Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Maria Bambina

20060908%20Maria%20Bambina.jpgMaria Bambina
Unto us a little girl is born; unto us a daughter is given. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon her, and the power of the most High shall overshadow her” (Cf. Lk 1:35). The Word will take flesh in her virginal womb and suckle at her breast. And her name shall be called Full of Grace, Glory of Jerusalem, Joy of Israel, and Mother of God. In Italy she has another name, one that the people love to give her; she is their Maria Bambina, the little Infant Mary.

The Story of an Image
It was in Rome, forty years ago, that I encountered the image of Maria Bambina for the first time. All sorts of people, and especially children, came to pray before her. I saw that that Maria Bambina had stolen their hearts. She attracted the most extraordinary outpouring of tender devotion, and does to this day.

A Child for Children
The learned and the clever, the theologically sophisticated and those who think that holiness has no need of warmth and no time for tenderness, are baffled by Maria Bambina. But children understand her. Raïssa Maritain understood the Child Mary perfectly; “The Blessed Virgin is the spoiled child of the Blessed Trinity”, she wrote. “She knows no law. Everything yields to her in heaven and on earth. The whole of heaven gazes on her with delight. She plays before the ravished eyes of God himself”.

God With Us
The birth to Joachim and Anna of a little girl “full of grace” (Lk 1:28) set in motion great rolling waves of grace that reach even to us, for she was born to be the Mother of Christ. “And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace”. (Jn 1:16). All the joy of today’s festival is summed up in the last three words of the Gospel: “God with us” (Mt 1:23). In the birth of the Child Mary, “those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79) see the first glimmers of the long-awaited Dayspring from on high (cf. Lk 1:78). Joachim and Anna rejoice! Abraham and Sarah rejoice! The ancestors of Jesus Christ rejoice!

Rejoicing Ahead of Time
Today, with good reason, we hear the Genealogy of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew. The long list of patriarchs and of prophets, of kings and of warriors, of saints and of sinners is transformed by the birth of Mary. We see all the ancestors of Christ standing on tiptoe to see the joy that comes to them from afar. With the birth of Mary they begin to rejoice ahead of time.

A Virgin Shall Conceive
This is the little girl who will give her consent to the Angel — “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38) —“And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). The Mother of the Messiah has arrived. Isaiah’s prophecy is about to be fulfilled: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Is 7:14).

Her Voice and Her Face
The cries of little Mary announce the arrival of the Bridegroom in the night of history. “The voice of my beloved, behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills” (Ct 2:8). In the daughter of Joachim and Anna we can already see the human features of the Word made flesh. Her face announces His. Speaking at the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello on September 1, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI called her, “Our Lady in whose face—more than in any other creature —we can recognize the features of the Incarnate Word.” The face of Maria Bambina already reveals the Human Face of God.

The Voice of the Word
The sound of little Mary’s voice is jubilation to our ears because it means that the voice of the Word is very close! Soon the Beloved will lift up His voice: at Bethlehem in the cries of an infant; at Nazareth as a little boy learning His Hebrew alphabet and beginning to read the Scriptures in the synagogue; at Jerusalem in dialogue with the elders in the Temple; on the Mount of the Beatitudes; in Galilee and in Judea; in the Cenacle and in Gethsemane; on the Cross, saying: “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27); “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); “Father forgive them” (Lk 23:34); “Father, into thy hands” (Lk 23:46); “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). In the splendour of His resurrection, He will call another Mary by name, and He will ask Peter, “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?” (Jn 21:17).

The inarticulate cries of the newborn daughter of Joachim and of Anna announce all of this. And so we bend over the cradle of Maria Bambina, the Mother of God, and say to her in the words of the Canticle: “Shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely” (Ct 2:14).

The Heart of the Mother and the Heart of the Son
In thy face, O little Mary, we already see that of Jesus; in thy voice, we already hear His. Thy voice, O little Mary, is sweet to our ears; thy face is lovely to our eyes, for He whom the whole universe cannot contain will be enclosed in thy womb. He will grow for nine months beneath thy Immaculate Heart. Out of thy flesh and blood the Holy Ghost will form a human Heart for the Son of God, the very Heart that, together with thine, will be pierced on Calvary.

Cause of Our Joy
Thou, O little Mary, Maria Bambina, art the Cause of our Joy! Thy appearance in the arms of thy mother announces that the Word of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, will soon appear in thy arms. And thou hast but one desire, one joy: to give us thy Son, to draw us to Him, that thy joy may be ours and that our joy may be fulfilled.

Today we ask Maria Bambina, the little Child Mary, to chase all sadness, all coldness, and all fear from our hearts, that we, like little children, may worthily welcome, love, and adore her Son, her very Flesh and Blood in the holy and life-giving Mystery of the Altar. Ave verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine.

Of ends and of beginnings


CHAPTER LXXIII. That the whole observance of Perfection is not set down in this Rule
1 May. 31 Aug. 31 Dec.

We have written this Rule, in order that, by observing it in Monasteries, we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness. But for him who would hasten to the perfection of religion, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the following whereof bringeth a man to the height of perfection. For what page or what word is there in the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments, that is not a most unerring rule for human life? Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers doth not loudly proclaim how we may by a straight course reach our Creator? Moreover, the Conferences of the Fathers, their Institutes and their Lives, and the Rule of our holy Father Basil – what are these but the instruments whereby well-living and obedient monks attain to virtue? But to us, who are slothful and negligent and of evil lives, they are cause for shame and confusion. Whoever, therefore, thou art that hasteneth to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this least of Rules which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God’s protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above.

And so, once again, we come to the last chapter of the Holy Rule. In some way, I think, alongside of the liturgical cycles of feasts and seasons, our life is measured by the reading of the Holy Rule three times yearly.

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2)

How many times will a monk have heard the reading of the Holy Rule over a lifetime? Saint Benedict tells us why we read and re–read the Rule, and why, spontaneously, we make it our first reference: “In order that, by observing it in monasteries, we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness”. Saint Benedict speaks here with the profound modesty and discretion that characterise him: “some degree of goodness of life, and a beginning of holiness”. Here there is no feverish exaggeration, no inflated idealism, no spectacular feats of ascetism; there is rather the humble and patient realism of the Gospel:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the earth, And should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring, and grow up whilst he knoweth not. For the earth of itself bringeth forth fruit, first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear. (Mark 4:26–28)

Saint Benedict would have us complete the reading of the Holy Rule with an assiduous recourse to Sacred Scripture and to his own “holy Catholic” fathers in God: Cassian, Saint Basil, and the other monastic fathers. We fulfil this injunction of Saint Benedict by a faithful application to lectio divina, and by reading Saint John Cassian each evening in community. The Rule of Saint Benedict cannot be understood apart from Cassian.

Saint Benedict seems, at first glance, to take a rather dim view of our monastic struggle such as it is: “To us”, he says, “who are slothful and negligent and of evil lives”, the writings of the Fathers “are cause for shame and confusion”. Immediately upon saying this, however, he corrects it, lest we be “overwhelmed by excess of sorrow” (Rule, Chapter XXVII), or utterly “despair of the mercy of God” (Rule, Chapter IV). To the very end of the Rule, Saint Benedict shows himself consistent with his own teaching in Chapter XXVII: “The Abbot is bound to use the greatest care, and to strive with all possible prudence and zeal, not to lose any one of the sheep committed to him. He must know that he hath undertaken the charge of weakly souls, and not a tyranny over the strong”. And so, calling his Holy Rule “the least of Rules”, and addressing us as little ones, as “beginners”, he adds:

Whoever, therefore, thou art that hasteneth to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this least of Rules which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God’s protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above. (Rule Chapter, LXXIII)

The two key phrases in this passage are, without any doubt, “by the help of Christ” and “under God’s protection”. Christ Jesus is ever present to those whom Saint Benedict calls “beginners”. Like Saint Peter, walking on the waves, the monk keeps eyes fixed on the face of Jesus, confident in His help and in the protection of God.

But seeing the wind strong, he was afraid: and when he began to sink, he cried out, saying: Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretching forth his hand took hold of him, and said to him: O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt? (Matthew 13:30–31)

At every stage of the monastic journey, the monk needs to receive from the mouth of Christ the words given through the prophet Isaias:

Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee, and have not cast thee away. Fear not, for I am with thee: turn not aside, for I am thy God: I have strengthened thee, and have helped thee, and the right hand of my just one hath upheld thee. Behold all that fight against thee shall be confounded and ashamed, they shall be as nothing, and the men shall perish that strive against thee. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find the men that resist thee: they shall be as nothing: and as a thing consumed the men that war against thee. For I am the Lord thy God, who take thee by the hand, and say to thee: Fear not, I have helped thee. (Isaias 41:9–10)

We conclude our reading of the Holy Rule on the first day of the novena in preparation for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the dawn of salvation, the entrance of joy into the world. She whom we ask to pray for us “at the hour of our death” is also Our Lady of New Beginnings. She will speak to us tomorrow morning in the lesson at Holy Mass:

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. (Proverbs 8:22)

It is not too soon to entrust to the Mother of God the fresh, new reading of the Holy Rule that we shall begin tomorrow. The monk who gives to Mary all his beginnings will not be deprived of her consoling presence in the end.

Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae

knock1b.jpgA homily given in 2007:

Farewell to the Assumption
Today is the last day of the Octave of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We take leave of the great liturgical festivals in much the same way as Jews take leave of the Sabbath, with a sweet sorrow. The Jewish farewell to the Sabbath is called escorting the Queen. Queen Sabbath leaves, escorted to the door by devout hearts and leaving behind her unmistakable fragrance.

The Need for Octaves
Our Catholic liturgical tradition of the Octave respects one of the human heart’s deepest needs; the need to prolong the feast, the need to linger in the presence of the loved one, savouring every moment and storing up precious memories. For those who enter into the great liturgical festivals of the year there is an unwillingness to let them go, even after eight days. The Church has always honoured the need to prepare, to celebrate, and to prolong her solemnities. The custom of fasting before a feast is a way of making room in one’s soul for the graces flowing from the mystery commemorated. The custom of lingering over the same mystery for eight days is a way of assimilating those graces.

Pius XII
The Octave Day of the Assumption has been celebrated in various ways. In 1944, in the midst of the Second World War, Pope Pius XII entrusted the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He decreed that the feast of her Immaculate Heart would be celebrated on August 22nd, the Octave of the Assumption. The same Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical of October 11, 1954, instituted the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 31st.

The Octave Day of the Assumption
With the revision of the Roman Calendar in 1969, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was moved from the Octave Day of the Assumption to the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The feast of the Queenship of Mary was moved from May 31st to the Octave Day of the Assumption, and May 31st became the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1974 Pope Paul VI explained the reason for this adjustment: the solemnity of the Assumption is continued into the celebration of the Queenship of Mary on the Octave Day. She who is enthroned next to the King of ages is contemplated as the radiant Queen and interceding Mother.

Pope Paul VI, writing in 1974, after the 1969 reform of the calendar, deliberately refers to the Octave Day of the Assumption. It would seem that he never intended the suppression of the Octave of the Assumption. Just as in the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary follows the Assumption, so too does the feast of the Queenship of Mary on August 22nd complete and crown the celebration of her Assumption on August 15th.

bvm%20rue%20du%20bac.jpgThe Collect
The Collect for today’s feast calls Mary “our Mother and our Queen.” It echoes the language of the Salve Regina: “Hail, O Queen, Mother of mercy.” Mary’s participation in her Son’s work of redemption surpasses that of every other creature. Being the Mother of the Redeemer, she entered at the foot of the Cross into the bloody sacrifice of the Fruit of her womb, offering Him and offering herself with Him.

Mary is the Coredemptrix not because of any deficiency in the redemption wrought by Christ, but because the Father willed that it should be so. This was the Father’s design from all eternity: that Mary, the New Eve, should enter fully into the saving work of the New Adam; that with Him she should become “obedient unto death on the Cross” (Phil 2:8); and that with Him she should be exalted forever in glory (cf. Phil 2:9).

Mediatrix of All Graces
Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces because the Father willed that His Son should be “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). The Father has given us all things in His Son. Saint Paul writes to the Romans, saying: “He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also, with Him, given us all things?” (Rom 8:32). “And of His fullness we all have received, and grace for grace” (Jn 1:16). Everything is given us in Christ. Christ is given us through Mary. Everything, then, is given us in Christ through Mary. Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it this way:

(Mary) mothers each new grace /
That does now reach our race.

The maternal role of Mary did not come to an end after the birth and childhood of her Son. Her participation in His divine mission grew and unfolded day by day, until on the day He suffered, she heard Him say from the Cross, “Woman, behold thy Son” (Jn 19:26). In that hour Mary became the mother of the Beloved Disciple and of every disciple until the end of time; and in that hour Our Lord provided her with the means to exercise her universal maternity freely and lavishly on behalf of all her children. This is the divine logic of her universal mediation. In his homily for the canonization of Saint Anthony of Saint Anne Galvão in Brazil last May 11th, Pope Benedict XVI pronounced one of the clearest statements ever made by the Popes on Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces. This is what the Holy Father said: “There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady.”

Sovereign Lady and Queen
We, by calling Mary our Sovereign Lady and our Queen, confess her unique participation in the work of Christ our Sovereign Lord and our King, and acknowledge that her singular role as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix will continue until the end of time. What precisely is that role?

Queen Omnipotent in Her Supplication
Look for a moment at the Preface of today’s Mass (Preface 39, Collectio Missarum de BVM, p. 153). Echoing the invocation, O Clemens, of the Salve Regina, the Preface calls her the Queen of clemency. Our Lady obtains pardon and mercy even for those who are undeserving of it. She pleads the cause of sinners before the Throne of Grace. She is omnipotent in her supplication; that is to say that God can refuse her nothing. Mary is drawn to those who have most need of her. She places her all–powerful supplication at the service of the least of her children. She intercedes for those who have forgotten how to pray and for those who dare not pray. She prays, as Julian Green would say, for chaque homme dans sa nuit, for each man in his night.

Mater Misericordiae
Again drawing on the Salve Regina, the Preface calls her the Mother of Mercy. There is not a single moment of the day or night when Mary is not wholly attentive to each of her children in this valley of tears. She is the Mother who keeps a tireless vigil over the whole world. She is present to every single soul redeemed by the Blood of her Son. You need do nothing to get her attention; you already have it. You have only to lift your eyes to her radiance and pronounce her name.

Ministra Pietatis
Finally the Preface uses a remarkable expression in Latin. It calls Mary the Father’s ministra pietatis. She is the minister of God’s faithful tender love for each of us. She administers that love whenever and wherever it is needed. Our Lady is charged by God with dispensing the graces of his lovingkindness. Ministra pietatis: this particular title evokes the mystery of the Blessed Virgin’s universal mediation of graces. The graces of the Heart of Jesus are administered by her maternal hands.

Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope
She who was assumed body and soul into heaven remains present and attentive to all of us and to each of us as Mother and as Queen. She is our life, our sweetness, and our hope because God has so willed it.
By honouring Mary as Mother and as Queen we honour the infinite wisdom of God. By acknowledging her as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces, we say “Yes” to the inscrutable designs of God and gain for ourselves the advocacy of one who is omnipotent in her supplications on our behalf.

Monstra te esse Matrem

DSC06576-e1405520896931For the the Octave of the Assumption; the image is the statue of the Mother of God in the Chapter Room at Silverstream Priory.

I am your Mother, the Mother given you by my Son Jesus, from the Cross, in the solemn hour of His Sacrifice. And you are my son, dear to my Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, precious to me, and ever under the mantle of my protection.

Let me live with you as I lived with John, the second son of my Heart and the model for all my priest sons down through the ages.

Speak to me simply and with complete trust in the compassion of my maternal Heart and in the power given to my maternal intercession. There is nothing that you cannot bring to me, nothing that you cannot present to me, nothing that you cannot offer me, even to your very sins.

Anything given to me by My sons, I press to my Heart; all that is impure, every vestige of sin is consumed in the flame of love that burns in my Immaculate Heart, in the fire of love that is the Holy Spirit in me, the very Fire of the Divinity. Give to me, then, all that you would offer to my Son and to His Father. It will be purified as gold in the furnace because I will press it to my Heart. Nothing impure can endure the flame of love that burns in my Heart. Only love remains.

Give me your weaknesses, your past sins, your daily faults, and I will present to my Son only the love with which, in spite of all your weaknesses, you desire to love Him, and with Him, love the Father. I am your Mother. I am the Mother from whom you need hide nothing. Even those things that you think are hidden appear clearly to me in the pure light of the Godhead.

When I see a priest son of mine disfigured or polluted by sin, I am moved, not to judge him but, to show him mercy and to employ all the means at my disposal for his full recovery from the vestiges of sin. So many of those who struggle against inveterate habits of sin and pernicious vices would find themselves quickly set free from them if they would only approach me with filial confidence and allow me to do for them what my maternal and merciful Heart moves me to do.

There are no limits to my intercessory power because the Father has so ordained it. One can never go wrong in turning to me. No matter how complex the problem, no matter how sordid the sin, I am the Handmaid of the Divine Mercy, the Refuge of Sinners, and the Mother of all who struggle against the forces of darkness. Come to me, then. I can even say those comforting words first spoken by my beloved Son: “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

It is not enough to have some practices in my honour in the course of the day: I desire more, and you are called to more. You are called to reproduce the life of Saint John with me in the Cenacle and at Ephesus. If only you knew the bonds of love for Jesus, and of obedience to the Father, and of joy in the Holy Spirit that united John’s soul to Mine. We were the nucleus of a family of souls that has grown wondrously through the ages: the family of all those who, like John, lived with me, learned from me, and allowed me so to love them that love for my Jesus blazed in their hearts like a great fire, the fire that my Son came to cast upon the earth.
(From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest)

At the School of Saint John Eudes

Priestly Union with the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today, 19 August, is the feast of Saint John Eudes, priest and ardent mystic of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Saint John Eudes is numbered among the few saints who lived a mystical espousal with the Most Holy Mother of God. Already as a young man, John Eudes placed a wedding band on the finger of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was a portent of things to come. As a priest, a reformer of the clergy, and an outstanding preacher, he experienced the fruitfulness that results from what one must dare to call a spousal intimacy with the Mother of God. Saint John Eudes presents this grace as something to which all priests should aspire. To describe it he uses the French word alliance: covenant, bond, or union. Significantly, the same word is used to designate a wedding ring. I decided to translate the following passage from his Memorial on the Life of Ecclesiastics:

The Eternal Father
Consider that priests have a special alliance with the most holy Mother of God. This because, just as the Eternal Father made her participate in His divine paternity, and gave her the power to form in her womb the same Son whom He begets in His bosom, so too does He communicate to priests that same paternity, giving them power to form this same Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and in the hearts of the faithful.

The Son
As the Son made her [the Virgin Mary] His cooperator and coadjutrix (helpmate) in the work of the redemption of the world, so too does He make priests His cooperators and coadjutors in the work of saving souls.

The Holy Ghost
As the Holy Ghost, in an ineffable manner, associated her [the Virgin Mary] with Himself in the most divine of His operations, and in the masterpiece of His that is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, so too does He associate priests with Himself to bring about an extension and a continuation of this mystery in each Christian, in whom the Son of God, in some manner, incarnates Himself by means of Baptism and by the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Mediatrix of All Graces
Just as the Eternal Father gave us His Son through her [the Virgin Mary], so too does He give Him to us through His priests. Even as all the graces that come forth to us from the Heart of God pass through the hands of Mary, so too are they given us by the ministry of priests. This in such wise that, just as Mary is the treasurer of the Most Holy Trinity, priests too bear this title.

The Sacrifice of Christ
Finally, it is through her that Jesus was offered to His Father at the first and last moment of His life, when she received Him in her sacred womb, and when she accompanied Him to the sacrifice that He made of Himself on the cross; and it is by means of priests that He is immolated daily upon our altars.

Mother of the Sovereign Priest
This is why priests, being bound by so intimate an alliance and so marvelous a conformity to the Mother of the Sovereign Priest, have very particular obligations to love her, to honour her, and to clothe themselves in her virtues, in her spirit, and in her dispositions. Humble yourselves that you should find yourselves so far removed from this. Enter into the desire to tend thereto with all your heart. Offer yourselves to her, and pray her to help you mightily.

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