Blessed Virgin Mary: September 2007 Archives

And the Virgin's Name Was Mary

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The Most Holy Name of Mary

Sirach 24:17–21
Luke 1:46–48, 49–50, 53–54

Victory in the Name of Mary

In 1683 Pope Innocent XI extended the existing Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary to the universal Church to thank Our Lady for the victory of John Sobieski, king of Poland, over the forces of militant Islam. On September 11th, 1683, Muslim Turks attacked Vienna, threatening the Christian West. The next day, Sobieski, invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary and placing his forces under her protection, emerged victorious.

A Feast Restored to the Roman Missal

In the culture of the Middle East one thinks more readily in terms of centuries than in terms of years. It would seem that Osama Bin Ladin chose September 11th for the attack on the United States in memory of that attack on the West on September 11th, 1683. Symbolic dates are important. Pope John Paul II restored the feast of the Holy Name of Mary with the publication of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal in 2002, one year after the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

The Invocation of the Name of Mary

The Holy Mother of God is no stranger to the struggles of her children in this valley of tears. She is attentive to every situation that threatens this world of ours, to every assault against the Church and, when we invoke her Holy Name, she is quick to intervene. When it comes to calling upon the Name of Mary, there is no struggle too global and too enormous, and no struggle too personal or too little. In the Bible, the name wields a mysterious power. Names are not to be pronounced casually or lightly. Names are not to be taken in vain. The invocation of the name renders present the one who is named. So often as you pronounce the sweet Name of Mary with devotion and confidence, Mary is present to you, ready to help. So often as you pronounce the sweet Name of Mary, you have her full and undivided attention.

As Oil Poured Out

The saints, drawing on a verse from the Song of Songs, compare the Name of Mary to a healing oil. “Thy Name is as oil poured out” (Ct 1:2). Oil heals the sick, gives off a sweet fragrance, and nourishes fire. In the same way the Name of Mary is like a balm on the wounds of the soul; there is no disease of the soul, however malignant, that does not yield to the power of the Name of Mary. The sound of Mary’s Name causes joy to spring up; the repetition of Mary’s Name warms the heart. If you would touch the Heart of the Father, pronounce the Name of Jesus; if you would touch the Heart of Jesus, pronounce the Name of Mary.

Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca

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12 September
Feast of the Holy Name of Mary

Think of Mary, call upon Mary.


Grant, we beseech you, almighty God,
that to all who are celebrating her glorious name,
the Blessed Virgin Mary herself
may dispense the benefits of your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

General Intercessions

That the pilgrim Church,
faithful to the invocation of the Most Holy Name of Mary,
may find in her a shining star,
a refuge in time of distress,
and a mother quick to help in every need,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. CHRIST, GRACIOUSLY HEAR US.

That, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
the world may be spared further war, violence, and bloodshed
and the leaders of nations moved to persevere in seeking a lasting peace,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. CHRIST, GRACIOUSLY HEAR US.

That those who struggle on the stormy seas of life
may look to Mary as to their star, and so avert shipwreck;
that those who are tossed on the winds of temptation,
may call on Mary and be comforted in their weakness;
and that the dying may find in the Holy Name of Mary
light and peace,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. CHRIST, GRACIOUSLY HEAR US.

That all who bear the sweet name of Mary
may be inwardly conformed to her virtues
and, at every moment, honour the name
that fills heaven and earth with gladness,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. CHRIST, GRACIOUSLY HEAR US.

That all who invoke the Holy Name of Mary
may experience her nearness now and at the hour of death;
and that the praise of God may never depart
from the lips of those who celebrate her Name today,
to the Lord we pray: Christ, hear us. R. CHRIST, GRACIOUSLY HEAR US.

Collect at the General Intercessions

Almighty and ever-living God,
who, in the Blessed Virgin Mary,
were pleased to give us a star
shining over life’s vast and stormy sea;
mercifully grant that when the winds of temptation arise
and we run upon the rocks of tribulation,
we may with confidence look at that star,
think of Mary, and call on her by name,
and so learn, with all the saints,
how rightly it is said that “the Virgin’s name was Mary.”
Through Christ our Lord.

(Cf. Saint Bernard, Sermon Two on the Glories of the Virgin Mother)


For some years now, especially around the Marian feasts of September 8th, September 12th, November 21st, and December 8th, I have prayed my rosary while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady's life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin are:

— the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne;
— the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
— the Most Holy Name of Mary
— the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple;
— the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph;

There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.

All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one's beads. The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.

The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.


Rather than preach my own homily this morning, I read the homily given by the Holy Father today at Mariazell. When the Successor of Saint Peter preaches, he addresses the whole Church. Whenever and wherever the Supreme Shepherd of the Church preaches, his message is for all.

Homily of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI

Basilica of Mariazell
Saturday, 8 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Show Us Jesus

With our great pilgrimage to Mariazell, we are celebrating the patronal feast of this Shrine, the feast of Our Lady’s Birthday. For 850 years pilgrims have been travelling here from different peoples and nations; they come to pray for the intentions of their hearts and their homelands, bringing their deepest hopes and concerns. In this way Mariazell has become a place of peace and reconciled unity, not only for Austria, but far beyond her borders. Here we experience the consoling kindness of the Madonna. Here we meet Jesus Christ, in whom God is with us, as today’s Gospel reminds us – Jesus, of whom we have just heard in the reading from the prophet Micah: “He himself will be peace” (5:4). Today we join in the great centuries-old pilgrimage. We rest awhile with the Mother of the Lord, and we pray to her: Show us Jesus. Show to us pilgrims the one who is both the way and the destination: the truth and the life.

God Writes Straight on the Crooked Lines of History

The Gospel passage we have just heard broadens our view. It presents the history of Israel from Abraham onwards as a pilgrimage, which, with its ups and downs, its paths and detours, leads us finally to Christ. The genealogy with its light and dark figures, its successes and failures, shows us that God can write straight even on the crooked lines of our history. God allows us our freedom, and yet in our failures he can always find new paths for his love. God does not fail. Hence this genealogy is a guarantee of God’s faithfulness; a guarantee that God does not allow us to fall, and an invitation to direct our lives ever anew towards him, to walk ever anew towards Jesus Christ.

Seekers of the Star

Making a pilgrimage means setting out in a particular direction, travelling towards a destination. This gives a beauty of its own even to the journey and to the effort involved. Among the pilgrims of Jesus’s genealogy there were many who forgot the goal and wanted to make themselves the goal. Again and again, though, the Lord called forth people whose longing for the goal drove them forward, people who directed their whole lives towards it. The awakening of the Christian faith, the dawning of the Church of Jesus Christ was made possible, because there were people in Israel whose hearts were searching – people who did not rest content with custom, but who looked further ahead, in search of something greater: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Mary and Joseph, the Twelve and many others. Because their hearts were expectant, they were able to recognize in Jesus the one whom God had sent, and thus they could become the beginning of his worldwide family. The Church of the Gentiles was made possible, because both in the Mediterranean area and in those parts of Asia to which the messengers of Jesus travelled, there were expectant people who were not satisfied by what everyone around them was doing and thinking, but who were seeking the star which could show them the way towards Truth itself, towards the living God.

Gratia agentes Deo Patri

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Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week of the Year I

Colossians 1:9-14
Psalm 97:2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6 (R. 2a)
Luke 5:1-11

Toward Mariazell

On this eve of our Holy Father’s pilgrimage to the Benedictine sanctuary of Mariazell in Austria, we prepare our hearts to go in pilgrimage with him. Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage will mark the 850th anniversary of the founding of Mariazell, the Basilica of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Another highlight of the Holy Father’s journey will be a visit to the flourishing Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, a vibrant community that has more new vocations at present than it has had in the past two hundred years.

Pilgrimages of the Heart

Last week’s papal pilgrimage to the Holy House of Loreto and tomorrow’s pilgrimage to Our Lady of Mariazell underscore for all Catholics the importance of going in humility and confidence to places made holy by the prayers of the faithful through the ages, and by a mysterious presence of the Mother of the Lord in her images. Not all of us are able to make grand pilgrimages, but each of us can make small ones, inner pilgrimages of the heart, outwardly signified by some gesture of faith.

Visits to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Saint Alphonsus wisely recommends a daily visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Listen to him: “And now as to the visits to the Most Blessed Virgin, the opinion of Saint Bernard is well known and generally believed: it is that God dispenses no graces otherwise than through the hands of Mary…. Do you then, be also careful always to join to your daily visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament a visit to the Most Holy Virgin Mary in some church, or at least before a devout image of her in your own house. If you do this with tender affection and confidence, you may hope to receive great things from this most gracious Lady, who, as Saint Andrew of Crete says, always bestows great gifts on those who offer her even the least act of homage.”


Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding

Yes, the gifts of God are dispensed through the hands of Mary. This is true of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit because, as the saints teach us, where Mary is present the Holy Spirit rushes in. In today’s First Reading Saint Paul asks that the Colossians be filled with three of these gifts. “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9). Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding: three of the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts.

Obedience and Thanksgiving

Saint Paul prays that the Colossians may be gifted with knowledge of the Father’s will, but the mere knowledge of the Father’s will is not enough or, rather, it is unbearable and utterly beyond us, without the gifts of wisdom and understanding. We are not saved by knowledge. Our Lord makes this clear in the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28-31). Going to the first son, and then to the second, the father said, “Son, go and work in my vineyard today” (Mt 21:28). The first son refused, and then turned around and obeyed. The second son said, “I go, sir” (Mt 21:30), but did not go. Mere knowledge of the Father’s will does not make us holy. We are saved and sanctified — that is to say, healed and divinized — by grace and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit that make possible for us to say both the “Amen” of obedience and the “Alleluia” of thanksgiving.

In Darkness

Sometimes it pleases God to withhold the knowledge of His will, or so it seems to us. At certain moments, the will of the Father may be to leave us seemingly clueless. At no time are the gifts of the Holy Spirit more necessary than when we find ourselves saying with the psalmist, “Friend and neighbor Thou hast put far from me: my one companion is darkness” (Ps 87:19).


Wisdom: The Taste of Love

The gift of wisdom allows me to believe in love when everything around me says, “There is no love for you here.” The gift of wisdom is the faintest taste of love to the palate of the soul, even in those dark hours when, with Job, I would want to cry out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Jb 13:15). I am reminded of the words of Father Ernest Lelièvre (1826-1889): “I know and am perfectly certain that, of all the calculations I could make, the wisest is to abandon myself to Him.” It is the gift of wisdom makes that kind of resolution possible.

Since You Asked

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A Reader's Question

Last week a reader of Vultus Christi asked, "How does one kindle (in oneself) a devotion to Mary?" I would answer that one cannot kindle in oneself a devotion to Mary; it is a flame ignited by the Holy Spirit, a fire that descends from above, a gift. One can and should pray for this gift perseveringly. I say this because all true devotion to Mary is a participation in the love of the Heart of Jesus for His Mother. Like every other participation in the sentiments of the Heart of Jesus, love for Mary is communicated to souls by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary

Room made for the Holy Spirit is room made for Mary. And room made for Mary is room made for the Holy Spirit. From the moment of the Incarnation until the end of time, the Holy Spirit is inseparable from His Immaculate Spouse. Mary's "Yes" to the plan of God at the moment of the Annunciation engaged her not only in the mystery of the Incarnation, but also in an ongoing collaboration with the Holy Spirit until such time as the Church, the Body of Christ, attains her plenitude in all the saints (cf. Eph 1:22-23).

Saint Joseph and Saint John

More often than not, true devotion to Mary begins with a gentle impulse or a divine invitation to make room for her in one's life. Saint Joseph obeyed the word of the Angel and took Mary unto him as his wife (cf. Mt 1:20-24). Saint John obeyed the word of the Crucified Jesus and took Mary "to his own" (Jn 19:27). It is significant that Saint Joseph and Saint John, the two men with whom the Blessed Virgin shared her daily life, appeared with her at Knock in 1879.

Images of Mary

Like Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, I am very fond of blessed images of the Mother of God, and convinced of their efficacy as sacramentals. I am especially devoted to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. One can symbolically declare one's readiness to make room for Mary in one's heart and in one's life by placing her image in a place of honour in one's home. Saint Alphonsus recommends a daily visit to an image of the Blessed Virgin.

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Different images of the Mother of God speak to the heart according to the changing seasons, struggles, sorrows, and joys of one's life with God. At a given moment one may find oneself drawn to the Black Madonna of Paris, Our Lady of Good Deliverance, the help of those struggling with depression. At another moment, the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal of the Rue du Bac or the Mother of Sorrows will fascinate the soul. My own icon of the Virgin Mother of Christ draws me again and again into adoration of His Eucharistic Face. Our Lady of Knock reassures me because her hands are raised in prayer; she is our all-powerful suppliant before the throne of God and of the Lamb. The countless faces of the one Blessed Virgin Mary depicted in devotional art through the centuries correspond to real life experiences and to the most intimate needs of souls.

The Rosary


What about the Rosary? The Rosary is as suited to the capacity of beginners who want to know Mary and love her, as it is to the capacity of those who have known and loved her for many years. The Rosary is a school of ceaseless prayer, a way of entering slowly but surely into that prayer of the heart that neither slumbers nor sleeps. One book that I recommend for readers who want to explore this further is The Rosary, A Road to Constant Prayer by Father Jean Lafrance. I read the French original, Le Chapelet, many years ago and I still return to it from time to time for a "tuneup." One should also read the classics: The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, and The Glories of Mary by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. In my Rosary Archives one can also find a fair amount of reflection on what is for me and for so many others the sweetest and sturdiest of prayers, a lifeline in danger, and a channel of healing.

At the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, O.S.B., September 4, 5, and 6 will be marked by a triduum of Votive Masses in honour of the Holy Spirit.


The triduum is being celebrated in supplication for the forthcoming General Chapter of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, which will be held in Brou-sur-Chantereine, France from September 19th until October 2nd.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11
Psalm 26: 1-4, 13-14
Luke 4:31-37

Come, Holy Spirit

We begin today a triduum of Votive Masses in honour of the Holy Spirit in supplication for the forthcoming General Chapter of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, which will be held in France from September 19th to October 2nd. In a certain sense, a General Chapter must have the same characteristics as the apostolic assembly that preceded the first Pentecost in the Cenacle. What exactly are these? From the description given us by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles 1:13-14, we can learn quite a lot.

In the Light of the Eucharistic Face of Christ

The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles went into retreat in the Cenacle immediately following the Ascension of the Lord from Mount Olivet. Each one carried in his heart the memory of that last glimpse of the Face of Jesus, and each one longed to see His Face again. In the time that stretches from the Ascension to the return of Our Lord in glory, His Face is turned toward us in the adorable mystery of the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist that our gaze meets His. The Eucharist celebrated, adored, and contemplated must be at the heart of the General Chapter, just as it must be at the heart of our life from day to day.

Under the Leadership of Peter

The second characteristic is a reference to the unique mission of Peter in the Apostolic College. Saint Peter is named first in the list of those who went into the Cenacle. The successor of Saint Peter is the Pope, the bishop of Rome. If we consider the example of the saints through the ages, we see that the most accurate measure of one’s attachment to the Church, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, is the degree of one’s attachment to the Holy Father. Saint Catherine of Siena referred to the Pope as her “sweet Christ on earth.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar warned prophetically of the critical danger of the “anti-Roman complex.” The core of the Protestant heresy was and remains the assertion of the individual’s perception of truth over the “Splendour of Truth” taught and defended by the Successor of Saint Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. The individual Protestant persists in saying, “I know, I choose, I prefer, and I believe,” over and above what Christ teaches and defines through the mouth of Peter. The Protestant body or sect does the same thing; it is a group of individuals who persist in saying, “We know, we choose, we prefer, and we believe,” over and against what Christ teaches and defines through the mouth of Peter.

When Blessed John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council, he composed a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit; in that prayer he affirmed that a second Pentecost could take place only “under the leadership of Peter.” We must be wary of a certain kind of creeping Protestantism that sets parts of the body against the whole; it causes certain members of the Body to resist the direction given by the Head. Positively, we must renew the vow of obedience in all its ecclesial implications. History demonstrates that religious institutes flourish in proportion to their attachment to the See of Peter; they decline in proportion to the degree to which they are infected with the “anti-Roman complex.”

The Wisest Investment of All

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The Holy Father is on pilgrimage today to Loreto. My heart is on pilgrimage with him.

Twenty-First Saturday of the Year I
Matthew 25:14-30

The Mediation of Our Lady

On May 11, 2007, during a homily at the canonization of Father Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão, O.F.M., in Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI gave one of the clearest statements ever made on the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces, when he said: "There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady." In saying this, the Holy Father put to rest, once and for all, the scruples and doubts of those who, misinformed of the teachings of the Church after the Second Vatican Council, or simply ignorant of them, somehow thought it inappropriate to call the Mother of Jesus and our Mother the Mediatrix of All Graces.

Grace for Grace

The Blessed Virgin Mary mediates all the graces given us in Christ in two ways. By carrying the Son of God in her virginal womb and by giving Him birth, Mary brought into the world the Source and Author of all graces. “And of His fullness we have all received,” says Saint John, “and grace for grace” (Jn 1:16). The Father, in giving us the Son has also “with Him, given us all things” (Rom 8:32). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). The Son, in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) is given us through Mary. “And entering the house,” we read in Saint Matthew’s account of the Wise Men, “they found the Child with Mary His Mother” (Mt 2:11). Theologians refer to this as Our Lady’s remote mediation.

Behold Thy Mother

Our Lady’s role did not end with the birth of Jesus, nor did it end with his Ascension, with the Descent of the Holy Spirit, or with her own Assumption into heaven. The motherhood of the Virgin Mary was extended on Calvary to all the members of her Son’s Mystical Body, and this until the end of time. “When Jesus therefore had seen His mother and the disciple standing there 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” (Jn 19:27).


The Blessed Virgin Mary’s universal mediation is an expression of her universal motherhood. By virtue of her peerless participation in the victimal priesthood of her Son, Our Lady received for distribution all the graces merited on Calvary by His immolation. She distributes these same graces to souls according to their need, according to their openness to receive them, and according to her own mercy and munificence.

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Mary is the new Eve, the Mother of all the living. Standing at the foot of the Cross and filled in that hour with the Spirit of her Son, she said “Yes” to the unique role in the work of redemption that, from the beginning, the Father had reserved for her. She continues to participate in that work by dispensing “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8) to all of us, the old Eve's poor children exiled in this valley of tears.

Mary is a true mother and the best of mothers; she loves to give good things to her children. Hidden in the glory of her Assumption, she has entered in “even within the veil” (Heb 6:19) with Christ, our Eternal High Priest. What she obtains in heaven by her omnipotent supplication, she distributes on earth with an indescribable largesse. Theologians refer to this as Our Lady’s proximate or immediate mediation. Saint Bernard says it this way: “It is the will of God that we should have nothing which has not passed through the hands of Mary.”

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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