Titles of Our Lady from the Litany of Loreto

Vessel of Honor

"If any man minister to Me, him will My Father honor," says Our Lord. Who ever ministered to Jesus, served Jesus, waited on Jesus, as did His Holy Mother Mary? And as no one ever was so faithful to His promises as Jesus ("Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away"), so has this promise of Our Lord been most literally fulfilled.

Our Lady's own prophecy, "All generations shall call Me blessed," bears out this truth. In Sacred Scripture, in the Church, throughout all ages, Our Lady has been honored as no creature has ever been.

The Apostles looked upon Her as their Queen, and held Her in the highest veneration. The most learned of the great Doctors of the Church consecrated volumes to Her praise and to the explanation of Her dignity, excellence, graces, and virtues.

The Church has in every age kept up this tradition. Benediction was frequently accompanied by Her Litany, or some other chant in Her honor, the Ave Maria, the Salve Regina, and countless others. The most beautiful music of the Church's liturgy has been reserved for Her hymns and antiphons. The Divine Office ends every day with an antiphon to Her. Her feasts run through every month of the year, and the whole of the month of May is Hers. The month of August is dedicated to Her Immaculate Heart and Her Assumption; the month of September to Her Nativity and Her life-long Sorrows; and the month of October to Her Holy Rosary. Her shrines are to be found all over the world, where in every age She has shown Herself to men. Processions, hymns and devotions honor Her all the year round. What a distinguished place She holds even in the great Feasts of Her Son! They are nearly as much Hers as His, especially the Offices of Advent and Christmas. A statue of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the distinguishing marks of a truly Catholic church. Countless books have been written about Her and many new Feasts in Her honor have been added to the liturgical cycle throughout the ages. Every true Pope has tried to do something special for Her. Her holy Name is invoked by every true Catholic, morning and evening; the Angelus three times a day keeps Her ever in our minds; Her medals, pictures and statues form part of every Catholic's life. Nothing is done in the Church without Her. Our Lord's promise is daily fulfilled. And in Heaven, He still shows Her the honor due to a mother, as the writings and revelations of the Saints testify.

"He that honoreth his mother, heapeth up a treasure." Let us, too, take our part in this universal homage paid to the Mother of God. Every sigh, every look to Her, every act in Her honor, is treasured up by Jesus and by Her, and will have its reward. If there is one truth more universally witnessed to than another, it is that no act of devotion to Mary goes unrewarded. A holy writer says: "All who honor Mary in this world, will be honored by Her in the next."

We may consider this title under another aspect. The value of a gem is argued from the costliness of the setting that encases it, how carefully it is treated, and with what care it is handled, because of what it contains. But Mary was the shrine which contained the great God, the Creator of the world. What honor, what reverence, then, is due to Her! How strict was the watch She kept over every act and thought, so that nothing unworthy of Her high estate might be found in Her. How high-principled, how honorable in all Her dealings must She have been. Like Her, each one of us should also be a vessel of honor, for we so often receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. She was seen in vision as "the Woman clothed with the sun." After Holy Communion we are all "clothed with the Sun," the Sun of Justice; we are all penetrated and saturated with Jesus. Let us then do nothing to lower or degrade ourselves either in body or soul; let us be honorable in all our dealings, true and straight and just, that we also may deserve to be called, each in his own degree, "vessels of honor."

Motto: "O Virgin Mary, Thou art most worthy of all praise."

Practice: Earnestness in every prayer and practice in Mary's honor.


Cathedral of Burgos

In one of Our Lady's chapels in the grand cathedral of Burgos, the capital of Old Castile, there was a picture representing a beautiful wax statue of the tender Mother of God clasping in Her arms a dead little girl, barefoot and in tatters; while above, an ascending angel speeds heavenward bearing an unfolding lily—symbol of a pure child's white soul. The artist drew his inspiration from a touching story.

Long, long ago when the famous cathedral was nothing but a glorious conception dawning on its builder's mind, the faithful of Burgos tenderly venerated a wax statue of the Madonna enshrined in the old Church of San Juan, across the square. Among those who cherished a special devotion for it from girlhood was the widowed Augusta. Left with a little child, friendless and alone, and becoming blind through too constant application to her trade of lace making, she had been reduced at length to mendicancy. Each morning, guided by her tiny Maria, she would hear the first Mass at San Juan, after which they took their place, with other creditors of charity, on the church steps; and there, side by side in a pillar's shadow, though the long, warm summer days and the short, cold winter ones, they sat, happy in the love and the presence of God and each other; richly repaying with a shower of blessings all who paused to drop into their cup a "silver tear of pity," as alms are sometimes called in Spanish.

In pouring into the child's heart, as into a crystal chalice, the life-giving essence of faith, Augusta often wept with joy; for Heaven's grace surely shone upon her—such innocence, gentleness and precocity of piety. The seed scarce touched the ground when it became a blossom. The sweetest hours of Maria's life were spent before the Madonna's statue, her wooden Rosary slipping slowly through her tiny brown fingers, her soft black eyes upturned in rapture.

How wondrously beautiful and lifelike was that wax image, robed, according to the country's custom, in real vestments—a mantle of azure velvet printed in gold stars, like a summer-night sky; a veil of white, cloud-fleecy gauze; the arms outstretched; the tinted face full of tenderness, the lips full of sympathy. Softly they seemed to be saying: "My child, hast thou fallen? Art thou bruised? Weep not. Take thou My hand, and I will help thee rise and soothe away all pain." At either side of its shadowed niche were marble angels—one in prayer, the other in veneration. And little Maria sometimes fancied the Mother smiled and the wings of the angels stirred.

It was Christmas Eve. An icy rain had fallen for many days, and after the rain dried away, its white-shrouded ghost, snow, came gliding over the earth. But the bright eyes of a light looked out from every window; silver-tongued bells were ringing for Midnight Mass; and, grateful for the warmth of their fur-lined mantas, throngs were hastening toward San Juan. At every corner some strolling singer, shivering in the shelter of a friendly doorway, was bravely throwing to the cruel wind her poor, broken voice, full of the sweetness of a trampled rose and the power of the song, whose burden it strove to carry to some listener's heart—the wild, vibrant "Noche Buena," the Christmas carol of Spain, with its numberless verses, simple and full of feeling, like this:

A carpenter was dear Saint Joseph; The Maiden-Mother spun all day; The sweet Child toiled the Cross to fashion, On which our ransom He must pay.

In the darkest corner of a gypsy's hut little Maria lay weeping as only the motherless can weep. It was months since mamma, sinking back upon her pallet, had murmured: "No, my flower! No, my love! We cannot go to the church this morning. What joy that only yesterday I received Holy Communion! Our Divine Lord is still here in my heart: I feel His strength and His consolation there. Tomorrow, He willing, I shall be better." And "tomorrow" she was "better;" only the child—her call of "mamma" for the first time unanswered—did not, could not understand it so.

Mother of Orphans in ValenciaThen a dark-browed woman had torn her from the lifeless body—"torn her as a nail from the flesh,"—saying: "Come useless burden, away to my house! The money which your mother owed me, you shall pay." Patiently, poor Maria had performed the hard tasks assigned her; holding fast to the Faith her cruel mistress strove with blows and curses to destroy; never permitting her to enter a church or to leave her sight. But at last it was Christmas Eve—bells were calling to Midnight Mass.

Suddenly the girl ceased to weep, or to fear the now sleeping gypsies. Praying to the Madonna, she reached the door. It opened—she was free! Like a little human snowflake, she drifted onto the well-known path, up the steps of San Juan! Oh, was that her mother in their old place by the pillar? No: only a shadow; and she sped on, into the reality—the Blessed Mother that remained to her: to go or to stay as her heart prompted (for in ancient Spain the doors of all churches remained opened night and day). The pitying old sacristan departed, and left the little wanderer kneeling before the fair Madonna, sobbing, "Madre mia!"

But on entering to light the candles for sunrise Mass, he found no kneeling form where he had left one. "Gone back to the sorrowful world, poor weeper! May the Virgin's care go with her!" And so murmuring, he looked up—and beheld the miracle! Within Her shadowed niche stood the same lovely, loving Mother; but the arms were no longer outstretched. Closely, tenderly, they clasped the poor orphan of the beggar Augusta; now smiling, happy—hushed in the sleep that knows no waking.

Tragically, this "Madonna of the Orphans," with the church enshrining it, was destroyed by fire in 1250, but another, even more beautiful, was to rise in Valencia not long after.

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