From the 17th century onwards, a special devotion to Mary developed among priests. She was seen not only as the person whose virtues should be imitated by priests, but also as the person who assisted priests to perform their priestly role well, and especially their sacrifical role in the Eucharistic mystery itself.
Theologians and spiritual writers gave the following reasons why priests should have a special devotion to Mary:
1. Mary is the Queen of priests, one who expressed in herself the highest rank of the priesthood and the most complete expression of all priestly virtues.
One should honour the Blessed Virgin as the Queen of the clergy, a quality acquired by birth through her primary grandeur as spouse of the eternal Father. Mary manfiests all the zeal which a spouse should have for the glory of her husband. Therefore the eternal Father has given her the clergy as her members and subjects, as persons who should be consumed continually in works of zeal for his glory . . . There is no status or hierarchical order among the clergy that does not see in the Blessed Virgin the exercise of its own ministry and she does nothing externally for which she did not possess the interior grace in abundance.Jean-Jacques Olier (1608 - 1657), Journée chrétienne, Paris, vol. 2, col. 233.
2. Marys life should be seen in the light of a priests life and ministry. Her call was similar to a priests vocation. Her priestly ordination took place when Jesus was conceived.
No other predisposition necessary for the priesthood appears more clearly in the Virgin than being called by God . . . . That great calling made her the Mother of God, just as a priests calling makes him, to some extent, the source and the father of the same Son of God since it gives the priest the power to produce Christs body through words, as the Virgin has done. Saint-Cyran, Lettre à un ecclésiastique etc., chap 18, p. 179.
3. Mary brought Christ down to earth by her word, as priests do at consecration.
This [to have an image of Mary suspended behind the altar] is a profitable arrangement so that the priest, while celebrating the sacred mysteries, can look at Mary and measure the quality of this woman to whom it was entrusted to make the Word, through her own word. The priest should reflect on what the priest should be like who on his word, or rather on the word of Christ spoken through him, makes from the substance of bread and wine the body and blood of Christ. Through the example of her humility and her chastity, let him learn to maintain a humble and chaste spirit, and let him make her mediate for himself, that she may intercede in his favour to be a worthy and faithful minister of such a sacrament. St. Antoninus of Florence OP (1389 - 1459 AD),Summa Theologica Moralis, IV, Tit. 15, c. 24, § 3.
Because the blessed Virgin has formed the body which Jesus Christ has left us as a covenant, the congregation [=of the Oratorians] wants that all her members be her servants . . . They should have recourse to her, not only by the obligation incumbent on all Gods children, but by the special alliance which priests acquire with her in the production of the body of Jesus Christ, a body which they have to learn from her to treat in a saintly fashion. There is also a special resemblance and link between their priestly grace and that of the Mother of God, since both deal with the same body of Jesus Christ. Superiors must take care that the self-offerings to the holy Mother of God which our honourable Father founder has left us are not neglected. Charles de Condren (1637?), Lettres du P. de Condren publiées par P. Auvray et A. Jouffrey, Paris 1943, letter no 79, p. 248.
You will be very happy, Father, if God permits you to live in that disposition. For that it is enough if you are content with the power which he has given you over the glorious and divine body of Jesus Christ through the [priestly] order and the congregation which you have netered for the priesthood. He gave you power to produce the body of Christ through the same Spirit through whom he was conceived in the womb of the Virgin. Saint-Cyran, Lettres chrétiennes et spirituelles de messire Jean Duvergier de Hauranne ... etc., published in 1744, p. 647.
4. Mary continues to offer up Holy Mass with the priests.
During a great part of the celebration of Mass .... I felt and saw clearly our Lady engaged in intercession before the Father. My perception of it was so strong that during the prayers addressed to the Father or Son and when consecrating I was constantly aware of sensing her and seeing her as being part and channel of such a great grace. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 - 1556), Spiritual Journal, 15 February 1544, in :Ignatius de Loyola, Constitutiones Societatis Jesus, Vol. I, Rome 1934, p. 94.
The blessed Virgin possesses another extreme dignity which can rightly be called that of the priesthood, namely that of the person who is offering as second after Christ. For together with priests who are performing the sacred mysteries, together with Christ and in the same way, she always offers the unbloody sacrifice, just as, at one with him, she offered the bloody sacrifice. Ferdinand Chirino de Salazar (1575 - 1646), Canticum, vol. 2, pp. 40.
O Mary, our Queen and Queen of priests, give to all those who carry the sacred character that they regard you during the divine ceremonies, and that, leading Jesus to the altar, they emulate the reverence and singular devotion with which you gave birth to Jesus and with which you put him as a tiny baby into the manger and with which you held him in your sacred hands, kissed and embraced him a thousand times. Oh, that we may always be in actual submission to, and dependence on, your saintly disposition when we approach holy communion. For this purpose I submit myself fully to your power. F. Bourgoing (1585 - 1662), Vérités et excellences de Jésus Christ, Paris 1636, vol. 2, Méditation 19, § 3, pp. 183-184.
O Mary, this Son, you continue to offer without ceasing every day every time when one says Mass . . . . Have you not sufficiently contributed to the humiliations of Jesus when you put him to lie in a manger meant for animals? . . . Therefore how can you now agree to hand him over to the new humiliations which he undergoes in the Eucharist? For what else does it mean than immolating him on the altar? Is it not covering his body with cloths and enclosing him as a prisoner under the accidents of bread and wine which are even more base? . . . For offering him for us at the altar, you hand him over to a kind of mystical and sacramental death which separates his body mystically from his blood and which reduces him as it were to an annulment and to a destruction of all the functions of sensible sensitive and corporeal life. Jean de Machaut SJ (1599 - 1676), Le Thrésor, vol III, p. 155.
Intention to be spoken by a priest before saying a foundation Mass: I place her Son, Jesus Christ, into the hands (of Mary) by this foundation in as much as I can, and I beg her with my whole heart to offer it herself to God in this daily sacrifice as she does offer it and has offered it, in time and in eternity, on earth as in heaven. Charles de Condren (1637?), Lettres du P. de Condren publiées par P. Auvray et A. Jouffrey, Paris 1943, appendix 1, § 6.
Mary is also something greater than temples or tabernacles, . . . she is priest. What do we mean with a priest of the new covenant? A priest has the power to mystically produce the body of the Lord giving that body its sacramental form . . . . I allow myself to say that Mary is to first to say Mass, by agreeing to the Incarnation and so preparing the victim . . . Mary fulfils in advance the sacrifice of the cross by preparing what is required for it . . . . More than any priest she can point at her cruficied Son and say: This is my body! Mary is therefore not a priest who does not share in the sacrifice, but a priest who puts herself into the victim who is the heavenly bread. Bishop Nazlian, Actes du 25e congrès eucharistique international, Lourdes 1914, pp. 9-10.
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