The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, by Father B Rohner, OSB

Goffine's Devout Instructions illustration of the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin MaryThe simple sons of Saint Francis of Assisi were the first to commemorate with special devotion the journey of the patient and humble maiden of Nazareth across the mountainous country to visit her cousin, Saint Elizabeth. At a meeting of the chief members of the Order, held in the year 1263, the great Saint Bonaventure offered the proposition and issued an ordinance to the entire Order, requiring the members to solemnize in a special manner the festival of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin. By degrees the deep meaning of this festival became better and more generally understood by the laity, who soon learned to love and cherish it. But a very great calamity was the occasion of introducing the feast throughout the whole Church. This was the great schism which occurred during the fourteenth century. Divine Providence permitted that an unworthy man should lay claim to the authority of Saint Peter, though a lawful Pope then presided over the Church. This Anti-Pope, as he was called, had a considerable following of blinded persons. Strife, contention, and anger arose and spread throughout a large portion of Christendom. In the midst of these sufferings of the Church of God, certain good and pious men conceived the thought that it might be the will of Heaven that Mary should, under God, be instrumental in putting an end to this scandalous schism. In order to invoke her assistance in a more special and solemn manner, the feast of the Visitation was established throughout all the lands of Christendom. Pope Urban VI would not set himself against what he considered to be the will of God, and entrusted to a learned cardinal the duty of compiling an office suitable to the feast and corresponding to the events commemorated. He also intended to prescribe, by a special bull, the observance of the festival, but he died suddenly and unexpectedly, before he could carry out his pious intentions. His successor, however, Boniface IX, was no less zealous in his devotion to Mary. In a bull, dated November the 9th, 1339, he decreed “that the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary should be solemnized with hymns of triumph, with canticles of joy and with exultation of heart and soul.” During the Council of Florence, when the Greek Church fraternized with the Latin, this feast occurred, and was made a veritable festival of peace, bringing harmony and reconciliation, and giving joy to the Western, or Latin, Church. It became a bond of union between East and West. Even in later times it has been a day on which all differences between the Latins and Greeks, save the essential ones of faith and morals, were forgotten.

It was on this festival, namely, on the 2nd of July, 1849, that the French army entered Rome, in defense of the Pope’s rights, and put an end to the so-called republic of Mazzini and Garibaldi. The history of this absurd and unlawful republic is well known. In the very beginning of his reign Pius IX, of holy memory, out of love and affection for his lawful subjects in the States of the Church, had instituted reforms, extended many benefits and favors, and made many improvements. At first all rejoiced, and were filled with gratitude towards the benevolent Pontiff. But the restless revolutionists resolved to turn this very goodness of heart of the Pope against himself. T hey persisted in inciting the thoughtless multitude to demand the most unreasonable concessions, and such as were not in the power of the Pope to grant. The people then became more importunate and dissatisfied, and finally, giving too willing an ear to the evil advice and suggestions of their crafty and malicious leaders, they began to hate their Pope and king so that, at last, his life was not safe within the walls of Rome. He therefore deemed it prudent to yield to the urgent request of his friends, left the city and went to Gaeta in the kingdom of Naples. Hereupon Garibaldi and Mazzini came to Rome. The inhabitants soon began to realize fully and painfully what it was to have Rome without a Pope. Those were indeed days of terror and desolation. The clergy were hunted down, the temples were desecrated, the property of the Church was seized, the bells and sacred vessels were melted down and the relics of the saints, aye, the Blessed Sacrament itself was profaned. Many of the clergy were massacred. To put an end to these horrors Catholic France sent her brave soldiers. After a short siege the city was taken from the Garibaldians, on the festival of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, July the 2nd, 1849. Towards evening of that day the French army marched into Rome. The Eternal City was free. The coincidence of the feast with the liberation of the city seemed to Pius IX to be providential. Accordingly he had hardly returned to Rome, in the spring of 1850, amid the rejoicings of his subjects, when he gave orders in a special decree, that for all future time the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary should be kept as a feast day, in order to manifest gratitude to God and His blessed Mother for the happy deliverance of the Holy See from its worst enemies.

Prayer of Holy Church

Unto Thy servants, we beseech Thee, O Lord, do Thou impart the gift of heavenly grace, that as the child-birth 0f the Blessed Virgin was unto them the beginning of salvation, so the prayerful solemnity of the Visitation may give them an increase of peace.

Receive, O Lord, these prayers and gifts; and that they may be worthy of Thy regard, oh, let us be helped by the prayers of Thy saints.

Refreshed by communion with the sacred body and precious blood, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our God, that the mystery which we have performed with a loving devotion may redound to our sure redemption.

– 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