Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Holy Marina ~ and Mary's Breastplate

Saint Marina is one of a large group of early martyrs called The Virgin Martyrs. Some of their names appear in the Roman Canon of the Latin Rite Mass: Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Caecilia, Anastasia. Kathleen Norris in her book, A Cloister Walk, teaches us that these young women were not martyred because they were virgins but rather, in ancient cultures marriages were arranged and when young Christian women found themselves to be married to pagan men, rather than raise up children to an emperor who considered himself to be a god, they refused.

Of course then, not only did the fiance turn against the young Christian (little more than a girl) but so did his family and not infrequently her own family. When she was brought before the Imperial Court and attempted to speak, her tongue was cut out; her teeth knocked out. Men will often go to outrageous extremes so as not to  have to listen to a woman. Finally she would have been raped, mutilated and beheaded, in effect saying:  "If you won't marry (let's say) Titanius, you'll marry no one." 

The account of Marina's imprisonment and torture is almost indescribable. Kathleen Norris uses the word "ferocious" to describe the resilience of a girl against her attackers. She simply wouldn't die. We can hardly imagine the temptations of the Virgin Martyrs:  to back out of it, to give in, to despair, to curse the enemy. Marina is called a Defender Against the Devil because her temptations during trial, imprisonment and torture were so intense.

Paragraph 2851 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects upon the last petition of the Lord's Prayer: "But deliver us from evil." The Eastern Church prays more precisely: "But deliver us from the Evil One." 

"In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who 'throws himself across' God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ."

We might experience this obstruction in our own personal lives but also in the life of the Church, of society, culture and government. We hear this in the letter Catherine de Hueck Doherty wrote to Thomas Merton.

For some reason I think you are weary. I know I am frightened and weary too. For the face of the Prince of Darkness is becoming clearer and clearer to me. It seems he does not care any more to remain "the great anonymous one," "the incognito," the "everyone." He seems to have come into his own and shows himself in all his tragic reality. So few believe in his existence that he does not need to hide himself anymore! (Compassionate Fire, The Letters of Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty March 17, 1962, Ave Maria Press 2009 p.60)

We see the Prince of Darkness showing himself in tragic reality in the wearying sins of the Church, emanating from the highest levels of the clergy: vanity, attachment to and abuses of power, secrecy and lies, entitlement, arrogance, pandering, materialism and love of money, pride, loss of faith, misogyny.

We see the Evil One come into his own in the sins of politicians and their torch bearers: power, lies, war-making, racism and hatred, obstructionism, greed, cheating, the loss of the Common Good, arrogant pride and indifference.

The Catechism states further in paragraph 1707:

"Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history." He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:
"Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness." Gaudium et Spes 13:2

A breastplate is a piece of armor used in ancient warfare to protect the torso and its vital organs from injury. Here is a powerful prayer titled: Mary's Breastplate we can make part of our daily prayer, asking for the protection of ourselves, our families, friends, Church and National life - indeed the protection of the entire planet.

Mary's Breastplate
(A Prayer for Protection)

Direct me in your praise ~
though no master I in poetry ~
O Angelic countenance without blemish
you gave the milk of your breast
to redeem me.

I commend myself to your protection,
O Loving Mother of the only Son:
under your shield protect my body,
my heart, my will and my strength.

O temple of the three persons,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I beseech you to help me at the hour of
my judgment and my death.

O Queen, on whom the King, the Father,
bestowed perpetual favor ~
virginity and motherhood ~
I enlist your aid for my salvation.

O vessel bearing the light,
O great brightness outshining the sun,
draw me ashore, under your protection,
from the short-lived ship of the world.

O Mary, gracious and beautiful,
gentle, mild and stately,
I do not tire of calling on you;
you are my defender on the day of danger.

Admittedly, there will be even some Christians who find the direction, thoughts and feelings of this prayer to be incomprehensible, perhaps repugnant. But the language of the prayer is love, and that language is  best given to poetry and song. It is the nature of love to speak in what may appear to some to be excess. The heart has its reasons, Jean Vanier says.


  1. Sadly there are so many who don't even believe in the devil - the evil one,,yet he runs rampant in all walks of life. The government ,media,Hollywood, health professions, and most sadly of all in many different religions. They don't even teach about the evil one and all of the destruction that he causes in religious classess anymore. We have become a "politically correct" society instead of a Put God first society. There are issues that many Church leaders won't even touch upon because it might insult a member and there goes a generous donation. Yet in the end what it is, is one more win for the devil.

    1. The classic temptation is the temptation to power. That's Eden: "Eat this fruit and you'll be like God." This is how the devil "gets in."

  2. The Prince of Darkness lurks in every corner of our lives. In today's world we need to arm ourselves with prayer and full body armour. Thank you for this prayer for protection. I find it more than appropriate to ask the Blessed Virgin to shield us from the evils that bestow themselves upon us.

  3. The struggle between God and the Evil One is an eternal one. It seems that more people choose the darkness over the light. Our individual struggles to choose God's lighted path is difficult, but will be filled with great reward one day when we reunite with Him in His Kingdom.

  4. Somehow when you speak of evil and darkness, it raises awareness of it in my life and directs me to fight against it with more vigor. The prayer is just another example of how you are bringing us to a closer relationship with God. It helps us to seek the light over darkness.

  5. Sometimes I feel that the world is sinking down a giant vortex of evil. Children suffer, love seems not to have staying power anymore. When I kneel and pray, I just want to know that it will all be OK, that my life isn't for nothing. It seems that we are not trusting enough in our faith. I will proudly seek the protection of Mary's breastplate. The prayer is a way of arming ourselves against the ways of the devil. Even when he lurks within our own beings. Amen.

  6. Saint Maximilian Kolbe lived and eventually died in a concentration camp. We can't conceive of a black hole deeper than this. Still, in the winter time, he would go from bed to bed at night, tucking in the feet of the other prisoners with the little scraps of nasty bedding available. He said, "Even the tiniest act of kindness ripples to eternity." Let's believe this and not despair.