“Our Blessed Mother has been invoked under the beautiful title of Our Lady of Consolation since the fourth century – and probably for even longer than that. History records that St Eusebius of Vercelli, who was a heroic defender of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity in an age when Arianism was gaining influential followers, brought back an icon of Our Lady of Consolation from Egypt in 363 when he was returning from exile.
As part of the Traditional Missal, the Feast of Consolation occurs on the Saturday after the Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, which falls on August 28th. This Feast day is kept by various religious orders in the Church.
This icon was presented to the city of Turin. Later St Maximus, Bishop of Turin 380 – 420, established a small Shrine to house the icon in a church dedicated to St Andrew. Here it became a popular center of Marian devotion in the city. However, the following years brought a cycle of destruction, then restoration, followed by neglect, then revival.
During these troubled times a new shrine was built, only to be destroyed again during an invasion of the Barbarians. In 1104 the icon was found buried unharmed beneath some ruins and once again the faithful of Turin could honour Our Lady of Consolation in her shrine. Many miracles were attributed to her intercession and over the succeeding centuries the church in which the icon now is displayed has been reconstructed, embellished and added to, and has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. The devotion to Our Lady of Consolation became widespread in Europe.
The English Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, Sussex is officially affiliated to the Turin Shrine. Although the church itself was built comparatively recently, it stands in a rural area which is steeped in Church history.
After the Reformation, the local major landowners, the Caryll family, were secret Catholics and welcomed priests who came disguised, at the risk of their lives, to minister to them and to the faithful throughout England.
The Priest’s House, with hiding places to shelter the priest if any investigating authorities were in the area, was originally a tiny cottage. There was also a hidden chapel intended to provide temporary safety for worshipers.
Eventually the government policy towards Catholics changed and instead of the risk of the death penalty, financial sanctions were imposed. The Caryll family remained faithful to the Church and eventually followed the Stuart Royal family to France, where they had an honoured place at the Court in Exile.
When the Caryll estate in Sussex was sold in 1754, the Priest’s House at West Grinstead was given to the Church to ensure that a Catholic presence would continue there. Strange to say, the historical situation was soon reversed, as French Catholic priests fled to England to escape the French Revolution, and some found refuge at West Grinstead.
It was difficult for French speaking priests to minister to a rural English congregation and sadly local fervour declined. Eventually, however, following the establishment of a Catholic Diocese of Southwark (which included Sussex) a priest from Brittany, Mgr Jean Marie Denis, was appointed to West Grinstead and, encouraged by the Bishop, worked hard to revitalise the parish.
A new place of pilgrimage
It was Mgr Denis’s inspiration to establish the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead in 1876. He chose this title because the Shrine at Turin was an ancient one and was blessed with special privileges and Indulgences. Through affiliation, the Shrine at West Grinstead shares those privileges.
The combination of history enshrined in the Priest’s House and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the ancient title Our Lady of Consolation excited wide interest and pilgrims began to visit and pray there and they continue to do so today.
Developments in Turin
Whilst the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, in England was developing and attracting pilgrims, there had been developments at the Shrine in Turin. In 1880 a young priest, Father Giuseppe Allamano, was appointed Rector of the Shrine at the age of 29. Although his father had died when he was only three years old, his early years had been privileged with the example of at least two future saints: one being his uncle, later to become St John Cafasso, and the other being Don Bosco, later to become St John Bosco. The latter was his teacher and spiritual director.
Father Giuseppe had benefited from these early influences and, by the time he was installed as Rector of Our Lady of Consolation Shrine in Turin, he had a number of years’ experience of directing seminarians and newly ordained priests of the diocese. He was a dynamic Rector of the Shrine and enhanced its reputation and influence, but his achievements were not limited to that holy place.
Father Giuseppe was led by his intense devotion to Our Lady and his zeal for evangelisation to found the two religious missionary congregations that we know as the Consolata Fathers and Brothers (1901) and the Consolata Sisters (1910). They were soon active in Africa and now are spread across the world. Father Giuseppe, better known to us today as Blessed Joseph Allamano, died in 1926 and was beatified in 1990 by Pope John Paul II. We may hope that he will soon be a canonized saint. The Consolata Missionaries eagerly await this and have dedicated the year 2014 to their founder. They are praying that the miracles required to support the Cause of his canonisation will soon be identified and they urge us all to ask his intercession.
The Consolata Icon
Blessed Joseph Allamano spent many hours in prayer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Turin. The holy icon was a source of inspiration for him, and his prayer led him beyond the ancient representation, to the reality of Our Lady’s loving concern for the needy, the sick, the forlorn, the lost… a loving concern as alive today as it has been through the ages.
It seems appropriate that the icon at Turin is not replicated at West Grinstead, which has its own distinct painting … Our Lady is not limited in time or space. Her title of ‘Consolata’ reassures us of her motherly love and her attentiveness to us whenever we call on her, wherever we may be.
Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us.
Blessed Joseph Allamano, pray for us.
This article was published in the “Little Way Association” magazine (hard copy) Issue no. 94. For subscriptions and donations, please visit the Little Way Association’s website.
Prayers to Our Lady of Consolation
1. Mary, Mother of God, you are the Comforter of the Afflicted because in your lifetime you bore every sort of affliction and you can now sympathize with me in my sufferings. You willingly became the Mother of Jesus when you answered the message of the Archangel Gabriel with the words “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 36, 38). This marked the beginning of your life of suffering together with Jesus. Simeon prophesied it when you offered the little Victim-Savior to the Heavenly Father for the first time in the temple: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Luke 2, 35). You confidently accepted whatever God willed. You bore your sorrows bravely because you received them from God’s hands.
Three swords brought anguish to you while Jesus was yet a young child, four swords pierced your soul in His Holy Passion. Yet no selfish thought, no bitter resentment has marred your beauty. From the knowledge of the Will of God you gathered the strength that was to uphold you at the foot of the Cross on which your Son hung, dying. Through thirty-three years of Jesus’ life on earth you suffered in silence. The climax of that sorrow came when the innocent Victim for the sins of mankind was given, dead, into your arms. Your loving submission to the Divine Will could not dry your tears, but it quieted the agony of your mother-heart.
Mary, My Mother, you associated yourself with the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus in order that you might share in His glorification. You had to become the Mother of Sorrows before you were raised above the angels as Heaven’s Queen. En life’s dark hours you always remembered that you were God’s handmaid, and you always wanted everything to be done according to His holy Will. Your heart was visited with seven swords of sorrow before you became the Comforter of the Afflicted and the Cause of our Joy.
2. Mary, Mother of God, I pour out to you the sorrows of my own troubled heart. In your greater sorrow may my own be lost, and in calm resignation may my anguished soul find peace and strength. Through the sorrow which you felt during your whole life, but especially when you saw Jesus led to His death and then crucified, obtain for me the grace that I may patiently bear the sufferings which God has seen fit to send me, even as you bore your sufferings. Let this be my consolation to know that I am doing God’s Will. I shall be blessed if I imitate you in bearing my cross till death. Since you bore a much heavier one together with your innocent Son, should not I, a sinner deserving of eternal punishments, carry mine patiently? Let me find consolation and strength in your favorite devotion—the rosary.
When you lived in this valley of tears, you were ever loving and merciful toward the afflicted. How much more compassionate are you now since you reign happily in Heaven? Now you realize human misery more fully and, therefore, show your mercy and compassion and help more generously. You are indeed our Mother, and a mother can never forget her children.
Mary, My Mother, I thank you for having suffered and wept for love of me that you might become my consolation in affliction. I entrust to you all my anxieties and needs so that through the merits of your sorrows I may bear the trials and sufferings of life with the same love and resignation to God’s Will with which you bore yours. I beg you to make me strong enough to bear my trials for the love of God so that I may become like you in suffering. Help me to cling tightly to Jesus and to you. May each pain and disappointment of my life become a perfect act of love of God because I offer all to God through your immaculate hands. To you I entrust my soul for which Jesus died and I beg you to help me to save it. Protect me from the snares of the world, the flesh and the devil. And grant that after having suffered with you and your loving Son in this life, I may be glorified with You both in His Kingdom beyond the stars.
3. Mary, Mother of God, I thank you for being my companion in suffering. You love me with a Heart human like my own—a Heart that can understand my sorrows and problems since you experienced all that I must bear; a Heart that can sympathize with me and befriend me in my hour of need. Not all the affection you pour out upon countless other souls lessens your love for me. Even when I forget you and begin to complain in my sufferings and crosses, you try to console me. Even when I disappoint you by doing my best to shake off the cross God has placed upon my shoulders, you pray for me. When I have pain, you are ready to comfort and strengthen me.
I am most grateful for such devoted love and sympathy. You are indeed the most wonderful Mother that has ever walked this earth. Teach me to answer such love with childlike confidence. I want to turn to you in all my pressing needs and difficulties as to a most sure refuge, imploring the help of your protection, choosing you as my advocate, whole-heartedly entrusting my cause to you who are the Consoler of the Afflicted. But that my devotion may be acceptable and my homage pleasing, let me endeavor to maintain within my soul, as much as possible the spotlessness of your purity and try to walk in your footsteps humbly and gently.
Mary, My Mother, I unite myself with you in the spirit in which you offered yourself as a sacrifice of love during your lifetime. Through your hands I offer myself with Jesus during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Give my heart sentiments like His and your own so that, through frequent Holy Communion and prayer, I may become a worthy co-victim with Jesus, holy and pleasing to God, and so that all the actions, sufferings, tears and disappointments of my life may be thus consecrated to God as a sacrifice for His glory and the salvation of souls, especially my own. Everything that God may send me, or permit in my life, whether favorable or unfavorable, sweet or bitter—even illness, is acceptable to me, for I have resolved, after your example to conform myself to the Divine Will in all things. Jesus invites me to do so, for He said, “Take my yoke upon you…My yoke is easy and My burden light” (Matt. 11, 29).
VIRGÓ SACRÁTA is a Christian mission-driven online resource and shop inspired from the beauty of Catholic faith, tradition, and arts. Our mission is to “Restore All Things to Christ!”, in continuing the legacy of Pope St. Pius X under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?” O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.