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Header-The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira 

 The following text is adapted from a lecture Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on July 2, 1970. It has been translated and edited for publication without his revision.  

 

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The VisitationThe story of the Visitation of Our Lady to Saint Elizabeth is well known:  When Saint Gabriel appeared to Our Lady during the Annunciation, he informed her that her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, was with child. Our Lady traveled with Saint Joseph to Saint Elizabeth’s house, to care for her until her son, Saint John the Baptist, was born. Although Our Lady had already conceived the Child Jesus, she had not told anyone.

Nevertheless, Saint Elizabeth had a presentment that the Child Jesus was in Our Lady’s womb. Thus, she greeted Our Lady, saying: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:42)  When Our Lady spoke to her, Saint John the Baptist heard Our Lady’s voice, was sanctified by it and leapt for joy, inside Saint Elizabeth’s womb.

This story is rich in applications to the interior life.

          

Saint Elizabeth and the “Catholic Sense”

First of all, it highlights the virtue of Saint Elizabeth, whereby she sensed the presence of Our Lord in Our Lady’s womb. Obviously, this was a special gift. However, every Catholic should have a high degree of this sense, albeit with less intensity and excellence.

Through corresponding to the grace of Baptism, a Catholic begins to perceive, so to speak, where God is and where He is not. This applies less to God’s physical presence, as in the Eucharist, than His moral and supernatural presence.

Thus, the true Catholic senses whether or not something is compatible with God. To do this, he need not have intelligence, culture or theological training, but rather a “Catholic sense” of things.

Saint Elizabeth epitomized this “Catholic sense” when she perceived the presence of the Child Jesus in Our Lady’s womb.



God Gives Glory According to His Unfathomable Designs

This seemingly creates a problem:  Saint Joseph was unaware of Our Lord’s presence, even though he was greater than Saint Elizabeth. While the Church counsels the faithful not to compare saints, since such comparisons are below the dignity of saints and above human wisdom, the fact remains that Saint Joseph was the most chaste spouse of Our Lady. As such, he had a much greater union with her than Saint Elizabeth, who was only Our Lady’s relative. Since a saint’s greatness is proportional to his union with Our Lady, it would seem that Saint Joseph was much greater.

The Visitation 2However, if the knowledge of the presence of God is a virtue and Saint Joseph was a greater saint, one would think he also would have perceived the Incarnation.

Furthermore, he was truly Our Lady’s husband. As such, he possessed a true right over the legitimate fruit of her womb, even though he was not Our Lord’s father.

This problem is easily resolved. God distributes glory to men according to His unfathomable designs. He glorified Saint Elizabeth by allowing her to sense Our Lord’s presence. Thus, she will be forever venerated for having perceived the Incarnation so early and sung the praises of Our Lady as Mother of the Child Jesus.

However, God also glorified Saint Joseph by hiding Our Lord’s presence from him. His ignorance was glorious because it produced a great perplexity in his soul when he was confronted with the reality of Our Lady’s pregnancy. It forced him to prove his love of God and demonstrate the height of his virtue. No man in history weathered so great a storm while practicing such virtue as he. Therefore, for all times he will be the patron of those who suffer perplexities.



Immediate Sanctity: A Grace to Ask from Our Lady

Although it is something the faithful are not obliged by the Church to believe, many authors propose that Saint John the Baptist, being the last and greatest prophet of the Old Testament, synthesized all the glories of official prophetism.

The Visitation 3They suggest that he was entirely lucid in his mother’s womb. Thus, he appraised the sacredness of the Mother of God and the Incarnation, heard Our Lady’s voice, felt the presence of God and leapt for joy. At that moment, he was sanctified.

This is the power of Our Lady. The mere echo of her voice instantly converted Saint John to a high degree of sanctity. We too should hope for this grace.

We should ask her to speak to the innermost regions of our souls and instantly sanctify us. One word from her can bring us to a degree of virtue that years of struggle, without her help, would not obtain.

Whenever we lose spirit, feel sadness or are perplexed in our spiritual lives, I recommend we pray, paraphrasing the prayer the priest says before communion:  “Lord I am not worthy that Thou should enter into my house, but only say a word and my soul shall be healed.”

We should pray:  “O Lady, I am not worthy to hear thy voice, but only say a word and my soul will be changed. If thou so will it, I will be changed in an instant.”

We should ask Our Lady to grant us the same grace she gave to Saint John the Baptist, namely that she speak to our souls, make them leap for joy and instantly sanctify us.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 19, 2019

It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently...

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November 19

 

It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently and devoutly
than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction.

St. Edmund the Martyr


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Nerses I of Armenia

King Arshak mixed poison with the Lord's Holy and Divine Bod...

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St. Nerses I of Armenia

Born of royal descent, Nerses was the son of At'anagenes and his mother was the sister of King Tigranes VII and a daughter of King Khosrov III. His paternal grandfather was St. Husik I whose paternal grandfather was St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted the Armenian king to Christianity and became the first Patriarch of Armenia.

Nerses spent his youth in Caesarea and married a Mamikonian princess named Sanducht, who bore him a son, St. Isaac the Great. After his wife's death, he was appointed chamberlain to King Arshak of Armenia, but entered the ecclesiastical state a few years later. In 363, despite his protest of unworthiness, Nerses was consecrated Bishop of Armenia.

He was greatly influenced by St. Basil and, in effort to bring better discipline and efficiency to his diocese convened the first national synod in 365. He encouraged the growth of monasticism and established hospitals. His good deeds and promotion of religion angered the King, who was later condemned by Nerses for murdering his wife Olympia. It is said that Arshak mixed poison with the Lord's holy and divine Body, the Bread of Communion, and administered it to her, killing the queen in church.

Arshak died in battle against the Persians shortly thereafter. Nerses discovered that Pap, the king’s successor, was more ungodly than his predecessor. On account of his sinfulness, the holy man forbade Pap from entering the church until he repented of his ways. Angered, Pap feigned repentance and invited Nerses to dine at the royal table where he poisoned and killed him in 337.

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Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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