Ordinary of the Mass
are told that as a boy, John Mary Mastai-Ferretti, the future Pope Pius IX,
frequently prayed in the Cathedral of his native Senigallia (Italy) before a
miraculous picture of Our Lady of Good Hope. His biographer tells us that
“The wonder-working portrait glittered with diamonds and rubies, and the
crowns of the Mother and Child looked heavy above their painted heads. The
face of the Mother had a secret sadness in it accentuated by her half-bent
head….” The young boy’s mother said to him “in a solemn voice: ‘I give you
to the Madonna. She will keep you. All your brothers have chosen the
world, but I give you to the heavenly Mother.’”
future Pope took this dedication seriously, hoping to be a priest from his
earliest days. But he faced a terrible obstacle, in that he was afflicted
with the then poorly understood disease of epilepsy, with its unpredictable
seizures making him unfit for service at the altar. Nonetheless, through
family connections and the special permission of Pope Pius VII, he was
allowed to study theology privately.
At the suggestion of the same Pope, he made a retreat and novena to the
Blessed Virgin at the holy house of Loreto, at the conclusion of which he
felt certain he was cured of the epilepsy.
On Holy Saturday, April 10, 1819 with permission of the Pope, he was
ordained to the sacred priesthood.
Although he felt indebted to Pius VII, he always credited Our Lady for his
Good Hope of being ordained to the priesthood and of being delivered of his
epilepsy. For Pope Pius and for us, she is Our Lady of Good Hope.
Saint Thomas tells us that “Hope is the theological virtue by which we
aspire with confidence to grace and heaven, trusting God, and being resolved
to use His help.”.
Pope Pius IX, like so many of us, found that the surest way to obtain God’s
help is to ask for it through the intercession of His holy Mother, the
Blessed Virgin Mary. For Pope Pius IX, and for so many of us, Mary is Our
Lady of Good Hope. Through Mary, we can, as Saint Thomas says: “aspire with
confidence to grace and heaven.” Through Mary we can be sure of following
the “via media--the middle way” that is essential to all virtues, and
particularly to the virtue of hope.
Saint Thomas says that there are six ways to sin against the Holy Ghost,
which our Lord says in Saint Matthew’s Gospel is the only sin that will not
Those six ways include despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy,
resisting the known truth, and envy of another’s spiritual good.
The first two of those—possibly the first four—are sins against the virtue
of hope. Actually, we will see that all six are somehow related.
Despair, of course, is the mistaken belief that there is, for me, no hope of
salvation—the mistaken notion that I and my sins are so bad that nothing I
can do will help me, and that even God Himself is unable to draw me along
the path of His holy will that leads to eternal salvation. Despair seems to
imply a lack of humility, in which I make myself so great a sinner,
somehow more powerful than God Himself! It also seems to imply a
lack of faith, in the sense of not believing what God has revealed to us
about His omnipotence and His desire for the salvation of sinners. Our Lady
is the certain antidote for despair, for she is perfectly humble, and
seemingly incapable of any lack of faith. As such, she is Our Lady of Good
Presumption is also a sin against the virtue of hope—much the opposite of
despair—for presumption is the mistaken belief that every bad thing I do
will be overlooked, excused, and forgiven by God without any contrition or
penitence on my part. Again, these are aspects of lacking humility and
lacking faith. And, again, Our Lady is the certain antidote for
presumption, for she is perfectly humble, and seemingly incapable of any
lack of faith. Additionally, she is the perfect model of sinless behavior
that all presumptuous people need to emulate—she was the Mother of God, but
held no false notion that even she could presume on His mercy. Again, she
is Our Lady of Good Hope.
his list of sins against the Holy Ghost, Saint Thomas included “resisting
the known truth.” This seems to be the great sin of the modern world.
Indeed, the Modernism condemned by both Pope Pius IX at the end of the
nineteenth century and by Pope Saint Pius X at the beginning of the
twentieth century is grounded in the denial that there is such a thing as
“objectively known truth.” For the Modernist, what was true yesterday is
false today and vice-versa; what was immoral yesterday is moral today and
vice-versa; what was commanded by God is now forbidden, and so forth. For
the Modernist, there are no contradictions, but only “dialogue.” If he uses
the word “truth” at all, it is a truth cast not in concrete, but
rather a truth cast in Jell-O—a flexible truth. There is no hope of
salvation with Modernism, but again Our Lady is the antidote. Together with
Pius IX at Loreto, we pray to our Lady, “Virgo fidélis, Sedes sapiéntiæ—Virgin
most faithful, seat of wisdom.” (Litany of Loreto) Mary’s divine Son
described Himself as Incarnate Truth— “I am the Way, the Truth,
and the Life.”
It is therefore inconceivable that she would “resist the known truth” or
allow any of her faithful clients to lapse into such resistance through the
denial of its objective reality in the contradictions of Modernism. Once
again, she is Our Lady of Good Hope.
Blessed Virgin Mary is all of these things:
is our good hope for religious vocations.
is our good hope against presumption.
is our good hope against despair.
is our good hope against the contradictions and confusion of Modernism which
afflict our Catholic Church today.
is Our Lady of Good Hope.