There is a rather unwarranted decrease in Marian devotions in many parishes today, and is quite saddening to say the least. Marian devotion is the most ancient of all devotions to saints (and Our Lady herself is the highest of all saints). The catacombs are a witness to this devotion, for paintings are found depicting her such as these:
Prayers such as the Sub tuum praesidium are also evidence of the strong devotion that our early Christian forebears (rightfully so, since the Catholic Church being the True Church is the early Church herself, in fact, such terms while helpful, are indeed very redundant)
This devotion to Our Lady became widespread even more after Constantine granted freedom to the Christians in the Edict of Milan in the year 313, and especially when Theodosius instituted Christianity as the official religion of the empire.
The most ancient of all churches in Rome built for Our Lady is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in which its sanctuary was built through the year 221 and in 227 by His Holiness the Pope, Callixtus, the first of that name.. a very handsome church in that district of Rome, it was enriched with mosaics from the 13th Century.
The greatest however, amongst all the churches in Rome is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, built by Pope Liberius and expanded by Pope Sixtus III. It contains the crib of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Now, before this post turned into a history lesson, I will provide at least three (3) reasons why Marian devotion has steadily declined in the post Concilliar era.
- The lay faithful, priests, bishops and other prelates and clergy have focused on things material and worldly instead and in the lieu of matters pertaining to spirituality and other-worldliness. Most of them began to focus on these things, and forgetting the primary purpose of the Church, made this material obligation as the center and only obligation. While it is indeed true that material and spiritual are never much in conflict with each other, for in fact the Church has both of these duties in her hands, nevertheless, a little more focus on the material and “social justice” issues have done damage upon the devotion that is focused upon Our Lady and her glories and honors.
- The decrease of the saying of the Rosary and solemn observance of feasts honoring her is another reason. Particularly, the habit of the USCCB and other like bishop’s conferences of transferring days of obligation to Sunday instead of that specific feast has done harm upon devotion to Our Lady. The steady decrease of reciting the Rosary is another reason. The Rosary, being the quintessential private devotion to Our Lady and a way of meditating the Life of Her Son, should be as such often recited by lay faithful as was wont to be in the olden days. The opposite happened. When was the last time in your local parish has the rosary been recited with fervor? True, it has been gaining quite a resurgence in some more conservative parishes, however, it is not the case in others. In times before the Council, most Latin Rite parishes, if not all, recited the Rosary either before or after the Mass, or both. In my country (I am also confident that other countries formerly part of the Spanish Realm also practices this), we do a sung Rosary, called “Rosario Cantada“.
- The so-called inter religious dialogue also fostered an sprit of indifference to the devotion to Our Lady. Since Protestants, Evangelicals and other non-Catholic communities do not or at least are indifferent (although many of such ilk are not just indifferent but in fact insanely and almost demoniacally against it). Since the hallmark of the of such activity is that of compromise and “not offending the other camp”, soon those that are engaged in such activity will soon be affected by its spirit.
Inasmuch as there are problems and the cause of the same, there are of course solutions to be given. This is the main focus of this blog post. I therefore suggest the following:
- Let the Holy Rosary be recited as before, for it is a very powerful method of praying and meditating on the life of Our Lord and of Our Lady. However it is understandable that those who are new to the Rosary may easily be bored or tire due to its repetitiveness. So I suggest a remedy to this, that instead of having the rosary simply recited, let it be sung instead of simply being recited. The Ave Maria, Pater Noster and the Salve Regina has a Gregorian Chant setting that can be easily adapted to this purpose, the Gloria Patri, the Oratio Fatima and the Credo be sung at recto tono. The rosary is certainly important in the life of Catholics and in those that are very much devoted to Our Lady. Blessed Alan de la Roche, who was so deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin, had many revelations from her, and we know that he confirmed the truth of these revelations by a solemn oath. Three of them stand out with special emphasis: the first, that if people fail to say the Hail Mary, which has saved the world, out of carelessness, or because they are lukewarm, or because they hate it, this is an indication that they will probably be condemned to eternal punishment. The second truth is that those who love this divine salutation bear the very special stamp of predestination. The third is that those to whom God has given this favour of loving our Lady and of serving her out of love must take very great care to continue to love and serve her until the time when she shall have had them placed in heaven by her Son in the degree of glory which they have earned.
- Besides the Holy Rosary, I suggest another Marian Devotion to be practiced, called a May Flower Offering. since May is dedicated to the Lady herself, this is a very appropriate and highly praiseworthy source of action in veneration to her. It is appropriate that before the parish ever embark on this, they must at first buy a worthy and dignified statue of Our Lady to be vested and be offered with flowers. It is very much recommended by this author that it be made of wood instead of simply plaster, plastic or fiber glass, on the account of these materials’ relative cheapness (the best should be reserved for sacred use). Although this must not stop those who immediately want to have a May Flower Offering of course. It is recommended that the statue be draped with a dignified clothing and some appropriate crown made for her, to highlight this significance as a way to honor her as Queen of Heaven and Earth and as Mother of God. The flowers themselves have symbolism. It is worth quoting a Marian song in Tagalog to explain this: Bulaklak na yaring alay ng aming pagsintang tunay palitan mo, o, Birheng Mahal ng tuwa sa kalangitan. (Translation: flowers that in love we offer, may thou changest oh dearest Virgin to joyful bliss in heaven.) so therefore, in honoring Our Lady, we merit to inherit heaven through her intercession. This is not to say however that only an empty and an outward devotion to her is sufficient, but rather, a true devotion to Our Lady is a definitely one of the hallmarks of those that shall be saved.
- Processions should be made more prevalent, especially in the honor of Our Lady and done during her feast days. Marian processions are very easy to establish, provided that the parishioners are very willing to contribute for its finances. A Marian procession consists of a Marian Image, flowers, surpliced acolytes bearing the crucifix and the torches, rosary praying participants with candles in hand, and of course flag bearers representing various parish organizations (if any). Also, a priest in surplice and cope should be present in the procession. With regards to Marian images, one can have more than one image of Our Lady, and may include an image of Saint Joseph.
- The Little Office of Our Lady. One can have a group recitation of the Little Office of Our Lady. One may do so before or after the Mass in connection with the recitation of the Rosary. I heartily recommend this link in reciting the Little Office. One may print out a pamphlet and distribute it upon the faithful who are participating afterwards. One may at liberty freely choose it to be in English or in Latin. Besides English, of course one may have the intention of having the text translated to Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian or other languages at one’s choosing.
- A parish could have a novena to Our Lady at the appointed and primary feast days of the year such as the Annunciation, The Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Besides that, the parish may start saying novenas before the feast day of various Marian titles such as Our Lady of the Rosary. As with the Little Office, one must print out pamphlets containing the text of the novena for the use of the congregation during the novena itself.
- Having an image of Our Lady being venerated at specific times of the year is also highly recommended form of Marian devotion in the parish. One may have a ceremony called the besamanto where an image of Our Lady shall be kissed by the devotees in the hands and the feet. That is the case for statues. For two dimensional images, one may do the besamano, which involves kissing the image of Our Lady.
- Planting a Mary Garden is a very lovely way of honoring Our Lady. If someone’s parish is very much accommodating due to its wide and open spaces, I suggest that this be done. In doing so one must select the proper flowers and the proper ambiance as well as the proper surroundings in order to be conducive to prayer and meditation. Have water fountains with fishes also in the Mary Garden to add a very soothing and comfortable feel. A grotto of Our Lady is much recommended. For the flowers, I suggest this link for its symbolism. A Mary Garden recalls the lives of Jesus and Mary, as this text said:
“Picture her eyes (Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla). Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby’s Breath), her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes (Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary’s humility (Violet), the fruitful virgin (Strawberry), Mary’s queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary’s Flower of God (English Daisy), Mary’s glory (Saint John’s Wort), and Our Lady’s Faith (Veronica).
Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower (Poinsettia), Lady’s Bedstraw (Dianthus – Mary used bedstraw to prepare a bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt (Fig Tree – legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during their flight into Egypt), Our Lady’s Tears (Lily of the Valley – tiny white nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady’s Tresses (Asparagus Fern – legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary, in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved), Mary’s Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta – Plantation Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption).”
- Marian Conferences, if anything, will always be helpful for the fostering of Marian devotion in the parish, for a conference by its very nature is designed to be informative, is designed to be educational. As such, it is very highly recommended that Marian conferences be arranged. Research on various Marian titles all over the world, research about Mariology or simply have a good discussion about the Rosary and propagating devotion to it would make a fine Marian Conference.
- Marian Exhibits – A Marian exhibit is an event which features various Marian images. This would be done by asking families and individuals as well as various groups, to have an image of Our Lady made and to join in this event. This event is meant to be for catechism, in order to teach people who will come into the exhibit about the Life of Mary and her Son.
- Promotion of other devotions to Our Lady is something that is also highly recommended in propagating devotion to her. Things and sacramentals such as the Lourdes Water, the Miraculous Medal, the Brown and the Green Scapular, the Franciscan Chaplet amongst other things should be recited, distributed and/or be enrolled in (in the case of the Brown Scapular). These will make the devotional life and the Marian devotion of the congregation stronger and more intense for they are in continuous exploration about the richness of Marian devotion in the Catholic Church, and not some superstitious practice that is being repeated without an end into itself.