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Wreaths for the Queen header image

 

Little Angelo lived in a winterless country where the weather was pleasant and sunny, the air was fragrant and flowers abounded. Angelo never saw snow or ice. He never had to stay indoors to keep warm. He spent hours on end outdoors, and at night sleep came fast and heavy.

However, one day Angelo fell seriously ill. His mother worried and nursed him night and day, watching for the smallest sign of improvement. But it never came. The poor woman cried and prayed, until, one day, looking through the window at a statue of the Mother of God in the garden, she had an inspiration. Taking her young boy in her arms, she rushed outside.

 

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Angelo's mother puts him on the ground before the statue of Our Lady and begs the Queen of Heaven to cure her son. Setting the sick boy on the ground before the statue and kneeling she prayed: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, my child is very sick, as you can see. Please make him well again. Mother, you loved your child Jesus. Have pity on this mother who also loves her child as you loved yours. Restore his health. Make him well again and I promise to teach him to love you, and serve you and to show his love for you always.”

Just as she spoke these last words, Angelo opened his eyes and smiled up at his mother. She knew that her son was cured, and joy filled her soul.

After that, the good woman taught Angelo to select flowers from the garden and to make wreaths of them.

He would then take them to the beautiful statue of Our Lady and place them at her feet. Kneeling down, he would say: “Holy Mother of Jesus, and my Mother, I give you this wreath of flowers to show you that I love you. I thank you for all you have done for me. Help me to keep my soul pure. Bless and keep my mother and my father.” Then he would recite the “Hail Mary.”

When he had finished his prayer, he would sit down near the statue and just look at Our Lady. He liked to “keep her company” and think about her at length. He imagined how beautiful and queenly she must be in person.  Then, standing up, he would reverently bow and run on his way.

 

Up the mountain

The years went by and Angelo grew up, and his love for Our Lady grew as well. Now a young man, he loved Our Lady more than ever. He had never ceased making her a wreath of flowers every day. In the depths of his soul, he began to hear her calling to him,

“Come, my son, up to the mountains, to my monastery of Saint Dominic.”

So one day, Angelo came in from the garden and said to his mother: “Mother, I must speak with you. Having thought and prayed much, I am convinced that Our Lady wishes me to join the fathers and brothers at the monastery of Saint Dominic in the mountains, to spend my life praying and working with them.”

His good mother was both happy and sad: happy that Our Lady had done her the honor of choosing her son for her own service; sad because of the necessary separation. Yet, she blessed God and the dear Lady for this privilege.

Father James gives Brother Angelo a rosarySo, Angelo went up the mountains and was admitted as a novice in the great monastery of Saint Dominic. He soon donned the white habit.

For a time he was clearly very happy. One day, however, the abbot, Father James, noticed that Brother Angelo was a bit downcast. Approaching him, he said:

“Brother, until recently you seemed content here, but now I see a shadow of sadness across your face. Will you tell me the reason?”

“Father,” answered the young friar as he stood by a window, “look outside and tell me what you see.”

The abbot did as the young brother bid and said:

“Well, I see the snow falling and blown all around by gusts of mountain air. I see many snowy peaks and valleys. But I see nothing unusual. It is always so up here…”

“Exactly, Father. Where I come from it is always green and flowers are abundant.

When I was a small boy I was healed of a serious illness after my good mother placed me at the feet of a statue of the Mother of God in our garden.

From that day I formed the habit of offering a wreath of flowers to her each day. I feel amiss in being unable to do that now, for it was my homage of gratitude to her. I believe that it kept me close to her and always in her service.”

Hearing this the abbot reached into a pocket of his white habit and brought out a Rosary. He held it out to Brother Angelo.

“Take this Rosary, my dear Brother, and be sad no longer. This is a wreath of flowers that Our Lady loves much more than the wreaths you used to give her. When you pray the Rosary, every “Our Father” and every “Hail Mary” changes into a beautiful rose in Heaven. There, the angels gather them and weave them into a crown that they present to Our Lady. She is more pleased with these heavenly flowers because they are much more beautiful than the flowers on earth. And these flowers do not fade but bloom forever.”

Brother Angelo took the Rosary and kissed it. From that day, every day, as the sun began to set, the brothers saw him seated in the chapel before the statue of Our Lady, eyes fixed on her, fingers busy sliding the beads, and lips moving quietly. He was glad that he could once again make a daily wreath for his Queen in Heaven.

 

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The Robbers’ Vision

One day Abbot James had a message to send to another monastery of Saint Dominic, and decided to send Brother Angelo and Brother Joseph with the important letter.

So the brothers descended the snowy slopes. They walked for many days until they came to a dense forest. As the sun began to sink below the horizon, they had almost reached the other side of the forest when Brother Angelo spoke:

“Brother Joseph, let us sit here on this log for a while and rest.”

As they sat, Brother Angelo pulled out his Rosary and said: “This is the hour when I always make a wreath of flowers for Our Lady. Let us recite the Rosary.”

And so they began to pray. Absorbed as the two friars were, they did not hear two highwaymen stealthily approaching them from behind intent on killing and robbing them.

As the two criminals raised their knives to strike, everything suddenly became pitch dark for them. They could see nothing. As the wretches stood paralyzed, a great light appeared before them. Within it they saw not only the two friars but also many angels. In the midst of all stood the most beautiful lady they had ever seen. As the friars prayed, the robbers noticed that the angels were making a wreath of white roses. When they finished, they presented it to the lady, who received it with a radiant smile. 

Brother Angelo and Brother Joseph sit on a log. The robbers kneel behind them.  Our Lady and angels with a wreath of roses appear in front of them.

Then they heard Brother Angelo say:

“Now, Brother Joseph, let us pray another Rosary for evil men, those who are great sinners, so they may come to realize their wrongdoing and turn back to God.”

As they began reciting this Rosary, the robbers saw the angels again busy at work weaving another wreath of roses. These roses, however, were blood-red. As the brothers prayed and the angels wove, the heavenly lady standing in their midst suddenly raised her beautiful eyes to the two astonished criminals. Immediately they fell to their knees, feeling as if their hearts were pierced by a sword. Burying their faces in their hands, they began to weep, feeling a great pain in their hearts for their terrible sins.  They understood how black their souls were and how merciful God and Our Lady were to them. Hanging their heads, they exclaimed:

“O God, O good Lady, have mercy on us miserable wretches!”

When they raised their heads again, they saw only the two friars. These, having heard the robbers’ prayer, had turned around. Now the two criminals were on their knees at the brothers’ feet, telling them of their crimes and their evil intentions toward them and asking them forgiveness. They described the beautiful vision of the Lady and the angels.

When they had finished, Brother Angelo spoke:

“My brothers, God has been good to you. By His blood, which He shed for you on the Cross, He has made you see the wrong you were doing. And through the power of Our Lady’s Rosary you now wish to be God’s friends again. Be sure that your souls will be made white once more if you confess and promise never to commit these crimes again.”

The robbers resolved to amend their lives. From that day onward they did penance for their crimes and sins and completely changed their ways. They, too, prayed the Rosary every day, which helped them stay on the good path and gave them the strength to remain honest and upright for the rest of their lives.

After that day, Brother Angelo was more devoted to the Rosary than ever. He knew that he was not only making magnificent daily wreaths for Our Lady but was also helping many a sinner to return to her. Certainly, these were wreaths more precious than the ones he had made as a child!

 


By Pauline Sanders
Illustrations by - A.F. Phillips

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 20, 2019

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because it...

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November 20

 

The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble, because
it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation,
because It gives us the Author of Grace;
it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself.

Pope St. Pius X


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Edmund the Martyr

The barbarian leader, Ingvar, offered to let the King live o...

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St. Edmund the Martyr

Though only about fifteen years old when crowned in 855, Edmund showed himself a model ruler from the first, anxious to treat all with equal justice, and closing his ears to flatterers and untrustworthy informers. In his eagerness for prayer he retired for a year to his royal tower at Hunstanton and learned the whole Psalter by heart, in order that he might afterwards recite it regularly.

In 870 Edmund bravely repulsed the two Danish chiefs, Hinguar and Hubba, who had invaded his dominions. However, they soon returned with overwhelming numbers, and pressed terms upon him which as a Christian he felt bound to refuse. In his desire to avert a fruitless massacre, he disbanded his troops and himself retired towards Framlingham; on the way he fell into the hands of the invaders. Having loaded the king with chains, his captors conducted him to Hinguar, whose impious demands he again rejected, declaring his religion dearer to him than his very life.

His martyrdom took place in 870 at Hoxne in Suffolk. After beating him with cudgels, the Danes tied him to a tree, and cruelly tore his flesh with whips. Throughout these tortures Edmund continued to call upon the name of Jesus, until at last, exasperated by his constancy, his enemies began to discharge arrows at him. This cruel sport was continued until his body had the appearance of a porcupine, when Hinguar commanded his head to be struck off.

From his first burial-place at Hoxne his relics were removed in the tenth century to Beodricsworth, since called Bury St. Edmunds, where arose the famous abbey of that name. His feast is observed November 20, and he is represented in Christian art with sword and arrow, the instruments of his torture.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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