Poetic Meditation on The B.V.M.

Refuge of Sinners Madonna

 (Refuge of Sinners Madonna, Luigi Crosio)

For your prayer and meditation on Saturday, Our Lady’s own special day of the week, I can think of no better poem to read and ponder in your heart than The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins. Isn’t that the most startling title? The poet loved nature, and his poems come shot-through with natural imagery and metaphors–being no exception, this poem will surprise and amaze you with its richness of theology and natural imagery!

Some suggestions for use within your Domestic Church:

  • Meditation Read the poem aloud twice: the first time to work out the famous (and tricky!) “sprung rhythm” of Fr. Hopkins’ poetry, and the second time to soak up the sound of the words and their beautiful meaning. This poem ends with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin, and praying this with a “Hail Mary” or “Hail, Holy Queen” is a perfect way to conclude your meditation and prayer time.
  • Education Poetry is an ancient teaching tool.For your children (or students) who are mentally mature enough to listen to this poem all the way through, it provides beautiful lessons on Our Lady’s role in the Church, particularly as Mediatrix of Graces and our Heavenly Mother. Print it out and read it to them and with them. Young hearts respond immediately to beauty and love, both of which our Blessed Mother has, and this poet’s stirring words have.
  • Inspiration I have long noticed that art begets art. Whether you love to sketch and paint, compose music, make lovely table settings or decorate your Home Altar, reading this great poem will elevate your thoughts and inspire your artistic nature. Use Fr. Hopkins’ prayerful art to draw the true, good, and beautiful out of your own heart.

I can’t resist sharing some verses with you before you go, so below you will find some of my favorite sections of the poem, and I have bolded particularly-loved lines.

Near the very beginning of the poem, the poet says that the air:

“Minds me in many ways

Of her who not only

Gave God’s infinity

Dwindled to infancy

Welcome in womb and breast,

Birth, milk, and all the rest

But mothers each new grace

That does now reach our race

Mary Immaculate,

Merely a woman, yet

Whose presence, power is

Great as no goddess’s

Was deemèd, dreamèd; who

This one work has to do—

Let all God’s glory through,

God’s glory which would go

Through her and from her flow

Off, and no way but so.”

—-(Wow! What a tribute!)

In the previous lines he has been telling us about Our Lady’s role as Mediatrix of Graces, and continues that theme with a beautiful idea near the end of this passage:

 “She, wild web, wondrous robe,

Mantles the guilty globe,

Since God has let dispense

Her prayers his providence:

Nay, more than almoner,

The sweet alms’ self is her

And men are meant to share

Her life as life does air.”

—-The following lines speak of why we need not fear loving her too much (as Protestants so often reprimand us for doing):

   “A mother came to mould

Those limbs like ours which are

What must make our daystar

Much dearer to mankind;

Whose glory bare would blind

Or less would win man’s mind.

Through her we may see him

Made sweeter, not made dim,

And her hand leaves his light

Sifted to suit our sight.”

—-The last 26 lines are a beautiful prayer to the Blessed Mother that begins:

“Be thou then, O thou dear

Mother, my atmosphere…”

It’s just so phenomenally beautiful! Fr. Hopkins, who loved Our Lady dearly, will inflame your heart to love her more also. You will be so glad you prayed this poem today!

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Holy Mother Mary, Mediatrix, be our atmosphere–and pray for us!

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