Amid World War I, Pope Benedict XV called upon Our Lady, Queen of Peace as a place for all to rest in times of unrest. The devotion welled up from the everyday people and communities, was perfectly timed for the conflict of the 1910s, and is one invocation we regularly return to, even today. Most recently, we called upon Mary, Queen of Peace in March with a new consecration of the world to her Immaculate Heart; Pope Francis renewed this ongoing consecration before a statue commissioned by his World War I predecessor: Ave Regina Pacis (“Hail, Queen of Peace”) in Santa Maria Maggiora, on Esquiline Hill in Rome.
Pope Benedict XV encouraged a great devotion to Our Lady and asking for peace in her Son from the beginning of his papacy in 1914 to the end in 1922. In 1918, he commissioned Roman sculptor Guido Galli to truly cement Queen of Peace for all to see. The completed project, a few years past a century old, exudes a poignant reminder for all who see it.
The marble statue sits upon a multi-colored throne and features four important characters. The first is the Blessed Mother herself, her hand up in the universal call to cease or wait. She holds Jesus, the second character, Who seems mere seconds from dropping an olive branch – a timeless symbol of peace. But He seems to be waiting for something. And He isn’t the only one: The third character at the feet of Mary is a dove, which doubles as the Holy Spirit and a second sign of peace. The dove looks up at Our Lady from its spot by the viewer, wings spread, as if it, too, is waiting on her word.
Our Lady looks down intently, from this sculpture full of almost-action, to the fourth character: the viewer. We see, from standing – or in the case of Pope Francis earlier this year, praying – at the foot of the statue that all is on pause as Our Lady awaits our participation. Peace requires active participation. We must both ask for and actively take part in perpetuating it through prayer and action. The best way to do so is just as Ave Regina Pacis directs us: going humbly before God and His Mother, imploring them for assistance.
Peace is a long-standing desire, as told by this statue and the rising of Queen of Peace from the everyday faithful. She is the bestower of the gift from God. Each day we have opportunity to pray for and strive for peace on any level – our families, our city, our world, or for one another. But change only begins when we ask for it, and to earnestly ask, we must first desire.
Each day, pray to desire the gift of peace deep in your heart – peace for our world, our country, our community and ourselves.
Our Lady is celebrated under many names, from popular apparitions to small-town titles. Each reveal something different about the Blessed Mother to us – and affirms what we already know of her love and intercessory power! Deepen your devotion to Our Lady with Miracles, Mysteries, & Mary, a monthly collection of stories, Church teaching, reflections, and so much more – guaranteed to expand your knowledge of Our Blessed Mother. Sign up today to receive this Marian content, right to your inbox, and check out our archive page to catch up on our year of Our Lady!