Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

The Maternal Heart of Mary

Maternal-Heart-of-Mary

Silverstream Priory is privileged to possess a painting of the Maternal Heart of Mary commissioned by the Servant of God, Mother Mary Potter for the Monte Calvario Hospital in Rome. A combination of providential circumstances led to the painting being given to Silverstream Priory in memory of the mother of a dear friend who, turning to Christ and to His Church on her deathbed, received the Sacraments and died in the care of the Maternal Heart of Mary.

 

The Gospel of the Ember Friday in Advent (Luke 1:37–47) evokes the mystery of the Maternal Heart of Mary: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) How many souls remember Pope Benedict XVI’s momentous consecration of priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 12 May 2010? In his prayer, Pope Benedict chose to use the expression “Maternal Heart of Mary”. What is the meaning of this expression, and how did it come into use in the Church?

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

The Maternal Heart of Mary
When, seven years ago, I read Pope Benedict XVI’s text, I was surprised and moved to discover that, in referring to the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Holiness chose, from among any number of expressions possible, that of the Maternal Heart. It was a remarkable English woman, the Venerable Mother Mary Potter (1847-1913), who, with energy and perseverance, devoted herself to promoting the title of the “Maternal Heart.”

Mother Potter’s Marian Mission
At the end of 1874, Mother Potter received the inner certitude that she and the religious Congregation she was to institute (The Little Company of Mary) were called to foster devotion to the Maternal Heart of Mary. “We are chosen,” wrote Mother Potter,

. . . to promulgate in God’s Church an increase of devotion to the Maternal Heart of Mary. We must increase our love for Our Lady and her sweet Maternal Heart, which makes us desire to propagate that devotion and to lead as many of God’s vast family as we can to love and honour that Heart.

For Mother Potter, the Maternal Heart of Mary was a way of life:

Love that Heart, consecrate yourself to it, and make it your constant endeavour to be actuated by all the holy desires, wishes, and prayers that emanated from it. Let your sufferings, your actions, your words, your whole being renew again, on this earth, the life of Mary. To do this you must study Mary; to study her you must enter her Heart and observe its workings.

Desirous of giving an iconographic expression to the Maternal Heart, Mother Potter directed that an existing statue of the Mother of God should be artistically adapted to this end by adding to it the image of a heart surmounted by the lily of Our Lady’s immaculate purity, and pierced by the sword of her sorrowful compassion on Mount Calvary.

Mary+Potter.pngA Title Contested and Vindicated
The suitability of the title was the subject of some controversy, the principal objection being that it was novel, and that the Church had not recognized the Maternal Heart by authorizing its cultus in the liturgy. Opening her first house in Rome on 20 May 1884, Mother Potter succeeded in obtaining the blessing of Pope Leo XIII on its designation as the “Convent of the Maternal Heart of Mary.” In 1908, after building the heart-shaped chapel of Calvary Hospital (near the Church of Santo Stefano Rotondo) in Rome, Mother Potter was told by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr Carlo Respighi that it could not be dedicated under the title of the “Maternal Heart of Mary,” because no such title was in liturgical use. Mother Potter held her ground, and Msgr Respighi was obliged to seek the counsel of the Cardinal Vicar. Shortly thereafter, word reached Mother Potter that Pope Pius X had not only approved of the title “Maternal Heart,” but had further directed that a commemoration of the Maternal Heart should be made at every Mass during the octave of the new chapel’s dedication. It is said that Pope Saint Pius X remarked that the origin of the title Maternal Heart of Mary was to be sought in the words of Our Lord from the Cross on Calvary:

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. (John 19:26–27)

Consecration of the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary
In July 1876, in obedience to Father Edward Selley, a convert from the Church of England, Mother Potter sought in fervent prayer an answer to her desire for a confirmation of her total consecration to the Maternal Heart of Mary. After making the Way of the Cross, and asking at each station for an answer to her prayer, Mother Potter received what, to my mind, must be taken as an inner locution on the part of Our Lady:

My child, God, Almighty though He be, after the possession of Himself, cannot give me anything more desirable, more precious, or dearer than souls. This Jesus knew; and at His death, wishing to leave me a measure of His Love, confided the Church in the person of Saint John to my Maternal protection.

Come, then, to me! I am your Mother! An earthly mother can forget her child and lack in pity for it, but your Heavenly Mother will protect you in your day of sorrow. Come, then, to me, and bring to me the Church, which I have borne in my womb from the very time that I bore its Author, Jesus. May the holy vicar of My Son proclaim from his cross that I am the Mother of this Church. May he unite himself with his Master in saying to the nations of the earth, ‘Behold your Mother,’ and consecrate the Church confided to him, to my Maternal Heart, and I will show myself a Mother.

PIC Archb Tobias Kirby.JPG.jpegArchbishop Kirby Enlisted in the Cause
A letter of Mother Potter, dated 17 September 1891 relates that she entrusted her spiritual director, Archbishop Tobias Kirby (1804-1895), Rector of the Irish College, with a letter to Pope Leo XIII in which she asked the Holy Father to consecrate the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary. Five days later — was it by coincidence? — Pope Leo XIII addressed the following words to the universal Church in his Encyclical Letter Octobri Mense:

Mary is this glorious intermediary; she is the mighty Mother of the Almighty; but-what is still sweeter – she is gentle, extreme in tenderness, of a limitless loving-kindness. As such God gave her to us. Having chosen her for the Mother of His only begotten Son, He implanted in her a maternal heart that breathes nothing but pardon and love. Such Christ desired she should be, for He consented to be subject to Mary and to obey her as a son a mother. Such He proclaimed her from the cross when he entrusted to her care and love the whole of the race of man in the person of His disciple John. Such, finally, she proves herself by her courage in gathering in the heritage of the enormous labours of her Son, and in accepting the charge of her maternal duties towards us all.

The design of this most dear mercy, realised by God in Mary and confirmed by the testament of Christ, was comprehended at the beginning, and accepted with the utmost joy by the Holy Apostles and the earliest believers. It was the counsel and teaching of the venerable Fathers of the Church. All the nations of the Christian age received it with one mind; and even when literature and tradition are silent there is a voice that breaks from every Christian breast and speaks with all eloquence. No other reason is needed that that of a Divine faith which, by a powerful and most pleasant impulse, persuades us towards Mary.

Audience With Leo XIII
On 5 July 1896, shortly before leaving Rome to visit her houses in England, Mother Potter was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. The Pope spoke to her of the Church’s troubles, asking for Mother Potter’s prayers and those of her daughters. Then, addressing Mother Potter, the Holy Father asked her if she thought the Church would rise triumphant over her persecutors and emerge from the problems which beset her. Mother Potter answered at once: “Yes, if the Church were consecrated to the Maternal Heart of Mary, she would show herself a Mother.” The Holy Father was silent. The Sister translating into Italian for Mother Potter led the Holy Father to believe that she was asking for a liturgical feast in honour of the Maternal Heart. Pope Leo XIII then directed her to make a written petition to this effect and to address it to the Sacred Congregation of Rites. This, of course, was not Mother Potter’s primary desire. Her intention was to ask the Holy Father to consecrate the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary. Nonethless, she was obedient to the Holy Father’s directive, and wrote her request to the Sacred Congregation of Rites. She never received a reply. In fact, she later learned, that the matter was never even discussed!

A Determined Woman
Towards the end of her life, Mother Potter intensified her campaign to obtain the consecration of the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary. Among her supporters were Cardinal Merry del Val and the Abbots of Saint Paul’s Outside-the-Walls and of Grottaferrata. Mother Potter went so far as to commission a painting of Pope Pius X offering the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary.

Pope Benedict XVI
The Venerable Mother Mary Potter died in 1913, firm in her conviction that God willed the consecration of the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary by the Supreme Pontiff. Has her desire been fulfilled? One might pass in review the consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary made by Pope Pius XII, the proclamation of the Virgin Mary as Mother of the Church by Pope Paul VI at the close of the Second Vatican Council, and the many Marian consecrations made by Pope John Paul II. All of this not withstanding, it seems to me that Pope Benedict XVI’s consecration at Fatima of all the priests of the Church to the Maternal Heart of Mary, very happily fulfills and crowns Mother Potter’s mission and desire. In consecrating all priests to the Maternal Heart of Mary, Pope Benedict XVI has, in effect, consecrated the entire Church to her Maternal Heart, for wherever and whenever a priest belongs to Mary by virtue of an act of consecration, multitudes of souls around him are drawn to her Maternal Heart.

The Liturgy Through the Heart of Mary

Here at Silverstream, for the Ember Wednesday of Advent, we are reading in the refectory Dr Peter Kwasniewski’s magnificent conference on the spirit of the liturgy in the words and actions of Our Lady. I recommend the conference to all readers of Vultus Christi and, in particular, to our Oblates. The full text is found here.

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.

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).

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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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