Prudence and Discernment

Prudence and Discernment

“The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights …  He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils.”

– St John of the Cross 

I have read a number of messages recently on social media where the poster is sharing information from alleged locutions, visions and revelations – in all of these cases, the supposed events have not been approved by the Church, and in some of the cases, they have been condemned by the Church. Why, then, would a Catholic, share or promote such things?

The danger with apparently heavenly revelations is that they appeal directly to our human senses – and our human senses are very easily fooled, which can result in us being led astray in one way or another.

Saint John of the Cross writes –

“The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights . . . And to the sense of smell, fragrant odors; and he puts sweetness in one’s mouth, and delight in the sense of touch. He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils.” (‘Ascent Of Mount Carnel’, 133)

How often do we do something on the basis of emotion, only to regret it later on!

Those who promote such things are, in most cases, free of malice or evil intent – but they may be subject to deceipt regardless of that. It may be that they have read a particular ‘message’ and are moved by it’s content, which seems good on the face of things; however, a broader reading of other ‘messages’ from the same source may reveal that this is not the case.

Such was the case in one post I read a few days ago – someone posted a ‘message’ which in itself seemed innocuous; others from the same source, unfortunately, claimed the Blessed Virgin had warned the alleged ‘seer’ that the Holy Father was in opposition to the Faith and would shortly install the Antichrist. Now, surely, any Catholic with even a little sense of discernment would go and check what the Church has said about such a ‘seer’ before promoting them further? Surely it would occur to them that perhaps what seems to be heavenly may in fact be the product of a deceived or deluded mind, or the end result of spiritual blindness and pride?

To be abundantly clear on this one point – in any authentic heavenly revelation, the Blessed Virgin will never ever set the faithful in opposition to the Church of Her Son nor to His shepherd, the Holy Father. You have the guarantee of Christ Himself on this – in matters of faith and morals the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, cannot err. Trust the Church. Trust the Holy Father.

In another case at the moment, many are promoting messages from an alleged ‘seer’ who has now been condemned by more than one Bishop. These Bishops have noted that a number of the general claims made by this person are simply not, in fact, true; also, that the content of the ‘messages’ is not in accord with authentic Catholic thought and teaching. And yet despite this, the promotion goes on. Those most closely involved in the promotion wrote all sorts of reasons why the judgement of these Bishops should be ignored – and yet, for any Catholic in good standing, it should be enough that a Bishop, the authority who is competent to judge, has spoken negatively. In this case, nothing more is needed. And those who seek to seduce the faithful into ignoring those judgements are wolves in sheeps clothing who will surely lead others astray.

For those tempted to promote alleged visionaries which have not received the approval of the Church, be critical and use your discernment and prudence in the first instance – check what (if anything) the local Bishop has said in their regard, and check not just one message, but all of them before promoting them. And if condemned already – do not promote them any further. You place not only yourself in spiritual danger, but also those who will later read what you have promoted or forwarded. And if you are not sure either way – then do nothing further.

Anything that is authentically from God will succeed, no matter what.

It may be worth noting here that even at the hallowed Grotto of Lourdes, the Deceiver was busy trying to fool the faithful and by means of this, to destroy the credibility of the authentic appearances of the Mother of God which had been taking place there. I have written about this previously –

‘From the start of time, God had warned Satan that there would forever be enmity between him and the Woman. Lourdes was to be no exception to this rule.

The Satanic manifestation had begun during the fourth Apparition, when Bernadette had heard the cacophony of dark voices rising from the waters of the river, until silenced by the glance from the Virgin.

Now, toward, the end of the Visions, he would once more commence his assault. A young lady of Lourdes named Honorine, had been at the Grotto one day when she heard voices coming from within the empty Grotto – she said these voices produced a strange effect on her senses. This was repeated the next day, when Honorine again heard sounds – this time, savage howls and sounds like wild beasts in combat. The girl was terrified, and did not return to Massabieille for a number of weeks. The People of Lourdes said she was simply hysterical.

At the same time, a young man from Lourdes was passing the Grotto one day on his way to work before dawn. He crossed himself as he passed the rock, in honour of She who had been present there. Instantly, strange globes of light surrounded him and he felt unable to move. Terrified, he made the Sign of the Cross once more – as he did so, each of the globes of light exploded loudly around him and he was able to leave the place. As this was occurring, he could hear from within the Grotto, maniacal laughter and blasphemies.

Jean Baptiste Estrade witnessed some of the assaults of the father of lies. A lady from the Rue des Bagneres in Lourdes, named Josephine, was experiencing apparitions in the niche – this lasted for two days. Estrade watched what was happening, but said that while Bernadette was in ecstasy, he felt “transported” – with Josephine, he merely felt “surprised”.

And whereas Bernadette during her ecstasy was “transfigured”, Josephine was simply beautiful. The girl in question related to Estrade that she had indeed seen strange figures within the niche, but that she had felt suspicious of them since they appeared to her to be evil in nature, not Heavenly.

One day a young boy named Alex returned to his home in Lourdes screaming and shouting, but so paralysed with fear that he could not tell his poor mother what was the matter. After several days, he calmed down sufficiently to relate the cause of his terror –

“When I left the house I went to walk with some other children by the side of Massabieille. When I reached the Grotto I prayed for a moment. Then, while waiting for my companions, I went up to the rock. Turning toward the hollow of the rock, I saw coming towards me a beautiful lady. This lady concealed her hands and the lower part of her body in an ashen coloured cloud, like a storm cloud. She fixed on me here great black eyes and seemed to wish to seize me. I thought at once that it was the devil and I fled”.

Many other similar events occurred around this time.’

This should be a clear warning to every one of us – not everything that seems to come from Heaven, actually does so.

In some cases, our spiritual pride produces what we would like to be true; for other cases, the mind is being deluded or deceived in one way or another; and in certain cases, it is the Deceiver hard at work for reasons known only to him.

All of us need to listen very carefully to the Church and to the voice of her shepherds, the Bishops – they alone can judge authoritatively, and our viewpoint in this area never supercedes theirs.

The obedience of any alleged seer is one of the first indicators of the true source of any seemingly heavenly manifestation – we should immediately shun any who are not entirely obedient.

And for ourselves as observers, placing ourselves outwith the authority and judgement of the Church and her Bishops is generally a very clear sign that such an event is not Heavenly, and that our response is taking us along the wrong path.

The Church has very careful and comprehensive ways of judging the authenticity of any supposed heavenly revelation, which she has used consistently over the centuries and which are both tried and tested. It would be very surprising – and quite revealing – if any Catholic should seriously imagine that their personal judgement in such a matter is better than that of the Church.

May God grant all of us the grace and the light to remain obedient and docile to the voice of the Church, and to submit ourselves always and entirely to her, that we might never be led astray by ourselves, by others or by the Tempter.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows

“..And a sword will pierce Your own Heart, too..”

– the Prophecy of Simeon

Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ goes back many centuries. She is also known as ‘Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows’ and those sorrowful events are as follows – the prophecy of Simeon; the flight into Egypt; the loss of the boy Jesus; the meeting with Christ on the Way of the Cross; the Crucifixion; the piercing of the Heart of Jesus on the Cross; the burial of Jesus.

In Christian art, the Sorrowful Virgin is often depicted with Her Heart pierced by seven daggers, representing each of the Sorrows listed above. This is a visual representation of the verse in Scripture which forms the basis of the devotion. In Chapter 2 of the Gospel of St Luke, Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus to be presented in the Temple. The holy man Simeon is there and he recognises the Child as the promised Messiah; taking the Child into his arms, he utters the words of his now famous canticle, the ‘Nunc Dimitis’. And then the Gospel says this –

“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His Mother – ‘You see this Child, He is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce Your own Heart, too – so that the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare.” (Lk.2:34-35)

The great proponents of the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows are the Servites, (the Order of the Servants of Mary), who were founded in the Thirteenth Century. They adopted this devotion as the principal one of the Order, and would go on to develop the three main forms of the devotion – the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, the Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Black Scapular of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is the sign of membership of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows.

A localised liturgical feast was established in Germany in the fifteenth century, initially under the title of ‘Our Lady of Compassion’ and later renamed ‘Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows’. There were various changes to the feast over the next few centuries and it is now celebrated each year on 15th September, the day following the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

At the start of the Twentieth Century, the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows took on a new aspect following the alleged revelations to a Belgian mystic called Berthe Petit. Now, it is important to note that these revelations have never received the formal approval of the Church, but neither have they received any condemnation by the Church – simply put, there was never any formal investigation into them. A number of representations were made to the Holy Father, Pope Pius X, and later to his successor, Pope Benedict XV, asking for the devotion to be approved and spread – however, neither Pope felt it was a good time to begin to the work of establishing a new world-wide devotion. These alleged reveltations are mentioned here only because their content touches on our focus here, that of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Berthe Petit is said to have experienced visions of the Lord and His Mother, and on one occasion, she attributes these words to the Lord –

“The Heart of My Mother has a right to be called Sorrowful and I wish this title to be placed before that of Immaculate because She has won it Herself. The Church has defined in the case of My Mother what I Myself had ordained—Her Immaculate Conception. This right which My Mother has to a title of justice is now, according to My express wish, to be known and universally accepted. She has earned it by Her identification with My sorrows, by Her sufferings, by Her sacrifices and by Her immolation on Calvary, endured in perfect correspondence with My grace for the salvation of mankind.” (8 September 1910)

The essential basis of this supposed message is in accord with what the Church has always taught – that, by means of Her intimate co-operation with the Passion and Death of Her Son, She occupies a singular place in the work of salvation. What is interesting is that the Blessed Virgin, according to the supposed revelation, has ‘won’ for Herself the title of ‘Sorrowful’.

The alleged revelations to Berthe Petit focussed on the devotion to the ‘Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary’ and was interwoven with a series of prophecies of events shortly to occur, and which were heavily focussed on particular circumstances that would eventually lead to the First World War. 

Although, as mentioned above, these alleged revelations were never formally investigated and, so, did not receive any official approbation, it is true that various Bishops and Cardinals clearly accepted them as being heavenly in origin. The two main figures here were Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, and Cardinal Bourne of England.

In the Spring of 1916, Cardinal Mercier announced that on Good Friday of that year, he intended to consecrate his diocese and the whole of Belgium to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Across the water in England, Cardinal Bourne was also taking forward the devotion as best he was able to. In the Autumn of 1916, he wrote a Pastoral Letter which included these words –

“Nowhere in Christendom should honour be paid more readily to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary than here in England.. Throughout the realm, Our Blessed Lady, God’s Mother, were terms and titles dear to every English heart. England was, in very truth, Our Lady’s dowry. It is, therefore, not with the idea of introducing any new devotion, but rather in order to give fresh meaning and greater force to thoughts long cherished by us all and deep-rooted in the history of our race that we desire to consecrate with renewed effort the prayer, which the special circumstances of the moment so urgently demand, to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary…

For these reasons, we desire and enjoin that in all the churches and public chapels of our diocese, Friday, September 15, the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Lady, or on the following Sunday, during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Stabat Mater be sung, to be followed by the recitation of three Hail Marys and the invocation (repeated after each Hail Mary) “Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us,” in order that, by this public homage, all our dioceses, and, insofar in us lies, our whole country and empire may be solemnly consecrated and dedicated to Our Blessed Lady under this special title..”

The image of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary used as the front cover of St Louis de Montfort’s book, ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’.

Cardinal Bourne went on to renew this Consecration on Christmas Day on that year, and again on the feast of the Queenship of Mary the following year, 1917.

It is notable, too, that despite declining to work for the formal spreading of the devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pope Benedict XV sent a letter to Cardinal Venutelli, Dean of the Sacred College, on 3 May 1915; and that letter ended with a recommendation made to all the Bishops of the world –

“Let us send up our prayers, more than ever ardent and frequent, to Him in whose Hands lie the destinies of all peoples, and let us appeal with confidence to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, the most gentle Mother of Jesus and ours, that by Her powerful intercession She will obtain from Her divine Son the speedy end of the war and the return of peace and tranquility.”

Perhaps one of the most famous images of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary of the recent era, is one which has a connection to Berthe Petit. It was found in the basement of the convent of the Bernardine Nuns in Ollignies, where one of the nuns had been sent to clear out rubbish. The image was found hidden under cardboard and it depicted the Blessed Virgin holding a lily in one hard, the other pointing toward Her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart; this Heart was pierced by a sword, crowned with roses and surrounded by flames. The image became very famous and was used on the front cover of the book of St Louis de Montfort’s ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. It is now referred to as ‘Our Lady of Ollignies’. 

With Mary, Through Mary

With Mary, Through Mary

“One thing is clear; although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately addressed, with Her and through Her.”

– St John Paul, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’

A Rosary is a very tactile object. There is something quite soothing about feeling the beads gently slipping through the fingers, while the mind is engaged elsewhere. The prayer of the holy Rosary uses the beads to very good effect. To pray the Rosary, we generally go to a quiet place, where we can begin to settle ourselves in order to pray, and to pray as well as we are able. This is the moment at which we begin to slip the beads through our fingers, and it is the moment at which the gentle repetition of the Rosary commences.

When we are familiar with the vocal prayers and the names of each of the Mysteries, we can focus a little less on them and think a little more on the content of those Mysteries and on what it is we are actually praying. Our hands are occupied with one thing – slipping the beads as a way of counting – whilst our minds (and hopefully our hearts) are engaged in the actual praying part of the exercise – it is this meditation which is the soul of the Rosary, while the vocal part is the body. Now, we can begin to experience the gentle effects of this soothing repetition. It is not too dissimilar to being lulled to sleep by the gentle whisperings of a mother to her child.

In his ‘Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary’, entitled ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’, St John Paul spoke about the repetitive nature of the Rosary and countered any argument that it is mere ‘vain repetition’. He wrote –

“Meditation of the mysteries of Christ is proposed in the Rosary by means of a method designed to assist in their assimilation. It is a method based on repetition.. If this repetition is considered superficially, there could be a temptation to see the Rosary as a dry and boring exercise. It is quite another thing, however, when the Rosary is thought of as an outpouring of that love which tirelessly returns to the person loved, with expressions similar in their content but ever fresh in terms of the feeling pervading them.”

The Holy Father went on to add that “to understand the Rosary, one has to enter into the psychological dynamic proper to love”. In other words, it is no less meaningful than constantly telling the person we love, over and over again, ‘I love you’. The words are the same each time, but no less meaningful because of that. Every time we repeat them, they are filled with deep meaning and in that sense, they are new every time. So it is with the Rosary.

Pope John Paul prays the Rosary

We tend to think of the Rosary as being very Marian in character and focus – and this is true, to an extent. However, there is a deeper level to praying the Rosary which we should be mindful of, and which Pope John Paul noted well –

“..Although the Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately directed, with Her and through Her. The repetition is nourished by the desire to be conformed ever more completely to Christ, the true programme of the Christian life.. the Rosary helps us to be conformed ever more closely to Christ until we attain true holiness”.

Suddenly, this prayer of the Rosary, which we might once have considered to be dull and tedious, has changed; like the rock polished by the Divine Jeweller, it has now become a glittering diamond in our hands and we are beginning to appreciate it’s true value and worth. It helps us to become more Christ-llike – and this, surely, is the very goal of our spiritual lives.

Considering all of this, we might find ourselves to be a little surprised – something we had considered as mundane and repetitive (and perhaps even beneath us, in a sense), has shown itself to be far more wondrous than we had at first realised.

Pope John Paul reminds us that God communicates Himself to us through the ordinary things of life – and especially through words, actions, gestures, “respecting our human nature and it’s vital rhythms”, as he put it. He went on to add that this is also the case with the Liturgy – filled, as it is, with words, actions, gestures.

Looking back over what we have learned here from the Holy Father, we have come to see that what at first seemed repetitive and child-like is, in fact, a continual ‘outpuring of love’ which invites us to enter into ‘the dynamic of love’ – love of the Lord, Who desires that we love Him.

And we learn how best to do so through Mary and with Mary, who loved Him more than any other created being in all of Creation. The combined love of all the Saints and Angels toward the Lord, immense though that certainly is, cannot match the depth of the love of His own Mother.

And so, as St John Paul says elsewhere, we are coming to see that the Rosary really is ‘the school of Mary’, where we sit at Her feet and from Her, we learn how best to love the Lord. As each bead slips through our fingers, it represents another ‘I love You’ given to the Lord through and with His own Mother, and ours.

 

 

Full Of Grace

Full Of Grace

“Woman! above all women glorified, 
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast..”

– ‘The Virgin’ (William Wordsworth)  

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a singular grace and privilege granted to Her by God in anticipation of the merits of the Divine Son She was to bear. And so, from the very first instant of Her existence in the womb of Saint Anne, the Blessed Virgin was preserved free of Original Sin, and at no moment of Her earthly life did She ever commit an actual sin. 

And because of all this, the Angel Gabriel could rightly and accurately call Her, at the moment of the Annunciation, “full of grace”.

The original Greek word used by Saint Luke is kecharitōmenē – and although we translate it as “full of grace”, it actually means much more than this; it expresses the idea that Mary is ‘filled to the utmost’ with divine grace, that the plenitude of divine grace is within Her. And it transcends the mere present, for the word conveys the idea that this being ‘full of grace’ was always intended and always so, and will always be so. 

Note, too, that Gabriel addresses Mary in this way before She has consented to the Incarnation – this word is saying something about the very person of Mary. 

Further, Gabriel uses the salutation almost as though it is the very name of Mary – he uses it in place of that proper name. Clearly, then, there is something absolutely exceptional about this Woman, whose place in the plan of God for humanity is unlike that of any other creature.

There is one other thing to notice here; the word kecharitōmenē is used nowhere else in Scripture, only in this single line from the Gospel of Saint Luke. Interestingly, it is not found elsewhere in the general language of Greek at that time – it is as though Luke created the term expressly for the Virgin, so that the description itself copies the thing described, in being utterly unique.

This Angelic salutation of Gabriel to Mary reveres Her very person; and in doing so, it places Her outwith the normal sphere of things. This expression is used for no-one else; there is no other like Mary. She is entirely unique.

The Angel Gabriel salutes Mary as “full of grace”

Addressing this role granted to Her by the Almighty, Mary can say with both humility and piercing accuracy –

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and My spirit exults in God, My Saviour; because He has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaiden. Yes, from this day forward, all generations shall call Me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for Me” (cf. Lk 1:46-49)

And in this sense, Mary is set apart – in absolute holiness – from all that is going on around Her in the world and Her destiny is to be unlike that of any other created being, for She is to be the Mother of God.

In his short poem ‘The Virgin’, written in 1822, William Wordsworth places these two lines –

“Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast..”

Mary is, like all of us, a being created by the Lord – but also a being unlike any other, a Woman set apart. This does not make Her any less human – on the contrary, it makes Her the perfect human. She is the sole human being who was created perfect and who remained perfect throughout – unlike Adam and Eve, who were created perfect but who lost their perfection through the commission of the Original Sin.

For all of us, Mary is a very powerful intercessor before Her Son. Everything She has comes from Him; everything She does leads to Him. There is no ‘competition’ between Mother and Son; She says to us today exactly what She said to the servants at Cana – 

“Do whatever He tells you.” (cf. Jn.2:5)

Mary is the heavenly compass and She points us unceasingly and unerringly toward Her Son. She is the sure path – but the Lord is the final destination to which that path leads us.

Mary does not lead us away from the Lord – She takes us straight to Him in the surest and most perfect way. If this is not the case, then so many of the Saints have gotten it wrong over the centuries. The reality, of course, is that they attained genuine sanctity not in spite of the Blessed Virgin, but because of Her. Because of the sublimity of Her human perfection, Mary is the best role model with the sole exception of Her Son.

Remember – while the Lord is fully divine, He is fully human also; and His humanity comes from one person – His Mother. Throughout those early years of His life on earth, it was She who taught Him everything. If She was worthy of being His teacher on earth, then She is certainly worthy of being ours.

Remember, too, that if Mary is truly filled with every possible grace in their plenitude, then those graces are Hers to dispose of as She chooses – She is truly Mediatrix of every grace. There is a visual representation of this truth on the front of the Miraculous Medal, where these graces are depicted as streams of light emanating from the jewels on Her hands. She does not create these graces – God alone does that – but He has entrusted them to Her for their disposal. 

It is interesting to recall something revealed to Saint Catherine Labouré in the course of the Medal visions – she was told that the reason why some of the jewels gave off no light was because these were the graces people forgot to ask for. This implies clearly that every divine grace is there for the asking, if only we would do so.

For Catholics, we express this belief in the very powerful and unique role of Mary every time we ask Her intercession –

“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee..”

Mary Our Queen

Mary Our Queen

“Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth by grace as Jesus is King by nature and by conquest.. So we may call Her, as the saints do, Queen of our hearts.”

– St Louis de Montfort, ‘Treatise On The True Devotion’

The golden crown which adorns the statue of Our Lady at Fatima

The notion of the Blessed Virgin Mary as ‘Queen’ is an ancient one. It dates back at least as far as the fourth century, when Saint Ephrem referred to Mary as both ‘Lady’ and ‘Queen’; however, a text from two centuries earlier, and attributed to Origen, calls Her ‘Domina’ or ‘Lady’. And from the Sixth Century onward, there are numerous references to Mary as ‘Queen’ in a variety of hymns and salutations. Much more recently, the Litany of Loreto, in use since at least 1558, has an entire section comprised of thirteen invocations addressing the Blessed Virgin as Queen.

It has also been the practice of a great many of the Saints to refer to the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin.

Very prominent amongst these is the seminal figure of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. A prolific writer on all things Marian, his great works include ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’, ‘The Secret Of Mary’ and ‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’. 

In ‘The Secret Of Mary’ [SM], St Louis proposed that the Mother of God is the perfect way to go to Christ, since She is the way He chose to come to us; he then goes on to lay out the reasons for his proposition and the benefits of embracing what he suggests to us. In this book, he refers to Mary as our ‘Sovereign Queen’ (SM 52) and counsel us –

“Let us pray, then, to our dear Mother and Queen that having accepted our poor present, she may purify it, sanctify it, beautify it, and so make it worthy of God.” (SM 37)

The books contains his ‘Prayer To Jesus’, in which he refers to our “noble Queen” (SM 66); and it also has his ‘Prayer To Mary’, in which there are these lines –

“Hail, Mary, most beloved daughter of the eternal Father; hail, Mary, most admirable mother of the Son; hail, Mary, most faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit; hail, Mary, Mother most dear, Lady most loveable, Queen most powerful! Hail, Mary, my joy, my glory, my heart and soul.” (SM 68)

In his most famous work, Treatise On The True Devotion, Saint Louis lays out a detailed form of Marian devotion which consists of giving absolutely everything – both temporal and spiritual – to the Mother of God, that She might then perfect it and present it to Her Son. The devotion culminates in a Consecration which addresses the Mother of God with these words – 

“Hail, O Queen of Heaven and Earth, to whose empire is subject everything that is under God!” (TD 274)

He tells us very explicitly that “God has made Her Queen of heaven and earth” (TD28) and goes on to elaborate on this, saying “Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth by grace as Jesus is King by nature and by conquest” (TD 38). 

Writing about the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the great Marian Year of 1954, celebrating the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII wrote his Encyclical; ‘Ad Caeli Reginam’ (‘Queen Of Heaven’), in which he established the feast of the Queenship of Mary. In the Encyclical, he wrote –

“..the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of Her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed Her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. Let all Christians, therefore, glory in being subjects of the Virgin Mother of God, who, while wielding royal power, is on fire with a mother’s love..” 

At that time, and in the years since then, it has been reasonably common to see images of the Blessed Virgin being ‘crowned’. Indeed in this very Encyclical, Pope Pius reminded his readers of one such crowning –

“..It is particularly fitting to call to mind the radio message which We addressed to the people of Portugal, when the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary which is venerated at Fatima was being crowned with a golden diadem.. We Ourselves called this the heralding of the ‘sovereignty’ of Mary.”

Similar crownings were seen during the pontificates of St Paul VI, St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

So now that we know a little about the history of calling Mary our Queen, what relevance does this have for us today?

Speaking at a General Audience on 23 July 1997, Pope John Paul II gave us the reason –

“Popular devotion invokes Mary as Queen. The Council, after recalling the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in “‘body and soul into heavenly glory’”, explains that She was ‘exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that She might be the more fully conformed to Her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death’ (Lumen Gentium, n. 59). In fact, starting from the fifth century, almost in the same period in which the Council of Ephesus proclaims Her ‘Mother of God’, the title of Queen begins to be attributed to Her. With this further recognition of Her sublime dignity, the Christian people want to place Her above all creatures, exalting Her role and importance in the life of every person and of the whole world.”

The Holy Father went on to add this –

“In looking at the analogy between Christ’s Ascension and Mary’s Assumption, we can conclude that Mary, in dependence on Christ, is the Queen who possesses and exercises over the universe a sovereignty granted to Her by Her Son. The title of Queen does not of course replace that of Mother: Her queenship remains a corollary of Her particular maternal mission and simply expresses the power conferred on Her to carry out that mission.. Therefore Christians look with trust to Mary Queen and this not only does not diminish but indeed exalts their filial abandonment to her, who is mother in the order of grace.”

And so the various Holy Fathers and the Saints mentioned here agree that we venerate the Blessed Virgin as Queen for two broad reasons.

The statue of Our Lady before which the Scottish Bishops and people offered their Act of Consecration in September 2017 at Carfin Grotto

The first is because it is the express will of God, Who has so exalted Her in this way, that we do so; He has placed Her above all creation as Sovereign in the order of grace and He has given Her the rights and powers of Queen of Heaven and Earth.

The second reason is that by venerating the Blessed Virgin as our Queen, we explicitly place ourselves under Her dominion as Her subjects. We do this for all the reasons given by Saint Louis de Montfort and because, as Saint John Paul notes, it expresses our complete abandonment to Her in all things. To recognise ourselves as Her subjects gives Her not only rights over us, but responsibilities, too – and in particular, the responsibility to help us to reach Heaven safely.

The Schoenstatt family of Priests, nuns and laity have a beautiful tradition – every year, the image of the Blessed Virgin is solemnly crowned as a sign of Her reign over them. And we have seen the numerous examples of the Holy Fathers throughout the years also crowning images of the Mother of God. Similarly, various nations and their Conferences of Bishops – including Scotland (cf. A Nation Acclaims It’s Queen), just a couple of years ago – have explicitly and solemnly consecrated their nations to the Blessed Virgin. 

Perhaps the lovely feast of Our Lady, Mother and Queen, might act as an impetus for us to set up in our homes a blessed image of the Mother of God and to solemnly crown Her there as Queen and Mother of the Family and of our lives.

 

“Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of all people, in accordance with Your ardent wish, made known to the three children at Fatima, we consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart our beloved country of Scotland. We stand confidently before You today, O holy Mother of God. Inflame us with the same divine fire which inflamed Your own Immaculate Heart. Reign over us and teach us how to make the Heart of Jesus reign and triumph in us and around us, as It has reigned and triumphed in You. Make our country and it’s people, Your shrine, O holy Mother of God, so that we may be Yours in prosperity and adversity, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in life and in death.”

– the Catholic Bishops of Scotland, September 2017

 

A Nation Given To Mary

A Nation Given To Mary

“Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them.”

– Saint Jacinta of Fatima

Three years ago, we celebrated the Centenary Year of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, where She had shown Herself on six occasions to three young children. Her purpose was to call us back to the message of the Gospel through sorrow for our sins, a life of prayer and the Sacraments, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way of achieving this.

Two of the three seers of Fatima, brother and sister Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had been declared Saints by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the centenary day of the first apparition. Speaking by video the pilgrims in Fatima on the centenary of the final apparition, the Holy Father had said –

“Never be afraid, God is infinitely greater than all of our problems. He loves us very much. Go forward in your journey without losing sight of the Mother; like a child who feels safe when close to his mother, we too are safe when close to Our Lady.. Never put the Rosary aside, but continue to recite it as She asked”.

The faithful join the Bishops in Consecrating Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Shortly after the appearances of the Blessed Virgin, little Jacinta had said – “Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them”. Many would take these words to heart and would place great confidence in them. And so it was perhaps not surprising that in that Centenary Year, a great focus was placed on Our Lady of Fatima and Her Immaculate Heart – and various events took place in response to the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima.

One such event took place here in Scotland, where the people and the Bishops gathered together at our national Marian Shrine at Carfin Grotto; there, under pouring rain, we consecrated ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The date was 3 September 2017.

The day of Consecration had been preceded by various other events across the years, and which had contributed to the events which would take place at Carfin that day.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII had sent his legate, Cardinal Masalla, to Fatima in Portugal, where he was to crown the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Speaking about the coronation, the Pope had said –

“The faithful Virgin never disappointed the trust put on Her. She will transform into a fountain of graces, physical and spiritual graces, over all of Portugal, and from there, breaking all frontiers, over the whole Church and the entire world.”

Here, then, the reasons for such a coronation were made very clear.

Returning to 2017, Cardinal Nichols had presided over a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on 18th February that year, where he solemnly crowned the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In the course of the ceremony he re-consecrated the nations of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. England had long since been dedicated to the Mother of God, because of which the nation has historically been called ‘the Dowry of Mary’. The Cardinal had previously expressed his thoughts on all this –

“Devotion to Mary is not an optional ‘add-on’ to Catholic belief, but an expression of what is at the heart of our faith. To draw close to Mary is to draw close to Jesus. As the earliest Christian witnesses often taught, Mary was open to receiving Jesus in Her mind and in Her Heart before She gave birth to Him in her flesh. For this reason, She is the first of all the disciples of the Lord as She is the most faithful of all the Lord’s followers. In Her maternal love of us, She continues to assist us in our following of Him; a consecration to Her Immaculate Heart gives expression to this in a simple way.”

Cardinal Nichol’s consecration was a renewal of a similar consecration in 1948, undertaken by Cardinal Griffon.

Ireland also undertook a similar national Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, performed by Cardinal Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 15th August, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.

On 20 May 2017, Bishop Toal had consecrated the Diocese of Motherwell, Scotland, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a Mass in the Cathedral, which was exceptionally well-attended. In his homily, Bishop Toal had spoken very beautifully on the message of Fatima, noting that it centres on conversion, prayer, reparation and, in short, ‘a change of heart’. This is what the Blessed Virgin calls us to.

Bishop Toal spoke about his own experiences of visiting the shrine at Fatima, where there is a strong sense of penance and reparation. He also spoke about the newest Saints of the Church, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who had been canonised the previous week. He said these two children remind us of the very special place which children occupy in life generally and in the Church specifically – adding that it is to children that we must hand on the fullness, beauty and sanctity of our Faith. At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Toal made the solemn Act of Consecration of the Diocese.

In June of that year, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley had announced the intention of the Bishops to undertake the Act of Consecration on ‘National Pilgrimage Day’ at Carfin. He had also announced a period of forty days of preparation prior to that day, inviting the faithful to join him spiritually throughout those days.

Two days beforehand the Scottish Parliament had announced that it would include itself, by means of ‘a motion of recognition’, in the collegial Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Bishops of Scotland, which the Bishops were about to undertake. The Parliament issued an announcement to that effect –

“That the Parliament recognises that Scotland’s Catholic bishops will consecrate the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 3 September 2017; understands that the Bishops will pray for Scotland at the Marian Shrine at the Carfin Grotto, near Motherwell, asking that Scotland be energised with a renewed desire to seek the truth, and understands that at the same time they will pray for all parliamentarians and government, so that they will play their part in building a true civilisation of love and strive to create a place where all people are valued, a place where poor, lonely and marginalised people are not forgotten, and a place where people are free to practise their faith.”

For a very secularised nation, and one with a noted anti-Catholic bias in many respects, this was really something. But it was also extraordinary for another – and far greater – reason. By means of this self-inclusion of the Scottish Parliament, the two strands of Scottish life and identity, the Church and the State, had come together in unity for an explicit purpose – and a spiritual one at that.

The day before the Consecration at Carfin, a Vigil was held as final preparation; this consisted of Adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the holy Rosary was prayed every hour, and it concluded with Benediction.

On the day of Consecration, all of Scotland had truly come together.

Parliament – representing the State – had given notice of it’s alignment with what was to take place; the entire Scottish Hierarchy were present and took part; many Religious had come to the Grotto to take part; and the faithful were greatly represented by the thousands of laity who had travelled to the Grotto from all over Scotland and beyond.

And so, the Act of Consecration was truly collegial – and national – in every possible sense of those words.

The Sacrifice of the Mass was offered by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and the Scottish Bishops, together with a large group of Priests and Deacons from the various Dioceses of Scotland.

In his homily, Bishop Brian McGee of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, spoke about the rain and quipped that it had been much the same on 13th October 1917, when the great Miracle of the Sun took place at Fatima. On that day, of course, the rain stopped; on our day of Consecration, the Lady of the Rosary gave us an opportunity to offer something up for the acceptance of the Consecration.

Bishop McGee also spoke about the children of Fatima, who constantly said ‘yes’ to the invitation of the Lady and so became ever more united to the will of God for them; in this, they echoed the life of the Blessed Virgin, who so perfectly and constantly said ‘yes’ to God. The Bishop invited those present to make this same commitment, growing in holiness by our correspondence to the will of God for us in our own lives.

At the Conclusion of the Mass, the solemn Act of Consecration was read aloud by all present, led by Archbishop Tartaglia. He had noted that the original intention was that he alone would read the Act, but he felt it more appropriate that all present should take part vocally.

Hearing the Bishops and the people of Scotland consecrating themselves and our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a great and swelling array of voices rising up from the Grotto like incense, was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever heard and I was deeply moved to be there and to a part of it all.

I had no doubt then, as I have no doubt now, that all of Heaven was listening intently, too; and I prayed that this Consecration would be found pleasing and acceptable by God.

Archbishop Tartaglia

At its conclusion, Archbishop Tartaglia noted how moved he, too, had felt, and how historic this moment had been; he spoke of his pride at the people of Scotland coming out to honour the Blessed Virgin, and he added that the Bishops and Priests of Scotland love the people of this nation very much. It was deeply heartening to see so many of the Priests of Scotland coming together in a public show of devotion to the Mother of God.

More than anything, it was wonderful to see so many thousands of ordinary people who braved the typical Scottish rain that day to pay homage to the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.

At the time, I had written that I was certain Our Blessed Lady had listened to the Act of Consecration offered to Her, that She accepted it, and that great graces would flow as a result of our offering ourselves and our Nation to Her. Three years later, I remain completely convinced of that.

 

Text of the Act of Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of all people, in accordance with Your ardent wish, made known to the three children at Fatima, we consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart our beloved country of Scotland.

We stand confidently before You today, O holy Mother of God. Inflame us with the same divine fire which inflamed Your own Immaculate Heart. Reign over us and teach us how to make the Heart of Jesus reign and triumph in us and around us, as It has reigned and triumphed in You. Make our country and it’s people, Your shrine, O holy Mother of God, so that we may be Yours in prosperity and adversity, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in life and in death.

We consecrate Scotland to You; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To You we give our minds and hearts, our bodies and souls. We willingly place at Your service our homes and families, our parishes and schools. We desire that everything that is within us and around us, amuy belong to You, O Mary.

That this Consecration may be truly efficacious and lasting, we renew this day the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation – to be faithful witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We pledge ourselves to foster a true love of the Mass, and devotion to the Real Presence of Your Son in the Blessed Sacrament. We pledge ourselves to keep the Commandments of God and His holy Church. We undertake to promote in our homes and parishes a virtuous life. We pledge ourselves to recite ether Rosary more frequently, and to make reparation for the coldness and indifference of so many human hearts.

Finally, we promise, O glorious Mother of God, to devote ourselves whole-heartedly to the service of Your blessed name, in order to assure, through the sovereignty of Your Immaculate Heart, the coming of the Kingdom of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in our hearts and in our country of Scotland.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.