05 May 2010

Devotion to Our Lady

Now that we’re in the month of May, Our Lady’s month, here’s a story from the annals of the Carthusian tradition.

It was in Rome, towards the end of the eighteenth century, one fine evening in May. A child of the poor had gathered his companions round him, and led them to a statue of Mary, before which a lamp was burning, as is the custom of that holy city. There, these fresh young voices sang the Litany of Our Lady. The next day, the little group, followed by other children, again gathered at the feet of the Mother of God. Next came their mothers, to join the assembly. Soon, other groups were formed, and the devotion rapidly became popular. Holy souls, troubled by the disorderly conduct which always increases and becomes graver at the return of the pleasant spring-time, saw in these growing practises the Hand of God, and they co-operated with the designs of Providence by approving and promoting this new devotion, as a public and solemn act of reparation.

Thus, opening out like a flower of love under the lovely Italian sky and with the approval of the Holy Father, was not slow to make its way into France and to every part of the Catholic world. It was like a tiny grain of mustard-seed, and grew rapidly, multiplying its flowers and its fruits beyond all expectations.

This feast of thirty days in honour of Mary is rich in possibilities for our sanctification. Saint Julien Eymard has written: ‘A devotion lasting a whole month covers its whole object, considers it under every aspect, and gives one a true and serious understanding of it. By meditations renewed day by day and by the unity of acts, virtues and prayers concentrated on the same subject, one eventually acquires a true and solid devotion in respect of any mystery thus honoured for the space of a month. Thought thus concentrated becomes strong and satisfying’ (La divine Eucharistie). Is it not precisely this focusing of one’s whole thought upon one object that constitutes to a great extent the power of the Exercises of Saint Ignatius to effect the transformation of the Christian soul? For four weeks, divided according to the subject of meditation rather than to the number of days, the saintly founder of the Society of Jesus make the soul that entrusts itself to his guidance climb speedily up from the dark places of sin to a life of union with God.

By following so prudent and safe a method, we shall endeavour to take by the hand one who is maybe but a novice in the love of Mary, and lead him gradually to the heights of union with her; so that, when the month is over, he can direct his whole life in such a manner as to produce, to the glory of his heavenly Mother, all the fruits that she expects from souls as favoured as those of her children. May she herself show us the path to follow, and by her maternal blessing guide therein our timid and faltering steps.

Some of these writings by Carthusian monks will be shared here on Secret Harbour over the month of May. There always seems to be a level of criticism from outside the Church that there is too much of focus on Our Blessed Mother. She has always been highly honoured since the early days of the Church – and before that, she received the greatest love from her Son. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux tells us that: ‘God wills that all His gifts come to us through Mary’. The Carthusians teach that: ‘Eternity will not be long enough for us to bless that infinite Goodness whose foreseeing providence is manifested in theses marks of creative Love, and the boundless goodness that is revealed in them. But do we not owe something to the privileged creature through whom these divine benefits have come to us, and whose share in their distribution has been the more active and personal in proportion as the gifts are higher and more supernatural. On the part assigned to Mary by almighty God in the dispensation of these gifts . . . our response to the advance of our gentle Mother should be one of boundless gratitude, even though, in her humility, she seeks our thanks only that she may unite them with the ceaseless Magnificat she sings to the divine Majesty’.

The popes as well have always sung Mary’s praises. Leo XIII in Adiutricem populi wrote that Our Blessed Lady has ‘practically limitless power’; Saint Pius X called her the ‘dispensatrix of all gifts’ (Ad diem illum), and Pius XII said that: ‘Her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion’ (Radio message to Fatima).

This Saturday, 8 May, on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) a Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Missa Cantata) will be offered in honour of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces. Times are as follows:

United States – 8 A.M. Eastern, 5 A.M. Pacific
Canada – 8 A.M. Toronto, 5 A.M. Vancouver
Europe – 14:00 Rome & Berlin, 13:00 London & Dublin
Pacific Rim – 10 P.M. Sydney, 8 P.M. Manila
Africa/South Asia – 9:30 IST, 4:00 GMT