Friday, August 20, 2021

The “Comites Mariae” of the Assumption

Right after Christmas there are several feasts in a row that celebrate the victory of the “comites Christi” or companions of Christ: St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents. Often, the octave of a major feast is populated with saints fittingly celebrated during it on account of some special connection with the great mystery. The octave of the Assumption affords us another marvelous example, which we could name the “comites Mariae.” Something similar can be seen in other Marian octaves as well.

August 16
is the feast of St. Joachim, father of the BVM. The traditional date of his death is March 20, while the Eastern churches normally connect him with the birth of Mary, which of course is also fitting. He was placed on this date by Pope St Pius X.

August 17
is the feast of St. Hyacinth, a disciple of St. Dominic, of whom the following miracle is told: “During a Mongol attack, as the friars prepared to flee the invading forces, Hyacinth went to save the ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament, when he heard the voice of Mary asking him to take her, too. Hyacinth lifted the large, stone statue of Mary, as well as the ciborium. He was easily able to carry both, despite the fact that the statue weighed far more than he could normally lift. Thus he saved them both.”

(About August 18, the commemoration of St. Agapitus of Palestrina, there seems little to say in this connection.)

August 19 is the feast of St. John Eudes, a tremendous propagator of devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. On August 22 in the Roman Rite, we will celebrate Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.

August 20 is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the greatest devotees of and preachers on the Virgin Mary in the Church’s history. He received mystical milk from her breast, symbol of the heavenly wisdom he preached (it is remarkable how much less squeamish our ancestors were about such things, as many works of art indicate), whilst founding or co-founding 163 monasteries. Many of these houses were dedicated to Our Lady’s Assumption, the great feast of contemplative religious. A pious legend says it was Bernard who added the final invocation: “O clement, O loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary!” to the Salve Regina. 

August 21
is the feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who bears a striking resemblance to Our Lady in her “double vocation”: first, she was a wife, mother, and widow; second, she was a consecrated religious living perpetual continence (after her husband died, she wrote the name of Jesus with a hot iron on her breast as part of her vow). St. Jane died on December 13 but was placed here for reasons that are difficult to discern; perhaps it was precisely to put her in range of the Assumption.

What a remarkable “lineup” for the octave!

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