Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

I Will Betake Myself to Thy House

The Holy House of Loreto
Falling between the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the feast of The Holy House of Loreto. Here, then, is Caravaggio’s Madonna of Loreto, an extraordinarily moving painting. Caravaggio painted it in 1604, when he was thirty-three years old.

Loreto in My Life
I have visited Loreto twice in my life; once in 1975, and again in 2005. I have experienced the grace and mystery of the Holy House miraculously transported by angels to the place prepared for it by God. One of the most striking things about Loreto is the number of saints who have gone there in humble pilgrimage — Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and Saint Maximilian Kolbe come to mind — desiring to adore the mystery of the Word Incarnate and to linger in the sweet presence of His Virgin Mother.

On 4 January 2007, I was en route to Rome.  My friend, Sister Barbara Matazzaro, A.S.C.J. was on the same flight. There was a layover in Dublin.  Crossing the road, Sister Barbara and I sought out the little church near the Dublin Airport and I offered Holy Mass there.  I remember being struck by the presence of a beautiful statue of the Madonna of Loreto, patroness of the airways.  It was on that occasion that, standing at the foot of the altar, I sensed in my heart a summons to do something for Ireland.  I made it one of the intentions of that Mass, never dreaming that three years later I would find myself once again in Ireland, not as a passing pilgrim, but as one who had come to stay. Our Lady of Loreto cannot have been foreign to this unfolding of events. And now, nine years later the A.S.C.J. Sisters (Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) are themselves established in Ireland, in the Diocese of Waterford–Lismore.

Listening to the Liturgy
Here are the texts of the Proper Mass of The Holy House of Loreto, one of those lovely Masses celebrated by special grant in certain places.

Introit
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 soul faints with longing (Ps 83:2-3).

santacasa

Collect
O God, who in thy mercy didst sanctify the Blessed Virgin Mary’s house
by the mystery of the Word made flesh,
and didst miraculously place it in the heart of thy Church,
grant that we may shun the abodes of sinners
and become worthy to dwell in thy own holy house.
Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord
who is God living and reigning with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
forever and ever.

Gradual
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).

Alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia.
How blessed, Lord, are those who dwell in thy house!
They will be ever praising thee (Ps 83:5).
Alleluia.

Offertory
I will betake myself to thy house,
and bow down before thy sanctuary,
and praise thy name (Ps 5:8).

Secret
Lord, we pray thee, graciously accept the gifts we offer
in this holy house;
and grant that, with the merits of the Blessed Virgin pleading for us,
these same gifts may prove a help to our salvation.
Through Christ our Lord.

Communion
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 (Prov 8:34-35).

Postcommunion
We beseech thee, Lord our God,
that the sacred rites thou hast bestowed upon us
to safeguard this new life of ours may,
through the intercession of Blessed Mary, the ever-virgin,
bring us healing now and in time to come.
Through Christ our Lord.

Loreto: A Place and a Grace

Pope Benedict XVI preached at Loreto on 4 October 2012. On this feast of the Holy House of the Incarnation, Pope Benedict’s words invite us to make a spiritual Advent pilgrimage to Loreto. The grace of Loreto is not far away:

It is not above thy reach, it is not beyond thy compass . . . . It is not a secret laid up in heaven, that thou must needs find someone to scale heaven and bring it down to thee before thou canst hear what it is, and obey it. It is not an art, practised far overseas, that thou must wait for some one to go voyaging and bring it back to thee before thou canst learn to live by it. No, this message of mine is close to thy side; it rises to thy lips, it is printed on thy memory (Deuteronomy 30:11–14)

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Loreto
4 October 2012

Attend the School of Mary
It is precisely here at Loreto that we have the opportunity to attend the school of Mary who was called “blessed” because she “believed” (Lk 1:45). This Shrine, built around her earthly home, preserves the memory of the moment when the angel of Lord came to Mary with the great announcement of the Incarnation, and she gave her reply. This humble home is a physical, tangible witness to the greatest event in our history, the Incarnation; the Word became flesh and Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, is the privileged channel through which God came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1:14). Mary offered her very body; she placed her entire being at the disposal of God’s will, becoming the “place” of his presence, a “place” of dwelling for the Son of God. We are reminded here of the words of the Psalm with which, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ began his earthly life, saying to the Father, “Sacrifices and offering you have not desired, but you have prepared a body for me… Behold, I have come to do your will, O God” (10:5,7). To the Angel who reveals God’s plan for her, Mary replies in similar words: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The will of Mary coincides with the will of the Son in the Father’s unique project of love and, in her, heaven and earth are united, God the Creator is united to his creature. God becomes man, and Mary becomes a “living house” for the Lord, a temple where the Most High dwells. Here at Loreto fifty years ago, Blessed John XXIII issued an invitation to contemplate this mystery, to “reflect on that union of heaven and earth, which is the purpose of the Incarnation and Redemption”, and he went on to affirm that the aim of the Council itself was to spread ever wider the beneficent impact of the Incarnation and Redemption on all spheres of life (cf. AAS 54 [1962], 724). This invitation resounds today with particular urgency. In the present crisis affecting not only the economy but also many sectors of society, the Incarnation of the Son of God speaks to us of how important man is to God, and God to man. Without God, man ultimately chooses selfishness over solidarity and love, material things over values, having over being. We must return to God, so that man may return to being man. With God, even in difficult times or moments of crisis, there is always a horizon of hope: the Incarnation tells us that we are never alone, that God has come to humanity and that he accompanies us.

Mary Opens to Us the Door to Her Home
The idea of the Son of God dwelling in the “living house”, the temple which is Mary, leads us to another thought: we must recognize that where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, his brothers and sisters are no longer strangers. Mary, who is the Mother of Christ, is also our mother, and she opens to us the door to her home, she helps us enter into the will of her Son. So it is faith which gives us a home in this world, which brings us together in one family and which makes all of us brothers and sisters. As we contemplate Mary, we must ask if we too wish to be open to the Lord, if we wish to offer our life as his dwelling place; or if we are afraid that the presence of God may somehow place limits on our freedom, if we wish to set aside a part of our life in such a way that it belongs only to us. Yet it is precisely God who liberates our liberty, he frees it from being closed in on itself, from the thirst for power, possessions, and domination; he opens it up to the dimension which completely fulfils it: the gift of self, of love, which in turn becomes service and sharing.

Always on the Way to Another Dwelling
Faith lets us reside, or dwell, but it also lets us walk on the path of life. The Holy House of Loreto contains an important teaching in this respect as well. Its location on a street is well known. At first this might seem strange: after all, a house and a street appear mutually exclusive. In reality, it is precisely here that an unusual message about this House has been preserved. It is not a private house, nor does it belong to a single person or a single family, rather it is an abode open to everyone placed, as it were, on our street. So here in Loreto we find a house which lets us stay, or dwell, and which at the same time lets us continue, or journey, and reminds us that we are pilgrims, that we must always be on the way to another dwelling, towards our final home, the Eternal City, the dwelling place of God and the people he has redeemed (cf. Rev 21:3).

The “Yes” of the Virgin
There is one more important point in the Gospel account of the Annunciation which I would like to underline, one which never fails to strike us: God asks for mankind’s “yes”; he has created a free partner in dialogue, from whom he requests a reply in complete liberty. In one of his most celebrated sermons, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux “recreates”, as it were, the scene where God and humanity wait for Mary to say “yes”. Turning to her he begs: “The angel awaits your response, as he must now return to the One who sent him… O Lady, give that reply which the earth, the underworld and the very heavens await. Just as the King and Lord of all wished to behold your beauty, in the same way he earnestly desires your word of consent… Arise, run, open up! Arise with faith, run with your devotion, open up with your consent!” (In laudibus Virginis Matris, Hom. IV,8: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4, 1966, p.53f). God asks for Mary’s free consent that he may become man. To be sure, the “yes” of the Virgin is the fruit of divine grace. But grace does not eliminate freedom; on the contrary it creates and sustains it. Faith removes nothing from the human creature, rather it permits his full and final realization.

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.

The Mother, the Child, and the Serpent

48palafThe New Adam
Caravaggio’s Madonna dei Palafrenieri, first exhibited in Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1606, is wonderfully disturbing. While Grandmother Saint Anne looks on, the Virgin Mother Mary allows the Child Jesus to place His little foot on top of hers; together the Mother and the Child crush the head of the serpent under their feet. The nakedness of the Child Jesus suggests that He is indeed the New Adam who, by His innocence, inaugurates a new creation: the Kingdom of God where only little children are allowed to enter.

Sexual Abuse: The Dark Sin
The darkness of this painting, so typical of Caravaggio, and the sinister writhing of the serpent combine with the purity of the Infant Christ to speak poignantly to the tragic drama of the sexual abuse of children. Adults who were sexually abused as children never really recover from the serpent’s venomous bite. The poison has a delayed release. Its effects are experienced over time, triggering emotional chaos, spiritual distress, and even chronic physical illness. The serpent, moreover, hides in the darkness, biding its time in anticipation of new attacks.

Therapy
While therapy or some form of counseling is certainly helpful in dealing with the long-term effects of the serpent’s bite, it is not sufficient. Rarely is a complete healing possible through therapy alone. In my experience, most persons struggling with the effects of sexual abuse will suffer recurrent crises, although with time these may become less frequent and less debilitating. The benefit of therapy is in helping the individual to identify what things trigger crises, what things feed into the chaos, and what strategies are effective in countering recurrent difficulties.

Supernatural Means
Ultimately, one is obliged to confront the evil, in its origin and in its effects, on spiritual ground and with supernatural means. This is where the adult living with the effects of sexual abuse as a child finds it necessary to identify with the Infant Christ in entrusting himself entirely to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Lord God said unto the serpent, I will put enmity between Thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and her Seed, which same shall bruise thy head, alleluia (Antiphon at the Benedictus on December 8th)

48palaf-1.jpgConsecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary leads one to place one’s own foot on hers in total confidence. So long as the serpent’s head remains under the foot of the Immaculate Virgin and one’s own foot rests on hers, the effects of the abuse are held in check. The serpent may writhe and hiss, but ultimately the All-Holy Mother of God and her Seed, that is the Infant Christ and those who belong to Him, will crush its head.

The Immaculate Conception
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is of all days the most favourable to make or to renew a personal consecration to the Immaculate Mother of God, especially if one struggles with the long-term effects of sexual abuse. The renewal of one’s consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary opens again and again the floodgates of the graces given her by God for distribution to the weakest and most wounded of her children.

The Rosary: Where Hope Flowers
One will also find in the humble prayer of the Rosary an indispensable protection and a source of inner healing. The mysteries of the infancy and childhood of Christ are supremely effective in countering the effects of a childhood marred by abuse. In the presence of the Immaculate Virgin and her Child there flowers the hope of a serene and fruitful life. “Give glory to the Lord for thy good things, and bless the God eternal, that He may rebuild His tabernacle in thee” (Tobias 13:12).

Praying in the rain at Lourdes

vierge-marie-lourdesA Holy Priest
Born at Annecy-le-Vieux in 1914, Monsieur le Chanoine Louis François CROSET was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Annecy on 7 June 1941. He exercised the sacred ministry in the diocese of Annecy from 1941 until 1952, and in the diocese of Bayonne from 1952-1990. He died on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 7 December 1990.

A Father to Many Souls
Père Croset’s priestly life was marked by great suffering, by an extraordinary love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by a wonderful spiritual fruitfulness. I was privileged to be numbered among the many souls touched by his priesthood. At the end of his life Père Croset lived in a residence for elderly priests in Pau, not far from Lourdes.

At Lourdes
A number of years ago he drove me to Lourdes where, together in the February rain, we stood before the grotto and prayed this Act of Abandonment to the Blessed Virgin. Père Croset composed it in 1952, in a moment of intense moral suffering and darkness.

Père Croset’s Act of Abandonment

O Marie, ma Reine et ma Mère,
reçois en tes mains mon Acte d’Abandon
à la volonté du Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ,
afin qu’à l’exemple de son Fils bien aimé
et par le secours de ta Tendresse,
je laisse conduire ma vie par l’Esprit-Saint
selon les mysterieux desseins de la Trinité.

O Mary, my Queen and my Mother,
receive into thy hands
my Act of Abandonment
to the will of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that, following the example of His beloved Son
and with the help of thy tenderness,
I may let my life be directed by the Holy Spirit
according to the mysterious designs of the Trinity.

Aide-moi à livrer sans réserve tout mon être à Dieu
dans la clarté obscure de la foi,
l’élan austère de l’Espérance
et l’étreinte crucifiante de l’Amour.

Help me to surrender without reserve
my whole being to God
in the dark brightness of Faith,
the austere élan of Hope,
and the crucifying embrace of Love.

Je veux m’enfoncer en ton Coeur Immaculé
pour y devenir l’hostie que tu donneras à Jésus,
afin qu’en son sacrifice
Il me consacre à la gloire de son Père
et à la fécondité de l’Eglise son Épouse.
Amen.

I want to hide myself within thy Immaculate Heart
to become there the host
that thou wilt give to Jesus,
so that He may consecrate me in His sacrifice
to the glory of His Father
and to the fruitfulness of His Spouse the Church.
Amen.

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