To introduce a Blessed Birthday:  A young girl once said to her mother, “When I grow up I want to join the FBI.” Her mother tried to imagine her bespectacled little girl climbing a training course at Quantico, VA, but the image didn’t fit. She said to her daughter, “Is that cool?” Folding her arms in satisfaction she replied, “Yeah, it’s going to be great.” Her mother reflected, “I hope it is. I hope her life turns out according to her dreams.” Why didn’t she try to redirect the desires of her delicate daughter to something more in line with her abilities? Because it’s those with passion who reach higher and overcome hardships. Dampening a child’s passion discourages them while supporting enthusiasm makes dreams come true.

How many children with their hearts set on Plan A are redirected to some more practical Plan B? A man had two sons who inherited their mother’s concert-quality musical ability. Instead he told them to choose technology. “That’s where the money is; not in music.” Already, at the tender ages of 11 and 12, he was squelching their passion for what they loved in life.

Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary We don’t know much about Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary. Were they aware that the little girl to whom they gave birth was any different from the other kids in their neighborhood? Did they know she was graced from the first moment of her conception with a purity of heart and a passion for God that was unheard of since the beginning of humankind? An early tradition tells us that Mary’s parents presented her to God in the Temple at the young age of 3. That’s a pretty good indication Mary’s passion for God was met with tender encouragement. The world deals out reality checks of its own. Her parents were there to help her overcome the world. But who could have ever prepared Mary for God’s plan to become the Mother of God around the age of 14? It seemed inconceivable!

Mary’s enthusiasm, her passion for God from the day of her birth, prepared her to risk everything for Plan A, even her reputation and her relationship with Joseph. She totally embraced her vocation: “Be it done to me according to your word.” There’s nothing to indicate that her parents ever tried to disillusion her, or tell her that virgins don’t bear children. I think Joachim and Anne were among the first to know the mystery of God that was being unfolded in Mary’s womb. What joy must have been theirs when Mary, still a virgin, bore their Grandson, and placed him in their arms, Jesus, the Messiah, the very Son of God.

God continues to call the young to embrace priestly and religious vocations, his Plan A for them. I can’t tell you how many vocation stories I’ve heard that begin in early grade school. Kids with a passion for God like that of St. Therese of Lisieux. Some were encouraged to follow their dream. Many were not. They were told to redirect their lives to Plan B, C, or D. What a loss! Because a religious vocation is a great grace not only for the one receiving it, but also for the whole family, and indeed for the whole world.

In the life of St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, there’s a story about the saint saying over and over, “Oh, how fortunate she is, how fortunate she is!” Asked who he was talking about and what he meant, Vianney replied, “How fortunate that mother is. She has a daughter who is entering religious life. Oh, how fortunate she is.” The saint was less pleased, however, when a young woman came to him who was more intent on talking than doing. She was all talk, talk, talk. Finally, he said to her, with a sweet smile that took the sting out of his words, “My child, in which month of the year do you talk the least?” Confused, she shrugged her shoulders. He said, “I think it must be February, because it is a couple days shorter than the other months.” Passion can’t be all talk. Real passion moves swiftly to decision and action.

Mary was a girl wrapped in silence, pondering the mysteries of God, embracing God’s plan for her existence. Oh, how fortunate we are! We have a sister and mother in the order of grace, who gave herself passionately to the heart of God from the day of her birth without reserve, without regret, without recall.