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.

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.

Novena for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Most holy Virgin Mary, * whom the Father preserved from all evil / and from the least shadow of sin / from the first instant of thy conception, / whom the Precious Blood of Jesus rendered immaculate and all-beautiful, / even before that same Blood was formed in thy virginal womb / and poured out upon the altar of the Cross, / whom the Holy Ghost filled full with every grace / in view of the glorious motherhood of the Son of God / for which thou wast created, / thou crushest the head of the ancient serpent, / and overcomest the evil that threatens our salvation.

To thee, O Virgin of virgins / thy Son hath entrusted the liberation of souls in bondage to vice, / the healing of wounded souls, / and the sanctification of souls ravaged by sin. / Open thy immaculate hands over us, / and let the rays of thy purity fall upon us. / Through thee, O Immaculate One, light shineth in the darkest places. / Through thee, souls are washed in a torrent of graces. / Through thee, the Holy Ghost giveth succour to the weak and maketh barren souls fruitful.

Thou, O Mother of God, art the only hope of thy children scarred by sin and poisoned by its venom. / To those whom the enemy hath led astray in bitterness and in fear, / thou openest a way of sweetness and of peace. / Therefore, with a boundless filial confidence, / I consecrate myself to thy Immaculate Heart, / together with those for whom I have resolved to pray during this Novena.

[Name in silence those for whom the novena is being made.]

Show thyself the Mother of mercy and our all-powerful Queen, / for no creature resisteth thy supplication in the presence of Christ Jesus our true King. / Mediatrix of all graces, save us from the tentacles of evil. / Heal even those secret and painful wounds / that only thy motherly hand can touch / without adding to their pain.

Do for us, O Immaculate Virgin Mary, whatsoever thy maternal Heart moveth thee to do / so that now, and even unto the ages of ages, / we may live for the praise of the glory / of the Father, and of the Son, / and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the Novena (design by Dom Benedict)

Support the monks of Silverstream Priory:

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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