Thursday, September 11, 2014


The universal Church calls it the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Spaniards, and those they influenced, also call it, at times, the Sweet Name of Mary.

Spain was the first to ask and receive, in 1513, the Pope's permission to celebrate a feast in honor of her name. The diocese to observe it first was Cuenca, and the date chosen for it was September 12. But historical events would help make it a universal observance.

In 1683, or 170 years later, the Catholic Poles and Austrians were fighting against the Muslim Turks, menacing Europe. The Polish king John Sobieski prepared himself for war by going to daily Mass and receiving communion. At stake was the great city of Vienna.

The Catholic and Muslim forces were to do battle on September 13, but the Turks were hemming in on the city so much that Sobieski had to strike on the 12th, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, even though they were outnumbered vastly by the Turks.

After a full day of fighting, the Christians held the Turks back.  As the Turks were exhausted, Sobieski let loose the largest cavalry charge in history. Eighteen thousand men on horses descended from the hills onto the tired and dispirited Turks. The Turkish line was broken and then the Turks gave up. Just a few hours later, Sobieski was in the deserted battle tent of the Turkish commander.

As the Turks were giving up as the day ended, a cloud passed over the crescent moon (symbol of the Muslims) and hid it from view. It was an ominous sign.

King John Sobieski sends word to the Pope : "I came, I saw, God conquered."

The victory was credited to the Holy Name of Mary, whose feast it was that same day. Therefore, Rome extended the feast, till then mainly a Spanish devotion, to the whole Catholic world.


The name "Mary" is derived from the Hebrew name Miriam. The only woman so-called in the Old Testament is the sister of Moses. Scholars disagree as to the meaning of Miriam. By the time of Jesus, the name became very popular (notice the number of different Marys in the Gospels) and had been altered a bit to Mariam when the Jews dropped Hebrew and began to speak Aramaic, a close cousin, as their language of daily life.

Among the many explanations offered for the past (almost) 2000 years as to the meaning of the name "Mary," or "Miriam," one very highly favored by the Church Fathers is "Lady," as in "mistress," a lady of power and status. This would make sense in view of the fact that her Son is King.

But its meaning becomes even clearer when one remembers that Mary is the New Eve; she replaces the old Eve. If you look at the Marian symbol above, you see the phrase "Ave Maria." "Hail Mary." If you read "Ave" backward, it spells "Eva." Mary reverses the sin of Eve (Eva). Eve rebelled and Mary obeyed. Eve brought death into the world, Mary brought Life into the world, Jesus the Savior.

Eve was supposed to be Queen, as Adam was King. After all, they were the first humans. But, when they sinned, they lost the dominion God wanted them to have. Instead, the woman became subject to the man, and the man had to fight the earth, as it were, for it to produce food. Because we are sinners, we became slaves; slaves to our rebellious passions. But Mary changed all that. By giving us our King, men and women can become kings and queens again, over their own selves first of all. Slaves have been set free, and can follow the will of God now, through the grace of Christ. Mary is Lady, as Christ is King.


For us on Guam, this feast means something very special to us because our Cathedral has as its patroness the Dulce Nombre de Maria, the Sweet Name of Mary, after the Spanish fashion. Not only is this church our Cathedral, it was the first Catholic church built in the Marianas. It was named by Blessed Diego Luis de Sanvitores. The image of Our Lady of Camarin is here.


Did you notice that the Agaña Cathedral is celebrating the feast of the Dulce Nombre de Maria back around September 12, as opposed to near September 8, as it has been doing for many years? Why the shift?

If you look above at the General Roman Calendar of the early 1970s, you will see nothing for September 12. In 1969, Rome took away the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. The feeling at the time was that it was a duplication of the feast of the Birth of Mary, which was just a few days before. Obviously, Mary would have gotten her name around the time of her birth.

So what were we to do, if we had a cathedral named after the name of Mary? The decision was made then to celebrate it as close to September 8th as possible, since the devotion to her holy name was absorbed into the feast of her birthday.

But then... 2002, St Pope John Paul II restored the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary on the calendar, and on September 12, but as an Optional Memorial. An optional memorial is something up to the priest to observe or not, when he says Mass that day. But, it's good enough for us! The decision has been made, it seems, to celebrate Dulce Nombre back on September 12 or as close to it as possible, since we normally celebrate feasts on Guam on the Saturday closest the actual day.

This is how September 12 looked like in the good old days....

From the 1962 Missal. It was a 3rd class feast. There was nothing optional about it! The priest had to observe it, unless something of higher precedence coincides, such as a Sunday.

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