Blessed Virgin Mary: April 2007 Archives

Our Lady of Good Help

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Father Abbot sent me to offer Holy Mass this morning in our lovely little chapel of La Madonna di Bon Aiuto (Our Lady of Good Help). There were about fifty faithful present.

The chapel was built in 1476 by order of Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) into the ancient Roman Castrense amphitheatre that forms the wall surrounding the monastery gardens. The chapel enshrines an ancient fresco of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At one time the image was in a kind of wayside shrine with no more than a roof to protect it. A written account in the archives of our monastery relates that one day when Pope Sixtus IV was taking a walk from Saint John Lateran, he chanced upon a group of monks from Santa Croce and stopped to chat with them. All of a sudden a terrible thunderstorm with flashes of lightning came crashing down upon them. The little group sought refuge beneath the roof constructed over the image of the Madonna. The Pope invoked the bon aiuto (kindly help) and protection of the Mother of God.

Following this incident, the Pope gave orders that the image be removed from the wayside shrine and that a chapel be built on the spot in honour of the Blessed Virgin under the title of Bon Aiuto.

The Cistercian Monks of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme were charged with the care of the chapel and were also given the adjoining prairies, which property they held until the invasion of the French in 1849.


The chapel remains a place of supplication to the Mother of God to the present day. It is opened during the month of May for daily Mass. The postulants and novices of Santa Croce also gather there daily during the month of May for the recitation of the Holy Rosary in common. The feast of the Madonna di Buon Aiuto is celebrated on the last Sunday of May with a Solemn Mass and a procession with the sacred image through the streets of the neighbourhood.

There is a beautiful reproduction of the Madonna di Buon Aiuto in the Basilica of Santa Croce. People often linger before the image in prayer, light candles, and bring flowers to the Mother of God. Apart from the Rosary, the prayer most commonly associated with the image of the Madonna di Buon Aiuto is the Memorare, attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help

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A Neighbourhood Pilgrimage

This afternoon I made my little pilgrimage to the Church of Sant'Alfonso on the Via Merulana, the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It was something I have wanted to do since the feast of Saint Mark, last Wednesday. Two little signs were given me this week, suggesting that Our Mother of Perpetual Help wanted me to pay her a visit in her sanctuary. The first was a namesday message from Father J. Scott Bailey, C.SS.R. "May Our Mother of Perpetual Help," he wrote, "hold you always in her heart." Thank you, Father Scott. The second was a post by my friend Terry Nelson at Abbey–Roads2.

Her Eyes

I left Santa Croce on foot at about 4:30 and twenty minutes later I was in the Church of Sant'Alfonso. A reproduction of the holy and wonder–working icon is exposed on a stand to the right of the altar for the veneration of the faithful. I kissed the icon and then, lifting my face from the icon, I was surprised by the gaze of the Blessed Virgin. She was looking right into my eyes. Her eyes seemed so lifelike, so full of tenderness and sorrow and sweetness and truth. I knelt in the first bench and prayed a decade of the rosary.


Kneeling Before the Icon

As other pilgrims were going right into the sanctuary to kneel at the foot of the altar before the original icon, I followed suit. I entered the sanctuary and knelt next to another priest at the foot of the altar. There I presented all my intentions to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I didn't know until later in the evening that at that very moment my cousin Kevin Kirby in North Carolina was suffering a grave health crisis. Mother of Perpetual Help, help him in his hour of need and show him the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus!

I Want to Go Back

Many saints have visited this church and prayed before the miraculous icon; among them were Blessed Pius IX and Blessed Charles de Jésus. Before leaving the church and hurrying home to Vespers I was able to purchase a few postcard size reproductions of the miraculous icon. I am still pondering the mysterious gaze of the Mother of God. There was something indescribable in her eyes. I will return to Sant'Alfonso. Our Mother of Perpetual Help is present there in a unique way. Her eyes of mercy are turned toward us.


From the lineamenta for the forthcoming Synod on the Word of God:

Mary, Every Believer’s Model of How to Welcome the Word

11. In penetrating the mystery of the Word of God, Mary of Nazareth, from the moment of the Annunciation, remains the Teacher and Mother of the Church and the exemplar of every encounter with the Word by individuals or entire communities. She welcomes the Word in faith, mediates upon it, interiorizes it and lives it (cf. Lk 1:38; 2:19,51; Acts 17:11). Indeed, Mary listened to and meditated upon the Scriptures; she associated them with Jesus’ words and the events which she discovered were related to his life. Isaac of Stella says: “In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary.... The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; and in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb, he dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul."

The Virgin Mary knows how to take into account what is happening around her and live the necessities of daily life, fully aware that what she receives as a gift from her Son is a gift for everyone. She teaches us not to stand by as idle spectators before the Word of Life, but to become participants, allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, who abides in believers. She “magnifies” the Lord, discovering in her life the mercy of God, who makes her “blessed,” because “she believed that there would be a fulfilment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). She invites every believer to put Jesus’ words into practice: “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe” (Jn 20:29). Mary is the paradigm of the person who truly prays the Word and knows how to keep the lamp of faith burning in daily life. St. Ambrose observes that every Christian believer conceives and begets the Word of God. According to the flesh, Christ has only one mother; but, according to the faith, everyone gives him birth.

The Secret of Mary

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Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of Saint Louis–Marie Grignion de Montfort. His writings have been a lamp unto my feet and a fire in my heart for many years. If you are unfamiliar with Saint Louis–Marie, get to know him. If you once knew him and have put his writings on a shelf to gather dust, become reacquainted with him and discover his teaching anew. If having once attempted to read him, you were put off by him, it may have been because you were not yet ready to receive "the secret of Mary" that he, having received freely, offers freely to all who seek God.


Happy, indeed sublimely happy,
is the person to whom the Holy Spirit reveals the secret of Mary,
thus imparting to him true knowledge of her.
Happy the person to whom the Holy Spirit opens this enclosed garden for him to enter,
and to whom the Holy Spirit gives access to this sealed fountain
where he can draw water and drink deep draughts of the living waters of grace.
That person will find only grace and no creature in the most lovable Virgin Mary.
But he will find that the infinitely holy and exalted God is at the same time
infinitely solicitous for him and understands his weaknesses.
Since God is everywhere, He can be found everywhere, even in hell.
But there is no place where God can be more present to His creature
and more sympathetic to human weakness than in Mary.
It was indeed for this very purpose that He came down from heaven.
Everywhere else He is the Bread of the strong and the Bread of angels,
but living in Mary He is the Bread of children.

Saint Louis–Marie Grignion de Montfort


I just came up to my room from the basilica after having celebrated the 6:30 p.m. parish Mass. Today is the liturgical memorial of Our Mother of Good Counsel. I used the Mass of Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Italian Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the history of the miraculous image at Genazzano, read what Terry wrote at Abbey–Roads2.

Although I used the Mass given in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I prefer the texts of the Mass given in the supplement to the 1962 Roman Missal among the Masses By Special Grant In Certain Places.

The petition of the Collect is especially beautiful. We beseech God to grant that we may never depart from the counsels of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by this means order our lives after His own Heart:

O God, who hast given the Mother of Thy Beloved Son
to be likewise unto us a mother,
and hast made famous this her beauteous image,
by causing it miraculously to appear in our midst:
grant unto us, we beseech Thee, never to depart from her counsels and,
by this means ordering our lives after Thine own Heart,
one day happily to reach our heavenly fatherland.

One who seeks counsel of the Mother of God is never disappointed and never without hope. She is the most compassionate and effective of all counselors. The liturgy takes a wonderful promise from the book of Proverbs, and places it in Our Lady's mouth: "He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord" (Prov 8:35).

The verse that follows is also significant: "But he that shall sin against me, shall hurt his own soul. All that hate me love death" (Prov 8:36). One who sins against Mary, hurts his own soul. One who hates Mary loves death. The place given — or not given — to the Virgin Mother of God is a fundamental criterion in the discernment of spirits. The love of Mary is a wellspring of healing and of life. Love Mary, then, and all the rest will be given you besides.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory