In addition to the feasts on the liturgical calendar, each month has traditionally been dedicated especially to a certain devotion or mystery of the Faith. This month of August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The feast of the Immaculate Heart was established by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1944, to be celebrated on August 22, the traditional octave day of Our Lady’s Assumption, celebrated on August 15. Although this feast had been celebrated by the Church for centuries, the same Pope would infallibly define the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady on All Saints’ Day in 1950. It is no coincidence that Pius XII had such a close devotion to Our Lady, particularly to her Immaculate Heart. Eugenio Pacelli, as he was known before his election to the Papacy, had been consecrated as a bishop on May 13, 1917: the day of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, in Portugal. At Fatima, Our Lady told the three shepherd children to whom she appeared, “Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen
Twenty days short of a full four years after promulgating the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII established another Marian feast: the Queenship of Our Lady, to be celebrated on May 31, the last day of the month traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. With the changes made to the liturgical calendar as part of the reforms following the Second Vatican Council, the Queenship of Our Lady was moved from May 31 to August 22. Putting the Queenship on the octave day of the Assumption makes a great deal of sense, as octaves are traditionally considered continuations of the feast itself, with the highest and most important day being the octave day itself. For example, traditionally, the octave day of Christmas was the feast of Our Lord’s Circumcision, which occurred eight days after his birth. Similarly, but more recently, the Sunday of Divine Mercy was established by Pope St. John Paul II on the octave day of Easter. Thus, Our Lady’s Queenship is closely connected with her Assumption, as shown in the Rosary, where the Assumption is the Fourth Glorious Mystery and the Coronation of Our Lady is the Fifth.
The placing of the Queenship of Our Lady in August is also appropriate when one considers the origin of the name of the month. The Roman month Sextilia was renamed in honor of Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. Augustus is actually a title, which was granted to the emperor by the Roman Senate, and which subsequent emperors were also granted (or more often, granted themselves). Additionally, sometimes the wife of the emperor would be granted the title Augusta, with the most notable examples being Livia, wife of Augustus, and Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius. However, the emperor Constantine granted his mother St. Helena, the title Augusta in A.D. 325, the same year as the Council of Nicaea. She was only the second Augusta who was not also the wife of an emperor, however; the first, Julia Mamaea, had ruled as regent in the place of her son Severus Alexander during his adolescence, while St. Helena received the title simply due to Constantine’s wish to honor his mother. Her feast day is on August 18.
Similarly, in the Davidic kingdom, because the king often had multiple wives, the title of queen or gebirah, belonged to the mother of the king. This is seen in the first chapter of the First Book of Kings, when Bathsheba goes to her son King Solomon. When Bathsheba enters his presence, he rises from his throne and bows to her, then orders that another throne be brought and placed at his right hand. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a descendant of Solomon and Bathsheba, and thus a Davidic king. He assumed His Blessed Mother, body and soul, into Heaven, so she could reign by His side as “Queen Mother” of the Universe.