Today, August 22nd the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
From the earliest ages of the catholic church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen (Venerable Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam 1).
During my recent pilgrimage in Lourdes, I witnessed Mary’s Queenship being honored in a number of ways.
One event stood out to me the most. I’d like to share it with you because it connects to today’s feast.
Torchlight Marian Procession
At nine o’clock every evening there’s a Torchlight Marian Procession at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The procession begins at the Grotto where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. Several people are responsible for carrying the statue of Notre-Dame de Lourdes which leads the procession.
People from all over the world gather together to pray the Rosary in multiple languages. Those participating (either by processing behind the statue or watching from the top of the Basilica) carry candles.
After each decade of the Rosary everyone sings “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria. Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” and raises their candles.
The entire sanctuary is illuminated by the candles; and even after the sun sets, the sanctuary is filled with light.
This reminds me of the way Our Lady illuminates the darkness in the world. She reflects the light of her Son and brings graces to those in her care.
Once the statue reaches the designated area (the front of the main Basilica), the pilgrims begin to gather in front of the statue.
Once the Rosary is complete the choir leads the pilgrims in singing Salve Regina, a well-known Marian hymn.
For those who don’t already know, Salve Regina is the original Latin version of Hail Holy Queen – the prayer normally said at the end of the Rosary.
(My soul is touched in a special way when I hear Latin. It was beautiful to hear so many Latin prayers and hymns in Lourdes!)
Even though I heard this hymn before the pilgrimage, I didn’t know all of the words in Latin; and I hadn’t felt particularly drawn to it.
After witnessing and participating in the procession, that quickly changed.
It was incredible to see so many people from so many cultures coming together to honor Our Lady in such a special way.
The glory of Mary’s Queenship is seen and felt in Lourdes, and it greatly differs from the royalty of the world.
She reigns with humility, compassion, devotion, and love.
She uses her power to glorify God, not to glorify herself.
She gathers those entrusted to her and leads them to Christ.
Blessed are we to have Mary as our holy Mother and Queen!
Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae:
Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus, exsules, filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
In hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia ergo, Advocata nostra,
Illos tuos misericordes oculos
Ad nos converte.
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis, post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens! O pia!
O dulcis Virgo Maria!
Hail Holy Queen
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy:
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, O most gracious Advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy towards us.
And after this, our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement! O loving!
O sweet Virgin Mary!