Mater spei (Mother of Hope)



Our Lady of Hope as she appeared in Pontmain, France, 1871

The title "Mother of Hope" is not entirely new. Like "Mater misericordiae", Our Lady is also addressed in reference to this title in the Salve Regina: et spes nostra salve, hail to our hope. Additionally, there were small confraternities, primarily in Europe, that invoked Mary as "Mother of Hope". However, it was not until 1871 that the title really caught on, so to speak.

In January of 1871, France was fighting the Prussian army and things were not going well. At Pontmain, the Prussians were at the edge of the city. A young boy went out to finish his chores on the family farm and, to his astonishment, saw a beautiful Lady hovering in the air. His brother also saw it. They rushed to eat their supper, then went back outside. The apparition was still there. A religious from the school brought two young girls, who also saw the vision of Mary. Soon, word spread through the town: the bad news was that the Prussians were closer than ever. The good news was that more and more people were coming to be near the visionaries, to pray the rosary and sing and recite other prayers, although they could see nothing. At last, something like a scroll unrolled itself, and the children read, "But pray, my children...my Son allows himself to be touched." The vision disappeared at 9 PM. It had been visible--to the children, anyway--for three hours.

The Prussians never attacked Pontmain, The next day, the frightened soldiers reported to their commanding officers that an "invisible Madonna" was blocking their way. They returned home, and the war finally ended. It was impossible, unbelievable, but it happened. This apparition, under the title Our Lady of Hope, was accepted by the Church in 1875, and a great basilica in honor of Our Lady of Hope was built there.

So, how does this (probably) little-known apparition come into our lives today?

We need to be reminded that Mary is our Mother of Hope. Our lives in this modern world of serious political division, racial unrest, and COVID-19 all remind us in the most forceful way: we need hope, and Mary is our Mother of Hope. We have to hope for better days to come. As Charles Peguy wrote in his long poem, "The Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue":

The faith that I love best, God said, is hope...
Hope, said God, that does surprise me.
Even me...
It is faith that is easy and not believing that would be impossible. It is charity that is easy and not loving that would be impossible. But  it is hoping that is difficult.
And the easy way and the inclination is toward despair and that is the great temptation.

Holy Mary, Mater spei, Mother of Hope, pray for us!

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