Our Lady of La Leche (the milk)
February 2018

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Start your meeting with Prayer.
Someone read: Isaiah 49: 14-16

Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me."
"Can a woman forget her nursing baby and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands , Your walls are continually before Me."

February Reflection
By Bev McDonald

I want to share with you about Our Lady of La Leche. A Theologian that I really like, Hans Urs von Balthasar, said: "Mary thus learns that the Most High has always borne a Son in His bosom, and that this Son has now chosen her bosom as dwelling place."

The image of Our Lady as a breastfeeding mother is one filled with consolation and maternal affection. It's no wonder that the devotion honouring Mary as 'Our Lady of La Leche' (Our Lady of the Milk), is one of the most ancient and widespread of devotions.

In Rome's Priscilla catacombs, the tender depiction of a nursing Madonna adorns one of the walls, while across the Mediterranean Sea, stands the 'Milk Grotto', where Mary is said to have hidden to breastfeed Jesus, during the Slaughter of the Innocents. The construction in Spain of a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche, was overseen by King Philip III in the early sixteenth century, and soon after, missionaries and Spanish settlers brought their fervour for the Blessed Mother to the New World. In Saint Augustine, Florida, these settlers built the first Marian shrine in the United States, dedicating it to 'Nuestra Seňora de la Leche y Buen Parto' (Our Lady of the Milk and a Happy Delivery).

Countless women have, through the intercession of Our Lady of La Leche, been granted the gift of motherhood, obtained good health for their children, or overcome obstacles to breastfeeding. The maternal heart of Our Lady of La Leche is readily touched by the prayers of her children.

I have never carried a baby to full term, and so I have never breast-fed and there are many instances where breast-feeding is not something that you can do. It is not something to be afraid of, but much of the bonding that can happen with a baby fed at the breast, is able to be managed and reproduced in other ways. So if you can't breastfeed, one of the things that I was encouraged to do with my daughter and also with my grandson, was Baby Massage. So there is lots of skin to skin touch, lots of calm, nurturing tenderness between mother and child.

Another thing that has really struck me over the years about the bond between a mother and a child is, that as you nurse a baby and have a sense of being called to the vocation of motherhood, there's also this wonderful sense of identification with Mary as mother. I also think of Mary as my sister and as a midwife. I suspect that she was a considerable help to Elizabeth, when Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist; and I've heard people suggest that in isolation in the refugee community in Egypt after the killing of the innocents, that it would have been natural for Mary, a young woman who already had a child, and had supported Elizabeth through the birth of a child, would have become a natural midwife. And I like to think of Mary as a midwife to us, a midwife who not only helps us in our role as mothers, as women, as women in the community, women in our families, but also 'midwifes' us in our relationship with her Son and just as a mother learns to feed, breastfeed, to care tenderly for her baby, so we open ourselves and give ourselves freely to Jesus.

And that can take quite a bit of learning, just like breastfeeding. It comes naturally to some and for others these are real disciplines that are required, but Mary is there as mother, as sister, as mentor, as wise woman and as midwife to lead us on that journey. So I encourage you to think about praying to 'Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery', if there is a pregnancy that you are undergoing at the moment and also to pray to Our Lady, for all the women that you know, who are expecting a baby.

And so we pray:

Our Lady of La Leche,
draw me close to your Son through all my daily duties.
Help me to mirror your motherly virtue, to the souls in my care.
Be my sister, be my mother, my guide, my mentor.
Be my midwife in my spiritual life, in my mothering,
and in my becoming the woman that God has called me to be.

God bless, Bev

The reflection is adapted from the same title by Celeste Behe, in the book edited by Lisa Hendey and Sarah Reinhard: The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. Ave Maria Press, Indiana, 2016.

Read the Reflection
And simply use these questions as a starter to guide your sharing.

Silently re-read the Scripture as a personal message to you. Share what strikes you.

Does the image of Mary as our Lady of the milk and a happy delivery appeal to you? Why or why not?

What is your experience of breastfeeding or not?
What or who influenced you most about it ?

How might the image of Mary as midwife in our spiritual life help you open yourself more fully to a personal relationship with Jesus?

No. 9 From our Charter
For your reflection

Mary is Mother of the Church, given to us from the cross by Jesus. Mary has a special bond with, and responsibility for, women who share her vocation.

"Woman, this is your son; this is your mother." John 19:26

Concluding prayer time, for your own intentions and other needs.

Our Lady of the Milk and a Happy Delivery,
draw me close to your Son
through all my daily duties.
Help me to mirror your motherly virtue,
to those in my care.
Be my sister, be my mother,
my guide, my mentor.
Be my midwife in my spiritual life,
in my mothering and
in my becoming the woman
God has called me to be.
Please pray for all expecting mothers
for a happy delivery,
especially those who are afraid.
We make this prayer through Christ your Son,