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Not that 'Confessor'

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By Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC (Nov 19, 2019)
This is the 15th article in a series on the Litany of Loreto. Every month, I will explain this popular prayer line by line, providing you with spiritual and theological insights.

By Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

View the previous article in this series.

Queen of Confessors, pray for us.
Today, the word "confessor" most commonly refers to the person who hears our sacramental Confessions. But to understand what it means here, we need to consider it in the context of the Litany. This title comes after "Queen of Apostles" and "Queen of Martyrs," and before "Queen of Virgins." In some liturgical calendars, you will see these titles (apostles, martyrs, or virgin) after the names of many of the saints listed. Not all holy men and women, however, died as martyrs, apostles, or virgins. Some boldly professed the faith throughout their lives, many in the face of dangerous persecution, but ultimately died natural deaths. To many of these holy people, we ascribe the title "confessor."

As you might guess, the word "confessor" comes from a Latin word meaning "to confess" or "profess." For example, St. Anthony of Padua was known as a confessor. He professed the faith so boldly and so well that he earned the nickname "Hammer of Heretics." Saint Jerome also challenged heretics and boldly defended the faith. He was also considered a confessor. Many other saints bear this title, too — saints who have played such an important role in Church history that it only makes sense that the Blessed Virgin Mary was with them in a special way. We might even consider the Blessed Virgin Mary the first confessor, especially considering her Magnificat in which she says, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord" (Lk 1:46). And by remaining faithful to Christ through to the end, she stands as the perfect model to all men and women of how we ought to stay bold in the face of persecution and suffering. So, for these reasons, we call Mary "Queen of Confessors."

Queen of Virgins, pray for us.
The Church has always held the virginal state of life in the highest regard. According to Church Tradition, the Temple in Jerusalem housed virgins who dedicated themselves to fasting and prayer, and the Blessed Virgin Mary was one of them. Referencing St. Augustine, Pope St. John Paul II said, "The intention of virginity, apparent in Mary's words at the moment of the Annunciation, has traditionally been considered the beginning and the inspiration of Christian virginity in the Church." He said that the Archangel Gabriel didn't ask Mary to remain a virgin — she had already desired this deep in her heart. "In this way," he said, "it was possible to present Mary as an example to 'holy virgins' throughout the Church's history. ... [B]y her decision she becomes the archetype of all those in the Church who have chosen to serve the Lord with an undivided heart in virginity." For these reasons, we call Mary "Queen of Virgins."

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