|Devotion to Our Lady||
MAY 1: OUR LADY QUEEN OF THE MAY
The month of May is flower-bedecked, and to add to its loveliness it is dedicated to the most beautiful flower of all, Mary, the Mother of God; no month could be more fitting for her. She is Mary, Our Lady Queen of May.
May devotions have a splendor all their own; when “On This Day O Beautiful Mother” peals forth it brings a deep feeling of closeness to Mary. Garlands of flowers, petal-strewn processions culminating in the crowning her image, are all forms of homage to Our Queen.
Reading down through the Litany of Our Lady, we have a list of the most meaningful titles the church could bestow on any creature. As all good earthly queens look to the welfare of their subjects, so does Mary on a much grander scale care for us. She is the summit of kindness and consideration.
Though Queen of Heaven, we have no doubt that when this earth was privileged to have her as a dweller, Mary, Our Lady Queen of May, was the most humane of human beings, even through blessed far beyond our capacity to conceive of it.
The fact that she is Queen of the Universe; still, she does not enjoy the loyalty of all and must suffer the indifference of those who do not deign to pay her homage. Above everything, she sorrows to see so many deny her Son.
Catholic devotion to Mary is found on all the virtues which human nature should and would possess, but seldom does. Mary is worthy of the admiration which men give her. Hers is a heart adorned as no other heart, with tenderness for the sinner Her Divine Son died to save; with meekness to confound the proud, with kindness toward human frailty; with love for all, because God has loved them first.
It is, however, Mary’s holiness and purity that become the special object of our devotion; a purity that become the special object of our devotion; a purity of soul and body that we should revere and strive to imitate. Sin and Satan were never a part of Mary’s life. Would that we could say the same! Not for a moment was there ever any difference between her will and that of the Most High. Not for a moment was there anything in Mary that could in any way displease her Lord. Of all God’s creatures, Mary is indeed all fair, the beloved of the Almighty.
During this month dedicated to her, let us admire the sinlessness of God’s Mother, of our own Heavenly Mother. With God’s grace and Mary’s assistance and intercession, we can achieve that purity of soul that is pleasing to her and to her Son. Our Lady Queen of May!
MAY 2 : OUR LADY OF OVIEDO, SPAIN (711)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Oviedo, Spain, where they possess some of the Blessed Virgin’s hair.”
The Cathedral of Oviedo was founded in 781 AD, and enlarged by Alfonso the Chaste, who made Oviedo the capital of Kingdom of Asturias. The chapel was once called the Sancta Ovetensis, owing to the quantity and quality of relics contained in the Camara Santa (Holy Chamber).
“There is in the city of Oviedo a Holy Chest that contains many and varied relics. It rests in the town where King Alfonso II, the Chaste, built a shrine to house it, and there it can be seen even today as it was well over a millennium ago. Like the Arc of the Covenant, or the Holy Grail, it is a singular thing the like of which is almost utterly unknown in the entire history of mankind.
This Holy Chest is made of oak and was skillfully constructed without the use of any nails. It measures roughly four feet by three feet by two feet, and has been venerated by faithful Catholics since apostolic times. Indeed, it is believed to have been fashioned by devoted disciples of the twelve apostles. Many men and woman throughout history have given their entire lives in service to the holy relics contained therein, or to save the chest from pagans who sought its destruction.
The chest originated in the Holy City of Jerusalem. When the Persain’s attacked and conquered Jerusalem in 614, many priceless relics from the region were gathered and placed in it for protection, as the Persians sought relics to destroy them. The chest was taken for safekeeping to a small community of Catholics in Alexandria, Egypt. A short time later, Alexandria was also sacked by the Muslims, and the chest was taken across the Mediterranean Sea to Spain, where St. Isidore kept it in Seville. Upon St. Isidore’s death, the chest was transferred to the city of Toledo, which was then becoming an important center in Spain. When the wave of Muslim aggression reached even Toledo in 711, the Holy Chest was taken to the Asturias and hidden in a well in Pelayo’s mountain.
The chest has a lock and key, but by the time of the eleventh century it had not been opened for hundreds of years. The last time it was known to have been opened was when it was done by a living saint, St. Ildephonsus, for in it he had placed a chasuble that the Mother of God herself had given him during an apparition.
By the year 1030, the exact contents of the Holy Chest were no longer known. Bishop Ponce of Oviedo, and with him many clerics, determined to examine the chest to unlock its secrets. As soon as the lid was raised only the slightest bit, “there burst forth so stupendous a light that the terrified clerics, some of them stricken stone-blind, dropped the lid and fled, leaving the mystery unsolved.”
After Mass, on Friday, March 13, 1075, the key was again placed in the lock. On this occasion, God was pleased to reveal the contents of the Holy Chest. The chest contained the Sudarium, mentioned by St. John the Evangelist in his Gospel as the cloth that covered the face of Christ after the crucifixion. On it can be seen the bloodstains of Our Lord that evidence his passion and death. It alone is a treasure without reckoning…
The chest also contained a piece of the True Cross of Our Lord, a small stone of the sepulcher in which He was buried, some of the cloths in which He was wrapped in the manger, several thorns from the Crucifixion, a piece of the earth of Mount Olivet touched by His feet when He ascended into heaven, one of the thirty coins given to Judas, the chasuble given by the Virgin Mary to Saint Ildephonsus, a chest of gold and precious stones containing the forehead of St. John the Baptist and his hair, and a host of other relics from many saints and prophets, including St. Stephen, the first martyr, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Vincent, and the rod of Moses which parted the Red Sea and the manna supplied from heaven during the Exodus from Egypt, and many other priceless relics.
King Alfonso VI commissioned a silversmith to sheath the Holy Chest in gilded silver, adoring it with figures of Our Lord and His angels and saints. It can still be seen even today.”
MAY 3 : OUR LADY OF CZESTOCHOWA OR JASNA GORA
Northeast of the ancient city of Krakow, Poland, is the small town of Czestochowa. To every Pole the name means but one thing – Mary’s Sanctuary. On a nearby hill – the Bright Hill, Jasna Gora in Polish – the Monks of St Paul the Hermit have a monastery. In the chapel of Our Lady in their monastery church, is the famous painting of the Blessed Virgin. This painting of the Mother of God holding the Child Jesus in her arms, bears the title, Our Lady of the Bright Hill (Jasna Gora) she is the Patroness and Protectress of the Poles; the Queen of the Crown in Poland.
The history of Our Lady of Czestochowa is the history of Poland. Traditional holds that this picture of Mary was done by St Luke the Evangelist on a piece of wood cut from the table of the Last Supper. It was the Christians of Jerusalem who presented this picture to St Helen, the mother of Constantine. She in turn gave it to her son and so it was put in his palace at Constantinople. The salvation of this city while besieged by the Saracens was ascribed to Our Lady’s intercession. The Byzantine Emperors showed great devotion for this picture and were able to hide it during the Iconoclast (breaking of images) persecution, thus saving it from destruction at the hands of the heretics who tried to destroy all statues and images. In 989, upon the marriage of Princess Anna, the sister of the Emperor, to Prince Vladimir of Kiev, the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa was a wedding gift taken to her, to the Ukraine.
In the fourteenth century the picture was again in danger due to the Tartar raids. In a dream the wish of Our Lady was made known to Prince Ladislaus of Opol and in fulfillment of it, the holy image was taken to Jasna Gora. At that time the monks of St Paul the Hermit were invited to come from Hungary and be the custodians of the shrine. During the Hussite persecution, heretic s plundered the monastery and the church. They hurled the precious image of Our Lady of Czestochowa to the ground and it was broken into three pieces. But when they tried to carry it off, the wagon bearing the image could not be moved. In rage one of them drew a sword and struck Our Lady’s cheek twice. As he raised his arm a third time he fell dead on the spot. Seeing this, his comrades fled in terror.
Under King Ladislaus II of Poland a commission of artists restored the painting but no effort on their part could remove the sword strokes which remain to this day. These artists at the time placed a silver background over the upper part of the picture on which five scenes were engraved. These are: the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Christ child, the Scourging at the Pillar, Christ mocked by the soldiers, and St Barbara, to whom Poles had a great devotion.
The Kings of Poland were especially devoted to Our Lady of the Bright Hill; at her shrine they, with their people sought intercession in all needs of the nation. In danger from the Turks, during invasion by Swedes, under siege by Prussians, Austrians and Russians, after the partition of Poland in 1795, during the German invasion of 1939, and today under Communism, the hearts of Poles have ever turned to Our Queen. Her shrine at Jasna Gora is for them a symbol of their faith and hope.
On May 7, 1957, Polish Catholics entered the first year of the “GREAT NOVENA” as their nine-year program of prayer is called. It was in 1956 that a million Polish pilgrims visited the shrine and out of that pilgrimage grew the Jasna Gora Vow, to prepare for the 1000 anniversary of Poland’s conversion, known as the Sacred Millennium, by nine years of prayer and work for a Christian life. Thus today, even though the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa is framed in somber black, the Polish Catholics turn once aging to Mary and hold themselves loyal subjects of the Queen of the Crown of Poland, Our Lady of Jasna Gora or Czestochowa.
MAY 4 : OUR LADY THE HELPER, NORMANDY, FRANCE
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady the Helper, three leagues from Caen, in Normandy. Every year a solemn procession is made to this chapel.”
Caen is a city of over 100,000 people in the province of Normandy in north western France. It is probably most famous for the attractive historical buildings that have survived dating from the time of the reign of William the Conqueror, who was buried here.
Unfortunately, much of the city was destroyed in the year 1944 during World War II. I can find no reference to Our Lady the Helper in Normandy, but it is possible that the chapel was destroyed during the French Revolution, or else during one of the World Wars. Like the motto of the city, which once used to be, “One God, one King, one Faith, one Law,” it may no longer exist.
The Blessed Virgin Mary spoke thus to Ven. Mary of Agreda:
“If I was the model to be imitated in the way I responded to the coming of God into the soul and into the world by showing due reverence, worship, humility, and thankful love, it follows, that if thou art solicitous in imitating me, the Most High will come and produce the same effects in thee as in myself; through they may be not so great and efficacious. For if the creature, as soon as it obtains the use of reason, begins to advance toward the Lord as it should, directing its footsteps in the path of life and salvation, His Most High Majesty will issue forth to meet it, being beforehand with his favors and communications; for to Him it seems a long time to wait for the end of the pilgrimage in order to manifest Himself to His friends.”
“Thus it happens, that by means of faith, hope and charity, and by the worthy reception of the Sacraments, many divine effects, wrought by His condescension, are communicated to the souls. Some are communicated according to the ordinary course of grace and others according to a more supernatural and wonderful order; and each one will be more or less conformable to the disposition of the soul and to the ends intended by the Lord, which are not known at present. And if the souls do not place any obstacle on their part, He will be just as liberal with them as with those who dispose themselves, giving them greater light and knowledge of His immutable being, and by a divine and exceedingly sweet infusion of grace, transforming them into a likeness of Himself and communicating to them many of the privileges of the beatified. For after He is found He allows Himself to be taken possession of and enjoyed by that by that hidden embrace, which the Spouse felt, when She said: “I will hold Him and not dismiss Him.” Of this possession and of His presence the Lord himself will give many token and pledges, in order that the soul may possess Him in peace like the blessed, although always only for a limited time. So liberal as this will God, our Master and Lord, be in rewarding the objects of His love for the labors accepted by them for His sake and fearlessly undertaken to gain possession of Him.”
MAY 5 : QUEEN OF APOSTLES
The apostles understood better than anyone else the great privileges of Mary. They realized her sanctity; they recognized her virtues; they knew how she had cooperated in the work of redemption; they knew how Jesus loved her. During the public life of Christ they were closely associated with the Blessed Mother. They were with her through the suffering of our Lord. With Mary they persevered in prayer in the upper room, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. During this long association, even before the death and resurrection of Jesus, the apostles came to know her as their Queen and Mother.
Great must have been her zeal and joy when she could preach Christ crucified, living in herself, as she abode, during the years in pagan Ephesus with the Beloved Disciple. Her Son was no longer a hidden God, but One on High, risen from the dead. Mary perhaps converted many by her spotless life, where the virtues of a Christian shone the more gloriously because set in a pagan land.
Mary is Queen of the Apostles in another sense. The apostles were zealous but they had their defects. They sometimes showed lack of courage, faith, humility and meekness. Mary, on the contrary, had every virtue in perfection, especially those of the true missionary-zeal and the spirit of sacrifice. Mary merited the title Queen of Apostles by years of exile in foreign countries among pagans. She saw mission life in all its phases.
We need the example and inspiration of Mary to convert the world. We need her virtues to win the world to her Son. It will strengthen all who are interested in spreading the Faith, to reflect that Mary spent so many of her days on earth among the heathen. Thank God, our missionaries, our modern apostles, our priests and sisters and brothers, and lay people in the missions, take her for their model.
A feast of Mary under the title Queen of Apostles is observed in Pallottine Redemptorist churches and other churches. It has a proper Mass; the collect refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Our Lady and the Apostles, and asks Almighty God that, under Mary’s protection, “we may be enabled faithfully to serve Thy majesty, and by word and example to spread abroad the glory of Thy Names.”
MAY 6 : OUR LADY OF MIRACLES IN THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF PEACE, ROME (1483)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “It is related that in the year 1483, a man who had lost his money by gaming, after blaspheming at this picture, gave it four stabs with a dagger, and that it bled so copiously that the miracle was at once divulged all over the city. This picture is still preserved in the Church of Our Lady of Peace, where it is to be seen at the high altar, framed in marble.”
The present church of Our Lady of Peace, or Santa Maria Della Pace, in Rome, Italy, is still standing. It was built by Pope Sixtus IV after the city of Rome had been under siege by the Duke of Calabria. The pope had made a vow that he would build a new church in Rome in honor of Our Lady if peace could somehow be re-established between his Papal States and the cities of Florence, Milan and Naples. Construction actually started in 1482 as an act of thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin, but the work was not completed until the time of Pope Innocent VIII.
According to various traditions, the particular site for the church was made because of an incident in which a drunken soldier had stabbed a statue of the Madonna in the breast, at which the figure had started bleeding as if it were alive. There is also another legend that perhaps a stone was thrown at the image of Our Lady of Miracles that currently hangs over the high altar in the church of Our Lady of Peace, which subsequently started bleeding. In any event, the church was in fact built on the foundations of an earlier church known as Saint Andrea de Aquarizariis.
The venerated painting of Our Lady of Miracles depicts the Blessed Virgin holding the Divine Child. It currently hangs over the high altar at the church, which was specifically designed by Carlo Maderno to display and enshrine the famous painting. The now famous image was once believed to have been venerated in the portico of St Andrew’s of the Watercarriers. There is also another famous fresco inside the church known as the Four Sibyls, which was painted by Raphael in the year 1514.
MAY 7 : THE SEVEN JOYS OF MARY
The first of the seven joys of Mary was the Annunciation, which the Franciscans express in these words: “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully conceived Jesus by the Holy Ghost.” Read the account, clear, brief, and uplifting, in the first chapter of Saint Luke, how the Angel Gabriel came from God and told the Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God. Imagine the joy in the heart of Mary to learn from the messenger of the Almighty that she, who was willing to be but a handmaid or servant in the household of the Lord, that she was to be really the Mother of God. What joy and happiness at the greeting of the angel. What joy to know that now within her womb she carried the Son of God.
The second great joy of Mary was the Visitation. “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully carried Jesus visiting Elizabeth.” Charity and love inspired this visit. How happily our Blessed Mother must have made her way over the hills to the distant home of her cousin Elizabeth, who also was with child, the future John the Baptist. Womanlike, Mary wanted to tell her cousin and share in the joys of an expectant mother. What an inspiration and joyful example to all the mothers in the world.
The third of the seven joys of Mary life was the nativity. “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully brought Jesus into the world.” Everyone who has ever experienced the bliss of Christmas has had just a faint echo of Mary’s joy when she gave birth to Christ. Every mother shares that joy. Mary experienced it in all her innocence and sweetness. She experienced the holy happiness of bringing into the world the Son of God, who was to be the Redeemer and Savior of all men.
The fourth joy of Mary was that of the Epiphany, which we might express in these words: “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully exhibited Jesus to the adoration of the Magi.” Every mother is happy when she can show her child to others. Every mother is joyful when friends or acquaintances or even chance visitors comment about her child, praise it, and even bring it gifts. That was the happy experience of Mary when the three Wise Men came thousands of miles to adore and honor her Child, to bring gifts to her Boy.
The fifth of the seven joys of Mary, our Blessed Mother, is what she experienced when she finally found Jesus after His three-day loss in the temple. “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully found Jesus in the temple.” To have her child with her is a mother’s joy. But to find a child that is lost is a greater joy because of the contrast to the sorrow of separation. Mary experienced such a bliss when she found Christ in the temple teaching and listening to the doctors, the learned professors of the law.
The sixth great joy of the Blessed Mother was the one she experienced upon seeing Jesus after His resurrection. “The Immaculate Virgin Mary joyfully beheld Jesus after His resurrection.” Words fail in expressing the happiness of the Mother of God when she saw her Son risen from the grave, saw Him in the full beauty of manhood, saw the Boy whom she had brought into the world, had reared and trained and taken care of for so many years. Her joy, by way of contrast with the grief of the first Good Friday, was supreme.
The seventh of the seven joys of Mary, and the crowing joy, was that Mary had when she was taken up into heaven and crowned Queen of heaven and earth. “The Immaculate Virgin Mary was joyfully received by Jesus into heaven and there crowned Queen of heaven and earth.” No human pen, no human brush can picture or express the joy in Mary’s heart when she was finally reunited with her Son in the bliss of the beatific vision. Neither can we express in words the happiness in her heart when she was crowned, rewarded by her Divine Son who made her the Queen of this world and of the heavenly court.
MAY 8 : OUR LADY OF POMPEII
Unlike so many of Our Lady’s titles, which go back centuries for their origin, this one is quite recent. The events which gave rise to this title took place less than one hundred years ago.
By the last half of the nineteenth century the Valley of Pompeii, near Naples, was practically deserted. Of the comparatively few people who still lived there, most had lost their ancient Catholic faith; ignorance and superstition prevailed. Only a handful of people bothered to attend the services in the little parish chapel.
In October 1872, a man named Bartolo Longo came to the valley. He was the husband of the Countess of Fusco, who had some property there; and Bartolo came to see what condition it was in. he had been reared a Catholic and was probably still one in name, although it seems he was not very devout.
On October 9th, a few days after his arrival, he was walking along a rather desolate road when suddenly a voice seemed to speak to him. It told him that if he wished to be saved, he should spread devotion to the Rosary and that the Blessed Virgin had promised, that was the way to find salvation.
Bartolo fell on his knees and replied that if the Virgin had truly so promised then he would be saved; he would not leave the valley until he had popularized the Rosary.
His early efforts to interest the people in the Rosary devotion do not seem to have been very successful, but he persisted, and in two or three years he had gathered quite a group around him for daily recitation of the prayers in the little chapel.
The Bishop visited the valley in 1875, and complimented Bartolo on the good work he had done. He suggested that a church be built there in honor of Our Lady of Pompeii, and then, turning prophet, the Bishop pointed to a field near the chapel and declared that someday a basilica would stand on that spot.
As the number of people taking part in the daily recitation of the Rosary grew, it was decided to obtain a picture of the Blessed Virgin, to help the faithful meditate as they prayed. On October 13, 1875, Bartolo went to Naples to see if he could find a suitable picture, but after searching for several days, to his great disappointment, he found that any really good picture would cost around four hundred francs, and he had nowhere near that amount to spend.
He didn’t want to return empty handed, however, and disappoint the good people of Pompeii, so he somewhat reluctantly accepted a secondhand painting from a junk store for five lire. A trucker not knowing what the package contained pitched it on top of a load of garbage and so the picture arrived at the chapel. The people were pleased with the dilapidated picture and enshrined it. Almost immediately several miracles took place through Mary’s intercession as Our Lady of Pompeii. A church was built, 1876-1891 and a new basilica, 1934-1939, ordered by Pope Pius XI.
MAY 9 : THE CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF LORETO ERECTED (1586)
The church of Loreto, one of the finest in Italy, has been adorned, according to their taste, by the popes, who have often come thither on a pilgrimage like the common faithful; three gates of chased bronze give entrance into the holy temple, in the center of which arises the Santa Casa in its clothing of white marble, adorned with magnificent bas-reliefs, designed by Bramante, and executed by Sansovino, Sangallo, and Bandinelli.
La Sala Del Tesoro no longer displays enough riches to pay the ransom of all Italy; but it has still received, in our days, very magnificent gifts of princes and popes. Among these pious gifts we observe a gold monstrance, enriched with diamonds, a chalice, and a thurible, offered by the Emperor Napoleon to the Madonna; an enameled chalice, set with rubies and aqua marinas, offered, in 1819, by Prince Eugene Beauharnais; another chalice, adorned with brilliants, by the Princess of Bavaria, his spouse; a large cross of gold and diamonds, and a crown of amethysts, rubies, and diamonds, offered in 1816, by the King and Queen of Spain, at the time of their pilgrimage to Loreto; a nosegay of diamonds, offered, in 1815, by Maria Louisa, sister of the King of Spain, Queen of Etruria, and Duchess of Lucca; an immense heart of very fine gold, with a precious stone in the center, suspended from a chain of emeralds and amethysts, the gift of the Emperor of Austria to the Madonna. It would be impossible to enumerate the precious stones and rich presents of all kinds offered by princes and kings, under the simple title of dono de una pia persona, in the register containing the names of benefactors to the Santa Casa.
The miraculous statue of the Madonna is thirty-three inches high; it is carved in cedar wood, covered with magnificent drapery, and placed on an altar glittering with precious stones. We are assured that the niche which it occupies is covered with plates of gold. A number of lamps, of massive silver, burn before it.
The beautiful litany of Our Lady of Loreto was the votive offering with which a celebrated Florentine composer, of the early years of the eighteenth century, repaid a miracle of the Blessed Virgin. This composer, whose name was Barroni, all at once lost his hearing, like Beethoven; after having exhausted the succor of art without success, he invoked that of Mary, and set out on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Loreto. There he was cured, after praying with faith, and in his gratitude to the Holy Madonna, he composed, by inspiration, in her praise, a chorus, which, under the title of Litanie della Santa Casa, was performed for the first time on the 15th of August, 1737. This litany was repeated every year afterwards for the feast of the Madonna; Rossini, happening to pass by Our Lady of Loreto, was struck with the charm of this composition, and is said to have introduced it into his Tancredi (Gazette Musicale).
The front area of the church was constructed during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus V in 1586, and it was he who founded the order of Knights of Loreto, who were a company of knights especially devoted to defend the shores of the Italian Mediterranean against the incursions of barbarians.
The popes have delighted to testify their respect for Mary, by making her miraculous sanctuary of Loreto the object of their devout solicitude. Pope Pius V offered to the Santa Casa two silver statues of Saints Peter and Paul; he did still better by diverting from its natural channel a river, the waters of which, sluggish and in great measure stagnant, sent up the most unwholesome exhalations to the top of the hill, where a small town has been formed, under the shadow of the magnificent church of Mary.
Pope Benedict XIV, embellished this sanctuary with truly persevering generosity, where Pius VII, having recovered his liberty, came to kneel, before his entrance into Rome, and where he left, as a memorial of his visit, a superb gold chalice, with this inscription: “Pius VII, sovereign pontiff, restored to liberty on the day of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and coming from France to Rome, left at Loretto this monument of his devotion and gratitude.” His holiness Gregory XVI also made a pilgrimage to Loreto.
Pope Urban VI granted a plenary indulgence to those who visit the Church of Our Lady of Loreto (14th Century)
MAY 10 : OUR LADY OF SAUSSAIE, PARIS (1305)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “The church of this Benedictine priory was dedicated to Our Lady, in the year 1305.”
Near the city of Paris there was once a shrine dedicated to Mary under the above title, but also known as the Abbaye de la Joie-les-Nemours, or Our Lady of Joy, Abbaye De La Joie. According to legend, the latter title was given to the abbey when Saint King Louis IX was returning from an expedition and met his mother near the convent. On that occasion it was named for the joy they felt at the reunion. The shrine was located in a church of a Benedictine Priory, and was dedicated to the Virgin of Saussaie by Pope Clement V in the year 1305.
Mary, our Queen Mother, is mistress of the elements as her King Son was and is. It is related that she used a devastating storm to convince the Parisians of her God-given power over the world, and that she, too, could, with the grace of God, do the apparently impossible. Driven to the last extremity, the people took refuge at the shrine, and implored Mary to protect them and spare their homes and their city. Instantly and miraculously the raging storm subsided and the people’s clamorous prayers for help turned into jubilant acclamations of thanksgiving.
From thenceforward the image of Our Lady of Saussaie was recognized as miraculous and pilgrimages began and continued.
Once a royal abbey of the Cistercian Order, it was located on the bank of the Loing River in the commune of Saint-Pierre-les-Nemours. The Abbey was composed of large buildings laid out in the shape of a cross, the left branch including the chapel. The buildings were partially destroyed by a fire in the year 1747, and in 1172 the Duke of Orleans purchased the remaining buildings which were sold again, although the cloister and the chapel were demolished. The Abbey gardens are now the location of a retirement home.
MAY 11 : OUR LADY OF APARECIDA, PATRONESS OF BRAZIL
One morning in 1717, three fishermen in Brazil poled their boat into the Parahyba River which flowed along the outskirts of their village. Their luck was bad- for hours they cast their nets but caught no fish. They decided to give up for the day; then for some reason, they wanted to make one more try. Alves threw out his net and slowly pulled it in. There was something in it – not a fish, but something that looked like a chunk of wood. When he lifted it from the net, it turned out to be a headless statue of the Blessed Virgin.
The fisherman cast his net into the water again. When he pulled it into his boat, he found that this time it held a roundish piece of wood – the head from the very same statue. He picked up both pieces and found that they fitted perfectly together.
Obeying an impulse, Alves lowered his net one more time. When Alves began to pull the net back in, he found he could hardly lift the net because it was bulging with fish. His companions threw out their nets and they had the same luck. A few more casts and their boats were filled with fish.
The next day they fastened the head to the body of the statue, cleaned it, and one of them set it up in his humble dwelling. The story of the statue and the immense catch of fish spread and every evening people came to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin. They gave it the name Aparecida, “She who appeared.” Soon a little chapel was erected – the crowds were too big for the humble cottage; then a larger chapel was built. Our Lady well repaid those who honored her, for numerous cures and even extraordinary miracles took place at her shrine.
In 1846, work began on the construction of a new church, completed in 1888, and the statue was transferred to it. In 1904 by order of the Holy Father, the image was solemnly crowned. In 1909 the church was raised to the level of a minor basilica; in 1930 Pope Pius XI promoted it to a Basilica and officially declared Our Lady of Aparecida the Patroness of Brazil.
Our Lady of Aparecida has been specifically targeted on several occasions by the Protestants in Brazil, as on May 16, 1978, a Protestant attempted to steal the statue, taking it from its niche and casting it on the ground when he was stopped by guards and parishioners. Since the statue is made of clay, it was smashed into many pieces and took a great effort on the part of talented artisans to repair.
MAY 12 : OUR LADY OF POWER, AUBERVILLIERS, FRANCE
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “This image has wrought so many miracles in this church, that it is called Our Lady of Power, though it is dedicated to Saint Christopher.”
Known now as Notre-Dame-des-Vertus, this is the 14th century church in Aubervilliers that is the very location that experienced so many miracles during the Middle Ages. As noted by the Abbot Orsini, the church was originally dedicated to Saint Christopher, yet the name soon changed to honor the Mother of God in recognition of the graces and miracles obtained there due to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first miracle occurred on May 14th, 1336, known locally at the Miracle of Rain. It was during a time of terrible drought when a small girl entered the church of Saint Christopher with flowers to adorn the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While praying that Our Lady would send rain to save the crops, the girl suddenly noticed that the statue became covered with what appeared to be drops of sweat and the sky turned dark as the weather turned to rain.
The inhabitants of the parish flocked to the church, alerted by the sound of the church bell, to see the wonder and give thanks to God for this miracle. This was but the beginning of the pilgrimages to the church that began almost immediately, especially from the parishes of Paris. These pilgrimages were encouraged by the authorities of the Church, as well as by the example of the many distinguished visitors and the continued occurrences of many other miracles over the following centuries. These miracles included many cures and healings, as well as the miracles of two children who were brought back to life. Kings and queen were among the many pilgrims who came during the Middle Ages, including King Louis XIII, who came to pray for the capture of Rochelle.
The Archbishop of Paris confirmed the celebration of the festival on the second Tuesday of May, which is the month of Mary. The small sanctuary was later replaced by a more imposing church whose construction began in the fifteenth century. Particularly remarkable are the stained glass windows that adorn the church and remind the visitor of the extraordinary history of this place. The miraculous wooden statue of Our Lady of Power was desecrated and burned on October 12, 1793, during the ravages of the French Revolution.
MAY 13 : OUR LADY OF FATIMA, PORTUGAL (1917)
Our Lady of Fatima, or in Portuguese Nossa Senhora de Fatima, refers to the Marian apparitions that occurred at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. The first apparition occurred on May 13th, and the last occurred on October 13th with the miracle of the sun. In a world where Our Lady has appeared hundreds of times throughout the centuries and worked tens of thousands of miracles, what makes the apparitions at Fatima so extraordinary is the prophecy of a coming world war and the secrets that were entrusted to the children who spoke with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The three children the Blessed Virgin appeared to were Lucia dos Santos, aged 10, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, aged 9 and 7. They were tending sheep in the Cova de Iria when they saw a woman “brighter than the sun,” who exhorted them to do penance.
The last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima occurred on October 13th, and there were about 70,000 people present for the event, among them atheists who did not believe the stories related by the children. It was a rainy day, and everyone was soaked and the earth was muddy and covered with murky puddles. The rain ceased at the beginning of the apparition, and at one point Lucia called out for everyone to look at the sun. Even the anti-Catholic paper Ordem later wrote:
“…the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws – the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.”
It is almost comical that the unbelievers today will talk about ‘mass hysteria’ or attribute the miracle to merely being an illusion caused by staring at the sun. They conveniently omit from their theories the recorded fact that when the vision of the dancing sun ended the thousands of people who watched the vision and the ground they stood upon were all dry! So many in our day love to pretend that we are superior sophisticates, when the truth is that many are willfully blind, rejecting the Truth until the end rather than amending their lives. So be it.
The Blessed Virgin showed the children a vision of hell, and also told them:
“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you I say is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war will end, but if men do not cease to offend God a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI. When you see a night illuminated by a bright and unfamiliar light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish humanity for its crimes by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
The children were also told that there would be a remarkable sign in the night sky that would precede a second world war. It occurred on January 25th, 1938 as bright lights taken for an aurora borealis that was seen all over the northern hemisphere, including Europe, the United States, and even North Africa. Lucia verified that it was the sign the Blessed Virgin had foretold, and indeed, Hitler invaded Austria within a few months.
The Church has found the apparitions to be worthy of belief, and millions of faithful Catholics have travelled as pilgrims to the shrine at Fatima. Francisco and his sister Jacinta died shortly after the apparitions, while Lucia later became a sister, dying at the convent in 2005 at the age of 97. As if to testify to the truthfulness of the apparitions she had related to the world, the body of Jacinta Marto was exhumed in 1935 and again in 1951, and was found to be incorrupt and surrounded by a pleasant odor on both occasions.
MAY 14 : OUR LADY OF BAVARIA (1330)
Also known as Our Lady of Altotting, the shrine of the Chapel of Grace in Bavaria lies amid the mountains about three miles south of Oberammergau in upper Bavaria. The miraculous healings that have occurred there are so numerous that the shrine is thought of today as the “Lourdes of Germany.” There are many votive offerings that have been left at the shrine as testimony of graces received and miraculous healings.
What is perhaps the most famous miracle occurred in the year 1489. A young boy had drowned, and his mother, full of faith, brought his body to lay at the feet of the image of the Mother of God, seeking a miracle. She was not disappointed, as her son was restored to life before many witnesses. From that time on, the chapel became a popular place of pilgrimage.
A Benedictine monastery was founded there in 1330 by the Emperor Ludwig IV, who established a community of twelve knights with their families to guard the place. However, it is the Capuchin friars who have served the shrine now for centuries, among them Brother Conrad of Parzham, who acted as porter for over forty years.
The emperor Ludwig gave a small statue of the Mother of God, carved in Italy; and the place was soon famous both for its shrine of Mary and the learning of the monks. In 1744 the medieval church was burnt down, its successor being built and decorated in the German baroque manner. The chapel has an unusual octagonal shape, and it is thought to be the oldest Marian shrine in Germany. The other buildings had been remodeled mostly as they appear today.
A century later the abbey was suppressed, with other Bavarian religious houses; but it was restored in 1904, and Our Lady is still a resort of pilgrims. This great sanctuary has a truly magnificent mountain setting.
Pope John Paul II visited the shrine in 1980, and Pope Benedict XVI went there in 2006, leaving the Episcopal ring he had worn while the Archbishop of Munich.
MAY 15 : OUR LADY OF FRANCE (1860)
In LePuy, France, there is a massive rock, probably of volcanic origin, called Rocher Corneille (Cornelius Rock). It towers almost 2,500 feet above sea level.
On the very top of this huge pedestal, there is an enormous metal statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child, erected in 1860. It is the second largest statue in the world, second only to the Statue of Liberty, which was also made in France. The figure of the virgin, approximately fifty-five feet high, stands upon a globe; above her head is a starry crown, her feet crush a serpent. The Infant sits on her right arm, His right hand raised in blessing of the entire countryside.
The project to build the statue was actually initiated in 1847 with the desire to construct a religious monument to recognize the area of Puy-en-Velay. In order to find a worthy model of the Blessed Virgin and her Divine Son, a competition was held having very specific requirements, such as “the Child Jesus is to be depicted blessing the city of Puy without hiding the face of His Mother.” In all, 55 artists participated, and the winning model selected at the end of the competition was the statue submitted by J. Bonnassieux.
Donations to pay for the construction were collected from all over France. The statue was cast from metal obtained by melting down two hundred or more cannons donated by Napoleon III – cannons the French had captured from the Russians at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. Three years later, the 105 main parts of the statue and the accompanying 900 smaller pieces were transported to Puy and hoisted into position to erect the statue of Our Lady of France. Once completed, its total weight was 835 tons, with 110 tons for the statue, 680 tons for the granite pedestal to support it, and 45 tons for the coating that protects the statue.
Here atop the majestic rock, the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title, “Our Lady of France.” It stands on the road which passes the shrine of Our Lady of the Thorn high up in the Jura Mountains, there is the shrine of Our Lady of Puy. All crusaders passed this on their way to the Holy Land on pilgrimage to rescue the Holy Places from the hands of the infidel. There was scarcely a knight who did not go to bid farewell to Our Lady of Puy and ask her to care for his dear ones, should he not return.
MAY 16 : APPARITION OF OUR LADY TO SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA (4TH CENTURY)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Apparition of Our Lady to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, whose body was discovered on the 13th of this month, on Mount Sinai, in consequence of a revelation which the Queen of heaven gave of it.”
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel, is a Catholic saint, virgin, and martyr. She was the beautiful daughter of King Costus and Queen Sabinella of Alexandria, who at a young age decided to remain a virgin until and unless she should meet someone who exceeded her in status and political position, as well as beauty, intelligence, and wealth. She decided upon Christ, who reigns over us all, for “His beauty is more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governs all creation, and His riches are spread throughout all the world.”
While yet a teenager, Saint Catherine received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Divine Son Jesus Christ. In this vision, the Mother of God gave Catherine to her Son in a mystical marriage. Mystical marriage is in some senses very similar to a marriage ceremony, as Christ presents the chosen soul with a ring that is often visible to others, and often there are saint and angels present. There have been well over 70 documented mystical marriages with saints, and although the action is mysterious and not well understood, it appears that Christ gives special attention to these saints. Saint Teresa explained that it was the highest state a soul could achieve in this life, and represents a transforming and constant union with the Blessed Trinity.
Saint Catherine was martyred by the Roman Emperor Maxentius when she refused his proposal of marriage. Again, according to tradition, her body was taken by angels to Mount Sinai where a church and monastery were built in her honor. Saint Catherine’s relics were rediscovered about the year 800, and it was said that her hair was still growing and that there was a continuous stream of oil coming from her body that was found to have miraculous healing properties. King Saint Edward was said to have collected some of that oil and taken it back to his kingdom with him.
Saint Catherine, along with Saint Margaret, were the two saints who spoke to encourage Saint Joan of Arc in her mission.
MAY 17 : OUR LADY OF TEARS, SPOLETO, ITALY (1494)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “It is said that this picture, painted on a wall, shed many tears in the year 1494.”
A devout man named Diotallevi d’Antonio Santilli was the owner of a modest house near the town of Spoleto, Italy, located on the road to Trevi. In all the documents of the time, the owner of the house was shown to be Antonio Diotallevi, although in actually the owner was Antonio’s son. With his savings he bought several small plots of land, and he is known to have owned some cattle, but he was not a rich man. He had three children named Sante, Antonello and Baptist.
It was a time when the faithful would often have religious artwork painted on the outside of their homes, and there were students of master painter Pietro Vannucci who would often do the work. On October 4rd, 1483, Mr. Santilli had an image of the Blessed Virgin with the Divine Child in her arms painted on the north-east wall of his residence. Interestingly, the original painting also depicted Saint Francis at the left of the Blessed Virgin. The painting was completed on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, but the image of Saint Francis disappeared under the new ornamentation in which the Madonna and her Child was later enclosed in the seventeenth century.
It was nearly two years later, on Friday, August 5, 1485, when there were those who saw tears of blood fall from the eyes of the Madonna. The date of the miracle is precisely confirmed by many contemporary documents of the municipal authorities, and there was also a notary of Trevi who recorded all of the miracles he witnessed, and those records can still be found in the archives of the city of Trevi.
News of the miracle caused considerable excitement, for here the image of Our Lady wept. Word of the miraculous event, which continued for some time, spread far and wide. These were years of famine, war, and pestilence, and the extraordinary event gave people a ray of hope and seemed to offset some of their many serious misfortunes.
People came from all over the region to see the bloody tears fall from the eyes of the Madonna, and not all of them were Catholics or believers. There were also those who doubted, but once they had seen for themselves, many believed. Some received the faith, and there were also incidents of miracles of healing before the image of the Madonna of Tears, because it was called that even then.
There was, of course, a great deal of speculation as to why this image of the Blessed Virgin was weeping tears of blood, and it was finally generally accepted that it was out of sympathy for the people who were suffering so much from the pestilence and famine.
So many came to witness the prodigy that it was necessary to hurry and build a small chapel on the 17th of August, which was only a few days after the event. On the 21st of the same month the first Mass was offered in the chapel with the permission of the bishop of Spoleto. The new temporary chapel was festively decorated with curtains and veils, donated by the faithful. The altar was covered with a tablecloth of green silk. The walls were covered with cloth of blue silk, and many candles were burning before the altar. Soon, permission was given for a daily Mass there, but because of the great crowds, plans were already underway to build a magnificent church to replace the chapel. Money was soon collected, and work was begun on the basilica on March 27th, 1487. It was completed on March 8th, 1489, and was then confided to the Olivetans.
Once the basilica was completed, that portion of the wall that had the portrait of the Madonna and Child was cut away and moved inside the basilica. Housing was also constructed for the Olivetans, although the buildings were eventually turned over to other religious orders.
The basilica is also the home of Perugino’s famous ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ and Giovanni Spagna’s ‘Deposition from the Cross’.
MAY 18 : DEDICATION OF OUR LADY OF BONPORT ABBEY, DIOCESE OF EVREUX (1190)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of Our Lady of Bonport, of the Cistercian order, near the Pont de l’Arche, in the diocese of Evreux. This abbey was founded by Richard Coeur de Lion, on the 11th of March, in the year 1190.”
The abbey of Our Lady of Bonport, or Notre-Dame de Bon Port, was founded on March 11th, 1190, by King Richard the Lion Heart, King of England and Duke of Normandy. According to legend, the king was in peril of his life on the river Seine when he made a vow that he would found a monastery on that side if he arrived safely (in French à Bonport) on the opposite bank of the river.
The abbey was built shortly afterwards in that place in the north of France in the Haute-Normandy region with the help of many of the local lords. It had been damaged and restored several times throughout its history until its cloister and church were finally destroyed during the French Revolution. Our Lady of Bonport is one of the few remaining Cistercian abbeys in Normandy with monastic buildings from the Middle Ages, including a magnificent 13th century vaulted refectory.
There is a brief description of some of what could once be found in the church before the devastation of the Revolution. “A fine rose-window in the church of the abbey of Bonport, and two specimens of painted glass from its windows, the one representing angels holding musical instruments, supposed to be of the thirteenth century, the other containing a set of male and female heads of extraordinarily rich color, probably executed about a century later, were given by Willemin in his very beautiful Monumens Francais inedits. In the same work, you will likewise find two still more interesting painted windows Pont-de-l’Arche; some boatmen and their wives in the Norman costume of the end of the sixteenth century, and a citizen of the town with his lady, praying before a fald-stool, bearing the date 1621.”
MAY 19 : OUR LADY OF FLINES, DOUAY (1279)
The Abbot Orsini writes: “Dedication of Our Lady of Flines, near Douay, by Peter, Archbishop of Rheims, in the year 1279. This abbey of nuns, of the order of Citeaux, was given to Saint Bernard by Margaret de Dampierre, in the year 1234.”
Margaret de Dampiere, also known as Margaret of Constantinople, was a relative of the Count Guy de Dampier. It appears that Saint Bernard had recently established an order of nuns according to the rule of his order, and in the year 1234 Margaret presented Saint Bernard with the abbey located near Douay.
Five years previous to this, Archbishop Peter of Rheims had dedicated the shrine to Our Lady of Flines. This shrine became a place of pilgrimage as a result of the miraculous cure of a child protégé of Margaret’s. The little one, unseen by Margaret’s coachman, had been seriously injured while playing about the stable-yard. The doctors pronounced her hopelessly lame for life.
Margaret, however, was confident in Our Lady’s intercession, and took the child to the neighboring shrine every Saturday and begged the Mother of God to be merciful to the child as well as to the grieving parents. After the fifteenth visit, the little girl, with a happy cry, jumped from the arms of her mother. “I can walk straight, see?” and proved that Our Lady had indeed cured her in that instant.
When Margaret de Dampiere died in 1280, she was buried in the middle of the choir.
The renown of the shrine continued to spread over time, and many pilgrimages to Our Lady of Flines was the result. The Blessed Virgin Mary proved the words of her loyal son Saint Bernard, “Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided” to be true.
The abbey was destroyed by the partisans of the French Revolution, and there is now no trace of the once thriving abbey.
MAY 20 : DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH OF LA FERTE, BURGUNDY, IN HONOR OF OUR LADY (1113)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of the Church of La Ferte, in the diocese of Chalons, in Burgundy, in honor of Our Lady. This abbey, the eldest daughter of Citeaux, was founded in the year 1113, by Savaric and William, Counts of Chalons.”
The first daughter-house of Citeaux, L’Abbaye de la Ferte, was founded by Saint Bernard’s Cistercian Order, and once located between the Bragny forest and La-Ferte-sur-Grosne. The abbey was made possible by a second donation to the Cistercians by Count Savaric and his son William. At the same time, the knight of Arlier, Montailly, gave them the operation of a limestone quarry near St Martin de Laives, from whence came the stone used for construction of the abbey. Other charitable donations to this new monastery included a mill on the Grosne and a vineyard.
It was one of the largest Cistercian abbeys, and one of the first four abbeys for women, which included Pontigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond. These abbeys had a major role in the future organization of the Cistercian Order.
Like many abbeys, la Ferte suffered immensely during the major wars and upheavals in French history, but most especially during the hundred years' war, the religious wars, and the French Revolution. During the years 1165 and 1166, the abbey was at the very heart of disputes between Hugh III, Duke of Burgundy, and the Counts Macon Gerard and Guillaume de Chalon.
The convent buildings were reconstructed during the 13th century, and in 1362 the whole complex was surrounded by a stout wall and moat with a single door served by a drawbridge. Even so, this defensive system could not hold back the determined Protestant troops of Admiral Coligny, who attacked and set the inoffensive abbey church and several other buildings on fire. Then, in 1574, Rev. Francis Beugre rebuilt the dormitory, abbey cloister, and other buildings. In the year 1760, Fr. Francois Chemilly added some new construction, including an addition to the front of the abbey house. The pediment that can still be seen is decorated with his coat of arms.
In the year 1791, the abbey was unlawfully seized and sold as the property of the French national government. It was purchased by a family that has owned the site since the Revolution, although today only the magnificent abbey ‘palace’ with its interiors remains, and it is nothing now more than a bed and breakfast inn. Turned to secular use, the owners advertise the now “divine suits” and the “vast staircase, rooms with sculpted paneling, tapestries, paintings and XVIIth century furniture.” The church, however, was never restored, and there is now no trace of the magnificent edifice once graced by the presence of Saint Bernard.
MAY 21 : OUR LADY OF VLADIMIR, RUSSIA (1115)
One of the most famous and most beautiful of all icons of the Mother of God is that of Our Lady of Vladimir, also known as the Virgin of Vladimir. She is depicted cheek to cheek with the Divine Child, whose arms caress her, yet the image is strong and noble in workmanship, completely free from “sweetness” and sentimentality.
It is the great example of the type of icon that the Russians call tenderness; the Greeks express the same. It was probably painted in Constantinople in the twelfth century, but is first heard of in Kiev, whence it was taken in 1155 to the city of Vladimir. According to tradition, he horses pulling the cart taking the icon to Kiev stopped in Vladimir and refused to budge from that spot. The Assumption Cathedral was built there in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and to house her image.
It became famous for wonders and was reverenced as Russia’s most sacred image, so that it was in 1395 enshrined in the cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin at Moscow during the time of Tamerlane’s invasion. Several times the Tartars were beaten back under its inspiration and it was carried to critical places in time of distress. It was taken to the battlefront during World War I, and there are some who say the Communist Joseph Stalin had the icon taken up in an airplane and flown around Moscow during the German invasion of World War II. A few days later, the German army retreated.
All the tsars were crowned and patriarchs installed in the presence of this image, up until the revolution. It has been reproduced many times in copies and in book illustrations. The icon is now displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, and the Russian calendar commemorates the feast of Our Lady of Vladimir on May 21.
MAY 22 : OUR LADY OF MONTE VERGINE, NEAR NAPLES, ITALY (1119)
Also known as Our Lady of Montevergine, or as “Mother Schiavona,” this image was preserved from the flames at the monastery and church consecrated in her honor.
A very famous Benedictine sanctuary located in the village of Montevergine in the Campanian region of Italy is known as “Monte Vergine;” its religious history goes back to pre-Christian times, when there was a temple of Cybele there. A chapel of the Blessed Virgin was built in the seventh century, and in the year 1119 Saint William of Vercelli founded the monastery that still exists high up on the mountains. Saint William was a hermit who came back to his native Italy after making a pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Due to Saint William’s reputation for sanctity, many men were drawn to him and soon there were many cells located on the mountain. The first true church was constructed in 1126, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
In the church is a large icon of the Mother and Child, “of Constantinople” (said to have been brought to Italy by King Baldwin of Jerusalem) which came into the possession of the monastery in 1310. King Baldwin was only able to take away the upper portion of the large image. The dark figures on the icon of Our Lady of Montevergine stand out strikingly from the gold background; the present lower part of the picture is a later addition.
The image is quite large, with a height of over 12 feet and width of over 6 feet, showing the Blessed Virgin seated on a throne with the Divine Infant Jesus seated on her lap. The image is dark, so the icon is often referred to as one of the “Black Madonnas.” There have apparently been several renovations made to the original painting, as in 1621 two crowns were placed on the heads of the Virgin Mary and her child Jesus, and other additions were made in 1712 and 1778.
During World War II the church was used to hide the famed Holy Shroud of Turin, the burial cloth of Christ. A new basilica was begun in 1952 in the Romanesque style, and this structure was consecrated in 1961. There are over one and one half million pilgrims yearly who come to Monte Vergine to visit Our Lady of Montevergine, most notably at Whitsuntide. There have been numerous miracles attributed to this portrait of the Mother of God and her Divine Son.
There is a church at Seattle, Washington, dedicated in honor of Monte Vergine, Our Lady of the Mount, and another at New Brunswick, New Jersey.
MAY 23 : OUR LADY OF MIRACLES OF BRESCIA, ITALY (1478)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady of Miracles, at Saint Omer’s, where a glove and some portion of the hair of the Blessed Virgin are preserved.”
This north Italian shrine in Lombardy originated with a painting of the Blessed Virgin on the outside of a house. During an epidemic of bubonic plague that devastated Brescia in 1478, it is recorded that it became the occasion of miracles of healing. It is documented that the symptoms of the plague began with a severe headache, and then the lymph glands would become swollen and often painful. The extremities would become gangrenous, and the victim’s body would literally decay before they would suddenly die. The plague began in March of the year and continued until July the next year. 200 people died per day in the town, while the population of the city dropped from just under 40,000 to somewhat less than 4,000 during that perilous time.
The church of Our Lady of Miracles in Brescia was built to honor the image of the Blessed Virgin before which so many people were miraculously healed. Construction began in 1488 in thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin for those who survived, but work was not completed until 1500. The image that was once seen on a house near the church can now be seen in the church’s apse. The elaborately carved façade of the church is made of marble, and is treasured as an outstanding example of Renaissance sculpture in that region. The church was struck by allied bombs during World War II, and was so damaged that it had to be almost completely rebuilt after the war. The façade was preserved, however, due to heavy wood planking that the people of Brescia used to cover the façade to protect it from shrapnel and exploding munitions.
There are several other shrines of this name in Italy and elsewhere (Aubervilliers and Mauriac in France), sometimes called “of Portents,” which name particularly commemorated a series of miracles recorded in several parts of Italy in 1796-97.
The observance of a feast of Our Lady of Miracles is a very widespread custom, on a great variety of dates. I can find no reference to the Blessed Virgin’s hair or her glove that were once preserved there.
MAY 24 : OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS
This commemoration was introduced in the liturgical calendar, by decree of Pope Pius VII, on September 16th, 1815, in thanksgiving for his happy return to Rome after a long and painful captivity in Savona and France due to Napoleon’s tyrannical power.
The invocation "Help of the Christians" is very old, having been included in the Litany of Loreto by Pope Saint Pius V in 1571, as a token of gratitude to the Most Holy Virgin, by virtue of Christendom’s’ victory in the famous battle of Lepanto.
During five years of captivity, Pius VII appealed continuously to Our Lady under the invocation of "Help of Christians". From 1809 to 1812, the Pontiff remained imprisoned in the Italian city of Savona, then making a vow to crown an image of the Mother of Mercy existing there, should he obtain his freedom.
In 1812, the Pope was taken to Paris, remaining a prisoner in Fontainebleau, where he suffered enormous sufferings and humiliations inflicted by the French tyrant. But in the course of time, events began providentially to overturn the fortunes of the despot.
In 1814, weakened by losses suffered in several fronts and pressured by public opinion, Napoleon permitted his august prisoner to return to Rome. The Supreme Pontiff took advantage of the journey to honor in a special way the Mother of God, crowning her image in Ancona under the invocation of Queen of All Saints. And, fulfilling the vow that he made when still prisoner in Savona, he adorned the forehead of the image of the Mother of Mercy with a golden frond as he passed by that city.
The journey continued amid glorious manifestations of reverence on the part of the populace in all the localities where Pius VII passed. And on May 24th, he made a triumphant entrance in Rome, being received by the population at large.
As the carriage that transported the Supreme Pontiff advanced with difficulty amid the crowd along the Flavian way, a group of faithful, under the tumultuous applause of the people, withdrew the horses and went on to pull the vehicle up to the Vatican Basilica.
Pius VII, attributing this great victory of the Church over the Revolution to the powerful intercession of Mary Most Holy, wanted to show his gratitude by means of establishing a feast day of universal scope dedicated to this beautiful Marian invocation.
Such invocation took a new turn in the Catholic world due to the action of one of the greatest saints of modern times: Saint John Bosco, founder of the Society of Saint Francis of Sales (Salesians) and of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The companions of Saint John Bosco noticed that, from 1860, he began to invoke the Most Holy Virgin under the title of Mary Help of Christians, Maria Auxilium Christianorum.
In December of 1862, the Saint made a resolution to build a church dedicated to that invocation. And he declared, on that occasion: "To the Virgin Most Holy whom we desire to honor with the title of 'Help of Christians'; the times we are in are so sad that we truly need the Most Holy Virgin to help us in preserving and defending the Christian Faith as in Lepanto, as in Vienna, as in Savona and Rome.... and it will be the mother church of our future Society and the center from where all our works will radiate in behalf of the youth".
Six years after, on May 21st, 1868, the magnificent Church of Mary Help of Christians was solemnly consecrated in Turin by the Archbishop of the city. The dream of Saint Bosco became a reality and since then, that devotion spread specially all over the Catholic world owing, in great measure, to the action of the Salesian Congregation.
MAY 25 : OUR LADY THE NEW, BUILT BY THE EMPEROR JUSTINIAN, JERUSALEM (530)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Our Lady the New, at Jerusalem, built by the Emperor Justinian, at Jerusalem, in the year 530.”
The Emperor Justinian is justifiably famous for his construction of the magnificent church of the Holy Wisdom, the Hagia Sophia, which is now a mosque in Istanbul. There was once another church, though, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, that must have been just as splendid of an architecture wonder as the Hagia Sophia, but that was destroyed by an earthquake.
Recent archeological excavations have uncovered the foundation to the church, but there was also one of Justinian’s court historians, a man named Procopius of Caesarea, who wrote in great detail about the construction of the Nea (church of Our Lady the New):
“These things the Emperor Justinian accomplished by human strength and skill, but he was also assisted by his pious faith, which rewarded him with the honor he received and aided him in this cherished plan. The church required throughout columns whose appearance would not fall short of the beauty of the building and of such a size that they could resist the weight of the load which would rest upon them. However, the site itself, being very far from the sea inland and walled about on all sides by hills that were quite steep, made it impossible for those who were preparing the foundations to bring columns from outside.
But when the impossibility of this task was causing the Emperor to become impatient, God revealed a natural supply of stone perfectly suited to this purpose in the nearby hills, one which had either lain there in concealment previously, or was created at that moment. Either explanation is credible to those who trace the cause of it to God; for while we, in estimating all things by the scale of man’s power, consider many things to be wholly impossible, for God nothing in the whole world can be difficult or impossible. So the church is supported on all sides by a number of huge columns from that place, which in color resemble flames of fire, some standing below and some above and others in the stoas which surround the whole church except on the side facing the east.
Two of these columns stand before the door of the church, exceptionally large and probably second to no column in the whole world. Here is added another colonnaded stoa which is called the narthex, I suppose because it is not broad. Beyond this is a court with similar columns standing on the four sides. From this there lead doors to the interior which are so stately that they proclaim to those walking outside what kind of sight they will meet within. Beyond there is a wonderful gateway and an arch, carried on two columns, which rises to a very great height. Then as one advances there are two semi-circles which stand facing each other on one side of the road which leads to the church, while facing each other on the other side are two hospices, built by the Emperor Justinian. One of these is destined for the shelter of visiting strangers, while the other is an infirmary for poor persons suffering from diseases.”
Archaeologists working in the region near Jerusalem believe they have found this miraculous quarry. They have found a stone pillar that was cracked, and therefore not used, in a field of similar stones. Although the field cannot be linked to the Nea, it does seem to prove that the stone for the church was available for the project.
The church of Our Lady the New was built on Mount Zion and completed in 543, but was later destroyed during an earthquake in the year 746. Recent archeology confirms that the church was very large for the time at over 100 meters long and 52 meters wide, and probably had 5 aisles. Antoninus of Piacenza, who visited the basilica in about 570, wrote: “with its great congregation of monks, and its guest houses for men and women. In catering for travelers they have a vast number of tables, and more than three thousand beds for the sick.”
MAY 26 : OUR LADY OF CARAVAGGIO, ITALY (1432)
An Italian shrine to Our Lady of Caravaggio near Milan is said to have its origin in 1432, when the Mother of God is reported to have appeared in a vision to a sick peasant woman and pointed out to her a healing stream, where the woman was cured and may other miracles and cures were effected.
The present church is due to the initiative of Saint Charles Borromeo; it is approached through an arch on which stand statues of Mary and the woman she helped at the origin of the shrine. There are three main pilgrimages to the present shrine each year.
The story of this title of Our Lady begins in the first half of the 15th century. Giovannetta, pious daughter of Pietro Vacchi, intended to become a nun, but her father had different ideas; to please him, she married a farmer named Francesco Varoli. The marriage was unhappy – Francisco was not a nice fellow and made life miserable for his wife. On May 26, 1432, although Giovannetta was not feeling well, Francesco sent her out to the fields to cut grass for his cattle. After gathering a large bundle of fodder, she sat down to rest; perhaps she dozed a bit, for when she lifted her head, the Blessed Virgin stood before her and told the woman to be of good heart, her troubles would soon be over. Jesus was displeased by the sins of the people, but Giovannetta could obtain mercy for them if they repented and changed their ways – otherwise Christ would punish them all. Mary also said she wished a church built in that spot in her honor – she charged Giovannetta to make known her wishes to all the people and promised if they obeyed, she would bless them with many favors and miracles; then Mary vanished. But as a memento of her appearance Mary left behind the imprint of her feet in a stone upon which she had stood, and from beneath the stone a spring of pure water gushed.
Giovannetta hurried to Caravaggio and told everyone of the apparition and the things the Virgin, Our Lady of Caravaggio, had confided to her; few believed her; in fact, they greeted her story with scorn and derision. A little later, some of the people chanced to bathe in the stream flowing from beneath the rock and were amazed to find their aches and pains had mysteriously vanished. Others followed and the same thing happened to them. Then, they remembered Giovannetta’s story of the apparition and began to believe her. The incident spread far and wide, and the people, assisted by Filberto Marie Visconti, Duke of Milan, built a shrine on the place of the vision
As great crowds came to the shrine to offer homage to Our Lady, the shrine was too small to accommodate them; so, in 1575, Carlo Borromeo (later Saint Charles) employed the celebrated architect, Pellegrino Pellegrini to enlarge it. Later additions and changes were further made, resulting in the present sanctuary.
A statue of the Virgin of Our Lady of Caravaggio was placed in the enlarged sanctuary – this statue depicts Our Lady blessing Giovannetta; it supposedly occupies the very spot on which the Virgin stood during the apparition; and from beneath Mary’s feet, the little stream of water still flows.
MAY 27 : OUR LADY OF NAPLES, ITALY (533)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Dedication of Our Lady of Naples, called Saint Mary Major, by Pope John II, in the year 533. A picture of the Blessed Virgin, painted by Saint Luke, has been carefully preserved in this church.”
The Basilica Sanctuary of Carmine Maggiore is one of the largest basilicas in Naples. Dating back to the thirteenth century, it stands in the Piazza Carmine in Naples, on one side of what once was the market square.
According to tradition, the Carmelites fled from the Holy Land during the persecution following the Islamic invasion of the Holy Land, bringing with them the icon of the Virgin of Tenderness believed to be painted by Saint Luke the evangelist. It was said to be the first image venerated by the ancient Carmelite Order, and once in Naples, it was enshrined above the high altar of their church. The icon became known as La Bruna, or Madonna Bruna, because of the dark tone of the skin caused by the votive candles which had burned before it for centuries.
In the year 1500 the Black Madonna was taken in procession to Rome. Many miracles occurred in the course of the pilgrimage, and the icon was displayed at Saint Peter’s Basilica for three days. There were so many miracles that occurred that when the icon returned home the ruler of Naples, Federico d’Aragona, King Frederic II, decided to test the Mother of God.
King Frederic had the audacity to seemingly demand a miracle from heaven. He ordered all of the sick, the lame, the blind, the crippled, and anyone of his kingdom with any kind of malady to come to the church on June 24th to implore a cure from heaven. He instructed that they were all to assemble having had examinations and with written documentation as proof of their sickness or disability on the appointed day.
On June 24th of that year a Holy Mass was celebrated in the presence of the king, his nobles and all the people. During the consecration a ray of vivid light was seen to rest on the face of the Madonna, and at the same time reflecting its light upon each of the sick and infirm. In that instant they were cured of their maladies, and this miraculous cure was authenticated by many witnesses.
MAY 28 : FEAST OF THE RELICS OF OUR LADY, VENICE, ITALY
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Feast of the Relics of Our Lady, at Venice, where are exposed to the veneration of the faithful, portions of the robe of the Blessed Virgin, of her mantle, veil, and girdle.”
In the city of Venice it was believed that the sacred relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist were transferred there in the year 827. As the possessors of the Evangelists's relics, the Venetians honored Saint Mark as the patron of their city, and the churches of the city teem with images depicting scenes from his life. By the time of the Renaissance, the Lion of St. Mark had become the symbol for the city itself.
The other patron and guardian of Venice was the Blessed Virgin Mary, for according to legend the city had been founded on the feast of the Annunciation. It therefore seemed to the people of Venice that their city had also assumed her attributes of purity, perfection and immortality. Unwalled, their city had remained the refuge of worthy men and singularly unconquered for over a millennium. All of Mary’s feast-days were also days celebrated by the secular government throughout the entire Republic.
There is in Venice a spectacular 18th century reliquary that contains an extremely rare first class relic of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Within this reliquary, which bears the personal seal of Pope Pius VI, is a bundle of the Blessed Virgin's own hair. Since the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken into heaven both body and soul after her death, it is not possible that any other physical relics of her could exist. The sole possible exception would be her hair, and this bundle of her hair had been preserved and venerated since the time of her Assumption in the Holy House of Nazareth. Recent archeological excavations have proven that the Holy House was treated as a Christian sanctuary as early as the 1st century AD. The bundle of the Blessed Virgin's hair is believed to have been brought from the Holy Land by the Crusaders, and is venerated in Venice in the Basilica of Saint Mark.
MAY 29 : OUR LADY OF ARDENTS, ARRAS, FRANCE (1095)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “A wax candle is kept in the cathedral of Arras, which is held to have been brought thither by Our Lady, in the year 1095.”
Our Lady of Ardents, or Eglise Notre-Dame des Ardents d’Arras in French, is a small, charming red brick church in the lower part of town in Arras, France. It was built in the beautiful style unique to the twelfth century in order to celebrate the appearance of the Blessed Virgin, and to commemorate the miraculous assistance she gave to the people then living in the region.
According to Tradition, there was a terrible epidemic that was given the name ‘the hellfire’ that ravaged the countryside in that year of 1105, and all men felt that they were in the clutch of the specter of Death. The Evil of Ardent, the disease caused a kind of gangrene in the limbs, and the strange sickness caused terrible suffering in all parts of the body, and laid low both men and women, and even their children throughout the whole of the region.
There were at that time two minstrels, one named Itier, who lived in Brabant, and the other named Norman, who lived in the Chateau de Saint-Pol. They had vowed a mortal hatred, as Norman had killed Itier’s brother.
One night they both had the same dream: the Virgin Mary, dressed in white, appeared to them and told them to go to the cathedral. Norman, who was closer, arrived first. As he entered the cathedral he saw all the patients who had taken refuge there. He found the bishop and told him of the apparition, but Bishop Lambert thought that Norman was mocking him and sent him away. Itier arrived the following day and also spoke to the bishop. When the bishop told Itier that someone named Norman had come to tell him of the same vision, ltier asked where he was, because he intended to kill him on the field to avenge his brother’s death. Bishop Lambert then understood that the Blessed Virgin had sent the two men to be reconciled. The bishop spoke to each separately and then put them in each other’s presence and asked them to give each other the kiss of peace and then spend the night in prayer inside the cathedral.
It was Pentecost Sunday, May 28, 1105, at about three o’clock in the morning, when the Virgin Mary appeared to the two minstrels in the Cathedral. Norman and Itier witnessed a sudden light as the Blessed Virgin descended from the height of the nave, carrying a lighted candle in her hands. She gave the men the candle intended for the healing of the sick, and explained to them what they must do. A few drops of the wax that fell from the candle were to be mingled with water, giving it miraculous properties the people would then drink.
All who believed were healed. The two minstrels, now brothers, distributed the miraculous water and the epidemic was stopped, for the patients would regain their health after they drank of the water mixture. There were many prodigies of healing that went on for hundreds of years, especially with wounds, inflammations, and ulcers. All of this shows how reconciliation and prayer are pleasing to God and can precipitate great miracles, such as curing diseases, ending natural disasters, as well as ending or preventing wars.
The Bishop of Arras wanted to build a church worthy of Our Lady of Ardents and to receive the relic of the Holy Candle, and the church was consecrated in 1876 just before the definitive establishment of the Third Republic.
This relic, the Holy Candle, can still be seen today. On the eve of Corpus Christi and the four following days, the Holy Candle was lit and shown to the people. It has not diminished.
The reliquary of the Holy Candle is a masterpiece of art that preserves the relic of the Holy Candle since the time of the thirteenth century. The content of the reliquary has been the object of Christian veneration since the Middle Ages, and every year it is presented to pilgrims during the time period which runs between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost.
Pope Calixtus III grants indulgences to those who visit the Cathedral of Arras, where a veil & sash of Our Lady are kept (1455)
The Abbot Orsini wrote: “Grant of indulgences, by Pope Calixtus II, in the year 1455, to those who shall visit the cathedral of Arras, where a veil and girdle of Our Lady are preserved.”
MAY 30 : OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART, MEXICO (1966)
When Hitler’s armies defeated the French and entered the city of Paris during the latter part of 1939, a young woman, Maria Hendizabal, fled from France to live in Mexico. Arriving at Vera Cruz, she went to the Mexican capital to make a new home. Among her few possessions she had a large picture of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart which she wished to give to some church for safekeeping, since she would be obliged to live in a small town and expected to have nothing more than a small room for herself. Padre Juan Gomez of the Church of San Jose (Saint Joseph) allowed her to place the image on the wall of the vestibule on February 2, 1940.
That very same evening a nine year old boy, who was afflicted with infantile paralysis, was immediately cured after praying before the lovely image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The youth left his crutches on the floor of the vestibule and hurried home to tell his mother. The news of his cure spread rapidly and the next day hundreds of the faithful visited the church, where before, there was never an attendance of more than a hundred at Sunday Mass. This cure was followed by others, and day by day the crowds grew larger.
After a week the pastor had to take the picture down from the wall of the vestibule and place it in the front of the church where it could be more easily viewed by the crowds clamoring to see it. Since Mexico abounds in silver, the usual way of acknowledging favors is to make a gift of precious silver. At present the entire left wall of the church is covered with silver remembrances donated by the recipients of favors received from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Even though the shrine of Our Lady has existed for only 27 years (as of 1966), there have been thousands of cures performed through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. These cures have been verified by affidavits signed by reliable physicians in the presence of notaries; the documents may still be seen in the present day at the shrine. One father, in gratitude for the cure of his daughter, had a silversmith make a new frame for the picture. The picture frame is a fitting gift, and is indescribably beautiful.
MAY 31 : QUEENSHIP OF MARY
Mary is Queen by grace, divine relationship, right of conquest, and singular election. Coming as a crowning event in the beautiful month of May, the Queenship of Mary, we welcome this feast with spiritual affection and experience a sense of deep interior peace as we gather in her presence to rededicate ourselves to our loving Mother and Queen. The Introit of the Mass for the day tells us: “Let us all rejoice in the Lord as we celebrate the feast in honor of our Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary, upon whom the Angels rejoice and praise the Son of God.”
The Queenship of Mary is not an empty title or an honorary distinction showing forth her excellence of virtue, of grandeur, sanctity or glory. Mary is truly a Queen as can be seen in the Gospel of the Mass; the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the most startling words ever addressed to a child of Adam: “Hail thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” Then he continues, “Do not be afraid; thou hast found favor in the sight of God. And thou shalt bear a son and call Him Jesus. He shall be great and men will know Him for the Son of God, the Most High; the Lord will give Him the throne of his father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob eternally; His kingdom shall never end.” Here is the foundation for our belief in the Queenship of Mary – her Divine Motherhood; she conceived a King.
Mary is “Queen by grace” because she was conceived immaculate, preserved from the slightest taint of sin while her soul was literally inundated with divine grace. “Hail, thou art full of grace.”
She is “Queen by divine relationship” for she is related in the first degree of consanguinity in the direct line to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. A Queen Mother is one whose son later becomes king. Mary’s Child, however at the moment of His birth, was already a King, the King of the world. Spiritual writers point out for our consolation that Mary’s maternal relationship to Jesus was more exclusive than the other mothers, sine He had no human father.
Our Lady is Queen also “by right of conquest;” Our Lord by His Passion and Death recaptured the human race from the slavery of Satan, conquering all as a King. Calvary was the scene of this conquest. Mary at the foot of the Cross shared intimately with Him in His Sacrifice and the fruits of the Redemption.
At first it may be somewhat difficult to picture Mary as a Queen, since we think in terms of royalty of the world; yet when we think of the souls who preceded us in the household of the Faith, and glance at Christian art, as it sings of her Queenship, it is not a problem at all.
Majestically, Christ said to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” so, too, Our Lady acknowledges herself in humility as a Queen whom all generations call blessed; but she, too, would add, “my kingdom is not of this world.” In the Litany of Our Lady, we address her as Queen of Angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins; of Peace, of the Most Holy Rosary; conceived without original sin; and, Queen assumed into Heaven. Christian art represents her crowned with a diadem holding a scepter, seated on a throne.
The purpose of this feast, Queenship of Mary, is to stir up renewed love and devotion to her; to gather before her throne in heaven, and humbly offer her our homage, unreserved, totally, prayerfully and with the simplicity of abandonment that characterizes a devoted child – “Reign over hearts and minds of men that they seek what is true; over their wills, to follow solely the good; over their hearts to love nothing but what you love…that man may seek and know the truth and follow what is good, Oh Queen!”