The Confraternities of Mary, by Father B Rohner, OSB

detail of a stained glass rose window of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception; date unknown, artist unknown; Saint Nicholas Catholic Church, Zanesville, Ohio; photographed on 31 December 2014 by Nheyob; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAll the faithful are children of the same Father, reverers of the same heavenly Mother, and members of the same great Society, the holy Catholic Church. Why, then, should there be special Associations and Confraternities?

It is true, indeed, that all the members of the Church, united by the bond of one faith, one baptism, and one law of charity, constitute the one grand brotherhood of the heavenly kingdom on earth. But there exists, besides, in the spirit of Christianity, a living tendency to a more special and intimate union of such members as seek to obtain that most important of all ends, their own and their neighbors sanctification, in a special manner, and by and through special means.

Is it not true that from time immemorial the powers of human minds and human hands, have been formed by men of the world into unions, in order to obtain some great result? Has not the power of association, have not leagues of all kinds, been most assiduously planned and organized in order to make war, with united forces, on God, His laws, His holy Church, her freedom and her rights?

Great results are reached only through association with others, by whom the individual is sustained, encouraged and guided. Great, very great things have been accomplished in the Catholic Church by the power of association.

Now, Confraternities are Christian unions regularly organized and working for a certain pious purpose, with fixed rules approved by the Church, and generally enriched by her with special privileges. Thus, as circumstances require, Confraternities are established for the assistance of the poor, the care of the sick, the abate ment of enmities, the instruction of the ignorant, or for special devotion towards some one or other of the sacred mysteries of our holy religion.

The faithful laity at all times have taken lovingly and zealously to those Associations that have been specially established for honoring the ever Blessed Virgin Mary. At all times, too, has the Catholic Church shown her regard for such Societies by enriching them, the principal ones most abundantly, with indulgences and other privileges.

It becomes now our task, dear Christian reader, to make ourselves acquainted with the erection, aim and spiritual advantages of at least the principal and most widely known of the Associations of Mary.

The Rosary Society

We will Speak first of the origin of this Society. An account has already been given elsewhere in this work, of Saint Dominic’s miraculous institution of the holy Rosary. The Confraternity of the Rosary took its rise at the same time. Everywhere, but more especially in the towns and villages, countless Associations were formed during the first burst of enthusiasm. The members bound themselves to recite this wonderful prayer a certain number of times in the week or month. In a short time these different Societies were placed under one general rule and reduced to form and order. The approbation of the Apostolic See was extended to them by Pope Urban IV in the year 1261. Since that time the Rosary Society has been enriched with many spiritual blessings, by twenty-five different Popes, all of whom, in their official letters, have extolled its excellence and encouraged its growth and extension.

The Confraternity of the Holy Rosary soon took deep root in the affections of the universal Church and spread out its branches with wonderful rapidity, affording refreshing consolation to myriads of pious souls. In its rank were seen members of all nationalities, and of every condition in life, from the prince on his throne to the beggar by the wayside. Hence, today, no one ought to be ashamed of belonging to this Society, excusing himself under the silly pretext that the devotion of the Rosary is adapted only to the poor and unlettered.

Many Popes deemed themselves privileged to be members of the Rosary Society. Among them were Innocent V, Benedict XI, Pius V, Gregory XIII, Paul V, Alexander VII, Clement IX, Benedict XIII, Pius VII and Pius IX. The present learned and saintly Pontiff, Leo XIII, recites his Rosary every evening, soon after sunset.

The Emperor Charles V of Germany, was a member of the Rosary Society and always looked upon the devotion as one of the best means for securing the protection of Heaven for himself and his subjects. Once he began to tell his beads he would not permit himself to be interrupted even on the most important business. He would say calmly, “As soon as I shall have said my Rosary I will attend to the matter.” The Emperor Frederick III besought the Pope to re-establish this Confraternity in the city of Cologne. W hen permission was obtained he wrote with his own hand his own name and that of his wife, Eleonora, and that of his son, Maximilian, in the book of enrollment.

Among the many great statesmen who practiced this devotion it may suffice to mention only one, the patriotic and able Daniel O’Connell, the liberator of Ireland. He often, even in his public speeches to the people, alluded to Mary as the Mother of Ireland. After his celebrated speech in the English parliament, in advocacy of Catholic emancipation, at a moment when one of the most cherished wishes of his heart was either to be realized or perhaps forever extinguished, he stood one side, with his beads concealed in his hands, secretly saying his Rosary.

It would be superfluous to mention even a thousandth part of the names of bishops, priests and other Religious of both sexes who loved and practiced this devotion. I shall therefore limit myself to the simple explanation of the regulations necessary for the erection of this Society, and to the naming of the benefits, great and numerous, to be derived from it.

Strictly speaking, the right to erect Confraternities of the holy Rosary belongs to the Apostolic Chair of Peter. This right has been delegated to the Dominican Order, as the inheritor of the zeal and piety of its founder, Saint Dominic. The Fathers whose privilege it is, by virtue of the apostolic indult, to exercise this faculty throughout the world, are first the General of the Order, and secondly, the vicar whom he may appoint. The provincial, too, of each province holds the same right, as delegate, within the limits of his active jurisdiction. Bishops, especially those administering in parts where the Dominican Order has ceased to exist, must apply to the General of the Order, for permission to establish Societies of the Rosary within their dioceses. Pastors of souls obtain the same permission from the same source, but ordinarily through their bishops. Whenever a Rosary Society is to be established in any parish there ought to be provided by the pastor or people a special chapel of the Blessed Virgin, or at least an altar, distinct and apart from the main altar. In this chapel, or at this altar, the festival of the holy Rosary ought to be celebrated every year, on the first Sunday of October, in obedience to the order of Pope Gregory XIII. In the chapel, or over the altar, there ought to be placed a statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin, surrounded by representations of the fifteen mysteries. At least there ought to be a figure of the Virgin and Child, with Saint Dominic kneeling, in the act of receiving a rosary with his right hand.

In regard to the obligations and duties of the members, I will state that in order to become a member of the Rosary Society and to enjoy a share in its benefits the candidate must

1. Have his Christian name enrolled on the Rosary register.

2. He must have a rosary properly blessed. It is to be blessed by a priest of the Dominican Order, or by any other priest empowered by the Pope, or by the General of the Order. Every member should consider it a duty to keep reverently and affectionately this blessed token of attachment to the Virgin Mother and, if possible, to carry it about the person.

3. He must recite, ordinarily, the full quantity of prayers; that is to say, the fifteen decades which compose the devotion. In early times it was prescribed by a mandate of Sixtus IV to recite these fifteen decades at least once every day. In the year 1534 Pope Clement VII extended the time from one day to one week, leaving it to the discretion of the person praying to distribute the fifteen decades over seven days, saying about two decades a day, or saying it all on one day. It is a good distribution to say two decades every day from Sunday to Friday inclusive, and to say three on Saturday. If the person foresees that he may not have time towards the end of the week he can say the greater part on the first days. The Rosary may be said at all hours and in all places, whether the one who prays be kneeling, standing, sitting or walking. The sick, of course, and even the weary, may say it lying down.

4. While saying the Rosary he must make some pious reflections, or a meditation, on each successive mystery. He should not be content with uttering the words with his lips. He ought to feel them in heart and soul. Attention is indispensably necessary. It is not precisely requisite to make a profound and lengthened meditation on each mystery. They should be held up before the mind in such a way that the person praying sees them in spirit and is impressed by them, and is thus enabled to draw spiritual fruit from them. This may be accomplished by a repeated raising of the thoughts to Jesus and Mary – a kind of meditation in which contemplation and memory are joined to the words of the prayer,while the heart is also affected by pious emotion. In this way the grand truths of religion may be kept before the mind with vast profit to the soul. In any case, it is necessary to reflect in some way or other on the mysteries, in order to fulfill the duty and the conditions and to gain the indulgence. Sick persons, and those otherwise incompetent to make meditation, especially according to rule, have been exempted from this duty by the bull Pretiosus of Benedict XIII, hearing date of 26 May 1727. For such persons it is sufficient that they tell the beads reverently, say the prayers devoutly, and, if opportunity offer, to listen attentively and carefully to the explanation given of the mysteries by a priest or other instructed person. Above all no one should say the Rosary badly, indolently or coldly. The heart should be prepared beforehand by a good act of contrition. Distracting thoughts should be set aside. The lips should but express the thoughts and feelings of the heart. A person should not perform this devotion while entertaining willingly in his heart an affection for the vanities of the world, or for dangerous occasions of sin, or while he even voluntarily thinks of such things. One should not pray glibly and as a matter of course and common routine. One should pray with internal devotion and an intention pleasing to God. Alas! conscience, unclean because of unrepented past sins, indolence, distraction, imperfect intention and lack of attention are often so many heavy, dark clouds obscuring the rays of the sun of divine grace. “Destruction is thy own, O Israel” (Osee 13:9). “Thou hast set a cloud before thee that [thy] prayer may not pass through.” (Lamentations 3:44). True, Mary is the Refuge of Sinners, and pities them, but she has no sympathy for those persons who still cherish an affection for their darling sins, who will not tear asunder the ties of sinful habits, or will not flee from dangerous occasions. She is the refuge of those sinners only who, with contrite hearts and with penitential tears, come confessing their sins and earnestly desiring to begin a new and better life.

5. The member of a Rosary Society must receive the sacraments on those days to which the plenary indulgences are attached, if he desires to gain them. On this point the Father Confessor is to give directions to his penitents, and not the Confraternity. It is wise and salutary to make a general confession at the time of enrollment in the Society, or as soon after as possible. Generally the members should receive the sacraments very frequently.

The chief works recommended, and of which each member may choose the one most in accordance with his circumstances and state of life, are as follows:

1. Visiting and caring for the sick and dying.

2. Praying for the souls of deceased members.

3. Attendance at the meetings of the Confraternity, at which there should be edifying discussions on the temporal and spiritual affairs of the Society.

4. Attendance at the public recitation of the Rosary.

5. Faithful attendance at the solemnities and the public church services of the Rosary Confraternity, namely, at the High Mass, as well as the sermon, Vespers and procession held on Rosary Sunday; attendance at public services on other festivals of Mary, and also at the solemnities and processions of the members on all the first Sundays of the month; at the Masses that on the appointed days are offered up in honor of the Mother of God, and, finally, at the annual Requiem Mass that is offered up for deceased members, on the Sunday next following to Rosary Sunday and on the four days in the year set apart for commemoration of the dead members and benefactors.

The Confraternity of the Scapular of Mount Carmel

The badge of this Association is called the Scapular. It consists of two small pieces of brown woolen cloth, so joined by two strings that they may be worn on the breast and back of the member, the strings resting on the right and left shoulders. [t derives its name, Scapular, from the Latin word scapula, signifying shoulder. It is also sometimes called the Little Habit of the Blessed Virgin to distinguish it from the larger scapular which was prescribed by the Blessed Virgin herself for the monks of the Carmelite Order, and which reaches down to the feet.

The devotion of the Scapular and its Confraternity may be attributed to a famous apparition of the Mother of God, which occurred at Cambridge, England, on the 16th day of July, 1251, to Saint Simon Stock, the General of the Carmelite Order in Western Europe. During many years this saint had been praying constantly to the Blessed Virgin to secure her protection for his persecuted Order. Then she herself appeared to him, with mild and gentle mien, and holding a Scapular in her hand. “Receive,” she said, “my beloved son, this Scapular of your Order; it is a special mark of favor which I have asked for you and the other children of Mount Carmel. Whosoever shall die wearing this garment shall be saved from eternal flames. It is a mark of salvation, a protection in all dangers and a pledge of special peace and safety.” The learned and illustrious Pope Benedict XIV asserted plainly that he believed in the genuineness of this apparition and that, in his opinion, every one ought to believe in it.

Grand and consoling as is this promise of the Mother of God, namely, that those who wear the Scapular shall be secured against eternal perdition, yet it is self-evident that those persons can have no right to look for a verification of such promise in their favor who, depending solely on the Scapular, still continue to live in sin and vice. Whoever rejects, with unrepenting heart, the graces that Mary is willing to obtain for him, nullifies that promise. Hence Saint Simon Stock, in his letter announcing to his fellow Religious this promise made to him by Mary, says, “Brethren! while ye cherish and keep this promise in your hearts, be always mindful to render your calling more secure by the practice of good works, and never desist. Be vigilant. Be ever grateful for this great mercy. Pray constantly that the words spoken to me may be verified.”

The holy Scapular is a badge of the service that we owe to Mary. We wear it as the servants in the court of a king or a prince wear their liveries and other marks of office. Now, if we wish to live in the service of Mary we must make her will the great motive power of our whole lives. But her will is precisely identical with the will of God, which is nothing else but our sanctification through prayer, labor, struggles and other good works.

Still another saving benefit appertains to the Scapular. About half a century after the apparition vouchsafed to Saint Simon, in the year 1334, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Pope John XXII in order to commend to his favor the Order of Mount Carmel. She even extended her solicitude so far into the world as to promise help to the souls of the brotherhood of Mount Carmel in purgatory, and to rescue them from its torments as soon as possible, especially on the Saturdays dedicated to her honor. Pope Benedict XIV. wrote and spoke in defense of this supernatural manifestation. In 1613 Pope Paul V gave permission to the Carmelite Fathers to preach this pious belief. He also uttered on this subject the following words, which describe the conditions under which we may expect to obtain, through Mary, a speedy release from purgatory: “Christians may believe what is taught concerning the benefit that is granted to the brotherhood of the Scapular, namely, that the ever Blessed Virgin, by her unquestioned mediation, her constant prayers, her merits, her social patronage, especially on Saturday, a day that the Church has made sacred to her, will lend assistance even after death to the souls of the members who have died in the love of God, after having during life worn the Scapular, observed strict chastity, recited the Office of the Blessed Virgin, kept the fasts of the Church and observed abstinence on Wednesdays and Saturdays.”

In regard to the spread of this devotion: Saint Simon was unwilling to restrict the many rich blessings of the Scapular to himself and his brethren in the Order. He was most anxious to scatter them far and wide throughout the Catholic Church. Princes and people, charmed by this comforting promise, came in crowds from all quarters to the holy monks to whose keeping and dispensing the Blessed Virgin had entrusted the valuable treasure. Yes, the Scapular soon adorned the breasts of the most pious, the noblest and bravest men. Beside several of the earlier Popes the later ones have all worn the Scapular with confidence and reverence. When Cardinal Hypolitus Aldobrandini, the trusted friend of Saint Philip Neri, was elected Pope on the 30th of January, 1592, and was about to ascend the pontifical throne under the name of Clement VIII, the official who in accordance with the ancient custom divested the new Pope of his cardinal’s robes in order to clothe him in the Papal costume, wanted to remove the scapular. But the devout Pontiff would not allow this, for he said, “Leave Mary with me, otherwise Mary might leave me.” Saint Edward, king of England; Saint Louis IX; Henry IV; Louis XIII and Louis XIV, of France; the Emperors Ferdinand II and III, the kings of Spain and Portugal all have worn the Scapular beneath their royal vesture. Equipped with it they have gone forth to battle and victory. The Christian people also have extensively worn this simple livery from the beginning down to our own day. All the writers who treat of this devotion are unanimous in their testimony that there is no other form of devotion which made so much noise at its beginning and none other, the Rosary alone excepted, that is more universally practiced.

The object of the Scapular and of its devotion is as follows:

1. That by the image of Mary which we carry on our breasts an inward reverence, a child-like love and firm confidence in her may be enkindled in our hearts.

2. That by thinking on the image of the Blessed Virgin resting on our bosoms every unwholesome sentiment may be stifled in our hearts.

3. That by remembering Mary on our Scapulars we may be preserved from every sin.

4. That we may be reminded that the blessed Mother is willing to assure, through the Scapular, her condescension and motherly affection to us, as well as her special protection in dangers.

5. That by means of the Confraternity of the Holy Scapular, devotion to the Blessed Virgin may be promoted and diffused among men, thus securing in the best manner possible her gracious patronage over Christian souls.

The following are the duties assumed by the members of this religious Association:

1. They pledge themselves to render true and sincere veneration and honor to the blessed Mother of God. The best way to do honor to Mary is to imitate her life. Hence the members should earnestly endeavor to be as pure, devout and pious as she was, and as completely devoted to their God.

2. The members of the Scapular Society should strive to become deserving children of their blessed Mother, that they may thus merit her motherly protection.

3. As the virtue of holy purity is, above all other virtues, pleasing to the Immaculate Virgin, her reverers should, under all circumstances, observe the strictest chastity.

4. The members should say every day seven “Our Fathers,” as many “Hail Marys,” and the “Apostles’ Creed,” partly to obtain her motherly protection for themselves, and partly for the maintenance of the Catholic Church.

5. The members should at all times wear the Scapular near their hearts.

A Prayer to be Said Daily after the Prescribed “Our Fathers”, “Hail Marys”, etc.

I fly to thy patronage and protection, O holy Mother of God! Guard me against and save me from all evil of soul and body! Preserve me amid all the dangers of the world! Preserve me in innocence and virtue and conduct me safely into a happy eternity. Amen.

Prayer for the Festival of the Scapular

O Mary, Virgin Mother of God, I herewith repeat and renew the covenant that I made with thee when I received thy blessed Scapular, namely, to serve thy divine Son and thee faithfully and generously all through the course of my life. With all the gratitude of a child I thank thee for having been pleased, by the holy Scapular, to receive me as thy son and heir. I promise thee that I will always be thy most dutiful son, that I will inwardly honor thee at all times, and that I will use every effort to imitate thee in piety and virtue. Therefore grant that this holy Scapular may ever be to me what thou didst intend it should be when thou gavest it to mankind; namely, a mark of thy signal protection, a shield against sin, a sign of virtue, and a means of sanctification and salvation. May all this be done in my favor, through the merits of thy Son, my Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Scapular of the Immaculate Conception

The azure blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is indebted for its origin and wonderfully rapid diffusion to that venerable servant of God, Ursula Beninkasa, foundress of the Congregation of the Oblates and Theatine recluses. Her exemplary piety was proven amid many trying hardships, greatly extolled by persons wearing the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception have not as yet been united together by a canonical Confraternity. as is the case with the Scapular of Mount Carmel. It ought to be called, rather, a devotion. There are, however, in some places such unions and an effort is being made to form a general Confraternity I did not wish to separate the two Scapulars in this account.

Saint Philip Neri, and pronounced heroic by Pope Pius VI in a decree issued on the 7th of August, 1793.

On Candlemas Day of the year 1617, this virgin, whose heart was on fire with love for her Creator, was favored by an extraordinary vision. She saw the Blessed Virgin enveloped in a white robe, beneath which she wore a garment of azure blue Color. About her was a number of virgins similarly arrayed. In her arms she held the divine Infant, who seemed to speak gently and affectionately to His Mother, telling her that He wished to have a convent established in which should dwell three and thirty virgins under the title of the Immaculate Conception, and who should wear a habit similar in form and color to that worn by herself at that time. He also promised to bestow many graces and other spiritual gifts on all those who would live in that community in accordance with His will. Ursula, taking courage, besought her beloved Redeemer that these promised graces might be imparted also to such persons, living in the world, who entertain a sincere and constant devotion to the Immaculate Mother, who lead a pure Christian life according to their station, and who would wear a small blue scapular. As a sign that her petition was to be granted Sister Ursula saw in spirit a company of angels scattering immense numbers of the small Scapulars all over the surface of the earth.

Sister Ursula, overjoyed to know that her request had been favorably entertained by Heaven, went to work with her other companions in religion to make a number of small blue Scapulars, which she had blessed by a priest, and then distributed them among the faithful. The spiritual profit of this measure was very great.

After the death of this venerated servant of God and of Mary, her spiritual daughters, in imitation of their be. loved foundress, and to continue her good work, ceased not to make and distribute these Scapulars and to encourage the devotion attached to them. Some years later Pope Clement X, who died in 1676, granted to the priests of the Theatine Congregation the right and power to bless and distribute these Scapulars in honor of the Immaculate Conception. The Superior General of that Congregation, who dwells in the convent of “Saint Andrew of the Valley,” in Rome, grants this privilege to other clergymen who apply for it.

The aim of those wearing this simple scapular ought to be, first of all, to foster within themselves and others a special devotion to the pure Mother of God in her fairest and choicest prerogative, and the one that distinguishes her from all other creatures. The Scapular ought to be a perpetual reminder of that prerogative and a stimulant to that devotion. Then, too, all those who wear this pious badge should strive by constant longings, sighs, and prayers, as well as by their own example, to succeed in having the bad morals of Christians improved. and the sinners themselves brought to a Christian mode of life.

To attain this end no specified prayers are prescribed. To the zeal and discretion of the wearers, and of their spiritual directors, is left the selection of such prayers and other good works as may best contribute to the honor of the Immaculate Virgin.

The spiritual advantages are so great, and the indulgences so extraordinary in number, that the holy doctor of the Church, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, most earnestly urges and exhorts all Christians to have themselves invested with the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception.

That same zealous shepherd of souls and true reverer of Mary would not rest until the priests of his newly founded Congregation of Redemptorists had obtained the power to invest the laity with this Scapular during the missions and to impart to the recipients the graces connected with the same.

These spiritual advantages it would be impossible here even to mention. If you, Christian reader, already wear this holy Scapular, or intend soon to be invested, procure a little book which contains an index and list of the indulgences. I shall adduce here only one extraordinary advantage, or a kind of summary of the numerous plenary and partial indulgences.

All persons regularly invested with this Scapular, if they wear it constantly and keep themselves in a state of grace, may gain the combined indulgences of the seven principal churches in Rome, of the Churches of the Portiuncula, of Jerusalem, and of Saint James at Compostella, in Spain, provided that they say six “Our Fathers,” as many “Hail Marys,” and “Glory be to the Fathers” in honor of the adorable Trinity and of the Virgin conceived without sin, at the same time beseeching God that He would vouchsafe to exalt the Catholic Church by new triumphs, to exterminate heresies, and to maintain peace among Christian peoples. Moreover, the holy Congregation of Indulgences declared on the 31st of March, 1856, that the above-mentioned indulgences may be obtained every time that the wearer of the Scapular says the prescribed six “Our Fathers,” etc., adding that the reception of the sacraments and other prayers are not necessary to secure them. (Pope Pius IX, 14 April 1856)

Verily, Christian reader, the richest treasures of the Church lie open before you. Will you not, for the sake of your soul’s salvation, and for the benefit of the poor souls in Purgatory, draw upon them according to your necessities and to the best of your strength?

The Archconfraternity of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Conversion of Sinners

In the year 1668 the Apostolic See granted permission for the performance of public devotions in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This permission was soon followed by another authorizing the establishment of Confraternities, which were at the same time enriched with indulgences. In the year 1753, Pope Benedict XIV erected the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Mary in the Church of the Holy Redeemer near the Sistine Bridge in Rome. Pope Pius VII confirmed this devotion and added several indulgences.

It was in more recent times, however, that the devotion and Confraternity of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary received a great impulse, and was diffused generally throughout Christendom. Who is there in the Church today that does not know and honor our beloved Lady of Victory? In the very heart of the city of Paris, and in the centre of traffic and trade, about a hundred paces from the Vaudeville Theatre, which is the scene of the most frivolous displays in the world, and not far from the Exchange, which is the very shrine of gamblers, stands the Church of the Friars Minors, universally known as the Church of Our Lady of Victories. That portion of the city contains the parish of the same name. Nearly every spark of faith and morality seemed to have been stamped out of the hearts of the inhabitants. The church stood empty, divine service was neglected, and the sacraments were abandoned, so that, in the year 1835, in a parish of 27,000 souls, only 720 persons had approached holy communion.

This deplorable condition of religious life filled the heart of the pious pastor, Father Dufriches Desgenettes, with grief and dismay. In his discouragement he turned in every direction, had prayers said and prayed himself, in the hope of directing even one feeble ray of divine grace into the dark, cold hearts of his flock. On the 3d of December, 1836, the sad and troubled pastor of souls was celebrating Mass on the Blessed Virgin’s altar in his deserted church. During the sacrifice a thought came repeatedly to his mind as if saying, “If you would save the sinners of your parish, then consecrate them to the holy and immaculate heart of Mary.” At first the priest considered this thought a mere distraction, which, coming during the holy sacrifice, ought to be banished at once. But, when Mass was over, the same thought seemed to follow him. The idea seemed delusive and altogether impossible.

Having unbounded confidence in the ever Blessed Virgin, to whom his parish was dedicated, Father Desgénettes resolved to make at least one earnest effort. He put in writing a few rules for an Association of prayer in honor of the sacred heart of Mary. These were approved by the archbishop of Paris on the 10th of the following December. The very next day, on the third Sunday of Advent, the pastor announced to the few persons who were present at Mass, that at seven o’clock on that same evening there would be devotions to the sacred heart of Mary, for the conversion of sinners. The zealous man awaited the appointed hour with feelings of mingled hope and fear. And, lo! at seven o’clock some five hundred persons were assembled in the church, a number that was never seen within its walls at any other time, except, perhaps, on the grand festivals of Christmas and Easter. Among the audience was an unusually large number of men. During the singing of the litany of the Blessed Virgin, the whole congregation repeated spontaneously and fervently three distinct times, “Refuge of Sinners, pray for us.” The pastor, who was kneeling before the image of that kind and gentle ” Refuge of Sinners,” was so overpowered by his feelings of pious emotion that he cried out to Mary, “O good Mother! thou hear this cry of love and confidence. Wilt thou not help these poor sinners to return to God? They call on thee, the Refuge of Sinners. Take this pious Association under thy protection, O Mary! In proof of thy good will bring about the conversion of a certain parishioner, whom tomorrow I shall visit in thy name.”

The parishioner for whom the priest prayed was a man of eminence in the world, having once been a respected dignitary of the court of King Louis XVI. At that time he was eighty years old, blind, feeble, and very sick. Yet he had ruthlessly rejected the ministrations of his pastor who had hastened to him on hearing of his illness, in order to extend to him the consolations of religion. On Monday morning, the 12th of December, the anxious pastor went again, in the name of Mary, to visit the sick gentleman. Before night the hitherto obstinately unrepentant sinner made a sincere and contrite confession. Soon he received holy communion, and from then till the time of his death, which occurred on the 10th of April, 1837, Continued to manifest undoubted signs of a sincere sorrow for the sins of his past life.

Throughout the parish of Our Lady of Victories, and in the hearts of all who heard the news, this remarkable conversion augmented and strengthened confidence in Mary’s protection, and gave assurance of the future success of the projected Society.

On the 22d of the following month, January, 1837, the books were opened for the enrollment of members. Within ten days two hundred and forty persons had entered their names. They were mostly from the parish.

In regard to the Archconfraternity: “It was the intention of Father Desgénettes to form a small Association for his own parish. Judging from circumstances it was not at all probable that people would join it in great numbers. But it was pleasing to God’s providence that this insignificant beginning in the parish of Our Lady should assume vast proportions, spread itself over all France, and, indeed, over all the Catholic world. It was only in January, 1837, that the Confraternity was organized,yet in January, 1840, it numbered 58,940 members. In the beginning of the year 1841 there were enrolled on its books twenty bishops, twenty priests’ houses, ten Religious Orders, and forty-six female religious communities. It deserves to be mentioned that of these vast numbers, 21,314 were men.”

What contributed much to this extraordinary and rapid development was the fact that Pope Gregory XVI approved the Association on the 24th of April, 1838, en- riched it with generous indulgences and even raised it to the dignity and privileges of an Archconfraternity. By virtue of this dignity it acquired the right of aggregating to itself all other Confraternities founded under the same title and for the same purpose, and of sharing with them the indulgences and other spiritual advantages enjoyed by the parent Society.

Today this Archconfraternity counts its members by the million, while its affiliated branches throughout the cities, towns, and villages of the Catholic world may be counted by the thousands.

Such unparalleled success and propagation can be explained only by the blessed effects which the Archconfraternity, or rather the Immaculate Heart of Mary, brought down from heaven on Christian souls throughout the Catholic world. Indeed most miraculous blessings were granted, to serve, as it were, as striking evidences of God’s extraordinary intervention, by which He not only introduced this Association among men, but even approved it and confirmed it before the eyes of all.

Among these miraculous results we may reckon:

1. Sudden conversions of great sinners on their deathbeds.

2. Sudden and complete conversions of sinners and infidels, who, by persevering subsequently in exemplary lives, have left proof of the genuineness of their change of life.

3. Sudden cures of sick persons, whose restoration to health had been despaired of; and

4. More especially the spiritual and moral regeneration of the parish of Our Lady of Victories in Paris.

This congregation, previously so icy-cold in its piety, so reckless in its morals, bloomed forth into a fervor of faith, hope, and charity, soon after the establishment of this Association of prayer. No longer was the parish church dreary and empty. Divine service was attended numerously by working people and trades people who composed the bulk of the parishioners, and with a zeal and piety which astonished the pastors of other even well-regulated and highly religious districts through the country parts of France. There was hardly a moment in the day that people were not seen praying before our blessed Lady’s altar. Against 720 communions received in the church during the year 1835, the year 1837 showed the number of 8900. There has been no abatement since that time. Whole families become solicitous to conscientiously discharge the duties which they had neglected before, and hardly knew or recognized. Young people distinguished by their talents, intelligence and wealth, snap the chains of passion asunder, become heroic in their practice of virtue and resolve to serve Jesus Christ bravely and openly in the face of a corrupt world.

The same gratifying results are perceptible in all those congregations where the Archconfraternity of the Sacred Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners has been established.

One of the Archconfraternity’s chief sources of blessings, and one by which its spiritual advantages have been extended to the uttermost bounds of the earth, is the system and series of evening devotions held once a week in the Church of Our Lady of Victories, together with the prayers offered at those services for persons and objects designated.

This public service is held at an hour when all the other churches of Paris are closed, and when the giddy youth of the city are in pursuit of enjoyment and pleasure, commodities that may be procured on all sides in that gay capital. The hour of service is seven all the year round. Hardly has the bell begun to toll when the inhabitants of the district flock in great numbers to the church. Even before the beginning of service there is no spare room in the building, spacious as it is.

The devotions begin with the Vespers of the Sacred Heart of Mary, during which the whole congregation sings in concert. Then comes a short sermon of about half an hour. At the end of the discourse there is read a list, in separate groups, of all the evils of body and soul occurring during the week and for the relief of which the prayers of the members are respectfully requested.

Truly, to listen to this recital of spiritual and bodily ailments, these private and public sufferings, to hear expressed the anxiety of friends for the bodily and spiritual health of those who are dear to them, must make a solemn and lasting impression on the minds of all present. The Church of Our Lady of Victories at such times may be compared to the healing pool of Bethsaida in Jerusalem, where all kinds of human misery have congregated. With unbounded confidence in the Help of Christians, deeply affected with compassion for all the sufferings and troubles weighing down upon humanity, a choir of a thousand voices cries out to heaven, “Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us!”

Christian reader, you may easily imagine how numerous are the cases needing help from Heaven, and how great is the confidence placed in the prayers of this Association, when you learn that in the month of May, 1875, 103,100 requests were made for such prayers.

The Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Consolation

No other Confraternity in the Church has been so abundantly enriched with indulgences as the Confraternity of Our Lady of Consolation,or the “Black Leather Belt” of Saint Monica, of Saint Augustine and of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino.

The badge of this Archconfraternity is a leather girdle. This girdle has, from the beginning, been a symbol of penance, mortification, self»denial and chastity. Holy Scripture tells us distinctly of the prophet Elias that his loins were girt with a leather girdle. (4 Kings 1:8) He was imitated in this respect by Eliseus and other prophets. Also the last and greatest prophet of them all, Saint John the Baptist, wore a leather girdle about his loins. (Mark 1:6)

It can be proved by history that Mary, the Queen of prophets, were such a girdle. The ancient likeness of the Blessed Virgin, made by Saint Luke, represents her girdled in that way. Indeed the Greek Church celebrates every year two festivals in honor of the “Black Leather Belt” of Mary, namely, on the 2d of July, its discovery, and on the 31st of August, its translation from Jerusalem to the imperial capital, Constantinople, by the Empress Pulcheria, who died on the 11th of September, 453. On the occasion of the translation Saint Germanus, patriarch of the same metropolis, delivered a discourse in honor of the relic. The pious empress had a handsome church built in honor of the Blessed Virgin, in which she deposited the girdle for safe-keeping and for the veneration of the faithful. In the year 1118, the Patriarch Euthymius, in a discourse which he delivered on this much venerated girdle, said of it that it had been preserved without decay or injury for more than 900 years.

In the Church of Western Europe the devotion towards Mary’s girdle and the custom of wearing it were early introduced, even in the time of Saint Monica, who wore it devoutly during the years of her life.

History tells us that this pious and patient mother, after the death of her husband Patricius, implored fervently the ever Blessed Virgin that she would be pleased to reveal to her petitioner the mode of dress which she adopted after the death of her divine Son, that thus Monica, in her widowhood and desolation, might dress as Mary dressed. Hereupon the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Monica, clothed in a long black flowing mantle, with a black girdle about her waist. Mary said to her, “This was my habit during the later years of my life.” In holy joy Saint Monica hastened to dress according to the image seen in the vision. Soon a number of devout women imitated her style.

Saint Augustine himself, after he had been converted to God by the prayers and tears of his holy mother, was invested by Saint Ambrose, bishop of Milan, with a long black religious habit and a leather girdle. Thus it was that both mother and son, as a sign of a common love for the Queen of heaven, wore the habit of the Blessed Virgin. The same was also the regulation dress of the Order of Hermits founded by Saint Augustine.

This devotion of Mary’s girdle owed its general diffusion to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, who died on the 10th of September, 1246, and who was a member of the Hermit Order of Saint Augustine. This saint at that time was filling the world with his fame for sanctity and power of working miracles. These last were so numerous that at the time of his canonization, in the year 1446, three hundred of them were approved by the Pope. The eloquence and zeal of that great servant of God led such a great number of persons to put on the girdle that in the year 1446 Pope Eugene IV established in the Augustinian church of Saint James in Bologna a special “Confraternity of those who wore the girdle of Saint Augustine, of Saint Monica and of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino,” and enriched the same with great spiritual treasures and graces. In the year 1495, fifty years later, in the same church, an apostolic man, named Martin Vercelli, established still another Confraternity under the title of Our Lady of Consolation. In the year 1570 both Confraternities were merged into one by Thaddeus Perusinus who was at that time General of the Augustinian Order. Pope Gregory confirmed this union by a hull of the 15th of June, 1575, at the same time elevating the united Confraternities to the dignity of an Archconfraternity under the title of Our Lady of Consolation, or Our Lady of the Girdle. This same Pope wished to be the first one to have his name inscribed on the roll of this holy union. So great was the number of graces, privileges and indulgences granted to this union that the same Pope Gregory XIII said, on referring to that fact, “This is the first and best endowed Confraternity of all Confraternities.”

When Don Pedro, Viceroy of Naples and ambassador of the king of Spain, was one day taking his leave of Pope Clement X and, in pursuance of a custom peculiar to such occasions, asked for a special favor, the pope replied, “Have yourself enrolled in the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin’s Girdle; there you will find an abundance of favors and indulgences.” The high official accepted the proposition with gratitude and, on his arrival home, lost no time in becoming a member, together with his whole family and his whole court. The duties and obligations of this highly privileged Confraternity of Our Lady of Consolation are as follows:

1. In the first place the candidate must have himself invested and enrolled by an authorized priest. This enrollment can be performed either by the head of a properly established Confraternity of Our Lady of Consolation, which ought, of course, to be duly affiliated to the Archconfraternity at Bologna, or by any other priest enjoying faculties for that purpose.

2. The members should wear the Confraternity girdle about the waist. It should be made of black leather, with a ring of black bone, and should be blessed.

3. Every day the members should say thirteen “Our Fathers” and as many “Hail Marys,” with the “Salve, Regina” at the end, for the welfare of the Pope and the spread of the Catholic Church. Usually the twelve first “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” are said in honor of the twelve apostles. The thirteenth is said in honor of Jesus Christ as Founder of one holy Church and Head of the apostles. Those who are unable to say or to read the “Hail, holy Queen ” may substitute five “Hail Marys.”

4. There are some who are not only members of the Confraternity, but who also wish to be considered its benefactors, receive still other indulgences and have a share in many good works that are done in the Church, and especially in the Religious Orders and communities. In order to be considered a benefactor one must make an offering in money. These little donations are devoted to some pious work. From the duties that the members take upon themselves you may easily learn, Christian reader, the aim and object that God and His holy Church Wish to attain by means of this religious union, and the spiritual benefits attached to it.

5. At the blessing of each girdle the priest prays that the Christian who shall wear it, may, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Monica, and Saint Augustine, live in the practice of a God-pleasing self-restraint, observing the commandments of God, and that the girdle may be to him a mark of mortification and purity. Thus the wearing of this belt can be of little use to us unless it act as a monitor and an incentive to imitate Mary and the other saints in mortification and purity and in subjection of our passions.

6. The members should be faithful in saying the prescribed form of prayers, namely, the thirteen “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys,” and the “Hail, holy Queen,” having for their intention to bring down the blessing of God on His Church.

7. The special patroness of the Confraternity is the Blessed Virgin, who ought to be invoked by the members under the loving title of Our Lady of Consolation, or Mother of Comfort. By this means a special confidence and loving reverence are awakened within the members towards the ever Blessed Virgin. For we have recourse to her in every need, trouble, and danger, whether of life or death; we invoke her especially in the great and violent persecutions of the Church.

With regard to the indulgences granted to this Confraternity, Christian reader, I can only repeat here what I said in the beginning, namely, that they are so great and abundant that many learned and pious men have expressed their astonishment thereat.

The Confraternity of the Seven Dolors of Mary

As long as the Blessed Virgin shall be honored by the faithful, so long will she be specially honored as well as loved as the Mother of Sorrows. For where can poor, weeping humanity, groaning under the trials and sufferings of this life, find more encouragement, comfort, and patience, than in Mary’s heart, seven times pierced with the sword of grief foretold by Simeon?

A Confraternity having for its expressed object the honoring of the Blessed Virgin in her many great sorrows, originated about the middle of the thirteenth century. You have already read, Christian reader, about the origin of the Order of Servites, or Servants of Mary. As the pious founders and members of that Order were obliged to wear a black habit, with a black Scapular, as a sign of the pains and sorrows of the Mother of God, they also distributed small black Scapulars among the faithful who did not enter the ranks of the Order, but who wished, nevertheless, to acknowledge themselves in some special manner the servants of Mary, and to keep before their memories the thought of her pains and afflictions.

In equal pace with the extraordinary development of the Servite Order did the Confraternity of the Seven Dolors advance on every side and gather in great harvests of pious members, especially among the higher classes. Saint Louis, king of France, was a bright ornament of this Association.

As is easy to see, the general and chief object of this Association is that people may contemplate and honor the mysteries of the Seven Sorrows which the Blessed Virgin suffered as the Mother of Jesus, whose persecutions and torments she was called upon to share.

As one of the founders of the Servites, Blessed Alexius, used to say, in terms of admonition, “The members of the Confraternity must not suppose that they do enough when they contemplate the suffering of the sorrowing Mother, and offer her their sympathy. They must, by means of such contemplation, be brought to the firm determination of deploring, avoiding, and forswearing the cause of all these sufferings, which is sin.”

The Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Salette

Even in very recent times has Catholic religious life and its necessary element, devotion to Mary, put forth some beautiful flowers of piety.

Who is not familiar with the history of the apparition at Salette, where the Blessed Virgin was pleased to appear to two poor shepherd children on the mountains of Grenoble in France? Who can fail to recognize in this event a warning voice from heaven?

During a period when human malice and infidelity had reached an alarming height, when Heaven’s vengeance was hanging over nations, the Blessed Virgin appeared to point out the approaching punishments and to bid men do penance and become converted. Catholic France, and, indeed, the whole Christian world, felt that a deaf ear could not be turned to the gentle tones of the kindly voice of Mary, nor a hardened heart close itself against her benign influence. In pursuance of her expressed wish, and in the hope of effecting a change in public life for the better, more especially on those points to which she alluded, a Confraternity was soon established under the title of. Our Lady of Salette. On the 21st of September, 1852, Pope Pius IX raised it to the dignity of an Archconfraternity for the whole world, and enriched it with many indulgences.

The threefold object of this pious Association is as follows:

1. To avert, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the Lord’s anger, which, on account of the public and scandalous transgression of His commandments, and of the precepts of the Church, had justly come upon mankind.

2. To pray fervently for the conversion of sinners.

3. To labor zealously for one’s own sanctification.

Christians of our time are guilty of three great sins:

(1) Neglect and desecration of the Sabbath;

(2) improper use of God’s name;

(3) disobedience to the Church by eating flesh-meat on forbidden days.

It was the necessity and absolute obligation of avoiding these three sins that Mary, on the mountains of La Salette, insisted on most forcibly, predicting the direst punishments. She commended worship to God, respect for His holy name, and obedience to the laws of the Church, which practices, she said, would be attended by the choicest blessings of Heaven. To work for these ends constitutes the chief duties of members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Salette.

The Archconfraternity of Our Beloved Lady, Queen of Angels

Devotion to Mary under this title is not new. In the life of the humble Saint Francis Assisi we read that he received from the Fathers of the Benedictine Order a church that had long before been dedicated to the Queen of angels.

The Confraternity of this name, however, is new. It seems to have been appointed by Heaven to become a channel of many branches, through each of which the stream of graces that for five hundred years flowed over the human family, through Saint Francis’ Church of the Portiuncula, was to be distributed into individual souls.

In July, 1856, the young Count Mary Frederick de Bray lay deathly sick on his bed in the castle of Bellevue, near Toulouse, in France. This pious young man always entertained in his heart a tender devotion for the Blessed Virgin. During his illness he felt an inspiration to utter a vow that if he recovered he would make a pilgrimage to the Church of Our Lady of Angels, at Assisi.

Meanwhile his illness grew worse, and on the 22d of July the doctors announced that he would not live till night. The sick man did not die. About midnight he suddenly rose from his bed, and. to the astonishment of his mother and sister, said that he was now quite well. On the following morning the doctors declared before the archbishop of Toulouse that the young man’s recovery was clearly a miracle, and that they were ready to seal their testimony with their blood.

The young count, after making his promised pilgrimage to Assisi, became a member of the Society of Jesus, feeling himself called to promote devotion to Our Lady of angels. He was most anxious to make the scene of his wonderful recovery, a kind of sanctuary to Mary. The castle of Bellevue is situated in a beautiful town called Pouvouxville, not far from Toulouse. His wish was granted. Pius IX. permitted that the Portiuncula indulgence of Assisi might be obtained in the parish church of Pouvouxville. This small and hitherto unknown place became from that time a rallying point for the reverers of the Queen of angels. On the 25th of April, 1863, a small Society of such reverers sprang into existence. In June, 1864, the archbishop of Toulouse issued an ordinance giving his approbation to this Society. As soon as the whole history of the case was laid before the Holy See, Pius IX approved the Association, first verbally, and later, on the 3d of March, 1871, by a letter which permitted the devotion to be extended throughout France.

The advantages of the Archconfratemity of Our Beloved Lady, Queen of Angels, are as follows:

1. In the first place, the members place themselves under the protection of the glorious Queen of angels, who will protect the souls under her care against all the assaults of the evil one.

2. They become sharers in the prayers and merits of millions of Christians.

3. They gain many indulgences.

To become a member of this Confraternity and to have a share in its benefits, one must

1. Have his name enrolled in the register of the Society, and

2. He must say every day three “Hail Marys,” with the invocation, “Our Lady of angels, pray for us!” To this prayer has been granted an indulgence of forty days.

It is also recommended that members receive holy communion once or twice a month, in unity of intention with the head of the Society. This condition, however, is not necessary to the gaining of the above-mentioned indulgences.

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898