Visitors to Rome know very well that the city streets are filled with images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They can be found on the walls of private homes, apartment houses, embassies, restaurants, you name it! Many are centuries old, although you’ll see that there are a few new ones too; some are getting fairly decrepit, while others are painstakingly maintained.
The Church’s veneration–not worship–of Mary can be traced all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity. Early prayers asking the Mother of God for her intercession are still with us. The Sub tuum praesidium, for example, goes back to at least the 300’s A.D.:
“We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God! Despise not thou our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed virgin!”
The Spanish Saint Ildephonsus penned this to Our Lady, in the 600’s:
“O my sovereign, and Mother of my God, thou art blessed amongst all women, pure amongst all virgins, and queen of all the heavenly host; all nations pronounce thee blessed. Vouchsafe that I may publish as much as possible thy greatness, that I may love thee to the utmost of my power, and that I may serve thee with all the capacity of my soul.”
In the 12th century, St. Bernard gave us this lovely prayer:
“Sweet and amiable Mary, no one can pronounce they name without feeling the greatest desire of loving thee; and they who love thee cannot call thee to mind, without being animated to love thee more. Pray for us to thy divine Son, that He would vouchsafe to strengthen our weakness; no one is better entitled to speak in our favor to thy God and ours, than thyself, who art nearest to Him! Intercede, then, for us, O blessed Mother, because thy Son hears thee, and thou canst obtain whatever thou askest.”
And in the 18th century, St. Alphonsus of Liguori composed this, in honor of the Virgin Mary:
“Most holy Immaculate Virgin and my Mother Mary, to thee who art the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the world, the advocate, the hope, the refuge of sinners, I have recourse today–I, who am the most miserable of all. I render thee my most humble homage, O great Queen, and I thank thee for all the graces thou hast conferred on me until now, particularly for having delivered me from hell, which I have so often deserved. I love thee, O most amiable Lady; and for the love which I bear thee, I promise to serve thee always, and to do all in my power to make others love thee also.”
These Marian images which are scattered throughout the streets of the city aren’t just pretty decorations. They’re meant to remind us that the Virgin Mary is looking out for us! Maybe this medieval plaque, still plastered onto a wall in the center of Rome, sums it up best:
“O you that pass through this street, don’t forget to salute MARY!”
Happy Mother’s Day, O holy Mother Mary!