Maria, Rosa Mystica

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Prayer, Reparation, Penance for Priests

Sixty-one years ago, in the spring of 1947 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Pierina Gilli, a nurse, in the chapel of the hospital of Montichiari, Italy. The Mother of God asked for prayer for the sanctification of priests and consecrated souls. She showed her Immaculate Heart pierced by three swords: 1) the unworthy celebration of Holy Mass and reception of Holy Communion; 2) apostasy from the priestly state and the consecrated life; and 3) betrayal of the Faith. Our Lady appealed for three practices: prayer, reparation, and penance. Given my own "vocation within a vocation" and my work for the sanctification of priests, I find the message of the Madonna of Montichiari, the Rosa Mystica, particularly compelling.

An Hour of Grace

The Mother of God appeared eleven times to Pierina. On December 8, 1947 she requested that an Hour of Grace be observed every December 8th from noon until one o'clock. "This Hour of Grace," she said, "will produce great and numerous conversions. Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble will be touched by divine Grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love." Our Lady further recommended that at the beginning of this Hour of Grace we pray Psalm 50 (51), the Miserere, three times, with arms extended. In the discernment of so-called private revelations, one of the key criteria is whether or not they harmonize with the sacred liturgy of the Church, her lex credendi or rule of belief. The recitation of the Miserere, requested by Our Lady corresponds perfectly to the petition that we make in today's liturgical Collect:

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of Thy Virgin
prepared a worthy dwelling for Thy Son
and, foreseeing His death on the Cross,
preserved her from all stain;
grant that we too, by her intercession,
may come into Thy presence with pure hearts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

In the Miserere, we pray:

Have mercy on me, O God, as thou art ever rich in mercy;
in the abundance of thy compassion, blot out the record of my misdeeds.
Wash me clean, cleaner yet, from my guilt,
purge me of my sin,
the guilt which I freely acknowledge,
the sin which is never lost to my sight.

And then:

Sprinkle me with a wand of hyssop, and I shall be clean;
washed, I shall be whiter than snow;
tidings send me of good news and rejoicing,
and the body that lies in the dust shall thrill with pride.
Turn thy eyes away from my sins,
blot out the record of my guilt;
my God, bring a clean heart to birth within me;
breathe new life, true life, into my being.


Finally, Our Lady chose to reveal herself at Montichiari under the ancient title of Mystical Rose, Rosa Mystica. Listen to what the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote concerning this title:

MARY is the most beautiful flower that ever was seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God's grace that from this barren and desolate earth there have ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory. And Mary is the Queen of them. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore she is called the Rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers the most beautiful.
But moreover, she is the Mystical, or hidden Rose; for mystical means hidden. How is she now "hidden" from us more than are other saints? What means this singular appellation, which we apply to her specially? The answer to this question introduces us to a third reason for believing in the reunion of her sacred body to her soul, and its assumption into heaven soon after her death, instead of its lingering in the grave until the General Resurrection at the last day.
It is this:--if her body was not taken into heaven, where is it? how comes it that it is hidden from us? why do we not hear of her tomb as being here or there? why are not pilgrimages made to it? why are not relics producible of her, as of the saints in general? Is it not even a natural instinct which makes us reverent towards the places where our dead are buried? We bury our great men honourably.
St. Peter speaks of the sepulchre of David as known in his day, though he had died many hundred years before. When our Lord's body was taken down from the Cross, He was placed in an honourable tomb. Such too had been the honour already paid to St. John Baptist, his tomb being spoken of by St. Mark as generally known. Christians from the earliest times went from other countries to Jerusalem to see the holy places. And, when the time of persecution was over, they paid still more attention to the bodies of the Saints, as of St. Stephen, St. Mark, St. Barnabas, St. Peter, St. Paul, and other Apostles and Martyrs. These were transported to great cities, and portions of them sent to this place or that. Thus, from the first to this day it has been a great feature and characteristic of the Church to be most tender and reverent towards the bodies of the Saints.
Now, if there was anyone who more than all would be preciously taken care of, it would be Our Lady. Why then do we hear nothing of the Blessed Virgin's body and its separate relics? Why is she thus the hidden Rose? Is it conceivable that they who had been so reverent and careful of the bodies of the Saints and Martyrs should neglect her--her who was the Queen of Martyrs and the Queen of Saints, who was the very Mother of our Lord? It is impossible. Why then is she thus the hidden Rose? Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth.


Father, Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate! What is the meaning of the 3 roses and the 3 different colors of the roses in the image of the Rosa Mystica. May God reward you.

Dear Father,
Thank you for posting this. Our home is currently graced by Her beautiful but sad presence. Have a blessed Advent, Father Mark!

The meaning of the three roses is: prayer, sacrifice, and penance; that is to pray with perseverance, to make reparation by accepting whatever sufferings life brings us, and to live in continual conversion of heart. Our Lady asks that these three "roses" be offered especially for priests.

Father, has this apparition been approved?

In 1990 the Lord Bishop of Brescia recognized the cultus of Our Lady at Montichiari-Fontanelle under the title of "Rosa Mystica," an ancient title of Our Lady found in the Litanies of Loreto. The Bishop organized the pastoral care of pilgrims to the sanctuary and has authorized the prayer of the faithful there, and provided for Holy Mass, Confessions, and teaching. The visionary, Pierina Gilli, lived a humble, modest life, smiling and abandoned to the Will of God. She died on January 12, 1991.

Thank you, Father. I hope that did not sound accusatory. I have read conflicting accounts of the apparition, so I did not know what the situation was.

Father, I am curious -- what is the source for your claim that the apparition has been approved? I have come across this:

Dictionnaire des apparitions de la Vierge Marie, René Laurentin et Patrick Sbalchiero, Fayard 2007.

On pp. 646-647:

"La prise en charge du culte par l'Église relance la dévotion à Rosa Mistica qui s'est développée spontanément dans un vingtaine de pays . . . .
C'est un des cas remarquables où l'obéissance, la discrétion et la modération des fidèles ont su obtenir non pas une reconnaissance officielle (qui n'est d'ailleurs pas nécessaire) mais une canalisation par l'Église qui contrôle et cultive les fruits du pèlerinage. L'évêque a autorisé la prière des fidèles; il invite à développer à Fontanelle la prière et la ferveur, la confession et l'enseignement. Mais la curie diocésaine, soucieuse d'éviter tout illuminisme, a mis en garde contre l'arbitraire de prêtres de passage qui mettraient l'accent sur les phénomènes extraordinaires."

See this also:

Note that it says the the association of layfolk concerned with the preservation of the authentic accounts of the events of Montichiari works under the patronage of the Bishop of Brescia.

Father, I have not read the following post, but it would seem to be the definitive word on the topic, as it comes directly from the Diocese of Brescia. As I have not read it, I do not know what it says:

I purchased a blooming yellow fairy cactus at the grocery store on the Feast Day of the Rosa Mystica (unknowingly). While praying for a special intention for a conversion of my daughter, it came to me, the next day that this could also have been a sign regarding our Rosa Mystica. The yellow flower symbolizes Penance. Whether or not there is any connection as to why I would buy this flower or not, remains hidden. I thought it worth sharing, and I took my Rosa Mystica statue from the shelf, dusted it off, and said the prayers associated with it, nonetheless. Amen.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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