Blessed Virgin Mary: May 2008 Archives

The Spirit and the Bride

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Our Lady and the Holy Spirit

Today’s feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, in its own special way, a feast of the Holy Spirit, a fitting sequel to the Solemnity of Pentecost that we celebrated just three weeks ago.

The Visitation

The Church ponders the mystery of the Visitation two or three times a year: today, on May 31st, in preparation for the solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th; during Advent, on December 21st; and again on the Fourth Sunday of Advent of the Year C.

The Roman liturgy gives us two Mass formularies for the Visitation: the one given in the Missal for May 31st, and a second one found in the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987). This latter contains four explicit mentions of the Holy Spirit. The translations are my own.

The Collect

O God, Saviour of mankind, who by the blessed Virgin Mary,
the ark of the new covenant, brought salvation and gladness
to the house of Elizabeth,
grant, we beseech you, that, by yielding to the breath of the Spirit,
we may carry Christ to our brothers and sisters,
magnifying you by our praises and by the holiness of our way of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

This Collect uses a very evocative phrase: “yielding to the breath of the Spirit.” To yield to the Holy Spirit requires suppleness; it obliges us to let go of our plans, to make changes in our program, to “arise and go with haste into the hill country” (Lk 1:39). In going to Elizabeth, Mary yielded to the breath of the Holy Spirit. Our Lady could do this because she was light as a feather carried on a gentle breeze; light, I say, because she was utterly poor —empty of self — and utterly virginal — pure capacity for God.

What keeps us from yielding to the breath of the Spirit if not the heaviness that clings to us and weighs us down, the burden of our preoccupation with self, the load of all our attachments? What happens when we yield — give in — to the breath of the Spirit? We may be carried where would rather not go. One thing is certain, and this too is in the Collect, we will be free to carry the hidden Christ, to others and to magnify God with praise and with holy living.

The Prayer Over the Offerings

Lord, we beseech you
let your Spirit hallow these our gifts,
the very Spirit who formed the Virgin Mary to be a new creature,
so that from her, bathed in dew from heaven,
would rise the fruit of salvation, Jesus Christ your Son,
who is Lord forever and ever.

This Prayer Over the Offerings asks the Father to hallow them by sending upon them the same Spirit who formed the Virgin Mary to be a new creature: an allusion to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit at the moment of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. It goes on to describe the Blessed Virgin as “bathed in dew from heaven”: a reference to her overshadowing by the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation.

The Dew of Your Spirit

The same image of dew is used for the Holy Spirit at the Epiclesis in Eucharistic Prayer II: “Therefore, make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your Spirit, that they may become for us the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Mary most holy, bathed in the dew of the Spirit, brought forth the fruit of salvation, the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus. That same fruit of salvation is given us in the Most Holy Eucharist, by the power of the same Spirit, descending invisibly like dew from heaven on our oblations of bread and wine.

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A Day of Prayer for the Church in China

On Pentecost 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, addressed a letter to the bishops, priests, religious, and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China. In his letter, the Holy Father proposed the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, venerated on the hill of Sheshan in the diocese of Shanghai, as a world wide day of prayer for China. Today, for the first time, the Holy Father's initiative will be implemented. At the Monastery of the Glorious Cross we will recite the Holy Father's prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan at the end of Holy Mass.

Help of Christians

"Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

Pray for Persecutors

I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:1-4).

When Everything Can Seem a Failure

On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.

Rejoice

At the conclusion of this Letter I pray that you, dear Pastors of the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, may "rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:6-7).

Mother of the Church and Queen of China

May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of China, who at the hour of the Cross patiently awaited the morning of the Resurrection in the silence of hope, accompany you with maternal solicitude and intercede for all of you, together with Saint Joseph and the countless Holy Martyrs of China."

Prayer to Our Lady, Help of Christians, of Sheshan

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians",
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

La Madonna di Pompei

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The Supplica

May 8th is the Feast of Our Lady of Pompei. In Italy and in places all over the globe the feast will be marked by the solemn recitation at noon of Blessed Bartolo Longo's moving prayer, the Supplica, meaning supplication or petition.

The Prayer of People the World Over

The Supplica is, of Blessed Bartolo Longo's published prayers to the Mother of God, the most famous. Its incandescent words have opened countless souls to the grace of Christ through the all–powerful intercession of His Mother.

The Supplica is a prayer that people have made their own. It is known on every continent; it has been translated into hundreds of languages. No authority ever imposed it, it is not part of the liturgy of the Church, it was never submitted to revision by ICEL, and yet, it has become universal. Sociologists of religion, take note! Translators of liturgical texts, wake up and smell the Italian coffee!

A Prayer of the Heart

Certain rationalistic types disdain the Supplica. They see it as representative of an unenlightened, sentimental, southern Italian piety bordering on superstition. They find its emphases embarrassing, its display of emotion unnerving.

The literary style of Blessed Bartolo Longo is the expression of his own character. He was capable of gentleness and of passion. He was, like all meridionals, rich in sentiment and quick to express it both in song and in tears. He was moved, before all else, by the reason of the heart.

Blessed Longo was a lover of Truth; but his particular grace was the discovery of Truth through love. He found Truth, not in syllogisms and in concepts, but in the Heart and on the Face of the Word Made Flesh in the womb of the Virgin, and held in her arms.

The Prayer of One Delivered From Evil

The Rosary was the means by which, at the age of twenty–eight, a confused and desperate Avvocato Bartolo Longo — a practicing Satanist and medium at the time — was converted to the Truth and delivered from the powers of darkness. He vowed that he would spend his life proclaiming to others the Rosary's liberating and healing power. This is why, at the end of the Supplica, he exclaims: "O blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we shall never abandon you."

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Bound to Mary by the Rosary

The Supplica may not be everyone's cup of tea. Even pious folks may find it a bit too baroque, a bit overdone. It may be the southern Italian blood (mixed with Irish) that runs hot in my veins, but I love the Supplica and I plan on saying it with thousands of other people today. It is the prayer of a man very like myself: a poor sinner who fears nothing when he holds the Rosary in his hands, knowing that the Mother of God holds her end of the chain, and will not let it go.

The Supplica
Prayed at Midday on May 8th

O August Queen of Victories, O Sovereign of Heaven and Earth, at whose name the heavens rejoice and the abyss trembles, O glorious Queen of the Rosary, we your devoted children, assembled in your temple of Pompeii, (on this solemn day), pour out the affection of our heart and with filial confidence expresse our miseries to you.

From the throne of clemency, where you are seated as Queen, turn, O Mary, your merciful gaze on us, on our families, on Italy, on Europe, on the world. Have compassion on the sorrows and cares which embitter our lives. See, O Mother, how many dangers of body and soul, how many calamities and afflictions press upon us.

O Mother, implore for us the mercy of your divine Son and conquer with clemency the heart of sinners. They are our brothers and your children who cause the heart of our sweet Jesus to bleed and who sadden your most sensitive heart. Show all that you are the Queen of Peace and of Pardon.

Hail Mary.

Trentotto anni di messa!

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For The Reverend Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins on the 38th Anniversary of His Ordination to the Holy Priesthood:

"The Holy Spirit will honour Mary and, through Mary, the Holy Spirit will be honoured, beginning from the heart of priests. Two new glories are held in reserve for the world: the reign of the Holy Spirit through Mary and a new awareness stirred up by the Holy Spirit in the spiritual and Christian world of the sorrowful and loving years of Mary's solitude. In these two things, I too will be honoured together with my Father from whom I never separate myself, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

And so, if my priests want to make progress in virtue they must do it by means of Mary; if they want to grow in knowledge and in love for the Holy Spirit, they must become ever more hers. More and more then let them make known and glorify these years of her solitude.

There is nothing surer than to avail themselves of the Holy Spirit and of Mary for their transformation into Me and, even more, for the perfection (insofar as this is possible on earth) of the union of the members of the Church among themselves, and the perfect Unity in the Trinity that I am seeking in a thousand ways."

The text is from Sacerdoti di Cristo by Conchita Cabrera de Armida, p. 387. The translation is my own.

Our Lady of America

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A very dear priest friend and I were discussing the place given to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Holy Father's recent Apostolic Journey to the United States. I decided to review the Holy Father's discourses to discover when and where he spoke of Our Blessed Lady, as well as what he said on those occasions. Here is what I found, together with my own comments in italics.

1. Video-Message to Catholics and People of the United States of America on the Occasion of the Upcoming Apostolic Journey, April 8, 2000

“I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Que la Virgen María les acompañe y proteja. Que Dios les bendiga.”

2. Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

“We began by celebrating Evening Prayer in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States.”

The phrase "with Mary, the Mother of Jesus" is taken from Acts 1:14. The circumstances of such an allusion — the successors of the Apostles united in prayer in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — could not have been more fitting.

“Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15).”

While treating of the prayer of bishops and priests the Holy Father alluded to the Rosary. Together with Eucharistic Adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary is integral to the daily prayer discipline of the clergy.

"As I conclude my words to you this evening, I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all the nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son."

This is as close as the Holy Father came to making an explicit "affidamento" or act of consecration of the Church in the United States to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second line seems to evoke the Virgin of Guadalupe, heavenly patroness of the Church's works in favour of life.

“Dear Brother Bishops, with these few observations, I once more encourage all of you in your ministry to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, and I commend you to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church.”

Again, the Holy Father commends the Bishops to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, calling her "Mother of the Church. The above texts seem rather meagre in terms of their explicit Marian content. I regret that there was no mention of Our Lady in the Holy Father's homily to priests and religious in Saint Patrick's Cathedral and in his address to young people at Dunwoodie. I had hoped that the visit to Ground Zero might be marked by a recognition of the compassion of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows. I want, nonetheless, to deepen the words concerning Our Lady that Our Holy Father did speak, by receiving them obediently, that is, with a quality of listening that changes life.

Setting An Example

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Yesterday was the First Saturday of the month of May. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI gave an edifying example of pastoral zeal to all the bishops and parish priests of the Church by praying the Rosary with the faithful in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. It was profoundly moving to see the Holy Father on his knees, telling his beads with simplicity, humility, and piety. He recited the prayers of the Rosary in Latin. A suitable antiphon in Gregorian Chant and a passage from Sacred Scripture preceded each decade. The Salve Regina, Litany of Loreto, and Regina Caeli concluded the celebration: a model for every cathedral and parish church in the world. At the end of the prayer, the Holy Father said:

"Today we are demonstrating together that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice relegated to the past, like a prayer of former times that one thinks of nostalgia. The Rosary is, as it were, coming into a new springtime. This is, without any doubt, one of the most eloquent signs of the love that the young generations nourish for Jesus and for Mary His Mother.

In today’s world so full of distractions, this prayer helps us to place Christ at the centre, as did the Virgin, who meditated inwardly all that was said concerning her Son, and then what He did and said. When the Rosary is recited we relive the important and significant moments of the history of salvation; we journey through the various phases of the mission of Christ. With Mary the heart turns toward the mystery of Jesus. Jesus is placed at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, by means of the contemplation and meditation of His holy mysteries of joy, of light, of sorrow, and of glory. Mary helps us to receive within ourselves the grace that emanates from these mysteries so that through us they might irrigate society, beginning with our daily relations, and purify it of so many negative forces, while apprising it of the newness of God.

The Rosary, when prayed in an authentic way, one that is not mechanical and superficial, but profound, undeniably confers peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and with love at the center of each Ave Maria."

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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