Yesterday was the birthday of my son Samuel John. It was also the liturgical feast of the Birth (or “Nativity”) of St. John the Baptist. It’s one of the three birthdays set aside for special celebration in the Church, the others of course being the Birth of Jesus (Christmas) on December 25th, and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th.
Christ Himself was the eternal Son of God who came into the world as our Savior. The Blessed Virgin Mary was “saved” from the moment of her immaculate conception by a special grace of God, in anticipation of the merits of Christ. John the Baptist was conceived a fallen human being like the rest of us, but remarkably was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb (cf. Lk. 1:41, 44). The rest of us come into the world in a state of alienation from God. That’s why saints’ feast days are usually the day of their death–the day they enter eternal life. (And note, the Church also celebrates the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist on August 29th.)
Anyway, I thought I would refer our readers to this 2007 article at Catholic Exchange on the birth of St. John the Baptist. I especially appreciate the author’s focus on St. John’s vocation as it unfolded throughout the life of the herald of the Messiah:
“John was given a mission, a vocation, while still a mere babe. It would be many years before he would carry it out. He still would have needed help preparing for it. John would have needed his mother and father to help him learn about the faith of his ancestors, in coming to know of the God of Abraham and his relationship with the people of Israel. He would have needed someone to help him learn his prayers and all that the Scriptures contained. In other words, I imagine Zechariah and Elizabeth had an important part to play in helping their son discern what God was calling him to do.”
This reflection reminds all of us who are Catholic parents of the immense dignity and responsibility we have as “vocation directors” in the home.