What is your favourite image of Our Lady?
This is sooooo hard. I like nearly all images of Our Lady, though some are more appealing than others. But it depends what mood I'm in, so I collect lots... I have statues of Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Grace, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Waters, the Pietá, and the Madonna and Child in two different poses... (and I have pictures... you get the general idea...)
If I absolutely had to choose one, it would probably be Our Lady of Grace. I think that's what it's called, though I've also heard it called the Immaculate Conception. I prefer the versions where she's stomping on the serpent... There is a statue looking very similar in the garden of St. Bernadette's convent in Nevers. They called it Our Lady of the Waters, and it wasn't coloured. St. Bernadette is reported as saying she considered it closest to Our Lady in attitude, and used to spend many hours in prayer before it. I have a small statue of it, and once I fix the connection between phone and computer, I shall put up a picture. I can't find anything on Google...
What is your favourite Marian feast?
All of them. Every single one. I'm not going to pick. It's the same woman in each, after all!
What is your favourite Marian hymn/anthem?
Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning. And it's just so good that I have to include the words (there are slight differences between the version I have here and some of the others on the Internet...
Mary Immaculate, star of the morning,
Chosen before the creation began,
Chosen to bring, for thy bridal adorning,
Woe to the serpent and rescue to man.
Here, in an orbit of shadow and sadness,
Veiling thy splendor, thy course thou hast run;
Now thou art throned in all glory and gladness,
Crowned by the hand of thy Saviour and Son.
Sinners, we worship thy sinless perfection;
Fallen and weak for thy pity we plead;
Grant us the shield of thy sovereign protection,
Measure thine aid by the depth of our need.
Frail is our nature, and strict our probation,
watchful the foe that would lure us to wrong;
succour our souls in the hour of temptation,
Mary Immaculate, tender and strong.
See how the wiles of the serpent assail us,
see how we waver and flinch in the fight;
let thine immaculate merit avail us,
make of our weakness a proof of thy might.
Bend from thy throne at the voice of our crying,
Bend to this earth which thy footsteps have trod;
Stretch out thine arms to us, living and dying,
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.
There is something haunting about the tune: and looking it up, I discover that it was written by Bach. 'Nuff said!
I do like quite a lot of other Marian hymns... in fact, the only one so far I found I didn't like was written in the late 1970s... "Mother of God's living Word" if you must know... the words are really clunky... and the tune stinks...
What is your favourite Marian place of pilgrimage?
This is the easiest question to answer: Lourdes ! Before I went the first time, I was told that it was too commercialised. Rubbish. Every town has shops: fact of life (hey, we all need to make a living!). Shops sell things. In Lourdes, the shops sell rosaries, medals, statues and holy pictures. There are worse things to sell. If that's being too commercialised, then we need more of it.
I am drawn to Lourdes because I have been seriously ill several times in my life, and at one time was contemplating having my leg amputated, as it was better than a life of constant pain. Through the grace of God, prayer, and a good surgeon, I was spared that, and I am now able to walk without crutches.
The scientist in me rejected the idea of miracles: I assumed that they were events happening to credulous people combined with a lack of medical knowledge. I now know that the miracles still occur, but that the scientific examination of miracles by the Catholic Church is more rigorous than the evidence used to judge any other area of scientific endeavour. Peer review is sufficient to get work published in a scientific journal; miracles have to be examined by scientists who don't accept the existence of God.
I love Lourdes. The prayerful atmosphere, the peace, the knowledge that Our Lady appeared there, and the fact that the sick and disabled are the "First-Class" pilgrims just bring a lump to my throat...
What is your favourite Marian devotion?
All of them... but most especially the Rosary.
Who to tag... hmmn. Last time it was restricted to this side of the pond (I was being charitable, you understand!) so this time I shall go global: Ma Beck, the Catholic Caveman, Owl of the Remove and Catholic Mom in Hawaii.
UPDATE: Fr Paul, the Great Gable in the Lune Valley wants to be tagged too. OK, tagged.