“Mondays with Mary” – The Blessed Virgin in Sacred Art (3rd Anniversary & 150th post)

Today marks a very important day as a Catholic writer for me, for today is the third anniversary of “Mondays with Mary”, which coincides with the 150th blog post of the series. To be completely honest, I would have never thought that this series would last for three years nor did I ever think it would reach 150 posts. When I set out to begin this series in May 2012, it was initially designed to be a four-week series focusing on Mary during the Month of May after reading Blessed Pope Paul VI’s, Mense Maio.

As I look back on the three years of this series, along with the other series’ that I have written on this blog, as well as the many other blog posts, it’s truly been the Divine Will of God in all of it from the very beginning.

My ability and love of writing began with my entrance into the Masters in Theology program at Franciscan University of Steubenville, which in turn led to my Dad reading many of my papers, and since he thought my writing was as articulate and profound as the books he had read (maybe a slight bias since I am his son), it was Dad who encouraged me to start writing in the first place. Although he has left this Vale of Tears and watches over me and the rest of the family from a different plain on the other side of Heaven, I know he will be with me in the days, months, and years ahead, not just as I write but in general.

As we began the great Month of Mary a few days ago, I realized that although I have used a lot of Marian Art in my blog posts, I have yet to write on it specifically. Let me first say, as a disclaimer, that I have studied art in the past, however, I am by no means an expert, heck – I’m not even an amateur, but I do love Sacred Art as you would know if you have seen my home or office. Today’s blog post isn’t going to discuss the pieces of art as someone might examine an artist and their work, but it will focus on five pieces of Marian art and what those pieces give us in relation to Marian Theology. I only chose five, but there are countless Marian paintings.

The first piece is Raphael’s, Madonna of the Chair.

Madonna of the Chair - Raphael

This piece from Raphael (1483-1520) is the renowned and distinguished painting depicting Mary, Jesus, and an adolescent St. John the Baptist. Many see Mary’s perfect Motherhood in this painting as well as the Baptist’s role model for children, since he would prepare the way of the Lord. The legendary educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, used this painting as the icon for her children’s houses that would take her name.

The second piece is Roberto Feruzzi’s (1853-1934), Madonnina Little Mother.

Madonna of the Streets - Ferruzzi

As he walked through the streets of Venice one day, Feruzzi noticed an image before him of a young woman holding in her arms her baby brother. He was wrapped in a shawl and he was close to her bosom. He noticed that the girl, although young, was a witness of maternal care that only mature women know. Originally, the painting was called Madonnina Little Mother, however many today know it to be – Madonna of the Streets. It’s a beautiful painting of Mother Mary and her infant Son. One of the Women’s Household’s at Franciscan University of Steubenville bears this name.

The third piece is Bartolomeo Murillo’s (1618-1662), Immaculate Conception.

Immaculate Conception - Bartolomeo Murillo

In this painting we view Mary surrounded by the angels known as cherubim. They surround her for they are raptured with the holiness she displays through her Immaculate Conception. Blessed Pope Pius IX declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception solemn in 1854 through an infallible statement (ex cathedra). The definition reads –

“…We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

The fourth piece is Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner’s (1625-1707), Mary Untier of Knots. 

Mary Untier of Knots

In this painting, we see Mary standing on a crescent moon and stepping on the head of the snake, most commonly represented as the serpent from the Garden of Eden. As the Holy Spirit remains above, with angels surrounding her, Mary as the Untier of Knots loosens and unties the knots given to humanity through the sin of Eve (and Adam) from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. To learn more about this image made popular through the devotion of Pope Francis, please read my post – “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Francis on the “Faith of Mary.” There is also a novena to Mary under this title.

The fifth piece is Raphael’s, Madonna della Granduca.

Madonna dell Granduca - Raphael

Although Raphael has given the world many beautiful paintings, his most classic, and arguably, his most beautiful of Mary is the Madonna della Granduca. This image witnesses for the entire world the true love that the Mother has for her Son, while also showing the humanity of Jesus Christ in the arms of his immaculate young mother.

As we commemorate the Month of Mary, I would encourage you to share with your family and friends this post and the many others I have written for the sole purpose to explain to Catholics the importance that Mary plays in Salvation History as the Mother of God. Don’t be afraid to show her the exceptional veneration (hyperdulia) that the Church has authorized us to give her, never outweighing the adoration and glory of God.

I would also encourage purchasing the prints of these paintings and other paintings of Mary to display them in your residence as a witness to the beauty, love, and truth that is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

10 Quotes from The Treatise of Prayer by St. Catherine of Siena

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, the Mystic of the Incarnate Word. Although she is well known for being a mediator of parties and for bringing the Papacy back to Rome after the 70 year Avignon “captivity”, her most famous writing is The Dialogue. The Dialogue, which was completed in 1370, is a document that focuses on four treatises – Divine Providence, Discretion, Prayer, and Obedience. The Dialogue was written by her own hands, to her secretaries, while she was in a state of ecstasy.

St. Catherine of Siena2

Here are 10 Quotes from The Treatise of Prayer…

1. “When the soul has passed through the doctrine of Christ crucified, with true love of virtue and hatred of vice, and has arrived at the house of self-knowledge and entered therein, she remains, with her door barred, in watching and constant prayer, separated entirely from the consolations of the world.”

2. “And so, with exercise in perseverance, she [the soul] will taste prayer in truth, and the food of the Blood of My only-begotten Son, and therefore I told you that some communicated virtually with the Body and Blood of Christ, although not sacramentally; that is, they communicate in the affection of charity, which they taste by means of holy prayer, little or much, according to the affection with which they pray.”

3. “Then this soul, yearning with very great desire, and rising as one intoxicated both by the union which she had had with God, and by what she had heard and tasted of the Supreme and Sweet Truth, yearned with grief over the ignorance of creatures, in that they did not know their Benefactor, or the affection of the love of God.”

4. “Then said the Supreme and Sweet Truth of God, “Oh, beloved and dearest daughter, you beg knowledge of the reasons and fruits of tears…These are the tears of damnation. The former are those of fear, and belong to men who abandon sin from fear of punishment, and weep for fear. The third are the tears of those who, having abandoned sin, are beginning to serve and taste Me, and weep for very sweetness; but since their love is imperfect, so also is their weeping, as I have told you. The fourth are the tears of those who have arrived at the perfect love of their neighbor, loving Me without any regard whatsoever for themselves. These weep and their weeping is perfect. The fifth are joined to the fourth and are tears of sweetness let fall with great peace, as I will explain to you. I will tell you also of the tears of fire, without bodily tears of the eyes, which satisfy those who often would desire to weep and cannot. And I wish you to know that all these various graces may exist in one soul, who, rising from fear and imperfect love, reaches perfect love in the unitive state.”

5. “I did not impose this law upon you, in order that My rational creature should be conquered by it, but in order that he should prove and increase the virtue of his soul, because virtue cannot be proved, except by its contrary. Sensuality is contrary to the spirit, and yet, by means of sensuality, the soul is able to prove the love which she has for Me, her Creator.”

6. “My Providence will never fail you, and every man, if he be humble, shall receive that which he is fit to receive; and every minister, that which I have given him to administer, each in his own way, according to what he has received and will receive from My goodness.”

7. “Wherefore, as I have said to you, I, God, have become man, and man has become God by the union of My Divine Nature with your human nature. This greatness is given in general to all rational creatures, but, among these I have especially chosen My ministers for the sake of your salvation, so that, through them, the Blood of the humble and immaculate Lamb, My only-begotten Son, may be administered to you.”

8. “By receiving this Sacrament she dwells in Me and I in her, as the fish in the sea, and the sea in the fish — thus do I dwell in the soul, and the soul in Me — the Sea Pacific. In that soul grace dwells, for, since she has received this Bread of Life in a state of grace, My grace remains in her, after the accidents of bread have been consumed.”

9. “They are My anointed ones, and I call them My Christs, because I have given them the office of administering Me to you, and have placed them like fragrant flowers in the mystical body of the holy Church. The angel himself has no such dignity, for I have given it to those men whom I have chosen for My ministers, and whom I have appointed as earthly angels in this life. In all souls I demand purity and charity, that they should love Me and their neighbor, helping him by the ministration of prayer…”

10. “You have soothed me because with Your love and gentleness You have manifested Yourself to me, Sweet above all sweetness, and have illuminated the eye of my intellect with the light of most holy faith, with which light, according as it has pleased You to manifest it to me, I have known the excellence of grace which You have given to the human race, administering to it the entire God-Man in the mystic body of the holy Church.”

Saint Catherine of Siena…Pray For Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘In Praise of Mary’

Since Wednesday is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena – Mystic of the Incarnate Word, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a prayer written by one of the great female Doctors of the Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary that I recently came across titled, ‘In Praise of Mary.’

Mary

O Mary, Mary, temple of the Trinity. O Mary, bearer of fire. O Mary, dispenser of mercy. O Mary, restorer of human generation, because the world was repurchased by means of the sustenance that your flesh found in the Word. Christ repurchased the world with His Passion, and you with your suffering of mind and body.

O Mary, peaceful ocean. O Mary, giver of peace. O Mary, fruitful land. You, O Mary, are that new plant from which we have the fragrant flower of the Word, Only-begotten Son of God, because this Word was sown in you, O fruitful land. You are the land and the plant.

O Mary, vehicle of fire, you bore the fire hidden and veiled beneath the ash of your humanity. O Mary, vase of humility, in which there burns the light of true knowledge with which you lifted yourself above yourself and yet were pleasing to the eternal Father; hence He took and brought you to Himself, loving you with a singular love.

With this light and fire of your charity and with the oil of your humility, you inclined His Divinity to come into you – although He was first drawn to come to us by the most ardent fire of His inestimable charity.

Today I ardently make my request, because it is the day of graces, and I know that nothing is refused to you, O Mary. Today, O Mary, your land has generated the Savior for us. O Mary, blessed are you among women throughout the ages!

“Mondays with Mary” – St. Anselm’s Prayer to Mary as Theotokos

Since tomorrow is the feast day of St. Anselm – The Father of Scholasticism, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you one of the three prayers written by the medieval saint to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In total, there were hundreds of prayers written by St. Anselm, however, today we have around nineteen of them and a few meditations. His prayers were specifically written to individual saints, as is this one below focusing on Mary as the Theotokos. This term for the Blessed Mother that happens to be my favorite title for her as well.

Writing with a superb scholastic intellect, the three prayers to Mary by St. Anselm follow a spiritual nature composed of three steps: first, and prayer below, focuses on the a situation of heavy distress on the mind in regards to sin, the second prayer is to expel fear when the mind is engaged in it because of anxiety, and third, this prayer culminates with the love of Christ and Mary together.

Specifically, this first prayer of the three focuses heavily on the sin that all humans beings find themselves when looking at the holiness of Mary. Her holiness is not to discourage us, but it is through her beauty and love for Christ, and the mercy He gives to her that assists us in finding Him. What often happens with sin is that it becomes hard like concrete and it must be broken and shattered. It is here at this moment of hardness that we need the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin as Theotokos.

Icon created by Ann Chapin -  http://www.faceofchrist.gallery/Saints-and-Angels/i-hqS9kFc

Icon created by Ann Chapin. To purchase this icon or many others, please click on her name.

Mary, holy Mary, among the holy ones the most holy after God, Mother with virginity to be wondered at, Virgin with fertility to be cherished, you bore the Son of the most High
and brought forth the Savior of the lost human race. Lady, shining before all others with such sanctity, pre-eminent with such dignity, it is very sure that you are not least in power and in honor.

Life-bearer, mother of salvation, shrine of goodness and mercy, I long to come before you in my misery, sick with the sickness of vice, in pain from the wounds of crimes, putrid with the ulcers of sin. However near I am to death, I reach out to you, and I long to ask that by your powerful merits and your loving prayers, you will deign to heal me. Good Lady, a huge dullness is between you and me, so that I am scarcely aware of the extent of my sickness.

I am so filthy and stinking that I am afraid you will turn your merciful face from me. So I look to you to convert me, but I am held back by despair, and even my lips are shut against prayer. My sins, my wicked deeds, since you have destroyed my soul with your poison, why do you make it a horror with your filth, so that no one can look on my misery? 
If your weight is so great that I have no hope of being heard, why by your shame do you block the voice of my prayer? 
If you have made me mad with love for you, 
why have you made my senses unfeeling with your torpor?

Alas, what a shameful thing is the filth of sin before the brightness of holiness. Alas, what confusion there is for an impure conscience in the presence of shining purity.You are blessed above all women, in purity surpassing the angels, in goodness overpassing the saints. Already dying I long to be seen by such kindness, 
but I blush before the gaze of such purity. 
What I want to ask you, Lady, is that by a glance from your mercy 
you will cure the sickness and ulcers of my sins, 
but before you I am confounded 
by the smell and foulness of them. I shudder, Lady, to show you all my foul state, lest it makes you shudder at the sight of me, but, alas for me, I cannot be seen any other way.

How disturbed and confused is the state of sin! 
How my sins tear my heart in pieces and divide it, gnaw at it and torment it! Because of these sins of mine, Lady, I desire to come to you and be cured, 
but I flee from you for fear of being cursed. My sins cannot be cured unless they are confessed, but to acknowledge them throws me into confusion. If they are concealed they cannot be healed, 
if they are seen they are detestable. 
They chafe me with sorrow, they terrify me with fear, they bury me with their weight, they press upon me heavily, and confound me with shame.

Mary, powerful in goodness, and good in power, from whom was born the fount of mercy, I pray you, do not withhold such true mercy where you know there is such true misery. 
The brightness of your holiness confounds the darkness of my sins, but surely you will not blush to feel kindness towards such a wretch? If I acknowledge my iniquity, surely you will not refuse to show kindness? If my misery is too great to be heard favorably, surely your mercy will be less than it ought to be? Lady, before God and before you my sins appear vile; and therefore so much the more do they need His healing and your help.

Most gentle Lady, heal my weakness, and you will be taking away the filth that offends you. Most kind Lady, take away my sickness, and you will not experience the dirt you shudder at. Most dear Lady, do not let what grieves you be, and there will be nothing to defile your holiness. Hear me, Lady, and make whole the soul of a sinner who is your servant, by virtue of the blessed fruit of your womb, who sits at the right hand of his almighty Father and is praised and glorified above all for ever. Amen.

Source:

“Marian Spirituality of St. Anselm.” Marian Spirituality of St. Anselm. University of Dayton, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

10 Maxims from the Curé of Ars – St. John Vianney

From time to time, I enjoy reading through the thoughts of St. John Vianney because they bring comfort and consolation when I am enduring great trials. Knowing what it’s like to work for a great parish priest, the words of St. John Vianney often remind me of the many words often given from him.

Although these maxims or rules of conduct are generally simple, they are quite penetrating, and if discerned properly, will make a great impact on one’s life. I would encourage you to read through these and really take them to heart. Even though all ten are impactful, the one’s that speak about the Saints truly impact me. That’s the one thing I always find so interesting about the Saints – they talk about the Saints before them and now they themselves are Saints.

St. John Vianney

1. “To approach God one should go straight to Him, like a ball from a cannon.”

2. “Remain humble, remain simple; the more you are so, the more good you will do.”

3. “This is real faith, when we speak to God as we would converse with a man.”

4. “The sun never hides his light for fear of inconveniencing the owls.”

5. “Do not distrust the Providence of God. He who made your corn to grow will assuredly help to gather it in.”

6. “If we possessed a real penetrating faith like the Saints we should see Our Lord like they did.”

7. “Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is to the Rosary; take away the chain and the beads are scattered, remove Humility and all virtues vanish.”

8. “The Saints never complain.”

9. “God acts vigorously and gently; it is good to rely on Him.”

10. “Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the Angels, and the Saints – they are your public.”

As always, I hope you can share this post as well as these thoughts with your family and friends via your social media sites.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Regina Caeli

During the Easter Season, which runs from Holy Saturday to the Sunday following Pentecost (Trinity Sunday), the Regina Caeli is one of the four seasonal antiphons that should be chanted or recited to the Blessed Virgin Mary after night prayer, also known as vespers or compline, in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is also the prayer that should be chanted or recited in place of the Angelus during the same season.

The authorship of the Regina Caeli is not fully known, although there are a couple different traditions that surround the prayer. Some believe that Pope St. Gregory the Great had a part in the composition of the prayer. In the late 6th century, a great plague hit the city of Rome. In order to combat this epidemic, St. Gregory the Great asked that a procession of prayer be organized. Beginning at the church of Ara Coeli (now the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara coeli), the Holy Father, along with his clergy, began the prayerful procession through the streets of Rome, which would conclude at St. Peter’s Basilica. As he walked the streets, he carried what is said to be the traditional icon that was written by St. Luke the Evangelist of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Virgin_salus_populi_romani - St. Luke Icon

As Gregory approached St. Peter’s, he and his clergy walked by the Castle of Hadrian. It was there he heard the most beautiful angelic voices singing. The amazed Pope replied, “Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia!” Instantly an angel appeared and quickly wiped out the drastic disease that plagued Rome. To bring honor to this supernatural event, Pope St. Gregory the Great changed Hadrian’s Castle to the Castel of Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel). The words were also written on the roof of the Church of Ara Coeli.

Some claim the writing of the Regina Caeli is given to Pope Gregory V, who is said to have written the prayer in the late 10th century, however there isn’t much evidence to support this claim. The stronger of the two traditions most definitely is with Pope St. Gregory the Great, who is attributed to writing part of the prayer. The actual prayer itself is believed to have been composed between the ninth and twelfth centuries. According to Franciscan heritages, it was being recited in the late twelfth century and early thirteenth century. It was later added to a variety of chant manuscripts.

In the year 1742, Pope Benedict XIV professed that the Regina Caeli was to be prayed in place of the Angelus during the Easter Season when the bells were rung.

It’s a beautiful and simple request to the Blessed Virgin as our Queen who can intercede and pray for us. Because Jesus Christ has risen, she is a rejoicing with joy. The Season of Lent has concluded and it’s time to sing with Our Lady, pray with her, and know that we now have been given life over death through the Resurrection.

English:

Queen of Heave, rejoice, alleluia.The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia, has risen as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia! For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia!

Latin:

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia, quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia, resurrexit sicut dixi, alleluia, ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Sources:

“Marian Antiphons.” Marian Antiphons. University of Dayton, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

“Regina Caeli.” Regina Caeli. Treasury of Latin Prayers, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.