It was in the sixth century that the Jerusalem Church originated the feast of Mary’s birth, along with the Presentation in the Temple and probably the Annunciation. By the seventh century, the Jerusalem feasts were celebrated not only in the Byzantine Empire, but also in Rome. The Birth of Mary is celebrated on September 8, one of three feast days given to Our Lady by the Catholic Church; the others are: Presentation of the Lord (February 2), and The Visitation (May 31).
September 8 can be viewed as Our Lady’s ‘official’ birthday celebrated by the Church. But for followers of Our Lady’s messages from Medjugorje there is another date in the calendar put aside for celebrating the Gospa’s birthday – August 5, best considered as Our Lady’s ‘private’ birthday. This was revealed to the visionaries very early on in the history of the Medjugorje apparitions and made public by Fr Tomislav Vlasic during a homily given on August 7, 1984 in St James Church.
Mention of this date was also made by Fr René Laurentin and published the same year in his book, Is the Virgin Mary Appearing at Medjugorje? He wrote: At the end of May 1984, Jelena and Mirjana, with whom I spoke on June 10, had received from the Virgin a call to celebrate August 5 as the 2,000 birthday of her birth. The feast was to be celebrated by two days of fasting and a day of celebration… The three days of fast (they added one) ended in a day of intense prayer in the Church and on the hill (of apparitions). There were many conversions and confessions. One of the priests said to me: “I will remember this day more than my 20 previous years as a confessor.” According to the young people (the visionaries), Mary had said who had heard confessions that day would have great joy…
Fr Tomislav Vlasic confirmed this feeling of joy in his own homily given on August 5 when he announced: I felt yesterday and today, too, that this is the most beautiful day of my life. It is the most beautiful day I have spent amongst people. It is the only day, up to now, that has been celebrated well; people purified by fasting, prayer, penance and the sacrament of Reconciliation… Yesterday and today I have seen some miracles amongst the people and there have been some amongst you who have had indescribable experiences. It would be better to listen to all those who have felt these miracles within them than to a sermon… A woman of 80 came here yesterday, barefoot; she had walked over 120 kilometres… Today a man climbed up to the Cross (on Krizevac) on his knees… I have seen thousands of people fast on bread and water – children, young people and old, sick and healthy, all saying, “yes, we can fast and are happy to do so.”
The visionary Mirjana also spoke about Our Lady’s ‘private’ birthday in an interview with the author Jan Connell, who wrote in her book, Visions of the Children: In the first few days of the Apparitions, the Blessed Mother was most gracious about the fear of the six visionaries, and gentle about the personal suffering each was enduring. She told the Children: “Do you know my real birthday is August the 5th?” The Children said no, they did not know that. The Blessed Mother continued: “Would you Children like to give me some presents?” Jacov sorrowfully blurted, “Dear Blessed Mother, I don’t have any money!”
The Blessed Mother smiled joyfully and said: “Oh Jacov, my dearest little one, you don’t need money for my birthday presents! Tonight when you go home, no matter what your feelings tell you, no matter how you are stimulated, rather than speak the pain in your heart, run outside and look at the heavens and cry out, ‘Its all for the love of you, Dear Jesus.’”
Mirjana said the next evening at the Apparition, the Blessed Mother thanked Jacov for his gifts from the previous evening. By the time the Blessed Mother’s birthday arrived, Mirjana said that Jacov “was just bursting”. He had billions of presents for the Blessed Mother! High-strung and nervous by nature, young Jacov could hardly contain himself during the long rosary prayers that preceded the Apparition. Finally the moment came. The great flashes of light announced the arrival of the Queen of Heaven and Earth. As Jacov saw her he literally reached up and grabbed at the Mother of God as he cried out. “Happy Birthday, Dear Blessed Mother!” Realising what he had done, Jacov fell on the floor in shame and fear. Mirjana said she saw the Blessed Mother tenderly lean down and pick him up as she took his little nail-bitten hand in hers and kissed it.
The visionary Marija made reference to Our Lady’s birthday (but not the date) when she visited Manchester in 2004. In her recorded testimony Marija explained: Our Lady once said that we could celebrate her birthday, and as a prayer group we ordered a big cake, and we brought it on top of Krizevac, the Mountain of the Cross, at half-past-eleven at night, when Our Lady said she would appear. You can imagine us carrying this cake, climbing the hill for this long forty-five minutes walk. But we did it with great joy. And in the moment of the apparition we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Our Lady. We had created this cake with many roses made of sugar, and even had the idea of taking one of these roses and to offer it to Our Lady. And Our Lady took this rose and She took it with her. We said that it’s impossible that Our Lady is bringing back to Paradise, this rose. The following day, early in the morning, we climbed the hill to see if we could see the rose anywhere. But the rose wasn’t there, and we were full of joy in our hearts. We also ate the cake – it was very big – at the end of the apparition and at the end of all prayers, and I must say the cake was very, very good, because at that moment we were tired and hungry, and we were joyful.