Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Vere tu es Deus absconditus

One request I have ever made of the Lord, let me claim it still, to dwell in the Lord’s house my whole life long. V. Gazing at the beauty of the Lord, haunting his sanctuary (Ps 26:4, Gradual of the Mass of the Holy House of Loreto)

The feast of the Holy House of Loreto — the liturgical feast of the hidden God — has, for us, Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration and, I should think, for most monks, a profound significance. (See Solitary and Hidden.) In 1654, Jean de Bernières wrote to Mother Mectilde de Bar:

I am persuaded that the greatness of your vocation and of the institution [founding] of your Community are, without doubt, incomparable, since your are called to be victims of the Holy Sacrament, that is, of pure love, and that you must remain hidden and solitary in the enclosure of your little house, following the example of Our Lord who remains hidden and solitary under the species of the Most Holy Sacrament, leading there a life all of love for men.

In his emphasis on hiddenness, Monsieur de Bernières comes very close to what Saint Thérèse, another child of Normandy, would write two centuries later: “Ah, I desired that, like the face of Jesus, my face be truly hidden that no one on earth would know me.” I am also reminded of little Blessed Blessed Francisco of FatimaFrancisco Marto who, at the age of ten, hid himself in a corner of the parish church so as to console there the “hidden Jesus” of the tabernacle. The liturgy of this feast brings into focus three places, three mysteries, three places and three graces. The first is Nazareth: the hiddenness of the Incarnation. “Verily thou art a hidden God, the God of Israel the saviour” (Isaias 45:15)

The second is the tabernacle: the hiddenness of the Sacred Host. “Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

The third is the cloister: the hiddenness of the monk. “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues” (Psalm 30:21).

Truly, thou art a hidden God. I adore thee in thy hiddenness, and I beseech thee to hide me in thyself, even as thou art hidden.
– Hidden in the bosom of the Father, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy Virgin Mother’s womb, I adore thee.
– Hidden in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy Passion beneath a veil of sorrow and of blood, I adore thee.
– Hidden in thy holy sepulchre beneath the shroud and napkin, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the night of thy holy resurrection, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the glory of the Father, I adore thee.
– Hidden in the Sacred Host
and in the tabernacles of Thy churches the world over, I adore thee.
– Thou who art the splendour of the Father’s glory and the very image of His substance, thou hast chosen hiddenness for thyself and thou hast chosen hiddenness for me. Hide thou me in the secret of thy Face. Hide thou me in the deep cavern that is thy sacred side pierced by the soldier’s lance. Hide me with thee in the Sacrament of the thy love. Let me abide alone with thee where thou art most alone. What is man that thou shouldst choose him to share this solitude of thine? Who am I that thou shouldst want to share thy solitude with me?

There are souls to whom Our Lord says, in effect:

I want to draw a veil between your soul and the world. I want to reserve you for myself alone and hide you far from the gaze of demons and of men. I want to cover you with a veil and draw you into the sanctuary of my Heart, there to exercise with me, through me, and in me, a hidden priesthood and a hidden victimhood.

This is the hiddenness into which I drew my most holy Mother, beginning with her Presentation in the temple and perfected in her glorious Assumption. This is the hiddenness into which I drew the friend of the Bridegroom, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint John, the disciple beloved of my Heart.

This is the hiddenness into which I still draw souls who consent to renounce appearances and enter into a state of apparent death, of silence, of uselessness, of nothingness in the eyes of the world. This is the hiddenness of the Host, my true Body, now exposed before your eyes and, then, hidden away in the tabernacle. Looking at the Host, the world sees nothing: no action, no usefulness, no message, no significance. Looking at the same Host with the eyes of faith, what do you see? Do you not see, however faintly and obscurely, what the Father and the angelic hosts see: the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world; the very work of redemption unfolding; the glory of my Face filling the universe with the radiance of my divinity; the one Face that all the world desires to see?

Consent to be hidden, even as I am hidden, and you shall want for nothing. Consent to be hidden, and I shall give you all that I created you to receive from me, all that my Father would give you because he loves you even as he loves me: you in me and I in you. (From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest)

Gaudens gaudebo in Domino

1208maria-eva.gif
A Meditation on the Mass of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
[Originally posted in 2006]
Look at this extraordinary medieval painting that shows the Tree of Life with Mary on one side and Eve on the other. Eve, completely naked, is giving the bitter fruit of her sin to her own communicants in evil. From her side of the tree a skull looks out, grimacing in death. On the other side of the tree is Mary, crowned and clothed in grace and beauty. She takes pure white hosts from among the branches of the tree and, like a priest distributing Holy Communion, places them in the mouths of her own communicants in eternal life. In the branches of Mary’s side of the tree there is a crucifix. The Face of the Crucified is turned toward those who partake of the fruit of the Cross.

A Song From the Womb
“Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of justice He has wrapped me about, as a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61:10). A song intoned from the womb! The Church takes the jubilant words of the prophet Isaiah and places them in the mouth of the Immaculate Conception, the Child full of grace just conceived in the womb of Saint Anne.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of justice He hath covered me, as a bride adorned with her jewels.

Prelude to the Magnificat
Gaudens, gaudebo in Domino. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord.” If you would understand the text, you must sing it as the Church sings it on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The exegesis of the text is in its ravishing third mode melody composed by Dom Pothier (1835-1923), monk of Solesmes and later abbot of Saint-Wandrille. It soars pure as crystal in a kind of ecstatic cry of undiluted joy in God. Mary herself intones the first chant of the Mass today: a kind of prelude to her Magnificat. Already — just conceived — the Child Mary begins to sing, and with her the whole Church. On no other feast of the year does the liturgy allow the Virgin Mary to open the Mass by singing in the first person singular. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice” (Is 61:10). Mary’s message, from the first instant of her Immaculate Conception, is one of joy in God.

The Tree
The joy of the Immaculate Conception springs from the mystery of the Cross. The Collect says that Mary was “preserved from all stain” in foresight of the death of Christ on the Cross. Here enters the figure of the tree glimpsed in today’s First Lesson from Genesis. The tree of Eve’s mourning and weeping becomes for Mary the tree of “an unutterable and exalted joy” (1 P 1:8). Mary is the first to taste of the sweet fruit of the Tree of Life; Mary is the first to sing of the joy of the cross.

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin didst prepare a worthy dwelling-place for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as by the foreseen death of the same Thy Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain, so Thou wouldst grant unto us also, through her intercession, to come unto Thee with clean hearts.

Holy and Immaculate Before the Father
The Collect asks that we, by the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession, may come into the presence of God “with pure hearts.” The Collect points to the Lesson from Ephesians. Saint Paul says that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3) chose us in Christ “that we should be holy and immaculate before Him” (Eph 1:4). This standing before God in holiness contrasts with the fear of Adam and Eve who, upon hearing the sound of God in the garden, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). The naked Christ, exposed to the gaze of the Father on the tree of the Cross, casts out the fear that caused our first parents to make of the trees of the garden a screen between themselves and the Face of God. The first effect of the grace of Christ is that it makes us come into the presence of the Father, “free from fear” (Lk 1:73). “For you have not received the spirit of bondage in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: ‘Abba, Father'” (Rom 8:15).

Blessed the Clean of Heart
The Collect asks specifically that we, being made clean, may draw near to God. The connection with the beatitude of the clean of heart is not to be missed: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the Mother of the pure in heart. By her intercession, she obtains from Christ, again and again, the application of “the blood of his Cross” (Col 1:20) to every heart darkened and defiled by sin. The Collect invites us to pray, specifically through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the poignant petition of King David: “A pure heart create for me, O God” (Ps 50:12).

Receive the saving Victim we offer to Thee, O Lord, on the solemn feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: and grant that, as we confess that by Thy preventing grace she was kept free from every stain of sin; so, by her intercession, we may be delivered from all our offenses.

Immaculate Mother of the Purest of Lambs
The Secret returns to the same petition, asking that “we may be freed from all our faults” by Mary’s intercession. A culpis omnibus liberemur! What a stupendous petition! It leads directly into the Preface. There we praise the Father for His work in Mary, calling her “the purest of Virgins, she who was to bear your Son, the innocent Lamb who takes away our sins.” We seem to hear already something of the sermon of Meliton of Sardis read in Holy Week: “He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe” (Paschal Homily).

Glorious things are told of thee, O Mary, for He who is mighty has done great things unto thee.

O Dayspring
The Communion Antiphon opens on a phrase from Psalm 86, a song in praise of Zion, the city cherished by the Lord. The liturgy takes the verse, “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God” (Ps 86:3), and in place of “city of God” says “Mary.” “Glorious things are said of thee, O Mary.” A key image from the prophet Malachi completes the Communion Antiphon: “for from thee has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God” (cf. Mal 4:2). We see here a glimmer of the O Antiphon of December 21st: “O Dayspring, radiance of the light Eternal and sun of justice; come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” In Malachi’s prophecy the “sun of justice” rises “with health in His wings” (Mal 4:2). Mary, the Immaculate Mother of the clean of heart, is also the Mother of all those healed by the rays of Christ, the Sun of Justice.

May the Sacraments which we have received, O Lord, our God, heal in us the wounds of that sin, from which Thou didst alone preserve the Immaculate Conception of Blessed Mary.

Our Wounds Repaired
Today’s Mass is artfully constructed of interlocking parts. It requires the closest attention of those who would benefit from its teachings and, through it, receive the sweet light of today’s mystery. The Communion Antiphon leads directly into the Postcommunion Prayer and interprets it. “Lord our God, may the sacraments that we have received heal (or repair) within us the wounds of that fault from which you preserved the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in so wonderful a way.” In every Holy Mass, “Christ, the Sun of Justice arisen from Mary” shines for each of us with “healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2). Unlike Mary, we were conceived bearing the wounds of Adam’s ancient sin but, by the Eucharistic Face of Christ shining like the sun, we are healed of the wounds from which the Immaculate Conception was preserved.

The First and Last Word Given to Joy
In the end, for those who allow themselves to be illumined by the grace of the sacred liturgy today, there is a return to the song of the beginning. “Rejoicing, I will rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God. He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of justice he has wrapped me about, as a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61:10). This is the song not only of the beginning of today’s Mass; it is the song of Mary’s beginning in her mother’s womb. It is the song of every new beginning in grace. It is the song of every man and woman once paralyzed by fear, but now set free to stand unafraid in the sight of the Father. It is the song of every heart darkened and stained by sin, but now made bright and clean by grace. It is the song of every life wounded by sin, but healed by the Sun of Justice who, even now, will rise glorious above the altar “with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). The last word and the first belong to joy.

Tota pulchra

Vergine Madre dei SacerdotiThe Radiant Brightness of the Immaculate Virgin Mary
How right it is that in these « cold, and dark, and dreary » December days the sacred liturgy should set before our eyes the radiant brightness of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.  Life without Mary is « cold, and dark, and dreary », but for one who opens the door of his heart to the Immaculate Virgin, there is warmth, and light, and gladness.

How I love the antiphon in the Divine Office of the feast: « Thy raiment is white as snow, and thy countenance as the sun ». The Church, in the freedom that comes to her from the Holy Ghost, takes the very imagery the evangelists use to describe Jesus in the glory of the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:2 and Luke 9:29) and applies it to His Virgin Mother, the tota pulchra (all–beautiful), the full of grace.

Our Lady in Advent
Advent is the Church’s Marian season par excellence. While, in popular piety, we associate the beautiful month of May and the month of October, dedicated to the Holy Rosary, with Our Blessed Lady, in the liturgy it is during Advent that we find her most present. Blessed Paul VI wrote eloquently of this in his Apostolic Letter Marialis Cultus, dated 2 February 1974:

The faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinking about the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son, are invited to take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. They must be « vigilant in prayer and joyful in…praise ».

Those of you who are able to pray the Divine Office know that the first week of Advent is rich in Marian texts, all of which serve to bring our hearts into a deeper communication with Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Consider, for example, some of the antiphons that illumine the Divine Office during the first week of Advent; each one contains and communicates a Marian grace for the soul who prays it:

First Sunday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, * O Mary; fear not, thou shalt bear in thy womb the Son of God. Alleluia.

First Sunday of Advent at the Magnificat
Ant. Fear not, Mary, * for thou hast found grace with the Lord; behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son. Alleluia.

First Monday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. The angel of the Lord * announced unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost. Alleluia.

First Tuesday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. Before they came together, * Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Alleluia.

First Thursday of Advent at the Benedictus
Ant. Blessed art thou * among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

These antiphons are not mere texts to be recited dutifully. They are living words to be savoured with the palate of the soul and then held in the heart where, under the action of the Holy Ghost, they bear fruit, according to Our Lord’s own promise: « If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples » (John 15:7–8).

Look to the Star
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, kept on December 8th when winter is descending into its longest darkness, heralds the Light and Beauty that, at Christmas, we will contemplate on the Face of the Infant Christ. God never leaves a soul in total obscurity. Even in the darkest night of faith there remains above us in the firmament the glimmer of the mariner’s faithful guiding star, the light of Mary, the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Thus does Saint Bernard write:

O you, whoever you are,
who feel that in the tidal wave of this world
you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales
than treading on dry land:
if you do not want to founder in the tempest,
do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.
When the wind of temptation blows up within you,
when you strike upon the rock of tribulation,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.

Whether you are being tossed about
by the waves of pride or ambition,
or slander or jealousy,
gaze up at this star,
call out to Mary.
When rage or greed or fleshly desires
are battering the skiff of your soul,
gaze up at Mary.

When the immensity of your sins weighs you down
and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience,
when the terrifying thought of judgment appalls you
and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair,
think of Mary.
In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt,
think of Mary, call out to Mary.
Keep her in your mouth,
keep her in your heart.
Follow the example of her life,
and you will obtain the favour of her prayer.

Following her, you will never go astray.
Asking her help, you will never despair.
Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away.
With your hand in hers, you will never stumble.
With her protecting you, you will not be afraid.
With her leading you, you will never tire.
Her kindness will see you through to the end.
Then you will know by your own experience
how true it is that the Virgin’s name was Mary.

(Saint Bernard, On the Glories of the Virgin Mother, Sermon II)

Other Advent Feasts of Our Lady
The feast of the Immaculate Conception is followed by other feasts of the Mother of God, lesser in liturgical rank, but no less rich in graces for those who enter into them. On December 9th there is the feast of Saint Juan Diego of Guadalupe whom Mary called « the littlest of her sons ». Our Lady’s words to Saint Juan Diego should be inscribed in our memory for, in the lives of all of us, there are seasons and hours in which we need to remember them and repeat them:

Let nothing frighten or grieve you,
let not your heart be disturbed,
do not fear any sickness or anguish.
Am I not here, who am your Mother?

December 10th is the feast of the Holy House of Loreto. The Proper Mass of this feast supplies us with an abundance of images revealing the mystery of Mary. In the Introit of the Mass, for example we find five titles of the Mother of God:

This is a fearsome place:
it is the house of God, the gate of heaven;
it shall be named the palace of God (Gen 28:17).
V. O Lord of hosts, how I love thy dwelling-place!
For the courts of the Lord’s house, my souls faints with longing (Ps 83:2-3).

The « fearsome place » is the Mother of God herself. She is « fearsome » not because she provokes fright, but because one cannot gaze upon her with being filled with wonder and awe. Mary is the fulfillment of the sign of the burning bush that filled Moses with a terrible awe and fascination.

And the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire and was not burnt. And Moses said: I will go and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he went forward to see, he called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: Moses, Moses. And he answered: Here I am. And he said: Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. And he said: I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face: for he durst not look at God ». (Exodus 3:2–6)

In an antiphon of the Office for January 1st, the Church teaches us how we are to understand this passage, so wonderfully fulfilled in the mystery of Our Lady who, without losing her virginity, becomes a mother:

Ant. O Mother of God, when Moses * saw the bush unconsumed, we own that it was a figure of the preservation of thy most wonderful virginity pray for us.

Similarly, Mary is the House of God; she is the Gate of Heaven. These are titles of Our Lady familiar to all who pray the Litanies of Loreto: Domus Dei, Porta Caeli. Mary is the Palace of God; Mary is the Dwelling Place of the Word. In the verse of the Introit the Church gives free expression to her love for Mary: « O Lord of hosts, how I love thy dwelling-place! For the courts of the Lord’s house, my soul faints with longing » (Psalm 83:2-3). For the soul attuned to the liturgy this translates as: « O Lord of hosts, how I love Mary, thy Mother, thy dwelling–place! For Mary’s presence my soul faints with longing ».

In the Communion Antiphon of the same Mass, it is Our Lady herself who speaks to each one of us. What does she say?

Blessed is he who hears my voice,
who watches daily before my gates,
and waits at the threshold of my doors.
He who shall find me, shall find life,
and draw from the Lord salvation. (Proverbs 8:34-35)

Liturgy and Rosary
Concretely, how do we hear Mary’s voice? How do we watch daily before her gates and wait at the threshold of her doors? Principally by listening « with the ear of the heart » to the words of Holy Mass and of the Divine Office — for all that the Church utters in prayer proceeds from the Immaculate Heart of Mary — and, then, by praying her Rosary daily. The Rosary is, of all prayers, the one by which a soul disposes herself to hear Mary’s voice, to watch daily at her gates, to wait at the threshold of her doors. This hearing, this watching, this waiting while humbly repeating the « Hail Mary » does not go unrewarded. One who prays the Rosary in this way is « storing up treasures in heaven where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal » (Matthew 6:20).

In the same Communion Antiphon, Our Lady makes a mighty promise: « He who shall find me, shall find life and draw from the Lord salvation ». She speaks, of course, of her Divine Son, « the Way, the Truth, and the Life » (John 14:6). « If you find me », says Mary, « I will see to it that you find my Son, and in finding my Son, you will have found everything and lack nothing ».

The splendid sequence of Marian feasts in Advent continues with that of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th and, on December 18th, the ancient feast of the Expectation of the Childbearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a kind of immediate preparation for the Nativity of the Lord.

Love Mary
Advent invites us, I think, to open our homes, our hearts, our innermost secret parts to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by consecrating ourselves to her Maternal Heart. I often say to my sons here in the monastery that I have never known a monk devoted to Our Lady who has not persevered in his vocation and, sadly, never have I known a man cold towards Mary who has been able to persevere in following her Son. Love Mary, and all the rest will be given you besides.

Through the Liturgy
One cannot be attuned to the sacred liturgy of the Church without being, by the same token, deeply attuned to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you pray the Divine Office you are, in effect, entering into communion with the Mother of God, the Virgo Orans (the Praying Virgin) in whose Immaculate Heart all the prayer of the Church is contained and, through whose Immaculate Heart, all graces are poured into the heart of the Church. This is the luminous teaching that Pope Benedict XVI gave in Brazil on 11 May 2007: « There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady ».

This beginning of miracles

Mirac. Medal (290) rue du Bac chapel
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, the last Marian feast of the liturgical year and, in some way, the most eschataological. The apparitions of the Immaculate Mother of God to Saint Zoé Catherine Laboure, a Daughter of Charity, at the rue du Bac in 1830 announced the dawn of the great modern Marian age. The Propers of the Mass of today’s feast underscore its eschatological significance. In the Epistle we read:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Apocalypse 12:1)

Twelve Stars
Is it mere coincidence that the twelve stars of the Apocalyptic Woman–Clothed–With–the–Sun, and of the Miraculous Medal, should reappear in the flag of the European Union? I for one think it is no coincidence but, rather, a providential indication that the Woman–Clothed–with–the–Sun will have the last word, even as Our Lady promised at Fatima in 1917: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph” (13 July 1917).

Apparitions and the Liturgy
I explained to the brethren and to the faithful at Holy Mass this morning that the only apparitions of the Mother of God to which we can adhere in complete security are those commemorated by the Church in her liturgical calendar and celebrated by a proper Mass and Office. Lex orandi — lex credendi — lex vivendi. If a Marian apparition is commemorated in the liturgy (lex orandi), one can safely give one’s assent of mind and heart to it (lex credendi ), and if one can safely give one’s assent of mind and heart to it, one can live out its message in complete security (lex vivendi).

Local
The first level of the acknowledgement in the lex orandi that a particular alleged Marian apparition is free from error and worthy of pious credence is when a Proper Mass and Office are granted to commemorate it in the liturgical calendar of the diocese or religious Institute in which the event took place. Such feasts are found in many diocesan calendars: for example, Our Lady Reconciliatrix of Sinners on 19 September  for the diocese of Grenoble and the Missionaries of Our Lady of la Salette; Notre–Dame–du Chêne on 24 September in the archdiocese of Besançon; Notre–Dame–de–la–Bonne–Délivrance in Paris on 18 July; and Our Lady of Pontmain on 17 January in the diocese of Laval.

Widespread
The second level of the acknowledgement in the lex orandi that a particular alleged Marian apparition is free from error and worthy of pious credence is when a Proper Mass and Office are granted to a particular nation, group of nations, or religious Order. Examples of such feasts would be Our Lady of Knock on 17 August in Ireland; Our Lady of Walsingham on 24 September in England; Our Lady of Guadalupe on 12 December in North, Central, and South America; Our Lady of Montserrat on 27 April in Catalonia; Our Lady of Good Counsel on 26 April wherever there are Augustinians; and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on 27 June wherever there are Redemptorists.

aversm10-2Universal
The highest level of the acknowledgement in the lex orandi that a particular alleged Marian apparition is free from error and worthy of pious credence is when a Proper Mass and Office are granted to a great number of particular places and religious Institutes the world over, or inserted into the universal calendar of the Church. Examples of such feasts would be Our Lady of Lourdes on 11 February; Our Lady of Fatima on 13 May or 13 October; and today’s feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Looking to the Propers of the Mass
The significance of the feast is spelled out in the texts of the Proper Mass:

Introit (Exodus 13:9)
It shall be a sign in thy hand, and as a memorial before thine eyes, and that the law of the Lord be always in thy mouth. Ps. 104: 1 O give thanks unto the Lord, and call upon His name: tell forth His deeds among the nations.

The miraculous medal is essentially a tiny icon of the Immaculate Mother of God. It bears the inscription of a prayer by which the Mother of God wants to be invoked: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”. On the back of the medal, a letter and drawings present the secret of Mary. The letter “M” is surmounted by a cross. The “M” represents Mary herself; the cross is the Tree of Life, the Altar of Calvary.  The two interwoven signs show the inseparable relationship that connects the Mary Immaculate, the New Eve to Jesus, the New Adam. At the bottom of the medal there are the two Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is encircled by a crown of thorns; the Immaculate Heart of Mary is pierced through by the sword of sorrow foretold by Simeon in the temple. The imagery of the miraculous medal harks back to the great manifestations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Paray–le–Monial from 1673 to 1675 and announces the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that, in 1917, will become so central to the message of Fatima.

Collect
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast willed that the most blessed Virgin Mary, Thy mother, sinless from the first moment of her conception, should be glorified by countless miracles: grant that we, who never cease from imploring her patronage, may attain in the end to eternal happiness.

revers10The so–called miraculous medal, although it dates from the apparitions in Paris in 1830, is a means of venerating the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, the dogma defined infallibly 1854, by Blessed Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. Already, on January 20, 1842, the miraculous medal was the means by which the Mother of God disposed Alphonse Ratisbonne to see her in the Roman church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte and be converted from Judaism to the Catholic faith. The medal is also linked to Lourdes where, on 25 March 1858, the Mother of God revealed her identity to Saint Bernadette, saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception”.

Epistle
Lesson from the Book of the Apocalypse of blessed John the Apostle. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And she brought forth a Man-Child, Who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her Son was taken up to God, and to His throne. And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place. And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman, water as it were a river: that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river, which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

The Woman–Clothed–with–the–Sun appeared to Saint Catherine Labouré as the Mediatrix of All Graces. The Blessed Virgin showed herself standing upon a globe and said, “The globe that you see represents the entire world, and particularly France, and every single person”. The Immaculate Virgin is the great sign that appeared in heaven; from her virginal hands graces are spread abroad upon all who ask for them. Even for those who do not seek the help of the Mother of God there are graces stored up, graces that she waits to distribute to those who approach her with childlike confidence and call upon her name.

Gradual (Psalm 104:5, 27) and Alleluia (Psalm 18: 7)
Remember the marvelous works which He hath done: His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. V. He placed in them the words of His signs: and of His wonders in the land.
Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Psalm 18: 7) His going forth is from the topmost Heaven: nor is there any that can hide from His heat. Alleluia.

The Gradual and the Alleluia recall the marvelous signs wrought through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin. No place on earth is removed from the maternal presence of the Immaculate Virgin. All persons and situations lie open before the Mother of God. Her miraculous interventions cannot be counted.

Gospel (John 2:1–11 )
At that time there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the Mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the Mother of Jesus saith to Him: “They have no wine.” And Jesus saith to her: “Woman, what is that to Me or to thee? My hour is not yet come.” His Mother saith to the waiters: “Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.” Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus said to them:”Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast.” And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him: “Every man at first setteth forth good wine: and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

The Gospel recounts the first clear instance of the maternal mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She speaks to her Son on behalf of the newly–wedded couple. At His Mother’s bidding, Jesus manifests His glory ahead of time, causing His disciples to put their faith in Him. The paradigm revealed in this Gospel is for all times, all places, and all men. Wheresoever Mary is invited, she enters in and, with her maternal heart, takes the measure of all around her. She speaks on behalf of those who invite her to be present in their lives, obtaining wondrous favours from the Heart of her Son. At the prayer of the Mother, the Son manifests and glory, and the disciples of the Son grow in faith.

Offertory (John 19:27)
Jesus said to the disciple, Behold thy Mother. And from that hour the disciple took her for his own.

In the Offertory antiphon as in the Gospel, the crucial element is the presence of Mary. In the Gospel, she is invited to the wedding feast; in the Offertory antiphon, Saint John the Beloved welcomes her into his home. In a sense, the presence of Mary is the fundamental grace, the graces making all graces possible.

Secret
O Lord God, who moved by the pleading of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in answer to whose prayers Jesus Christ Thy Son wrought the first of His miracles: vouchsafe that we may confect with pure minds the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the same Thy Son, so as to deserve to partake of the banquet of eternity.

The petition of every priest as he enters into the mystic solitude of the Canon of the Mass is that he might confect with a pure mind the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord. One of the graces given to priests through Mary is the cleanness of mind required to offer the Holy Sacrifice.

Communion (Ecclesiasticus 36:6, 7, 10)
Renew the signs, and work fresh marvels; glorify Thy hand and Thy right arm; hasten the time, and remember the end, and let them declare Thy wondrous works.

The Communion antiphon is addressed to Christ, but also to His Immaculate Mother. It is not unfitting to ask Mary to “renew the signs, and work fresh marvels”.

Postcommunion
O Lord, Almighty God, Who hast willed that all things should be given us through the Immaculate Mother of Thy Son: grant that under the protection of so great a Mother, we may escape all the dangers of these present times, and come, in the end, to life everlasting.

The last line of the Postcommunion is particularly suited to these days: “grant that under the protection of so great a Mother, we may escape all the dangers of these present times, and come, in the end, to life everlasting”. It is a prayer for the people of Paris, a prayer for France, for Europe, and for the world,

That Fiery Prayer: the Rosary

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Saint Francisco of Fatima
Two years ago, D. Finnian and I had the opportunity to visit with Dr Ângela de Fátima Coelho da Rocha Pereira da Silva, the wonderfully affable postulator of the Cause of the Little Shepherds of Fatima. Sister Angela is a religious of the Aliança de Santa Maria and a medical doctor; she was nominated Postulator extra urbem on 1 November 2009, then Postulator in urbe on 22 June 2012. I shared with the Postulator my own devotion to Saint Francisco, the Consoler of the Hidden Jesus.

Consoler of the Hidden Jesus
The words of the Angel of Fatima,  “Console your God”,  engraved themselves in young Francisco’s heart. They became the compelling inspiration of his short life of eleven years (1908–1919). Francisco wanted, more than anything else, to be the Consoler of the Hidden Jesus. He did this by praying rosary after rosary, and by spending hours close to the tabernacle of the parish church.

Many Rosaries
Readers familiar with the story of Fatima will recall that on 13 May 1917, after hearing the Lady say, “I come from heaven”, Lucia asked if she and her little companions would go to heaven. The Lady replied that both Lucia and Jacinta would go to heaven , but that Francisco would need to say many rosaries first.

This enigmatic utterance concerning Francisco has, over the years, given rise to a certain amount of speculation as to its meaning. Various interpretations have been ascribed to it, but I found none of them satisfying. Some commentators even suggested that Francisco was somehow held back in his spiritual development and, therefore, needed more prayer than his sister Jacinta and his cousin Lucia.

Francisco: A Contemplative Soul
I put the question to Dr Coelho,. She explained that while little Jacinta was an extrovert, easily engaging with others and concerned in reaching out to all, especially to poor sinners, Francisco was a very interior soul, focused on God alone or, as he himself put it, on consoling the Hidden Jesus. In this way, the personalities and graces of Francisco and Jacinta are complementary. Jacinta is emblematic of the missionary impulse of the Church, while Francisco illustrates the call to the hidden life and total dedication to the “One Thing Necessary” (Luke 10:42). Francisco, explained Dr Coelho, was, from the very beginning of the apparitions, singled out as a contemplative soul.

The Postulator explained that had Our Lady said that Francisco was to become a “contemplative soul”, the meaning of her words would have completely escaped Francisco’s understanding. His was the simple vocabulary of a child, of a boy accustomed to the concrete realities of nature. Our Lady’s words that Francisco would “need to say many rosaries” before going to heaven was, in effect, her way of saying that Francisco was to become an entirely contemplative soul before going to heaven, and this by means of many rosaries. Understand by this that, for Francisco and for most ordinary people, many rosaries are the most simple and efficacious way to union with God.

Praying Much
I am reminded of something I read many years ago in that marvelous little book on the rosary by Père Jean Lafrance (1931–1991), Le chapelet, in English, The Rosary: A Road to Constant Prayer. Père Lafrance maintained that if one cannot pray well, one ought to pray much. He went so far as to say that in prayer, for certain souls, at least, quantity might well make up for intensity. Père Lafrance emphasised the sacrificial quality of time spent for God’s sake alone, time wasted, as it were, on attending to God. He held that the investment of time was, in itself, an act of faith, hope, and charity, and that one who begins by praying much will, in the end, pray well, very well.

Our Lady’s Pedagogy
This is, I think, the pedagogy behind Our Lady’s words to Saint Francisco. To pray many rosaries is to pray much, and he who prays much will, by the secret operation of the Holy Ghost in the depths of the soul, attain to that prayer of the heart that Saint John Cassian called fiery. This is the prayer of those who,

 . . . having already torn from their hearts the penal thorn of conscience, now, free from care, consider with a most pure mind the kindnesses and mercies of the Lord that he has bestowed In the past, gives in the present, and prepares for the future, and are rapt by their fervent heart to that fiery prayer which can be neither seized nor expressed by the mouth of man. (Saint John Cassian, Conference IX On Prayer, Chapter 15)

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Situated amidst pasture land and forest in the eastern reaches of County Meath, Silverstream Priory was founded in 2012 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and canonically erected as an autonomous monastery of diocesan right on 25 February 2017. The property belonged, from the early 15th century, to the Preston family, premier Viscounts of Ireland and Lords of Gormanston. In 1843 Thomas Preston (1817-1903), son of Jenico Preston, the 12th Viscount (1775-1860), built what today is Silverstream Priory.

Silverstream Priory is a providential realisation of the cherished project of Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo, O.S.B. (1874–1935), who, following the impetus given by Catherine–Mectilde de Bar in the 17th century, sought to establish a house of Benedictine monks committed to ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. The community of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the Divine Office in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” of the Roman Rite. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream keep at heart the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably the development of the land and gardens, hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, scholarly work, and publishing.

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