By Larry Peterson
Most of us know the story of St. Augustine. He was born in North Africa in the year 354. His father, Patricius, was a pagan landowner and his mother, Monica, a Christian. Monica prayed fervently for her wayward boy to become a Christian too. Eventually, her prayers were answered and her boy did embrace Christianity becoming a great Doctor of the Church.
However, many of us do not know of the influence of the Blessed Virgin in this transformation. It is because of the conversion of St. Augustine that one of the many titles she is venerated under is Our Lady of Consolation. And this never would have happened without his mom faithfully praying for her boy, a woman who would one day be known as St. Monica.
Monica is honored for her unyielding Christian virtues which included; dealing with the pain and suffering brought on by her husband’s chronic acts of adultery and her own son’s immoral ways. It was said she cried herself to sleep virtually every night. But she did not despair. Rather, she turned her heartache over to the Blessed Virgin asking for her help. And help she received. Our Lady appeared to Monica and gave her the sash she was wearing. The Virgin assured Monica that whoever wore the sash would receive her special consolation and protection. It was given to her son and ultimately became part of the Augustinian habit.
Eventually, the Augustinian monks founded the Confraternity of the Holy Cincture (belt) of Our Lady of Consolation. The statues of Mary as Our Lady of Consolation depict her and the Christ child dressed in elaborate vestments. Mary’s halo has twelve, small stars and her tunic is held in place by a black cincture. The three patrons of the Augustinians are St. Augustine, St. Monica and Our Lady of Consolation. In addition, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation inspired what is known as the “Augustinian Rosary” which is sometimes called the “Corona of Our Mother of Consolation.”
During the early 1700s, the devotion to Our Lady of Consolation was introduced to Malta. It was here that people began asking for a special blessing invoking Our Lady of Consolation for the dying. It became such a popular custom that monks could leave the monastery without asking permission to confer this blessing. Eventually, devotion to Our Lady of Consolation spread all over the world.
In the United States, the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation are located in Carey, Ohio. The church was first built in 1868 and named St. Edward. When Father Joseph Growden was given the responsibility of caring for the church he asked the faithful in Carey to pray to Mary, Our Lady of Consolation for her help in getting a new church built. He promised to name the church “Our Lady of Consolation”.
On May 24, 1875, a statue of Our Lady of Consolation, having been procured by Father Joseph from the Cathedral of Luxembourg, was carried from St. Nicholas church to the new church in Carey. News reports tell of the tremendous rains that fell that day and, during the seven-mile procession, not a drop fell on the statue or the people bringing the statue to its new home. Upon arriving in the new church the rain fell once again—everywhere.
Today devotion* to Our Lady of Consolation is of great importance in such places as Luxembourg, England, France, Japan, Manila, Turin, Malta, Australia, Venezuela and other places. Pope St. John Paul II visited the shrine in Germany. Our Lady of Consolation has certainly made herself available in many places so her children can quickly come to her if need be. The Blessed Mother is certainly a protective Mom, isn’t she? You just have to love being Catholic.
St. Augustine, pray for us; St. Monica, pray for us; and
Our Lady of Consolation, please pray for us all.
*Feast Days for Our Lady of Consolation are varied. The Augustinians celebrate it on September 4; the Benedictines on July 7. In the USA it is usually on October 22 or the last Sunday in October.
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2017