“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Šiluva

As the Protestant Reformation swept Europe, it seemed nowhere was safe, even the little town of Šiluva in the country of Lithuania. Fifteen years after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, the local governor of Šiluva left Catholicism and became a Calvinist zealot, as did many intellectuals in the area who in-turn forced others to become Calvinists too.

The suppression of the Catholic faith as well as the lands owned by the Catholic Church was first authorized by Lutherans. The Protestant Reformation storm was so large that nobody could escape its onslaught. John Zavisa, the successor of the governor, and a Lutheran, tried to overrun the Catholic Church completely, but could not, even though the church’s land was taken. Lutherans ruled this land from 1532 to 1550. In 1551, the brother of Zavisa, Melchior Zavisa, took over the land and the church in Šiluva and brought with him the Calvinism.

Over the span of eighty years, the Catholic faith died out because there were no Catholic leaders to spread the faith. The elders of the small village were the only ones that could remember a Catholic church existing in the town. During this time, Calvinism ruled the land and children were educated with the creed of Calvin. However, all would change very soon.

In the summer of 1608, a few children were tending their sheep in a field some distance away from Šiluva. They were playing near a rock, very close to a wooded field. Suddenly, each child, one by one, became fixated on something near the rock. Within the silence, loud sobbing could be heard. The children then saw a young beautiful woman standing upon the rock. She was holding a small baby and weeping inconsolably. It seemed she was crying because her heart was broken. Her tears were so profound that they could be seen by the children splashing upon the rock. All the time, the lady did not say a word, but kept on weeping. She was dressed in blue and white robes and it seemed that a light consumed her and the child. After they finished tending their sheep, the children returned home telling their parents what they witnessed.

As you would imagine, the news of this spread very quickly. The next day many people gathered at the site where the children claimed to have seen their vision. Each child was questioned, and each child remember exactly what the others witnessed, even down to the smallest detail. One specific Calvinist catechist scoffed at the idea and even chastised the people for listening to the children. He said, if anyone did appear, that it was the devil trying to lead people away from the Calvinist faith.

As the catechist was talking, the lady appeared again as she did the day previously – standing on the rock, with the child in her arms, and weeping bitterly. Nearly everyone this time witnessed the image and all were frightened. The catechist courageously asked the woman why she was crying, in a very melancholic tone, she said, “Formerly in this place, my Son was honored and adored, but now all that the people do is seed and cultivate and land.” She then vanished from their sight.

The image of the lady was seen by many people. The Calvinist leaders could not deny it. The people were confused and the leaders said it was the devil playing tricks on them all.

The story of the lady appearing quickly spread to the surrounding the towns. In one case, and the most important, the story reached an old blind man who was 100 years old. He remembered that 80 years before he assisted a priest who buried many beautiful Catholic items in an ironclad chest beside an old rock. The villagers of Šiluva led the old man to the field. When arriving at the field, he miraculously regained his sight. After giving praise and thanksgiving, he pointed to the exact spot. Immediately, the chest was dug up from the ground. When it was opened, they found in perfect condition – a large painting of the Madonna and Child, gold chalices, liturgical vestments, parish deeds, and other church documents.

Once the Basilica of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built and completed, the painting was permanently enshrined. To this day, it is venerated by the faithful as the Miraculous Image of Šiluva. The apparition was proven to be an actual event because on August 17, 1775, Pope Pius VI, promulgated with a Papal Decree the authenticity of Our Lady of Šiluva. It is known as the first apparition of the Mother of God in Europe.

Over the years, many miracles have occurred on this site, but probably the greatest miracle is that the miracle happened in a village and region in Lithuania that was completely non-Catholic. The shrine has experienced much growth over the years and larger churches had to be built to accommodate the large crowds of pilgrims flocking to this little town.

The apparition site continued to grow rapidly, that’s until World War II, which brought devastation and ruin to Lithuania. However, even more troubling for this site was the Great Partition in 1795. The Great Partition was when Russian took over the lands of Lithuania. For many years, the Russians ruled over this land with a heavy hand.

During the years between 1918-1940, the Russians eased back their control, allowing for the apparition to grow in devotion throughout all of Europe. However, when Communist Russia took over control again after the war, devotions were allowed, but in a very subdued form. The apparition site of Our Lady of Šiluva became very popular after the 1993 Papal Visit by Pope St. John Paul II. Our Lady of Šiluva is known as “Lithuania’s Greatest Treasure.”

The feast day for Our Lady of Šiluva is usually celebrated on September 8, which is The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The reason I wrote about it today is because the 13th day of each month is known as “Mary’s Day” in Lithuania, and today is the 13th of November.

Thank you to John and Kathy who brought this apparition to my attention during our Queen of Heaven Study.

Our Lady of Šiluva…Pray for Us

 Source:

Lady of Siluva, Mary’s Pages , http://www.marypages.com/LadyofSiluva.htm.

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘12 Principal Virtues of the Wondrous Childhood of the Blessed Virgin’

Tomorrow in the Catholic Church, September 8, we commemorate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Birth of the Theotokos in the East). A glorious day that focuses on the birth of the Immaculate Woman who would conceive and bear the Messiah, the Christ, the Word of God Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Although we study, reflect, and focus our attention mainly on Mary’s role in Salvation History from the moment of her fiat, her “Yes” to God, we must remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary was also a child.

Last year for this feast day, I focused on the 12 Means of Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in Her Childhood. These means and today’s “Mondays with Mary” come from the writings of Saint John Eudes in his work titled, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God. To learn why Saint John Eudes writes on this aspect of Mary’s life, I would encourage you to read the post from last year.

The ’12 Principal Virtues of the Wondrous Childhood of the Blessed Virgin’ are the following –

1. Innocence: The most perfect after Jesus Christ, Mary’s innocence is rooted in the fact that she was free from all sin, both original and actual. She is the Immaculate Conception.

2. Simplicity: Curiosity and duplicity were foreign to her. Mary had one simple will in mind for her life and that was to please God and align her will with His will.

3. Humility: Because she was so humble, she treated herself least among all creatures.

4. Obedience: Because she was free from all sin, she obeyed God, her parents, and all superiors with perfect obedience.

5. Patience: Since she knew that her Son would endure great pains of suffering, she learned to practice patience from her childhood which would prepare her to endure patiently the agonies of Jesus Christ.

Mary Ponders The Word of God

6. Love for God: She loved God so much that she would have rather been “annihilated” than give any other creature the love that God Himself deserved. All that she did was for Him alone. Her will was His will – this is the supreme test of divine love.

7. Charity towards her neighbor: Mary had so much love for her neighbor. Even in the cruel and merciless actions of the soldiers that tortured Jesus, Mary petitioned for mercy and love. As His Mother, she offered up his innocent blood, which was being shed for them as well.

8. Contempt of and disengagement from the world and from herself: From the beginning of her life, Mary died to her self in all things, her will was the Will of God, all material things were forsaken for the love of God – He is who she would love above all.

9. Virginal Purity: The Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church – St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine of Hippo believed that Mary made a vow of virginity early in her life. They also tell us if Mary had been given a choice to choose whether to be a mother or remain a virgin, she would have chosen virginity.

10. Silence: Mary’s silencing was deafening that nowhere in the Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, or any other author records a word from her at home with her parents, in the Temple, or any time after.

11. Gentleness and Meekness: Mary is the only human being to exemplify and perfect gentleness and meekness. The sweetness that Mary evokes is not something just of our childhood, but she retains it and shares it with sinners, even the most horrific of sinners. She is always there to bring them back to Jesus Christ.

12. Modesty: Mary’s modesty was so great that some may have mistaken her to be an Angel incarnate.

To conclude, I leave you with the words of Saint John Eudes,

“Praise and immortal thanks be given to Thee, O God, for all the perfections with which Thou has enriched this admirable Child. Eternal honor and benediction to our amiable Mary for all the glory she has rendered the Most Holy Trinity by the practice of the virtues she exercised during her wondrous Childhood.”

“Mondays with Mary” – 12 Means of Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in Her Childhood

Today in the Catholic Church, we commemorate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A glorious day that focuses on the birth of the immaculate woman who would conceive and bear the Messiah, the Christ, the Word of God Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Although we study, reflect, and focus our attention mainly on Mary’s role in Salvation History from the moment of her fiat, her “Yes” to God, we must remember that the Blessed Virgin Mary was also a child.

The school of Mary’s childhood provides for us lessons in obedience, purity, innocence, humility, and simplicity. In her childhood, Mary displays the perfect ideal to all of humanity on how to be a child of God. In commemoration of this Marian feast, I draw upon the 17th century document from Saint John Eudes titled, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God.

St. John Eudes writes on this part of Mary’s immaculate life for two reasons: first, unlike Eve who was created as an adult, he praises the notion that Mary was born as a child and lived and grew in childhood. As a daughter of Adam, the blood that flows through her veins also flows through our veins. She is the highest creature of the human race. Mary is our sister in Christ as well as our Mother leading us closer to Jesus. Second, the kingdom of heaven belongs to the innocence of children – “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As Christians, we must hear the Gospel with joy and become like little children.

Now let us turn to the 12 Means of Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in Her Childhood. These twelve means, a unique devotion to the Mother of our Redeemer will provide a multitude of blessings for those who make use of them.

1st Means: “Exhort all Christians to this devotion, in preaching, in teaching catechism and in familiar conversation. I conjure all preachers, all catechists, all priests and religious, by the ardent zeal of Our Savior has for the honor of His most worthy Mother, to lose no opportunity, especially upon feasts of the Blessed Virgin, of making very particular mention of this devotion” [Excerpt due to length].

2nd Means: “Endeavor to imprint in the hearts of children, especially little girls, a true devotion to the amiable little Mary. I exhort particularly fathers and mothers, teachers and all religious who apply themselves to the instruction of children, to persuade their charges to dedicate and consecrate their childhood and their whole life, to the honor of this gracious Child” [Excerpt due to length].

3rd Means: “Furnish clothing every year for one or more little girls in honor of the holy Child Mary, or, if you have the means, educate and provide for them, assuring yourself that whatever you do for these poor children in honor of the Child Mary, will be as agreeable to her as if you had done it to herself.

4th Means: “Fast or abstain on the vigils of the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity, and the Presentation, which are the principal feasts of Mary’s holy infancy.”

Sts. joachim and anne with Heavenly Daughter Mary

5th Means: “Consecrate to the honor of the lovely infancy of Mary the month beginning September eighth, and during this time perform all your actions in her honor. I shall repeat here the practice recommended by the sacred Virgin to St. Mechtilde, which is, to say during the octave of the Nativity the Hail Mary as many times as the blessed Babe remained days in the womb of her mother. She declared to St. Gertrude that those who would practice this devotion, would participate in heaven, in a very special manner, in the joys she had in this world, and will have eternally in heaven. By reciting, every day during the octave, thirty-five Hail Mary’s, you will make up the exact number of days the blessed Infant passed in the womb of St. Ann.”

6th Means: “During the above time dedicated to the holy infancy of the Mother of God, say daily the Litany of the holy Childhood.”

7th Means: “As the twenty-fifth of each month is dedicated to the honor of the adorable Child Jesus, the eighth of each month is dedicated to the amiable Child Mary. Do something on this day in her honor; communicate, give alms, say her Litany, or perform some act of piety or devotion. When a solemn feast falls on the eighth of the month, these practices should be deferred to some other day.”

8th Means: “There is a little chaplet in honor of the Divine Infant Jesus, composed of three Our Fathers followed by twelve Hail Mary’s. This chaplet may be said at the same time in honor of the holy Infant Mary.”

9th Means: Either say Holy Mass or have it said in honor of the sacred infancy of the Mother of the Savior, to thank the most Holy Trinity for all the graces bestowed upon this marvelous Child, and through her upon all the human race. For this purpose the Mass of the Immaculate Conception, or of the Nativity, the Holy Name of Mary, or the Presentation should be selected.”

10th Means: Have special devotion to St. Joachim and St. Ann, for they have given us our estimable Child. Honor them particularly on the days on which the Church celebrates their memory, and still more on the feasts of the infancy of their blessed daughter. Have also a great devotion to St. Gabriel, the Angel whom God appointed as Mary’s guardian.”

11th Means: “Have a strong and earnest will to imitate this blessed Child in all the holy virtues she practiced, for in this, above all, consists true devotion. “The sovereign and perfect devotion is to imitate what we honor,” says St. Augustine.

12th Means: Mediate upon the mysteries, the prerogatives and the virtues of the holy childhood of Mary. This is a means that renders imitation of our Model pleasant, easy and useful.

As we enter the octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we ask Mary to help us be like children before the throne of God. Let us offer these days in honor of Her Childhood and the Childhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. O Holy Mother of God…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Even though yesterday was the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, September 8th is also the day we celebrate the Feast of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s exactly nine months after we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the day we celebrate the birth of the Mother of God, who in time would carry in her womb for nine months – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. The Blessed Mother has a special place in Salvation History for she is the Theotokos – The God-Bearer, which was declared dogmatic at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.

As the great Mother of God, Mary was given the highest mission that any human creature would receive by the Lord himself. On this great day, we commemorate the Blessed Mother’s birth to her parents, Saints Joachim and Anne.

For today’s feast day, we turn our direction to one of the great Saints and Doctors of the Catholic Church, Saint Francis de Sales, who gives us a fantastic homily on this important feast in the Church. The italicized excerpts below are from his homily on September 10, 1620.

Saint Francis de Sales enlightens us to the obedience of Mary as a young child and into her marriage with Saint Joseph.  Please share this excerpt with a young Catholic woman you know today.

“In the beginning of her life she was subject to her mother. She remained with her family to show girls and children the honor and subjection they owe their parents and in what spirit they should live in their own homes. She was presented in the Temple in her youth, when only three years old, to teach fathers and mothers the care they should take in rearing their children and with what affection they ought to instruct them in the fear of God and lead them to His service. In this she was also an example for young girls who consecrate themselves to the Divine Majesty. Then she was married, to be a mirror for the married, and finally a widow. Thus Divine Providence let her pass through all the states of life in order that all creatures might find in her, as in a sea of grace, what they need in order to form and adapt themselves to their state in life.”

Nativity of BVM P Cavallini

Here Saint Francis explains how Mary is an example of religious life. With the release of the film, Light of LoveI would encourage you to share this with someone who is discerning religious life or an active member of a religious order.

“…It is true nevertheless, as I have said, that she was the mirror of the religious life particularly; for from her birth she practiced most excellently that perfect renunciation of the world, the flesh and herself, in which Christian perfection consists. As to the world, at her birth the sacred Virgin made the most perfect and entire renunciation that could be made…”

Here Saint Francis gives us a beautiful understanding of Mary as a young child in her crib. The Blessed Mother is even considered greater than the angels as a child. She would become the Queen of Angels.

“…O God, it is admirable how absolutely and perfectly the sacred Virgin, Our Lady and Mistress, made his renunciation at her nativity! Come close to her cradle, think of the virtues of this holy infant and you will find that she practiced them all to an eminent degree. Question the angels, the cherubim and seraphim, ask them if they are equal in perfection to this little girl, and they will tell you that she infinitely surpasses them…”

St. Francis de Sales explains to us that even in her infancy, Mary begins to the practice the cardinal virtues of Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Although she had a full understanding of her reason, she chose with her freedom to be a just an infant.

“There she was, that sacred and blessed Virgin, practicing all the virtues, but in an admirable manner that of renunciation of the world. For amid these practices and this exaltation she how she abases herself, not wishing to appear other than as a simple and ordinary infant, even though she had the use of reason from the very moment of her Conception…”

“…The most holy Virgin made this last renunciation in her nativity in such a way that she never used her liberty. Consider well the whole course of her life and you will see nothing but continual subjection.”

When I read these words from St. Francis de Sales, I come to love the Blessed Virgin Mary more and more each day. Recollecting on my own sins, which she never had to do, helps me try to renounce the temptations of my passions and desires. When faced with such great sin, we must remember to go to Our Lady and ask her to intercede for us, so that we will overcome all that is placed before us in our fallen human condition.

I pray that we all can look towards Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother in times of sin. They will never turn away from us.  Mary is our Queen Mother, who always seeks to bring us closer Jesus. Mary is never about herself. She always points us to our Lord and her Son, Jesus Christ.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, we celebrate the feast of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary nine months after we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Today, we celebrate the birth of the Mother of God, who in time would carry in her womb for nine months – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. The Blessed Mother has a special place in salvation history for she is the Theotokos – The God-Bearer (declared Dogmatic at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.). She was given the highest mission that any human creature would receive by the Lord himself. On this great day, we commemorate the Blessed Mother’s birth to her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne.

As I did with the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, I turn to one of the great saints of the Catholic Church, St. Francis de Sales, who gives us a fantastic homily on this important feast in the Church. The excerpts below are from his homily on September 10, 1620 –

“In the beginning of her life she was subject to her mother. She remained with her family to show girls and children the honor and subjection they owe their parents and in what spirit they should live in their own homes. She was presented in the Temple in her youth, when only three years old, to teach fathers and mothers the care they should take in rearing their children and with what affection they ought to instruct them in the fear of God and lead them to His service. In this she was also an example for young girls who consecrate themselves to the Divine Majesty. The she was married, to be a mirror for the married, and finally a widow. Thus Divine Providence let her pass through all the states of life in order that all creatures might find in her, as in a sea of grace, what they need in order to form and adapt themselves to their state in life…

…It is true nevertheless, as I have said, that she was the mirror of the religious life particularly; for from her birth she practiced most excellently that perfect renunciation of the world, the flesh and herself, in which Christian perfection consists. As to the world, at her birth the sacred Virgin made the most perfect and entire renunciation that could be made…

…O God, it is admirable how absolutely and perfectly the sacred Virgin, Our Lady and Mistress, made his renunciation at her nativity! Come close to her cradle, think of the virtues of this holy infant and you will find that she practiced them all to an eminent degree. Question the angels, the cherubim and seraphim, ask them if they are equal in perfection to this little girl, and they will tell you that she infinitely surpasses them…

There she was, that sacred and blessed Virgin, practicing all the virtues, but in an admirable manner that of renunciation of the world. For amid these practices and this exaltation she how she abases herself, not wishing to appear other than as a simple and ordinary infant, even though she had the use of reason from the very moment of her Conception…

…The most holy Virgin made this last renunciation in her nativity in such a way that she never used her liberty. Consider well the whole course of her life and you will see nothing but continual subjection.”

When I read words like this from St. Francis de Sales, I come to love the Blessed Mother more and more each time. Recollecting on my own sins, which she never had to do, helps me try to renounce the temptations of my passions and desires. When faced with such great sin, I must remember to go to Our Lady and ask her to pray for me so that I will overcome all that is put before me in my fallen human condition. I pray that we all can look towards Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother in times of sin. They will never turn their backs on us. She is our Queen Mother who always brings Jesus to us and takes our requests to the King himself.