Archive for the ‘Mary’ Category

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th. This feast recalls the seven scriptural references to Mary’s heartache. For a woman who “kept all these things in her heart,” (Luke 2:51) that heart knew a great deal of pain. Heartache often goes hand in hand with parenting. With great love and sacrifice comes the capacity to hurt deeply. When our hearts are hurting, we can turn to Mary and know that she has been there and that she understands.

Vatican approval for the celebration of a feast in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows was first given to the Servite Order (also known as the Order of the Servants of Mary) in 1667. In 1814, Pope Pius VII extended the feast to the whole Latin Church. Originally assigned to the third Sunday in September, Pope Pius X moved the feast to September 15th in 1913.

There was also a second feast in honor of the Sorrowful Mother which was celebrated one week before Good Friday beginning in the 1700s. Considered a duplication of the September feast, it was omitted in the 1969 revision of the Church calendar.

The following are scriptural reflections for the seven sorrows of Mary followed by prayers Pope Pius VII approved in honor of those sorrows.

The Prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword shall pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of your tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. Dear Mother, by your heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humility and the gift of the holy fear of God. Hail Mary…

The Flight into Egypt: “When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of your most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and your sojourn there. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the gift of piety. Hail Mary…

The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple: “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us. Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:46-48)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried your troubled heart at the loss of your dear Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue of chastity and the gift of knowledge. Hail Mary…

Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary: “So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgatha.” (John 19:16-17)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation of your heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of patience and the gift of fortitude. Hail Mary…

Jesus Dies on the Cross: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the martyrdom which your generous heart endured in standing near Jesus in His agony. Dear Mother, by your afflicted heart obtain for me the virtue of temperance and the gift of counsel. Hail Mary…

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross: “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.” (Matthew 27:57-58)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of your compassionate heart, when the side of Jesus was struck by the lance before His Body was removed from the Cross. Dear Mother, by your heart thus transfixed, obtain for me the virtue of fraternal charity and the gift of understanding. Hail Mary…

The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.” (John 19:40-42)

I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, for the pangs that wrenched your most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. Dear Mother, by your heart sunk in the bitterness of desolation, obtain for me the virtue of diligence and the gift of wisdom. Hail Mary…

Let Us Pray:

Let intercession be made for us, we beseech You, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Your mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Your bitter Passion. Through You, O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

How to Plant a Mary Garden

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Spring has come at last! It is time to plant and tend a garden. Mary Gardens, gardens dedicated to our Blessed Mother, have been gaining popularity in recent years.

Many flowers and plants are associated with our Blessed Mother and various aspects of her life. These traditions hearken back to the Middle Ages, when religious devotion permeated almost every aspect of life. Some flowers are associated with Mary simply by virtue of their names. Others feature legends used as one means to instruct others about Jesus and Mary. It was one more way to teach the Gospel stories during a time when books and reading were not widespread.

While we may not need the stories about these flowers to teach us, we can nevertheless create a place of prayer and devotion by planting a garden with the intention of honoring Mary. Such a garden may be a lavish outdoor space or some simple indoor plantings. A Mary Garden also usually contains a statue or image of Mary.

This list of flowers and their meanings may help you get started:
Rose – Roses have been associated with Mary since the earliest days. They are a symbol of her glory and sorrow. Roses are often known as the queen of flowers. As such, they are also a sign of Mary’s queenship of heaven.

Lily of the Valley - Mary’s Tears – Legend holds that when Mary wept at the foot of the cross, her tears fell to the ground and these flowers blossomed. With its pure white flowers, it has also been associated with her Immaculate Conception.

Ox-Eye Daisy – Mary’s Star – This flower is associated with the Star of Bethlehem which led the Magi to the Christ child.

Fleur-de-lis – Yellow flag iris – A symbol of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to ask her to be the mother of God’s son.

Chrysanthemum – All Saint’s Flower – This flower is believed to have been present when Christ was laid in the tomb.

Snowdrop – Candlemas Bells – These are said to have bloomed at Candlemas, when Mary brought Jesus to the temple for his presentation.

Gladiolus – the name of this flower comes from the Latin word for “sword” and stands for the sword that would pierce Mary’s heart.

Violet – a symbol of Mary’s constancy, humility, and innocence

Marigold – Mary’s Gold – a symbol of Mary’s simplicity and domesticity. Sometimes also associated with her sorrows.

Carnations – their name reminds one of the Incarnation of Christ. They also are a symbol of the Crucifixion.

For more information on flowers and herbs associated with Mary, please visit:

Book Review: Full of Grace

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion Through Mary’s Intercession

by Christine Watkins
Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2010

Christine Watkins grew up without religion and without a belief in God. Her parents had told her that Jesus was a fairytale and that when you died you became part of the dirt and helped nourish plants. As an adult, she searched in vain for some shred of hope and direction. She explored all sorts of New Age practices and followed the advice of a psychic that led her nowhere. Meanwhile, her promiscuous lifestyle had ravaged her body, leaving her afflicted with cervical cancer. It was at this point that God intervened in her life. Her friend Joseph reached out to her, helped her to pray, and taught her about God. Jesus even cured her of cancer. She completely reformed her life. She earned Master of Theological Studies and Master of Social Welfare degrees and became a spiritual director, bereavement counselor, inspirational speaker and retreat leader. She also developed a deep relationship with Mary as a result of a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.

In “Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion through Mary’s Intercession,” Watkins shares her own and five other incredible stories of lives transformed by God and the miracle of Mary’s apparitions at Medjugorje. While the apparitions at Medjugorje have not been formally endorsed by the Church (and indeed can’t be until they are completed), they meet all the criteria for an authentic apparition. Many Bishops have visited there and Pope John Paul II stated that “Medjugorje is hope for the entire world. And if I were not Pope, I would have been in Medjugorje a long time ago.”

“Full of Grace” is not for the faint of heart. The subject matter includes children dying in the sewers of Columbia, drug abuse, and strippers. The stories, however, have the power to change lives. They show the ability of God to work in the midst of the most horrible situations. As Watkins states, “In telling their stories, these ordinary people opened the door to their extraordinary lives – to a view more fantastic than fiction – and showed how God lifted them into his loving arms, often out of a living hell, and raised them up to the heights.” Each of the stories is followed by questions and a faith exercise, useful for personal reflection or in a book or prayer group.

Prayer for Light and Peace

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

O Holy Virgin Mary,
Mother of our Savior Jesus,
you show your graciousness and compassion
for all those who seek refuge in your protection.

Fill our days with light and peace
that we may reflect unending love to others.
Lead us to your Son Jesus who was born to
walk with us along the path of faith and hope
and to give us strength and courage in the Lord.

O Most Holy Mother,
dispel the darkness that overshadows your children
and guard your families that they may always
remain in harmony through forgiveness and understanding.

Intercede for us with your maternal spirit.
Bless us with your unconditional love.
Show us the radiance of true joy whose
source is your Son Jesus who lives and reigns
with the Father and the Holy Spirit
forever and ever.


Mary, Undoer of Knots

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I read about this Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots today in a magazine, and decided to look it up. I think that this is something I could use in my life at the moment. There are definitely knots that could use some untying. A novena booklet can be ordered from

Chaplet of the Seven Knots
This chaplet comprises seven groups of 4 beads each: A meditation bead, and three smaller beads on which are said Our Father, Hail Mary, and Gloria.

Beginning on the Pendant:
Holy Mary, who unties the seven knots, full of the presence of God during your life you accepted with great humility the Holy Will of the Father and the legacy of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Evil never dared to entangle you.
Together with your Son, you interceded for our difficulties, and with simplicity and patience, you have taught us how to undo the knots that entangled our lives. By being our Mother, you smooth and make clear the ties that unite us to Our Lord.
Cover us with your protective mantle and permit us to experience, in your loving and maternal protection: Peace, Harmony, and Purity.

On the large beads, consider the meditation, one for each knot (below)

On the small beads, pray
Our Father
Hail Mary

1st Knot:
In our temptation: Protect us

2nd Knot:
In our sin: Deliver us

3td Knot:
In our distress: Succor us

4th Knot:
In our sorrow: Comfort us

5th Knot:
In our fear: Encourage us

6th Knot:
In our illness: Relieve us

7th Knot
In our weakness: Strengthen us

At the conclusion:
Holy Mary, Mother of God and ours, with your maternal heart undo the knots that entangle our lives. We ask you to receive in your hands ( mention who or prayer request ) and liberate us from these entanglements. Blessed Virgin Mary, through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from evil and untie the knots that obstruct our unity with God, so that we may find Him in all things, have Him in our hearts, and serve Him always.

Holy Mary, full of the presence of God
during your life you accepted with great
humility the Holy Will of the Father and the
legacy of your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Evil never dared to entangle you with its
confusion. Since then you have interceded
for all of our difficulties. With all simplicity
and patience you have given us examples on
how to untangle the knots in our complicated
lives. By being our Mother forever, you arrange
and make clear the path that unites us to Our
Holy Mary, Mother of God and ours, with your
maternal heart untie the knots that upset our
lives. We ask you to receive in your hands
(mention who or prayer request) and deliver
us from the chains and confusions that
have us restrained. Blessed Virgin Mary,
through your grace, your intercession and by
your example, deliver us from evil and untie
the knots that keep us from uniting with God,
so that once free of every confusion and error,
we may find Him in all things, have Him in our
hearts and serve him always in our brothers
and sisters. Mother of Good Counsel pray
for us .

A Brief History of the Rosary

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

October has long been the month dedicated to the Rosary. Pope St. Pius V established the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7th) in 1573 to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto, a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Pope Clement XI expanded the feast to the universal Church in 1716. The dedication of the entire month to this devotion was officially established by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. While devotion to this prayer form waned a bit in the years immediately after Vatican II, interest in this long-practiced devotion is experiencing a resurgence as the faithful rediscover the beauty and spiritual benefit of this meditative practice. The name “rosary” comes from the Latin “rosarium” which means “rose garden.” A rosary is widely considered a gift of roses to Our Blessed Mother in heaven.

The rosary has had a long history and gone through many stages of development. The use of prayer beads actually precedes the time of Christ. Hindus used them to help keep track of prayers said throughout the day. In the Christian tradition, early monastic orders would pray the 150 psalms daily. At first they would use 150 pebbles in a small pouch in order to keep track. This later developed into a string with 150 knots and finally a rope with 150 wooden beads. Members of the laity who did not necessarily know the psalms by heart wanted to have a comparable version of this practice and so the tradition of praying 150 “Our Fathers” each day was born. A similar string of beads was used to keep track of this as well. In time, the “angelic salutation” of Gabriel was added before each “Our Father”: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Later on, Elizabeth’s greeting was added to this: “Blessed are you among women.” Still later, the prayer of “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death” was added and the “Hail Mary” as we know it was developed.

Meanwhile, in the year 1214, Mary appeared to St. Dominic and encouraged him to spread devotion to the rosary. She promised him that if he did so, he would be successful in converting the Albigensians and that his religious order that he founded would prosper. He spent the rest of his life encouraging others to pray the Rosary and founded a Rosary Confraternity to aid in this task. One hundred years later, Blessed Alan de la Roche picked up where Dominic’s work had ended. He divided the rosary into 10 “Hail Mary” decades preceded by the “Our Father.” In the 15th centuries, the mysteries of the rosary were assigned to each of the decades. This gave people an opportunity to reflect on Scripture while offering up this meditative prayer. In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three young shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She declared herself to be “Our Lady of the Rosary” and repeatedly urged the children to recite the rosary daily.

In more recent times, Pope John XXIII taught that the Rosary must have a threefold purpose: “mystical contemplation, intimate reflection, and pious intention.” On October 16, 2002, Pope John Paul II added a new set of five mysteries to the rosary. Known as the “Luminous Mysteries” or “The Mysteries of Light,” they focus on Jesus’ public ministry. In his apostolic letter “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary”, he wrote that “The rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at a heart a Christ-centered prayer. It has all the depth of the gospel message in its entirety. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb.”

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Brown Scapular

Friday, July 10th, 2009

July 16th is the feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This is in remembrance of the day in 1251 when Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a monastic who was living in England. She appeared with the Brown Scapular in hand and uttered these words: “Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.”

A “scapular” was originally a type of clothing worn by monks when working. It fit over the shoulders and covered the front and back. The Carmelites were one such group that wore this vestment. Over time, and in light of the apparition of Mary, the scapular became a sign of trust in Mary as well as commitment to Christ. During the middle ages, groups of lay people began to become affiliated with the monastic orders. The orders in turn wanted to give these lay people an outward sign of that affiliation. For the Carmelites, a smaller version of the scapular was developed and worn.

There is much misunderstanding that surrounds the scapular, both in and out of Catholic circles. Some view it as superstitious. Others see it as a good luck charm – if I wear my scapular, I am guaranteed salvation regardless of how I live my life. This is not the case at all. emphasizes that the scapular “must not be understood superstitiously or magically, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in faith, hope and love are required for salvation. The scapular is a powerful reminder of this Christian obligation and of Mary’s promise to help those consecrated to her obtain the grace of final perseverance.”

According to, the scapular represents the following spiritual meanings:

• It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God.

• It leads us into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries.

• It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.

• It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided by the intercession and prayers of Mary.

Investment with the scapular requires a priest or deacon to place a blessed scapular over a person’s head while reciting a prayer to Mary such as the Hail Mary, Hail Holy Queen, or Memorare. Investment must be done with a cloth scapular, although after that time, the wearer may choose to wear a blessed metal scapular instead.

Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

O Most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein You are my Mother.
O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech You from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this necessity. There are none that can withstand Your power.
O show me herein You are my Mother. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee. (repeat 3 times)
Sweet Mother, I place this cause in Your hands. (repeat 3 times)

A Baby Changes Everything

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

In the quiet of night, a young mother holds her baby to her, admiring his fingers and toes, exploring the features of his face. Her son is new to this world, a gift from God. She is like every other new mother, filled with wonder and exhaustion and, perhaps, fear. She is very young. Is she up to this awesome task that God has seen fit to entrust to her? After all, this is no ordinary child. His birth was foretold by the prophets. An angel came to tell her he was coming! She replays the vision in her memory. It was just an ordinary day when the angel came with his divine message. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son . . . He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:30-32) Fear not? A child? It had been a lot to take in, but she believed, she trusted, she said “yes.” From that moment, nothing would ever be ordinary again.

She had gone to her cousin Elizabeth to help her with her own miraculous birth. She had returned home to begin her life with her husband, Joseph. Then, heavy with child, she had to travel to Bethlehem. Now, she had just given birth among the animals, far from her family and friends. This really wasn’t what she had in mind. Yet, she is thankful. The innkeeper was kind to let them stay here. They are safe, they are warm, and all went well with the birth. She smiles at her child. He is perfect, so perfect. If only her mother could be here to see him. He is the One her people have waiting for: The Savior, the Messiah, the Promised One. These are such big names for such a tiny baby, her baby who sleeps so peacefully in her arms. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:46-47).

Who are these strangers who have come to visit? Joseph is talking to them, inviting them in. He whispers to her, “The angels told them.” She nods. This baby is special. The secret that few had known is secret no more. She resists the urge to hold him tighter, keep him to herself. He is not just her baby. He belongs to the world. She lays him in the manger so that they can take a closer look. They tell her about the angels, too. The light was so bright!There were so many! The whole of heaven was rejoicing!Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14) The shepherds stay for a little while, and then they return to their fields. She can hear them praising God as they leave. Joseph looks kindly at her, then lays down to get some rest. She should rest, too. It has been quite a day! But, her mind will not quiet down. There is so much to think about.

She checks on the baby again, makes sure that he is warm and dry. She remembers the shepherds looking at him. They had such reverence in their eyes. They knew that they were beholding a miracle. Yes, a miracle, a miracle entrusted to her care. She thought of the future, of all the things that he would need to learn. Yes, there was so much to think about. That young girl who had been living a quiet life before the angel came no longer existed. She was a mother now, the mother of the Savior. All ages will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48) Why did God choose her, out of all the girls in all the world during all the ages? Why her, a simple, poor girl? Why did the savior come as a baby? He could have just appeared in glory. Why come in such impoverished conditions? It didn’t make much sense to her, but she knew that God must have his reasons. She would continue to trust, to hope, to believe. She would continue to say “Yes” wherever the road would lead. This baby would not only change her life. He would change the world. She is tired. She closes her eyes and dreams of the future. Yes, this baby would change everything.