Spiritual preparations for the Nativity of Mary blending culture and faith are underway in the Holy Land, where the Indian Chaplaincy serves emigrants from Goa and elsewhere in India. “A grandiose celebration of the Nativity of Virgin Mary, called the ‘Monti Fest’ by the Konkani speaking group, is being organized by the Indian Chaplaincy in Holy Land with traditional gaiety and religious fervor,” said Fr. Tojy Jose, O.F.M., head of the Indian Chaplaincy in Holy Land, to CNA Sept. 2. Konkani is the official language of the Indian state of Goa, which was long a Portuguese colony, and has an unusually high concentration of Christians for the nation — 27 percent. In Goa, the feast of Mary's Nativity is an major family celebration, serving as a thanksgiving festival blessing the harvest of new crops, observed with a festive lunch centered on the blessed grain of the harvest. Mary is the protector and patroness of the Indian Chaplaincy in the Holy Land, and the feast of her birth is expected to draw more than 2,500 Konkani-speaking migrant workers from Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, as well as pilgrims from around the world. “The celebration of the birth of Blessed Virgin Mary has a special relevance in the modern world, as it binds the migrant community together,” Fr. Jose said. “As they continue to celebrate it in whatever way they can, they enjoy the nostalgia of connecting with their own families and parishes back home.” The Franciscan priest noted that since the Sept. 8 feast falls this year on a Monday, a working day for the migrant laborers in Israel, it will be observed locally on the Saturday within its octave, Sept. 13, so that more Indians can participate. Mindful of the long queue of persons for confession, Fr. Jose added that “a weekend holiday also makes an easy opportunity for the faithful to make confessions to prepare spiritually for the feast.” A novena leading up to the observance of the feast begins Sept. 4, drawing on both mariological and christological themes to help the people deepen their understanding of Mary's role in redemption, and her virtues to be imitated. The novena will also include intercessory prayers for peace in the region, and a day-long retreat will be held Sept. 6. The Sept. 13 observance of Mary's Nativity will be held in Jaffa. Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem will lead a procession from St. Peter's to St. Anthony's parish. The procession will conclude with a Mass said in Konkani by Fr. Santhosh Rodrigues, director of the Center for Family Apostolate in the Mangalore diocese. In Jerusalem, the feast will be observed with a procession led by Fr. Stephane Milovitch, O.F.M., to St. Savior's Franciscan Monastery, where Fr. Dominic Mendonsa, O.P., will say Mass in Konkani. And in Haifa, Fr.  Dharma Pichaimuthu, O.F.M., will say Mass at St. Joseph's Latin parish with a blessing of new grain, followed by a fellowship meal.