April 2021 Allocutio

“Mary, my only-begotten Son’s gentle mother”

By Fr Paul Churchill

One great saint whom we celebrate in April is Catherine of Siena. No doubt about the fire for God in her belly. I could say many things about her but I am going to confine myself to a few sentences in her Dialogue where she shares a communication to her from God about a man soon to be executed for some crime:

“I want you to know that I permitted this to happen to rescue him from the sentence of eternal damnation under which he stood… For I had not forgotten the reverence and love he had for Mary, my only-begotten Son’s gentle mother. For my goodness, in deference to the Word, has decreed that anyone at all, just or sinner, who holds her in due reverence will never be snatched or devoured by an infernal demon. She is like bait set out by my goodness to catch my creatures.”

It is clear that what will save this man is a devotion he had for our Lady. It is also clearly said that anyone at all who holds Mary in due reverence will never be snatched by the demons. It is one of those texts which clearly call us to promote devotion to Mary.

Before I go on to say anything further, I wish to draw attention to one adjective which is used in the Dialogue to describe Our Lady. In several places she is described as gentle. And I think that in the case of so many souls it is that quality which makes her attractive to those souls who might not otherwise turn around to God. Hardened souls, many who have not had good fortune, many of whom have had rough treatment; deep down crave a gentle touch, not a condemnation.

And all of us who serve her, all of us who would claim to be her heralds, must carry something in us of her gentleness. So many souls who have been slapped, criticised, rejected, need a more gentle approach, not one of judgement or condemnation, but a more non-threatening, gentle tone.

We are about to enter the month of May, a month which has been for centuries a special month of Mary. Many of us will remember the May devotions in honour of Our Lady. It was a great tradition to make a May Altar in her honour, crowning her with blossoms. And perhaps where these devotions have faded a bit we might ask, “Can I do anything to bring back this great tradition of honouring Our Lady in May?”

So even if it is yourself, in your own home, can I encourage you to do something in her honour. Pray to her, give her a little more attention, make an altar for her, stop to say the Angelus, pay a visit to her altar in the local Church, maybe at this moment invoke her help for India … but let us deepen our devotion. And maybe someone else who sees our devotion may be drawn through us to love her and keep her close to them.

Let us not forget those words communicated to Catherine of Siena, “For my goodness … has decreed that anyone at all, just or sinner, who holds her in due reverence will never be snatched or devoured by an infernal demon”. Those who keep a devotion to her will see the fulfilment of those many other phrases we say: “Pray for us now and at the hour of our death”, “and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus”.

Finally, I was thinking recently how easy I find the Hail Mary to say. When did I learn it? As far back as I recall. Indeed, I would say it was my first prayer and my favourite. Parents, grandparents, teach it to your young ones. You will only know when you die the gift you have given them.