Tag Archives: Marian devotion

Fall Break in Poland

Hope ’15

Theology Undergraduate

Fellow, Center for Liturgy

Recently, during the University of Notre Dame’s fall break, I traveled to Poland with 14 fellow undergraduates, Theology professor David Fagerberg, and his wife Elizabeth. This trip was made possible largely by the support of the Nanovic Institute. Over the course of a trip to the Holy Land my sophomore year, study abroad in Chile junior year, and this trip to Poland during my senior year, I have learned that when you find an excuse to both travel and learn at the same time, the University of Notre Dame tends to be pretty supportive!  And oftentimes, as happened in our case, the Nanovic Institute either helps with the funding or even totally covers a variety of learning-traveling experiences. So thanks to the generosity of Nanovic and the ingenuity of the Open University through the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, we participated in a one-credit course entitled, “The Church in Poland, Iconography, and Pope John Paul II on the Human Person.”

The courtyard of the Catholic University of Lublin
The courtyard of the Catholic University of Lublin

As many of our writers have said before myself, one of the foci of the Center for Liturgy is to help us realize that the liturgy isn’t just some rubric-filled routine for 52 minutes of our Sunday mornings. Liturgy isn’t simply a box to check off on our weekends; rather, ideally, the liturgy and the way that God calls to us through liturgy ought to feed us. When we learned to, ‘live liturgically,’ learning from the liturgy and being shaped and changed by it, as Fr. Aidan Kavanagh said, we would “do the world the way it was meant to be done.” This would mean a continual growth in our lives of faith, a further orientation toward the God who made us in love and calls us to love. I would stipulate that our trip to Poland definitely helped us to see ways in which we could integrate our lives of faith with our day-to-day lives. During the week, we saw ways in which an entire nation—in the midst of and through struggle after struggle and occupation after occupation—managed to hold its identity, particularly through a love of Mary and in constant attempts to help their fellow brothers and sisters, be they Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, or various other faiths.

Portion of Byzantine style painting and iconography found in the Holy Trinity Chapel (Roman Catholic) Wawel Castle in Krakow. East meets West in a beautiful way!

So, with that liturgical definition of life and history in mind, I would like to share some reflections from my fellow students (now friends) from our fall break in Poland. It was a jam-packed week, filled with learning, traveling, wonderful food, bus rides, standing wide-eyed and staring at the beauty of old churches, walking through medieval cities, and immersing ourselves in realities which are and were sometimes different from our own. But I’ll let my fellow students tell you more about that.

Hopefully, reflecting over the course of this week will serve as a small sample of our experience, and of our gratitude for this opportunity. We hope, too, that the good of that week won’t remain in the past, just in our stories and photos. We hope that the memories and lessons will continue to bear fruit throughout our time at Notre Dame and far beyond last week.

(For more photos and information, you can visit our class’ snazzy blog over at http://polandkul.blogspot.com/. You can see a day-by-day account of our week and view some pictures, too)

Question: We saw and spent time in a LOT of churches this week. Did anything strike you about the churches in general? What’s one particular memory from a specific church that will stick with you?

A Marvel and a Simple Joy—Holy Architecture in Poland
By: Annemarie Coman
In general, churches in Poland are awe-inspiringly gorgeous. There is so much history filling each one to the brim! From ancient artworks to relics of the saints, each holy place held its own treasures. Altars dedicated to polish saints and the Blessed Mother topped with black and gold intricately carved decoration flanked the sides of many churches. In America we are used to just one main altar; in Poland, they do not limit themselves to one, or even to five! The incredible artistic detail and impressive scale certainly drew me into these churches, and all the decorative elements served a greater purpose to pull one’s eyes heavenward. The most elaborate intricacies and extravagance was always reserved for the tabernacle area, often including legions of adoring angels. What a beautiful way to draw our hearts to Christ!

The entrance to the chapel at St. Faustina’s convent (in the dark, and the rain!)

That being said, occasionally the decorative elements of the churches served as a sort of distraction to me in prayer, and instead of bringing my mind heavenward, led me to simply marvel at the works of man. For this reason, sometimes I found myself praying more easily in some of the simpler chapels. Probably the most modest church we visited, and also my personal favorite, was the Chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Divine Mercy. This convent holds a special place in my heart because it was the home of St. Faustina Kowalska, probably my favorite saint because of her great humility and trust in Jesus as each day she strived to love Him more. Her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, is my current favorite book (although I have yet to finish it!), and each time I pour over its pages, I find new insights that Jesus through Faustina always teaches me. What a gift to be there in this place where St. Faustina prayed! Where her body is now laid to rest! To me this was an unforgettable and precious moment to be so close to one I hold so dear.

Question: In this course (both through the pre-departure classes and in Poland itself) we talked a good bit about icons and what icons are supposed to reflect about people and about God. What is something that you think everyone should know about icons?

The beautiful icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa up close.

Response by: José Martinez
While taking a tour of the oldest Eastern Orthodoxy Church in Lublin, the local priest stopped mid-sentence to mark an aside. “Icons aren’t drawn,” he said, “they are written.” Although I didn’t think about it much then, it hit me as soon as I sat down in my hotel room.

To me, along with most of the West, icons really are a strange part of the Church. Not having studied or seen many, I only ever thought of them as a part of Church history. “Oh yeah, some emperors had campaigns to destroy them” was the extent of my knowledge and appreciation for them. Never once did I stop to look at one and wonder what made them so important; what made them so prominent for so many in East. Until that priest took us on that tour, that is.

Icons aren’t simply drawings meant to fill a church up. They aren’t there so we have something to stare at during a bland homily. They are written; a part of the liturgy themselves. By kneeling down and venerating these images we do not worship a painting (as many outsiders would think). We honor not the painting itself but the people depicted, and through their rich symbolism we are reminded of what made these saints, angels and even Jesus Christ so great. Through their symbolism, we can clearly see exactly how Jesus’ life saved mankind.

After finally seeing them through that lens it became easy to see why icons filled all of Poland. They weren’t just physical paintings but a way for us, made both spiritual and physical, to appreciate and remember so many of the important things about our Church. As John of Damascus said, “the Creator of matter… became matter [and] worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation!”

Question: Since we visited some of the most important places from Pope St. John Paul II’s life, do you have any reflections about him or about what we learned about him that you would like to share?

Pope JPII's desk! Yes-- his desk!
Pope JPII’s desk! Yes– his desk!

Response by: Bridgid Smith
As I sat in Room 208 of the Catholic University of Lublin I tried rather unsuccessfully to grasp the fact that I was sitting in the very classroom in which Karol Wojtyla (later beloved Pope John Paul II) taught ethics. I glanced at his pictures hanging on the wall and the desk he used in the front of the room, and almost could not contain my joy at receiving such an opportunity. Being in the very room he taught, the towns he lived, the country he called homeland, and meeting people whom he called friends, filled me with an overwhelming desire not only to study his teachings in depth, but also to follow his example of faith in my own life, courageously responding to his words, “Do not be afraid; open wide the doors to Christ!”

The hallway just outside of Room 208 (JPII’s favorite room)

One specific aspect of John Paul II’s life that particularly inspired me was his ability to see the face of God in every person he met.  We met with a priest who was a student of John Paul II. He told us a story of a man who introduced himself to John Paul II once during a papal visit, and then again introduced himself a few years later during a different visit. The third time he had the opportunity to meet with the Holy Father he began introducing himself again but John Paul II interrupted him and said, “You are introducing yourself for the third time!” The man introducing himself, to say the least, could not believe it. Because of his deliberate attention to the individual, I think that John Paul II clearly saw the face of the God he loved in each and every person. After just a few brief moments of meeting someone, John Paul II remembered them, loved them, and did not forget them. He was fully present to whomever was directly in front of him. This example of complete attention to the individual amazed me. How often in my own life do I fail to accomplish this simple task? How often do I forget or neglect the people right in front of my eyes?

Question: In order to make sense of the parts of the trip that focused on our official course themes (the Church in Poland, iconography, and Pope John Paul II) we were lucky enough to receive a crash course in Polish history during our first three days at the Catholic University in Lublin. What is something that you learned about Polish history that you think is important to know? What did this teach you about the Church in Poland, or the Polish people as a whole?

Response: Overcoming Communism Through Faith
By: Jack Shea
After a week in Poland, I have gained an incredible appreciation for the history and faith of the Polish people. The Catholic Church has played an enormous role in forging the current Polish state. It has been an inspiration and guide to the Polish people for centuries. The Polish people reflect their gratitude to the Church in their tremendous piety. It is clear that Poland’s national identity is directly tied to the spirit of Catholicism that permeates the country.

Part of the (completely reconstructed)
Part of the (completely reconstructed) Old City of Warsaw

One particular aspect of this history that I find very important involves the role of the Church in overcoming communism in Poland. After the Allied forces achieved victory in Europe in the Second World War, Poland fell into the hands of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union turned Poland into one of its “satellite states” and controlled the government and economy of Poland. The doctrine of communism promoted by the Soviets is antithetical to Church teaching. It fails to understand the proper role of mankind in the world. The Soviets worked to suppress the Catholic Church in Poland because they saw the Church as a threat to their power. When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland was elected Pope John Paul II, their task became more difficult. Pope John Paul II worked hard to defeat communism. His passion and love galvanized the Polish people to overcome the communist state. John Paul II was likely the most influential person in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

This lesson taught me that Catholicism is deeply tied to the national history of Poland. The people have endured incredibly difficult times and have often relied on God and His Church to see them through. In the United States, we often fail to see the role God has played in shaping our history. We are tempted to put our faith into a box and cut it off from the rest of our lives. In Poland, faith is linked to not only family and community, but also the government, economy, and history. It is a fundamental characteristic of Polish life and is valued throughout Polish society. Catholicism is not something to be practiced for an hour each Sunday morning. Rather, it should be lived out and celebrated in our studies, work, and relationships.

Schoenstatt: A Creative Response to World War I

Danielle PetersDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt
Sisters of Mary
Post-Doctoral Fellow,
Institute for Church Life,
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

July 28, 2014 marked the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Many events—from the assassination of Franz Ferdinand to Germany’s secret treaty alliance with Turkey—led to this fateful day. Like many Europeans at that time, a young German priest by the name of Joseph Kentenich observed the horrific tragedy unfold. Fr. Joseph KentenichFor him, nothing happened by chance. God was speaking and he sought to hear His voice by deciphering the signs of the time. Fr. Kentenich was the spiritual director for approximately 85 young men of a high school seminary aspiring to be missionaries to Africa. He wrestled with the customary institutional Prussian education of the outgoing nineteenth century which stressed discipline above all and was little concerned with the individual’s needs and gifts. Reflecting on the formalism, drill and lack of freedom he concluded, “I could not stand the way I was educated and I told myself: No, one must not educate in such a way.” Thus he endeavored to design a pedagogical program for the young men between the ages of fifteen and eighteen founded on a clear cultural analysis of Europe’s historical situation. At the heart of this analysis was the observation that Christian culture was threatened by industrialism which considered the human person as a replaceable piece of a huge machine. In this context he perceived that education without a definite ethical and religious foundation is prone to substitute God and his values with technological progress. Observing the inner restlessness and idealism of his charges, Fr. Kentenich considered his main educational goal to promote and challenge self-education and free initiative among the adolescents. To the surprise of the students, he told them: “We want to learn—not only you, but also I. We want to learn from each other. For we are never done learning, especially not in the art of self-education, which represents the work, the activity which will indeed take our whole lifetime.”

The initial emphasis on self-education was well received among the young men. It challenged them to prove to their superiors that they were mature young men who could be reliable and responsible in their studies and conduct. Yet, before long they came to the realization that they cannot rely solely on themselves. Hence, on April 19, 1914 with 28 students as charter members, they founded a Marian Sodality committed to a voluntary and resolute striving for holiness in the school of Our Lady’s education. Schoenstatt chapelUnder the guidance of their spiritual director the young sodalists repaired an old chapel, dating from the twelfth century and located on the school’s campus, to be used for their communal prayer. Soon thereafter, while they were on their summer break, the war broke out. T­he earth shaking event posed extraordinary difficulties on the young men since most expected to be drafted into the military, and thus be removed from the favorable setting of their environment.

Around the same time, on July 18, 1914, Fr. Kentenich read an article in a daily newspaper, Die Allgemeine Rundschau, by the Capuchin Cyprian Fröhlich about the origin of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Italy. It told how an Italian lawyer, Bartolo Longo, had begun this famous shrine in 1871. No apparitions or extra­ordinary miracles were involved. Undoubtedly, thousands of people read this article. Yet, Fr. Kentenich struggled to perceive what God was telling him through this story. After several weeks of prayer and meditation he arrived at the conclusion—though not without a leap of faith—that God was calling him to invite Mary to take up her abode in the sodality chapel. When the students returned from the summer leave, he welcomed them in his inaugural talk for the new school year with the somewhat challenging message that “according to the plan of Divine Provi­dence, the great European War is meant to be an extraordinary help for you in the work of your self-sanctification… [which] is the armor that you shall put on, the sword, with which you shall free your country from its overpowering enemies…” Fr. Kentenich shared his conviction that a new epoch was approaching “with great strides.” Appealing to the high-mindedness of the youth, he contended, “Do not think that in times like these, when momentous decisions are being made, it is something extraordinary, to increase your striving to the highest degree.”

He then proceeded by introducing them in the form of a modest “wish” to one of his “favorite ideas” upon which he had reflected again and again in the past months. Taking as his starting point the scene on Mount Tabor, where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, Fr. Kentenich made a comparison and asked, “Would it not be possible for our sodality chapel to become at the same time our Tabor where Mary’s glories are revealed?” And he continued, “Without doubt we could not achieve a greater apostolic deed, nor leave a more precious legacy to our successors, than if we were to prevail upon our Queen and Mother to set up her throne here in a special way, to distribute her treasures and work miracles of grace. You can guess what I am aiming at; I want to make this place into a place of pilgrimage, a place of grace.” The realization of this wish according to Fr. Kentenich would be possible under the condition that “each one of us must achieve the highest conceivable degree of perfection and sanctity according to his state of life. Not simply the great and the greater, but the greatest heights ought to be the object of our increased efforts.” Schoenstatt chapel interiorTowards the end of this foundational talk, Fr. Kentenich made clear that his idea is not based on a vision or any other extraordinary experience, but solely on his trying to decipher God’s will. He concluded by saying: “To me it is as if at this moment…Our Lady were speaking to us…: ‘Do not worry about the fulfillment of your desire. Ego diligentes me diligo. I love those who love me (Prv 8:17). Prove to me first that you really love me, that you take your resolution seriously. … This sanctification I demand of you.’”

Indubitably, none of the young men grasped the transcendent nature of that hour. Fr. Kentenich, however, who had dared to take the tremendous leap of faith in the silence of his own heart, was convinced: “How often in world history has not the small and insignificant been the source of the great and greatest? Why should this not also be true in our case?” He later acknowledged that this was the most difficult time of his life, because his faith could only discover a fine ray of light in the darkness. As time went by he would have to endure more painful situations, like imprisonment in the concentration camp at Dachau during World War II from 1942–45, or fourteen years of exile from 1951–65, but by then he was able to base himself on repeated experiences of God’s working in his life.

In retrospect, this talk of October 18, 1914 in the chapel in Schoenstatt was perceived as the Founding Document of a new initiative in the Church: the Schoenstatt Movement. Its source is a unique form of Marian consecration, a covenant between Our Lady and Fr. Kentenich as representative of the young seminarians. Since this covenant was based on the free cooperation of both covenant partners it is called a covenant of love. Patterned after the covenants in salvation history it has a personal character—the covenant of love is sealed between the Mother of God and Schoenstatt’s founder together with his followers—and a local dimension—the shrine, as “our cradle of sanctity” and the educational workshop of Our Lady. Fr. Kentenich’s understanding of the Marian consecration as covenant of love actualizes the mutual giving of self to the covenant partner and thus Mary’s educational task.

From this inconspicuous beginning developed a place of grace, the Schoenstatt Shrine, forming the heart and spiritual headquarters of the International Schoenstatt Movement. During the past one hundred years, this chapel, now called Original Shrine, has been replicated in over two hundred “daughter” shrines around the globe, each built in connection with a retreat center of some kind for education, spiritual formation, and hospitality. These shrines—eleven of which are in the Unites States—have inspired the erection of countless home shrines, Schoenstatt’s unique contribution to the domestic church, and the circulation of thousands of “pilgrim shrines,”all bearing the image of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt, carrying the child Jesus in her arms.

Fr. Joseph Kentenich  with Pope Paul VI
Fr. Joseph Kentenich with Pope Paul VI

Fr. Kentenich is the first German in the history of the Church and internationally among the pioneers who founded an ecclesial movement. Its charism has since spread to 87 countries on all inhabited continents. Schoenstatt’s covenant culture has inspired multiple initiatives within and outside the Church. To name but one: recently São Paulo, Brazil, instituted October 18 as “Covenant of Love Day.” São Paulo’s governor attributes to this decision the fact that Schoenstatt’s covenant of love and the Schoenstatt Shrine in Atibaia/SP have become part of the culture of the more than 43.6 million people living and working in this territory.

We began by noting that Schoenstatt arose in the context of World War I. Its history proves once again that God can write straight on crooked lines. Amidst indescribable destruction and suffering, God found in Fr. Kentenich and the sodalists willing instruments who cooperated in bringing about a movement of Christian renewal in the Church and world. The obstacles which could have been their destruction proved instead to be stepping stones leading them closer to God. A lesson that can be learned by all of us!

Pondering the Name of Mary

Danielle PetersDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt
Sisters of Mary
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life,
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

The liturgical calendar for September includes four Marian feast days. This past Monday, September 8—nine months after her Immaculate Conception (December 8)—we celebrated Mary’s birthday. This coming Monday, September 15 (one day after the the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross), commemorates the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On September 24, we are reminded of the special mission attributed to Mary as our Mother in the order of grace, hailing her as Our Lady of Ransom or Our Lady of Mercy. Today, we observe perhaps a lesser-known Marian feast as we are invited to ponder the Most Holy Name of Mary.

Mary’s Jewish Heritage
Icon of Mary's family
In accordance with Jewish custom, a girl’s name is officially given in synagogue when the father—at the next opportunity after his daughter’s birth—has the honor of reciting the blessings over the Torah (aliyah). This could happen theoretically on the actual birthday of the girl or, as it may have happened in the case of St. Joachim, four days after Mary was born. A boy’s name, on the other hand, is made known eight days after birth during the ritual circumcision (brit milah). The feast of the Holy Name of Mary therefore calls to mind Our Lady’s Jewish heritage (cf. Gal 4:4); the same holds true for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus which follows eight days after Christmas.

Historical Development
A feast in honor of “The Holy Name of Mary” was granted by Pope Julius II to the diocese of Cuenta in Spain in 1513. It was assigned with proper Office to September 15, the octave day of Our Lady’s Nativity. With the reform of the Breviary undertaken by Pope St. Pius V, the feast was abrogated only to be reinstituted by Pope Sixtus V, who changed the date to September 17. From there, the feast spread to all of Spain and to the Kingdom of Naples. In addition, permission to celebrate the feast was given to various religious orders. Pope Innocent XI extended “The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary” to the Universal Church to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary. Pope St. Pius X decreed that the feast is to be commemorated on September 12 in conjunction with the victory over the Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.

What’s in the Name?
We venerate the name of Mary because it belongs to her who is the Mother of God, the holiest of creatures, the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Mercy. Perhaps it is the Annunciation narrative which conveys best the all-embracing range of Mary’s name. Luke’s gospel is the first to tell us that “the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26-27). Annunciation to Mary-Salvador DalíFrom the perspective of her people and culture, she is a simple Jewish girl from Galilee. Her parents, family and friends know and call her by name and she is aware of their love and appreciation. She draws no attention in the streets of Nazareth. Like other girls her age, she is engaged. Her life’s course seems to be in harmony with the expectations of her people.

The rendering of the name Mary in Hebrew is Miryam and in Aramaic, the spoken language at Our Lady’s time, it is Maryamits root, merur, signifies “bitterness.”  Throughout time, saints and scholars alike have produced a mixture of etymology and devotion, proposing an interesting array of meanings for Maryam: “bitter Sea,” “Myrrh of the Sea,” “Light Giver,” “Enlightened One.” Miryam is rendered as “Lady,” “Seal of the Lord,” and “Mother of the Lord.” It is not difficult to appreciate why these and various other interpretations of “Mary” have been emphasized and cherished throughout the ages.

Yet, St. Luke, reveals a second name by which Mary is known and addressed by God. In view of her election, the angel addresses her with “full of grace” (kécharitômenê; Lk 1:28) alluding to the privileges she received before she was born.[1] Saint John Paul II reminds us that “in the language of the Bible ‘grace’ means a special gift, which according to the New Testament has its source precisely in the Trinitarian life of God himself, God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). …When we read that the messenger addresses Mary as ‘full of grace,’ the Gospel context…enables us to understand that among all the ‘spiritual blessings in Christ’ this is a special ‘blessing.’…In an entirely special and exceptional way Mary is united to Christ, and similarly she is eternally loved in this ‘beloved Son,’ this Son who is of one being with the Father, in whom is concentrated all the ‘glory of grace.’”[2]

Nomen est omen—The Name is a sign
By honoring these two most holy names of Our Lady we may also want to remember that God calls each one of us by two names. They stand for the very personal history, the unique meaning and mission of our life. Both names were given to us at baptism: the name our parents chose for us and the family name “Christian” signaling our membership in Christ; both indicate who we are and to whom we belong. As we ponder Mary’s name may also ponder our own name and ask ourselves:

What does my name mean to me?
Do I know myself called by God?
Do I strive to discover myself in the light of God’s calling for me?
Do I make efforts to listen when God calls me by my name?
And how do I respond?

[1] Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, footnote 21.

[2] Ibid., 8.

Film Review: Mary of Nazareth

Danielle Peters-cropDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life,
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

The most recent film on the Blessed Virgin, Mary of Nazareth, directed by Giacomo Campiotti, chronicles the life of the Our Lady from early childhood to the Resurrection of her Son Jesus. It has received many endorsements and may well be counted among the classics.

In his remarks after viewing the movie, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out that “it is not easy to characterize the figure of any mother, because the riches of the maternal life are difficult to describe, but this is even more challenging when it comes to the Mary of Nazareth, who is the mother of Jesus, the Son of God made man.” Thus it is with Campiotti’s production. Like most cinematic Marian narratives, this latest motion picture draws heavily from Holy Scripture, thus presenting, in Benedict XVI’s words, a “respectful approach to the life of the Virgin Mary.” In addition, numerous scenes stem from apocryphal sources, such as Mary’s presentation in the temple, or from legends, as for example that Mary wove Jesus’ seamless robe, which are not foreign to a Catholic audience. However, any screenwriter confronted with the challenge to fashion an original work of art needs to creatively balance the authentic historical sources with his own vision of the plot. This newest film on Our Lady is no exception.

Its Italian director implemented abundant symbolic scenes and gestures in the originally 200-minute film (cut to 153 minutes for the English version). These imaginative visuals allow the onlooker a glimpse into the spiritual battle raging in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) with Mary and her Son at the center. We identify three categories reflecting the director’s artistic liberty which help him attend to (1) the person and mission of Mary of Nazareth; (2) the “mystery of Mary”; and (3) the viewer’s pondering heart.

The Person and Mission of Mary of Nazareth
Mary of Nazareth-Domestic life
Campiotti’s Mary of Nazareth (Alissa Jung) is no conventional woman. Contrary to the laws and customs of her people, according to which a woman was defined either as the daughter of her father or as the wife of her husband, Mary appears as a self-possessed woman whose sole desire was to fulfill God’s wish, no matter the cost. Thus she abides by the regulations and duties of her people as long as it does not interfere with her commitment to her Son.

We learn that she has cast an eye on the young carpenter Joseph (Luca Marinelli) and that she is attracted to his virtuous life. Gladly she accepts Joseph’s proposal to be his wife without consulting her father. The Annunciation scene depicts the young woman, betrothed to Joseph, dressed in white long garments and a white veil, symbol of virginity. She is kneading dough and her smile betrays the bliss of a young bride. The angel, portrayed as a young female with a male voice, does not interrupt or scare her in the least. Quite the contrary, upon seeing the angel she radiates tranquil joy and listens with holy expectation to his message. She remains calm even when asking the well-known “How can this be …?” She apparently knows that the child of her womb is the long-expected “Messiah, the Savior of us all.” She cites Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:12 and applies the periscopes to herself. Against the will of her worried parents and perplexed fiancé she embarks on her journey to Ain Karem to aid her cousin Elizabeth. What appears to be the stubbornness of a teenager is in actuality submission to an inner intuition which contradicts reason and the custom of her people.

As the child in her womb grows, the expectant mother is seen continuously cradling and communing with him. He is her support as she meets the reproach of her parents and the rage of Joseph in reaction to her by now advanced pregnancy. With an amazing self-assuredness Mary shares with them the message of the Angel; yet she is not the least disappointed in their lack of faith, nor does she feel rejected by their accusations. Mary of Nazareth-NativityShe bravely walks through town cradling her unborn baby and smiling with compassion at those who despise her. She is the one who takes the reluctant Joseph by the hand to perform the traditional dance at their wedding feast. Against the will of her parents and husband she insists on accompanying Joseph to Bethlehem. Ignoring Joseph’s hesitation, she shares her newborn Son with the group of shepherds allowing the men, women, and children a personal encounter with the Divine Child.

Mary takes an active part in Jesus’ (Andreas Pietschmann) adult life as well. We see her in the women’s section of the synagogue and gathered with the multitudes for the Sermon on the Mount. She is present at the house of Simon and happy to welcome her Son with his disciples to her home. She appears with Joseph at the wedding at Cana but is invited by Jesus to join the bridal round dance while Joseph happily looks on.

Up to this point Mary is driven by her motherly intuition and concerns for Jesus. She admits to Joseph that she misses him and she wishes that “he’d be back in my womb. He would be safe there.” At a coincidental encounter with Jesus in the desert she expresses her sorrow at the prospect of never seeing him again. Yet, the mother-son relationship takes on a new dimension when Mary intuits the couple’s need for wine at the wedding of Cana. The cinematic depiction places her in between Jesus and the wedding guests. Jesus cannot resist her compassionate plea and with a considerate nod works his first sign. In the days following this unheard of event, Mary blames herself for “forcing Jesus to come to the open.” It is an act for which she takes responsibility. At the same time she grows in the awareness of her mission next to her Son. Perhaps the crimson-red seamless garment she had woven for him is a sign for their new relationship. As he dons his tunic, Mother and Son wear the same color combination, red and blue, conceivably also a subtle hint at their common destiny. Mary consciously takes up her new mission as her Son’s disciple after Joseph’s death. She rebukes family members who inform her that Jesus “is not your son anymore” affirming “He is my Lord!” Her pure and unobtrusive glance compels even the vulgar guardian on Golgotha to disobey all orders thus allowing the grieving mother to be near her crucified Son.

Mary’s new mission as handmaid of the Lord extends to all members of Christ, uniquely portrayed in the prodigal Mary Magdalene, who finds her way to Jesus through Mary. On the day of the Last Supper, during their last encounter before the Passion, Jesus emphatically reminds his mother of her new role. Alluding to his Apostles and to Mary Magdalene, he urges her to remain strong because “they need your faith!” Referring to this emotional scene Benedict XVI emphasized: “She is a mother who desired to keep her Son with her, but she knows he is God. Her faith and love are so great, she accepts her part in his mission.” After Jesus’ death Mary exercises her role as she calms the broken-hearted, recreant, and fearful disciples. They listen to her as she assures them that he will return.

Mary of Nazareth-PietaAs handmaid of the Lord, Mary’s life is deeply interwoven with that of her Son as she embarks with him on his way of the Cross. Like Jesus she wrestles with God. She offers herself to die in Jesus’ place and with her Son she surrenders him to the Father for the salvation of all. She physically feels the pangs Jesus endures during his passion; should her fainting be seen as an alignment to her Son’s falling? Or is it a sign that she needed support from John and Mary Magdalene? Nonetheless, the grieving handmaid repeats her unwavering “Here I am…” after Jesus entrusts John to her care. And when she receives the dead body of her Master we sense that she is again sustained by the fabric of her faith as she utters under tears: “He will live.”

Their very last encounter depicts Mary and Jesus after the resurrection. Both are clad in white. As she utters once more her “Here I am” Mary appears to be of the same age as Jesus, perhaps an indication of the new dimension of her motherhood which she exercises beside her Son throughout eternity.

The “Mystery of Mary”
From the beginning to the end of the narrative, Mary is a pondering person veiled in silence and mystery. The motion picture contains elements of rich symbolism which are powerful catechetical tools to gain a fuller understanding of the person and vocation comprising the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, the movie begins with a scene reminiscent of the massacre of the innocent children shortly after the birth of the Christ-child (Mt 2:16ff). This time, however, soldiers ravage houses and streets in search for little girls in order to find Mary among them. Although this scene can neither be found in the apocryphal nor other related literature, it sets the plot surrounding Mary’s person. Her parents’ reaction after the horrific event resembles the leitmotif of all that will unfold. Having witnessed that their little daughter was immune to the dog’s smell which ordinarily “no heir of Eve can escape” they conclude: “Mary is a mystery; a mystery too great for us.” In the appraisal of their daughter, Joachim and Anne hint at Mary’s privileged origin (sinlessness) and divine election, her Immaculate Conception. In support of this intuition we observe the child Mary shortly thereafter, pulling her parents towards the temple. Not even the tears of her mother can stop her from running to the High Priest standing at the entrance of the temple. The 6th chapter of the Protogospel of St. James (written about 145 AD) records Anne’s promise to the nine-month-old Mary: “As the Lord my God lives, you will not walk again on this earth till I bring you into the temple of the Lord.” The following chapter relates that Anne and Joachim presented their three-year-old daughter in the temple where Mary dances on the third step of the altar and “all the house of Israel loved her.” Though a legendary account (from which arose the feast of Mary’s Presentation celebrated on November 21), the story shows that, even in her childhood, Mary was completely dedicated to God and separated from all worldly influence.

The purity of her soul places Mary in stark contrast to other women, who are all daughters of Eve. The motion picture succeeds in showing the contrast between her, the New Eve, and Anne, Elizabeth, the women of Nazareth, and above all the heinous Herodias and misguided Mary Magdalene.

Fast forward as the narration introduces us to the teenager Mary tending sheep. She appears quite content, her gaze directed heavenwards and totally unaware of the approaching snake, symbol of the devil that is unable to harm her. Joining her is a young Joseph whose attraction for Mary radiates from his glance and gestures. According to Jewish customs he had previously mustered his courage to seek Joachim’s permission to speak to his daughter which he received from Anne instead. The Protogospel of James, some Fathers of the Church, as well as theologians to the present day have speculated that, during her time in the temple, Mary may have taken a vow of virginity, thereby renouncing marriage. Chapter 8 of the Protogospel of James presents Joseph as a widower with children, “chosen to take the Virgin of the Lord, to keep her for him.” Yet nothing in the movie’s ensuing dialogue between the young master builder and Mary suggests that their relationship would be different from that of other couples. Mary of Nazareth-AnnunciationHowever, their love and commitment to each other is severely put to the test due to God’s intervention. After the Annunciation, Mary’s sole purpose and focus of life is directed to the service of the Lord. Her initial Yes, joyfully uttered in response to the Angel’s message becomes her cantus firmus loyally repeated throughout the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious events of her earthly journey. To this Pope emeritus Benedict XVI remarked: “Mary of Nazareth is the woman of ‘Here I am’, giving herself completely over to the Divine Will. … In this ‘yes’, which is repeated even as she suffers the loss of her Son, she finds an overwhelming and profound happiness.”

As she tries to understand and embrace her mission in the service of her Son, she is unable to share her inmost feelings with Joseph. For some, Joseph’s rage upon seeing his pregnant betrothed may be difficult to reconcile with a “just and upright man” to whom God entrusts the future of the “child and his Mother.” Yet, traditionally Joseph is not portrayed as a young man as in Campiotti’s narration. Unlike the old widower with children from the Protogospel, our young carpenter expresses his disappointment by giving in to his human emotions with a temper tantrum. Nonetheless he, being drawn into Mary’s mystery, comes to understand and grow in his role as guardian of mother and child: the tender, loving dialog of the young couple as they approach their wedding night reveals their mutual agreement that “a family like ours” is different. The audience is free to interpret this subtle reference to Mary’s permanent virginity as Benedict XVI seems to have done: “Joseph, Mary’s husband, a man of flesh and blood … is called upon to believe in the uniqueness of Mary’s destiny, and to forego many of the rights and privileges of marriage.”

From then on, we observe Joseph take the lead of his family. He protects his baby Son from being massacred. The attentive onlooker will notice a white lamb in the place where the family has spent the night which may well be an allusion for the Lamb of God who this time escaped His murders. During Jesus’ public life Joseph steps humbly in the background allowing Mary to assume her new mission.

The Viewer’s Pondering Heart
Finally, Campiotti intersperses a few allegorical scenes with apparently no explicit meaning. Admittedly, some puzzles are solved when watching the 200-minute Italian or Spanish version of the film. On the other hand, the truncated script could be an invitation to the viewer to enter Mary’s school where she teaches us to contemplate God’s puzzling interventions in our own life. Possible lessons may include the episode of the three-year-old Jesus plunging in the water with his mother while still in Egypt. Both are clad in white and surrounded by the sun. One is reminded of Proverbs 8:24-31; or perhaps of Jesus baptizing his mother? The audience is free to wonder about the meaning of this interaction and of the boy’s light blonde locks while otherwise portrayed with dark straight hair. And still more, who can explain the symbolic significance of the wound on the boy’s forehead? Moreover, what are we to make of the parallel scenes at the court of Herod? What may be the role of Queen Herodias? Is she the devil personified when she tempts Jesus in the desert? Or is her dominant character an example of the influence women can exert over men? While Herodias uses her charm and beauty to lead to destruction, Mary in stark contrast places her femininity and charism at the service of the Lord and his mission.

In conclusion, director and cast are to be commended for a notably stunning portrait of the life of Mary of Nazareth, which is in all its aspects in accordance with Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary. The motion picture succeeds in introducing us to the cultural and social environment in which Mary lived out her earthly existence. Furthermore, its rich symbolism unveils some of the subterranean aspects of her vocation and mission. Thus Mary of Nazareth is paradigm and teacher for all who wish to pattern their life in the spirit of her repeated declaration, “Here I am, Lord!”

Our Lady and Mount Carmel

Danielle PetersDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life,
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

Tomorrow, July 16, we commemorate Our Lady of Mt Carmel. With this title we associate a place—a mountain range in the Holy Land, a religious community—the Carmelites, and a devotion—the scapular. Megadim Cliff of Mount CarmelNear the city of Haifa and about twenty miles west of Nazareth, Mount Carmel overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. For the Jewish people the peninsula symbolizes blessing and beauty (cf. Is 35:2) and is linked to the memory of Elijah and his followers (cf. 1 Kgs 18).

My Carmelite professor at the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, OH, Fr. Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm, told us that Christians for centuries had chosen to live lives of prayer and penance in this remote site. The story goes that, after the Incarnation, the successors of Elijah turned Christian and built a church on Mt. Carmel in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From that time, they were by apostolic privilege called the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel. The Brothers have drawn a connection between Elijah and Our Lady. The scriptural story of Elijah mentions a little cloud in the shape of a man’s hand, which sanctioned the end of a three-and-a-half year drought (1 Kgs 18:44). This cloud is seen as a symbol for Mary, through whom the rains of mercy and grace descended on parched land, thereby restoring all things. The little cloud alludes to Mary’s virginity and maternity.

The relationship between the devotion to Mary and Mount Carmel is expressed beautifully in the Collect Prayer used by the Carmelites in the liturgical celebration for their patronal feast on July 16: “Lord God, you willed that the Order of Carmel should be named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of your Son. Through her prayers as we honor her today bring us to your holy mountain, Christ our Lord (emphasis added).”

The prayer identifies the holy mountain Carmel with Christ. The “ascent of Mt. Carmel” evokes the Marian way of life of the Carmelites as a spiritual ascent of perfection. On this journey with Mary, Carmelite Brothers and Sisters endeavor to be transformed by way of contemplation and intense communion with God, Our Lady, and one another. The Order is proud of their “totally Marian” spirituality which is made visible and best known through the scapular.

In comparison to this ancient history, the Carmelite devotion of the Brown Scapular is more recent. Madonna with the Scapular-Stetner (1740)It emerges in the late-fifteenth century and owes its origin to St. Simon Stock, who received a large brown scapular from Our Lady in a vision on July 16, 1251. From the Latin scapulae (shoulders), a scapular is actually a sleeveless outer garment of a monk’s or sister’s habit that falls from the shoulders and serves like an apron protecting the habit from getting soiled. Analogously, the brown scapular given to the Carmelites implies that Mary clothes a Christian with the garment of her attitudes and devotion to Christ in order to protect his or her soul from the filth of evil.

The Mount Carmel Brown Scapular is the oldest among eight scapulars with a Marian character approved by the Church. It signals a special grace for the Carmelites and has meanwhile become one of the most widely practiced Marian devotions. Mary promised St. Simon that whoever wore the scapular daily and died wearing it after having lived in chastity according to one’s state of life would not suffer everlasting punishment and would quickly be released from purgatory.

On July 4, 1908, the Congregation of Indulgences approved the devotion and its conditions. The decree reads that those who wear the scapular and “have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours of the Blessed Virgin, or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death—especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin—through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.”

Brown ScapularThe conditions attached to the devotion clarify that wearing the scapular is not an automatic insurance to get to heaven. Rather, as a sacramental, the scapular should be a daily reminder that at Baptism we have become clothed with Christ. The scapular thus serves as a sign of and protection for the white baptismal garment of our soul which, with the help of Our Lady, we strive to take unstained to heaven.

As we celebrate Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we rejoice in the rich tradition of devotional practices offered to us in Mary’s school where saints are formed. One of the most recent graduates from this school is St. John Paul II who recalls: “I too received the scapular, I think at the age of ten, and I still wear it!”[1]

At the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to St. Simon Stock, St. John Paul II noted that “the sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives.” Whether we faithfully wear the scapular or practice another Marian devotion, we may be confident of the constant protection of Our Lady on our journey heavenwards and especially at the hour of our death, provided that this ‘habit’ has kept spotless the garment of our souls.


[1] John Paul II. Gift and Mystery: On the fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination [New York 1996], 30. “El Escapulario de Juan Pablo II. Regalado a la Iglesia de los Carmelitas Descalzos de Wadowice, Polonia,Miriam-Revista Mariana Universal (Encro-Febrero 2006), 18.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary: A Model of Purity

Danielle PetersDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life,
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

This past Friday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, recalling that the human heart of Jesus Christ is the prototype of a heart totally directed to and united with God. On the following day—Saturday June 28—we commemorated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The main promoters of the veneration of Mary’s Immaculate Heart (St. Anselm, d.1109; St. Bernard of Clairvaux, d.1153; St. Bernardine of Siena, 1380-1444; St. John Eudes, 1601-1680) were solicitous in emphasizing the intimate union between the two hearts of Jesus and Mary. Sacred and Immaculate HeartsThe Gospel of Luke speaks twice of Mary’s pondering heart: “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart” (2:19) and “His mother meanwhile kept all these things in her heart” (2:51).

The heart as the expression of the core of a person is universally accepted as the symbol of love. It is likewise the heart from which our choices and commitments originate. Thus we can say that Mary’s fiat given to the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation reveals her innermost disposition to serve God with an undivided heart, no matter the cost. Thus writes St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater:“By her loving consent, Mary first conceived Christ in her heart and then in her womb accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan” (RM, §14).

Mary’s Immaculate Heart is God’s gift to her, preserving her from original sin and strengthened her in her resolve to remain sinless. In actuality, sin—to say it simply—is a lack of love. Mary does not experience this lack, because the ecstasy of her heart leaves no room for sin (cf. RM, §36). Thus, when Mary ponders all she has experienced in her heart, she does so with a purity of spirit which allows her to “see” with her heart the ways God wants to lead her.

Unfortunately, it is not so with our hearts: “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mk 7:21-23). Yet, a heart which at baptism has received the “purification for sins” through the Son of God has become a pure und undivided heart (cf. Heb 1:3), capable of loving God and neighbor with heart and soul.

Love washed, cleansed, and transformed through the Blood of Christ does not wither, but is passionate in seeking the integral good: “Eros is thus supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, §10). Indeed, true love cannot be disimpassioned! Immaculate Heart of Mary-largeThe purified heart is a strong heart because with the help of grace it can succeed in channeling all antagonistic powers wrestling within towards God and His reign. Such a heart is also brave because it has persevered and matured amidst trials and challenges. Those who may call such a heart their own are allowed to see God (cf. Mt 5:8).

“Here is my secret. It is very simple. One sees well only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” These words of the Little Prince could also have been spoken by Mary. A heart that sees well has acquired the art of love; it perceives God’s gifts reflected in His goodness, His creation and creatures! We may want to ask, “How well does a heart need to be in order to see rightly?” Or “what obstacles prevent a heart—my heart—from seeing well?” Celebrating the Immaculate Heart of Mary invites us to take stock of the condition of our hearts.

Purifying the Polluted Heart
Daily we are confronted with the devastating effects pollution has on the earth and are taught preventive actions. Yet, hardly anybody speaks of the pollution of the human heart! Nonetheless, the abiding contamination of the world around us corresponds to the increasing threat and devastation of our inner world caused by the poisonous impressions we permit to enter our heart.

Do we need to pay better attention to the hygiene of our heart? This could start with a good confession and the decision to regularly allot time for the sacrament of reconciliation. The prophet Ezekiel tells us rather bluntly: “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit” (Ez 18:31).

Sincere efforts to purify and beautify our hearts will by necessity have an impact on our daily decisions and personal style of life. At stake is a sincere (re)evaluation of our habits concerning prayer, language, and choice of entertainment, to name but a few. Needless to say, the cultivation of our hearts is no romantic waltz. On the contrary, it involves pertinacious legwork, patience and humility, since this endeavor will doubtlessly bring us to remove the different layers with which we cover, protect, disguise, and even harden our hearts.

The following scriptural passages could accompany us on the journey:

   I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you
your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26).

   Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing heart, to sustain me (Ps 51:12).

?     My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music (Ps 57:8).

   So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people
and to distinguish between right and wrong (1 Kings 3:9).

?     Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Mt 5:8).

By commemorating Mary’s Immaculate Heart we can confidently turn to her knowing that she is our Mother and teacher. We can take her hand and tell her:

Blessed Mother, your heart is well-ordered and in harmony with the heart of your Son. Your favorite occupation is to treasure and ponder Him in your Immaculate Heart. In many ways, my heart lacks this order. Let me participate in the richness and beauty of your heart. Teach me in my struggle to surrender my heart undividedly to Jesus and His work. Strengthen me in my efforts to depollute the trash accumulated in my imagination and consciousness. Then I, like you, will discover my heart as the temple of God and learn to see and ponder Him in my everyday life. Amen.

‘Tis the Month of Our Mother…

Danielle PetersDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.
Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life,
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

Love for the Blessed Mother has found a variety of expressions during the month of May. I recall a solemn May Opening and daily May devotions in my parish church. We had a light blue booklet with prayers for each day of May and with Marian hymns that could only be sung during “the month of our Mother.”

May Crowning 1My most cherished memories, however, are related to a special May altar we and many other Catholic families built in the home. The designated place for our Marian altar was the triangular shelf of the corner seat in our dining room. As May approached, we children would start decorating this place with a white doily, on top of which we placed a statue of Mary. A candle was lit during meal times, and each day we picked the best flowers we could find and arranged them in a little vase to give honor to the Queen of May. Somehow our hearts beat faster during this month, during which we gave Mary a special place in our home. Even my mom—still Lutheran at that time—gladly joined in, since it seemed that Mary’s presence made us better children!

This took place way back in Germany. Here in the United States, there are other devotions and practices to honor the Queen of May. For example, many parishes, Marian shrines, and grottos have a May crowning ceremony. Before a wreath of flowers is placed on a statue or image of Mary, there is often a procession during which children and adults alike can honor Our Lady by placing flowers in vases arranged before her icon. Then, everyone’s eyes are glued on the person selected to offer the crown on behalf of all to Mary.[1]

Why do we crown Mary?
In the Litany of Loreto, several invocations honor Mary as Queen. Theologians like Origen († 253/254) and Ephrem the Syrian († 373) were the first to attribute this title to Mary. Still today we intone the Marian antiphons Salve Regina, Regina coeli, and Ave Regina coelorum, all of which honor the Queen of heaven and earth.

May CrowningYet, the New Testament does not refer to Mary of Galilee as queen. In fact, Mary speaks of herself as the handmaid of the Lord (Lk. 1:38). In the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah foretells the birth of a child who will be called Prince of Peace (Is 9:5), whose reign is without end. This reign, as we know, is different from all earthly monarchies. Christ taught us that His mission was one of service (cf. Mt. 20:28). Mary—the Mother of this Prince—became the first to abide by her Son’s teaching. As the handmaid of the Lord she is Queen because in her Son’s Kingdom, to reign means to serve![2] Thus she is praised as the Queen of all saints and even of the angels.

Mary’s royal dignity has its source in her election. From the first moment of her existence, she is enveloped by God’s love; she is full of grace! Indeed, she is the Queen, conceived without original sin. Throughout her earthly pilgrimage, Mary preserved God’s gift in its purity and matured in her love for God and others, so that when her earthly life was complete, God welcomed Mary—body and soul—into heavenly glory.[3]

The crowning of a life refers to that which excels all expectations. The crowning of Mary’s life was her vocation to be the mother of a king. Yet this royal family did not live in a palace, nor did they wear sumptuous robes and a crown. Christ’s throne was His Cross and His crown was made from thorns. Mary walked this royal way next to her Son. Her faithful and sacrificial love received its reward when Mary “was exalted by the Lord as Queen of the Universe, in order that she might be the more thoroughly conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16) and the conqueror of sin and death.”[4]

By crowning Mary we recall what God did at her entry into heaven. With this act we acknowledge that she is Queen not only in heaven but also here on earth. Implicitly this means that Mary is also Queen of our life! This thought has concrete ramifications for every aspect of our being and acting. Above all, it reminds us that we are royal children! The French have a saying—noblesse oblige—whichthe Dictionnaire de l’Académie française translates as follows:

  1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
  2. One must act in a fashion that conforms to one’s position, and with the reputation that one has earned.

Coronation of the Virgin-Fra AngelicoWhen offering a crown to Mary, not only do we acknowledge what God did for her in heaven or hail her as Queen of Peace; we also ask her to intercede for us that we might receive grace to live up to our calling as royal children of God. We invite her to be the Queen of our hearts!

I would like to close with a prayer written by Father Joseph Kentenich, the founder of Schoenstatt, while he was imprisoned in the concentration camp of Dachau. Turning to Mary, Fr. Kentenich prayed for an awareness of this royal calling in an environment where human dignity was mocked and many human beings acted like animals. May we also be aware of our royal dignity as children of God and of Mary, and may we live that dignity as Mary did in imitation of her Son Jesus by offering lives of service in praise of the God who created us.

Let us walk like you through life,
let us mirror you forever,
strong and noble, meek and mild,
peace and love be our endeavor.
Walk in us through our world,
make it ready for the Lord.[5]


[1]In 1987, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the U.S. even published the Order of crowning an image of the Blessed Virgin Marywith several options for a liturgical celebration during or outside of holy Mass.

[2] Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 41.

[3]Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950); DS 3903; LG 59; cf. Rev. 19:16.

[4] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 41.

[5] Joseph Kentenich, Heavenwards: Prayers for the Use of the Schoenstatt Family. (Waukesha, 1992), 171.