December 24

marian calendar     december

St. Mary, Stevensville, Montana, USA

Stained-glass window depicting the apparition to Little Paul,
On the night of December 24, 1841, not long after Fr. Pierre De Smet started St. Mary's mission with the Flathead Indians in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, an orphan boy went to an old woman's tipi to study prayers in preparation for baptism Christmas day. As Little Paul, 11,  told Fr. De Smet not long afterwards, he saw someone wonderful there: "Her feet did not touch the earth, her garments were as white as snow; she had a star over her head, a serpent under her feet; and near the serpent was a fruit which I did not recognize. I could see her heart, from which rays of light burst forth and shone upon me. When I first beheld all this I was frightened, but afterward my fear left me; my heart was warmed, my mind clear, and I do not know how it happened, but all at once I knew my prayers." Unsure if the radiant visitor was a man or woman, Little Paul said that the same person had come to him in sleep, "pleased that the first village of the Flatheads should be called 'St. Mary.'" Fr. De Smet identified the boy's helper as the Blessed Virgin, and the following year, on May 31, had a statue erected at the apparition site, dedicated in procession on Corpus Christi as Our Lady of Prayer. Sadly, within ten years Little Paul was dead and the mission closed. Jesuits built a new St. Mary's Church there in 1866, which closed in turn in 1891 after the last of the Flatheads were moved to a reservation 45 miles north. In 1921 St. Mary's reopened as a parish church. The chapel of 1866 has been renovated as part of St. Mary's Historic Mission, a nondenominational tourist attraction run by a private foundation. Next door is St. Mary's Parish Catholic church, built in 1954, with stained-glass windows depicting the mission's history. A Salish (Flathead) pilgrimage on the Sunday nearest September 24 commemorates the mission's founding in 1841. (Information from DeSmet, Father Pierre-Jean, S.J., Life, Letters and Travels, 1801-1873, Francis P. Harper, New York, NY, 1905; Kraus Reprint Co., New York, NY, 1969; Historic St. Mary's Mission,; and other sources.)   

Also commemorated this date:

Christmas Eve
Militia Sanctae Mariae (Knights of Our Lady), Roman Catholic Church. Confraternity established, 1964.
Nuestra Señora de Belén, Belén, Buenos Aires, Argentina (Our Lady of Bethlehem)
Notre Dame des Potiers, Chartres de Bretagne, Ile et Vilaine, Brittany, France. Apparition, year unknown.
Notre Dame de Plaine Fleurie, Meylan, Isère, Rhône-Alpes, France. First mass in new church, 1969.
Madonna von Stalingrad, Berlin, Germany. Dr. Kurt Reuber drew charcoal image for trapped German troops, 1942.
Virgen de Belén, Granada, Andalucia, Spain (Virgin of Bethlehem). Procession in cloister of Monasterio de S. Jerónimo (formerly).
Wonder-Working Mother of God, Krasnopuscha, Berezhany, Ternopil, Ukraine

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly