Feastday of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Grace will flow through her gentle hands and fall on the book that her Spouse will write for you, and all will become simple, because fundamentally, it will be the book of love. All things are simple to those who love.

And as you go through this, you will notice, finally, that she has spoken very little, that you have learned at the knees and feet of her silence, that it has enveloped you with a mantle fragrant and sweet. And whenever her silence has touched you, it has healed, and made you whole. And you will learn to be silent, silent with a depth of silence that alone allows others to hear the voice of God in you.

So, gently and slowly, you will walk with her, all of you here, and everyone else to come, unto the end of time. You will walk with her through the whole life of her Son, step by step, day by day, hour by hour, for she alone can lead you.

There, in that school of love, you will learn how to restore this world to God through her. You will know that the restoration lies not in what you do but in what you are. And you will understand that you must be nothing, nothing but a sheet of flame as a backdrop to God. Christ-bearers, life-bearers, lovers, that’s all. The rest shall be added to you. She will see to it that it will[Catherine Doherty: Bogoroditza, pg. 110]

“Bella Maria”, by James Hooker, found at Catholic Planet

Icon Intrigue (Part 2 of 2)

In my post a few days ago, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I featured an icon which I had seen on the website of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Eparchy of Newton, MA.  I incorrectly presumed that because it was unidentified in terms of being the work of any current artist, it was a very old icon and “in the public domain”.  As a matter of fact it was not, and although I was graciously given permission after the fact to use it, after two years of blogging I should have been more diligent!

The image on the Melkite website is actually a photograph taken by the webmaster, Paul Stamm, of an icon enshrouded in a little mystery of its own.  The icon was found in the attic of the rectory of St. George Melkite Catholic Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  No one knows how old it is, who painted it or how it came to be there.  The icon is now on display in the basement hall. 

I have scoured the web looking for any other site featuring this image, but to no avail. The chances are likely one in a million that anyone who happens upon my little blog will know anything about the origin of this icon, but I have learned over the last couple of years that when Mother Mary is involved, anything can happen!

So if by chance you have any information about it at all, please click on this link to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Eparchy of Newton, MA, scroll down, and you will see a link to Paul Stamm and his email address. I’m sure he would be very pleased to hear from you.

Just one more thing (and I haven’t discussed this with Paul because I only saw it myself late last night).  Look at the right-hand side of the icon (as it faces you).  Look in the space between Baby Jesus and the edge of the icon, from top to bottom.  Do you see anything unusual?  I’ll tell you in the combox if you’ll tell me!  Unfocus your eyes a little bit if you have to, but you may not have to.  I didn’t…

Icon Intrigue (Part 1 of 2)

The Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has had a very interesting history, full of adventure and mystery.

The story reads like a modern-day thriller, from a merchant in Crete in the 1400s who stole the Icon from a local church, to its eventual placement in the Church of Saint Alphonsus in Rome, where it is venerated today.

Inbetween we have the merchant’s deathbed confession and extraction of a promise from a friend to return the Icon to Crete, the friend’s death before this could take place, the Virgin Mary appearing to the six-year-old daughter of the friend, instructing her where the Icon should be placed (in the Church of St. Matthew the Apostle), and the destruction of that church in Rome during the Napoleonic Wars.

The exiled Irish Augustinians had already entered the picture by that time, and the Icon was transferred by them to the Church of St. Mary in Posterula, where it was placed in a private chapel and virtually forgotten, because Our Lady of Grace was already being specially venerated in that parish.  Save for one aging Augustinian, Brother Orsetti, who passed on the information about the Icon to a young altar boy named Michael Marchi, the Icon’s fate might have been much different.  Michael Marchi’s recollections of the Icon were pitiful:  “…there was no devotion to it, no decorations, not even a lamp to acknowledge its presence…it remained covered with dust and practically abandoned.”

Thankfully, through Michael Marchi, the whereabouts of the Icon was made known to the Redemptorists who received it gratefully from the Irish Augustinians, and eventually it made its way to its current location, where it is venerated by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year.

Now why am I telling you all of this, apart from the fact that it’s a thrilling bit of Catholic/icon history?  It’s because this story came back vividly to mind during some recent email correspondence I had concerning another mysterious icon, which we’ll find out more about in Part 2…

[Information for this post was taken from the book in my sidebar:  Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  The Icon, Favors and Shrines]

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

At Contemplative Haven today, I posted about the novena I will be doing in preparation for the Feastday of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  The links to the two novena aids can also be found in my sidebar here, just to the left, under “More Mary”.

There are many variations on the original Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  Here is a very sweet one I recently came across on the official website for the Melkites of the U.S., and gratefully used with their permission:

How consoling to know that we can find this same safety and protection beneath Our Lady’s mantle. We need not be hesitant; we can simply reach out and grasp it. It is big enough to cover all of her children and offered with an abiding love, from the most maternal of Hearts.

Mary and the Monastic Life

The whole monastic life is lived in and with Mary the Virgin Mother who has given us the Word Incarnate.  She is the model and the summary of all monastic spirituality, and the fathers could call her the “rule of monks” – Maria regula monachorum….In such a life, we are completely conformed to the Virgin Mother of God, who by the perfect simplicity of her faith received into her Immaculate Heart the full light of the Word.

…Hence to live “in the spirit” is in effect to live in and by Mary, the Bride of the Holy Spirit.  Life in the Spirit is a life which she herself has obtained for us and given to us as Mediatrix of all grace.  The movements of our life in the Spirit are directed by her motherly heart.  To acknowledge Mary perfectly as our Queen is then to abandon ourselves entirely to the action of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us through her.  If Mary becomes our Queen and our “Rule”, the inspirations of the Holy Spirit will tend more and more to reproduce in our lives the virginal detachment and the pure love of God which led Mary to submit her whole being entirely to the will of God…we will give ourselves as she did.

[Excerpt from: “Merton. A Biography”, by Monica Furlong, pg. 231; original quote found in Thomas Merton’s “Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality” , 1957]