A Sonnet on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Heart of Mary, by Sheldon Vanauken (1914-1996).

Dear sister, I was not divine,
The angel left me woman as before,
And when, like flame beneath my heart, I bore
The Son, I was vestal and the shrine.

My arms held Heaven at my breast—not wine
But milk made blood, in which no mothering doubt
Prefigured patterns of the pouring out,
O Lamb! to stain the world incarnadine.

The Magi saw a crown that lay ahead,
But not the bitter glory of the reign;
They called him King and knelt among the kine.
I pondered in my heart what they said,
Yet could not see the bloody cup of pain.
I was but woman—though my God was mine.

The May Magnificat (A Few Words for Wednesday)

God is simple, God is all. In his wisdom, he gave us his only begotten son, the new Adam. Jesus, then, is the reimaged God, or God, Version 2.0, if you will.

This God-Man, Jesus, has a Mother, and as such, so do we. For if we are adopted sons and daughters of God, and God became a man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of a woman, then the Blessed Virgin, Mary Immaculate, is both his mother, the Theotokos, and ours too. Indeed, Our Mother magnifies Our Lord, and points us ever towards Him. [Read more...]

Because On this Ship, I Don’t Have to Decide Everything UPDATED

There has been a lot of fur flying around lately regarding prodigal groups (possibly) coming back into the fold, while others get a solid scolding, etc. Since the season of Advent, Catholics have endured changes to the Liturgy and a new version of the Missal, and we’ve had to relearn lines we had memorized since forever. And lately the HHS Mandate has been seen as a galvanizing moment by many, me among them, and only as a distraction by others. In the immortal words of  Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?” [Read more...]

One for the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord (Music for Mondays)

Have you ever asked your mom to pray for you? I have. And one of the truly amazing graces is that as a believer in the Communion of the Saints, I can ask the Mother of our Lord and Savior to pray for me as well. [Read more...]

For the Faith of Andrea Doria at Lepanto

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed reading history. Usually, I wasn’t reading the history that I was supposed to be reading in the classroom.  I really didn’t do that well in school until I served two hitches in the Marines and then decided to get out and go to college. Grade school and high school? Homework, schmomework!


When Christmas loomed in our house though, my mom knew what I was interested in and what presents to get me: military history books. Ships, planes, tanks, armies, navies and air forces were her sure-fire ticket to success for Frank. In one of those books I learned about the Andrea Doria.

The ironic thing is that this wasn’t a warship. But it was famous because of one of the most heroic stories of a rescue at sea, after a collision. The rescue was so impressive,  that it wound up in one of the books I was reading. It never, ever, occurred to me that Andrea Doria was a man, nor what importance he held in the history of Christendom, or in Western Civilization. I definitely had no idea what Our Lady of Guadalupe had to do with him either. I was a kid (a non-Catholic one, to boot), remember? I just figured it was a feminine name given to a cruise ship.

Now, though, I know better.

Today, you see, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It used to be commemorated as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, because on this date in the year of Our Lord 1571, the Battle of Lepanto was fought and won by a smaller, underdog coalition of European Christian forces, primary Catholic and Orthodox, with a smattering of Protestant support, over the larger, and seemingly invincible forces of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Giovanni Andrea Doria was one of the Admirals on the Christian side, in command of the Fortuna.
This may be news to you, but the Ottoman Empire had been cleaning the clocks of Christian nations, and conquering the same, since the collapse of the Roman Empire. All that hoopla about the Crusades? Well, the Crusades were a failure. And wherever the Islamic forces won, which they did early and often, Christianity, and most, if not all of the freedoms that grow out of the Faith, ceased to be. But don’t take my word for it, crack open a history book or two or visit North Africa, Spain and Portugal.

To me, though, the most interesting part of this war story is that while preparing for the battle, Admiral Dorea went down to his quarters and prayed in front of a reproduction of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may recall that image appeared on a certain Mexican peasants tilma in the year 1531. And,

Andrea Doria had kept a copy of the miraculous image of our Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by King Philip II of Spain in his ship’s state room.

After this prayer break, the wind turned in favor of the Christian allies, giving them advantages, the much sought after weather guage, which was detrimental to the Ottoman forces.  As a result, the undermanned, but heavily armed Christians, known as the Holy League, defeated the Ottoman forces in a naval battle for the very first time. Ever.

Big deal? G.K. Chesterton thought so, as he wrote a great poem about this event. Does prayer make a difference? Pope St. Pius V thought so, because prior to the battle, he asked all of Europe to pray the Rosary to ensure victory. According to the Wikipedia citation,

The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. 

Take a look at the image below.

What is the Blessed Virgin standing on? Looks like a darkened crescent moon, yes? For more on Our Lady, the significance of this image, Lepanto, Fatima, the Rosary, Islam and what it all may mean, click on this link from our good friends over at EWTN. And then check out Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s thoughts on this matter as well.

YouTube Preview Image

The Rainbow (A Few Words For Wednesday)

A wiser man than I once said,

When, indeed, the artist desires to teach us a great spiritual truth, he invariably expresses it under the form of an allegory or symbol. For the soul dreams ‘neath the star-sown sky of symbol. It is spiritually its lisping language—the divine form of its expression.

…Yes, verily, the true gods do sigh for the cost and pain in making a poet out of a man. He shall henceforth see all things not through a colored glass, darkly, but with that inner eye, which, to the material and gross is sealed, but which is full of vision to the inspired and chosen few. His soul henceforth shall be in touch with both the lowly and Divine, for the function and office of poetry is to interpret unto man the glory of God in the universe.

The words above are those of a man of letters, a teacher, a poet, a Canadian, and a Catholic. His name is Thomas O’Hagan, Ph.D., the son of Irish immigrants. His biography reads as follows,

The youngest son of John and Bridget (O’Reilly) O’Hagan, natives of County Kerry, Ireland, was born in ‘the Gore of Toronto,’ on the 6th of March, 1855, and was a babe in arms, when his parents, three brothers, a sister and himself, moved into the wilderness of the county of Bruce, Ontario. They located in the township of Elderslie, three miles from the village of Paisley. The other settlers were mostly Highland Scotch, and Thomas as a lad learned to speak quite fluently not only the Gaelic tongue of his neighbours, but also the Keltic Irish, which was spoken freely by his parents. He attended the public school of the settlement where the teachers were Scotch, and where he applied himself with such diligence and ability that he won a Second Class Teacher’s Certificate at the early age of sixteen

Few Canadians have devoted so much time to academic study as Dr. O’Hagan. After graduating from St. Michael’s College, a prize winner in Latin and English, he entered the Ottawa University and graduated B.A., in 1882, with honours in English, Latin, French and German. Three years later the same University conferred on him the degree of M.A. In 1889, he received the degree of Ph.D. from Syracuse University: and in subsequent years took postgraduate work at Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Louvain, Grenoble and Fribourg Universities. In September, 1914, Laval University, Montreal, conferred on him the honorary degree of Litt.D.

What tipped me off to him was a slim volume I had added to the Bookshelf over yonder (see right sidebar) a while back. Entitled, Essays on Catholic Life, I perused it anew in search of a poem. In it I found the thoughts that began this post, as O’Hagen presented poems of Tennyson, Browning, and Elizabeth Barret Browning in an essay on The Office and Function of Poetry. Go check it out.

But I also found some of his own poetry and you can now find a number of his books on the handy, dandy, YIMCatholic Bookshelf, you know, over yonder. I’ll share this short poem he wrote because this has become an altogether too long, and probably the longest post, that has ever run under the title “A Few Words for Wednesday.”

The Rainbow
A covenant of the peace that reigns
Between two great strong lands,
Whose glorious heritage of worth
Is gift of God—not hands;
Where Truth and Honor have a home
An altar bright and fair—
Pure as the lily of the field,
Wrapt in deep slumb’rous air.
O beauteous arch of faith and love!
Shine through the mists of life,
And fill our dreams of toil and care
With gift of prayer—not strife;
Light with thy beams our darkest days,
Rain down in mystic love
The joyance of the star-clad hours
That fills each life above.
Link with a bond of sweetest joy,
In memory fair as thine,
The hearts that plan, the souls that pray,
Within Loretto’s shrine,
That in the blossoming years afar
May shine out nobly good
The virtues of that Convent home
Where dwells true Womanhood.

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow Poland
Photo Credit: Sonia Marcus

Because of the Protestant Reformers Beliefs On Mary

Another Marian post as we are ten days from the Feast of the Assumption. This one was first published back in December of last year.


Back when I first joined YIMCatholic, I was going to write posts about my conversion. I hammered out seven posts in pretty rapid succession and then, I stopped writing them until recently.

Many of my posts now are simply my observations of the world which are colored through the lens of a convert to Catholicism. It would be difficult for them not to be. Other posts I’ve written are of the “look what I just found!” variety, and the “I want to share this with you” type. Call them the discovery posts if you will. [Read more...]

A Convert’s Lament To Mary (A Few Words for Wednesday)


Our Eastern brethren have been observing the Dormition Fast since the first of August. It continues until August 15th this year and concludes on the Feast of the Dormition, which Western Catholics celebrate as the Feast of the Assumption. In honor of this tradition, I will be sharing some of our Marian posts. This one is from October of last year…

Edward Caswall was another Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism in the mid 1800′s. He also joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, like his friends Blessed John Henry Newman and Frederick William Farber.  And, like them again, he was a prolific poet and hymnist.

Below is one of Caswall’s fine poems included in his book of verse entitled The Masque of Mary. This particular  poem really resonates with me.

As a convert to Catholicism, I pretty much ignored Our Lady my whole life. Lately, I’ve been making it a point to pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and pray the Rosary regularly with my family. Although I’m not always 100% successful in this effort, I can truthfully say that I’ve been coming around to recognizing the significance of The Blessed Virgin as both the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven.

Much like Caswall, though, I wish I would have come around sooner (but better late than never).

A Convert’s Lament to Mary

Among the thoughts that in my heart
Awaken grief sincere,
Causing with sudden pang to start
The unexpected tear,
Is this, that in the days gone by,
Star of the wintry sea!
Blinded by darkest heresy,
I thought so light of thee.

O Mother of my Lord and God,
Whom none invoke in vain;
O Path of life, which all have trod,
Who now in glory reign!

Had I but learnt in earlier years
To seek thine aid above,
To offer thee my infant tears,
Thy loving glance to love,—

How many deeds of sin and shame
Which now my heart appal,
Scar’d at the sound of thy pure name,
Had not been done at all!

How many a desolated space
Of vainly wasted hours,
Had bloom’d beneath thy smile of grace,
With paradisal flowers!

Mother! receive thine erring child;
Look tenderly on me;
From thy dear bosom long beguil’d,
I now return to thee.

More of Edward Caswell’s poems are here in The Masque of Mary, along with other of Caswell’s works on the YIM Catholic Bookshelf.

Because Mary Said “May It Be Done to Me”

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord. Before I was a Catholic, I wouldn’t have even known what that all means. Just another one of those big ol’ words linked to Jesus’s mom that everyone knew Catholics worshiped.

Mary, schmerry, I thought, God can do anything. If Mary would have said no, big damn deal.

Sort of like asking a girl to dance at a party and you get rejected.”Sorry God, looks like she said No. Let me buy you a beer to help you put the flames out.” Next candidate please. There’s a lot of fish in the sea. [Read more...]

An Anglican Asks: Do Catholics Go Overboard with Mary?

Last week I asked EPG, an Anglican reader of this blog, to pose some questions for Catholics, to provide a forum for discussion. I gather that these questions represent reasons why he, and others, are not (yet) Catholic. His first question concerns what may be the biggest stumbling block: the role of Mary in Catholic worship. Listen carefully, answer respectfully. I will put in my two cents after citing his question verbatim:

I have some concerns about the extent of Marian devotion. I can understand devotion to Mary in the context of the communion of saints. Asking Mary (or any of the saints) to intercede would be analogous to asking a good friend, an older brother, or one’s mother for prayers on one’s behalf. I am perfectly comfortable with the respect and even veneration for Mary arising from her actions, from her first assent at the Annunciation, and from that time on. I have no issue with the titles “Theotokos,” or “Mother of God.”

But there does seem to be a point at which the partisans of Mary go overboard, and attempt to direct our attention to her, in place of Christ. For example, I find myself deeply uncomfortable with the thought of considering Mary as co-Redemptrix. See, for example, this blog.  The author is a former Episcopal priest, who has apparently been accepted into the Catholic priesthood. Is he an exception, or in the Catholic mainstream?

And there is a radio program (played on our local Catholic station, and syndicated widely) that seems to go overboard in its emphasis on Mary.

So how do all of you respond to Mary in your lives as Catholics? Are there areas in which you see excesses in Marian devotion. (I could throw out that fine old epithet “Mariolatry.”) Or, coming from an Anglican Protestant background, am I missing something? If so, what?

EPG, I can’t give you formal Catholic apologetics on this one. But I’ll pass this post on to Ferde, because I know he can.

What I can give you is my experience. Among Catholics I know, I do not see an extreme emphasis on Mary, and I never hear talk of her as co-Redemptrix. (Oh, there was some rumbling about it in our men’s group one day, but we rumble about everything.) But just as I was drawn to the Catholic Church by the example of the saints, who were never reverenced or even referenced in the Episcopal parish of my youth, I have friends, including Mitch, who say they were brought to the Catholic Church by the Blessed Mother.

When I first started coming to daily Mass, I didn’t have much feeling for Jesus. Who was he exactly? I thought only of God—like a good Unitarian, I suppose! But now, through readings, Father Barnes’s homilies, daily reception of the Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration, and, notably, I think, my participation in Communion and Liberation, I recognize Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I seek a deeper relationship with him.

Mary? Except during Lent, Saturday morning Masses at our church are usually dedicated to the Blessed Virgin (as the church itself is dedicated to Mary in one of her many roles, “Star of the Sea”). Two candles are lit on Mary’s altar at the front left of the nave; Father Barnes says a couple of extra prayers; and as a recessional he leads us in “Salve Regina” or another Marian hymn. That’s it. (“Our” Mary illustrates this post.)

Now, it’s my understanding that Father Barnes is a doctrinaire Catholic priest, in the best sense of the term. He is true to the teaching of the Church and faithfully communicates it to us. (Let me tell you: If he weren’t that way, Ferde would be all over him!) So, by association, I suspect that this level of reverence—one day a week, say, along with the Marian Feast Days like the Assumption—is pretty much the norm.

One more point: While I have tried warming to Mary, as explained here and here, I haven’t fully succeeded. I don’t feel any less a Catholic for that. My devotion, if I have one, is to St. Joseph, who was also a favorite of one of our great female saints, Teresa of Jesus (of Avila). I recently bought one of Ann Burt’s lovely retablos of St. Joseph. I have it hanging in the “prayer corner” of my private office at home with a candle under it. I light the candle every morning and say a prayer to St. Joseph. And I am trying to learn more about him, especially now during Lent.

I do not think my devotion to St. Joseph gets between me and Christ. Joseph and Mary were Jesus’s earthly parents, who sheltered Him and educated Him, and to whom He was obedient. I trust that whatever may be my level of devotion to either of these unique parents, they will only bring me closer to Christ.

But I’ve taken too much space here! Readers, respond please! Not only with doctrine, which I need help with, but especially with your personal experience. Do you think the Church goes overboard with Mary? What about the blog and radio program cited by EPG? Are they typical?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X