Tuesday, June 29, 2010

St Mechtilde - Have you heard of her?

I originally titled this post "The Efficacious Prayer of the Three Hail Marys".  (Yawn...)  St Gertrude thinking about death sounded much more intersting, so I used it instead.  I found out about St Mechtilde and this special prayer while researching this interesting antique French framed "picture" (for lack of a better word.) 

It looks like it's assembled from a cut-up antique holy card.  The picture features a gold paper lace archway with three little groupings of cherubs, each with a banner saying "Ave Maria" (Hail Mary). Mary displays her Immaculate Heart which radiates three rays: "Puissance, Misericorde, Sagesse" (Power, Mercy, Wisdom).   Also the frame is really neat because the glass is domed over the picture - not flat.

When I first saw the rays coming from Mary's heart, I thought they looked a little like arrows and might be something related to the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary (we can talk about that another time).  But when I saw that they had words written on them, I thought something else might be going on.  So I began googling.....

And here's what I found ~ The devotion to the three virtues of the Virgin Mary began with St. Mechtilde, who became a nun in Switzerland in 1258.  Mechtilde was very holy and had such a beautiful singing voice that she was known as Christ's nightingale; however, she suffered a lot of pain from some ailment.  (Just a side note...probably everyone had a lot more pains in 1258.  No Tylenol, no aspirin, no anesthesia....It makes me ache to think about it!) 

Because of this pain she meditated a lot, thought about death, and was especially devoted to the Virgin Mary.  (Thinking about death a lot was not such a morbid preoccupation then as we think of it now.  Death was much more common back then. There was the plague and dirty water and no concept of sanitation and lots of other things that we don't have to worry about today.  Either you were healthy or you were dead! Many great saints contemplated death by using a "momento mori" - an object that represented death, frequently a skull, that was used to focus their thoughts on the topic.  I think stray skulls were much more common back then too - what with all that death....)

Well, the Virgin Mary began to visit her in a series of visions!  On one of these visits, she gave St Mechtilde this prayer:

Hail, Mary, full of grace...etc. O Holy Mary! Our sovereign Queen! as God the Father, by his omnipotence, has made thee most powerful, so assist us at the hour of our death, by defending us against all the power that is contrary to thine. Hail, Mary, etc.

O Holy Mary! our sovereign Queen! as God the Son has endowed thee with so much knowledge and splendor, that it enlightens all Heaven, so in the hour of our death, illumine and strengthen our souls with the knowledge of the true faith, that they be not perverted by error or pernicious ignorance. Hail, Mary, etc.

O Holy Mary! our sovereign Queen! as the Holy Ghost has plentifully replenished thee with the love of God, so instill into us at the hour of our death, the sweetness of divine love, that all bitterness at that time may become acceptable and pleasant to us Hail, Mary, etc.
Each paragraph addresses a different gift given to Mary by the trinity.  God the Father gave her power, God the Son gave her wisdom, and God the Holy Spirit gave her Mercy.
During an apparition to St. Gertrude (a close friend and student of St Mechthilde), the Blessed Mother promised, "To any soul who faithfully prays the Three Hail Marys I will appear at the hour of death in a splendor of beauty so extraordinary that it will fill that soul with heavenly consolation."   Since people knew they could get sick today and die tomorrow, this prayer was a great way of being prepared to meet your Maker at any time!
Actually, the same could be said for us.  We just don't want to think about it.  So you might copy this little prayer down and keep it handy.  You never know when you might need it!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this,GOD works in mysteries ways. I belong to a prayer cenecle For the Love of GOD WORLDWIDE, and after the prayer group it is customary every year to draw a saint from a basket. Well I drew St.Mechtilde, which I'm sure the Holy Spirit guided me to. I also was googling and came across your post which is a beautiful devotion......thank you again...GOD BLESS!!!


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