A special collection in the liturgy library

The month of May, traditionally devoted to The Mother of the Lord, is just around the corner. So, it's a good time to mention a two-volume mini library called "Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary." They are a "sacramentary" containing Mass prayers and the Order of Mass and a Lectionary for those 46 Masses.

The Masses collected and their associated celebrations are drawn from the various titles of the Blessed Virgin. Not included are Masses for various Marian celebrations and the many titles under which Mary is honored across the globe. So, Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes are not there, but are in the Roman Missal; Knock, La Salette, and Czestochowa are not either in this collection nor the Roman Missal but are found in the missals of the nations where Mary is honored in those titles. In the Roman Missal, we find solemnities, feasts, and memorials. Some of those are also included in the collection, e.g., Holy Name of Mary, Mother of the Church, or Immaculate Heart of Mary. This collection is intended for use by shrines and parishes and to provide a variety of celebrations on Saturday, the traditional day on which Masses for the Blessed Virgin are encouraged, particularly when there are no other required celebrations.

This collection was initiated by Pope St. John Paul II, who was widely noted for his personal devotion to Mary and hoped to encourage such devotion in the whole church with this collection of Masses.

Each Mass in either the sacramentary or the lectionary has an accompanying explanation of the Mass and some biblical and historical notes. There is also an additional, though not liturgical, volume associated with this collection entitled "Preaching the Scriptures of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary" by David O. Brown. It is especially helpful for homilists when they choose one of these Masses.

The titles are arranged according to the various liturgical seasons: Advent (3), Christmas (6), Lent (5), Easter (4) and Ordinary Time (28). Scanning the table of contents, we see several Masses that bear titles of parishes of the archdiocese, both current and historical: Help of Christians, Gate of Heaven, Queen of the Apostles, Queen of Peace and Good Counsel.

Let's look a bit closer at one of the Masses, #42, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians.

First, this is the title of one of our parishes, Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton. There also was another parish with this title in Concord.

This title is also interesting as it is under the title that the Blessed Virgin is honored as the patroness of the continent country of Australia. The prayers that the Australians use are a bit different from the ones in this collection, but it is nevertheless the same title and celebrated on the same date, May 24.

Next, this title is especially dear to the Salesian Family. The Salesian priests and brothers used to have two high schools here in the archdiocese, Dom Savio in East Boston and Don Bosco in Boston. They still have the Salesian Boys and Girls Club and, of course, the only Salesian to be a bishop in the U.S. was our own Bishop Emilio Allue, late auxiliary of the archdiocese. Around our country and the globe, many parishes, schools and churches entrusted to the Salesians have this as their title and patronal day. As with the Australian texts, the texts the Salesians employ are a bit different from the ones in this collection.

The feast was established by Pope Pius VII, of whom the Mass introduction says "had been driven out of Rome by armed forces, was being held prisoner, all the Church prayed incessantly for him, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The Pope was unexpectedly set free and returned to Rome on 24 May 1814. As a sign of thanksgiving, he instituted a feast in honor of Mary under the title of Help of Christians."

And indeed May 24 is the date on which that feast is still observed. This same Pope Pius is the one who established the Diocese of Boston on April 8, 1808.

The central portion of the Preface for this Mass sums up the devotion to and the mission of those who celebrate this feast.

"You have given the Immaculate Virgin Mary,

the mother of your Son,

to Christian peoples as their helper and mother,

so that they may fight bravely for the faith,

and being firmly rooted in the teaching of the Apostles

may weather life's storms and attain the perfect

joy of their heavenly home."

This collection keeps before us all the many ways the Blessed Virgin is celebrated and honored, principally, of course, because she is the Mother of God and is always supporting with her prayers the sisters and brothers of her Son, Jesus Christ.