Titles of Our Lady from the Litany of Loreto

Spiritual Vessel

A vessel is made to contain something.  A "Spiritual Vessel," then, means one made to contain something which does not appear outwardly to the senses, but is of the spirit, of the soul.  "All the glory and beauty of the King's daughter is within."  This title, then, describes the beauty of Mary's soul.

We should all like to have a detailed description of Our Lady's personal appearance, but this is not given to us.  She is a "Spiritual Vessel."  She hides Her virtues even from Her own eyes, like some lovely flower, folding in upon itself, lest the precious fragrance should escape.  No, every particle of the precious gift is to be kept all alone for Her Beloved.

It is strange how little mention there is of Our Lady in the Gospels, although before She came, Prophets and the Scriptures had described Her perfections by many wonderful types, such as the great women of the Old Testament—Esther, Judith, and the rest—and by beautiful images, such as the cedar of Lebanon, the cypress tree, the palm tree, the rose of Jericho, the fair olive tree in the plains, and all the others which we read of in the 24th chapter of Ecclesiasticus, and in many other passages from the Books of Wisdom in the Bible.

This silence of the Gospels about Mary is Her own doing.  She it was who must have instructed St. Luke in the details of the Sacred Infancy and the Hidden Life of Jesus, for no one but Holy Mary and St. Joseph had been eye-witnesses of them.  Yet how little mention there is of Mary; nothing but the barest narration of facts, and then only what is needful for the history of Her Son.   But we have one little phrase which tells us something of what was within that Spiritual Vessel.  "Mary kept all these words, pondering them in Her Heart."  Her thoughts were always full of Jesus, of the words He spoke, of the things which happened to Him.  This was the constant occupation of Her mind, the food of Her thoughts.  Let us consider for a moment what are the ordinary subjects of our thoughts when we are left to ourselves.  If we find we are brooding over slights and injuries, and considering reprisals on the first opportunity, or gloating over some word of praise, some little success which has flattered our vanity, dreaming of future conquests and successes, and perhaps despising others less fortunate, or harboring harsh and uncharitable judgments of others—ah! then our hearts are very far indeed from being spiritual vessels!  Here we may learn a precious lesson from Our Blessed Mother.  We can all ponder, turn over in our minds, the deeds and sayings and events of the life of Jesus, and make them our chosen mental occupation.  Thus our minds will become a little more spiritual, a little more like that of Our Mother, the Spiritual Vessel.  If we persevere in this practice of making Jesus, His Life and His Mysteries, the sovereign preoccupation of our minds and hearts, we shall have found a treasure which will be to us a priceless blessing.  We shall learn gradually to be quiet, contented, and happy within our own minds, and lose that restless craving after outside excitement—which is the source of so much unhappiness—because we have found within an unfailing source of joy and contentment.  The Heart of Mary might well be called "a vessel of peace," for Her mind, as St. Agatha said of Herself, was "strongly settled and grounded upon Christ."  Thus, even with the great tragedy of the Passion so clearly foreseen, and its black shadow ever looming in front, and the deep surges of sorrow welling in undercurrents beneath, Mary could ever say: "My spirit hath rejoiced in God My Savior."  Deep peace, calm, and contentment in God were always Hers.  And they will be ours, too, if we, like Her, ever "keep all these words"— the happenings of the Life of Jesus, pondering them in our hearts.

Beautiful Spiritual Vessel!  It is the beauty of Mary's soul which it concerns us most to know.  This very hiddenness, silence, secrecy about Herself shows what was Her lowly opinion of Herself.  What does She say?  "He that is mighty hath done great things to Me."  Her whole thought is of Her blessedness in being the Mother of God.  See how many centuries passed before Her own great glory, Her Immaculate Conception, was brought out and proclaimed before men!  It is as though that vase of beautiful and costly fragrance, Her soul and its perfections, were kept sealed up, and only in spite of itself, as it were, let its perfume escape.  She had no desire to attract praise and notice.   Never in Her whole life was there one thought, word or deed aimed at Her own honor, glory or advantage; She was always and only "all for Jesus."

Are we like Her?  Are we anxious to hide or to publish our own gifts, excellences, and successes?  If ever we are passed over or slighted, and our good points unnoticed, let us think of Our Blessed Mother, the Spiritual Vessel, and how little She cared for praise or notice.  She did not even let Herself think of Her perfections or virtues.  All She did think of was to praise God, and to thank and bless Him for His gifts to Her, and to wish all others to join Her in doing so.

Our Lord in the Gospel speaks of a wise man who built his house on a rock, and the rains came, and the wind blew upon that house, and it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock.  That is a true image of the soul that lives on Christ, His words and deeds.  That soul is founded on a solid, immovable foundation, which nothing can shake.  The house may indeed tremble amid the violence of the tempest, but the rock cannot be shaken, and the house will not fall, for it has a strong foundation, the soul's faith in Christ.  That is what Mary had.

Those who are thus founded upon Christ have a something solid within them, upon which they can rest, which completely satisfies all their longings; they are not dependent on pleasures and entertainment, they have something better within their souls.

Mary was infinitely happier in thus praising and pleasing God only, than any human being has ever been or will ever be in their supremest moment of world-wide fame and success.  For though praise is undoubtedly sweet to all of us, it can never fill or satisfy the soul; it is not what the soul is made for.  Only God can fill and satisfy the soul which was made by Himself for Himself alone.

Motto: "All the glory of the King's Daughter is within."

Practice: Watch over your thoughts and give them first to Christ.

Example

Our Lady of Laus

Laus, in France, is an Alpine sanctuary of the Madonna.  It lies in one of the most lovely valleys of the district, the snow-crowned mountains around being covered with vast forests, and adorned with choice flowers.  In this peaceful solitude it pleased Our Lady to show Herself to a humble shepherdess, Benoite Rencurel, born on the 29th of September, 1647.  When she was only five years old, a beautiful Lady drew her aside as she played with other children, and sprinkled her with water; and on another occasion when she and her sister had lost their way, Our Lady appeared to them and set them on the right path.

She was employed in keeping flocks, in which occupation she found her consolation in visits to a wayside chapel of Mary.  In the spring of 1664, she was making her way to a grotto in a rock, called Rocheaux-Fours, when a light from the grotto attracted her attention.  She then beheld a beautiful Lady smiling at her from the grotto.  Benoite felt no fear, and asked the Lady if she wished to buy lime from the adjacent kilns.

The Lady gave no answer, but kept on smiling.  These apparitions continued all through the year till August, when Benoite was advised to ask the Lady who She was, and if She wished a chapel built there.  The Blessed Virgin answered that it was Her wish to be honored in the valley, but not on that particular spot.  The visions ceased for a month or so, but later the Blessed Virgin led the child to a little old thatch-covered chapel, and made known to her that it was here She wished Her shrine established, from which great graces would be given to all the neighborhood.  She said She wished it to be built with the money of the poor.   Our Lady came each day to converse with Her little servant, and gave Her exact dimensions of the future shrine.  Finally She said: Now may My sanctuary quickly rise in this valley!  The wish of the Blessed Mother was carried out, and during the first two summers as many as sixty cures were effected at the humble Alpine sanctuary, all confirmed by official documents.  The heavenly apparitions to the humble Benoite continued for 54 years.  This humble child was also truly a Spiritual Vessel!

Laus

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