I want to share something else from my recent trip in Italy. Our parish patroness was a devoted mother. We have many beautiful examples of motherhood in our parish. Anyone who steps foot into Mass here knows that this is a parish that welcomes babies! We also know that challenges with infertility and anxieties about maternity, paternity, and pregnancy are frequent difficulties in our world. With that in mind I want to share with you a Marian shrine I found in Italy, a shrine to the Madonna of the Column (and of the Milk). Two pics are attached from within the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Genova, Italy. The church also has the distinction of being the place of baptism of a baby boy who later became Pope Benedict XV. One pic shows the whole shrine and the second a close up of the image of Mary (reflection from the glass interferes a bit). The pic of the whole shrine shows hanging all around it blue and pink baby bibs with names, votive offerings from those who believe the gift of a child resulted from the Madonna’s intercession. Those votive offerings don’t at all seem to be very old. There seem to be some very recent ones.
Images of Mary nursing are often called in Italian the Madonna of the Milk or the Nursing Madonna. Given the column associated with this image, I suppose the phrase “of the Column” was added to the name, to distinguish it from other Nursing Madonna images at other churches.
The Column within which the image was placed is perhaps of Roman origin. It is decorated with an image representing the Virgin Nursing the Baby (Jesus). That image comes from the 14th-15th centuries. The column was then inserted in about the 700s in a shrine area of late Baroque influence.
The area around this shrine had prayer suggestions: “We pray through the Madonna of the Column and of the Milk in particular:
For those who desire to have a child or who desire that others have a child.
For those who are worried for their own maternity, paternity, or pregnancy, or that of others.
For those who wish to give thanks for the gift of a child.”
I found these prayer suggestions very moving and practical and so I knelt at the shrine and prayed for everyone in our parish who might have a need that fits with this particular Marian devotion. I prayed in a particular way for the women of our parish, and anyone struggling with infertility or anxiety in pregnancy or in their role as a parent. May this Madonna of the Column intercede to help married couples and anyone in need in our parish. May she grant the continued blessings of many, many babies at St. Monica Church! Finally, also attached here is my translation from Italian of the prayer that was posted next to the shrine, a Prayer to the Madonna of the Column (and of the Milk). Still so close to Thanksgiving, and getting ready to enter the Season of Advent with its obvious themes of maternity and awaiting the birth of Jesus, we should express our gratitude to women and mothers in our parish and also ask St. Monica to bless them in their vocation. Perhaps you will want to make use of this information and the prayer to pray through the intercession of the Madonna of the Column and of the Milk for yourself or for someone you know.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Stephen Hamilton