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October 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – ​In a book of writings about birds, consisting of stories, poems, essays, famous quotations, and artwork, I found the following traditional French folktale.

As I read it, I realized not only what a beautiful story it is, but also how it holds a message for Catholics today, in a world—and, lamentably, a Church—that seems increasingly hostile to those who are fighting for life, for truth, for sanity and sanctity.

The Finch in May

Once in the old, old days there was a finch that had been wise enough to nest in the linden tree of a convent. Wise enough? No doubt the idea was an inspiration from on high. God watches over all things, even the life of a finch. Providence wakes each morning an hour or two before the sun.

So there’s the finch in its tree, among the new May leaves. It was May, you know, Mary’s month, when narcissus bloom in the high meadows—the flowers they call the white gloves of Our Lady. Eight times a day, from its nest in the middle of the cloister, the finch heard the nuns at their prayers, and from Prime to Terce to Compline the same two words kept coming back. It heard them, listened, then tried them out with its own little bird throat. The dear thing didn’t know it was an angel from heaven who’d brought those two words down to mankind when he came to proclaim our salvation. The leaves swayed, and the sunbeams through them swung like censers. There in the green moving light and the gentle breezes, the finch repeated over and over those two words: Ave Maria, Ave Maria!

The convent stood under steep, forested slopes and towering spires of rock, beneath a spur of the mountains. One evening the finch had ventured up into those piney, stony wilds when suddenly it felt a presence hovering above it, under the clouds. With all the speed of its wings it fled for the convent roof and home. 

But a kite’s eyes are more piercing than hell. The one slowly circling up there, round and round in the streaming clouds and wind, stopped like a spider hanging from its thread. The white bands on the finch’s wings had given it away. 

The kite dropped and gripped the finch in its talons.

Nearly fainting, the little bird cried out. It cried out the two words that had so gotten into its head that it had said them over and over all day long: Ave Maria, Ave Maria.

So great is the power of Mary’s name that the name alone—just one call to Our Lady—loosened the kite’s grip. Up again into the clouds it flew, not daring now to touch its prey.

The terrified finch raced and dove straight into the heart of its linden tree. Among the sweet flowers again, saved, comforted, and overjoyed, it fairly nestled into her hands who is the Flower and Queen of the World.

That, then, is the tale—and what a fine example it is of Catholic folk culture, which teaches the most profound truths with the most childlike simplicity.

In this month of October (as in the month of May), we are reminded that our salvation, our comfort, our joy, will be obtained when we cry out Our Lady’s name again and again in that most childlike of all prayers, the Rosary, weaving together in the sight of Our Lord, from the string of Aves, Paters, and Glorias, a crown of white, red, and gold roses for His Mother.

The infernal raptor who seeks our souls will be foiled, and his earthly minions dispersed at the very moment when they feel they have achieved absolute control.

Ave, Maria!


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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website,