On Tuesday, September 8, many braved what the forecast described as a dust and pollution storm in order to come celebrate the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
As is customary, the Franciscans processed to the Basilica of Saint Anne. The Missionaries of Africa, also known as the White Fathers, have been the guardians of this national French domain since the late nineteenth century. The mass, celebrated in Latin and French, began after a procession to the crypt, where tradition places the birth of Mary. The Crusader-era church dates back to the twelfth century church and was built over the vestiges of a Byzantine church. It also commemorates Jesus’ healing of a paralyzed man (John 5: 1-9). The information we have about the Virgin’s birth has been taken from James’ Protoevangelium, dating back to the second century: her mother, Anne, was barren, but she turned to God, who heard her prayer.
Based on the Gospel account of Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:1 -23), the homily by Br. Stéphane Milovitch, OFM, recalled that despite man’s sins, God desires to walk with him and he accompanies him in great and small things every day. “During this time of year when students are returning to school, let us entrust Syria, the Middle East, Christians, and all people who are persecuted for their faith—as well as those who have been displaced—to Mary’s kindness for this new year.”
French Deputy Consul General, Mrs. Minh Tang was present. The faithful prayed for France by singing the Domine fac salvam Rempublicam nostram at the conclusion of the celebration, as is customary for consular masses. After the celebration, the White Fathers invited the assembly to the courtyard for some refreshments.