Sacred Heart schools and communities across the world celebrate the Feast of Mater Admirabilisin a variety of ways on 20th October each year. If we delved into our school’s history, we would read of processions with lilies and candles and special songs sung to Mary on this day.
This year, the Sacred Heart Network of Schools is calling on all school communities to mark this special day with acts of service and times of prayer. As we are celebrating the Goal of Personal Growth in our schools this year, we paused and spend a few minutes at the end of the day reflecting about the story of Mater Admirabilis and what we can learn from it.
In 1844 (44 years after the Society of the Sacred Heart was founded) Pauline Perdrau, a young trainee nun, took it upon herself to produce a fresco paining of the Virgin Mary on a wall in a recreational area of the convent, which is now part of one of our Sacred Heart Schools in Rome. As a child, Pauline had had a favourite pink dress, so she chose to paint Mary as a young woman in a rose-coloured dress rather than the usual blue colour associated with her.
Although Pauline put herself wholeheartedly into her task, her inexperience with the technique of fresco did not produce the beautiful soft painting for which she had hoped.
The colours were considered too vivid and bright and had to be hidden behind a drape. Pope Pius IX, upon visiting the convent, requested that the curtain be removed. Seeing the fresco of Mary, its colours inexplicably softened, he exclaimed, "Mater Admirabilis!" which means "Mother Most Admirable” and this is how the painting got its name.
There is lots of symbolism in the image and each item tells a story about Mary, her strength, her faithfulness and dedication.
Copies of this image are to be found in every Sacred Heart school and community throughout the world. Some are paintings, some statues, all attempt to be faithful copies of the original.
Here is one of the paintings in school that can be found in our foyer (including some of our Year 7s enjoying their Sacred Heart lollies) and we also have a beautiful statue of Mater in our chapel.