LADY’S DAY

August 15th is known throughout the Church as the Feast of the Assumption, but in the small town of Athenry, Ireland just outside of Galway, August 15th is also known as “Lady’s Day.” It’s a little known feast outside of that small corner of the world, and I only happen to know of it because I happened to be in Athenry one August 15th and stumbled upon this centuries old tradition. 

I was in college traveling with a group of friends and it was the first time for all of us that we were traveling so far without our parents or other adults, which meant that we were responsible for getting ourselves to Mass. I remember that the town’s main parish had no Mass times listed online for the feast day, so we decided to just wake up early and head to the church to hopefully discover on site when the Mass was and make it in time. As we walked groggily through the medieval ruins of this little Irish town, we were all surprised to see flocks of locals gathering in the center of town, and in particular, all the little girls dressed up in ball gowns and princess dresses. As we approached the crowd, we were even more surprised to realize that the whole crowd of people was praying the Rosary together. At that point, we knew this was our crowd and so we joined in without asking any questions as the crowd began to process through the town and then outside the town down a long country lane. We didn’t know exactly where or to what we were pilgriming, but it felt very much like Our Lady was guiding us and making sure we didn’t miss out on the beautiful tradition we were now participating in in her honor on her feast day.

It turned out that the pilgrimage was to a small shrine just outside the town called Lady’s Well, where local tradition states a Marian apparition took place on the 15th of August 1249 after ‘The Battle of Athenry’. The pilgrimage ended with a beautiful Mass held outside by the shrine, and the day continued with festivities and celebrations, the honoree of these celebrations being Our Lady, of course, but also all the little girls who were dressed in their finest dresses. We learned that the Feast of the Assumption is called “Lady’s Day” in this little town and that it is a day to honor Our Lady above all, but also all the women and girls of the town as they share in the queenship of Mary and look to her as their role model. 

It was a beautiful day and a gift that we were given to participate in such a tangible, communal, and vibrant expression of our Faith. It was also a wonderful reminder that our Faith is meant to be celebrated, both in our own private lives but also sometimes out in public with all of the faithful literally out on the streets praying and celebrating. It was the first and probably only time that I’ve truly celebrated the Feast of the Assumption apart from the celebration of the Holy Mass, and it was a day that I will remember and cherish forever as it was truly Our Lady’s Day.

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