Friday, April 27, 2018

Our Lady of Montserrat

A mountain view of the Benedictine Monastery and basilica at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
The Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain. Photo: Miriadna/Monastery at Montserrat

With today being the Feast of Our Lady of Montserrat, I thought it fitting to publish today's post in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I first discovered Our Lady of Montserrat many years ago from Michael H. Brown's devotional book, Seven Days With Mary, which some of you may recall from my previous posts on Our Lady of Prompt Succor and Our Lady of Good Counsel. In total, there are seven Marian devotions with the remaining four being: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and Our Lady of Saragossa; all of which have been officially recognized and sanctioned by the Church.

Montserrat is an impressive, towering mountain in Catalonia, Spain whose majestic height peaks at 4,055 ft, and at approximately two-thirds of the way up (2,846 ft) is the sanctuary: the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat and the basilica where the slender statue (Black Madonna) of Mary is located. Brown describes Montserrat as, "...[O]ne of the world's most holiest and august sanctuaries." (16)

Of the ten pages about Our Lady of Montserrat, Brown dedicated the first five pages—the remaining pages consisted of meditations and prayers—to the sharing of his pilgrimage experience at Montserrat, which also included: a brief historical note on the origin of this devotion; the significance of Mary's apparitions and intercession over the centuries; and the importance of miraculous images and statues in the history of the Church.

Citing the example of the Apostle Luke's painting or carving of Our Lady, Brown went on to note that such images are important ways for Heaven to communicate with humans. Accompanying these images have been special graces, heavenly blessings, and Mary's intercession; the statue at the sanctuary in Montserrat is another example of Heaven's communication with us.

A photo of the basilica and monastery at Montserrat.
The basilica and monastery at Montserrat. Photo: Torero from nl [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The statue in the basilica at Montserrat is known as "Little Dark Lady of Montserrat" or "La Jerosolimitana" (Native of Jerusalem). It is located in an alcove high above the altar where pilgrims are granted access to it by a narrow stairway, allowing each individual to get close to the statue.

At this majestic setting, Brown shared that the time he spent within the "incredible gold-gilded basilica" was one in which he received tangible graces from a statue that is only three feet tall. Describing the statue as Romanesque in style, with a dark Byzantine look of Mary's face, Brown wrote that being in its presence leaves pilgrims in "reverential awe."

The exact origin of the statue is not known, but what is known is that as far back as 718, the statue was hidden in a cave from Arab invaders, where it remained undiscovered for two centuries. In 890, local boys spotted a strange light coming from the eastern part of the mountain, where upon their investigation they heard the sound of music and canticles. The boys informed a local priest in the village of Monistrol, who did not believe them at first, but upon visiting the location, he too experienced the same light and inexplicable music. The priest informed the local bishop in Manresa who headed for the site together with a procession of villagers.

The statue of the Black Madonna in Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
The Black Madonna in Montserrat. Photo:
Feel the Planet/Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain
Upon arrival at the entrance of the cave, and after having experienced the canticles, lights, and fragrant aroma, the bishop ordered the entry into the cave where the image was discovered. That discovery prompted the bishop to have it placed in the cathedral in Manresa, but when those carrying the statue could no longer move where the basilica and monastery currently exist, it was understood to be a sign for the sanctuary to be built on that very spot.

Among some of the pilgrims who have gone to Montserrat have been: Jaime 1 (El Conquistador), St. Vincent Ferrer, King Louis IV, and St. Ignatius Loyola, who after his time at the sanctuary divested his cloths, gave them to a poor man, and proceeded to spend time alone in a cave near Manresa where he wrote his well known spiritual exercises.

Accompanying Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World was one of Montserrat's hermits, and after having reached his destination, Columbus dedicated one of the first churches to the Virgin of Montserrat, where today in the Carribean there is an island that bears the same name.

One of the Benedictine abbots from Montserrat, Giuliano ella Rovere, eventually became pope; "the" pope who hired Michaelangelo. 

Brown quoted the Emperor Carlos V who stated, "A certain divinity which I cannot explain flows from the sanctuary of Montserrat all over the mountain." (18) From his own personal experience Brown wrote, "I cannot more highly recommend a sanctuary than Montserrat. I was truly surprised by the strength of its effect. I was impressed by the atmosphere of holiness way up that unique mountain and what it taught me about praying in solitude." (19)

Meditating and praying with Seven Days With Mary, is essentially a time of Divine Intimacy: a personal retreat where one enjoys a constant feeling of peace and receives an abundance of graces. It is an opportunity to draw closer to Mary, to open ourselves and allow Our Lady, in an ever increasing way, to be our light to Christ and show us the path to Jesus.

This is precisely what Mary's role has been and continues to be: to spiritually prepare Her children for Heaven. To do so, Mary wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us, so as to lead us to have a more personal relationship with Jesus. As Brown points out, Mary has something to give each one of us personally, and he expressed his hope that through Seven Days With Mary, each one of us will receive it. To that end Brown suggests, "Meditate on each major appearance that is reviewed in this book and apply the lessons to your own lives. There are hidden meanings. There are hidden lessons...This is a book of how to apply all that we have learned about Mary to our own personal lives." (vii)

A mountain view of Santa Cova, where the Black Madonna statue was found in Monserrat
Santa Cova in the mountains at Montserrat
where the Black Madonna was found. Photo:
Hello Jetlag/Montserrat Monastery and Mountains:

An Easy Day Trip From Barcelona
Brown recommends meditating and praying for seven consecutive days to receive the maximum benefit. As to which particular devotion to begin and end with, it doesn't matter so long as each day is dedicated to only one devotion.

To aid each individual's effort to meditate upon Mary's role, and walk with Her to find our way through the current darkness, Brown arranged it so that each day includes: meditations, litanies, and other prayers related to the individual devotions; an additional brief meditation, contemplation, and ejaculation; and the suggestion to pray the Rosary, especially the Scriptural Rosary. In the chapter dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat, Brown also included two consecration prayers. Here is a contemplation that Brown provided from that chapter, which spotlights the richness of this devotional book, "However much the world tempts us, we know that it is a passing place and that if we do good, if we help others—most of all, if we are reverential, if love and serve Christ, and if we are humble, hidden as the Virgin's statue was hidden—we will resurface, as at Montserrat, in glory." (23)

The added benefit of this devotional book is the opportunity to seek the aid of Mary for our families, friends, and others that we care about, our respective countries, and the world as a whole.

We don't need to expend a great deal of energy to recognize how the world is in great need of God's Divine Intervention, for which the Church has historically appealed to Mary's intercession. Pope Leo III in his encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio wrote about that appeal to Mary, and how the Rosary is instrumental to remedy the many evils of society: the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

Immorality, materialism, and greed have always existed, but as Brown noted in the Preface, our time is an "unusual and special time," one in which "...[T]he level to which our very institutions have fallen gives great pause and recalls corrupt times like those back during the fall of Rome or during the Middle Ages." (vi)

Today's moral disorder has ushered in a Culture of Death: abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide; contraception; in vitro fertilization; and the desensitization of all threats (including the death penalty in some countries) to the value and inviolability of human life, creating in the process a deep crisis of conscience. We also see the effects of the global sexual revolution: pornography and pornovision; sexually explicit advertising; the LGBTQ agenda; gender mainstreaming; the indoctrination of children and our youth in the education system with sexual immorality, and the list goes on.

But no matter how long that list may be or become, we always have recourse to Mary. From the history of the Catholic Church, we know of Mary's purpose at Her many apparitions: to identify and expose the demonic influence upon people and regions in various parts of the world, to dispel them from both, and lead each individual back to Jesus. 

So numerous are Mary's apparitions—estimated to be in the thousands—in countries like Italy, France, and Spain that today there are literally hundreds of sanctuaries, shrines, monuments, and churches built at those sites in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In a world that seems increasingly evil and indifferent to it, we need to pray (especially the Rosary, the most powerful prayer) to Our Lady that through Her intercession God's Divine Intervention will uproot and remove the moral disorder in our respective countries and restore them to, as St. John Paul II put it, a "Culture of Life."

We should also seek the comfort of Mary's protective mantle, and implore Her to generously dispense an abundance of graces upon us.

Our Lady of Montserrat, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. My daughter gave birth to her 9th child yesterday and named her Virginia Louise in honor of Our Lady of Montserrat and St Louis De Montfort. May her family be richly blessed by Our Lady!


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