Blessed Virgin Mary: September 2012 Archives

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The image is a detail from Dürer's Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1519). I especially like Saint Anne's motherly hand resting on Our Lady's shoulder.

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

-- the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne (feast December 8th);
-- the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (feast September 8th);
-- the Most Holy Name of Mary (feast September 12th);
-- the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple (feast November 21st);
-- the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph (feast January 23rd);

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.

A Little Girl Full of Grace

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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Maria Bambina

Unto us a little girl is born; unto us a daughter is given. “The Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her” (Cf. Lk 1:35). The Word will take flesh in her virginal womb and suckle at her breast. And her name shall be called Full of Grace, Glory of Jerusalem, Joy of Israel, and Mother of God. In Italy she has another name, one that the people love to give her; she is their Maria Bambina, the little Infant Mary.

The Story of an Image

It was in Rome, many years ago, that I encountered the image of Maria Bambina for the first time. I didn’t know quite what to make of it. She looked rather like a doll, all dressed up in lace and satin, resting on her pillow. I knew only that all sorts of people, and especially children, came to pray before her. I saw that that Maria Bambina had stolen their hearts. She attracted the most extraordinary outpouring of tender devotion, and does to this day.

The image of Maria Bambina originated in Milan where the cathedral is dedicated to the Infant Mary. A Poor Clare nun fashioned the image out of wax in 1735. Maria Bambina suffered the vicissitudes of the times under Napoleon. The convent that kept the image was suppressed. Maria Bambina was passed from one “foster home” to another until, in 1885, she found a permanent home in the motherhouse of Milan’s Sisters of Charity. Beginning in 1884 various miracles were attributed to the image of the Infant Mary. She was dressed in new clothes and placed in a new crib in the chapel of the Sisters. Devotion to Maria Bambina spread throughout Italy and then elsewhere in the world.

A Child for Children

The learned and the clever, the theologically sophisticated and those who think that holiness has no need of warmth and no time for tenderness, are baffled by Maria Bambina. But children understand her. Raïssa Maritain understood the Child Mary perfectly; “The Blessed Virgin is the spoiled child of the Blessed Trinity,” she wrote. “She knows no law. Everything yields to her in heaven and on earth. The whole of heaven gazes on her with delight. She plays before the ravished eyes of God himself.”

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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