The Golden Crown, by Father B Rohner, OSB

Pope Blessed Pius IX, c.1878It is for us all a source of edification and happiness to be able to count our late Holy Father, the lamented Pius IX, of blessed memory, among the most ardent and devoted servants of Mary. He was a man who not only cherished in his inmost heart, and acted in his outward life, a deep and loving reverence for the ever blessed Mother of God, but also, by virtue of his high, his divine office, dillused the same devotion throughout the present generation, and for generations yet to come, by authorizing and establishing many devotional practises in her honor, by proclaiming authoritatively her sublime prerogatives, and by founding sodalities and other associations in her blessed name. This grand and saintly Vicar of Christ was not content to proclaim, to the great joy of the whole Church, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. He wished to adorn, in a very significant, striking and loving manner, with a golden crown, her whom he had thus sublimely glorified in her Immaculate Conception. But what is this golden crown with which Pius IX adorned the pure Mother of God, and which he desired should ever continue to adorn her?

It may be proper to speak first figuratively. Picture to yourself, Christian reader, a venerated mother surrounded by her children. It is the feast of that mother, perhaps her name’s day, her patron saint’s festival. Hence all her children come gathering about her, each one bringing some present to her. The present is chosen that pleases her most.

Sometimes it is a garland of flowers, and the flowers are so tastefully chosen that each flower is made to represent each child, while all combined represent the family of children, who are indeed a mother’s crown.

The mother is well pleased with this offering of flowers. She is deserving of it. It is appropriate. It is a sign, an evidence, of love and respect on the part of her children. But dearer still to her heart is the circle of children themselves. They form, in her eyes, a beautiful garland of lovely flowers. Thus the mother is crowned with two crowns: one is composed of the flowers on her brow, the other consists of the children at her feet, where they have gathered in love and respect.

Now, Mary is our Mother, and we are her children, The 8th day of December is her great feast of honor and glory, on which all devout children of Mary, in union with the whole Church, render special thanks to the ever adorable Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for the miraculous favor and grace that Mary obtained by remaining free from the stain of all sin, from the first moment of her conception. Although it has been our custom to observe the feast every year, on this particular feast of the present year we wish to gather about our immaculate Mother with more special love, a deeper veneration, and more sincere gratitude, to thank her for all past graces, to renew before her our good resolutions for the future, to ask her for continued help to keep them, and to pledge ourselves to her that we will remain her true and loving children till the hour of death. Thus it is that we form, for her acceptance, a living crown of gold, a triple crown of glory, for although but one crown it is composed of three distinct crowns. The first crown consists of the united priests of the secular and regular orders. The second is composed of all the persons of the female religious communities. The third embraces all the faithful laity of the Church. Thus all united together, we are also united in our desire to be a crown for Mary, the immaculate Queen of heaven and earth.

But we are not satisfied with being a crown for Mary. We wish also to bring her a crown, that is, we wish to accomplish something special for her greater honor and glory. And what shall we do? Pius IX himself gives us the answer by appointing pious works to be performed by the priests, the female religious and the laity. These exercises he calls the Golden Crown. The devotions of the Golden Crown are as follows:

For Priests

The Holy Father thus directs through his cardinal-vicar, “This Golden Crown consists of the offering up of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which thirty-one priests, joined together in a golden circle, or crown, agree to perform, each one on a different day of the month. The Mass is to be celebrated with the intention of doing special honor to the Mother of God. These priests will offer up the divine sacrifice to the ever adorable Trinity in union with all the saints who dwell in heaven with Jesus Christ, and also with all the elect still sojourning on the earth. They will render thanks to the Blessed Trinity in the name of the Blessed Virgin, for the immeasurable, countless and distinguished privileges with which she was so remarkably endowed, and more especially for the pre-eminent grace of her Immaculate Conception. The priests are also to earnestly supplicate the ever Blessed Virgin herself for protection and help in the present necessities of our holy Mother, the Church, for the conversion of sinners in general and for the intention of the Roman Pontiff.”

But as it happened that only a few among the priests were able to apply the required intention, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, on an appointed day in the month, the difficulty was met thus: “Whenever any priest is unable to apply the intention of the Mass on the day designated, he may celebrate it on another day, or request another priest to say it on the appointed day.”

As each group or circle of priests numbers thirty-one, and as five of the months have each less than thirty-one days, there occurs on the last day of each short month more than one Mass.

The idea of this Golden Crown Devotion originated as late as the year 1852, yet so great was the favor that it found among the bishops and the priests, and so deep and true was their desire to honor and love Mary, that during the last half of the year 1853 more than a thousand Masses were celebrated in her honor every day, and with all the above described intentions. Greatly encouraged at this, the bishops requested the Holy Father to provide for the permanent continuance of the devotion of the Golden Crown, by affording it canonical approbation and recognition.

The Pope acceded gladly, established the Golden Crown forever in the Church of Our Lady of Peace (Santa Maria Della Pace-Santa Maria Pacifica) in Rome. This church is the central point of the devotion. The Holy Father is the first member and the Chief Head and Protector. The cardinal-vicar in Rome is the chief officer of the Golden Crown.

In response to the petition of the bishops, the same Pontiff forwarded to them and to all heads of Religious Orders, 21. letter in which he invited them most cordially to communicate the grant to all the priests and members of communities, and to bid them to participate in the devotion and its benefits. It ought to be easy to find in every diocese a Golden Circle of thirty-one devoted priests, who would each offer up on a certain day of the month the holy sacrifice of the Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin I mmaculate, with the required conditions and intentions. By means of this one Mass each member of the circle becomes partaker in the benefits of thousands of daily Masses and communions. These advantages he acquires not alone for the benefit of souls in general, but also as a blessing from God to help him to save the particular souls entrusted to his care.

For Religious Women and the Laity Who Belong to the Golden Crown

In the above-named rescript the cardinal-vicar of Rome, in the name of the Sovereign Pontiff, urges the bishops to encourage members of their flocks to join this association of the Golden Crown. He exhorts them to advise, through their spiritual directors, women in convents, and also the laity through their respective pastors, to offer up their communions to the Blessed Trinity, in gratitude for all the favors that have been bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin, and more especially in gratitude for her sublime prerogative of the Immaculate Conception. He reminds them that the immaculate Mother of God will never fail to obtain by her intercession, so powerful with God, help and strength for her faithful servants. If they endeavor to advance her honor and to cultivate her devotion, by venerating her in her chief prerogatives, but more especially in the Immaculate Conception, which is her greatest pride and joy, her intercession for them will infallibly have the happiest effect.

We now come to the spiritual advantages that may be obtained by devout members of the Golden Crown. They are three-fold: First, there is the powerful intercession of Mary to obtain from God, for every faithful member, protection in the hour of danger and assistance in the hour of death, as well as all through life; secondly, there are many holy indulgences; and thirdly, the members share in all the Masses, communions and prayers which are offered up with this intention, all over the world.

I do not know how many members belong at the present time to the “Devotion of the Golden Crown.” Taking a probable number for our basis, we may estimate that during each month of the year about one hundred thousand Masses, and more than eight millions of communions, are offered up for this intention. Thus every clerical and lay member of the Golden Crown becomes every day a participator in the merits of three thousand two hundred Masses, and nearly three hundred thousand communions’ In the course of the year he shares in the merits of one million two hundred thousand Masses and more than a hundred million of communions. To all this add the countless prayers of the members.

Finally, the deceased members of the Golden Crown have the benefit of the Masses offered up specially for them every year in the church of this society, Saint Mary’s of Peace, in Rome. One special Mass for the repose of each soul is celebrated there.

In publishing the rescript of the Holy Father, the cardinal-vicar, who is also the head of the association of the Golden Crown, concludes in these words,” We are convinced that the bishops, and the heads of Religious Orders, in their distinguished piety and zeal, will strive with fatherly solicitude to induce the priests under their charge to offer up the holy sacrifice of the Mass for the above-stated intention, and by example contribute to the special veneration of the ever blessed Mother of God among their respective flocks, and that they will labor to incite in the hearts of the laity an increase of tender love for the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, for in these times, so disastrous to faith, morals and Christian piety, nothing can be more opportune, more comforting, or more assuring than to have recourse to our blessed Lady. That ever pure Virgin ceases not to protect and to defend with motherly care and love all her devout clients, more especially those who, beside her other prerogatives, honor and praise her favorite prerogative of Immaculate Conception.”

– 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