing over the world.
"For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored. But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace." (For more from Saint Augustine on the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, click here.)
baptism of Jesus. His birth prepared the way for the coming of Our Lord and Savior, for the coming of salvation for all.
57When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
61They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."
62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.
80And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1: 57-66, 80)
John should baptize (the Second Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary), and upon whom the Holy Spirit would descend in the form of a dove.
“I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “Yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28). Saint John lived the words “He must increase; I must decrease,” (John 3:30) believing them to the core of his being. His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. The baptisms John performed were baptisms of repentance and reformation. But the baptisms that Jesus would bring to the world would be through the Holy Spirit and fire. John recognized his role, his insignificance in comparison to the greatness of Christ, and proclaimed himself unworthy to even carry the sandals of Jesus. He said:
31"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3: 31-36)
Today is a special day for the Chuch, for all the faithful! In the words of Blessed Guerric of Igny (c.1080-1157), Cistercian abbot, from his sermon on the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist:
"Rightly, then, did the birth of this child make many rejoice then and does make many rejoice today: born in the old age of his parents he was to preach the grace of rebirth to an aging world. Rightly does the Church solemnly venerate this birth, which is wonderfully brought about by grace and at which nature wonders. To me certainly the birth of the world's Lamp (John 5:35) brings fresh joy, for it enabled me to recognize the true Light shining in the darkness but not mastered by the darkness, (Jn1,5.9).
His birth brings me a joy utterly unspeakable, for so many outstanding benefits accrue to the world through it. He is the first to give the Church instruction, to initiate it by penance, to prepare it by baptism. When it is prepared he delivers it to Christ and unites it with him, (John 3:29). He both trains it to live temperately and, by his own death, gives it the strength to die with fortitude. In all these ways he prepares for the Lord a perfect people, (Luke 1:17).”
All powerful God,
help Your people to walk the path to salvation.
By following the teaching of St. John the Baptist,
may we come to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."