'The Hail Mary'
“Hail, full of Grace” (Luke 1. 28)
Our Lady helped her mother
To wash the breakfast things,
And in the garden Gabriel
Waited, with folded wings.
Our Lady came to the garden
For lettuces and peas,
And Gabriel knelt to worship her
Humbly, on his knees.
Our Lady’s soul was shining,
The light was in her face ---
“Hail, full of grace,” said Gabriel,
“Hail, full of grace.”
He began a prayer
For you and me.
“Hail, Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee.”
“And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried
out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1. 41-42).
Our Lady had a cousin
Who was getting rather old,
Her name was Elizabeth
And she was good as gold.
Our Lady loved Elizabeth,
So God let her see
Who Our Lady was, and whose
Mother she would be.
“Blessed art thou among women,”
St. Elizabeth said,
“And blessed the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus.” Bow your head.
An angel and a saint
Showed us the way
Of greeting Our Lady
And what we should say.
“Behold a virgin…. shall bring forth a son, and they shall call
his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. i. 28, quoting Isaias vii. 14)
When Our Lord was a little new baby
And lay on Our Lady’s knees,
He heard the bees in the clover,
He heard the wind in the trees.
He remembered making the clover,
And telling the wind to blow,
He remembered putting the hum in a bee
And setting the trees to grow.
He remembered making Our Lady
To be Queen of Everything,
The Crown of the World, and His mother,
He, her son and her king ----
The angels call her holy,
And we will do the same,
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,”
Our Lord made her name.
“He was subject to them” (Luke ii.51)
Every day at Nazareth
St. Joseph sawed and chipped,
Our Lady bound his fingers up
When the chisel slipped.
Every day at Nazareth
Playing with the chips,
Our Lord made Our Lady
Boxes and ships.
Every day at Nazareth
Our Lady knelt to pray
For Joseph; and for you and me
Who must be good to-day.
“Pray for us sinners, now,”
Dear Our Lady, please,
While we are safe and happy
And can go on our knees.
“But he, taking her by the hand, cried out, saying: Maid, arise.
And her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And he bid them
give her to eat” (Luke viii. 54-5).
A friend of Our Lord’s in Galilee
Had a dear little girl who died.
Her mother was sad, and her father was sad,
And everybody cried,
Our Lord was coming to make her well,
But she died before he came,
So they told him not to bother,
But he bothered all the same.
He took the little girl’s hand in His,
And said: “Little maid, arise!”
And the little girl came to life again,
Sat up, and opened her eyes!
Death must come to stay at last
And sorrow hard to bear,
But it doesn’t really matter,
So long as Our Lord is there.
So we ask Our Lady
To pray for us then,
And come to us and bring her Son
“At the hour of our death
He is the Boy
‘I have little doubt that the return of liberty and prosperity to Ireland will mean the development of that Christian craftsmanship, in which Our Lady once taught the world in the decorative designs of the Dark Ages. Any impression so atmospheric must appear arbitrary, and it would be idle to mention the multitude of small experiences that have seemed to me to point to such a destiny. I will only mention two things out of a thousand; one an old story which I heard and even recorded long ago; the other a small incident that quite recently happened to myself’ but in both of which is expressed with a certain emotional exactitude the shade of fact and feeling that I mean. The first is a story that I heard in Donegal twelve years ago; but I know nothing of the origin of the story. It told how someone had met in the rocky wastes a beautiful peasant woman carrying a child, who on being asked for her name, answered simply: “I am the Mother of God, and this is Himself, and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last.” I had never forgotten this phrase, which expresses the spirit of which I speak in a language which is a natural literature; and I remembered it suddenly long afterwards, when I fancied I had found something that expressed it also, not in literature but in sculpture.
I was looking about for an image of Our Lady which I wished to give to the new church in our neighbourhood, and I was shown a variety of very beautiful and often costly examples in one of the most famous and fashionable Catholic shops in London. It was a very good shop, and the proprietor was not to blame if the nature of the find was something of a parable. It is the glory of the great Cult of Mary that she has appeared to painters and sculptors under a variety of bodily types almost wider than the actual variety of all the women in the world. She has been the patroness of so many lands and cities that she has become the centre or the prop of every scheme of ornament or school of architecture; and her garments have been made of all the materials of the world. Here there was everything, from what some would call the conventional dolls of the Repository to what some would call the harshest caricatures of the Primitives. But somehow I felt fastidious, for the first time in my life; and felt that the one kind was too conventional to be sincere and the other too primitive to be popular. There were the types of the bronze Byzantine gloom and types of the cereal Flemish exuberance; extravagances of Renaissance drapery, wrought in enamel or in metal, sprawling like a wheel of wings yet poised like a pillar; delicate figures in ivory or dark figures in ebony; all the multi-form manifestations of the most profound inspiration of the arts of our race. But, for some reason, as I have said, they left me not indeed cold, but vague, and I ended prosaically by following the proprietor to an upper floor, on some matter of mere business; the receipting of an old bill or what not. But the upper room was a sort of lumber room, full of packages and things partially unpacked, and it seemed suddenly that she was standing there, amid planks and shavings and sawdust, as she stood in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. I said something, and the proprietor answered rather casually: “Oh, that’s only just been unpacked; I’ve hardly looked at it. It’s from Ireland!”
The colours were traditional; but the colours were not conventional; a wave of green sea had passed through the blue and a shadow of brown earth through the crimson, as in the work of the ancient colourists. The conception was common and more than common, and yet never merely uncommon. She was a peasant and she was a queen, and in that sense she was a lady; but not the sort of sham lady who pretends to be a peasant, nor the sort of sham peasant who pretends to be a lady. She was barefoot like any colleen on the hills; yet there was nothing merely local about her simplicity. I have never known who was the artist and I doubt if anybody knows; I only know that it is Irish, and I almost think that I should have known without being told. I have heard of on other man who felt as I do, and went miles out of his way at intervals to revisit the little church where the image stands. She looks across the little church with an intense earnestness in which there is something of endless youth; and I have sometimes started, as if I had actually heard the words spoken across that emptiness; I am the Mother of God and this is Himself, and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last.‘Christendom in Dublin’ by GK Chesterton (1932)
'Christendom in Dublin', a classic novel written by G.K. Chesterton, records his impressions of the 31st Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 1932.
The Catholic Church in Ireland has suffered terribly over recent decades. The disastrous liturgical and other changes imposed after Vatican II, combined with the on-going clerical abuse scandals, damaged the faith and trust of so many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, that the Church today in Ireland compared to 1932 when Chesterton wrote the above, is but a shadow of its former self.
We Catholics in the United Kingdom owe a tremendous amount to our fellow Catholics from Ireland, who over many decades have been the backbone of our parishes and Catholic organisations. We pray for our Irish friends and for the Church in Ireland.