Eleusa, Our Lady of Tenderness

Our Lady of Tenderness is a title for an ancient iconographic tradition in which Mary is depicted with her cheek tenderly pressed to the cheek of the infant Christ. The most famous icon in this tradition has been the object of devotion in Assumption Cathedral in Moscow since the 14th century – but the icon itself is far older.

Hodegetria, She Who Shows the Way

Mary, like any good mother, tries to show her children the right path to take in life. She directs us to wise choices and offers the balm for whatever ails us. In other words, she points us directly to her son. As She Who Shows the Way, she is literally pictured pointing directly at him.

Maria Lactans, "Our Lady Nursing"

Perhaps because our society tends to unfairly shame nursing mothers, we never consider the beauty of this nourishing gift of motherhood. In the Christian tradition, there is no such hesitation. Artists have depicted Mary many times in the act of nursing, celebrating it as one of the supreme joys of motherhood.

Madonna Del Ghisallo

Cyclists have always loved Mary, so much so that in Italy they have a shrine dedicated to her under the title of Madonna Del Ghisallo. My younger brother and I are both avid cyclists. He has ridden to the top of the mountain to visit the shrine of Maddona Del Ghisallo. I hope to make it there myself some day.

Our Lady of Exile

We often forget that Mary's life was marked by exile -- she and Joseph had to take Jesus to Egypt and stay there several years. When we're living far from home and feeling homesick, in whatever way life has conspired to carry us far away, it always helps to know that Mary knows how it feels.

Mystical Rose

Mary loves flowers, and particularly seems to favor roses. For instance, she gave Juan Diego roses before giving him her image on his tilma, wore a necklace of roses at La Sallette, and wore golden roses on her feet at Lourdes. Perhaps this is why the Rosary is often described as a spiritual bouquet. Prayer is like a beautiful rose.

Tower of Ivory

St. John Henry Newman says that Mary was more courageous than all the other disciples. “She did not grovel in the dust," he writes, "but stood upright to receive the blows, the stabs, which the long Passion of her Son inflicted upon her every moment.” He also says, “she is called the Tower of Ivory, to suggest to us, by the brightness, purity, and exquisiteness of that material, how transcendent is the loveliness and the gentleness of the Mother of God.”

Our Lady of the Snows

I live near the national shrine to Our Lady of the Snows, so I know the interesting backstory to how she received this name. A Roman patrician couple made a vow to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary. They prayed that she might make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor. On August 5, at the height of the Roman summer, snow fell during the night on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. The couple built a church in honor of Mary on the very spot that was covered with snow -- the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Our Lady of Kibeho

In 1981, in Kibeho, Rwanda, the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to three teenagers. She spoke in the native Rwandan language, calling herself, "Nyina wa Jambo," or, "Mother of the Word." She warned of the coming Rwandan Genocide. Because of the sadness of her message, the sanctuary at Kibeho is named, "Our Lady of Sorrows."

Star of the Sea

Mary has long been associated with keeping sea travelers safe from storms, providing a guiding light to guide them home. This is why Catholics still ask her to bless the sea. The custom originated when a bishop traveling by sea got caught in a storm on the Solemnity of the Assumption. He threw his pastoral ring into the ocean and the storm ceased. Today, the blessing is conducted by throwing a wreath of flowers onto the water.