Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Our hope comes through Mary

The Lord has placed in Mary the fullness of all good. So that if there is anything of hope in us, if anything of grace, if anything of salvation, we may rest assured it has overflowed into us from her. With every fiber of our being, every feeling of our hearts, with all affections of our minds, and with all the ardor of our souls let us honor Mary because this is the will of God, who would have us obtain everything through her hands.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 6: For the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The day that changed human history

John Collier Annunciation

Our Lady of Lourdes

LourdesOn February 11, 1858, a very young Bernadette Soubirous (1844–79)  and two other young girls were gathering kindling wood for families. At some point in the wood-gathering expedition, Bernadette was alone on the shores of the River Gave, near the grotto of Massabielle. It was here that Our Lady, Mary the Mother of God, unexpectedly appeared to her.  From this moment until July 16, “the beautiful Lady in white” appeared 18 times.

As the history goes, on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, Bernadette asked the beautiful woman in white: “Would you please tell me who you are?” The answer she heard was: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The title was something Bernadette never knew until this moment. Remember, only four years earlier did Pope Pius IX define(December 8, 1854) Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This grotto named Our Lady of Lourdes has become one of the most famous shrines in Western Europe dedicated to Mary.

Countless pilgrims go there to present their petition for a healing and cure –miracles are frequent. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII permitted the local Diocese of Tarbes, in which Lourdes is located, to celebrate this feast; Pope Pius X extended it to the universal Church in 1907.

Liturgically, we acclaim Mary as the sinless Mother of God, and the sacred Liturgy recalls for us  the name that our Lady gave herself when she said “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette entered in 1866 the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction of Nevers. She died in 1879 and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1933.

Today’s feast is the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Let’s remember those in need of a healing and cure from God.

Pope’s prayer to Mary, the Immaculate Conception

immaculate conceptionWe know that Pope Francis has a devotion to the Mother of God. No doubt strongly influenced by his Argentinian/Italian and Jesuit background. In some ways he’s no different than most faithful Catholics who have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Francis has become a frequent papal visitor to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major; yesterday, he went to this basilica and prayed in front of the Marian image of Salus Populi Romani. Thereafter, the Holy Father went to Piazza di Spagna for the traditional act of veneration of the Immaculate Conception. Having made the Act of Veneration of the Immaculate Conception, Francis prayed a special prayer he composed. Here is what he prayed, and this ought to be our prayer, too:

Oh Mary, our Mother,
today the people of God in celebration
venerate the Immaculate,
always preserved from the contagion of sin.

Accept the gift I offer on behalf of the Church in Rome
and throughout the world.

Knowing that You, our Mother, are completely free from sin
gives us great comfort.
Knowing that evil has no power over You,
fills us with hope and fortitude
in the daily struggle that we must fulfill against the threats of the evil one.

But we are not alone in this struggle, we are not orphans, because Jesus,
before dying on the cross,has given You to us as a Mother.

We, therefore, despite being sinners, are your children, sons of the Immaculate,
called to the holiness that shines through You
by the grace of God from the beginning.

Animated by this hope,
we pray today for Your maternal protection for us, for our families,
for this city, for the whole world.

May the power of God’s love,
that preserved You from original sin,
through Your intercession, free humanity from every spiritual and material slavery,
and make us win, in hearts and in events, God’s plan of salvation.

May grace prevail in us, Your children, over
pride and we can become merciful
as our heavenly Father is merciful.

In this time that leads us
towards the feast of the Nativity of Jesus,
teach us to go against the tide:
to divest ourselves, to lower ourselves, to give ourselves, to listen, to be silent,
to decentralize ourselves,
to make room for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.

Oh Immaculate, Our Mother, pray for us!

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Immaculate Conception

We in the USA honor the Virgin Mother with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. From an early church theologian, Origen, writes:
“The angel greeted Mary with a new address, which I could not find anywhere else in Scripture. I ought to explain this expression briefly. The angel says, ‘Hail, full of grace!’ The Greek word is κεχαριτωμένη. I do not remember having read this word elsewhere in Scripture. An expression of this kind, ‘Hail, full of grace!’ is not addressed to a male. This greeting was reserved for Mary alone.”

From a homily given in England today:

‘The Immaculate Conception’. It’s a lovely rolling phrase, isn’t it (we classicists might analyse its rhythm as a trochaic dimeter). And it’s a phrase, too, that can scare people silly. Is it sometimes the physicality – again, of conception – that disturbs them; conception, a process that occurs a little way south of the tummy button? Not the sort of thing the fastidious want to have dragged in front of their noses. C S Lewis points out that the devils too are fastidious in their horror at the flesh: Screwtape refers to a human as ‘this animal, this thing begotten in a bed’. Or perhaps people are scared of the word ‘Immaculate’; perhaps it suggests foreign religion – little old Irish women clutching their rosaries or Spanish ladies in black making their five successive First Saturday communions in honour of the Immaculate Heart (a devotion which Cardinal Ratzinger with his gentle irony once called ‘surprising for people from the Anglo-Saxon and German cultural worlds’). But ‘immaculate’ is a completely biblical concept in its Hebrew and Greek equivalents: it means spotless; and only what is without blemish is truly for God (for example, a spotless sacrificial lamb). Because: Mary is to be wholly for God, is to give God his body, to give God his endowment of genes, to give God the food of her breast: so Mary by God’s gift is to be the Immaculate, the one without blemish, the one in whom the Divine likeness has never been marred.

It is because Mary alone in the roots of her being is unmarked by sin that Mary alone is truly and wholly free. In our hearts, too, we should make her free and ‘fear not’; she is never to be locked up in the tourist industry as a statue of doubtful taste carried in processions by foreign peasants for the English to photograph from within their coaches; Mary is not to be detained at the pleasure of the Heritage business in a Merry England; she is not to be ‘the Madonna’ of the Art Historians imprisoned in glossy coffee­ table books.

If Mary is the Mother of God Incarnate, she is our Mother too, because we are in Christ, limbs of his body by our baptismal incorporation. Mary comes to us this day, and what would a true mother bring to hungry children except food; food for her children in exsilio; food packed for our journey. Mary comes to this place and to this moment of time; Mary comes, bright with all the beauties known by men and angels; Mary comes to set upon our lips the blessed fruit of her womb Jesus.

Fr John Hunwicke
Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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