Through Brunt of Battle to Glory of Victory

In my last post, I had mentioned the vow of blood professed by some friars to defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and how such conviction and devotion led to the Franciscan Triumph. It was certainly a form of chivalry, and not entirely bookish, especially by virtue of such a vow. Prowess directed toward the preservation of all that is true, good and beautiful: is this not true manliness?

Here is Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B. on the Triumph of the Immaculate Conception and Her Knights. (Notice how the good Benedictine is humble to tip his hat to the Friars Minor. Would that Our Lady’s Brothers of Penance in the Order of Penance be so self-forgetful.):

But, whilst thus mentioning the different nations which have been foremost in their zeal for this article of our holy faith, the Immaculate Conception, it were unjust to pass over the immense share which the seraphic Order, the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned John Duns Scotus! And when at length the great day of the definition of the Immaculate Conception came, how justly merited was that grand audience, which the Vicar of Christ granted to the Franciscan Order, and with which closed the pageant of the glorious solemnity! Pius IX. received from the hands of the children of St. Francis a tribute of homage and thankfulness, which the Scotist school, after having fought four hundred years in defence of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, now presented to the Pontiff.

In the presence of the fifty-four Cardinals, forty-two archbishops, and ninety-two bishops; before an immense concourse of people that filled St. Peter’s, and had united in prayer, begging the assistance of the Spirit of truth; the Vicar of Christ had just pronounced the decision which so many ages had hoped to hear. The Pontiff had offered the holy Sacrifice on the Confession of St. Peter. He had crowned the statue of the Immaculate Queen with a splendid diadem. Carried on his lofty throne, and wearing his triple crown, he had reached the portico of the basilica; there he is met by the two representatives of St. Francis: they prostrate before the throne: the triumphal procession halts: and first, the General of the Friars Minor Observantines advances, and presents to the holy Father a branch of silver lilies: he is followed by the General of the Conventual Friars, holding in his hand a branch of silver roses. The Pope graciously accepted both. The lilies and the roses were symbolical of Mary’s purity and love; the whiteness of the silver was the emblem of the lovely brightness of that orb, on which is reflected the light of the Sun; for, as the Canticle says of Mary, ‘she is beautiful as the moon. The Pontiff was overcome with emotion at these gifts of the family of the seraphic patriarch, to which we might justly apply what was said of the banner of the Maid of Orleans: ‘It had stood the brunt of the battle; it deserved to share in the glory of the victory.’ And thus ended the glories of that grand morning of the eighth of December, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.

Allow Me to Praise Thee, O Holy Virgin

This is the title of the reatreat I am giving our sisters here in Bloomington, Indiana who are preparing to renew their vows on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. The line comes from a prayer composed spontaneously be Blessed John Duns Scotus, and which has entered into the language of the liturgy as an antiphon from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The full text is Allow me to praise Thee O Holy Virgin, give me strength against Thine enemies.

The story goes that Scotus was on his way by foot to Paris where he was to defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception during a disputation conducted at the great University of Paris. Along the way he passed by a wayside shrine of Our Blessed Lady, and was inspired to kneel down and say this prayer. Our Blessed Lady was pleased to acknowledge the humility and devotion of her servant by miraculously manifesting that the prayer had been heard and answered.

The statue animated and bowed to the Blessed John, and he went on to Paris to brilliantly defend Our Lady’s prerogative of Her Immaculate Conception. The Franciscan Order has generally been recognized as one of the principle instruments for the defense and articulation of the dogma. Blessed Pope Pius IX, in fact, used the argumentation of Blessed John Duns Scotus as the basis for the papal bull defining the dogma in 1854. That defining moment is know affectionately within the Order as the Franciscan Triumph.

St. Maximilian Kolbe believed that the dogma was a blueprint for Catholic life, a battle plan for the crushing of the serpent’s head in our godless age. His act of consecration is a chivalric commitment, in our order a vow of blood to fight under Our Lady’s banner for the extension of the kingdom of Christ. Allow me to praise Thee O Holy Virgin, give me strength against Thine enemies.

St Maximilian attached this antiphon to end of his solemn act of consecration and also composed a longer prayer inspired by it: Continue reading