.

Fr. Frank Sacks, CM, shares weekly reflections on the spirituality, history, and breathtaking art of the Miraculous Medal Shrine. Click Here to Email Fr. Sacks.


Holy Agony Shrine

Please click on the link below to read the script

Holy Agony Shrine

Our Lady of the Chair

Please click on the link below to read the script

Our Lady of the Chair

St. Joseph’s Altar

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. Joseph’s Altar

St. Vincent de Paul

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. Vincent de Paul

St. John Gabriel Perboyre

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. John Gabriel Perboyre

St. Catherine Labouré

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. Catherine Labouré

The Red Scapular

Please click on the link below to read the script

The Red Scapular

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Please click on the link below to read the script

St.Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

St. Louis de Montfort

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. Louis de Montfort

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. Alphonsus Liguori

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus – The Little Flower of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Bernadette Soubirous

Please click on the link below to read the script

St Bernadette Soubirous

St. Simon Stock

Please click on the link below to read the script

St Simon Stock – The Scapular

St. Dominic – The Rosary

Please click on the link below to read the script

St. Dominic – The Rosary – April 10, 2018.pdf

St. Bernard of Clairvaux—Aglow with Love for Mary

There is an exquisite stain glass rose window high on the wall above the entrance of the Shrine
with lovely depictions of a set of eight Saints of the Church who had a special devotion
to the Blessed Mother.
The top rendition is of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) [1]

Marian Doctor

Among the Doctors of the Church he is known as the Marian Doctor, not that he wrote lengthy pages dedicated to Our Lady or revealed new theological dogmas on the Virgin of Nazareth. Bernard’s writings on Mary aren’t even that many. However, all his writings and his own life were impregnated with his love for her.

Even when Bernard doesn’t speak of her, Mary is always present. We can see this in his writings in which he exhorts his brothers to silence, humility, purity of heart, and filial obedience. These are all virtues which, according to the Saint, not only shine in Mary but also are dispensed by her. He thus merited the title of Marian Doctor because of his great love for and filial devotion to the Mother of the Savior.

His writings were so appreciated that the Church inserted them into the Sacred Liturgy. Ending the day with a Salve Regina or some other Marian antiphony was his idea. St. Bernard had so much trust in her powerful intercession that he said: “God has wanted that we obtain nothing if not through the hands of Mary.” For St. Bernard, “Mary is our mediatrix,” and we receive the Holy Spirit that overflows from her.”

In our own lives, we may have been startled and humbled at those times when we have felt the nurturing hands of the Holy Spirit caring for us.  This realization has perhaps been the most acute in times of pain and turmoil.  We have, perhaps, yearned for the caress of a loving mother at those times, and the above quote from Saint Bernard may capture that yearning and experience.

Indicating the Source

St. Bernard’s Praises of the Virgin Mother are amongst his better-known works, not because they say something new about Mary, but because they inflame the heart of the reader for love of her—bringing her to life, making her present for those who read his homilies. He admires the faith of the Virgin, he enthuses over her humility, he is fascinated by her radiant purity—with the sole scope of bringing hearts to drink from this “fountain which waters gardens.”

His style, which is lively, rich, and easy flowing, attracts, delights, and recalls the mind of the reader to heavenly things and raises it up into the heart of the Mother. It is so gentle that it nourishes and directs one’s devotion towards her, inducing the soul to follow her. This is because the Mother is the star that leads to Jesus, the aqueduct that communicates the graces that gush forth from the Source. Mary is the one who distributes God’s benefits that restore the Universe. In one of his homilies, Bernard said of her: In te et per te et de te benigna manus omnipotentis quidquid creaverat recreavit” (In you and for you and from you the kindly hand of the Almighty recreates everything that He has created).

The power of Mary to recreate “everything that He has created” is indeed a comforting thought for us.  We are not alone and not without help in life.

Mystery of the “Fiat”

Precisely for this reason, Bernard contemplates Mary to learn how to let himself be restored and recreated by God. Through contemplating what God did in her with the “re-creation” of the Incarnation he is able to say:

Every soul, even though weighed down with sins, ensnared in vice, caught in the allurements of the passions, held captive in exile, and imprisoned in the body … even, I say, though it be thus damned and in despair, can find within itself not only reasons for yearning for the hope of pardon and the hope of mercy, but also for making bold to aspire to the nuptials of the Word, not hesitating to establish a covenant of union with God, and not being ashamed to carry the sweet yoke of love along with the King of the Angels.

In his Praises of the Virgin it is through Mary that Bernard describes the mystery of God and of man, and the mystery of the Fiat, which began the relationship between us and God and is able to invade the Christian soul and impregnate it with God. In particular, there are two figures which help us say our own “Fiat” to God: the Virgin as star and as divine lover.

Star of the Sea

Mary is the star of the sea, the guide for every man, and the guide for our history because in her is found the perfect humanity. Since she is the vertex of humankind, in her is summarized human history. We are no longer alone in our quest for God; we are no longer abandoned to the uncertainty of the sea waters in the dark night, for a firm point has appeared in heaven: it is the Mother.

Whoever you are that perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on firm ground, turn not away your eyes from the splendour of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm … Look at the star, call upon Mary … With her for your guide, you shall not go astray, while invoking her, you shall never lose heart … if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favour, you shall reach the goal.

Divine Lover

St. Bernard tells us that to live and love as Mary did we must pray as Mary did and hold our gaze continuously on God. And for this, says the Saint, we must beware of the danger of excessive activity, regardless of one’s condition and occupation, including those inherent to the governance of the Church, because “numerous occupations often lead to hardness of heart; they are suffering for the spirit, loss of intelligence, and dispersion of grace.”

It is a message for our day, Pope Benedict on the 20th August 2006 expressed the following in his Angelus address:

How useful for us also is this call to the primacy of prayer! May St. Bernard, who was able to harmonize the monk’s aspiration for solitude and the tranquillity of the cloister with the urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church, help us to concretize it in our lives, in our circumstances and possibilities. We entrust this difficult desire to find a balance between interiority and necessary work to the intercession of the Virgin, whom he loved from his childhood with tender and filial devotion.

In our prayer this week, we invoke St. Bernard’s intercession for us with Mary:

We Pray:

           Saint Bernard, pray for us that we may
feel the gentle peace and caress of the Holy Spirit and Mary
not only at times of pain and trouble
but even throughout our routine day to day lives.

Help us to keep our eyes focused
on Mary as the Star of the Sea who guides us through life.

We make this prayer through Mary and her Son Jesus Christ,
one with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Amen!

 

Next week we will reflect on St. Dominic and his devotion to Mary.


[1]
George Whelan created this script. It is taken verbatim from http://www.medjugorje.ws/en/articles/bernard-clairvaux-aglow-love-mary/ except for his intervening personal comments.

St. Justin de Jacobis on the Entrance to the Central Shrine

St. Justin de Jacobis on the Entrance to the Central Shrine
March 27, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we turn our attention to the image of St. Justin de Jacobis on the entrance to our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. He was an Italian Vincentian ahead of his time in his promotion of indigenous clergy in Eritrea and Ethiopia. He represents all of Mary’s sons of St. Vincent who have labored in foreign missions.

A thorough review of the historical setting and missionary activities of St. Justin appeared in a 2000 article in Vincentiana.[1] His pioneering efforts to unite Catholics in two regions of Eritrea and Ethiopia met with some success during his ministry. He was noted for his concern to address peoples’ needs. He set in motion the formation of native clergy in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Justin was born in San Fele, a village south of Naples, on October 9, 1800. He joined the Vincentian Congregation of the Mission eighteen years later. Ordained on June 12, 1824, he served in various capacities by preaching retreats and missions and serving as a local Superior in his Congregation. He became Director of seminarians in Naples in 1836, where he was remembered for emphasizing personal prayer.

King Ferdinand II heard of Justin’s reputation as a preacher of missions and retreats, and a man of great personal holiness, so he recommended him for a bishopric. Justin heard rumors that this was likely, and he was sufficiently realistic to know that it could happen; three Vincentians had already been made bishops in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He decided to take steps to prevent himself from becoming the fourth. His practical sense of reality, however, led him to admit that he would be prepared to become a bishop in some missionary territory where there was a real need for a bishop.

From his earliest years as a Vincentian Justin longed to serve in the foreign missions. His desire was realized in 1836. That year the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith commissioned him to establish the Ethiopian Mission where he labored in Ethiopia and Eritrea. He respected the people whom he served, most of whom were members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He had very cordial relationships with the local Coptic clergy which earned him high praise in many quarters, although some of the Orthodox bishops adamantly opposed his development of Roman Catholicism in their territories.

One of Justin’s great hopes was that some of the Ethiopian clergy would become Catholics. The first one to do this was a deacon. Then gradually others followed his example, as well as a young man who wanted to be prepared for the Catholic priesthood. Justin insisted that all converted clergy, as well as those studying for the Catholic priesthood, remain in the Ethiopian Coptic Rite; they were not to be Latinized. Justin was alone in this way of thinking; except for one young confrere, Carlo Delmonte, none of his other Vincentian missionaries agreed with him. Thus, Justin had anticipated by more than a century what Vatican II and Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi would say about missiology.

Justin had great devotion to Mary. During his first year in Adwa, Justin gave out Miraculous Medals to everyone he met, telling them how Mary was the Mother of God and the Mother of all who believed in Christ. He engaged in much charitable ministry in the name of Mary. His listeners not only noted what Justin told them about Mary; they also observed how he honored her and prayed to her. Because of this, they called him Abba Yakob Zemariam, which means Mary’s Jacob.[2]

An Italian Capuchin, Bishop Guglielmo Massaia, recommended to Rome that Justin be ordained a bishop. Against his personal wishes Justin finally relented; he was ordained a bishop in secret in Massawa on the 9th of January 1849 and returned to his own area.

For the remaining eleven years until his death in 1860 Justin’s life was a series of problems, harassment, persecution, and even a spell of imprisonment, all originating from the opposition of the Orthodox Coptic Bishop. He was beatified on June 25, 1939 and canonized on October 26, 1975.

In our image, Justin appears clad in the garment of the indigenous people of southern Africa. Instead of an ornate, golden crozier, he holds a simple wooden staff that symbolizes his responsibility for the believers under his care. The pectoral cross around his neck is a simple one. The two natives kneeling next to him perhaps symbolize the conflicting areas under his jurisdiction in Eritrea and Ethiopia. The older man to the viewers right seems to be a warrior who has put aside his shield and spear; the other man, perhaps a young candidate for seminary, perhaps represents so many native vocations inspired by St. Justin. His right hand is extended in a gesture of blessing and teaching.

With good reason Saint Justin de Jacobis was chosen to adorn the archway to our Central Shrine. Not only did “Mary’s Jacob” promote devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, he also embodied the best of the Vincentian missionary spirit. His confreres today can look to him as their model of Vincentian zeal to spread the Gospel to all nations and as an inspiration to respect indigenous cultures where they labor and establish seminaries for the formation of indigenous clergy.

Our prayer this week is taken from the Collect from the Mass remembering this great Vincentian missioner:

We pray:

Lord God,
you gave to your saint, Bishop Justin,
the grace to become all things to all men
in order to preach the good news to the Ethiopians.

May his intercession help us to take part in
the preaching of the Gospel and to bring all nations
to the unity of one faith by our brotherly service.

We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we will reflect upon the small rose window above the entrance to the Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] St Justin de Jacobis: Founder of the New Catholic Generation and Formator of its Native Clergy in the Catholic Church of Eritrea and Ethiopia” (Vincentiana, 44, n.6, November-December, 2000). A copy appears at https://cmglobal.org/en/2010/06/11/st-justin-de-jacobis-founder-of-the-new-catholic-generation-and-formator-of-its-native-clergy-in-the-catholic-church-of-eritrea-and-ethiopia/. See also the FamVin entry at https://famvin.org/wiki/Justin_de_Jacobis.

[2] On Justin and Mary see the article by Rev. Robert Maloney, c.m. at https://www.scribd.com/document/136360009/Five-Faces-of-St-Justin-de-Jacobis

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the Entrance to the Central Shrine

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the Entrance to the Central Shrine
March 20, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we turn our attention to the image of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the entrance to our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. She established the first Catholic girls’ school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she also founded the first American congregation of religious sisters.

She was born into a wealthy and influential Anglican family in New York on August 28, 1774. She married William (Will) Seton, a wealthy importer, and they had five children. After the death of her father-in-law, she and her husband accepted the responsibility to raise his seven half brothers and sisters.

The family fortune was lost to piracy on the high seas. Will’s health was also failing from a lingering bout with Tuberculosis. The couple decided to travel to Italy with their oldest daughter Anna Maria to help him recover in a warmer climate. Unfortunately, after an extended period of quarantine under very difficult conditions, he succumbed, and Elizabeth was left with the challenge to care for her family.

Will’s European business associates included Filippo Filicchi, a prosperous merchant. His family resided in Leghorn, Italy, and they were devout Catholics. They welcomed Elizabeth and her daughter into their home. The family’s Catholic love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament — reserved in their private chapel — greatly impressed Elizabeth.

Her longstanding devotional piety included love for the Blessed Mother who had replaced her own deceased mother when the young Elizabeth was only three years old. The devout Eucharistic piety of the Filicchis nourished her Protestant devotion to the Lord’s Presence in the Lord’s Supper. These factors contributed greatly to her eventual conversion to Catholicism. Years later Elizabeth gathered the first religious community of women in the United States, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph at Emmitsburg, Maryland. From that moment on, she was addressed as “Mother Seton.” Their Community established the first free Catholic school for girls in the colonies, a modest start to the Catholic parochial school system in the United States.

The original rule of the Sisters of Charity was based on the Rule of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris. Elizabeth had hoped her community could join the international community of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, but she did not live long enough to see that day. On January 4, 1821 she died at age 46, sixteen years after her conversion to Catholicism. Pope John XXIII beatified her on March 17, 1963 and Pope Paul VI canonized her on September 14, 1975.

Six communities today trace their origins to Mother Seton. The largest group, the Emmitsburg community, eventually joined the Daughters of Charity formally in 1850. The other five groups have remained separate communities — Sisters of Charity of New York City; of Cincinnati, Ohio; of Halifax, New York; of Convent Station, New Jersey; and the Sisters of Charity of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

It is very fitting that an image of Mother Seton be included in our Central Shrine. St. Catherine Labouré was a Daughter of Charity, and Elizabeth found inspiration in their rule of life for her new Community. One of her six groups, the Emmitsburg Sisters of Charity, became Daughters of Charity.  Most significantly, Mary herself, Our Lady of the Chair, had foretold this merger to St. Catherine in her conversations during the first apparition. As her biographer Rev. Joseph Dirvin reports:

When the [Vincentian] rule should be fully observed once more, Mary promised, another community of Sisters would ask to join the Community of Rue de Bac. The prediction was fulfilled in 1849, when Father Etienne received Mother Elizabeth Seton’s Sisters of Emmitsburg, Maryland, into the Paris Community. These Sisters were the foundation stone of the Sisters of Charity in the United States. [1]

The Emmitsburg Sisters joined the Daughters of Charity some twenty years after Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal had foretold the event to St. Catherine.

In our image a white house appears in the background; it represents the original free school that was conducted in a wood frame white house that still exists today. Mother Seton embraces two children. The young girl represents the original free school for girls established in Emmitsburg; she glances to her right in a gesture suggesting she is looking into her future after her formation by the Sisters. The young boy reaches up to his teacher Mother Seton, the one who was instrumental in the start of the parochial school system for Catholic children of the United States.

Our prayer this week is the Collect from the Mass for January 4th honoring Mother Seton:

We pray:

O God, who crowned with the gift of true faith
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s burning zeal to find you,
grant by her intercession and example
that we may always seek you with diligent love
and find you in daily service with sincere faith.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we will reflect upon the image of St. Justin de Jacobis on the entrance to our Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal, by Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M. (©1958 by Farrer, Straus & Cudahy, Inc.), p. 85.

Two Images of St. Joseph on the Entrance to the Central Shrine


Two Images of St. Joseph on the Entrance to the Central Shrine

March 13, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we turn our attention to the two images of St. Joseph on the entrance to our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. They represent two Catholic liturgical feasts of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph is described in a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy Principles and Guidelines published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2001:

The virtues of St. Joseph have been the object of ecclesial reflection down through the centuries, especially the more recent centuries. Among those virtues the following stand out: faith, with which he fully accepted God’s salvific plan; prompt and silent obedience to the will of God; love for and fulfillment of the law, true piety, fortitude in time of trial; chaste love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, a dutiful exercise of his paternal authority, and fruitful reticence. (par 108) [1]

To capture the devotion to Saint Joseph within the Catholic liturgy, in 1870, Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church. He was following the lead of his predecessors: Pope Sixtus IV had established March 19 as an annual feast of St. Joseph for the whole Church; Pope Gregory XV declared it a holy day of obligation. The Feast is still celebrated on March 19th. Our most recent Catholic Roman Missal gives the liturgy for that day the title Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Our image portrays Joseph as patron of the Church with his right hand open to heaven in intercessory prayer for the Church and his left hand holding a shepherd’s staff that symbolizes his authority over the Church as her Patron.

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in order to Christianize the concept of labor and give to all workmen a model and a protector. It is celebrated on May 1st. By the daily labor in his shop, offered to God with patience and joy, St. Joseph provided for the necessities of his holy spouse and of the Incarnate Son of God, and thus became an example to all laborers. The Pope cited his predecessor Leo XIII: “Workmen and all those laboring in conditions of poverty will have reasons to rejoice rather than grieve, since they have in common with the Holy Family daily preoccupations and cares.”

Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that this feast, in contrast to Communist celebrations of May Day, would accentuate the dignity of labor and would bring a spiritual dimension to labor unions. It is eminently fitting that St. Joseph, a working man who became the foster-father of Christ and patron of the universal Church, should be honored on this day.

Our second image of Joseph commemorates this title, Patron of Workers. Like the Marian medallion of The Holy Family, the image portrays Joseph and his son Jesus in their carpenter shop in Nazareth. Jesus holds wood shaped into a cross, a premonition of what is to follow in his adult life. Joseph, his left hand on Jesus’ shoulder, shows his support for his adopted Son as he gazes lovingly in his direction.

St. Joseph is a “silent saint,” who was given the noble task of caring and watching over the Virgin Mary and Jesus. He now cares for and watches over the Church and models for all the dignity of human work. It is most fitting that in our Chapel Joseph appear close to the Central Shrine of his beloved spouse Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Our prayer this week is a combination of the Collects for the two Josephite feasts: Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19) and Saint Joseph the Worker (May 1):

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that by Saint Joseph’s intercession
your Church may constantly watch over
the unfolding of the mysteries of human salvation,
whose beginnings you entrust to his faithful care.

O God Creator of all things,
who laid down for the human race the law of work,
graciously grant that by the example of Saint Joseph
and under his patronage
we may complete the works you set us to do
to attain the rewards you promise.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we will reflect upon the image of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the entrance to our Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=4620#115

Three Marian Apparitions on the Entrance to the Central Shrine


Three Marian Apparitions on the Entrance to the Central Shrine

March 6, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we turn our attention to some of the images on the archway to our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, specifically, the triptych portraying the three apparitions of Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré.

We have seen images of these apparitions before. The three are portrayed in plaster reliefs that hang on the eastern wall of the lower level in our Chapel. The first apparition, Our Lady of the Chair, took place on July 18th, 1830. A plaque describes this event as follows:

At Paris, on the night of July 18, 1830, Saint Catherine Labouré, a novice Sister of Charity, was awakened by her guardian angel in the form of a child. He led her to the chapel, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to her. Our Lady seated herself in the sanctuary and Catherine knelt at her feet, resting her hands on Mary’s knee. They talked together for two hours. Mary’s most important message was: “My child, the good God wishes to charge you with a mission.” (The making of the Miraculous Medal was the mission later entrusted to Catherine.)

The second apparition, Our Lady of the Globe, took place on November 27, 1830. A plaque summarizes this event:

On November 27, 1830, during the afternoon meditation, Saint Catherine saw Our Lady in the chapel sanctuary standing upon a globe. The Virgin held a golden ball which she seemed to offer to God, her eyes raised heavenward. Her hands were resplendent with rings set with precious stones that threw out brilliant rays of light. A voice spoke: “The ball which you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular. These rays symbolize the graces which I shed upon those who ask for them.”

The third apparition, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, took place on the same day, November 27, 1830. A plaque describes this event:

Actually a continuance of the second apparition. The golden ball vanished from Mary’s hands and she extended her arms, the rays from her jewelled [sic] fingers streaming upon the globe beneath. Letters of gold formed around her, which read: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” The voice spoke again to St. Catherine: “Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will received great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence.” the making of the Medal was the mission entrusted to Catherine.

All three apparitions are portrayed in the archway of the entrance to the Central Shrine.

The first apparition appears to the left of the viewer; it portrays St. Catherine kneeling before our Blessed Lady with her guardian angel standing in the background. Our Lady, seated in a chair, is gesturing towards the altar. She encouraged Catherine in all her needs to “come to the altar.” Besides Mary’s promise that God had a special mission in mind for Catherine, Mary also affirmed her closeness to the Double Family of St. Vincent de Paul: the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. Mary also mentioned that after her Sisters returned to their primitive spirit a large group of Sisters from the new world would join the Daughters of Charity. That group was the Emmitsburg Sisters of Charity, one of the six communities that look to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as their Foundress. In 1849, some twenty years after Mary had spoken with Catherine, the Emmitsburg group merged with the Sisters in Paris.

The second apparition appears to the right of the viewer. Mary, standing on a large globe and holding a gold ball in her hands, reveals herself as a Mother concerned for the plight of the suffering in the world in general and France in particular, and every individual who suffers. Golden letters appeared in an oval around Mary’s head and spelled out the prayer: O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. Twelve stars appeared around Mary’s head. She then commissioned Catherine to have a medal struck in this image. The image appears on the front face of the Miraculous Medal today. It portrays Our Lady of Grace with arms extended in blessing and graces radiating from rings on her fingers; the image also includes the Miraculous Medal prayer and twelve stars surrounding Mary’s head.

The third apparition is represented by the image on the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal. It portrays the rich symbolism we have seen several times: Mary appears as co-mediatrix with her Son in His death and resurrection and the salvation of humankind. Her pierced heart alongside that of Christ’s Sacred Heart portrays her solidarity with her Son as does the large “M” entwined with his Cross. The twelve stars around the edge of the medal identify Mary with the Judeo-Christian tradition of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles, pillars of the Church, the new Israel.

Our prayer this week is taken from the Miraculous Medal Perpetual Novena:

We pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who for the accomplishment of Your greatest works,
have chosen the weak things of the world,
that no flesh may glory in your sight;
and who for a better and more widely diffused belief
in the Immaculate Conception of Your Mother,
have wished that the Miraculous Medal
be manifested to Saint Catherine Labouré,
grant, we beseech You that filled with like humility,
we may glorify this mystery by word and work.

Amen!

Next week we will reflect upon the two images of St. Joseph on the entrance to our Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Archway to the Central Shrine


The Archway to the Central Shrine
February 27, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we turn our attention to the entrance to our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. We begin with an overview of the entrance and leave the details in the various individual images to subsequent Shrine Reflections.

At the head of the arch a series of three murals portray the apparitions of Mary to St. Catherine Labouré.

Below this on either side are murals of St. Joseph: Patron Saint of the Universal Church on the viewer’s left and Patron Saint of Workers to the right.

The next images are paintings of two Vincentian Saints.: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the left and St. Justin de Jacobis on the right. They are two of three paintings added to the archway in 1977; a third painting is the large ceiling image of Mary, Mother of the Church commemorating Vatican Council II.

Above the archway is a small Rose Window commemorating eight saints who had great devotion to our Blessed Lady.

Together, the window and archway provide a grand entrance to the gorgeous Shrine honoring Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

The Vincentian priests stationed here at St. Vincent’s Seminary conduct Miraculous Medal Novena services every Monday. There are eight services each Monday: 7:00 am (Mass with Novena but no preaching); 9:00 am, 12:05 and 7:30 pm (Masses with Novena and preaching); and 2:00, 3:30, 5:00 and 6:30 pm (Benediction with Novena and preaching).

During each service pilgrims have the opportunity to approach the Sacrament of Penance. After every service we invite devotees of Mary to the Blessing and Investiture With the Sacred Medal of the Immaculate Conception commonly known as the “Miraculous Medal.” Those invested become members of a world-wide Miraculous Medal Association with the spiritual benefits attached to membership. Benefits include opportunities to gain plenary indulgences on certain Marian and Vincentian feast days. It is a life-time membership and the investiture takes place only once in a person’s life. The following is a description of the spiritual benefits as described on our web site: [1]

 The International Association of the Miraculous Medal

Mary’s wish, expressed in the [Miraculous Medal] apparition, is that all of her children wear her Medal. To fulfill this wish, Pope (St.) Pius X approved the purposes and statutes of the Association of the Miraculous Medal on July 8, 1909. Its purposes are to render due honor to Mary Immaculate and to sanctify members through Christian formation and involvement in works of charity, especially to the poor.

This International Association is under the authority of one Director General, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, and of the Daughters of Charity.

Anyone can become a member of the International Association and share in its privileges. A person becomes a member by wearing a Miraculous Medal that has been blessed by a priest. It is fitting that the person wear the Medal around the neck. It is desirable, but not necessary, that a person be invested in the Medal by a priest or delegated lay person using the approved rite.

Members of the Association can enjoy a plenary indulgence on the following six days:

  1. Day of Investiture
  2. Anniversary of the Establishment of the Association (July 8)
  3. Feast of the Queenship of Mary (Aug. 22)
  4. Feast of St. Vincent de Paul (Sept. 27)
  5. Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Nov. 27)
  6. Feast of St. Catherine Labouré (Nov. 28)

To receive the indulgence, the usual conditions apply: have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, sacramentally confess sins, receive the Holy Eucharist, and pray for the intentions of the Pope. These indulgences may be applied to the souls in purgatory.

The members of this Association incur no obligations. They are encouraged to pray often the words found on the Medal: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Our prayer this week is the concluding prayer to the rite of investiture in the International Association of the Miraculous Medal:

We pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
who willed that Your Mother,
the Blessed Virgin conceived without sin,
should become illustrious through countless miracles;
grant that we who ever seek her patronage may finally possess everlasting joys.

We ask this of You
who live and reign forever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we will reflect upon the images of the three apparitions that appear at the top of the entrance to our Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] https://cammonline.org/plenaryindulgence/

Assumption


Assumption

February 20, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the fourteenth and final Marian medallion that appears in the seventh stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven. Catholics remember this event in the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary and every August 15th, a Holy Day of Obligation.

Nowhere in our New Testament is this event portrayed, but Catholic tradition East and West celebrates Mary’s passing from this life. In 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly defined Mary’s Assumption into heaven as an infallible dogma of Catholic Faith. In his Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, he solemnly declared:

It is a dogma revealed by God that the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

There are several details in our Medallion worth noting. Above and behind Mary are seven six-pointed stars. Six-pointed stars are the stars of creation; they point to the Creator God. In her Assumption, God the Creator has manifested the fullness of Mary’s special adoption as the one immaculately conceived and filled with grace. From all eternity she was destined not only to participate in the mission of her Son while on earth but also to reign with Him in glory. Her bodily assumption underscores the Creator’s plan for her alongside her divine Son.

Mary appears with hands across her chest in an attitude of prayer. Her posture once again underscores how receptive she is to God’s will for her.

Two angels kneel before her. The one on her right side holds a palm branch. Traditionally palms symbolize victory, triumph, peace and eternal life. We use them annually at our Palm Sunday liturgical processions celebrating the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In Christian art, palms are also associated with martyrs. Thus, the angel witnesses to Mary as victorious, the Queen of Peace and the Queen of Martyrs; the latter symbolism we have seen before in the floor mosaic adorning our Central Shrine. The palm, therefore, also witnesses to Mary as Queen of Martyrs.

The angel on Mary’s left side holds a lily that symbolizes her purity. She is the one immaculately conceived, the one Gabriel addressed as “full of grace” and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the one Elizabeth addressed as “most blessed … among women.”

Several lilies also appear below Mary. There are a variety of white lilies that bloom around August 15th, the day when we commemorate the Assumption. Horticulturalists refer to these as Assumption Lilies. They distinguish among four varieties:[1]

  1. Hemerocallis ‘Serene Madonna’
  2. Hemerocallis ‘Heavenly White Lightening’
  3. Hemerocallis ‘Jolly White Giant’ and
  4. Hemerocallis ‘Lady Elizabeth’

Tradition holds that all the Apostles except Thomas were present for Mary’s burial. When St. Thomas later arrived and Mary’s tomb was opened he found only roses and lilies where her body was laid to rest. The Western Church celebrates the event as her Assumption into heaven; Eastern Church refer to the event as her Dormition, her falling asleep.

Below the title The Assumption there is a crown, a fitting symbol for Mary. She reigns as Queen in heaven alongside her Son the King of the Universe. The Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary invites us to honor her as Queen of the Angels and Saints.

Our prayer this week is the Collect from the Mass during the Day for the Feast of the Assumption:

We pray:

Almighty ever-living God,
who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary,
the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory,
grant, we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above,
we may merit to be sharers of her glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

We have completed our reflections on the fourteen Marian medallions that enhance the internal atmosphere of our Miraculous Medal Shrine. Next week we shall begin to discuss the entrance way to this Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/prayergardens/2015/08/assumption-lilies-for-your-mary-garden/

Pentecost


Pentecost
February 13, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the thirteenth Marian medallion that appears in the seventh and final stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates the Pentecost event. Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, describes this day:

When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  (Acts 1:13-14; 2:1-4)

After Jesus’ ascension the eleven Apostles gathered in the upper room together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. (1:14) The group later was gathered in prayer when there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. (2:3) Our Marian Medallion faithfully reflects Luke’s account of the Pentecost.

In the medallion the Spirit appears in the form of a dove over the assembled group. Twelve tongues of fire radiate from the center, one for Mary and eleven for the Apostles. Several of the bursts of bright light above the group include eight-pointed and seven-pointed stars. We have seen before that such stars represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (2:4)

The central figure, of course, is Mary. With hands folded in prayer and her head bowed in humility as the Spirit stirs within her; she is seated on a throne. The image is very appropriate for her who is the Queen of the Apostles and the Mother of the Church. The later title was proclaimed by the Bishops assembled in Vatican Council II. Their teachings about Mary appear as the final chapter added to the Constitution on the Church. Her title is memorialized in a 1977 painting installed in our Chapel. Mary is Mother of the Church and our model of discipleship; we are called to imitate her virtues by humbly accepting God’s will in our lives.

Below the title Pentecost is a cross superimposed on an open Bible. They are appropriate symbols of what followed this event: The cross represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death; the book represents the Good News about Jesus our Savior. Peter will preach the first sermon on Pentecost. The movement Jesus began spreads in Jerusalem and extends to Judea and Samaria and eventually to the ends of the earth. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles records the expansion of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire through the missionary efforts of Peter and Paul.

Our prayer is the Collect for the Mass during the Day of Pentecost:

We pray:

O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast
sanctify Your whole Church in every people and nation,
pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth
and. with the divine grace that was at work
when the Gospel was first proclaimed,
fill now once more the hearts of believers.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the fourteenth and final Marian medallion commemorating The Assumption of Mary into heaven.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Crucifixion


The Crucifixion

February 6, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the twelfth Marian medallion that appears in the sixth stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates Mary witnessing The Crucifixion.

All four Gospels describe the passion and death of Jesus on Calvary.

Matthew:

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.” But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”   (Mt 27:45-54)

Mark:

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three lock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.” One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:33-39)

Luke:

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;” and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts.”   (Lk 23:44-48)

John:

Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to His mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He handed over the spirit. Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe. For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken.” And again another passage says: “They will look upon Him whom they have pierced.”   (Jn 19:25-37)

Our Marian medallion portrays the scene as descried in the Gospel according to John. It portrays Jesus with his side already pierced by the soldier’s lance; blood and water have flowed from his Sacred Heart, symbols of Eucharist and Baptism in the new order ushered in by Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has expressed his desire for more disciples: I thirst (v. 30a). He has already died: It is finished. And bowing His head, He handed over His spirit (v. 30b); The evangelist uses the image “handing over His Spirit” to describe not only His physical death, but also His Ascension to the Father and the “Pentecost event” with the Spirit bestowed on His disciples. The imagery used by the author John in recording the events on Calvary has described “Pentecost,” the Church born from the side of Christ.

The Medallion portrays Mary and the Beloved Disciple standing beneath the Cross. Before He expired He addressed his Mother and the Beloved Disciple: Woman, behold your Son…. Son, behold your Mother (vv. 26-27). Tradition sees the disciple as the Apostle John, the only one of the 12 to accompany his Master to Calvary. In the evangelist’s mind, John represents all disciples; thus, in the thinking of the Evangelist, we believers stand with John at the foot of the cross. Jesus has given all of us His own mother; Mary has become our Mother, too.

Mary kneels with hands folded in prayer. She gazes lovingly and tearfully towards her Son. Her posture suggests she has identified with Jesus in His work of salvation. In the words of St. Alphonse Liguori, The two of them hang upon one cross. Simeon’s words have been fulfilled: a sword will pierce your heart. The scene portrays her fifth sword of sorrow (Jesus’ death) and her sixth sword of sorrow (piercing of her Son’s side).

The Miraculous Medal witnesses to the same mystery: Mary suffering with Christ. Her heart appears alongside the heart of her beloved Son. She experiences the pain of His crown of thorns as a sword of sorrow piercing her heart.

The large letter “M,” entwined with the horizontal bar supporting her Son’s Cross, underscores her unity with the Savior of the World. The cross itself symbolizes not only Jesus’ victory over death but also His sacrifice that has saved all of us from sin. Mary is one with her Son in His death and resurrection; as such she is our Mother of Mercy and our Co-redemptrix with Christ the only Savior of the world.

Darkness overshadows the scene. One sees in the background five stars, the moon and the sun half eclipsed by our crucified Lord. Luke’s Gospel is the inspiration for the scene: It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. (Lk 23:44)

The human skull and bone below the title The Crucifixion underscore the moment of Jesus’ Death. The entire medallion portrays the first phase in the Paschal mystery we proclaim at every Mass: We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.

Our prayer this week reflects ideas inspired by this Medallion commemorating The Crucifixion.

We pray:

Loving God we praise and thank you
for sending your Son to share in our human condition.
We bless you for gifting His Mother Mary to share
in His work of redemption for His disciples.
We thank your Son for sharing with us His own Mother
to be our Mother who desires always to intercede for us.

May we who honor her experience the effects
of your enduring love and mercy
in and through Mary and her beloved Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the thirteenth Marian medallion commemorating Pentecost.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

On the Way to Calvary


On the Way to Calvary

January 30, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the eleventh Marian medallion that appears in the sixth stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates Mary encountering her Son On the Way to Calvary. In our Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and in all your parish churches we remember this event as the Fourth Station of the Cross.

This event is not mentioned in the Gospels, but we know Mary was present on the day her Son carried his cross to his execution on Calvary. All of the Gospels place her below his cross. The Evangelist John joins her to the mission of her Son at the moment of his Glorification on the Cross.

Our medallion presents a touching scene: Jesus carries his cross on his way to Calvary. His right hand rests limply on the cross beam; it witnesses to his near exhaustion resulting from the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, and the constant whipping by his executioners goading him on to his crucifixion. Below the title On the Way to Calvary is a crown of thorns around a fleur-de-lis (lily), symbols of his suffering and innocence. His true identity appears above his head in the letters I-N-R-I — Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Jesus’ gaze is fixed on his mother. His eyes lovingly meet hers. It is a moment of great consolation to have Mary with him in his final hours. She returns the gaze as she kneels before her Son. The fourth of her seven swords of sorrow now pierces her heart. She reaches towards Jesus with her arms spread; she desires to embrace him. Her posture suggests she is one with her Son in his suffering as she will be at the moment of his death.

Our prayer this week is one used at the fourth station of the cross.

We pray:

Jesus, you feel so alone with all those people yelling and screaming at you.
You don’t like the words they are saying about you, and you look for a friendly face in the crowd.
You see your mother. She can’t make the hurting stop,
but it helps to see that she is on your side,
that she is suffering with you. She does understand and care.

Jesus most suffering, Mary Mother most sorrowful,
if, by my sins, I caused you pain and anguish in the past,
by God’s assisting grace it shall be so no more;
you both will be my love henceforth till death.

We ask this through your Son, our Lord and Savior.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the twelfth Marian medallion commemorating The Crucifixion on Calvary.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Prayer: [www.catholic.org/prayers/station.php?id=4]

The Marriage at Cana


The Holy Family

January 23, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the tenth Marian medallion that appears in the fifth stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Marriage at Cana. As portrayed in the Gospel according to John this was the first of Jesus’ signs as he began his public ministry at the request of his mother Mary.

The author of the Gospel of John describes this event in chapter 2, verses 1-11:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

The Evangelist’s account is faithfully rendered in amazing detail in our Marian medallion. In the background the headwaiter who is the wine taster holds a vessel in his right hand. He has just informed the newly married couple that they have run out of wine. The couple exchanging a glance register concern on their faces; how will they provide wine for their guests?

Mary, aware of the situation, has asked her son to help: “They have no wine.” (Jn 2:3). Jesus at first takes exception to her request — “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4), Nevertheless he will honor his mother’s request. Mary, no doubt confident that her Son would help out, has instructed the servers: “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5).

The window portrays the moment of the miraculous change of water into wine. It includes the detail of several stone water jars, one of them featured in the foreground. Jesus has instructed the servers: “Fill the jars with water.” (Jn 2:7)  Once they are filled, he will tell the servers, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” (Jn 2:8). The headwaiter will express amazement to the couple: “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (Jn 2:10). The crisis of a marriage celebration without wine will be averted by Jesus responding favorably to his mother’s request for more wine.

There is a fascinating detail in our window: in the foreground the clear water poured from an animal skin turns wine red as it enters the stone jar.

John’s Gospel states that “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” (Jn 2:11) Having revealed himself to his disciples, Jesus stands with his right hand extended in blessing. In his left hand he holds a book, the symbol of the Good News about the Kingdom of God that Jesus and his disciples will begin to proclaim throughout Palestine. The book symbolizes as well the greatest of Jesus’ signs and his moment of glory in John’s Gospel — the moment of his death on the cross.

Our prayer this week includes themes from The Marriage at Cana.

We pray:

Loving God we praise you for your goodness to us.
Your greatest gift to us is your own Divine Son
born of the Virgin Mary.

You have willed that the Mother of your Son
be involved in his work of salvation.
At her bidding Jesus began his public ministry at Cana.
On Calvary he revealed his moment of glory
when he gave to us his own Mother who intercedes for us.

Therefore, in his Name, we call upon her:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the eleventh Marian medallion commemorating Mary On the Way to Calvary.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 – The Holy Family


The Holy Family

January 16, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the ninth Marian medallion that appears in the fifth stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Holy Family in Nazareth.

Our New Testament gives us almost no information about the child Jesus’ formative years in Nazareth; the only exceptions appearing in Luke’s account are the ones we have already seen: the flight into Egypt and the finding of the twelve year-old boy in the Temple.

Mark describes Jesus as a “carpenter” (Mk 6:3) and Matthew, using this text, changed the description to the “son of a carpenter” (Mt 13:55 ). Our Marian medallion gives us a wonderful snapshot of one event in Jesus’ adolescent home life. It portrays Joseph the carpenter with his son Jesus and Mary, His mother. We can let our imagination fill in details. The son on almost a daily basis learned his profession from his father; as a carpenter Jesus provided support for himself and his mother after Joseph’s death.

Joseph is busy in his workshop. He is perhaps working on a customer’s job. He wields a hammer in his right hand and strikes the chisel against a plank on his workbench. Shavings from the beam have fallen to the floor. His intense gaze suggests Joseph is focused on his work.

Mary has joined the family group in the workshop. Her eyes are fixed on her Child. She sits and sews a white garment for Jesus. One is reminded of the tradition of Jesus’ seamless tunic described in the Gospel of John, chapter 19, verses 23-24:

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,” in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled [that says]: “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” This is what the soldiers did. 

Mary probably knitted that adult robe for Jesus.  One can imagine how this Son of hers cherished that final tunic created by her loving hands. The garment passed on by lot to one of the soldiers who crucified him. The early Church came to identify this robe of Jesus with the one, seamless Church that cannot be torn asunder.

Jesus appears in the forefront carrying a wooden beam. We can imagine him working closely with Joseph and learning the trade of a carpenter from his father. He has stumbled to his knees under the weight of the beam.

The scene foreshadows the upright beam of the cross that this boy Jesus will eventually carry to Calvary; under its weight he will fall three times until he is nailed to it and dies on the cross — the event for which he was born to bring salvation to sinners. The hammer that appears below the title The Holy Family suggests not only a carpenter’s tool but also the hammer that will one day be used to drive nails through Jesus’ hands and feet to the beams of a cross.

Several of our Marian windows have included symbols of Jesus’ passion and death in scenes portraying earlier events in Jesus’ life: at his Nativity there was the skeleton of a fish wrapped around a cross; at the Presentation in the Temple Simeon foretells the sword that will pierce Mary’s heart; and now, in this scene of The Holy Family, the beam on the child Jesus’ shoulder, his falling to his knees and the hammer below the title point to his eventual passion and death on Calvary.

Our Marian medallion, then, presents one day in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The theme is consistent with references to Jesus as a carpenter in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. It also suggests what lies ahead for Jesus.

Our prayer this week is from the Prayer over the Offerings on the Feast of the Holy Family.

We pray:

We offer you, Lord, the sacrifice of conciliation,
humbly asking that,
through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God and Saint Joseph
you may establish our families firmly
in your grace and your peace.

Through Christ, our Lord.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the tenth Marian medallion commemorating The Marriage at Cana.


Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Finding in the Temple


The Finding in the Temple
January 9, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the eighth Marian medallion that appears in the fourth stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Finding in the Temple. We Catholics meditate on this event in the Fifth Joyful mystery of the Rosary.

Luke describes the scene in chapter two of his Gospel, verses 41-52.

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

Our Marian medallion faithfully portrays in great detail the moment Mary and Joseph find their adolescent twelve year old son, Jesus, in the Temple. The Holy Family on pilgrimage had travelled to Jerusalem for a festival. Unknown to them the child Jesus stayed behind. Not finding him among relatives in the returning caravan, the holy couple frantically returned to Jerusalem in search of their “lost” Son. After three days they finally found the boy Jesus in the temple.

Our window captures the precise moment that Mary and Joseph come upon their son engaged in conversation with the official teachers of the Law. The two of them peer around the entrance to the chamber to discover Jesus with three Jewish leaders. As she recognizes her Son, Mary raises both arms in amazement at the scene. Her husband, Joseph, is with her, himself relieved that Jesus is safe.

Several details highlight the extraordinary scene as Jesus stands before the Jewish leaders. The three leaders are obviously discussing the meaning of the Jewish scriptures; a lengthy scroll lays open before them as they dispute the meaning of the text. Below the title, Finding in the Temple, another scroll, this one rolled up, highlights the setting — a discussion about God’s Word concealed in the Jewish Law and Prophets. One of the teachers points to the open scroll with his right hand. With his left hand the man gestures towards the child Jesus. While he may be making a point about the Jewish text his hand also prophetically points to this child who will fulfill Jewish prophecies.

Jesus for his part is “listening to them and asking them questions” (Lk 2:46). Luke says he was sitting in their midst, but our window has the boy Jesus standing; he stands above the leaders in an elevated position suggesting he is the one teaching the leaders with his questions that engage them.

In his left hand Jesus holds a book. The Cross on the cover represents the Gospel, the Good News; unknown to the Jewish leaders this child is the New Moses whose death will fulfill the Jewish Law and the Prophets. For the moment the truths of the Gospel remain concealed to the leaders until that day when this boy, as the Word of God and the Paschal Lamb, will give his life to save sinners condemned by the Law. The boy gestures with his right hand to punctuate the point he is making. The teachers are amazed at this child’s wisdom and familiarity with the Law: “all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” (Lk 2:47b).

In this setting Jesus’ parents are challenged to appreciate the true identity of their boy. In response to his worried mother and father, the child Jesus innocently states: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49). These words are prophetic. God is the Father of their child. Luke describes what follows:  “[The child Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Lk 2:51-52)

Our prayer this week draws upon themes portrayed in our Marian window Finding Jesus in the Temple.

We pray:

Loving God, like all of us, your Son
gradually learned his identity and your plans for him.
His extraordinary wisdom was already evident at age twelve
when he encountered the Jewish leaders in your House.

Like him, may all of us rejoice whenever we enter your house.
At every Eucharist may we acknowledge you as Father
and accept your will for us to be your Love in the world,
especially in our care for your poor.

We offer this prayer through Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the fifth stained glass window and the ninth Marian medallion commemorating The Holy Family in Nazareth.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Flight into Egypt


The Flight into Egypt

January 2, 2018

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the seventh medallion that appears in the fourth stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Flight into Egypt. This event is the second of seven swords of sorrow that pierced the heart of Mary.

In chapter two of his Gospel, verses 1-23, the evangelist Matthew describes the Magi’s visit to Bethlehem leading up to the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king, they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of xHerod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the Magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the Magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”

Having been warned in a dream that King Herod was seeking to kill their infant son, Joseph hurriedly escapes from Bethlehem with the child and his mother. The billowy veil behind Mary, the forward motion evident in Joseph’s gait and his extended left arm portray the haste with which the couple has fled with their child. The holy pair responded obediently to the words of Gabriel: ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.’ (Mt 2:20a).

As the background starry sky and the moon atop the scene indicate, just as Matthew recounts, it is night time: “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt” (Mt 2:14).

Joseph glances towards Mary and her son with an anxious look on his face reflecting his concern about what the angel had revealed to him in his dream: ‘’Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’” (Mt 2:20b)

On his walking staff, Joseph carries a blanket that may be needed to keep their child warm in colder weather; they left in such a haste without time to pack any possessions other than the clothes on their backs. As protector of the Holy Family, he runs alongside the donkey and leads the company forward to exile in Egypt. The images of Joseph, Mary, and the donkey register the toll the journey has already taken on them.

In the expression on the head of the donkey one can see a certain strain and sadness. Nevertheless, the animal’s gait indicates the donkey maintains its vigor as it carries the precious passengers: Mary and the child Jesus.

Mary’s face also reflects the weariness resulting from the hurried escape from Bethlehem. She lovingly carries her holy Child on her lap and holds on to him tightly with both hands.

The infant Jesus is the only figure that rests peacefully. He is fast asleep and no doubt feeling secure in the arms of his mother. He is totally unaware of the dangers the group has faced in Bethlehem and continues to face on the dangerous route to Egypt.

Below the title, The Flight into Egypt, is a sword, a reminder of the violent death of the Holy Innocents at the hands of a furious King Herod. In a vain attempt to eliminate the Messiah and newborn King of Israel, he had ordered the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Matthew records this tragic event: “When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the Magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the Magi.” (Mt 2:16)

Our Marian medallion through the imagery of the Holy Family in flight faithfully portrays the impact of the events recorded by the evangelist Matthew.

Our prayer this week is the Collect from the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas:

We pray:

O God, who were pleased to give us
the shining example of the Holy Family,
graciously grant that we may imitate them
in practicing the virtue of fortitude in family life
and all virtues in the bonds of charity,
and so, in the joy of your house,
delight one day in eternal rewards.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the eighth Marian medallion commemorating The Finding in the Temple.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple


The PRESENTATION OF JESUS in the Temple

December 26, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the sixth Marian medallion that appears in the third stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Catholics recall this event whenever we meditate on the fourth joyful mystery of the Rosary.

In the second chapter of his gospel, verses 21-35, Luke describes this event preceded by the circumcision of the child Jesus.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The scene as it appears in the Shrine window faithfully portrays, in great detail, Luke’s account of the Presentation. The setting is clearly a sacred one — the Temple — as suggested by the lit oil lamp beneath the title, The Presentation. Two large lamp-stands flank the prophet Simeon. They are marked with monograms: M for Mary and J for Joseph. Their large flames are disturbed by a draft suggesting the breath of the Holy Spirit active in the life of the prophet Simeon.

Luke tells us Simeon “was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.” The Spirit led him into the Temple at this moment of the presentation of Jesus.

The Holy Family had come to fulfill the requirements of the law: “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.” Joseph holds a cage with two young pigeons, the sacrificial offering of a poor family as required by the Law.

Simeon has taken the child Jesus into his arms. His facial expression with his eyes raised towards heaven underscores the sacredness of the moment. He has blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” His prayer is memorialized by us Catholics in the Nunc Dimittis, part our daily night prayer.

For their part Mary and Joseph have fallen on their knees in amazement at what the prophet has proclaimed. Mary with hands folded in prayer looks heavenward. Joseph also raises his eyes to heaven. Both hear Simeon announcing the fate that awaits their infant Son, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” Mary hears the additional prophecy about her own future: “(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” She humbly accepts whatever God wills for her own future.

Our prayer this week comes from the Collect for the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus that we celebrate on February 2nd.

We pray:

Almighty and ever-living God,
we humbly implore your majesty
that, just as your Only Begotten Son
was presented in the Temple
in the substance of our flesh,
so by your grace,
we may be presented to you with minds made pure.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the fourth stained glass window and the seventh Marian medallion commemorating The Flight into Egypt.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem


The NATIVITY OF JESUS in Bethlehem
December 19, 2017
Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,This week we meditate on the fifth Marian medallion that appears in the third stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. We contemplate this significant event in our lives whenever we meditate on the third joyful mystery of the Rosary.In chapter two of his Gospel, verses one to fourteen, Luke describes the circumstances bringing Joseph and his pregnant wife, Mary, to Bethlehem where their son is born in a cave — a scene followed by the shepherds hearing from the angels the good news for Israel and the whole world.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:1-14)

Our window reduces the Lucan nativity story to the central figures of Joseph, his beloved wife, and their infant son, Jesus. This touching nativity scene portrays Joseph standing as protector of the Holy Family. He folds his hands in prayer. With eyes closed and head bowed he registers amazement at the shepherds reporting the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Through them, he and his betrothed wife receive the angel’s amazing description of their infant son as Savior, Messiah, and Lord. The staff Joseph supports with his left arm is topped by a bell. Why? Perhaps as a symbol of the great joy manifested by the host of angels to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Mary kneels in adoration before this Child who is both their son and the Son of God. Gabriel had announced this wonder to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Mary’s left hand reaches in the direction of her divine child, a sign of her willingness to care for him as her own son and to share in his mission.

The infant sleeps comfortably in a manger, the sign promised by the angels who appeared to the shepherds: “this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Only time will reveal His true nature announced by the angels: “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”

Above this idyllic scene is a star. It is not five-pointed which would represent the Epiphany star that the wise men followed. This star is six-pointed. As we have seen before six-pointed stars symbolize creation. Above the Nativity scene, then, is the star of the Creator, the one who accomplished this miracle as Gabriel had proclaimed to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” While shaped differently, this Jewish Star of David suggests as well that Jesus is the descendant of David and the King of Israel.

Below the title, The Nativity, one sees an unusual double symbol: an anchor overlaid with a fish. The anchor symbolizes hope, Israel’s hope in the Messiah who has been born. The fish represents Christ. The early Church used the fish as an acrostic; the letters in the Greek word for “fish” represent “Jesus, the Christ, God and Savior.” The fish, then, appropriately portrays this baby born in Bethlehem, but why does it appear as a skeleton? The carcass of the fish wraps around the portion of the anchor that is a Cross; this child will some day sacrifice his life on Calvary to save his people from their sins.

Our prayer this week is the Collect from the Christmas Mass at Dawn:

We pray:

Grant, we pray, Almighty God,
that, as we are bathed in the new radiance of your incarnate Word,
the light of faith, which illumines our minds,
may also shine through in our deeds.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Next week we shall move our attention to the sixth Marian medallion. It appears in our third stained glass window in our Central Shrine and commemorates The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth


The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth

December 12, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the fourth Marian medallion; it appears in the second stained glass window in our Central Shrine. The medallion commemorates The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. We remember this event every time we meditate on the second joyful mystery of the Rosary.

On the occasion of the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave Mary this sign: “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” (Lk 1:36-37). Luke in his first chapter, verses 39-56, goes on to describe Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth:

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. [Luke 1:39-56]

The scene as portrayed in our Shrine window includes not only the principle characters Mary and Elizabeth described in Luke’s Gospel but also their husbands Joseph and Zechariah. Did Joseph accompany his pregnant wife to visit Elizabeth? It is an interesting question. Luke does not mention that detail. Perhaps Mary travelled without Joseph accompanying her. She could have joined a caravan on her own. Whatever the facts, Joseph appears in our window behind Mary.

Zechariah appears as an old man in full beard. He leans on a cane in his left hand suggesting his temporary blindness for having doubted Gabriel’s news that he would conceive a child in his advanced years. He wears a skull cap, reflecting his position as a priest of the Temple. Zechariah raises his right hand towards heaven and expresses his joyful thanks for the gift of his child who would eventually point to Mary’s child as the Lamb of God. Zechariah, though blind, faces Joseph with his eyes directed towards him. They exchange a knowing “glance” that God has chosen their children for some special mission to fulfill the promises made to Israel.

Elizabeth kneels before Mary, the “Most blessed among women.” Her eyes meet those of her cousin as she acknowledges: “blessed is the fruit of your womb.” We use these salutations in every Hail Mary: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” Elizabeth’s left hand expresses the miracle that has taken place: “at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Elizabeth’s posture expresses a humble attitude: “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She extends her right hand in welcome to the Mother of her Lord.

Mary, for her part, extends her right hand as she accepts Elizabeth’s greeting. She is moved to magnify the Lord for regarding her lowliness. Through the ages, the Church has used her Magnificat as part of our daily Evening Prayer.

Two doves above the scene carry Mary’s Magnificat to heaven. Below the title The Visitation is the priestly headdress recalling Zechariah’s ministry in the Temple when the angel Gabriel announced he would have a son in his old age. Luke describes the scene in great detail in chapter one, verses 5-23:

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute. Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

Our medallion is an iMaginative rendering of Luke’s witness to the Visitation; it accurately portrays Mary and Elizabeth and expands the scene to include their husbands not mentioned by Luke in his account.

Our prayer this week draws upon Luke’s themes from his account of this event in Mary’s life.

We pray:

Loving God, You looked upon Mary with favor,
blessing her among all women.
Through your Son in Mary’s womb
You anointed John with the Holy Spirit
in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth.

Grant that we too may be blessed by her
visitation as was St. Catherine Labouré.
Help us to honor her as did Elizabeth.

We ask this through Christ her Son and our Lord.

Amen.

Next week we shall move our attention to the third stained glass window and the fifth Marian medallion commemorating The Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Annunciation


The Annunciation

December 5, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the third Marian medallion that appears in the second of our seven stained glass windows in the Central Shrine. It commemorates The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel revealing to Mary she would bear the Son of the Blessed One. Catholics recall this event when meditating on the first joyful mystery of the Rosary.

Luke describes the Annunciation in the first chapter of his Gospel, verses 26-38. The following English translation is taken from the New American Bible:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.  [Luke 1:26-38]

The Marian medallion in our Central Shrine is true to Luke’s biblical account. Gabriel’s opening greeting appears in Latin: “Ave Gratia plena”, “Hail favored one.” We use this opening salutation in our familiar Marian prayer: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…

Although initially confused about what this greeting meant Mary is bowed in humility before the heavenly messenger. Her hands are folded in prayer suggesting that this visitation from God’s messenger no doubt took place while Mary was deeply reflective in prayer. The lighted candle suggests as much as does the open book at Mary’s feet. Our Lady kneels before the angel in a gesture suggesting her acceptance of God’s will: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Gabriel faces Mary directly with eyes fixed on her as she hears the good news about her miraculous pregnancy. The angel’s right hand offers a blessing from God. At the same time the index and middle fingers are pointed heavenward expressing: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

In his left hand Gabriel is holding a lily, a symbol of Mary’s purity previously expressed in Gabriel’s salutation: “the Lord is with you.. you have found favor with God;” in this Lucan text we have the basis for our later more developed Marian theology of her perpetual purity and her own Immaculate Conception.

Below the title, The Annunciation, we see again the star of David, this time a reminder that the child to be born of Mary will fulfill Jewish expectations: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

In every way this medallion is a faithful rendering of Luke’s witness to the Annunciation. Our prayer this week draws upon Luke’s themes from his account of this event in Mary’s life.

We pray:

O Spirit of the living God,
create within us the willingness to do your will
in imitation of your daughter Mary who said
yes to your invitation to bring your Son into our world.

Remembering Gabriel’s promise that
nothing is impossible for you.
help all of us to bring Christ into our world
especially through our service of your poor.

Fill all of us with divine grace and
open us to new possibilities to do your holy Will.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the fourth Marian medallion that appears on our second stained glass window; it commemorates The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Espousal of Mary to Joseph


The Espousal of Mary to Joseph

November 28, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we meditate on the second medallion that appears in the first stained glass window in our Central Shrine. It commemorates The Espousal of Mary to her husband, Joseph.

In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, the author describes Joseph as “the husband of Mary” (Mt 1:16). Luke describes Mary as the betrothed of Joseph (Lk 1:27; 2:5). A ceremony of betrothal undoubtedly took place at Nazareth.

As was the custom in those days, the term “betrothal” indicated more than an engagement. It was customary to celebrate marriage in two stages: the first, that of the contractual arrangements culminating in consent or “betrothal.” After a period of perhaps one year in which preparations were made to establish a new home together, the second stage of actually conveying the wife to that home would be accompanied by a great feast such as that recounted in the Gospel of John as the Marriage Feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-11).

Accounts of the ceremonies of the betrothal and wedding feast of Joseph and Mary do not appear in the New Testament. The betrothal is described in the apocryphal Gospel of James mentioned last week. This non-canonical Gospel describes Joseph preparing the house to which he was to bring his betrothed. When Mary is found to be pregnant, the leaders of the community berated Joseph for taking Mary as his wife before a proper public wedding ceremony.

The scene, as it appears in the Shrine window, closely resembles the composition in a well-known window, Marriage of the Virgin, at the 12th century La collégiale Saint-Quiriace de Provins in France. Joseph stands to the left of the minister and faces Mary to his right. A close examination of our Shrine window reveals some interesting details.

Joseph holds a wedding ring in his extended right hand and Mary reaches out to receive it. She stands in a humble pose of acceptance, an expression of her obedience to God’s will. As she expressed to the angel Gabriel in her fiat: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Joseph has his eyes raised toward heaven, symbolic of his trust in the words of the angel Gabriel: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21).

In his left hand Joseph holds a staff. The lily atop the staff is a symbol of Joseph’s virtue as a just man. The apocryphal Gospel of James records that Joseph was chosen to be Mary’s husband because of a miraculous event. When Mary approached the age of betrothal, the priests arranged for her to take a husband. They called together eligible men acknowledged to be just, including the older widower Joseph. A dove miraculously emerged from his staff and rested on his head; the priests saw this as a sign that Joseph was the one God chose to marry Mary. In place of a dove, Christian artists have substituted a lily emerging from Joseph’s staff as a symbol of his virtue as the just man of the Gospels.

In our window, the priest witnessing their espousal stands with folded hands in an attitude of prayer between Mary and Joseph; like Joseph, his eyes are raised to heaven. He witnesses a truly holy event willed by God, Joseph taking the Mother of the Son of God into his care. Above the minister’s head is the Star of David, an appropriate reminder that the event takes place within the Jewish faith-tradition. Below the title, The Espousal, a red M superimposed over a red horn witnesses to Mary as the Bearer of the Word of God in her pregnancy.

In 1989, the Oblates of St. Joseph obtained permission to celebrate “The Holy Spouses Mary and Joseph” with the liturgical rank of “Feast;” they celebrate it on January 23 with proper liturgical texts. Our prayer this week is the preface from this feast:

In gratitude to Almighty God, we pray:

You give the Church the joy of celebrating
the feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph:

In her, full of grace and worthy Mother of your Son,
you signify the beginning of the Church,
resplendently beautiful bride of Christ;

You chose him, the wise and faithful servant,
as Husband of the Virgin Mother of God,
and made him head of your family,
to guard as a father your only Son,
conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.

With all the Angels and Saints
we sing to your glory.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the second stained glass window and the third medallion commemorating The Annunciation.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple


The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

November 21, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we begin our reflections on the 14 individual medallions adorning the seven stained glass windows in our Central Shrine. Our first reflection portrays the Presentation of Our Lady in the Jerusalem Temple.

This event is not recorded in any of our New Testament Gospels. The tradition comes instead from the non-canonical Gospel of James. This Gospel, also known as the Infancy Gospel of James or the Protoevangelium of James, is an apocryphal Gospel that was never accepted in the Church’s official Canon of the Bible; it was probably written about 145 AD. In it, the writer expands backward in time from the infancy stories contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This Gospel of James includes fanciful details that capture the iMagination of the reader; it mentions in some detail Mary’s early childhood and eventual presentation in the Temple.[1]

Joachim and Anna were an elderly and childless couple. They mourned their situation. An angel appeared to each of them and announced they would have a child. The Gospel describes Anna’s experience and her promise to the Lord:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood in front of her, saying, “Anna, Anna, the Lord God has heard your prayer. You will conceive and give birth, and your child will be spoken of everywhere people live.” And Anna said, “As the Lord God lives, whether I give birth to either a male or a female child, I will bring it as an offering to the Lord my God, and it will be a servant to him all the days of its life.” (James 4:1-2)

The couple named their female baby, “Mary.” On the child’s third birthday, her parents made good Anna’s promise to God. The Gospel describes the special circumstances surrounding the presentation of the child Mary to the High Priest in the Temple:

When the child turned three, Joachim said, “Let’s call the pure women of the Hebrews. Let them take up lamps and light them so that the child will not turn back, and her heart will never be led away from the temple of the Lord.” And they did these things until they went up to the temple of the Lord.

And the priest welcomed her. Kissing her, he blessed her and said, “The Lord God has magnified your name for all generations; through you the Lord will reveal deliverance to the children of Israel in the last days.” And he set her down on the third step of the altar and the Lord God poured grace upon her. She danced triumphantly with her drinks, and every house in Israel loved her.

And her parents went down, marveling at and praising and glorifying the Lord God because the child had not turned back to look at them. While Mary was in the temple of the Lord, she was fed like a dove and received food from the hand of an angel. (James 7:4-8:2)

Our first stained glass medallion portrays this event. Like all the Shrine windows portraying the life of Mary, this one includes marvelous details which stir our iMagination. The interpretation depends upon the eye of the beholder as it does when reflecting on any works of art or poetry. What follows is my take on this image.

The child Mary enters the Temple with hands folded in prayer. It is evident that she has learned piety from her parents. She no longer looks back at her mother behind her. Anna kneels with her head bowed, in an attitude of reverence, as she offers her daughter to the Lord. Her hands hold a lit torch that suggests she has made good her vow to God.

The High Priest looks upon the toddler and greets Mary with his left hand extended and his right hand offering a blessing.

Several details enhance the setting. A sanctuary lamp burns brightly above the scene. Below the title Presentation of Our Lady, a six pointed star, the star of David, underscores the Jewish setting of this scene. As we have seen before, this star is the creator’s star; it is composed of two triangles, hinting at the Trinity, the Christian God of the New Israel.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (as it is known in the West), or The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (its name in the East), is a liturgical feast celebrated on November 21 by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Our prayer this week is the Collect Prayer from the Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We pray:

As we venerate the glorious memory
of the most holy Virgin Mary,
grant, we pray, O Lord, through her intercession,
that we, too, may merit to receive
from the fullness of your grace.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we will move our attention to the second medallion, The Espousal of Mary to Joseph.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] For an English translation go to http://www.asu.edu/courses/rel376/total-readings/james.pdf

The Windows in the Miraculous Medal Shrine


The Windows in the Miraculous Medal Shrine
November 14, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Gorgeous stained glass windows surround our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal; each window displays two medallions. In the weeks ahead, we will reflect on all 14 scenes, the details of which are truly amazing and inspiring. They portray scenes from the life our Blessed Lady from her own presentation in the Temple to her Assumption into heaven. This week, we describe these windows in general.

Beginning on the North side, to the left as one faces the Shrine, and moving along the curved wall behind the Virgo Potens altar to the South side, one sees a series of seven windows celebrating events in the life of our Blessed Lady. The first window displays two events that do not appear in our New Testament Gospels; while they appear in an apocryphal (non-biblical) Gospel of James, the Church does celebrate both these events: the Presentation of the Child Mary in the Temple, and Mary’s Espousal to Joseph. Except for the last scene that portrays the Assumption of Mary into heaven, all the other eleven medallions portray scenes from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Here is a complete list of the fourteen scenes portraying events in the life of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal:

The windows on the NORTH side:

1. The Presentation of Mary in the Temple
2. The Espousal of Mary to Joseph
3. The Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus
4. The Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth
5. The Nativity of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem
6. The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple

The window hidden BEHIND the Virgo Potens altar:

1. The Flight of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph into Egypt
2. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

The windows on the SOUTH side:

1. The Holy Family in Nazareth
2. The Marriage Feast at Cana
3. The encounter of Mary with Jesus on his Way to Calvary
4. The Crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary
5. The event of Pentecost
6. The Assumption of Mary

Like the small Rose Window above the Central Shrine and the large Rose Window on the front face of the Chapel, the Marian windows within our Central Shrine make use of glass in the strong blue coloring known as Bernardini blue. The stained glass emulates that of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and of the Cathedral of Chartres of the 1200s; the former breathtaking structure was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns, one of the most important relics in medieval Christendom.

Our prayer this week is taken from the Collect for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

We pray:

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin
prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,
grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain
by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,
so, through her intercessions,
we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Next week we shall begin our detailed look at each of the 14 Marian scenes portrayed in our Shrine stained glass windows. We will begin with The Presentation of Mary in the Temple.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Lighting for the Central Shrine and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception


The LIGHTING for the CENTRAL SHRINE

and the CHAPEL of the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
November 7, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

We have spent the past 17 weeks describing the many religious symbols in our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. This week we deal with the lighting that enhances both this gorgeous Central Shrine and other shrines in our Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. We will also mention some possibilities for visitors to honor Mary by lighting votive candles before various Shrines.

Light, in our Catholic tradition, reminds us of Christ, the Light of the World. During the Easter Season and at every baptism, the Paschal Candle dramatizes this Light, overcoming the darkness of sin. Votive candles also represent the faithful, who offer prayer requests and honor Mary by lighting a candle, which remains lit after their visit to the Shrine.

Vigil lights represent the persons who own them before they present them to Mary. Devotees at our Shrine have an opportunity to give something of themselves by purchasing candles. The gift of their votive candles represents their prayer intentions for Mary’s help. People present them to Mary as a gift to her to keep their intentions and themselves before her in our Chapel. 

The image above is a photo of the lighting in our Central Shrine. It is the image you see in all of my Shrine Reflections as videos conclude with a word of thanks to each of you, the devotees of Mary. It is basically how the Shrine appears during two special times during our Summer Novena of Hope and the November Solemn Novena. Every Monday, most of these lights adorn the Central Shrine when we celebrate eight novenas honoring Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

As the sun sets outside, the lighting automatically shifts to a meditative soft blue glow.

In the environment of this Central Shrine there are dramatic candelabra which remain perpetually lit to honor Mary and to invoke her assistance for members of Mary’s Miraculous Medal Family – those who are yearly members of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal. Weekly intentions of those who pray at the Shrine are placed in a box before the Virgo Potens Altar.

Throughout the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception there are votive stands that offer opportunities for the faithful to request prayers for special intentions. If you so desire, you can request lighted candles on our web site (www.cammonline.org) or by approaching our staff in the Gift Shop during visiting hours.

Prices for votive candles vary widely. For the suggested donation of $250, you can place a votive candle for one year and request its location at one of three Shrines on the upper level:

(1) Before the statue of St. Catherine Labouré to the right of the Central Shrine,
(2) In front of the replica of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Pieta in the Chapel of the Holy Agony, or
(3) Near the replica of the First Apparition of the The Virgin of the Chair in front of St. Joseph’s Altar.

Your Memorial Votive Light will display any inscription of your choice, e.g., “A Gift from Mary’s Grateful Devotee,” or “For favors received through Mary,” or “For the Family of …,” etc.

On the lower level, smaller votive lights are available for pilgrims to display their devotion to Mary and to offer their prayer intentions before her. Many of these are located in a beautiful Shrine honoring The Virgin of the Globe (from the second apparition of Mary to St. Catherine Labouré). Others are placed before various images close to this Shrine:

•   Our Lady of Vailankanni, the Patroness of India;
•   Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and all of the Americas;
•   the Sacred Heart of Jesus, honoring the heart crowned with thorns on the Miraculous Medal; and
•   a large, ornate likeness of the front side of the Miraculous Medal.

Our prayer this week comes from the Blessing and Investiture with the Sacred Medal of Mary Immaculate (today known as the Miraculous Medal).

We pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
who willed that Your Mother,
the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived without sin,
should become illustrious through countless miracles;
grant that we who ever seek her patronage
may finally possess everlasting joys.

We ask this of You,
who live and reign forever and ever.

Amen.

Next week we shall begin to examine the gorgeous and detailed Marian stained glass windows that adorn the Central Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Marian Symbols in the Floor Mosaic


MARIAN SYMBOLS in the FLOOR MOSAIC

OCTOBER 31, 2017

Marian Symbols in the Floor Mosaic – See below for close-up images showing more detail.

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

This week we focus on the specific floral MARIAN SYMBOLS incorporated into the mosaic on the floor of the Central Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

The mosaic appropriately celebrates Mary, the central figure in our Central Shrine. The large centerpiece displays her name “Mary;” encircled by roses, she is the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. In Marian art, roses are often associated with Our Blessed Lady.

The rose is a symbol that has a rich and ancient history. Like the cross, it can have paradoxical meanings. It is at once a symbol of purity and a symbol of passion, heavenly perfection and earthly passion; virginity and fertility; death and life.

The third-century Saint Ambrose believed that there were roses in the Garden of Eden. Initially these were without thorns, but they became thorny after the Fall and came to symbolize Original Sin itself. Thus, the Blessed Virgin is often referred to as the “rose without thorns,” since she was immaculately conceived. St. Bernard of Clairvaux compared her virginity to a white rose and her charity to a red rose.

The rose became a privileged symbol for Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth. During the Middle Ages, the rose also became an attribute of many other holy women, including Elizabeth of Hungary, Elizabeth of Portugal, Casilda of Toledo, and the martyrs in general. The rose is even a symbol for Christ, as seen in the German Christmas song, Es ist ein ‘Ros’ entsprungen.

Close-up details of the floral Marian symbols incorporated into the mosaic on the floor of the Central Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

With the rise of Marian devotion and the Gothic cathedral in the 12th century, the image of the rose became even more prominent in religious life. Cathedrals built around this time usually included a rose window, dedicated to the Virgin, at the end of a transept or above the entrance. Our Chapel boasts a gorgeous Marian rose window above the choir loft.

Sprigs of flowers are featured in two small mosaics to the right and left of the central Marian mosaic; they symbolize Mary’s virtues. The top small mosaic displays two palm branches that symbolize Mary Queen of Martyrs. The bottom small mosaic displays three symbols: a sword portraying Mary Comforter of the Afflicted; a flaming torch symbolizing Mary the Seat of Wisdom; and a horn witnessing to Mary the Bearer of the Word of God.

This Marian floor mosaic, then, is a great tribute to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. In geometric shapes and symbols, important truths of our faith and of our Marian devotion are memorialized in colored marble and floral images against mosaic golden chips.

Our prayer this week honors Our Lady of Fatima.[1]

We pray:

O Most Holy Virgin Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary,
you were pleased to appear to the children of Fatima and reveal a glorious message.
We implore you, inspire in our hearts a fervent love for the recitation of the Rosary.

By meditating on the mysteries of the redemption that are recalled therein
may we obtain the graces and virtues that we ask,
through the merits of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.

Amen.

Next week, we shall review some of the lighting that adorns our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] Listed as one of the Marian prayers at http://www.marypages.com/PrayerstoMary.htm

The Floor Mosaic Honoring Mary


The FLOOR MOSAIC Honoring MARY

OCTOBER 24, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Our attention this week moves to the floor of the Central Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, specifically the FLOOR MOSAIC honoring Mary.

Geometric shapes compose this complex mosaic. Symbolically, stars represent various Christian truths. The mosaic includes eight-pointed stars that symbolize regeneration. The number eight is traditionally associated with the ideas of regeneration or baptism.

Other stars include the following:

Five-pointed stars symbolize the Epiphany, the manifestation of God to the Gentiles represented by the Three Wise Men from the East who followed the Star of Bethlehem.

Six-pointed stars represent the Creator’s star or the symbol of creation. Made of two triangles, the star emphasizes the Holy Trinity and God’s work in the process of creation. Together the triangles portray the Jewish Star of David, ancestor of Jesus the King of Israel.

Seven- and nine-pointed stars refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

All these shapes, including the large 12-sided Star of David, adorn this striking floor mosaic. The 12-sided star recalls the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus to preach the Good News to all Nations. On the Miraculous Medal, 12 stars surround Mary’s head, and, on the reverse side, 12 stars surround the symbols of Mary and Jesus.

On the whole, this attractive floor mosaic appeals to anyone who appreciates symbolism in Christian art. As we shall see in our next refection, the main overall symbolism honors Mary in her Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.

Our prayer this week is the Collect the Church prays on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th. We pray:

Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness,
that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God,
may, with the help of her intercession, rise up from our iniquities.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to the specific MARIAN IMAGES that make up the floor mosaic in our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage, and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

 

The Angel Holding the Monogram of the Heart of Jesus


The ANGEL holding the MONOGRAM of the HEART of JESUS

OCTOBER 17, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Our attention this week moves to another angel above the Virgo Potens altar, the one holding a shield with the image of the heart of Jesus surrounded by a crown of thorns. This image, of course, represents the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross, and bleeding.  The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus’ death while the fire represents the transformative power of Divine Love. Thus, the image represents both the passion and the resurrection of the Lord. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply His physical heart but also His love for all mankind. In this form, the image appears on the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal alongside the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of the most widely practiced and well-known Roman Catholic devotions; Jesus Christ’s physical heart represents His divine love for all of us. The devotion is especially concerned with what the Church deems to be the long-suffering love and compassion of the heart of Christ towards humanity.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least to the 11th century. Through the 16th century, it remained a private devotion often tied to devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ. Through the efforts of Fr. Jean Eudes (1602-1680), the first Feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated on August 31, 1670, in Rennes, France. From Rennes, the devotion spread, but it took the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) for the devotion to become universal. In all of her visions between 1673 and 1675, the Sacred Heart of Jesus played a central role. The “great apparition,” which took place on June 16, 1675, during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, is the source of the modern Feast of the Sacred Heart.

The devotion became quite popular after St. Margaret Mary’s death in 1690. Because the Church initially had doubts about the validity of St. Margaret Mary’s visions, it wasn’t until 1765 that the feast was celebrated officially in France. Almost 100 years later, in 1856, Pope Pius IX, at the request of the French bishops, extended the feast to the Universal Church. It is celebrated on the day requested by our Lord – the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, or 19 days after Pentecost Sunday.

Our Lord promised St. Margaret Mary that 12 blessings will be extended to those who practice devotion to the Sacred Heart. The 12th promise is the basis for the popular Catholic devotion of nine First Fridays:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the Sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

In the 19th century, another Roman Catholic nun in Portugal, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, a religious of the Good Shepherd, received special revelations about the Sacred Heart. In the name of Christ, she petitioned Pope Leo XIII to consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At first the Pope disregarded her request. Her second letter, however, motivated Pope Leo XIII to accede to Christ’s request. She wrote:

One might find it strange that Our Lord should ask for this consecration of the entire world and not content Himself with [that of] the Catholic Church. But His desire to reign, to be loved and glorified, and to set ablaze all hearts with His love and His mercy is so ardent that He wants Your Holiness to offer Him the hearts of all those who belong to Him by Baptism, to facilitate their return to the true Church, and the hearts of those who have not yet received spiritual life by Holy Baptism, but for whom He has given His life and His Blood and who are equally called to be one day children of the Holy Church, to hasten by this means their spiritual birth.

On June 9, 1899 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In his encyclical letter Annum sacrum (May 25, 1899), he also encouraged the entire Roman Catholic episcopate to promote the First Friday Devotions, established June as the Month of the Sacred Heart, and included the Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heart. Many of us will remember consecrating our families to the Sacred Heart and enshrining the image in a prominent place in our homes.

The joint devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first formulated in the 17th century. St. John Eudes obtained the approbation of the Church years prior to the visions of Saint Margaret Mary. Since 1832, the Miraculous Medal greatly advanced joint devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Medal displays the Sacred Heart alongside the pierced heart of His Mother Mary.

Modern popes have supported the individual and joint devotions to the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Pope St. John Paul II in his 1979 encyclical Redemptor Hominis elaborated upon the theme of the unity of Mary’s Immaculate Heart with the Sacred Heart. In an address on September 15, 1985, he coined the term “The Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.” The Miraculous Medal symbolically affirms this same holy alliance between Christ crucified and His blessed Mother.

Our prayer this week is the Collect taken from the Liturgy for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. We pray:

O Grant, we pray, Almighty God,
that we, who glory in the Heart of Your beloved Son
and recall the wonders of His love for us,
may be made worthy to receive
an overflowing measure of grace from that fount of heavenly gifts.

Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen!

Next week we shall move our attention to a very interesting MARIAN MOSAIC displaying a variety of geometric figures. It adorns the floor of our Central Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Angel Holding the Monogram of the Cross of Jesus


The ANGEL Holding the Monogram of the CROSS of JESUS

OCTOBER 10, 2017

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Our attention this week moves to the angel holding a shield with the monogram of Christ’s Cross. The cross appears on the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal. It represents not only the victory of Christ over sin and death but also His passion and death on Calvary. At every Mass, we not only remember Jesus’ death on Calvary but also relive that mystery; His sacrifice is made present for us in an unbloody manner so we can participate in the death and resurrection of Christ.

The cross in early Christianity:

During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross was rare in Christian iconography, as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution and Christians were reluctant to use it. They used instead the symbol of a fish to communicate in secret with fellow believers; the Greek word for fish was an acrostic with the letters representing Jesus-Christ-God-Savior.

St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians stressed the centrality of the cross of Jesus:

But may I never boast except in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (Gal. 6:14-18).

In contemporary Christianity, the cross is a symbol of the atonement and reminds us of God’s love in sacrificing his own Son for humanity. It represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through His death and resurrection He conquered death itself. As St. Paul proclaimed to the Colossians:

And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He brought you to life along with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, He also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross; despoiling the principalities and the powers, He made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it (Col. 2:13-15).

As Catholics, we often use the Sign of the Cross to begin our prayers. At every Baptism, the priest, as well as the parents and sponsors of a child, sign the forehead of an infant with the cross, a sign of our faith in God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and in the death and resurrection of the Lord.

The cross that appears on the Miraculous Medal rests upon a crossbeam. This beam divides the realm of earthly existence below from the realm of heavenly existence above. As such it recalls the true nature of the one who was crucified and is victorious over sin and death; He is both human and Divine, both son of Mary and Son of God.

The same crossbar suggests also the altar that symbolizes Christ offering Himself in every Mass; it appears as a side view of the Mensa, the cover of the altar of sacrifice. We approach the altar with faith in the risen Christ who is really present there, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. Here at the altar, we encounter the One who consoles us in all our needs. As St. Catherine Labouré reported about her conversation with Our Lady: “As to what I should do in time of trouble, [Mary] pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and to open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation I needed.”

Mary, symbolized by the “M,” appears entwined with the crossbar as one who participates in the mystery of the cross of her Son. That cross represents not only his victory over sin and death in His resurrection but also His suffering and death by which He has atoned for our sins. Mary participates in both aspects of this redemptive work of her Divine Son. She is both Our Mother of Sorrows as well as Our Mother of Mercy.

Our prayer this week comes from the Liturgy for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is the Collect the Church will pray on Friday, September 15th. We pray:

O God, who willed that,
when your Son was lifted high on the cross,
His Mother should stand close by and share His suffering,
grant that your Church,
participating with the Virgin Mary in the passion of Christ,
may merit a share in His resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

Next week, we shall move our attention to another angel above the Virgo Potens altar, the one holding a shield displaying the heart of Jesus surrounded with thorns.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

 

 

The Angel Holding the Monogram of Mary’s Heart


MIRACULOUS MEDAL SHRINE REFLECTIONS:
The Angel Holding the “M” Shield
September 26, 2017Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady, Our attention this week moves to the large angels above the Virgo Potens altar. We will take our time to reflect on the significance of the shields that each holds, beginning today with the “M” monogram.Four reflections will give us the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the symbolism that appears on the reverse side of the Medal revealed to St. Catherine Labouré. Today’s image: the large “M” intertwined with a crossbar represents Mary.Symbolically, Mary stands at the foot of the Cross and hears her Son’s words that ground our Catholic belief that she is our Mother. “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son. Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27). God has ordained that Mary become our Mother; her maternal care has been revealed to St. Catherine Labouré.The reverse side of the Miraculous Medal portrays a profound Marian mystery. Mary at the foot of the Cross is intertwined with her Son symbolized by the “M” resting on the crossbar. In Catholic tradition, Mary has joined herself to the sufferings of her Son; she participates in His work of redemption. The mercy of God comes to us through Mary’s Son and His Mother’s intercession.The Medal portrays the Cross of Jesus resting on a crossbar. This vertical bar can be viewed as the dividing line between the realms of this world below and that of Divine Life above. The bar is also suggestive of an altar with the mensa (altar top) viewed from the front. As such, it recalls Mary’s promise to St. Catherine in the first apparition; Catherine tells us: “As to what I should do in time of trouble, [Mary] pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and to open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation I needed.”The first angel above the Shrine altar, then, holds a shield emblazoned with one of the main symbols on the Miraculous Medal – the “M” representing Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. As a messenger of God, this angel presents Mary to all of us. The angel is a visual reminder that the miraculous power related to the use of the Medal since 1832 comes ultimately from the throne of God who, through divine messengers, deigns to involve human beings in the mystery of redemption.Among these human messengers, the Son of God holds primary as Son of Mary and Son of God. Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of Angels and of Saints, also hold a primary place over all creatures, including angels. She is a messenger of God’s mercy. Through her intercession, we all benefit from the mercy of God. Some Catholics today look forward to the day when Pope Francis will proclaim Mary Co-Redemptrix with her Divine Son. The Church already honors her as Mother of Mercy and Co-Mediatrix with Christ.Two years before his death, St. Vincent offered a prayer to consecrate the Daughters of Charity to Mary their Mother; the prayer mentions her role as Mother of Mercy.  With Vincent, in solidarity with the Daughters of Charity throughout the world, we renew their consecration to Mary. Together with them we pray:

Mary, Mother of God and our Mother:

Since the Company of Charity has been established
under the standard of your perfection,
if we have hitherto called you our Mother,
we now entreat you to accept the offering we make you
of the Company in general
and each of its members in particular.
And, because you allow us to call you Mother,
and you are the Mother of Mercy,
the channel through which all mercy flows;
and because, as we believe,
you obtained from God the establishment of this Company,
be pleased to take it under Your protection.

AMEN!

(Coste X, p. 500)

Next week, we shall reflect on another angel above the Shrine altar, the one holding a shield displaying Mary’s heart.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Angel Holding the “M” Shield


MIRACULOUS MEDAL SHRINE REFLECTIONS:
The Angel Holding the “M” Shield
September 26, 2017Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,Our attention this week moves to the large angels above the Virgo Potens altar. We will take our time to reflect on the significance of the shields that each holds, beginning today with the “M” monogram.Four reflections will give us the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the symbolism that appears on the reverse side of the Medal revealed to St. Catherine Labouré. Today’s image: the large “M” intertwined with a crossbar represents Mary.Symbolically, Mary stands at the foot of the Cross and hears her Son’s words that ground our Catholic belief that she is our Mother. “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son. Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27). God has ordained that Mary become our Mother; her maternal care has been revealed to St. Catherine Labouré.The reverse side of the Miraculous Medal portrays a profound Marian mystery. Mary at the foot of the Cross is intertwined with her Son symbolized by the “M” resting on the crossbar. In Catholic tradition, Mary has joined herself to the sufferings of her Son; she participates in His work of redemption. The mercy of God comes to us through Mary’s Son and His Mother’s intercession.The Medal portrays the Cross of Jesus resting on a crossbar. This vertical bar can be viewed as the dividing line between the realms of this world below and that of Divine Life above. The bar is also suggestive of an altar with the mensa (altar top) viewed from the front. As such, it recalls Mary’s promise to St. Catherine in the first apparition; Catherine tells us: “As to what I should do in time of trouble, [Mary] pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and to open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation I needed.”The first angel above the Shrine altar, then, holds a shield emblazoned with one of the main symbols on the Miraculous Medal – the “M” representing Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. As a messenger of God, this angel presents Mary to all of us. The angel is a visual reminder that the miraculous power related to the use of the Medal since 1832 comes ultimately from the throne of God who, through divine messengers, deigns to involve human beings in the mystery of redemption.Among these human messengers, the Son of God holds primary as Son of Mary and Son of God. Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of Angels and of Saints, also hold a primary place over all creatures, including angels. She is a messenger of God’s mercy. Through her intercession, we all benefit from the mercy of God. Some Catholics today look forward to the day when Pope Francis will proclaim Mary Co-Redemptrix with her Divine Son. The Church already honors her as Mother of Mercy and Co-Mediatrix with Christ.Two years before his death, St. Vincent offered a prayer to consecrate the Daughters of Charity to Mary their Mother; the prayer mentions her role as Mother of Mercy.  With Vincent, in solidarity with the Daughters of Charity throughout the world, we renew their consecration to Mary. Together with them we pray:

Mary, Mother of God and our Mother:

Since the Company of Charity has been established
under the standard of your perfection,
if we have hitherto called you our Mother,
we now entreat you to accept the offering we make you
of the Company in general
and each of its members in particular.
And, because you allow us to call you Mother,
and you are the Mother of Mercy,
the channel through which all mercy flows;
and because, as we believe,
you obtained from God the establishment of this Company,
be pleased to take it under Your protection.

AMEN!

(Coste X, p. 500)

Next week, we shall reflect on another angel above the Shrine altar, the one holding a shield displaying Mary’s heart.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

The Choirs of Angels Above the Virgo Potens Altar


MIRACULOUS MEDAL SHRINE REFLECTIONS:
The Choirs of Angels  Above the Virgo Potens Altar
September 19, 2017Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,Our attention this week moves to the ceiling of the Central Shrine, specifically to the Choirs of cherubic angels. They surround images that speak to us of the Holy Spirit (a dove) and the power of God (the all-seeing Eye of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). As we saw in last week’s reflection, in our Christian tradition, angels are messengers of the Almighty. So, then, what messages do we hear from their visual witness on our Shrine ceiling?The first group of cherubs surrounds a dove. The dove in our history has deep spiritual meaning. Paragraph 701 of our General Catechism describes the dove as one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit:

The dove. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive-tree branch in its beak as a sign that the earth was again habitable. When Christ comes up from the water of His Baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon Him and remains with Him. The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized. In certain churches, the Eucharist is reserved in a metal receptacle in the form of a dove suspended above the altar. Christian iconography traditionally uses a dove to suggest the Spirit.

All four of the Gospels witness to the scene of Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan River.[1] Just prior to Jesus beginning His earthly ministry, He went to John the Baptist to be baptized. We read this account in Luke 3:21-22, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. As He was praying, Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from Heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.’”

Matthew records the same thing from a different perspective, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment, heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him” (3:16). Mark writes, “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw Heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove” (1:10). John also records this event in his Gospel as he wrote, “Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him’” (1:32).

The dove, then, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. A dove also represents peace. When a believer receives the Holy Spirit and is born again, he has the peace of God on him (Rom 5:1) and is then at peace with God. The visual message on our Shrine ceiling thus emphasizes the power of the Spirit at work in the tradition of Mary’s Miraculous Medal. Only God’s power in the Spirit can make miracles happen. At the same time, Our Lady has an intercessory role in distributing God’s favors. All of God’s merciful action in relationship to believers not only flows through Mary’s Son Jesus, but also through herself as His Mother whom the Lord gave to us as our Mother.

The second circle of cherubs surrounds an eye within a triangle and circle. The symbolism here is clear. The all-seeing eye of God emphasizes that all comes under his purview and influence. The triangle symbolizes the Christian understanding of God as the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The circle, which also appears in the other circle of angels, portrays eternity, without end – the whole universe under God’s providence.

It is curious that those who crafted our two choirs of cherubic angels chose to use a mirror image of the cherubs – the one is a reverse image of the other.

The overall message could not be clearer. The power of the Miraculous Medal reflects the divine power that comes from God. It is the power of the Spirit at work in all who are baptized, above all the Lord upon whom God’s Spirit rested and remained. The same power of God is at work in Christ’s Body, the Church, especially in Her sacramental life.

Our prayer this week is adapted from a Prayer to the Holy Angels recommended online by the Knights of Columbus.[2] We pray:

O loving God, Creator of the heavenly armies,
although we are always unworthy, we beseech you that, with their prayers,
you may encircle us with the protection of the wings of their angelic glory.
Through your angelic hosts, watch over us as we bow low and earnestly cry out to you:
Deliver us from trouble, O Creator of your heavenly armies.

Amen.

Next week we shall move our attention to the large angels standing above our Shrine altar, beginning with the one holding a shield with the letter “M” that appears on the reverse side of the Miraculous Medal.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

 

[1] The following description comes from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/07/13/what-does-a-dove-mean-or-represent-in-the-bible/

[2] Prayer adapted from one that appears at https://www.kofc.org/en/resources/cis/devotionals/saints.pdf.

The Angels on the Ceiling above the Virgo Potens Altar


MIRACULOUS MEDAL SHRINE REFLECTIONS:
The Angels on the Ceiling above the Virgo Potens Altar
September 12, 2017Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,Our attention this week moves to Angels on the ceiling of the Central Shrine above the Virgo Potens altar.These are not the only images of angelic messengers in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. The three dramatic paintings in the main sanctuary include angels. On the left, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to announce that she will be the Mother of God. The painting in the center portrays the Immaculate Conception surrounded by many cherubs.On the right is the painting depicting the Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. Seven circular stain glass windows above the main sanctuary display angels holding symbols of the three theological virtues and four cardinal virtues. Angels also appear on the edges of the beautiful Rose Window above the chapel balcony.There are carvings of angels on the new canopy over the main tabernacle. Sculpted angels support the altar honoring St. Vincent de Paul.What do angels represent in our Judeo-Christian tradition? [1]Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states about angels. Their existence is a truth of our Christian faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328). St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit;’ if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel:’ from what they are, ‘spirit,’ from what they do, ‘angel.’”  With their whole beings, the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in Heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do His word, hearkening to the voice of His word” (329).They are Christ’s angels; He is the center of their world: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him…”Like all things, angels were created through Him. They belong to Him more than any other creatures because God had made them messengers of His saving plan (331).Paragraph 333 describes the presence of angels since creation and throughout the history of salvation:

Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.

From the Incarnation to the Ascension of Christ, angels surrounded the life of the Word Incarnate with their adoration and service. Paragraph 334 summarizes this service and adoration:

When God “brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him.’” Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!” They protect Jesus in His infancy, serve Him in the desert, strengthen Him in His agony in the garden, when He could have been saved by them from the hands of His enemies as Israel had been. Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection. They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at His judgment.

Throughout history, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels. Paragraphs 335 and 336 describe this influence:

In Her Liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance in the funeral liturgy’s In Paradisum deducant te angeli. . .[“May the angels lead you into Paradise…”]. Moreover, in the “Cherubic Hymn” of the Byzantine Liturgy, She celebrates the memory of certain angels – more particularly St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels.

From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God. The angels in the life of the Church.

In summary, our Faith asserts that Angels exist; they are divine messengers who do God’s will. They protect the Church and guide Her members.

Our prayer this week comes from the Liturgy in the Roman Rite. It appears as part of the first Eucharistic Prayer and mention’s God’s holy Angel. We pray:

We entreat you, almighty God,
that, by the hands of your holy Angel,
this offering may be borne to your altar in Heaven
in the sight of your Divine Majesty,
so that as we receive in communion at this altar
the Most Holy Body and Blood of Your Son,
we may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace.

Next week, we shall comment on the messages of the choirs of angels portrayed above the Shrine altar; one encircling a dove and the other, an eye in a triangle.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] Numerical references indicate sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Saint Vincent de Paul above the Virgo Potens Altar

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Today, we take a closer look at the image of St. Vincent de Paul that appears on Mary’s right side on the triptych above and behind the Shrine altar.

He stands in a pose that appears as a mirror reflection of the one struck by St. Louise on Mary’s left. Like those of St. Louise, Vincent’s hands suggest he is receiving blessings from Mary and extending them to his followers. In 1633, Vincent and Louise co-founded the Daughters of Charity. Almost two centuries later, in 1830, St. Catherine Labouré, a novice preparing to join the Daughters, experienced Mary’s appearances that we have memorialized in our Central Shrine.

Vincent lived in the 17th century. As a newly ordained priest, he sought to escape from the poverty of his origins by accepting several benefices (permanent Church appointments, typically that of a rector or vicar, for which property and income are provided in respect of pastoral duties). With the help of spiritual directors, he felt himself called to a deeper holiness. Through two separate events in 1617, Divine Providence moved him to a firm determination to dedicate himself to the salvation of the poor.

The first event took place in Gannes, where, through his help, a dying man made a good Confession. On the 25th of January, 1617, in Folleville, Vincent preached on the need for a General Confession; so many people responded that other clerics were enlisted to hear all their Confessions. This experience of the need for Penance led Vincent to commit himself to evangelize the poor in the country districts of France. Eight years later, he formally established the Congregation of Mission to preach the Gospel to the poor.

The second event took place in Châtillon-les-Dombes on August 22, 1617. It involved the establishment of a Confraternity of Charity to assist the poor in the parish where Vincent was pastor. Eventually, he enlisted the help of St. Louise de Marillac, and, in time, they co-founded the Daughters of Charity in 1633.

Years later, in a conference to his confreres, Vincent looked back to the year 1617 as the origin of his vocation. The Congregation of the Mission was established in 1625, and the Daughters of Charity founded in 1633. This year, 2017, then, is the 400th Anniversary of the establishment of the Vincentian Charism.

Today, Vincent is acknowledged as the inspiration for many other groups who are true Vincentians. All of them share Vincent’s concern to serve the poor. Together, they are planning events to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the founding of their Charism to serve the poor. The extended Vincentian Family today includes, among others, the following groups:

1. Ladies of Charity (wealthy women whom Vincent involved in caring for the poor);
2. Confraternities of Charity (that began in 1617);
3. Congregation of the Mission (established in 1625);
4. Daughters of Charity (established in 1633);
5. Confraternity of the Children of Mary (requested by Our Lady when speaking to St. Catherine in 1830, and formally established 16 years later);
6. Members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society; (begun by Blessed Frederick Ozanam in 1833); and
7. Members of the Federation of the Sisters of Charity (six communities tracing their roots to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, their founder).

It was members of the Congregation of the Mission who built the chapel that houses our Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. The first group of Vincentians arrived in Baltimore in 1816, and established roots in Perryville, Missouri. From there, a group traveled to Philadelphia in 1841 at the invitation of Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick. Ten years later, the community established St. Vincent’s Parish in Germantown, Philadelphia; that parish community continues to the present day. The Vincentian congregation purchased a property in 1865, which became St. Vincent’s Seminary. The plan to build a seminary chapel began in 1871. At the request of Bishop James Frederick, the new chapel provided access for the public; to the present day, the building retains its original title, Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. In 1927, our gorgeous Shrine of the Immaculate Conception replaced an original side chapel dedicated to St. Vincent.

How fitting that St. Vincent de Paul should hold a place of honor in the Shrine Chapel. After all, his spiritual sons built St. Vincent’s Seminary and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Through the world, Vincentian priests, brothers, and sisters have been promoting devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Five years after the establishment of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, under the supervision of its Director, Father Joseph Skelly, CM, the Central Shrine replaced the former St. Vincent’s Chapel. That gorgeous tribute to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal remains the focus for Vincentian Marian piety originally demonstrated by the Vincentian founders St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and St. Catherine Labouré. Members of the Congregation of the Mission continue to promote all the spiritual activities in the Shrine.

In this year commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the establishment of the Vincentian Charism, we ask God to inspire all Vincentians to serve the poor.

We pray:

Lord, Merciful Father,
who instilled in Saint Vincent de Paul
a great concern for the evangelization of the poor,

infuse your Spirit in the hearts of his followers,
that, as we hear the cry of your abandoned children,
we may run to their assistance,
“like someone who runs to put out a fire.”
Revive within us the flame of the Charism,
that flame which has animated our missionary life for 400 years.
We ask this in the name of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Lord,
the Evangelizer of the Poor.

Amen

Next week, we shall move our attention to the ceiling of the Central Shrine of Our Lady — images of angels overshadowing the Virgo Potens altar.
Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

St. Louise de Marillac Above the Virgo Potens Altar

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Today we take a closer look at the image of St. Louise de Marillac that appears to Mary’s left on the triptych above and behind the Shrine altar.  [1]

We see St. Louise gazing in the direction of our Blessed Lady, her right hand poised to receive the blessings and protection promised by Mary to St. Catherine Labouré. Her left hand is higher in a gesture suggesting Louise is passing on Mary’s blessings to her Daughters and the poor whom they have served since she and St. Vincent co-founded the Daughters of Charity. This is the community that St. Catherine Labouré eventually joined in Paris in 1830.

During her adult life, Louise held a leadership role in the Ladies of Charity, an organization of rich women. They were the first group organized by St. Vincent. He had enlisted wealthy women of the royal court to assist persons oppressed by poverty and disease.

As early as 1629, Vincent invited Louise to assist him with another group, the Confraternities of Charity. He had helped establish such groups 12 years earlier. Vincent organized the first confraternity in August 1617, in Châtillon-les-Domes as a response to the urgent needs that he found in this village where he served as pastor.

Through activities like these, Louise gained a deep knowledge of the needs of the poor, developed her innate management skills, and identified effective structures for service. These tasks were therapeutic for Louise and formative for her future work.  On November 29, 1633, in her own home, she began to train young, mostly simple, uneducated women to address the needs of poor persons and to gain support for their life together. From this humble beginning, the community of the Daughters of Charity emerged. Until her death in 1660, Louise provided leadership and expert management to the evolving network of services she and Vincent inspired.

Very likely, Louise never knew her own mother, so she always looked to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, as her mother. In her extensive writings, St. Louise frequently mentions the Virgin Mary. She invokes her in all sorts of circumstances; she offers her as a model for herself and her Daughters; she finds a place for Mary in her painting; and she eventually persuades St. Vincent to consecrate the Community of the Daughters of Charity to Mary.

In his conference of December 8, 1658, to the Daughters, Vincent de Paul offered this prayer to Mary:

Since the Company of Charity has been established under the standard of your perfection, if we have hitherto called you our Mother, we now entreat you to accept the offering we make you of the Company in general and each of its members in particular. And, because you allow us to call you Mother, and you are the Mother of Mercy, the channel through which all mercy flows, and because, as we believe, you obtained from God the establishment of this Company, be pleased to take it under Your protection” (Coste X, p. 500)

In her Rule of Life in the World, St. Louise listed several devotional practices to honor Mary. She explained and recommended the Hail Mary and the Rosary in a catechism she wrote. She composed a little chaplet that has endured in the traditional prayers of the Daughters between the mysteries of the rosary.

Louise bequeathed to her sisters this final testament before her death: “Pray earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, that she may be your only Mother”.[2] This ultimate, solemn summary witnesses to St. Louise’s entire life of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, her only Mother.

As St. Catherine was later to hear in her conversation with Mary in July of 1830, Mary promised her protection for both Vincentian communities of the priests and brothers and the Daughters of Charity. That tender concern reflects the longstanding belief of St. Louise and her Daughters of Charity to the present day. Mary is our only Mother. How fitting, then, that St. Louise appears next to Mary behind our Shrine altar.

Our prayer this week comes from the little chaplet composed by St. Louise to honor Mary. We pray:

Most Holy Virgin, I believe and confess
your holy and Immaculate Conception, pure and without stain;
O most pure Virgin,
through your virginal purity,
your Immaculate conception,
your glorious prerogative of Mother of God,
obtain for me from your Divine Son
humility, charity, great purity of heart, mind, and body,
holy perseverance in my dear vocation,
the gift of prayer, a good life, and a happy death.

Amen.

Next week we shall move our attention to the image of St. Vincent de Paul standing to Mary’s right in the triptych above and behind the Shrine altar.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

[1] This reflection is heavily dependent upon two sources: a short biography, “Louise de Marillac”  (see http://famvin.org/wiki/Louise_de_Marillac) and “The Most Holy Virgin, Louise de Marillac’s only Mother” (see http://filles-de-la-charite.org/focus-on-2/focus-on-archives/2017-05/); the latter was taken from “I continue to ask God for his blessings for you,” by Fr. Corpus Delgado, CM that appeared in Echo (Nov-Dec 2014 – Saint Louise).

[2] Saint Louise de Marillac, Spiritual Writings. Ed. Louise Sullivan. New York: New. City Press, 1991, p. 835.

Saint Vincent de Paul above the Virgo Potens Altar


Mary Between St. Vincent and St. Louise
Above and Behind the Virgo Potens Altar
August 22, 2017

 

 

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Today we take a closer look at the image of Mary in the triptych above and behind the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine.

She stands in a posture of prayer. Her eyes are lifted toward heaven, similar to Mary’s pose in the large Rose Window above the choir loft in the main Chapel. Mary’s right hand is extended in the orans position, the prayer pose with the open palm pointed to heaven in intercessory prayer. For whom is our Blessed Lady praying?

Given the images that flank her, Mary is interceding for the sons and daughters of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity, the communities founded by St. Vincent and St. Louise. She is fulfilling her promise to St. Catherine that night she knelt next to Our Lady of the Chair. Mary told Catherine: “My child, I particularly love to shed graces upon your Community. I love it very much.” Mary further affirmed: “The protection of God will be ever present in a special way, and St. Vincent will protect you. I will grant you many graces…Have confidence. You will recognize my coming and the protection of God over the Community, the protection of St. Vincent over both Communities. Have confidence; do not be discouraged; I will be with you then.”

Of course, Mary is also interceding for all of us who respond to her invitation to ask for what we need. In time of trouble, as St. Catherine attested, “[Our Lady] pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and to open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation I needed.” During the third apparition, Mary promised: “All who wear [the Medal] will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence”.

Mary’s left hand strikes a different pose from her right hand; it is lifted higher to heaven, with the palm facing outward as though she is blessing the viewer. It is a fitting pose for her whose intercession brings abundant graces to us through her Son. Catherine reported what Mary had told her: “As to what I should do in time of trouble, she pointed with her left hand to the foot of the altar, and told me to come there and to open up my heart, assuring me that I would receive all the consolation I needed.” The pose she has in the image above the altar suggests Mary is pointing not only to the Christ on the altar but also to God, the source of all blessings. Through Mary’s intercession, then, God and her divine Son bless anyone who approaches her in trust.

Our prayer for this week is the Novena Prayer by which the devotees of Mary call upon her during the Monday Perpetual Novena. We pray:

O Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Mother,
penetrated with the most lively confidence
in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession,
manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal,
we your loving and trustful children
implore you to obtain for us
the graces and favors we ask during this Novena,
if they be beneficial to our immortal souls,
and the souls for whom we pray

(Form your own intentions)

Thank you, Mary, for your protection.
AMEN!

Next week we will take a closer look at the image of ST. LOUISE de MARILLAC on Mary’s left side in the triptych above our Shrine altar.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.


The Triptych Above and Behind the Virgo Potens Altar
August 15, 2017

 

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Today we shift our focus to the striking triptych above and behind the Virgo Potens altar. Mary stands in an attitude of prayer between the images of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac.

Mary appeared to St. Catherine Labouré when she was a novice at Rue du Bac in Paris. At the time she was preparing to make her vows in the community of the Daughters of Charity, co-founded by St. Vincent and St. Louise some 200 years before the appearances of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

In her extended conversation with St. Catherine in July of 1830, the Virgin of the Chair had expressed her love for both religious communities founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. Mary called for a reformation of the communities and promised her protection. Catherine later recounted this conversation:[1]

My child, I particularly love to shed graces upon your Community; I love it very much. It pains me that there are great abuses in regularity, that the rules are not observed, that there is much relaxation in the two Communities.

In 1830, when Our Lady visited St. Catherine, the Communities of St. Vincent were passing through the painful days of reorganization that followed the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. Mary continued:

Tell that to him who has charge of you, even though he is not the superior. He will be given charge of the Community in a special way; he must do everything he can to restore the rule in vigor. Tell him for me to guard against useless reading, loss of time, and visits. When the rule will have been restored in vigor, a community will ask to be united to your Community. Such is not customary, but I love them; God will bless those who take them in; they will enjoy great peace.

Our Lady was speaking of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Maryland, who petitioned for union with St. Vincent’s Community and were admitted in 1849. This large American religious community was one of the six communities which trace their origins back to Mother Seton. Mary continued:

The Community will enjoy a great peace; it will become large. But, there will be an abundance of sorrows, and the danger will be great. Yet, do not be afraid; tell them not to be afraid. The protection of God will be ever present in a special way – and St. Vincent will protect you. (Now the Blessed Virgin was very sad.) I shall be with you myself. I always have my eye upon you. I will grant you many graces. The moment will come when the danger will be extreme. It will seem that all is lost. At that time, I will be with you. Have confidence. You will recognize my coming and the protection of God over the Community, the protection of St. Vincent over both Communities. Have confidence; do not be discouraged; I will be with you then.

Given Mary’s words to St. Catherine it is very fitting that our Central Shrine honoring Mary’s apparitions to St. Catherine should include the beautiful triptych of Mary, Vincent and Louise.  With the establishment of Associations of the Miraculous Medal throughout the world, Vincentian priests, brothers and Daughters of Charity continue to promote devotion to Mary of the Miraculous Medal. In more recent years, many other groups that look to St. Vincent for their inspiration to serve the poor have promoted the Perpetual Novena in Honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Our prayer for this week was perhaps the earliest one celebrating the Miraculous Medal. It was composed by St. Maximilian Kolbe. In 1917, he founded a community, the Militia of the Immaculata (MI for short). This organization still exists today. Its mission is “To Lead Every Individual with Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus”.[2] With St. Maximilian we pray:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to you. Amen.

Next week we will take a closer look at the image of Mary that is flanked by Saints Vincent and Louise in the triptych above our Shrine altar. Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

 

[1] Source for quotes: The Lady of the Miraculous Medal by Rev. Joseph I. Dirvin, CM, cited in http://www.miraclesofthechurch.com/2010/11/miraculous-medal-apparition-of-virgin.html

[2] http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/miraculous-medal-prayers.html


Silver Mosaics of the Miraculous Medal
August 8, 2017

 

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

We have spent some weeks describing the ornamentation on the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine. Two more images remain to be discussed: the two silver mosaics that flank the striking statue of Our Lady of Grace. They portray the last apparition of Mary and round out the symbolism for all three apparitions memorialized in the Shrine altar.

In her extended conversation on July 18, 1830, the Virgin of the Chair promised Sister Catherine Labouré: “My child, the good God wishes to charge you with a mission.”  The full meaning of this mission became clear only four months later. On November 27, 1830, on the occasion of the second apparition of the Virgin of the Globe, Catherine witnessed a shift to the third appearance. The golden ball that Mary was holding disappeared, and her hands turned down in the pose of Our Lady of Grace. As Catherine later reported:

At this moment, I was so overjoyed that I no longer knew where I was. A frame, slightly oval in shape, formed ‘round the Blessed Virgin. Within it was written in letters of gold: ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.’ The golden ball disappeared in the brilliance of the sheaves of light bursting from all sides; the hands turned out, and the arms were bent down under the weight of the treasures of grace obtained. Then the voice said: ‘Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they shall wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for those who wear it with confidence.’

Catherine went on to describe a final change:

At this instant, the tableau seemed to me to turn, and I beheld the reverse of the Medal: a large M surmounted by a bar and a cross: beneath the M were the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the one crowned with thorns, the other pierced with a sword.

Images of this Medal appear throughout our Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. They are posted outside with the metal sign identifying “The Miraculous Medal Shrine.” One sees an image of the reverse side painted on the archway over our Central Shrine. The Medal is also etched into the glass that separates the chapel narthex (foyer) from the nave (main body) of the building. In the Lower Shrine, two striking replicas rest in an attractive glass display case. A large ornate replica hangs near the Lower Shrine as a striking memorial of the third and final apparition of Mary.

In time, we will discuss further the meaning of the images appearing on the Miraculous Medal. For the present, we simply point out that the silver mosaics of the Medal on either side of Mary’s statue complete this striking altar that memorializes all three apparitions to St. Catherine. The front mosaics depict the first two apparitions, and the statue of Our Lady of Grace flanked by the silver mosaics of the Medal complete the symbolism.

Our prayer this week comes from the Perpetual Novena in Honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. We pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who, for the accomplishment of Your greatest works,
have chosen the weak things of the world,
that no flesh may glory in Your sight:
and who, for a better and more widely diffused belief
in the Immaculate Conception of Your Mother,
have wished that the Miraculous Medal 
be manifested to Saint Catherine Labouré,
grant, we beseech You, that filled with like humility,
we may glorify this mystery by word and work.

AMEN.

Next week we shall move our attention to the triptych above and behind the altar, namely, the large mosaics of Mary flanked by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.


The Peacocks Above the Shrine Tabernacle
August 1, 2017

 

 

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Our previous reflections described appointments adorning the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine. The front mosaics and the striking statue of Our Lady of Grace portray the three apparitions of Mary to St. Catherine Labouré. Last week, we described the symbolism of the pelican that adorns the door to the tabernacle. Today, we take a closer look at two other symbols that appear above the tabernacle door: a host flanked by two peacocks. As we shall see, there is a very strong connection between these two symbols.

Peacocks often appear in early Christian art as a symbol of the Resurrection and Eternal Life. There are various levels of meaning in the symbolism of peacocks.

The ancients believed that the peacock’s flesh never decayed. St. Augustine refers to this in his classic work, The City of God. In chapter four, he gives examples from nature that prove bodies may remain unconsumed and alive in fire. One example he cites is the peacock: He asks, “For who but God, the Creator of all things, has given to the flesh of the peacock its antiseptic property?” Augustine goes on to describe an experience he had after dining on peacock. He says, “And after [a slice of the peacock] had been laid by for 30 days and more, it was still in the same state; and a year after, the same still, except that it was a little more shriveled, and drier.” No wonder, then, that Christians saw the peacock as a symbol of eternal life.

In medieval times it was also thought that peacocks shed their feathers every year and that the new ones that grow are more beautiful than the older ones. Along with this idea, medieval legends included the theory that the gorgeous colors of the peacock’s feathers came from a special diet. The peacocks could kill and eat poisonous snakes; they ingested the poison, transforming it into the colors of their feathers. Thus, people viewed the peacock as an apt symbol of Christ’s Resurrection, since, as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “Christ became sin for us on the Cross, but then rose from the dead with his glorified body and wounds having conquered the powers of evil.”

One recent commentator adds to this symbolism.[1] During a normal day, peacocks are fairly ordinary looking. And yet, while they are pecking and clucking like very average birds, a hidden splendor lies underneath. The symbolism applies analogously to Christian life. When we see a Christian walking along the street next to someone who has never been baptized, we usually cannot tell the difference. Our interior splendor as followers of Christ will only become fully visible when we enter into Eternal Life and come to share fully in Christ’s own glorious Resurrection. At that point, the hidden magnificence of each Christian’s soul will be revealed, to the wonderment of all, similar to a sudden splendor revealed whenever the peacock spreads its magnificent feathers.

The peacock also symbolizes the cosmos. The spray of its ornate feathers has many “eyes,” suggesting the vault of heaven dotted by the sun, moon, and stars.

The peacocks in our mosaic above the Tabernacle, then, portray the Resurrected and Eternal Christ, the one who will never die again, the Lord of the cosmos — Christ who is embodied in the consecrated host flanked by the peacocks. The Eucharistic Christ is the source of our Eternal Life. All of us believers already possess life in Christ; however, the full splendor of Christ’s glory remains hidden. The full glory of God within us has yet to be revealed in the life to come. The consecrated host represents the Real Presence of Christ. In John’s Gospel, Jesus proclaimed: “I am the Bread of life. Whoever eats this Bread will live forever” (Jn. 6). The Blessed Host and the peacocks speak of resplendent Eternal Life.

Our prayer this week celebrates Eternal Life in the Body and Blood of Christ. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, we praise and thank you
for shedding your precious Blood to wash away our sins.
Continue in this world to nourish us with your sacred Body and Blood,
so we might eventually come to enjoy Eternal Life in Heaven
where all shall celebrate the glory You share with us,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and all the Angels and Saints,
forever and ever.
AMEN.

Next week we shall discuss the final images that adorn the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine — the silver mosaic replicas of the Miraculous Medal.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.


The Door of the Tabernacle
July 25, 2017

 

 

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

In recent reflections we have described the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine, specifically the front mosaics and the beautiful image of Our Lady of Grace that surmounts the altar. Today, we reflect on the beautiful tabernacle that rests on the Virgo Potens altar. It’s made of precious metal with dramatic highlights. One of these is the face of the tabernacle door.

The cover to the tabernacle boasts a bronze carving depicting a pelican caring for her young. She is displayed opening her breast and feeding her chicks with her maternal blood. A similar relief carving appears on the marble front below our new tabernacle in the main sanctuary.

In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of spilling her own blood by piercing her breast to feed her starving chicks when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican came to be seen as a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Most Blessed Eucharist.

A reference to the mystical characteristic of the pelican is contained in a well-known hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas; it’s entitled the Adoro te devote. The sixth verse describes Christ as the loving, Divine Pelican able to wash away our sins with one drop of His blood. One English translation of St. Thomas’ hymn renders verse six as follows:

Lord Jesus, Good Pelican,
wash my filthiness and clean me with your blood,
One drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.

The ancient legend of the pelican had some variations. The image of the pelican was adopted into Christianity by the 2nd century as evidenced in The Physiologus, which was a Christian adaptation of popular animal legends and symbols.

The text describes this variant: “The little pelicans strike their parents, and the parents, striking back, kill them.” The text continues: “But on the third day, the mother pelican strikes and opens her side and pours blood over her dead young. In this way they are revivified and made well. So, the text goes on, “Our Lord Jesus Christ says also through the prophet Isaiah: ‘I have brought up children and exalted them, but they have despised me’ (Is 1:2).” The text then strikes the parallel: “We struck God by serving the creature rather than the Creator. Therefore, He deigned to ascend the cross, and when His side was pierced, blood and water gushed forth unto our salvation and eternal life.”

Our Blessed Lady, in her conversation with Saint Catherine Labouré, encourages us to “come to the altar,” and there to encounter her Divine Son who shed His blood for us. Mindful of the rich symbolism of the pelican on our Shrine tabernacle, let us pray:

Lord Jesus, we praise and thank you
for shedding your precious Blood to wash away our sins.
Continue in this world to nourish us with your sacred Body and Blood
so we might come to enjoy the fullness of life
with you and all the Angels and Saints,
forever and ever.
AMEN.

Next week we will reflect on the peacocks who also adorn our tabernacle in the Central Shrine.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.


The Statue of Our Lady of Grace in the Miraculous Medal Shrine
July 18, 2017

 

 

Greetings, Friends of our Blessed Lady,

Last week we spoke about the Virgo Potens altar in our Central Shrine. Today we address very central religious image, the centerpiece of the altar; it is a truly dramatic image of Our Lady of Grace that surmounts the Virgo Potens altar. This statue calls to mind the third of the apparition of Mary to St. Catherine Labouré.

In our previous reflection we focused on the second apparition of Mary to St. Catherine: Our Lady of the Globe, also known as the Virgo Potens. That vision appeared to Catherine above the sanctuary in the chapel at Rue de Bac. As Catherine continued to pray before the image it gradually shifted to the third apparition.

St. Catherine saw the globe in Mary’s hands disappearing as she dropped both her hands in the pose of Our Lady of Grace. Rays of light emanated from several rings on her fingers. Other rings did not emit rays of light; Catherine came to understand that the rings without rays represented graces that Mary wishes to bestow on us, her children, but we are not asking for her help.

Eventually we will discuss the relationship of this pose of Mary to the medal that she commissioned be struck in her honor. For the present, we meditate on this gorgeous Shrine statue of Our Lady of Grace. We see Mary standing in the pose that reflects the beginning of the third apparition of Mary to St. Catherine. Thus, the Virgo Potens altar incorporates in stone images of all three Marian apparitions: two of the front mosaics depict the Madonna of the Chair and the Madonna of the Globe (the Virgo Potens). The statue of Our Lady of Grace surmounting the altar depicts the beginning of the third apparition.

It has been said that the McBride Brothers of Philadelphia, the builders of the Shrine, donated the dramatic statue of Mary in honor of their mother. The imported Italian Carrara marble from which this statue has been chiseled is of first quality marble, so rare and so expensive that seldom is it used for statuary.

A pamphlet celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal describes the statue as follows:

For tender beauty and maternal loveliness this statue is an unsurpassed masterpiece. Mary’s outstretched arms seem to be hungering for sinners – to console them, and for the sorrowing – to comfort them. Her downcast eyes of mercy seem to invite only confidence and love. She seems to dwell there in tranquil peace, just for the sake of her children, to solve their problems, to bind up their broken hearts, to send them on their way with new hope and new courage.

Small wonder that Mary’s children flock to her in our Shrine, not only every Monday on her Novena days, but also at other times of pilgrimage and prayer in our public chapel. Our Novena Prayer includes the Memorare. Originally composed by an unknown 15th-century hymnist, this popular Marian prayer was a favorite of St. Francis de Sales, a contemporary of St. Vincent de Paul. It expresses our confidence this week in Mary’s intercession. Let us pray:

Remember, O most compassionate Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your assistance,
or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
we fly unto you,
O Virgin of Virgins, our Mother;
to you we come;
before you we kneel,
sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not our petitions,
but in your clemency hear and answer them.
AMEN.

Our reflection next week will focus on the beautiful tabernacle that rests on the Virgo Potens altar.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.


The Virgo Potens Altar in the Miraculous Medal Shrine
July 11, 2017

 

 

Greetings, Friends of Our Blessed Lady,

Last week I introduced you to our new series entitled, “The Miraculous Medal Shrine Reflections.” As promised, we will be looking at specific religious images in our gorgeous Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, and eventually we will reflect on other images in the larger Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

Today we take a close look at the altar in our Marian Shrine. It is made of Pavanazzo marble and named in honor of the “Virgo Potens,” one of the titles for Mary from the Litany of Loreto. More importantly, the title, translated as “Virgin Most Powerful,” reflects one of the Marian apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré.

Recall that Mary appeared to St. Catherine three times. The second appearance took place on November 27, 1830. Catherine, along with companion novices, was at evening prayer in their chapel at the Rue de Bac in Paris. Mary appeared above the sanctuary to the right. She was holding a globe in her hands. For that reason, this vision has come to be remembered as Our Lady of the Globe.

At that time, France was enduring great sufferings, as was the whole world of 1830. Catherine understood that the globe in Mary’s hands represented France in particular and the whole world in general. Mary promised to intercede for anyone who asked for her help. She stood on a much larger globe with her foot crushing the head of a serpent. The image portrays Mary as intercessor for the suffering of the world; she is the one victorious over Satan.

The first apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine also appears on the altar front, to the left of the dedicatory title mosaic. It recalls our Lady of the Chair. On the evening of July 18, 1830, Catherine spent some two hours in conversation with Mary. She knelt beside Mary seated in a chair. Her hands rested on Mary’s lap. Among other things, our Lady promised Catherine she would give her a mission. Eventually, we will reflect further on this mission to have a medal struck.

Replicas of this medal also appear in subtle silver mosaics on the Virgo Potens altarpiece to the left and right of a very striking statue of Our Lady of Grace. Our next reflection will comment further on this beautiful statue. For the present, we call upon Mary, Virgin most powerful, to intercede for us who have recourse to her.

Our prayer this week is taken from An Act of Consecration to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal which we offer as part of our Monday Novenas. We call upon Mary, the Virgo Potens, our most powerful Mother:

O most powerful Virgin, Mother of our Savior,
Keep us close to you every moment of our lives.
Obtain for us, your children, the grace of a happy death;
so that, in union with you, we may enjoy the bliss of heaven forever.
AMEN.

Thank you, dear friends, for your patronage, and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.


Introduction to a New Series
July 4, 2017

 

 

Welcome, everyone! My name is Fr. Frank Sacks, CM. I presently serve as one of the Associate Directors at the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal. Allow me to introduce you to our new series; it’s entitled Miraculous Medal Shrine Reflections (or the shorter version: Shrine Reflections). In the weeks ahead, we’ll share the beauty of our Miraculous Medal Shrine, as well as additional images in our larger Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated in 1875; originally it was built as a chapel for our Vincentian seminary established some years earlier on the same campus as the Chapel. The Bishop at the time asked our Vincentian Community to provide access for the public. Catholics who worshiped here eventually built their own basilica-sized Church nearby. To this day, our building here has retained the title “Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.”

Typical of all our Vincentian churches, there is a side chapel in the eastern transept, and it honors the Holy Agony. This side Chapel focuses here on Mary’s role in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Moving to the right, one sees the large sanctuary dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. The large paintings of the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception, and the Birth of Christ emphasize Mary’s place in God’s plan of Salvation.

Moving further right past the altar dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul, one sees the more recent Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. This gorgeous Shrine replaced the original Shrine of St. Vincent that was located in the western transept. The Miraculous Medal Chapel was dedicated in 1927, 12 years after the establishment of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.

It is this holy Shrine of Our Blessed Lady that remains the central focus for our devotion to our Lady. Every Monday, we celebrate eight Novena services at the Shrine, including Novena Prayers to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal with Mass, Benediction, and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Throughout this Miraculous Medal Shrine and the larger Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, there are inspiring frescoes, mosaics, paintings, stained glass windows, marble statues and altars and many other religious artifacts. Most of these in some way give honor to Our Blessed Lady. In the weeks ahead I will be reflecting with you on these images.

Each week, we will examine one of the images. Each will lead to some spiritual reflection concluding with an appropriate prayer of the week. Devotees of the Shrine will be encouraged to email me their own thoughts and prayers. Please keep our Shrine Reflections in your prayers. Thank you for your interest and especially for your devotion to Mary. May you always remain close to Our Blessed Lady.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.