Birth of St. John the Baptist—The Benedictus.


My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

Birth of St. John the Baptist-The Benedictus.

St. Luke tells us that “Mary abode with Elizabeth about three months.”[1] “In deep humility and duteous love, she lavished upon her services and ministrations, as if she had forgotten that she herself was the Mother of God and the Queen of the Universe.”[2] When Elizabeth’s time was come, she brought forth a son. St. Bonaventure says Mary received him into her arms; it was from her that he received the first of those cares which are indispensable to the frail life of an infant. He fixed upon her eyes full of love, as if he understood who she was; when she gave him to his mother his eyes were turned upon Mary, and he seemed to find no pleasure except in this sweet contemplation. Mary smiled upon him graciously, and pressed him to her heart with kisses which filled him with delight. Who this favoured child was, thus received at his first entrance into life by the blessings of the Mother of God, we all know. As she held him in her arms she looked, no doubt with prophetic forethought, upon the little one who had leapt in his mother’s womb at the first sound of her voice. She saw his eyes fixed upon her with an intelligence beyond his age. As she pressed him to her heart, and lavished upon him her holy caresses, she knew that the son of Elizabeth was bound to her own by a supernatural tie, and meanwhile who shall express the joy and holy gratitude of St. Elizabeth? With what emotion must Zachary have blessed in his heart this child, whom he could not as yet bless in words, for he had remained dumb since the day on which he had doubted the word of the angel.

The Gospel tells us that “her neighbours and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shewed His great mercy towards her, and they congratulated with her And it came to pass that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by his father’s name Zachary. And his mother answered saying, Not so, but he shall be called John. And they said to her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father how he would have him called. And demanding a writing table he wrote, saying, John is his name. And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came upon all their neighbours, and all these things were noised abroad over all the hill country of Judea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, What an one, think ye, shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.”

This is the first miracle which made known to the world the high destinies of St. John the Baptist. Let us listen to the beautiful words by which Zachary makes use of the voice which has been restored to him. If the hearts of those who heard him had been open to receive the truth, they would have understood that this canticle of joy which broke from the lips of the holy Levite was a homage rendered to One greater than his son, to the promised and expected Saviour, of whom the child so miraculously given to his old age was to prepare the way on earth. Mary alone received in her heart the words the full meaning of which none but she and the happy parents of St. John the Baptist could understand, and if we may believe the holy doctor,[3] whom God may perhaps have allowed to see for our consolation the unknown details of this wonderful scene, Mary attentively “listened in silence and secrecy to this canticle, in which her Son is spoken of in such wonderful terms, and laid up all these words carefully in her heart.”

But to return to the words of the Gospel. “And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost: and he prophesied, saying: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, because He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people: and hath raised up a horn of salvation to us, in the house of David His servant: as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who are from the beginning: salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to shew mercy to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant. The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, that He would grant to us, that being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve Him without fear, in holiness and justice before Him all our days. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way; to give knowledge of salvation to His people, unto the remission of their sins. Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on High hath visited us, to enlighten, them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to direct our feet into the way of peace.”[4]

How full is this wonderful canticle of the same hopes which are found in the Magnificat, of which it appears to be the development. Mary announced the deliverance, Zachary announces the Saviour who is to accomplish it, the Saviour promised to the patriarchs, foretold by the saints and prophets of the old law, Who comes to deliver us from the slavery of the devil and sin, that “being delivered from the hands of our enemies, we may serve Him without fear, in holiness and justice before Him all our days.” And what a wonderful light God, by whom he was inspired, throws on the mission of the forerunner of the Saviour, who is to come after him!

[1] St. Luke i. 56.

[2] St. Bonaventure, Meditations on the Life of Jesus Christ, chap. v.

[3] St. Bonaventure.

[4] St. Luke i. 67-79.


My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.


August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary

Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things

O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.

An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)

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