Monday, February 21, 2011

Don't you love Our Lady?

According to Father Stefano Manelli, Saint Bonaventure held two Marian maxims:

First Maxim: "One should carefully beware of decreasing, even in the slightest, the honor that is due to Mary."

Second Maxim: "One should be ready to defend the privileges of Mary even at the risk of his life."
Canterbury Tales

Recently, in part because ARCIC II has been debated in the Anglican Synod  and in part because I have been re-examining my own theological thinking. It is also one of those things which celebrating the Traditional Rite has gradually been  raising too, as well as a visit to one of our more modern churches where there was an image of Our Lady but there seemed to be no Marian devotion, the image tended to the didactic rather than the devotional, which I found troubling, in a mildly nagging sort of way. It struck me as being neo-Iconoclastic. I remember a group of priests being a little unkind about a younger priest who had asked the hard bitten clergy of his deanery, "Don't you love Our Lady?"
I am left cold and unmoved by many modern sightings of Our Lady, I prefer mine with patina of history upon them. I have always rejoiced over the common sense of the Fathers of Vatican II in placing the document on Our Lady firmly context of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, she is after all the first and foremost disciple of her Son and a model and image of the Church. An authentic Mariology has always been the underpinning of an authentic Christology.

I think like many modern Catholics I can be rather cerebral about her, I am quite happy with the "Sceptre of Orthodoxy" but I tend to baulk at "Bring[ing] flowers of the rarest". I am quite convinced that that is not really Catholic. Today we might be more than a little uncomfortable with Fr Faber's tears and sentimentality and his, "Oh! How that would have pleased dearest Mama!" but it comes from a long and honourable tradition of Marian devotion, it is entirely congruent with the spirituality of the last thousand years, though compared to the East it is just a tad saccharine.

Getting devotion to Our Lady right is essential not just to our understanding of Christ and Christology but also to our own becoming by adoption Sons, our own deification - Fr Philip Neri Powell, has had some interesting posts on this recently. For us Catholics we have nothing to do with being cloaked in Christ's blood, we believe not disguised by Christ but actually become by Adoption what Christ is by Nature. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin teaches us how to be other Christs. I suspect a symptom of the loss of this understanding is directly linked to an undermining of Marian devotion, perhaps a recovery of Marian devotion, with its tenderness, its sentimentality, its filial obedience, trust and love might help us re-find that most basic of all Christian doctrines.

Perhaps we have something to learn from the Irish grandmother or Sicilian peasant (if there are any nowadays), over the next few days I shall try to find out.


Liberal Catholic said...

Best blog you've written!

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Oh Fr Ray! How could you? Bring Flowers of the Rarest reminds me of when I was 9 years old & crowned Our Lady in the May Procession in Digbeth..St Anne's Church founded by Bl JHN. Now thankfully all my children have attended many May Processions at the other Church Bl John Henry founded! Bl JHN has much to say about Our Blessed Mother.

Richard Collins said...

But 'a tad saccharine' is quite sweet is it not Father?
Good post though.

Anna Johnstone said...

Fr Ray,

At the simplest spiritual and human level we all need to connect to the feminine. Just as human masculinity is most authentically revealed in Christ, so human femininity is most authentically revealed in Mary. As a woman, I am passionate about Mary. As a convert to the Catholic faith I feel that I have been able to approach the mystery of Mary gradually. Where Mary is not loved and truly taken to heart, for the most part I feel that it is because she has been misunderstood. She is a woman of profound wisdom and kindness, passion and courage, gentleness and good humour. I defy anyone on truly meeting her, not to be smitten! For a novel way into understanding Mary I would recommend the Book of Esther, (and I would certainly discourage the consumption of any alleged apparations that do not have the full approval of the Church).

Wishing any readers a refreshed experience of the most lovely and beautiful woman who has ever lived.

Anna Johnstone

Pablo the Mexican said...

"...Perhaps we have something to learn from the Irish grandmother or Sicilian peasant (if there are any nowadays), over the next few days I shall try to find out..."

How about learning from a nobody; a poor Mexican?

Saint Juan Diego held Our Lady as a mother to be given due respect as such.

After obeying our mother's commands, he spent the rest of his life going about Mexico telling the story of Our Mother and how she wished conversion.

About nine million heathens converted.

One dutiful Padre baptized one million souls. One million souls given to Christ through the intervention of our divine Master’s mommy.

How many souls have the Priests that ignore Mary baptized?

“…It is also one of those things which celebrating the Traditional Rite has gradually been raising too…”

Of course Mary will come into play once you are at Christ crucified.

The last thing Christ saw was His mother; she dragged Saint John to the cross; all Priests in whom she forms her Son should go to the cross, and not wait for the Holy Mother to drag them there.

“…"Bring[ing] flowers of the rarest"...”

There are two times when flowers should not be present at the Altar.

At a Wedding, because the Bride is considered virginal, and is the flower offered to our Lord during the ceremony.

The next is at a Funeral Mass.

As the flowers normally placed on the altar are the best and if possible the best and rarest, the soul placed before the altar during the Requiem Mass should be at its height of beauty.

A flower of the best and rarest.

As you continue to say the Tridentine Mass, be not like Peter that took account of the wind; imitate that which you hold in your hands.


Anna Johnstone said...

Warming to the theme....

The mantric style of the Rosary comes easily to me, but I am aware that for many it doesn't. Really I think it is the contemplation of the mysteries that unlock a relationship with Mary; in all aspects of her femininity - daughter, sister, spouse, mother
and friend. So for those busy with other styles of prayer, especially the Divine Office, why not take a few minutes just to sit and ponder one of the mysteries, asking Mary to reveal herself? My first exposure to the Rosary was buying a Rosary booklet filled with the paintings of Fra Angelico. I gazed at the paintings and was drawn into their contemplation. That quiet, personal and contemplative beginning has always framed my understanding of the Rosary.

But for those after a dash of Sicilian or Irish - may I plug our Parish Rosary CD, recorded in Westminster Cathedral?! I formed the group in 2002 and we meet 5 times a week. I lead on a Saturday morning after the 10:30 Mass. All are most welcome and you are invited to a quick coffee afterwards. Fr Ray, I'll send you a copy! God bless

PS - Am available for a mixed evening of music, (have been the in house opera singer at Harrods for the past few years, karaoke can be very sophisticated these days - I have in effect a portable orchestra), and Rosary enthusing, for any parish that would like an enjoyable evening of encouragement to Marian devotion.

Postgrad.student said...

Did you listen to the full ARCIC synod debate audio recording online? The interesting tone of this blog would suggest you had. I think we project our own life-experience onto Our Lady,our attitude perhaps reflecting our relationship with our own mother. Pope John Paul's devotion was profound so I am not sure why you refer to simple peasants as examples of Marian devotion. Have I misunderstood you?

Fr Ray Blake said...

I don't think you have misunderstood me, our devotion can be deeply profound and theologically "scientific" but our faith is ultimately visceral. I think we need to recapture that!

Fr Ray Blake said...

P.S. That was Our Lord's devotion to his mother.

Joshua said...

I must admit I am one of those people whom Anna mentions who have trouble with the Rosary (prefering my Breviary) but perhaps I ought to make more time to meditate on our blessed mother.

Thank you for a very thought provoking post.

Anna Johnstone said...

Fr Ray - I hope you have a wonderful time in Palermo! I totally agree with you about the visceral dimension of faith.

I thought I should probably add that I wasn't always conscious of my passion for Mary; far from it! In fact I was totally turned off by my perceptions. It went as far as actively disliking the name 'Mary!' I thought Catholic statues looked rather cold. And I was baffled by the theology of her perpetual virginity. How much more horrible could she be to Joseph I thought. The only chink in my armour was that I loved singing Ave Marias.

The turning point, and it was pretty Damascene, came on retreat in Italy, in a house in the hills near Albano, in 92. Rather like being struck by a thunderbolt it dawned on me that Mary was the Spouse of God. And how awesome! Her love for God was so profound that she was fit to conceive and bear His son. I remain deeply moved even now when I focus on that thought.

So although I agree with postgrad that we project endlessly, very little changed in my relationship with my mother, my sister and myself in the days leading up to that realisation. The conversion experience was rather the fruit of prayer, of giving time to God, so allowing Him the opportunity to break into my mind and heart.

Within weeks I was received into the Church, and some years later my parents were too; and my father was later ordained a priest. He is in your diocese Fr Ray - over at Midhurst!

Thanks for letting me post the earlier details. The blogsphere is helping me to dip my toes into public witness. Gradually building up my courage...

nickbris said...

The Blessed Virgin is also revered in Islam

Unknown said...

"For us Catholics we have nothing to do with being cloaked in Christ's blood"

Wouldn't you say that St. Paul was Catholic?

georgem said...

I see what you mean, Father. You certainly won't find agonised deconstruction among those of simple faith.
Go on, have a procession during Mary's month of May with all those sentimental Marian hymns. You know why? They are all eminently singable.
On 1st May or the nearest school day after, Catholic schools of old would process to a statue of Our Lady placed prominently in the grounds, followed by Benediction. Young children made daisy chains to hang on the statue's outstretched arms. And 'Bring Flowers of the Fairest' was always sung. Those uncomplicated expressions of belief have been largely lost to a conviction that we are much too sophisticated for that kind of thing.
In the meantime, have a wonderful and well-deserved break and keep the Faith (but not in a Mafia kind of way).

me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cath said...

Re "Irish grandmother" comment, have you never heard of Fr Peyton, the Rosary Priest, an Irish Priest, you remember his slogan??? Numerous people of Irish background, not just grandmothers but parents, cite the evening family rosary, a centuries old tradition. As a priest you could preach about this and inculcate it in all your parishioners, even those v holy from far and wide!

johnf said...

'Bring Flowers of the Rarest...'

When I was young I thought the hymn a little sacharine, but now I am older and hopefully wiser I think it's charming.

Part of my antipathy when young was being press-ganged into Sunday processions in May and holding (gulp!) flowers. And naughty Jim O'---lly started singing Oh Mary we crown thee with bottles..'

I much preferred the processions in June when Our Lord was honoured. The St Vincent de Paul's Band played 'Jesus my Lord, my God, my All!' as we processed out of the church to to the school playground where Bishop Halsall celebrated Benediction.

Sadly that it is rare to hear a Catholic hymn any more at least in my Parish.

Catherine said...

What a beautiful post! One of the best I have ever read :-)

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