Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Our Lady of Good Hope
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost—2 September AD 2007*

Carmel of Our Lady of Confidence
Savannah, Georgia  

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Our Lady of Good Hope - September 2

Die 2 Septembris - Dómina Nostra Bonæ Spei

    The town of Senigallia is on the Adriatic Sea in the “March of Ancona” in what used to be called the “Papal States”;  today, we would just say “Italy,” for the Pope no longer holds such temporal power.[2]  Roughly 200 years ago a noble lady, Catherina Solazzi, the Countess Mastai-Ferretti took her fourth son, John-Mary to the cathedral to pray before the altar dedicated to Our Lady of Good Hope, adorned with a painting of our Lord and Lady, and said to be the source of many miracles.

    The painting is a curious one. The Blessed Lady is very serious, perhaps sad, in her appearance. But the Christ-child in her arms appears to laugh; his golden crown is cocked at an angle, and his hair appears under it here and there.

    The Countess spoke solemnly to her son: “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. Love her, John-Mary, and she will love you.”

    “I do, mamma; I will.”[3]

    The young boy's life would be a testimony to the help of our Blessed Lady for all those who seek it and who dedicate themselves to her Son's service. Just like the contrast of emotions in the painting of Our Lady of Good Hope, his life would be filled with many difficulties, but those difficulties would all be tempered with joy and achievement.

    From early on, he wanted to become a priest, but his father was insistent that he take up a military career befitting his noble status. His father would relent only when he came down with epilepsy—a disease which, in those days, would be at least as much of an obstacle to a priestly vocation as to a military career. In his life time, he would see two Popes taken captive by the French, would barely make good his own escape from radical Italian troops, and die with his own home surrounded by the armies of Italian unification.

    But the epilepsy would pass, as personally predicted by Pope Pius VII, he would be ordained to the priesthood, be made a bishop, a cardinal, and ultimately Pope.

    He would reach out to the governments of Europe and the Americas—always a man of peace and justice.  He had an extended correspondence with Jefferson Davis, and the Confederate leader is said to have counted the Brown Scapular given him by the Pope among his most prized possessions, along with a miniature crown of thorns woven by the Pope’s own hand.  Pope Pius worked hard against the escalation of the war against the beleaguered South, beseeching the men of Catholic Europe not to hire themselves out at mercenaries for the invading army.[4]  He called on the clergy of New York and New Orleans to lobby for peace.[5]

    During his reign the political situation, which had been worsening for at least a century, would reach its lowest as the invasion of Rome signaled the end of the Papal States in September of 1870.[6]  After reigning for thirty-one years as Pope, his funeral, in 1878, would be interrupted by the radicals of Rome.[7]

    But he would die having left the Catholic Church a clear definition of the errors of the modern political and philosophical systems;  having left the Church with a mandate to return to the theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas; and having presided over an ecumenical council that defined the scope and the limits of Papal Infallibility and Universal Jurisdiction. The jewel in his crown, though, was surely the definition of the Immaculate Conception: the infallible pronouncement that his Lady and ours was free from all sin from the first moment of her conception.

    The young devotee of Our Lady of Good Hope, John-Mary Mastai-Ferretti, would share in the sadness and joy portrayed in Her painting, and become known to the world as Blessed Pope Pius IX.

    Now, one might object that his story has little to do with us.  After all, none of us breathe the “rarified air” of the nobility or of the Popes. Realistically, none of us will make quite the impression on the world as made by someone like Pius IX. But the principle is really quite as applicable to us as it was to the young Count John-Mary. Quite equally, Our Lady extends both her good hope and her help to all those who seek it and who dedicate themselves to her Son's service.

    “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.”[8]  The Church has applied these words from Ecclesiasticus to our Lady for centuries. Saint John's Gospel suggests why. As our Lord hung on the cross, having no brothers to take His place, He entrusted His Mother to the care of Saint John: “Son, behold thy Mother.”[9]  But much more significantly, He entrusted all of His disciples, only represented by John, to her care. Those few verses of mutual entrustment are directed to all of us, having become sons and daughters of Mary by the will of our crucified Lord.

    It is the common teaching of the Church—some day a holy Pope will declare it a dogma—that our Lady is the Mediatrix of All Graces We already have a Mass and a feast day, since the time of Pope Benedict XV Listen to the collect of that Mass: “O Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator with the Father, who has appointed the most Blessed Virgin, Thy Mother, our Mother also, and our Mediatrix before Thee: grant that those who draw near to ask any good things of Thee, may receive them through her and rejoice.”[10]

    Are we promised miracles?  Perhaps in some cases we are.  But our world would be a very confusing place if God chose to disrupt His natural laws in order to work miracles very often.  The answer is found, again, in today’s epistle.  “I am the mother of ... holy hope.  In me is all grace of the way and of the truth;  in me is all hope of life and of virtue.  Come to me ... and be filled with my fruits.  The secret of a good and holy life is not to rely on miracles that may or may not be granted to us—the secret is to take refuge in the Blessed Mother of God—going to her and being filled with her fruits, each and every day of our lives—never going a day without meditating on her sinless life, honoring her in prayer, and striving to imitate her holiness.

    Whether we be popes or paupers, our situation is quite the same: in order to serve Christ in this world, so as to be with Him in the next, we must call upon Mary, our designated Mediatrix before her Son. Life will still have difficulties to overcome, but through Mary alone, our Mother, can we secure the Good Hope of eternal salvation.


* Expanded from a sermon given six years ago.


[3]   Francis B. Thornton, Cross Upon Cross: A life of Pope Pius IX (NY: Benzinger, 1955), p. 3.

[8]   Epistle: Ecclesiasticus xxiv: 23-31

[9]   Gospel: John xix: 25-27.

[10]   Collect of Our Lady Mediatrix of all Graces, May 31 (May 8 in some places).

Picture of Blessed Pope Pius IX:


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