– Father André Cabes, you have been Rector of the Trinità dei Monti (Most Holy Trinity of the Hills) for the past nine months. During this time you have discovered the fresco Mater Admirabilis venerated in a Chapel of the “Royal palace” where your monastic and apostolic Community resides. Why has this image, painted in 1844, become so popular, and why, in particular, was Pope Pius IX so attached to it?
– This image was not entirely unknown to me. It is now, however, now in my care and indeed I hope many more people will come and discover it, venerate it, and allow themselves to be inspired by it. It is a representation of the young Mary in the Temple, weaving the veil of the sanctuary. She has set aside the distaff, which is still in her right hand but resting on her left knee. The book she was reading is at her feet, still open face down on a basket.
On her right a large lily is inclined towards her, the young Mary, wearing a red dress and long white cloak. She is entirely enraptured by the mystery that pervades her, completely united with the presence of that love which is her secret, her most profound identity.
Pauline Perdrau painted this image in 1844. She was a young postulant of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which was present in the Trintà dei Monti since 1828. The work was not appreciated at first and its destruction was considered, but they were eventually content to place a large piece of fabric in front of it. Pauline went to see it sometime afterwards and remarked that the Virgin had become even more beautiful than she had ever imagined. It was thereafter unveiled and became known as `Our Lady of the Lily`. A Basilian Religious Sister from Minsk, taking refuge at the Trintà, had a particular devotion to it. One night the image of Mary seemed to come alive and asked that she be invoked as Mater Admirabilis: This name was retained and many graces were obtained through the intercession of Mary under this title.
Pope Pius IX paid a visit on 20th October 1846, some months after his election, and fixed the date of the Feast of Mater to coincide with the date of his visit. The diary of the Mother House has a record of 21 visits by the Pope until Rome was taken on 20th September 1870 by the Piedmontese. Saint John Bosco and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus also came on pilgrimage. Amongst the graces received, particularly notable is the healing of Abbé Charles Blampin, missionary from the Island of Reunion, who recovered the voice which he had completely lost. The Pope authorised him to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass in the corridor where the fresco was displayed: this first Mass of 21st November 1846 would be followed by many more, and eventually the corridor was transformed into a chapel where many other healings and conversions occurred.
– Pilgrims come in great numbers to pray before Mater Admirabilis: How are they received, how does one get to the fresco without continually disturbing your Community?
-The chapel is situated in a corridor on the first floor of the convent, above the Church but without direct access to it. One needs to be shown the way. However, many former pupils of the Sacred Heart from many parts of the world are familiar with the image and look for it in the Church of the Trinity. We would need people available who could, at certain times, organise a pilgrimage to the Mater, even for those who have never heard of her. She can really touch people’s hearts. Not so long ago, Michiko, the Empress of Japan, came whilst her husband was in the Quirinal, to entrust her joys and sorrows to the Mater and ask for enlightenment.
– What is the essence of the message of Mater Admirabilis who is celebrated every year in October? In which way should this message be connected to that of the Immaculate Conception whose statue is bedecked with flowers in the nearby Spanish Place?
– We come to this image as to a mother, to talk or remain silent, to be led to our inner selves. We so often live on the periphery of our own selves; Mary is to be found in the heart. In Rome, where there is so much noise, so many people, above these steps which witness the daily gathering of such crowds, behind a convent door we can find the image of a mother who invites us to silence, deep listening, and to a heart to heart encounter.
Mother most admirable, lily of the valley, flower of the meadows, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, treasure of calmness and serenity, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, you who make everything easier, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, you who invite us to love Jesus, pray for us.
Mary is the heart of Jerusalem, the heart of the Church, the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, who reveals the secrets of the love of God and conveys her own peace and joy. She accompanies the children of our school especially during the month of May towards the end of the school year, when we celebrate the first communions and confirmations… She is there in the month of October, the month of the Rosary, supporting our prayer at the beginning of our school year or a new pastoral work. She is there of course on 8th December, not far from the pillar of her Immaculate Conception, proclaimed by Pius IX; She is herself like the hidden fruit and she carries in her womb the fruit which will be revealed to the world by the birth of Jesus.