Blessed Virgin Mary: May 2010 Archives

Our Lady of Fatima by Sr Mary of the Compassion.jpg

I began this morning a little commentary on the Holy Father's Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I will have to post it in installments as it emerges from my meditation of the text. Here is the first installment:

Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father's Will.

Immaculate Mother

The Holy Father begins by addressing the Virgin Mary in reference to the singular privileges of her Immaculate Conception and her Divine Maternity. Conceived immaculate in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, the Blessed Virgin was, from the first moment of her conception, full of grace, and perfectly prepared for the further gift of Divine Motherhood that would be offered her.

Far from making her indifferent and distant to souls flawed and soiled by both original and actual sin, Our Lady's sinlessness makes her capable of a uniquely pure compassion and of a maternal love that doesn't recoil from intimate spiritual contact with the children of Eve who, in this valley of tears, fall and seek to rise again.

In This Place of Grace

The Holy Father acknowledges that Fatima is a place of grace, that is, a place favoured by God and visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a sacred geography spread over the face of the earth. There is a certain sacramentality of place. It pleases God, and thus pleases the Mother of God, to make of certain precise locations abiding occasions of grace. Clearly, Fatima, is one such place, but there are countless others. Some of these are hidden, humble, and infrequently visited.

Not so very long ago every Catholic Church had an altar dedicated to the Blessed Mother of God. Some even had a "Lady Chapel," a special space within the larger church graced with an image of the Most Holy Virgin. These local shrines of Our Blessed Lady were, in their own modest and unpretentious way, places of pilgrimage and of grace for people who could never have imagined going to Fatima, Lourdes, Loreto, Guadalupe, Rue du Bac, Jasna Gora, or Knock. How many candles were lighted before Our Lady in humble parish churches? How many furtive visits were made to the foot of her altar? How many tears were shed there? And how many graces and consolations received?

There is a monastic custom dating back to Cluny and even earlier according to which monks would daily make the rounds of the altars in the abbey church, taking special care to tarry before the image of Mary, Queen and Mother of Monks, Refuge of Sinners, and Cause of Our Joy. There are monasteries, even today, where in the pre-dawn darkness before Matins or after Compline, Mary's sons make their way to her image, there to pour out their hearts and to receive her maternal blessing.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori recommended that the daily visit to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be completed by a visit to the Madonna Santissima. Children need to be taught, from an early age, to approach the altar (or shrine) of the Blessed Mother in the parish church and to experience it as a place of minor pilgrimage, a sacred destination, a place of grace. Priests do well to give the example of praying before the image of Our Blessed Lady in the parish church. This humble expression of devotion to Mary, still common in my youth, needs to be recovered for the joy and upbuilding of the Church at every level.

Called together by the love of your Son Jesus the Eternal High Priest

Love attracts. Love draws. Love unites. Love calls. The Holy Father acknowledges that the multitude surrounding him at Fatima and, in particular, the bishops and priests who were present, have this in common: they were attracted, drawn, united, and called by Love. The priestly love of Jesus chooses certain men, calls them friends, and unites them to Himself and to one another in His sacrifice: priests made one with The Priest, and victims with The Victim. All whom Jesus the Eternal High Priest draws to His Heart are assumed into His holocaust. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" (Jn 12:32). What is true here of "all men" is true, first, of His priests. When a priest is drawn into the mystery of Crucified Love, many souls are drawn there after him; and when a priests resists the drawing of Crucified Love, many souls are held back by his hardness of heart.

We, Sons in the Son and His Priests

The Holy Father's expression is reminiscent, not only of a recurrent theme in the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion, O.S.B., but also of the first published writings of the French mystic, Marie de la Trinité de Mulatier, O.P. (1903-1980). These appeared in 1986 under the title, "Filiation et sacerdoce des chrétiens."

"The world," she writes, "is most opposed to the spirit of priesthood, because it is by the spirit of priesthood that that the spirit of the world will be healed. It is, nonetheless, by the Filial spirit that we must begin, because we go to God only if He draws us to Himself. And the Father first sends forth His Son, before drawing us to Himself. We have no need of the spirit of priesthood to go to the Son, to the Incarnate Word. When we are in contact with the Son, then does the Son give us the priesthood so that, in Him, we may with all that we are, tend towards the Father and be received by Him."

By the gift of Filiation (by adoption) the Father offers Himself to us, precisely as Father. By the gift of participation in the priesthood of Christ, we can offer ourselves to Him in return. The priestly spirit flourishes in souls marked by the filial spirit of confidence, trust, love, and a holy boldness.

Before sharing in the priesthood of Christ, one must share in the grace of His Divine Filiation. While the grace of sonship is unitive, that of priesthood is consecratory. The filial grace and the sacerdotal grace are both perfected by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. By the former God unites us to Himself as beloved sons to their Father, and by the latter we make an act of oblation consecrating ourselves as victims pleasing to God.

"Priesthood and Filiation," writes Marie de la Trinité "are not rewards, but are pure gifts granted us . . . not for any pre-existing holiness of ours, but for the sake of a potential holiness. . . . Sinners that we are, fully conscious of our guilt, and graced by the goodness of the Father with the gifts of priesthood and of Filiation, we need not wait to be fully purified and restored before making use of these gifts, or before having completed the expiation due to the Holiness and Majesty of the Father."

Do Not Tire of Visiting Us

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Tonight, at least, I have no words to express what I perceive to be the significance of this Act of Consecration in the context of The Year of the Priest. I have nothing but joy, and an immense gratitude to the Holy Father.

Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father's Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our "here I am".

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
"They have no wine" (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
"Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of "visiting us",
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!


Why the Cenacle?

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Virgo orans a cenaculo.jpg

I took this essay from Our Lady of the Cenacle by The Reverend Father Felix , S.J., published by the Lafayette Press (New York) in 1896. I edited the text (a translation from the French) slightly and tried to make it more intelligible. Father Felix explains masterfully the significance of the dedication of our little monastery.

The Place of Divine Grace

The Cenacle was pre-eminently the place of Divine Grace, called therein by the prayer of the apostles and disciples, and especially by the all-powerful prayer of Our Lady, Mother of Grace and Queen of the Apostles.

The Cenacle and the Most Holy Eucharist

Men of God, worthy of attention by reason of their religious virtues and their theological and ascetic science have, to explain the uniquely graced atmosphere of the Cenacle, had recourse to pious suppositions, which, without being of the value of a demonstration, possess with a certain probability a value of edification. We content ourselves here with recalling them without pretending either to repudiate them or to approve them entirely. Among these suppositions, one of the most likely and the best authorized by tradition, one that is even admitted to be almost certain by serious theologians, is that the Apostles in the Cenacle consecrated the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, conformably to His divine recommendation: "Do this for a commemoration of me," and that all the disciples present, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, there participated in the holy mysteries. However more or less well founded may be this supposition, we have in no wise need of it to establish in a certain and incontestable manner what we have just affirmed, namely: that the primitive Cenacle was pre-eminently the place of Divine Grace.

It was in the Cenacle that our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, or of the life of God communicated to men in a permanent manner by our High Priest and Divine Mediator. Consequently, the Cenacle was the first place on earth honored and consecrated by the presence of the Eucharistic God, that is to say by the very source of Divine Grace, our Lord Jesus Christ. This same mystery of the Cenacle was, is, and will be perpetuated in the Church even to the consummation of the ages.

The Cenacle and the Blessed Virgin Mary

It was in the Cenacle also, in the Cenacle especially, that Divine Grace was exhaled from all the souls there assembled, and especially from the soul of the most Holy Virgin, well called full of grace. There the breath of all those souls in contact and in communication with one another, formed necessarily in that blessed place, as it were, a supernatural atmosphere that permeated every recess of their being and influenced them in every possible way.

The Cenacle and the Holy Ghost

Finally, it was in the Cenacle that, on the morning of Pentecost at the Third Hours, Divine Grace made its most solemn manifestation and its most brilliant apparition in a great wind and in tongues of fire. Thus did the Holy Ghost enter into the souls of the Apostles so as afterwards to spread Himself abroad in the city of Jerusalem and from there throughout the universe.

The First of All Our Temples

Thus looked upon, the Cenacle is indeed what we have named it, the privileged place of Divine Grace. However modest it may have been by it's dimensions and by its architecture, no place has ever equaled it in importance, and no Christian temple, however sacred, has ever been so filled with Divine Grace as was that first of all our temples.

The Prayer of the Cenacle

But by what mysterious power was Divine Grace attracted to the Cenacle? What was it that caused it to descend in all and in each one with that plenitude the Holy Scripture expresses by these prodigious words: "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost; repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto ?" The Scripture in the same Book of the Acts of the Apostles answers this question and explains to us this mystery : "All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Hi omnes erant perseverantes unanimiter in oratione cum mulieribus, et Maria matre Jesu. (Acts 1:14)

It is true that already, as we have just said, the Cenacle had, by the single fact of the institution of the Eucharistic Mystery, become the sacred dwelling of Divine Grace. But it may be remarked that the Saviour preceded and accompanied the consecration of His Body and Blood by His own prayer, as though He wished himself to prelude by prayer what may be called the installation of Divine Grace in the Cenacle.

What caused Divine Grace and divine life to descend and enter the Cenacle abundantly and super-abundantly was prayer. And what kind of prayer?

Universal prayer; for all prayed; all without exception.
Unanimous and fraternal prayer; for all prayed with one same mind and heart: unanimiter.
Persevering prayer: erant perseverantes in oratione.
Prayer confident of the promise of the Divine Master.
Omnipotent prayer: yes, omnipotent in Divine Grace and divine order by reason of its union with the prayer of Mary.

The Prayer of Our Blessed Lady

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, prayed in the Cenacle with the apostles, the disciples, and the holy women. She was there as the uniting centre of that collective prayer that mounted from the hearts of all, and especially from her maternal heart to the Heart of her Divine Son. She was there, an all-powerful suppliant; omnipotentia supplex, giving to that universal, unanimous, and persevering prayer the force to draw upon the Cenacle and upon all those abiding therein, with the coming of the Holy Ghost, Divine Grace in essence.

And the Holy Ghost, called down by that victorious prayer, came with the resplendent signs which the Scripture relates; He came bringing the very substance of the supernatural and the plenitude of the gifts it contains.

Sober Drunkenness in the Holy Ghost

Never had anything similar been accomplished in humanity. Those men, but now so subject to all human weaknesses and such slaves of all the miseries of nature, are suddenly so filled, so penetrated, so truly inebriated with the supernatural and the divine, that the Jewish people, witnesses of this incomprehensible phenomenon, judge it to be a natural and material inebriation, the only one they then had any knowledge of; for nothing had ever resembled either closely or remotely this phenomenon, absolutely unique in the history of our human race.

Christ in Us

Behold in its mysterious reality the Apostolic Cenacle having in its centre Mary, Mother of Jesus and Queen of the Apostles. The Cenacle is the type and abridgment of the great mystery of Christianity. What is Christianity considered in its principle and in its intimate life if not the life of Jesus Christ dilating and expanding itself throughout space and time in proportion as the baptized of all nations are incorporated with it? And what is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, if not the life of God manifesting itself under the form of our humanity and by God and with God coming to dwell in us. By Him and in Him, truly, we have all that is supernatural and divine; omnia per ipsum et cum ipso. It is in this sense that Saint Paul could say with all truth: "Christ is all my life; mihi vivere Christus est; He is all the life with which I live as a Christian, that is all my divine and supernatural life."


In a word, our Christianity is, in essence and in its most intimate principle, Divine Grace, because real Christianity is the life of Jesus Christ living in us, and Jesus Christ is Divine Grace, living and personified in Himself. The Cenacle is the image and the living abridgment of true Christianity, in that the intimate core of Christianity is manifested in its visible form, the organization of the liturgical life and of ceaseless prayer. In each and in all, and in the whole universe, Divine Grace is born, grows, develops and fructifies by prayer. As Jesus Christ in His mortal life prayed and prayed again, so Christianity, which is Jesus Christ Himself dilated throughout the universe, prays. The whole of Christianity is an immense prayer; it is a ceaseless rhythm of prayer rising from all the parts of the universe where Christianity reigns.

As in the Cenacle, the prayer of the Church is persevering and permanent prayer, for the clock of time strikes not an hour when prayer does not spring forth from the hearts of millions and millions of Christians. Literally, that voice of prayer in the bosom of Christianity is not hushed day or night. As in the Cenacle, the Church's universal and permanent prayer is magnificently unanimous, and, it may be added, divinely harmonious.

The Sacred Liturgy

Nothing in humanity equals the grandeur and the beauty of the Catholic liturgy, that is of the immense concert of organized prayer in the circle of Christianity, resounding everywhere: the voice of Christ the Head and of His Mystical Body, the Church. The Church prays at one same time in all parts of the world by those members whom she has hierarchically and officially charged with her prayer. From the rising of the sun to its setting, ascends that permanent, universal and harmonious prayer that is like a continuous aspiration by which the great Mystical Body of Jesus Christ draws to itself, develops and increases incessantly, the life of Divine Grace, the life of God in us.

The Ecclesia Orans

Such is the Church, living like the Cenacle by Divine Grace as by its own element, and inhaling Divine Grace by the power of prayer. The more a Christian institution, under whatever form, would represent and express in a more perfect manner the life of the Church and the life of the Cenacle, the more it should, like Christianity in the universe and like the Apostles in the Cenacle, immerse itself in Divine Grace and drawing Divine Grace to itself, by the enactment of the Sacred Liturgy and by ceaseless prayer.

Therefore all the religious institutions that from age to age have sprung from the ever fruitful womb of the Catholic Church, have in this respect been formed to the image of the Ecclesia Orans, the praying Church, as the praying Church herself was formed to the image of the Cenacle.


For an explanation of the Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Theotokos, go here.

The Virgin Mary is she who more than any other contemplated God
in the human Face of Jesus.
She saw Him as a newborn when, wrapped in swaddling clothes,
He was placed in a manger;
she saw Him when, just after his death,
they took Him down from the cross,
wrapped Him in linen and placed Him in the sepulcher.
Inside her was impressed the image of her martyred Son;
but this image was then transfigured in the light of the Resurrection.
Thus in Mary's heart was carried the mystery of the Face of Christ,
a mystery of death and of glory.
From her we can always learn how to look upon Jesus
with a gaze of love and of faith,
to recognize in that human countenance, the Face of God.

Pope Benedict XVI,
At the Regina Caeli, 2 May 2010

Beginning Our Lady's Month

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For the first day of the month of Mary, ponder this beautiful passage from the Sermon of Saint Germanus on the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God. I have added a few comments in italics.

Just as Our Lady was in communion with heaven during her life on earth, so too is she in communion with the earth -- that is, with her children in this valley tears -- from her place in the glory of heaven. Saint Germanus says that Our Lady continues to communicate with us spiritually.

Could it ever happen, most holy Mother of God, that heaven and earth should feel honored by your presence, and that you, with your departure, would leave man deprived of your protection? No. It is impossible to think of such a thing. In fact when you were in the world you did not feel that the things of heaven were foreign; in the same way, after having emigrated from this world, you do not feel removed from the possibility of communicating in spirit with men.... In fact you have not abandoned those to whom you have guaranteed salvation ... indeed your spirit lives eternally, nor has your flesh suffered the corruption of the tomb.

The holy patriarch emphasizes the Mother of God's closeness to her children. He goes so far as to say that she "lives in the midst of us" and makes herself present "in the most varied of ways."

You, O Mother, are close to everyone and protect everyone, and even though our eyes cannot see you, we completely know, O One on high, that you live in the midst of all of us and that you make yourself present in the most varied of ways ... You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, says Saint Germanus, "continues walking with us." There is immense comfort in that affirmation. It is the experience of the saints through the ages.

Truly it was impossible that that which had been converted into the vessel of God and the living temple of the most holy divinity of the Only Begotten would be enclosed in the sepulcher of the dead. Again we believe with certainty that you continue walking with us. (PG 98, coll. 344B-346B, passim)

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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