Mary: A Mother to Us All
Particularly important for seminarians is fostering a fervent love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and calling upon her maternal mediation. The Second Vatican Council’s decree on priestly training, Optatam Totius, said of those preparing for priesthood: “They should love and venerate with a filial trust the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was given as mother to the disciple by Christ Jesus as He was dying on the cross.” The Virgin Mary has always held a special role in the monastic community, which was founded in 1873 on the patronal title of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. However, the circumstances of the past several months have urged us to a renewed response of faith and trust in God’s providence by relying on the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Conception community is living out this “filial trust” in Mary in several different ways this year.
In March 2020, Abbot Benedict had the monastic community begin praying after Compline each evening Pope Francis’ prayer to “Our Lady, Health of the Sick” (see prayer card here).When the seminarians returned in August, they began praying this prayer to Our Lady after Evening Prayer in their chapel. This prayer beautifully calls upon Mary’s protection during this time of illness and the desire to “conform ourselves to the will of the Father.” Mary perfectly embodies the obedience of faith by her “yes” to the Archangel Gabriel and throughout her life. Mary’s love is gentle, unassuming, and a generous and free gift which emerged from a heart united to God. This is precisely the type of love we want the seminarians to develop if they are to be effective ministers. In asking Mary to preserve us from illness, we are also asking to be preserved from all that inhibits generously following Christ. We want to be united and intercede on behalf of all who are sick and suffering throughout the world, making us mindful of those beyond the vicinity of our community.
Masses on Saturday celebrated at Conception are offered in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year at the Saturday morning Mass in the seminary chapel, the seminarians pray a Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary after Mass, calling upon Mary with such titles as, “Mother of Good Counsel” and “Virgin most faithful.” On September 8, as the Church celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the seminarians and faculty of Conception Seminary College consecrated the academic year to Mary. Gathering as a community for the recitation of the Rosary, faculty and seminarians knelt together to offer a prayer of consecration that the Virgin Mary who taught and watched over the child Jesus as he “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom” may intercede also for those who seek to grow in wisdom and holiness.
A highlight for the monks and seminarians occurred on Sunday, October 4, as the Conception community, joined by parishioners of the local area, processed to the Marian Grotto. The Eucharistic procession took place under sunny afternoon skies with hymns resounding across the countryside. The Marian grotto was originally built as a memorial of thanksgiving for preservation from the 1919 smallpox epidemic and it is a favorite site of pilgrimage for monks, guests, and seminarians.
In all of the challenges we face, may the Blessed Virgin Mary pray for us and keep us in her protective care!
— Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB
Dean of Spiritual Formation