The title of Our Mother of Consolation has been the principal devotion to Mary within the Order at least since the 17th Century. Its origin among the Augustinians is directly tied to the life of Saints Monica and Augustine who are commonly depicted together with the figures of Mary and the Child Jesus in renditions of the image. The other title of the devotion is Our Lady of the Cincture. According to tradition, Monica, immersed in sorrow because of the death of her husband and the waywardness of her son, was granted a vision of Mary and the Child Jesus, who sought to offer her comfort or consolation. Mary handed her a leather cincture which she asked Monica to wear as a continual reminder of her presence and thus, a visible sign of encouragement. From that moment Monica wore the cincture and, after his conversion, recommended it also to her son as an indication of Mary’s abiding protection. Thus, by this same tradition, it became historically, the principal and common symbol for all who follow Augustine’s Rule.
The various titles by which the Order venerates Mary – Help, Grace, Good Counsel, Consolation – all suggest an understanding of the Mother of God as benefactress or patroness of her people, as one who responds to the many needs which humanity experiences. Mary is truly mother and sister to us, because as faithful disciple of her Son, she learned well the lessons of selfless love and generous service. As Mother of Consolation she is particularly near to those in need of companionship and comfort.
Personally, I find a bit of an affinity with regards to this title of Our Lady of Consolation and the Cincture, for I find two things that are in sync with this Marian title. First is the need for chastity and second is man’s quest for consolation in a world besotted with much filth and despair. First, we find chastity, which is the cincture symbolizes. The cincture, we say, is a way of expressing man’s restraint ,or rather, that man should restrain, his sexual appetites especially when not married, and that he remain chaste before marriage, and be loyal to his spouse afterwards until death. This is what our world needs in this age, the sense of restraining sexual appetites and by directing energy from things that are sinful to virtuous deeds, as well as busying oneself in the service of God, for the man who is lazy and whose mind is idle is the devil’s workshop. The mind is like a garden, and that the devil is the one who shall spoil it if the gates, which should be guarded by busying oneself, remain open for him to freely enter and pollute it with his filth. So therefore, we must practice both; that is to say that we must be ever busy to commit deeds of virtue and avoid idleness, as well as chastity, which is the avoidance of any impure, lustful desires or activities that would be displeasing to God.
The practice of chastity is challenging for the youth of today, at least according to my experience. For youth today is bombarded more than ever with the subtlest to the most explicit of sexual imagery that is rampant everywhere from the Internet, to the televisions and motion pictures. Yea, it has even invaded the classrooms, for in classrooms simply talk to one of the youths present there about these things and he shall open up, even with confidence, about his sexual appetites and his own impure habits. Woe to him and woe to the one who had persuaded him to do such an act. Simply speak to him about contraceptives, and if he is Catholic, that he must subscribe to the Catholic position, and you will be met with verbal shrapnel blows. He will resent, even give reasons. I say, this boy is lost, and should be guided back to the light which is Christ. Indeed, many among the youth are like this, and it is sickening to say the least. The adults are not exempted from this phenomena, in fact, some of them are prime movers behind the corruption of youth! Indeed, what our Lord said in the Scriptures is true: “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. “ (Matthew 18:6, DRB)
In this world, men are wont to find consolation and comfort, for human nature inclines quite naturally for comfort. Humans desire for consolation in times of great anxiety, and therefore it is but natural for them to do so. And humans being humans, they shall turn to the ways of the world for such, only finding out that the ways of the world are their source of grief and despair. Such men are to be pitied, for consolation they shall find not in the ways of sin, but only in the ways of righteousness, and with Mary interceding, indeed they shall soon find out. The Lady of Consolation is one such good reminder for these men not to turn to sin but indeed they should instead turn to Mary who is their Mother and is the Consoler of the Afflicted, as well as the Mother of all sinners.
The consolation that Our Lady offers us the same that Christ would offer us, that although in this world full of filth, sin and despair, the just who shall persevere and those weary and even those who have sinned but fully repentant and have confessed to the priest of his sins shall go to Paradise, to heaven above. Indeed, all things are passing, and someday we shall pass from this life, into Paradise if we merit Paradise through our Faith in Christ through His One True Church coupled with good deeds for our fellow men and for the sanctification of our lives. Indeed, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “As Mariners are guided into port by the Shining of a Star, so Christians are guided to Heaven by Mary”.