Mother of the Little Bright Lights of the World

Her History and Spirituality

At Medjugorje, Our Lady said that she was completing there what she began at Fatima. Surprisingly, my story follows that same way. This story begins simply at Fatima in 2001 and proceeds to Medjugorje in 2017.

In July 2001, I went on a pilgrimage with parishioners to Portugal, France, and Spain. We began at Fatima. I recall going into a religious goods store and being attracted to a dark blue aurora crystal rosary. Because I did not know what I would do with it, I resisted the “temptation” to buy it.

Next, we went to a statue carving factory. A statue of our Lady caught my attention. I always wanted a replica of the way she appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris. Her hands, holding a globe, were raised to her heart. Her eyes were raised in prayer to heaven. But I never saw any such statue for sale. The statue in the factory had a similarity that made it in a certain sense satisfactory. But, again, I didn’t want to buy it on a whim. I decided to postpone my decision until we returned to Fatima at the end of our visits to the scheduled shrines.

Eventually, I realized how appropriate that dark blue rosary would be with this statue, since our Lady was robed in rose and veiled in a dark blue mantle with small golden spots sprinkled in the mantle. Her folds shone in gold, a symbol of someone from heaven. The lace around her neck was delicately painted, as was the beautiful multi-colored slim sash/belt. She was standing on a unique cloud or sea wave. It was not all white, but was depicted in swirls of blue, gold and white. Inexplicably, the globe in her hands was dark blue like her mantle but with minute golden stars.

At Garabandal, a Filipino woman asked me to bless a pile of rosaries in her hands. On top was a blue crystal rosary similar to the one I admired at Fatima. I asked if she purchased it at Garabandal. She replied that she got it at Fatima. Then she immediately stated that it was too heavy for her and said I could have it if I wanted it. To me, that was clearly a sign of Divine Providence indicating that I should get the statue on my return to Fatima, if it were still available. It was, and so I acquired it, not knowing its significance. I often wondered what the story was behind this attractive statue of Our Lady. But I never came across another and I didn’t think to ask when I bought it. Again, that was in July of 2001.

My dilemma was resolved by the Spring 2017 issue of Medjugorje Magazine with its report of the Papal Legate’s appraisal of Medjugorje. The cover had a picture of the Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser with his pertinent quote: “Medjugorje transforms people . . . You can say to the whole world that there is a light with Medjugorje and you can find the light again. We need these spots of light in a world that is going down to darkness. So, friends, be carriers of this joyful news.” In other words, be torches of this light which warms the heart with hope.

Medjugorje: Her Identity Emerges

The editorial in that spring issue by Mary Sue Eck repeats the Legate’s quote given on April 1, 2017 and then gave the message which was reported to have been given by Our Lady to Mirjana the following day, April 2: “Apostles of my love, it is up to you to spread the love of my Son to all those who have not come to know it; you, the little lights of the world, whom I am teaching with motherly love to shine clearly with full brilliance.”

Suddenly the message of my statue became very clear to me — her dark mantle and the dark globe represent the “world that is going down in darkness.” The stars on the globe and the golden star-like spots on her mantle are Mary’s “little lights of the world” formed by her and protected by her. Didn’t her Guadalupe message include, “Are you not in the folds of my mantle?” One of the verses in the hymn to Our Lady of Joyful Hope prays: “Tower of strength and refuge, protect us on our way; And be the star that guides us through dark night into day.” This contrast of dark and light is significant and providential since some messages predict dire times for the Church and the world. It seems that, being a wise and prudent mother, Our Lady is preparing her children for such times, assuring them of the security of her presence.

The unusual formation under her feet has a double significance: waves in a turbulent sea and storm clouds. Our Lady stands above it as Our Lord walked across the stormy sea of Galilee while the fearful Apostles were tossed about by the enormous waves that seemed ready to overwhelm them (Matthew 14:22).

St. Peter sought refuge with our Lord, but by taking his eyes off Jesus, he lost confidence. Jesus came to his rescue, pointing out his weak faith in him. This has always been interpreted as signifying life in this unpredictable world of combat between good and evil.

When I came to realize this, I wanted to write about it and have appropriate photos to accompany this article. Providentially, it happened that my good friend and photo evangelist, Aaron Joseph, came to our diocesan Fatima centenary celebration.

I told him my difficulty finding the right name for this Madonna. He said that since she is our spiritual mother, that should be part of her title. Then it all came to me. I just added what she said she was doing: forming “little brilliant lights of the world.” And so she became the Mother of the Little Bright Lights of the World. This was confirmed when I reread her message and noticed her expression that these little lights are to shine “with full brillianceas well as her “teaching with motherly love.” Thus her recently found significance resolved the question of her identity.

Christ Our Light

What is this “light” by which Our Lady is forming us? Obviously, it has to be Jesus, who declared himself to be the “Light of the World” and “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus continues in Matthew 5:14 and 16, “You are the light of the world . . . Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Thus, it is by following Christ that we reflect his light. Our Lady is the perfect disciple of Christ and therefore she can instruct us properly. This is what she is doing by her true messages throughout the world, especially at her shrines.

The opening section of the Vatican document The Shrine — Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God, defining the purpose and contribution of shrines to the life of the Church, states: “Every shrine can be seen as the bearer of a specific message since it vividly makes present today the foundational event of the past which still speaks to the heart of the pilgrims. Marian shrines in particular provide an authentic school of faith based on Mary’s example and motherly intercession.”

A pilgrimage to any of her shrines should be imbued with the spirit of the Blessed Mother’s particular message. It is a chance for us to enter more deeply into our spiritual lives in order to motivate us to better live our faith with a stronger Marian dimension. Before visiting a shrine, it is important to ask Our Lady to make us open to what she wants to give us.

A Dominican spirituality professor at the Angelicum University in Rome pointed out in his article in L’Osservatore Romano that when a particular name or title of Mary is chosen, its use draws the person or group closer to her and to the mystery it represents. In this way, she is calling them to be the bearers and advocates of that particular message.

Pope Francis, in his message for the 32nd World Youth Day, looked to Our Lady: “May the maiden of Nazareth, who in the whole world has assumed a thousand names and faces in order to be close to her children, intercede for all of us and help us to sing of the great works that the Lord is accomplishing in us and through us.”

This recalls the time a priest inquired about the many titles and devotions to Our Lady. I gave the example of a family with a few children discussing their mother’s clothing. One child said that he liked his mother in a certain green dress, another said he liked her in her blue dress, and a little girl said she found her mother particularly beautiful in her flowery dress. It is the same mother but different dresses brought out something especially appealing to each child. This shows how grace opens our hearts to a special image and message of Our Lady forming us into particular Marian apostles according to the attraction of grace.

The Rosary and the Eucharist: Sources of Light

The purpose of a spiritual school is to form persons according to truth and love. St. John Paul II stated in his document on the rosary, “With the rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love.” Since the rosary consists of the mysteries of Our Lord’s life, death and resurrection, it is the Gospel in meditative form. What is recorded objectively by the evangelists becomes personal by frequent remembrance. The light of the Gospel shines brightly through the rosary.

Likewise, by his document “On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church”, St. John Paul II wanted to “rekindle amazement and gratitude” in the worshiping community. He devoted the last chapter to Marian Eucharistic devotion: “At the School of Mary, ‘Woman of the Eucharist.’” She “can guide us toward this most holy sacrament because she herself has a profound relationship with it . . . The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery.” That is why Pope Benedict XVI will advise us to “remain in her school.”

This is evident in the profound enlightenment granted to Blessed Dina Belanger, a Religious of Jesus and Mary in Quebec, Canada, as recorded in her autobiography on June 4, 1928.

“Our Lord, God made man, showed me His adorable Heart in the sacred Host . . . Both His Heart and the Host were perfectly united, so united with one another that I could not explain how I could distinguish between the two. From the Host, there emanated an immense number of rays of light. From His Heart there came forth a tremendous number of flames, issuing as if in dense floods.

“The Most Blessed Virgin was there, so close to Our Lord that she seemed to be absorbed by him, and yet I saw her as distinct from Him . . . All the light from the Host and the flames from the Heart of Jesus passed through the Immaculate Heart of the Most Blessed Virgin. . . .

“Our Lord said to me: ‘My Heart is overflowing with graces intended for souls. Bring them to my Eucharistic Heart.’

“In addition, the Most Holy Virgin was drawing souls towards her so as to lead them to the Eucharistic Heart. Finally, I saw a countless multitude of angels around the Eucharistic Heart, a multitude also reaching as far as the eye could see. In their heavenly language, they repeated: ‘Glory to the immortal King of ages!’”

The rays from the Host can represent the graces of illumination of the mind, while the flames can represent the graces of ardent union of the heart.

Therefore, the source of the light in Mary’s “little lights of the world” will be her various messages leading to conversion and a life according to the Gospel, formed by and into a Marian Eucharistic spirituality. In this way, “The holy ones walk in the light of your face” (Psalm 89:16). They are thus taught in her school, as she said, “with motherly love to shine clearly with full brilliance.”

Stars as Guiding Lights of Hope

It is interesting that the lights on the dark globe of the statue of the Mother of the Little Bright Lights of the World are in the shape of stars. On the Solemnity of the Epiphany 2008, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that, like the Magi, “Men and women of every generation need on their pilgrim journey to be directed: what star can we therefore follow? . . . The Church carries out the mission of the star for humanity. But something of the sort could be said of each Christian, called to illuminate the path of the brethren by word and example of life.” The conclusion of his encyclical On Christian Hope focuses on Mary, as he teaches, “The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light . . .  But to reach him we also need lights close by — people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us?”

Could not the following experience of a Muslim, who eventually got the fullness of light in the Catholic Church, be a cameo of this theme? As described in the Coming Home Network International Newsletter of February 2021, Zubair Simonson stated, “On another afternoon, while praying, I had a vision, something like a waking dream. Three hounds were trampling the globe. A dark overcast followed them. A woman dressed in a white robe and holding a candle stood at the eastern edge of the globe. The hounds charged at her but they evaporated the moment their snouts touched her. The woman began walking. A procession of men and women, all in white robes and holding candles, appeared and began to follow her. Wherever they stepped, the dark clouds rolled back. ‘Who was that woman?’ I wondered to myself. The answer, I think, would have been pretty obvious to a Catholic.”

The lighted candles can remind us of the Paschal Vigil celebration where the entire congregation has a candle lit from the special Paschal Candle. These candles represent our faith in Christ, sacrificed yet risen (cf. Revelations 5:6). At the end of each Mass, we are sent forth with a blessing, one of which declares, “Go in peace, glorifying God by your life.”

Therefore, let us always heed Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the papal legate to Medjugorje, who exhorts us, “So, friends, be carriers of this joyful news!”

Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA About Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA

A priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, in the service of the Diocese of Charleston, for Eucharistic Evangelization, Fr. Stanley Smolenski, SPMA, is a Baptistine Canonical Hermit, and diocesan director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina, Our Lady and Mother of Joyful Hope.


  1. Avatar Nancy Ball says:

    For a layperson seeing oneself as a Little Bright Light somehow speaks the truth as to how we can see ourselves as we strive to do God’s Will. I will send friends to HPR to read this article. as well as the ones before it as I am about to do.

  2. Avatar Lanny Breczinski says:

    I love this insight. Thank you Father.

  3. God bless you, Fr. Smolenski, for sharing this with us. May Our Lady, Mother of the Little Bright Lights, smile upon you!

  4. What a beautiful statue, and a beautiful reflection, Father. I am so happy you went back and bought that statue!

  5. Avatar Maurice says:

    Once a teacher always a teacher.
    After all these years, father, you still have it.
    Enjoyed your article, God bless you ✝️✝️✝️✝️