She is never tired of loving us and praying for us; however weak or sinful we have been, we know that her Mother's heart is always ready to welcome us, as soon as we are sorry and wish to do better. If we feel lonely and miserable, we know that we have always a Mother in heaven, to whom we may look for help and comfort; for she too has known sorrow and loneliness. Her only Son died upon the cross to save us, and yet she loves us and calls us her children.
What an example to us, who find it so hard to forgive any one who has offended us, even in some small thing ! When we say the litany of Our Lady we call her by many names of love and respect. Sometimes little children find it hard to understand what some of these names mean.
The first and most beautiful title we can give to the Blessed Virgin is that of Mother--
"Mother of Christ," "Mother of divine Grace." We call Our Lady that name, for, as Jesus is the source or fountain of grace, all grace flows from Him, and, through Him, from His holy Mother. " Mother most pure," " most chaste," " inviolate," " undefiled." All these words mean that Our Lady is absolutely spotless; not even the stain of original sin ever touched her for a single minute. "Mother most amiable," that is, most loving and most worthy of love ; "most admirable," the being whom we admire above all others. " Virgin most venerable," that is, whom we venerate or respect; "Virgin most renowned," that is, most great, most famous; for what Christian is there in the whole world who does not know of Our Lady's greatness?
"Mirror of Justice," which means the very mirror or reflection of truth and justice; "Seat of Wisdom," for was not Our Lady taught by God Himself, the fount of all wisdom? " Spiritual Vessel," " Vessel of Honor," " Singular Vessel of Devotion "—all these titles mean that Our Lady was like a precious vessel, or vase, filled with honor and devotion. " Mystical Rose." As the rose is the queen of flowers, so is Our Lady the Queen of all women. " Tower of David." Our Lady was of the house, or family, of King David. " Tower of Ivory," for ivory is pure white, as is the soul of the Blessed Virgin. " House of Gold," for gold is. the most precious of all metals, as our Mother is the most precious of all creatures. "Ark of the Covenant." The stone tables on which God wrote His law, or covenant, with His people, were the most precious and cherished treasures of the Jews; they kept them in an ark of pure gold, so that we speak of Our Lady as of the ark in which was held our greatest treasure, Jesus Christ.
We like to use these titles, because when, in the Bible, the prophets spoke of Our Lady, telling how one day the Messias would be born of her, they gave her these names of praise. Then we call Our Lady the " Gate of Heaven," for how can we hope to pass into paradise unless our Mother pleads for us ? " Morning Star " is another name for her. When the shipwrecked sailor sees the star of morning gleaming before him, he knows that day is coming, bringing with it help and safety. In the same way, when our souls are shipwrecked and afraid, the thought that our Mother in heaven is always waiting to help us is like a star shining before us, bringing hope and -comfort. "Health of the Sick," " Refuge of Sinners," "Comforter of the Sorrowful." What lovely and what true names are these for our loving Mother! Then she is our Queen—Queen of angels, of saints, and of men. " Queen conceived without original sin " : for, as you know, Our Lady was born without even a stain of original sin; the devil never entered into her pure heart for one single minute. "Queen of the most holy Rosary," for we know that the Rosary is the form of prayer most pleasing to Our Lady. I am sure that you would like to hear more about the Rosary now that you know how pleasing it is to the Blessed Virgin, so I will tell you about it.
You all know what a rosary is like. At the end there is a crucifix; then one big bead, then three little ones. Then the rest of the rosary is divided into portions or decades, with one big bead and ten little ones in each. The rosary is made to represent a crown or chaplet of roses, which we offer to Our Lady. On the cross it is usual to say "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." On the first big bead we recite the Creed, and on the three little ones three " Hail Marys." Then begin the five decades, for each of which one "Our Father " is said on the big bead, and one "Hail Mary " on each of the little ones. At the end of each decade is added the " Glory be to the Father." While we are saying the Rosary we try to meditate, that is, think about something that happened during the life of Christ or of the Blessed Virgin.
These meditations, or thoughts, are arranged in this way: The first five decades—that is, once round the rosary—are given up to joyful thoughts; those are the five " Joyful Mysteries" the " Annunciation," "Visitation," "Birth of Our Lord," "Presentation," and " Finding in the Temple." You see, all these things happened before the suffering part of Christ's life began, while He was still with His parents.
The next five decades—that is, the second time round the rosary—are called the five "Sorrowful Mysteries." While we say them we meditate on the Passion of Christ, His "Agony in the Garden," "Scourging at the Pillar," " Crowning with Thorns," "Carrying of the Cross," and "Crucifixion." Then begin the "Glorious Mysteries," the time after the death of Jesus, when His sufferings and His works were over : the "Resurrection," "Ascension," "Descent, or coming down, of the Holy Ghost," the "Assumption of Our Lady," and her "Coronation." You see, we speak of the "Ascension " of Our Lord and the " Assumption " of Our Lady. That is because Our Lord ascended or rose into heaven of His own power and will, while Our Lady, as creature, was assumed or raised up there. God sent His angels to fetch their Queen up to heaven to reign over them. If you think of all these things while you are saying the "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys," you will be pleasing Our Lady very much, and you will also be learning to meditate.
All over the world Catholics love to honor Our Lady, and especially to honor her by reciting her favorite prayer, the "Hail Mary." In another part of this book you will read why the Blessed Virgin loves this prayer so much. During the month of October the Holy Father—that is, the Pope—has ordered that five mysteries be said in every church, and he has promised special indulgences to all who take part in this devotion.
In every country one month is specially devoted or given up to prayer for some special intention. We are not obliged to choose any particular order of intention, but I will give you one which many people like to use. January, in honor of the Sacred Infancy; February, the Holy Family; March, St. Joseph; April, the Passion of Our Lord; May, the Blessed Virgin; June, the Sacred Heart; July, the the Precious Blood; August, the Holy Ghost; September, the Immaculate Heart of Mary; October, the Holy Angels; November, the Souls in Purgatory; December, Advent.
In the same way the days of the week can be given to some devotion: Sunday, the Blessed Trinity; Monday to the Holy Ghost and the Souls in Purgatory; Tuesday, the Holy Angels; Wednesday, St. Joseph; Thursday, the Blessed Sacrament; Friday, the Sacred Heart; and Saturday, the Virgin Mary.
When we wish to honor the sorrows of Our Lady, we speak to her of the seven dolors or sufferings which she endured upon earth, and we thank her for suffering them so patiently, and because she loves us still, though we have made her suffer so cruelly.
The first dolor was the prophecy of Simeon. Do you remember how the holy prophet Simeon told Our Lady that her little Baby would die a cruel death to save men? What sorrow this must have caused the poor loving Mother!
The second dolor was the flight into Egypt, when Our Lady was obliged to leave her happy home to fly into Egypt with her little Child, to save Him from Herod.
The third dolor was when Our Lady sought her Son for three days. Do you remember how at last she found Him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors?
The fourth suffering of Our Lady was when she met Jesus carrying His cross on the way to Calvary; she saw Him suffering, and she could not help Him.
Then she saw Him die. That fifth dolor must almost have been the worst of all. Our Lady must have felt so sad and lonely when she knew that her Son was dead, and could never be with her again upon earth.
When the soldier had pierced the Heart of Jesus with a lance, and St. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took His sacred body down from the cross, a sword of sorrow, the sixth dolor, pierced the heart of His Mother, who stood by the cross to the last.
The seventh sorrow came to Our Lady when she saw the body of her Son laid in the tomb, and hidden from sight. She could no longer watch by Him, but was obliged to return to her desolate home.
It is comforting to think of Mary's joy when her divine Son rose from the dead, and she saw Him again in all His glory and happiness. For long years she lived a life of prayer and good works; then, when the time had come, she gave up her spotless soul to God, and the third day after her death He sent His angels to carry her body up to heaven to reign there as Queen forever and ever.
Another very good way in which we can honor the sufferings of Jesus and Mary is by making what is called the "Stations of the Cross." You will see the pictures for them in every church; the Pope has promised many indulgences to all who take part in this devotion.
The first station is when Jesus is condemned to death. We try to think ourselves standing with Jesus before Pilate; we mourn over His sufferings, and beg Him to forgive the part we have taken in causing them. While we are thinking, we say one "Our Father," one "Hail Mary," and one "Glory be to the Father."
In the second station we follow Our Lord, as it were, on His road to Calvary; we see His patience as He carries His heavy cross, and we say the same prayers as before.
Then, at the third station, Jesus falls for the first time under the weight of His cross; we remember that it was our sins that caused Him to carry that cross, and we promise to try to sin no more.
Then we watch Jesus as He meets His holy Mother; we mourn for the dreadful grief of those two loving hearts. How many times have we, by our sinfulness, caused grief to Jesus and Mary!
At last Jesus grows too weak to support the weight of His cross. The cruel executioners seize Simon of Cyrene, and force him to help Jesus. At first his heart is hard, but soon it melts with compassion, and Simon loves Jesus. We, too, can help Our Saviour to carry His cross if we will forget ourselves, and do only God's will.
A woman, moved with pity, comes forward, in spite of the mockery of the guards, and wipes the face of Jesus. Let us pray that we, like Veronica, may have the courage all our lives to follow Jesus, in spite of the difficulties and temptations.
Although Simon of Cyrene does all he can to help Our Saviour, Jesus falls a second time; the cruel soldiers drag Him up with blows and insults. Let us try, by our love and devotion, to make reparation to Our Lord for the insults He receives from men.
Some holy women in the crowd that watches Jesus are touched by His patience and the sight of His sufferings; they weep for Him. But Jesus is not thinking of Himself, He comforts the sorrowing women. Should not this teach us to think less of ourselves and our little troubles, and more of those around us and their troubles?
For the third time Jesus falls, but still He is patient and does not complain. Let this thought comfort us if, time after time, we fall into sin. Jesus will be patient with us.
At last Our Lord has reached Calvary. His executioners strip Him of His clothes. Let us strip ourselves of our pride, and of the false shame which would prevent us from owning ourselves the servants of Christ.
Jesus is nailed to the cross for our sins. Shall we not beg His forgiveness again and again, and resolve to be faithful to Him who suffered so much for us? When the cross on which the body of Christ has been nailed is raised before us, let us kneel and worship Our Saviour. At least we can promise to do some little act of mortification, and lay any suffering
we may have to endure at His feet.
And now the sufferings of Christ are over. St. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus tenderly and reverently take His sacred body down from thecross, and lay it in the arms of the Blessed Virgin. Let us pray that we, too, may be received in the arms of Mary, our Mother, and the Mother of God.
Jesus is laid in the sepulchre. He has died for our sins; at least we will be grateful to Him, and not wound His Heart again by our negligence and want of love.
Source: Catholic Teaching for Children, Imprimatur 1898
A coloring picture of Our Lady can be found below.