THE GLORIES OF MARY

SELECTIONS IN MODERN ENGLISH

By St. Alphonsus de Liguori Doctor of the Church 

Edited by Rev. Eugene Grimm, Priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Nihil obstat: Rev. Arthur J. Scanlan, S.T.D. Censor Librorum

Imprimatur:      

 + His Eminence Patritius Cardinalis Hayes Archiepiscopus Neo-Eboracensis Neo-Eboraci Die 16 Aprilis, 1931

                       NOTE:  The Glories of Mary is mostly composed of thousands of quotations of various saints and theologians, some prominent, and many obscure, along with the Latin original and their sources. This condensed  internet edition does away with the Latin quotations and many of the references to numerous saints and their works making this edition much easier to read.  Other websites can be consulted,  if the reader desires this information.  We recommend the original version with all the Latin for  students of Latin. Committing Latin quotations that touch the heart to memory would be a rewarding exercise for any student of Latin especially homeschoolers.

 

                                                                                                         .  PART 1

EXPLANATION OF THE SALVE REGINA.

CHAPTER 1

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae.

MARY, OUR QUEEN, OUR MOTHER.

1        How great should be our confidence in Mary, who is the Queen of Mercy

2        How much our confidence in Mary should be increased because She is our Mother

3        The greatness of the love which this Mother bears us

4         Mary is the Mother of penitent sinners

CHAPTER 2

MARY, OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS.

1       Mary is our life, because She obtains for us the pardon of our sins

2       Mary is also our life because She obtains for us perseverance

3       Mary is our sweetness; She renders death sweet to Her clients

CHAPTER 3

MARY, OUR HOPE.

1        Mary is the hope of all

2        Mary is the hope of sinners

CHAPTER 4

           MARY, OUR HELP.

1       The promptitude of Mary in assisting those who invoke Her

2       The greatness of the power of Mary to defend those who invoke Her when tempted 

CHAPTER 5

                    MARY, OUR MEDIATRESS.

          1       The necessity of the intercession of Mary for our salvation

2       The same subject continued

 

CHAPTER 6

MARY, OUR ADVOCATE.

1         Mary is an advocate who is able to save all

2        Mary is so tender an advocate that She does not refuse to defend the cause even of the most miserable

               3         Mary is the peace-maker between sinners and God

CHAPTER 7

MARY, OUR GUARDIAN.

                            Mary is all eyes to pity and Helps us in our necessities

CHAPTER 8

MARY, OUR SALVATION.

1.                 Mary delivers Her clients from hell

2.                Mary helps Her clients in purgatory

3.                Mary leads Her servants to heaven

CHAPTER 9

                                  How great are the clemency and compassion of Mary

CHAPTER 10

                                 The sweetness of the name of Mary during life and at death

NOTICE

First Edition

               This work, the GLORIOUS OF MARY, was published in 1750, at Naples.  St. Alphonsus was then 54 years old. It is known that this indefatigable apostle made a vow never to lose a moment's time.  All the time that He did not employ in the exercise of the ministry He divided between prayer and study, hardly allowing His body the rest and the care that it absolutely required.

                 There are books which, though not voluminous, are yet sufficient to render a name popular and immortal; and such undoubtedly is the book entitled the GLORIES OF MARY.  This work is not only a source of glory to its author, but it is much more—it is a great benefit that God bestows upon all.  Heartily welcomed by all those that love good books, and especially by souls that hunger and thirst after justice, or need consolation and encouragement, translated afterwards into all languages, printed and reprinted in every country of the world, the GLORIOUS OF MARY  is regarded as a spiritual thermometer,  by many to help keep them faithful to grace, this book by the least of its pages enlightens and sustains confidence.  When negligent and lukewarm, upon entering into oneself, one can recognize without difficulty that it is not the light that has diminished its brightness, but that it is the interior eye that is no longer able to bear its brilliancy.  Then by striving to restore to this eye of the soul its purity and its power, soon the thermometer rises; and the soul rises and finds itself in unison with the dear GLORIES OF MARY.

               Daily experience proves that the GLORIES OF MARY touches sinners and brings them back to God, as well as consoles the just, and animates them to perseverance.  Yet it is not less true that there is a certain state of the soul, unhappily too much known;—a state of languor and darkness, in which one feels the need of varying one's reading, and of being sweetly brought back to that kind of reading, which one has become almost unworthy of relishing.

           The GLORIES OF MARY is a book that contains a selection of fine pearls, skillfully set in a frame that enhances yet more their beauty and their value; it is a mosaic of precious stones, the sight of which attracts and delights the eye, elevates and purifies it, without ever fatiguing it, provided it is not yet injured; it is a cloud that illumines and protects, a water that refreshes and heals, a celestial manna that sustains our life in this arid and perilous desert, and aids us to reach safely the promised land, by giving as a foretaste of the goods with which it abounds,  Read a page of the GLORIES OF MARY, no matter which, and you will experience these effects.—Ed.  

J. M. J. A.
SOME PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.

Objections have been raised against some of the examples employed by St. Alphonsus in His edition of the GLORIES OF MARY.  The following observations will therefore not seem amiss.  The examples quoted by our Saint are taken from various sources: some are from post mediaeval writers, some from his own experience, and others from the legends of the middle ages.  The word "legend" meant at that time, not fable or fictitious narrative, but event or occurrence; things to be read.  The nature of these narratives bears witness to the simplicity and sincerity of the times in which they were written.  May we not say that sincerity and simplicity were equally characteristic of St. Alphonsus and His Neapolitan people.  In that spirit only can they be rightly understood and appreciated.  To quote the Saint's own words: "When an opinion tends in any way to the honor of the most Blessed Virgin, when it has some foundation, and is not repugnant to the faith, nor to the decrees of the Church, nor to truth, the refusal to hold it, or to oppose it because the reverse may be true, shows little devotion to the Mother of God.  Of the number of such as these I do not choose to be, nor do I wish my reader to be so, but rather of the number of those who fully and firmly believe all that can without error be believed of the greatness of Mary,  who, among the acts of homage most pleasing to this good Mother, places that of firmly believing all the redounds to Her honor.  If there was nothing else to take away our fear of exceeding in the praises of Mary, whatever we may say in praise of Mary is little in comparison with that which She deserves, on account of Her dignity of Mother of God; and, moreover, the Church says, in the Mass appointed for Her festivals, 'You are happy, O sacred Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise.'

              During the ages of which we speak the people were noted for a childlike confidence in God joined to an intimate whole-souled love for Christ and His Blessed Mother.  Little wonder then that God's goodness should manifest itself in exceptional favors bestowed on these fervent souls.  The accounts of extraordinary graces were readily accepted and put to good purpose in sermons and public discourses.  Without doubt many of the stories have a foundation in fact.  Others contain merely an historical kernel that must needs be viewed in its proper setting.  Other stories again were handed down from generation to generation and served to embody important truths.  Some writer or preacher of distinction may have narrated a story as an allegory or parable such as our Lord Himself employed.  The same was repeated by others, embellished and passed on from one to another.

            The fundamental idea of all these stories was practically the same.  Their object was to depict in graphic coloring the mercy of the Mother of God, and the power of Her intercession for the repentant sinner.  They serve to bring home perhaps more forcibly than a long doctrinal discourse could do, the mediation of Christ's Blessed Mother, the truth universally accepted, that all God's graces come to us through the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mother.  It would be far from the truth to say that people of the middle ages were influenced merely by sentiment and were only too eager to give credence to the seemingly miraculous.  Others, known for their profound investigations and scientific experiments, who could hardly be accused of childish credulity, have often employed the narrative of which we speak.  There were in those days, as in ours, falsifications, forgeries, exaggerations and historical errors.  But would it be just, on that account to demolish everything at one fell swoop as the skeptic is prone to do?  A story may not be based on historical fact, but it may nevertheless serve a worthy purpose.  Often we discover in such narratives a mine of information which throws light on the history, culture and religious life of the times.  St. Alphonsus wrote for the benefit of the people of his day, and his large experience in directing consciences guided him in selecting matter that would appeal to his reading public.  Were he writing for the people of today, no doubt he would omit some of the stories he narrates.  The same may be said of St. Augustine, and St. Ambrose, and St. Bernard and St. Francis de Sales.  After a rigorous examination of all the writings of our saint, the Sacred Congregation of Rites declared that "nothing in them was deserving of censure."  In the Bull of Canonization we find these words: "The faithful may read His works without any harm whatsoever."

THE STYLE OF THE NARRATIVES

            A few words as to the style the saint employs.  In the Introduction to the GLORIES OF MARY we find these words of the holy author:  "I have tried to gather together within a brief compass from all the writers at my disposal, the most beautiful and most significant sayings of the Fathers and theologians of the church."  These few words gave rise to the opinion in the minds of some that the work was little more than a compilation of choice quotations.  Of this opinion the distinguished writer Romano has the following to say:  "Far from being a mere compilation, the book resembles a work in mosaic executed by a clever artist; or to use another simile, it is like a work done in enamel, adorned with sparkling jewels so arranged as to exhibit a beautiful harmony of light and shade and color.  Such an achievement reveals the skill of the master who planned the work and executed it with consummate skill.  The numberless passages culled with remarkable diligence and prodigious labor are fused in the heart of the holy author as in a crucible aglow with the fire of love for the Blessed Mother.  Alphonsus lives in His work, proclaiming until the end of times, in accordance with His vow, the glories, and prerogatives of His beloved queen.  Not only are the outline of the work and the arrangement of matter to be attributed to St. Alphonsus, but His thoughts, considerations and affections are so interwoven with the text as to impart to the whole His spirit and His life.

            St. Alphonsus’ humble disregard of self appears in almost every line of His writings.  We are almost tempted to believe that the Saint purposely tried, by His unassuming style, to keep His remarkable talents and extraordinary knowledge in the background.  But this very artifice only discloses to the observant reader His keenness of intellect and His acuteness of judgment.  From His ascetical writings there breathes a sacred unction that irresistibly draws the reader to God and His holy love.

            St. Alphonsus was a holy and learned theologian, and the faithful echo of Tradition for our modern times.  His great learning coupled with a prodigious store of useful information render him eminently suited for such a task.  He shows an astonishing familiarity with Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.  His very language is redolent of the unction so characteristic of the sources whence His quotations are drawn, and withal it is simple and childlike.  The words he addresses to the Virgin Mother is the language of the heart, and no one misunderstands that.

            Let us conclude with this observation. St. Alphonsus has given us an excellent work and perfect from every point of view.  It is worthy of a man of his great intellectual gifts and profound knowledge.  Not only does it serve to promote piety among the faithful, but it provides ample material for theologians and preachers of the Word of God.  A cursory reading may convey the impression that it is just an ordinary book.  But an attentive study of the contents will reveal a veritable mine of ecclesiastical lore and Marian theology.  Often a single sentence or a prayer will exemplify a doctrine that other theologians use a lengthy discourse to explain.  The manna of Sacred Scripture seemed to have the property of adapting itself to the taste of him who ate it.  The same seems to be true of the GLORIES OF MARY.  It satisfies the needs and the taste of the most diverse readers.   EDITOR.


            Hail, O Queen, O Mother of mercy!  hail our life, our comfort, and our hope.  We, the banished children of Eve, cry out unto You.  To You we send up our sighs, groaning, and weeping in this vale of tears.  Come, then, our advocate, and look upon us with those Your pitying eyes.  And after this our banishment, show us Jesus, the blessed fruit of Your womb; O merciful, O compassionate, O sweet Virgin Mary. 

To Jesus and Mary.

            My most loving Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ.  I, Your miserable servant, well knowing what pleasure He gives You who endeavors to exalt Your most holy Mother, whom You love so much; knowing, too, how much You desire to see Her loved and honored by all, have determined to publish this work of mine, which treats of Her glories.  I know not, however, to whom I could better recommend it than to You, who have Her glory so much at heart.  To You, therefore, do I dedicate and commend it.  Accept this little homage of the love I bear You and Your beloved Mother.  Protect it by showering down on all that read it the light of confidence and flames of love towards this Immaculate Virgin in whom You have placed the hope and whom You have made the refuge of all the redeemed.  And as a reward for my poor labor, grant me, I implore You, that love towards Mary, which, by the means of this book, I desire to see enkindled in all that read it.

            And now I turn to You, O my most sweet Lady and Mother Mary.  You well know that, after Jesus, I have placed my entire hope of salvation in You; for I acknowledge that everything good—my conversion, my vocation to renounce the world and all the other graces that I have received from God—all were given me through Your means.  You know that in order to see You loved by all as You deserve, and also as some mark of gratitude for the many benefits You has conferred upon me, I have always endeavored in my sermons, in public and in private, to insinuate into all Your sweet and salutary devotion.  I hope to continue doing so until my last breath, but my advanced years and feeble health admonish me that I am near the end of my pilgrimage and my entry into eternity; and therefore I wish, before dying, to leave this book to the world, in order that in my place it may continue to preach You, and encourage others to announce Your glories, and the tender compassion You show to Your clients.  I trust, my most beloved Queen, that this little gift, which is one of love, though far beneath Your merits, will yet be acceptable to Your most gracious heart.  Extend, then, that most sweet hand with which You have drawn me from the world and delivered me from hell, and accept it and protect it as Your own.  But at the same time You must know that I expect a reward for my little offering; and that is, that from this day forward I may love You more than ever, and that every one into whose hands this work may fall may at once be inflamed with love of You; and that His desire of loving You, and of seeing You loved by others, may be increased, so that He may labor with all affection to preach and promote, as far as He can, Your praises, and confidence in Your most powerful intercession.  Amen.    Your most loving though unworthy servant.

            ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI.

TO THE READER.

            In order that my present work may not be condemned by the over-critical, I think it well to explain certain propositions that will be found in it, and which may seem hazardous, or perhaps obscure.  I have noticed some, and should others attract your attention, charitable reader, I beg that you will understand them according to the rules of sound theology and the doctrine of the holy Roman Catholic Church, of which I declare myself a most obedient son.  I have said that it is the Will of God that all graces should come to us by the hands of Mary.

            Now, this is indeed a most consoling truth for souls tenderly devoted to our most Blessed Lady, and for poor sinners who wish to repent.  Nor should this opinion be looked upon as contrary to sound doctrine, since Mary co-operated by Her charity in the spiritual birth of all members of the Church.  It was, properly speaking, on Mount Calvary that Jesus formed His Church; and then it is evident that the Blessed Virgin co-operated in a most excellent and especial manner in the accomplishment of this work.  And in the same way it can be said, that though She brought forth the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, without pain, She did not bring forth the Body of this Head without very great suffering; and so it was on Mount Calvary that Mary began, in an especial manner, to be the Mother of the whole Church.  And now, to say all in a few words: God, to glorify the Mother of the Redeemer, has so determined and disposed that of Her great charity She should intercede in behalf of all those for whom His Divine Son paid and offered the superabundant price of His Precious Blood in which alone is our salvation, life, and resurrection.

            On this doctrine, and on all that is in accordance with it, I ground my propositions which the saints have not feared to assert in their tender colloquies with Mary and fervent discourses in Her honor.  The plenitude of all grace which is in Christ came into Mary, though in a different way; meaning that the plenitude of grace was in Christ, as the Head from which it flows, as from its source; and in Mary, as in the neck through which it flows.  Of the 3 ways in which the Blessed Virgin is full of grace, the third is that She is so for its transfusion into all men. This plenitude is great in any saint when there is as much grace as would suffice for the salvation of many, but it is in its highest degree when there is as much as would suffice for the salvation of the world; and it was in this degree in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin: for in all dangers You can obtain salvation of this glorious Virgin; and therefore it is said in the sacred Canticles that a thousand bucklers, that is to say, means of protection against dangers, hang upon it.  Also, in every work of virtue You can have Her for Your helper, for She says in the words of Sirach, In me is all hope of life and virtue (Sir 24:25).

INTRODUCTION

WHICH SHOULD BE READ.

                My beloved reader and brother in Mary: Since the devotion that led me to write, and moves you to read, this book makes us happy children of the same good Mother, should you hear it remarked that I might have spared myself the labor, as there are already so many celebrated and learned works on the same subject, I beg that you will recognize that the praise of Mary is an inexhaustible fount: the more it is enlarged the fuller it gets, and the more you fill it so much the more is it enlarged.  In short, this Blessed Virgin is so great and so sublime that the more She is praised the more there remains to praise; so much so, that if all the tongues of men were put together, and even if each of their members was changed into a tongue, they would not suffice to praise Her as much as She deserves.  I have seen innumerable works of all sizes which treat of the Glories of Mary; but finding that they were rare, voluminous, or did not answer the object I had in view, I endeavored to collect, from as many authors as I could lay my hands on, the choicest passages, extracted from Fathers and theologians, and those which seemed to me to be the most to the point, and have put them together in this book, in order that the devout may with little trouble and expense be able to inflame themselves with the love of Mary, and more particularly to furnish priests with matter for their sermons, wherewith to excite others to devotion towards this Heavenly Mother. Worldly lovers often speak of those whom they love, and praise them, in order that the object of their affections may be praised and extolled by others.  

               There are some who pretend to be lovers of Mary, and yet seldom either speak of Her or endeavor to excite others to love Her: their love cannot be great.  It is not thus that true lovers of this amiable Lady act; they desire to praise Her on all occasions, and to see Her loved by the whole world, and never lose an opportunity, either in public or in private, of enkindling in the hearts of others those blessed flames of love with which they themselves burn towards their beloved Queen.  That every one may be persuaded how important it is, both for His own good and that of others, to promote devotion towards Mary, it is useful to know what theologians say on the subject.

                Those who make a point of announcing to others the glories of Mary are certain of heaven.  To honor this Queen of Angels is to gain eternal life;  this most gracious Lady will honor in the next world those who honor Her in this.   And who is ignorant of the promise made by Mary Herself, in the words of Sirach, to those who endeavor to make Her known and loved here below, they that explain me shall have life everlasting; (Sir 24:31) as this passage is applied to Her by the Church. Rejoice, my soul, and be glad in Her; for many good things are prepared for those who praise Her; the whole of Sacred Scriptures speak in praise of Mary: let us therefore always with our hearts and tongues honor this Heavenly Mother, in order that we may be conducted by Her into the kingdom of the blessed.

               There was a Bishop who was in the habit of always beginning His sermons with the praises of Mary.  One day the Blessed Virgin Herself appeared to the saint to tell him that in consequence of his pious practice, "She would be his Mother, that he would die a holy death, and that She would Herself present his soul to God.   He died like a saint in the act of praying, and in the most heavenly peace.  Mary also appeared to a Dominican friar, who always concluded his sermons by speaking of Her; when on his deathbed the Blessed Virgin defended him from devils, consoled him, and then She Herself carried off his happy soul.  The devout Thomas à Kempis represents to us Mary recommending a soul who had honored Her to Her Son, and saying, "My most loving Son, have mercy on the soul of this servant of Yours, who loved and extolled Me."   

               Next, as to the advantage of this devotion for all that as the most sacred womb of Mary was the means of salvation for sinners, the hearing of Her praises must necessarily convert them, and thus also be a means of their salvation; how can it be otherwise than that the salvation of sinners should come from the remembrance of Her praises, whose womb was made the way through which the Savior came to save sinners?  And if the opinion is true, and I consider it is indubitably so, that all graces are dispensed by Mary, and that all who are saved are saved only by the means of this Heavenly Mother, it is a necessary consequence that the salvation of all depends upon preaching Mary, and exciting all to confidence in Her intercession.  It is well known that it was thus that St. Bernardine of Sienna sanctified Italy, and that St. Dominic converted so many provinces.  St. Louis Bertrand never omitted in His sermons to exhort all to love Mary; and many others have done the same.

               In our own missions, in which it is an inviolable rule to do the same, we can attest, with all truth, that in most cases no sermon is more profitable, or produces so much compunction in the hearts of the people, as the one on the Mercy of Mary.  I say, on Her Mercy; for, we praise Her virginity, we admire Her humility; but because we are poor sinners, Mercy attracts us more and tastes sweeter; we embrace Mercy more lovingly; we remember it oftener, and invoke it more earnestly. And for this reason I here leave other authors to describe the other prerogatives of Mary, and confine myself for the most part to that of Her Mercy and powerful intercession; having collected, as far as I was able, and with the labor of many years, all that the holy Fathers and the most celebrated writers have said on this subject; and as I find that the mercy and power of the most Blessed Virgin are admirably portrayed in the prayer "Salve Regina," the recital of which is made obligatory for the greater part of the year on all the clergy, secular and regular, I shall divide and explain this most devout prayer in separate chapters.  In addition to this, I thought that I should be giving pleasure to Mary's devout clients, by adding discourses on the principal festivals and virtues of this Heavenly Mother, and by placing at the end of the work the devotions and pious practices most used by Her servants, and most approved of by the Church.

                O, blessed are they who bind themselves with love and confidence to these 2 anchors of salvation, Jesus and Mary.  Certainly, they will not be lost.  Let us then both say, devout reader, "Jesus and Mary, my most sweet loves, for You may I suffer, for You may I die; grant that I may be in all things Yours and in nothing mine."

               Let us love Jesus and Mary, and become saints; we can neither expect nor hope anything better.  Farewell, then, until we meet in Paradise, at the feet of this most sweet Mother and of this most loving Son; there to praise them, to love them face to face for all eternity.  Amen.

PART 1

EXPLANATION OF THE SALVE REGINA.
CHAPTER 1
HAIL HOLY QUEEN, MOTHER OF MERCY
MARY, OUR QUEEN, OUR MOTHER.

1        How great should be our confidence in Mary, who is the Queen of Mercy

2        How much our confidence in Mary should be increased because She is our Mother

3        The greatness of the love which this Mother bears us

4        Mary is the Mother of penitent sinners

THE MANY AND ABUNDANT GRACES DISPENSED BY THE MOTHER OF GOD TO HER DEVOUT CLIENTS.

I.

How Great Should Be Our Confidence In Mary, Who Is The Queen Of Mercy.

               As the glorious Virgin Mary has been raised to the dignity of Mother of the King of kings, it is not without reason that the Church honors Her, and wishes Her to be honored by all, with the glorious title of Queen.  If the Son is a king, the Mother who begot Him is rightly and truly considered a Queen and Sovereign. No sooner had Mary consented to be Mother of the Eternal Word, than She merited by this consent to be made Queen of the world and of all creatures. Since the flesh of Mary was not different from that of Jesus, how can the royal dignity of the Son be denied to the Mother? Hence we must consider the glory of the Son, not only as being common to His Mother, but as one with Her.  And if Jesus is the King of the universe, Mary is also its Queen.  And as Queen, She possesses, by right, the whole kingdom of Her Son.  Hence as many creatures as there are who serve God, so many they are who serve Mary: for as angels and men, and all things that are in heaven and on earth, are subject to the empire of God, so are they also under the dominion of Mary!  "Continue, Mary, continue to dispose with confidence of the riches of Your Son; act as Queen, Mother and Spouse of the King: for to You belongs dominion and power over all creatures!"  Mary, then, is a Queen: but, for our common consolation, be it known that She is a Queen so sweet, clement, and so ready to help us in our miseries, that the Holy Church wills that we should salute Her in this prayer under the title of Queen of Mercy.

                  The title of Queen differs from that of Empress, which implies severity and rigor, in signifying compassion and charity towards the poor.  The greatness of kings and queens, consists in relieving the wretched; and whereas tyrants, when they reign, have their own good in view, kings should have that of their subjects at heart.  For this reason it is that, at their consecration, kings have their heads anointed with oil, which is the symbol of mercy, to denote that, as kings, they should, above all things, nourish in their hearts feelings of compassion and benevolence towards their subjects.

                 Kings should, then, occupy themselves principally in works of mercy, but not so as to forget the just punishments that are to be inflicted on the guilty.  It is, however, not thus with Mary, who, although a Queen, is not a Queen of Justice, intent on the punishment of the wicked, but a Queen of Mercy, intent only on commiserating and pardoning sinners.  And this is the reason for which the Church requires that we should expressly call Her "the Queen of Mercy."  In Psalm 62 we read:  "These 2 things have I heard, that power belongs  to God, and mercy to You, O Lord." The Kingdom of God, consisting in Justice and Mercy, was divided by our Lord: the kingdom of justice He reserved for Himself, and that of mercy He yielded to Mary, ordaining at the same time that all mercies that are dispensed to men should pass through the hands of Mary, and be disposed of by Her at will. The Kingdom of God consists in power and mercy; reserving power to Himself, He, in some way, yielded the empire of mercy to His Mother; because when the Blessed Virgin conceived the Eternal Word in Her womb, and brought Him forth, She obtained half the kingdom of God; so that She is Queen of Mercy, as Jesus is King of Justice.  

                 The Eternal Father made Jesus Christ the King of justice, and consequently Universal Judge of the world: and therefore the royal prophet signs: Give to the King Your judgment, O God, and to the King's Son Your justice (Ps 72:2).   "O Lord, You have given justice to Your Son, because You have given mercy to the King's Mother. Give to the King Your judgment, O God, and Your mercy to the Queen His Mother." The Eternal Father gave the office of judge and avenger to the Son, and that of showing mercy and relieving the needy to the Mother.   In order that we miserable children of Adam might rejoice, remembering that in heaven we have this great Queen, overflowing with the unction of mercy and compassion towards us; and thus we can say, "O Mary, You are full of the unction of mercy and of the oil of compassion, therefore God has anointed You with the oil of gladness.  Queen Esther, was Herself a great type of our Queen Mary!  We read, in the Book of Esther that in the reign of Assuerus, a decree was issued, by which all Jews were condemned to death.  Mordechai, who was one of the condemned, addressed himself to Esther, in order that She might interpose with Assuerus, and obtain the revocation of the decree, and thus be the salvation of all.  At first Esther declined the office, fearing that such a request might irritate the king still more; but Mordechai reproved Her, sending Her word that She was not to think only of saving Herself, for God had placed Her on the throne to obtain the salvation of all the Jews: 

              Think not that you may save your life only, because you are in the king's house, more than all the Jews (Esther 4:13).  Thus did Mordechai address Queen Esther.  And so can we poor sinners address our Queen Mary, should She show any repugnance to obtain of God our delivery from the chastisement we have justly deserved: "Think not, O Lady, that God has raised You to the dignity of Queen of the world, only to provide for Your good; but in order that, being so great, You might be better able to have compassion and assist us miserable creatures." As soon as Assuerus saw Esther standing before Him, He asked Her, with love, what She came to seek.  What is Your request!  The Queen replied, If I have found favor in Your sight, O King, give me my people, for which I request (Esther 7:2,3).  Assuerus granted Her request, and immediately rectified  the problem.  And now, if Assuerus, through love for Esther, granted, at Her request, salvation to the Jews, how can God refuse the prayers of Mary, loving Her immensely as He does, when She prays for poor miserable sinners, who recommend themselves to Her, and says to Him, "My King and my God, if ever I have found favor in Your sight" (though the Heavenly Mother well knows that She was the blessed, the holy one, the only one of the human race who found the grace lost by all mankind; well does She know that She is the beloved one of Her Lord, loved more than all the saints and angels together), give me my people for which I ask.  If You love me, She says, "give me, O Lord, these sinners, for whom I entreat You."  Is it possible that God should refuse Her?  And who is ignorant of the power of the prayers of Mary with God?  The law of clemency is on Her tongue (Prov 31:26).

               Each of Her prayers is, as it were, an established Law for our Lord, that He should show mercy to all for whom She intercedes.  Why the Church calls Mary "the Queen of Mercy"? It is because we believe that She opens the abyss of the Mercy of God to whomsoever She wills, when She wills, and as She wills; so that there is no sinner, however great, who is lost if Mary protects Him.  But perhaps we may fear that Mary would not deign to interpose for some sinners, because they are so overloaded with crimes?  Or perhaps we ought to be overawed at the majesty and holiness of this great Queen?  No, for the higher and more holy She is, the greater is Her sweetness and compassion towards sinners, who have recourse to Her with the desire to amend their lives. Kings and queens, with their ostentation of majesty, inspire terror, and cause their subjects to fear to approach them: but what fear can the miserable have to approach this Queen of Mercy, for She inspires no terror, and shows no severity, to those who come to Her, but is all sweetness and gentleness. Why should human frailty fear to go to Mary?  In Her there is no austerity, nothing terrible: She is all sweetness, offering milk and wool to all. Mary is not only willing to give, but She Herself offers milk and wool to all: the milk of mercy to animate our confidence, and the wool of Her protection against the thunderbolts of Divine Justice.

                The Emperor Titus could never refuse a favor, so much so that He sometimes promised more than He could grant, and when admonished of this He replied, that a prince should never send away any person whom He admitted to His audience dissatisfied.  Titus spoke thus, but in reality He must often have deceived or failed in His promises.  Our Queen cannot deceive, and can obtain all that She wills for Her clients.  Moreover, our Lord has given Her so benign and compassionate a heart, that She cannot send away anyone dissatisfied who prays to Her.

           How can You, O Mary, who are the Queen of Mercy, refuse to help the miserable?  Who are the subjects for mercy, if not the miserable?  And since You are the Queen of Mercy, and I am the most miserable of sinners, it follows that I am the first of Your subjects.  How, then, O Lady, can You do otherwise than exercise Your mercy on me?”  Have pity on us, then, O Queen of Mercy, and take charge of our salvation. Say not, O Holy Virgin, that You can not assist us on account of the number of our sins, for Your power and Your compassion are such, that no number of sins, however great, can outweigh them.  Nothing resists Your power, for our common Creator, honoring You as His Mother, considering Your glory as His own; and the Son, exulting in it, fulfills Your petitions as if He were paying a debt.” 

           This means thereby, that although He is under an infinite obligation to Her for having given Him His humanity; and therefore Jesus, to pay as it were what He owes to Mary, and glorying in Her glory, honors Her in a special manner by listening to and granting all Her petitions.   

               How great, then, should be our confidence in this Queen, knowing Her great power with God, and that She is so rich and full of mercy, that there is no one living on the earth who does not partake of Her compassion and favor.  This was revealed by our Blessed Lady Herself to St. Bridget, saying, 

            "I am the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just, and the door through which sinners are brought to God.  There is no sinner on earth so accursed as to be deprived of My mercy; for all, if they receive nothing else through My intercession, receive the grace of being less tempted by the devils than they would otherwise have been."   "No one," She adds, "unless the irrevocable sentence has been pronounced" (that is, the one pronounced on the damned), "is so cast off by God that He will not return to Him, and enjoy His Mercy, if he invokes My aid. I am called by all the Mother of Mercy, and truly the mercy of My Son towards men has made Me thus merciful towards them; and therefore miserable will he be, and miserable will he be to all eternity, who, in this life, having it in his power to invoke Me, who am so compassionate to all, and so desirous to assist sinners, is miserable enough not to invoke me, and so is damned."

                 Let us, then, have recourse, and always have recourse, to this most sweet Queen, if we would be certain of salvation; and if we are alarmed and disheartened at the sight of our sins, let us remember that it is in order to save the greatest and most abandoned sinners, who recommend themselves to Her, that Mary is made the Queen of Mercy.  Such have to be Her crown in heaven; according to the words addressed to Her by Her Divine Spouse: Come from Lebanon, my spouse; come from Lebanon, come: You shall be crowned from the dens of the lions from the mountains of the leopards —Song. 4:8.  And what are these dens of beasts, but miserable sinners, whose souls have become the home of sin, the most frightful monster that can be found.  "With such souls, saved by Your means, O great Queen Mary, will You be crowned in heaven; for their salvation will form a diadem worthy of, and well-becoming, a Queen of Mercy."  On this subject read the following.

EXAMPLE

                During the life of Sr. Catherine of St. Augustine,  there was a woman, of the name of Mary, who in her youth was a sinner, and in her old age continued so obstinate in wickedness, that she was driven out of the city, and reduced to live in a secluded cave; there she died, half consumed by disease, without the sacraments, and was consequently interred in a field like a beast.  Sister Catherine, who always recommended the souls of those who departed from this world, with great fervor to God, on hearing the unfortunate end of this poor, poor old woman, never thought of praying for her, and She looked upon Her as irrevocably lost.  One day, 4 years afterwards, a suffering soul appeared to her, and exclaimed: "How unfortunate is my lot, Sister Catherine! You recommend the souls of all those that die to God; on my soul alone you have no compassion."  "And who are you!" asked the servant of God.  "I am," She replied, "that poor Mary who died in the cave."  "And are you saved?" said Catherine.  "Yes," she answered, "by the mercy of the Blessed Virgin Mary."  "And how?"  "When I saw myself at the point of death, loaded with sins, and abandoned by all, I had recourse to the Mother of God, saying, 'Lady, You are the refuge of abandoned creatures; behold me, at this moment, abandoned by all; You are my only hope; You alone can help me: have pity on me.'  The Blessed Virgin obtained, for me the grace to make an act of contrition.  I died, and am saved; and besides this, She my Queen obtained for me another favor, that my purgatory should be shortened, by enduring, in intensity, that which otherwise would have lasted for many years: I now lack only a few Masses to be entirely delivered; I beg you to have them said; and on my part, I promise always to pray for you to God and to Mary."  Sister Catherine immediately had the Masses said; and after a few days that soul again appeared to her, shining like the sun, and said: "I thank you, Catherine: behold, I go to Paradise, to sing the Mercies of my God, and to pray for you." 

PRAYER

               O, Mother of my God, and my Lady Mary; as a beggar, all wounded and sore, presents himself before a great queen, so do I present myself before You, who are the Queen of heaven and earth.  From the lofty throne on which You sit, disdain not, I implore You, to cast Your eyes on me, a poor sinner.  God has made You so rich that You might assist the poor, and has constituted You Queen of Mercy in order that You might relieve the miserable.  Behold me then, and pity me: behold me and abandon me not, until You see me changed from a sinner into a saint.  I know well that I merit nothing; indeed more, that I deserve, on account of my ingratitude, to be deprived of the graces that, through Your means,  I have already received from God.  But You, who are the Queen of Mercy, seek not merits, but miseries, in order to help the needy.  But who is more needy than I?  O, exalted Virgin, well do I know that You, who are Queen of the universe, are already my queen; yet am I determined to dedicate myself more especially to Your service, in order that You may dispose of me as You please.  Therefore govern me, O my Queen, and leave me not to myself.  Command me; employ me as You will, and chastise me when I do not obey; for the chastisements that come from Your hands will be to me pledges of salvation.  I would rather be Your servant than the ruler of the earth.  I am Yours; save me.  Accept me, O Mary, for Your own, and as Yours, take charge of my salvation.  I will no longer be mine; to You do I give myself.  If, during the time past I have served You poorly, and lost so many occasions of honoring You, for the future I will be one of Your most loving and faithful servants.  I am determined that from this day forward no one shall surpass me in honoring and loving You, my most amiable Queen.  This I promise; and this, with Your help, I hope to execute.  Amen.

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           How Much Our Confidence In Mary Should Be Increased Because She Is Our Mother.

                It is not without a meaning, or by chance, that Mary's clients call Her Mother; and indeed they seem unable to invoke Her under any other name, and never tire of calling Her Mother.  Mother, yes! For She is truly our Mother; not indeed carnally, but spiritually; of our souls and of our salvation.  Sin, by depriving our souls of divine grace, deprived them also of life.  Jesus our Redeemer, with an excess of mercy and love, came to restore this life by His own Death on the Cross, as He Himself declared: I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10).  He says more abundantly; for, according to theologians, the benefit of redemption far exceeded the injury done by Adam's sin.  So that by reconciling us with God He made Himself the Father of souls in the Law of Grace, as it was foretold by the prophet Isaiah: He shall be called the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace (Is  9:6).  But if Jesus is the Father of our souls, Mary is also their Mother; for She, by giving us Jesus, gave us true life; and afterwards, by offering the life of Her Son on Mount Calvary for our salvation, She brought us forth to the life of grace.  On 2 occasions, then, Mary became our spiritual Mother. The first was when She merited to conceive in Her virginal womb the Son of God.  When at the Annunciation the most Blessed Virgin gave the consent which was expected by the Eternal Word before becoming Her Son, She from that moment asked our salvation of God with intense ardor, and took it to heart in such a way, that from that moment, as a most loving mother, She bore us in Her womb.  St. Luke, the Evangelist, speaking of the birth of our Blessed Redeemer, says that Mary brought forth Her First-Born Son (Lk 2:7).  Then since the Evangelist asserts that on this occasion the most Holy Virgin brought forth Her first-born, must we suppose that She had afterwards other children?  As it is of faith that Mary had no other children according to the flesh than Jesus, She must have had other spiritual children, and we are those children.  This was revealed by our Lord to St. Gertrude who was perplexed and could not understand how Mary, being only the Mother of Jesus, could be said to have brought forth Her First-Born.  God explained it to Her, saying, that Jesus was Mary's first-born according to the flesh, but that all mankind were Her second-born according to the spirit.  From what has been said, we can understand that passage of the sacred Canticle: Your womb is like a heap of wheat, set about with lilies (Song 7:2), and which applies to Mary.  Although in the most pure womb of Mary there was but one grain of corn, which was Jesus Christ, yet it is called a heap of wheat, because all the elect were virtually contained in it; and as Mary was also to be their Mother, in bringing forth Jesus, He was truly and is called the First-Born of many brethren.  Mary, in bringing forth Jesus, our Savior and our life, brought forth many unto salvation; and by giving birth to Life Himself, She gave life to many.

                 The second occasion on which Mary became our spiritual Mother, and brought us forth to the life of grace, was when She offered to the Eternal Father the life of Her beloved Son on Mount Calvary, with so bitter sorrow and suffering.  So that as She then co-operated by Her love in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, She became the spiritual Mother of all who are members of the one Head, Christ Jesus. This we are given to understand by the following verse of the sacred Canticles, and which refers to the most Blessed Virgin: “They have made me the keeper in the vineyards; my vineyard I have not kept” (Sg 1:5).  Mary, in order that She might save many souls, exposed Her own to death. Meaning, that to save us, She sacrificed the Life of Her Son.  And who but Jesus was the soul of Mary?  He was Her life, and all Her love.  And therefore the prophet Simeon foretold that a sword of sorrow would one day transpierce Her own most blessed soul (Lk 2:35).  And it was precisely the lance which transpierced the side of Jesus, Who was the soul of Mary.  Then it was that this most Blessed Virgin brought us forth by Her sorrows to eternal life: and thus we can all call ourselves the children of the sorrows of Mary.  Our most loving Mother was always, and in all, united to the Will of God.  And therefore, when She saw the love of the Eternal Father towards men to be so great that, in order to save them, He willed the Death of His Son; and, on the other hand, seeing the love of the Son in wishing to die for us: in order to conform Herself to this excessive love of both the Father and the Son towards the human race, She also with Her entire will offered, and consented to, the Death of Her Son, in order that we might be saved. It is true that, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, Jesus, in dying for the redemption of the human race, chose to be alone.  “I have trodden the winepress alone” (Is 63:3); but, seeing the ardent desire of Mary to aid in the salvation of man, He disposed it so that She, by the sacrifice and offering of the Life of Her Jesus, should co-operate in our salvation, and thus become the Mother of our souls.  This our Savior signified, when, before expiring, He looked down from the Cross on His Mother and on the disciple St. John, who stood at its foot, and, first addressing Mary, He said, “Behold Your Son” (John 19:26); as it were saying, Behold, the whole human race, which by the offer You make of My Life for the salvation of all, is even now being born to the Life of Grace.  Then, turning to the disciple, He said, “Behold Your Mother” (John 19:26).  By these words, Mary, by reason of the love She bore them, became the Mother, not only of St. John, but of all men. John himself, in stating this fact in His Gospel, says, "Then He said to the disciple, Behold your Mother."  Here observe well that Jesus Christ did not address himself to John, but to the disciple, in order to show that He then gave Mary to all who are His disciples, that is to say, to all Christians, that She might be their Mother.  John is but the name of one, whereas the word disciple is applicable to all; therefore our Lord makes use of a name common to all, to show that Mary was given as a Mother to us.

                   The Church applies to Mary these words of the sacred Canticles: I am the Mother of fair love (Sir 24:24). The Blessed Virgin's love renders our souls beautiful in the Sight of God, and also makes Her as a most loving mother receive us as Her children, She being all love towards those whom She has thus adopted.  "What mother loves her children, and attends to their welfare, as You love us and care for us, O most sweet Queen!  For don’t You love us and seek our welfare far more without comparison than any earthly mother?"  O blessed are they who live under the protection of so loving and powerful a mother!  The prophet David, although She was not yet born, sought salvation from God by dedicating himself as a son of Mary, and thus prayed: "Save the son of Your handmaid."  Of what handmaid?  Of Her who said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."  And who would ever dare to snatch these children from the heart of Mary, when they have taken refuge there?  What power of hell, or what temptation, can overcome them, if they place their confidence in the patronage of this great Mother, the Mother of God, and of them?   There are some who say that when the whale sees its young in danger, either from tempests or pursuers, it opens its mouth and swallows them.  When the storms of temptations rage, the most compassionate Mother of the faithful, with maternal tenderness, protects them as it were in Her own heart until She has brought them into the harbor of salvation.   

                  O most loving Mother!  O most compassionate Mother! Be ever blessed; and ever blessed be God, Who has given You to us for our Mother, and for a secure refuge in all the dangers of this life.  Our Blessed Lady Herself, in a vision, addressed these words to St. Bridget: "As a mother, on seeing her son in the midst of the swords of his enemies, would use every effort to save him, so do I, and will do for all sinners who seek My mercy."   Thus it is that in every engagement with the infernal powers, we shall always certainly conquer by having recourse to the Mother of God, who is also our Mother, saying and repeating again and again"We fly to Your patronage, O Holy Mother of God."  Oh, how many victories have not the faithful gained over hell, by having recourse to Mary with this short but most powerful prayer and have overcome devils.  Be of good heart, then, all you who are children of Mary.  Remember that She accepts as Her children all those who choose to be so.  Rejoice!  Why do you fear to be lost, when such a Mother defends and protects you?  "Say, then, O my soul, with great confidence: I will rejoice and be glad; for whatever the judgment to be pronounced on me may be, it depends on and must come from my Brother and Mother"   Thus it is that each one who loves this good Mother, and relies on Her protection, should animate himself to confidence, remembering that Jesus is our Brother, and Mary our Mother.  O, happy confidence!  O safe refuge!  The Mother of God is my Mother.  How firm, then, should be our confidence, since our salvation depends on the judgment of a good Brother and a tender Mother.  It is, then, our Mother who calls us, and says, in these words of the Book of Proverbs: “He who is a little one, let Him turn to me"—Prov 9:4.  Children have always on their lips their mother's name, and in every fear, in every danger, they immediately cry out, Mother! Mother!  Ah, most sweet Mary! ah, most loving Mother! This is precisely what You desire: that we should become children, and call on You in every danger, and at all times have recourse to You, because You desire to help and save us, as You have saved all who have had recourse to You.

EXAMPLE

There was a young Scotch nobleman, named William Elphinstone, related to King James, who lived for some time in the heresy in which He was born.  Enlightened by divine grace, He began to perceive His errors.  Having gone to France, with the help of a good Jesuit Father, and still more by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, He at last discovered the truth, abjured His heresy, and became a Catholic.  From France He went to Rome, and there a friend, finding Him one day weeping and in great affliction, inquired the cause of His grief.  He answered that during the night His mother, who was lost, appeared to Him, and said: "It is well for You, son, that You has entered the true Church; for as I died in heresy, I am lost."  From that moment He redoubled His devotions towards Mary, choosing Her for His only Mother, and by Her He was inspired with the thought of embracing the religious state, and He bound himself to do so by vow.  Being in delicate health, He went to Naples for a change of air, and there it was the Will of God that He should die, and die as a religious; for shortly after His arrival, finding himself at the last extremity, by His prayers and tears He moved the Superiors to accept Him, and in Presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, when He received it as viaticum, He pronounced His vows, and was declared a member of the Society of Jesus.  After this it was most touching to hear with what tenderness He thanked His Mother Mary for having snatched Him from heresy, and led Him to die in the true Church, and in the House of God, surrounded by His religious brethren.  This made Him exclaim: "Oh, how glorious is it to die in the midst of so many angels!"  When exhorted to repose a little, "Ah," He replied, "this is no time for repose, now that I am at the close of my life."  Before expiring, He said to those who surrounded Him: "Brothers, do you not see the angels of heaven here present who assist me?"  One of the religious having heard Him mutter some words, asked Him what He said.  He answered, that His guardian angel had revealed to Him that He would remain but a very short time in purgatory, and that He would soon go to heaven.  He then entered into  a colloquy with His sweet Mother Mary, and like a child that abandons itself to rest in the arms of its mother, He exclaimed, "Mother, Mother!" and sweetly expired.  Shortly afterwards a devout religious learnt by revelation that He was already in heaven.

PRAYER

O most Holy Mother Mary, how is it possible that I, having so Holy a Mother, should be so wicked;  a Mother all burning with the love of God, and  loving creatures; a Mother so rich in virtue, and I so poor?  Ah, amiable Mother, it is true that I do not deserve any longer to be Your son, for by my wicked life I have rendered myself unworthy of so great an honor.  I am satisfied that You should accept me for Your servant; and in order to be admitted among the vilest of them, I am ready to renounce all the kingdoms of the world.  Yes, I am satisfied.  But still You must not forbid me to call You Mother.  This name consoles and fills me with tenderness, and reminds me of my obligation to love You.  This name excites me to great confidence in You.  When my sins and Divine Justice fill me most with consternation, I am all consoled at the thought that You are my Mother.  Allow me then, to call You Mother, my most amiable Mother.  Thus do I call You, and thus will I always call You.  You, after God, must be my hope, my refuge, my love in this valley of tears.  Thus do I hope to die, breathing forth my soul into Your holy hands, and saying, My Mother my Mother Mary, help me, have pity on me! Amen.

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The Greatness Of The Love Which This Mother Bears Us.

Since Mary is our Mother, we may consider how great is the love She bears us; love towards our children is a necessary impulse of nature; and this is the reason why Divine Law imposes on children the obligation of loving their parents; but gives no express command that parents should love their children, for nature itself has so strongly implanted it in all creatures, for we know that a mother will expose Herself to danger for Her children, and even the most savage beasts cannot do otherwise than love their young.  It is said that even tigers, on hearing the cry of their cubs taken by hunters, will go into the sea and swim until they reach the vessel in which they are.  Since the very tigers, says our most loving Mother Mary, cannot forget their young, how can I forget to love you, my children?  And even, She adds, were such a thing possible as that a mother should forget to love Her child, it is not possible that I should cease to love a soul that has become my child: Can a woman forget Her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of Her womb?  And if She should forget, yet will I not forget You" (Is. 49:15).

     Mary is our Mother, not, as we have already observed, according to the flesh, but by love; I am the Mother of fair love (Sir 24:24); hence it is the love only that She bears us that makes Her our mother; and therefore, She glories in being a Mother of Love, because She is all love towards us whom She has adopted for Her children. And who can ever tell the love that Mary bears us miserable creatures?  But let us consider the reason of this love; for then we shall be better able to understand how much this good mother loves us.

   The first reason for the great love that Mary bears to men, is the great love that She bears to God; love towards God and love towards our neighbor belong to the same commandment, as expressed by St. John: this commandment we have from God, that He who loves God, love also His brother (1 Jn 4:21); so that as the one becomes greater the other also increases.  What have not the saints done for their neighbor in consequence of their love towards God!  Read only the account of the labors of St. Francis Xavier in the Indies, where, in order to aid the souls of these poor barbarians and bring them to God, He exposed himself to a thousand dangers, clambering among the mountains, and seeking out these poor creatures in the caves in which they dwelt like wild beats.  See a St. Francis de Sales, who, in order to convert the heretics of the province of Chablais, risked His life every morning, for a whole year, crawling on His hands and feet over a frozen beam, in order that He might preach to them on the opposite side of a river; a St. Paulinus, who delivered himself up as a slave, in order that He might obtain liberty for the son of a poor widow; a St. Fidelis, who, in order to draw the heretics of a certain place to God, persisted in going to preach to them, though He knew it would cost Him His life.  The saints, then, because they loved God much, did much for their neighbor; but who ever loved God as much as Mary?  She loved Him more in the first moment of Her existence than all the saints and angels ever loved Him, or will love Him; but this we shall explain at length, when treating of Her virtues.  Our Blessed Lady Herself revealed to Sister Mary the Crucified, that the fire of love with which She was inflamed towards God was such, that if the heavens and earth were placed in it, they would be instantly consumed; so that the ardors of the seraphim, in comparison with it, were but as fresh breezes.  And as among all the blessed spirits, there is not one that loves God more than Mary, so we neither have nor can have any one who, after God, loves us as much as this most loving Mother; and if we concentrate all the love that mothers bear their children, husbands and wives one another, all the love of angels and saints for their clients, it does not equal the love of Mary towards a single soul.  The love that all mothers have ever had for their children is but a shadow in comparison with the love that Mary bears to each one of us;  She alone loves us more than all the angels and saints put together.

     Moreover, our Mother loves us much, because we were recommended to Her by Her beloved Jesus, when He before expiring said to Her, Woman, behold Your son! for we were all represented in the person of St. John, as we have already observed: these were His last words; and the last recommendations left before death by persons we love are always treasured and never forgotten.  Again, we are exceedingly dear to Mary on account of the sufferings we cost Her.  Mothers generally love those children most, the preservation of whose lives has cost them the most suffering and anxiety; we are those children for whom Mary, in order to obtain for us the life of grace, was obliged to endure the bitter agony of Herself offering Her beloved Jesus to die an ignominious death, and had also to see Him expire before Her own eyes in the midst of the most cruel and unheard-of torments.  It was then by this great offering of Mary that we were born to the Life of Grace; we are therefore Her very dear children, since we cost Her so great suffering.  And thus, as it is written of the love of the Eternal Father towards men, in giving His own Son to Death for us, that God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son (Jn 3:16).  So also, we can say of Mary, that She has so loved us as to give Her Only-Begotten Son for us.  And when did She give Him?  She gave Him when She granted Him permission to deliver Himself up to Death; She gave Him to us, when, others neglecting to do so, either out of hatred or from fear, She might Herself have pleaded for the life of Her Son before the judges.  Well may it be supposed that the words of so wise and loving a mother would have had great weight, at least with Pilate, and might have prevented Him from sentencing a man to death whom He knew and had declared to be innocent.  But no, Mary would not say a word in favor of Her Son, lest She might prevent that Death on which our salvation depended.  Finally, She gave Him to us a thousand times, during the 3 hours preceding His death, and which She spent at the foot of the Cross; for during the whole of that time She unceasingly offered, with the extreme of sorrow and the extreme of love, the life of Her Son in our behalf.  She offered Him in order to obey the Eternal Father Who willed His death for our salvation.  If Abraham had such fortitude as to be ready to sacrifice with his own hands the life of his son, with far greater fortitude would Mary (far more holy and obedient than Abraham) have sacrificed the life of Hers.  But let us return to the consideration of the gratitude we owe to Mary, for so great an act of love as was the painful sacrifice of the life of Her Son, which She made to obtain eternal salvation for us all.  God abundantly rewarded Abraham for the sacrifice He was prepared to make of His son Isaac; but we, what return can we make to Mary for the Life of Her Jesus, a Son far more noble and beloved than the son of Abraham?  This love of Mary  has indeed obliged us to love Her; for we see that She has surpassed all others in love towards us, since She has given Her only Son, whom She loved more than Herself, for us.

    From this arises another motive for the love of Mary towards us; for in us She beholds that which has been purchased at the price of the Death of Jesus Christ.  If a mother knew that a servant had been ransomed by a beloved son at the price of 20 years of imprisonment and suffering, how greatly would She esteem that servant on this account alone!  Mary well knows that Her Son came into the world only to save us poor creatures, as He himself protested, I have come to save that which was lost (Lk 19:10).  And to save us He was pleased even to lay down His life for us, having become obedient unto death (Phil 2:8).  If, then, Mary loved us but little, She would show that She valued but little the Blood of Her Son, which was the price of our salvation.  Mary, from the time She dwelt in the Temple, did nothing but pray for us, begging that God would hasten the coming of His Son into the world to save us.  And how much more must we suppose that She loves us, now that She has seen that we are valued to such a degree by Her Son, that He did not disdain to purchase us at such a cost.

      Because all men have been redeemed by Jesus, therefore Mary loves and protects them all.  It was She who was seen by St. John clothed with the sun: And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun (Rev 12:1).  She is said to be clothed with the sun, because as there is no one on earth who can be hidden from the heat of the sun (Ps 19:7).  So there is no one living who can be deprived of the love of Mary.  From its heat, that is from the love of Mary.  And who can ever form an idea of the tender care that this most loving mother takes of all of us, offering and dispensing Her mercy to every one;  for our good Mother desired the salvation of all, and cooperated in obtaining it.  It is evident that She was solicitous for the whole human race.   Hence the custom of some of Mary's clients which consists in asking our Lord to grant them the graces that our Blessed Lady seeks for them, succeeds most advantageously.  They say, Lord, grant me that which the most Blessed Virgin Mary asks for me.  And no wonder, for our Mother desires for us better things than we can possibly desire ourselves. Mary loves to do us good, and dispense graces to us far more than we desire to receive them.   These words of the Book of Wisdom apply to Mary: one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed, for she will be found sitting at the gate (Wis 6:14).  Mary anticipates those who have recourse to Her by making them find Her before they seek Her.  The love that this good Mother bears us is so great that as soon as She perceives our need, She comes to our assistance.  She comes before She is called.  

      And now, if Mary is so good to all, even to the ungrateful and negligent, who love Her but little, and seldom have recourse to Her, how much more loving will She be to those who love Her and often call upon Her!  She is easily found by them that seek Her (Wis 6:13).  O, how easy is it for those who love Mary to find Her, and to find Her full of compassion and love!  In the words of the Book of Proverbs, I love those who love me (Prov 8:17), She protests that She cannot do otherwise than love those who love Her.  And although this most loving Lady loves all men as Her children, yet, She recognizes and loves in a more special manner, those who love Her more tenderly. These happy lovers of Mary are not only loved but even served by Her; those who find the most Blessed Virgin Mary, find all; for She loves those who love Her, nay more, She serves those who serve Her.

     There was a friar named Leonard who used to recommend himself 200 times a day to this Mother of Mercy, and that when He was attacked by His last illness He saw the most beautiful Queen by His side, who thus addressed Him: "Leonard, will You die, and come and dwell with my Son and with Me?"  And who are You?" He replied.  "I am the Mother of Mercy: You have too many times invoked me, behold, I am now come to take You; let us go together to Paradise."  On the same day Leonard died, and, as we trust, followed Her to the kingdom of the blessed.

     Ah, most sweet Mary! Blessed is He who loves You!  If I love Mary, I am certain of perseverance, and shall obtain whatever I wish from God.  Therefore I will repeat often: "I will love Mary." O, how much does the love of this good Mother exceed that of all Her children!  Let them love Her as much as they will, Mary is always among lovers the most loving.  Let them love Her as did St. Stanislaus Kostka, who loved this dear mother so tenderly, that in speaking of Her He moved all who heard Him to love Her.  He had made new words and new titles with which to honor Her name.  He never did anything without first turning to Her image to ask Her blessing.  When He said Her office, the Rosary, or other prayers, He did so with the same external marks of affection as He would have done had He been speaking face to face with Mary; when the Salve Regina was sung, His whole soul, and even His whole countenance, was all inflamed with love.  On being one day asked by a Father of the Society who was going with Him to visit a picture of the Blessed Virgin, how much He loved Mary,—"Father," He answered, "what more can I say? She is my mother."  "But," adds the Father, "the holy youth uttered these words with such tenderness in His voice, with such an expression of countenance, and at the same time it came to fully from His heart, that it no longer seemed to be a young man, but rather an angel speaking of the love of Mary."

    Let us love Her as Blessed Hermann loved Her.  He called Her the spouse of His love, for He was honored by Mary Herself with this same title.  Let us love Her as did St. Philip Neri, who was filled with consolation at the mere thought of Mary, and therefore called Her His delight.  Let us love Her as did St. Bonaventure, who called Her not only His Lady and mother, but to show the tenderness of His affection, even called Her His heart and soul: "Hail, my Lady, my Mother; nay, even my heart, my soul!"   Let us love Her like that great lover of Mary, St. Bernard, who loved this His sweet Mother so much that He called Her the ravisher of hearts; and to express the ardent love He bore Her, added: "have You not ravished my heart, O Queen?"  Let us call Her beloved, like St. Bernardine of Sienna, who daily went to visit a devotional picture of Mary, and there, in tender colloquies with His Queen, declared His love; and when asked where He went each day, He replied that He went to visit His beloved.

           Let us love Her as did St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose love for Mary burnt so unceasingly, that whenever He heard the sweet name of His Mother mentioned, His heart was instantly inflamed, and His countenance lighted up with a fire that was visible to all.  Let us love as much as St. Francis Solano did, who, maddened as it were (but with a holy madness), with love for Mary, would sing before Her picture, and accompany himself on a musical instrument, saying, that, like worldly lovers, He serenaded His most sweet Queen.  Finally, let us love Her as so many of Her servants have loved Her, who never could do enough to show their love.  Father John of Trexo SJ. rejoiced in the name of slave of Mary; and as a mark of servitude, went often to visit Her in some church dedicated in Her honor.  On reaching the church He poured out abundant tears of tenderness and love for Mary; then, prostrating, He licked and rubbed the pavement with His tongue and face, kissing it a thousand times, because it was the house of His beloved Lady.  One Jesuit  who for His devotion for our blessed Lady on Her feasts was carried by angels to heaven to see how they were kept there, used to say, "Would that I had the hearts of all angels and saints, to love Mary as they love Her—would that I had the lives of all men, to give them all for Her love!"  O that others would come to love Her as did Charles, the son of St. Bridget, who said that nothing in the world consoled Him so much as the knowledge that Mary was so greatly loved by God.  And He added, that He would willingly endure every torment rather than allow Mary to lose the smallest degree of Her glory, were such a thing possible; and that if Her glory was His, He would renounce it in Her favor, as being far more worthy of it.

            Let us, moreover, desire to lay down our lives as a testimony of our love for Mary, as Alphonsus Rodriguez desired to do. Let us do or desire to do all that it is possible for a lover to do, who intends to make His affection known to the person loved.  For be assured that the lovers of Mary will never be able to equal Her in love.  

I know, O Lady, that You are most loving, and that You love us with an invincible love.  I know, my Lady, that among those that love You, You love the most, and that You love us with a love that can never be surpassed. 

 Blessed Alphonsus Rodriguez SJ. once prostrate before an image of Mary, felt His heart inflamed with love towards this most Holy Virgin, and burst forth into the following exclamation: "My most beloved Mother, I know that You love me, but You do not love me as much as I love You."  Mary, as it were offended on the point of love, immediately replied from the image: "What do You say, Alphonsus—what do You say?  O, how much greater is the love that I bear You, than any love that You can have for Me!  Know that the distance between heaven and earth is not so great as the distance between Your love and Mine."  Blessed are they who have the good fortune to be faithful servants and lovers of this most loving Mother.  Blessed are the hearts of those who love Mary; blessed are they who are tenderly devoted to Her.   Yes; for in this struggle our most gracious Queen never allows Her clients to conquer Her in love.  She returns our love and homage, and always increases Her past favors by new ones.  Mary, imitating in this our most loving Redeemer Jesus Christ, returns to those who love Her their love doubled in benefits and favors.  Thus will I exclaim, 

"May my heart languish and my soul melt and be consumed with Your love, O my beloved Savior Jesus, and my dear Mother Mary!  But, as without Your grace I cannot love You, grant me, O Jesus and Mary, grant my soul, by Your merits and not mine, the grace to love You as You deserve to be loved.  O God, lover of men, You could love guilty men even unto death.  And can You deny Your love and that of Your Mother to those who ask for it?

EXAMPLE

There was a certain poor shepherdess, whose sole delight was to go to a little chapel of our Blessed Lady, situated on a mountain, and there, while her flocks were grazing, she conversed with her dear Mother and rendered honor to Her.  Seeing that the little image of Mary (which was carved in relief) was unadorned, she set to work to make Her a mantle.  One day, having gathered a few flowers in the fields, she made a garland, and climbing on the altar of the little chapel, placed it on the head of the image, saying, "My Mother, I would place a crown of gold and precious stones on Your brow, but, as I am poor, receive this crown of flowers, and accept it as a mark of the love that I bear You."  With this and other acts of homage, the pious maiden always endeavored to serve and honor our beloved Lady.  But let us now see how the good Mother on Her part recompensed the visits and the affection of Her child.  The latter fell ill, and was at the point of death.  It so happened that 2 religious were passing that way, and, fatigued with their journey, sat down under a tree to rest: one fell asleep, and the other remained awake; but both had the same vision.  They saw a multitude of most beautiful young women, and among these was one who in beauty and majesty far surpassed them all.  One of the religious addressed himself to Her: "Lady, who are You, and where are You going by these rugged ways?"  "I am," She replied, "the Mother of God, and am going with these holy virgins to a neighboring cottage to visit a dying shepherdess who has so often visited Me."  Having said these words, all disappeared.  At once these 2 good servants of God said, "Let us go also to see her."  They immediately started, and having found the cottage of the dying virgin, they entered it and found her stretched on a little straw.  They saluted her, and she said, "Brothers, ask our Lord to let you see the company that is assisting me."  They immediately knelt, and saw Mary by the side of the dying girl, holding a crown in Her hand and consoling Her.  All at once the virgins began to sing, and at the sound of this sweet harmony her blessed soul left her body.  Mary placed the crown on her head, and taking her soul, led it with her to Paradise. (This account bears much resemblance to the account of the circumstances of the life and death of St. Germaine Cousin, deceased in 1601 at Pibrac, near Toulouse, aged about 22 years, beatified May 7, 1854, canonized June 29, 1867.—ED.)

PRAYER

O Lady, O ravished of hearts! Lady, who with the love and favor You show Your servants, ravish their hearts, ravish also my miserable heart, which desires ardently to love You.  You, my Mother, have enamored God with Your beauty, and drawn Him from heaven into Your chaste womb; and shall I live without loving You?  No, I will say to You that  I will never rest until I am certain of having obtained Your love; but a constant and tender love towards You, my Mother, who have loved me with so much tenderness, even when I was ungrateful towards You.  And what should I now be, O Mary, if You had not obtained so many mercies for me?  Since, then, You loved me so much when I didn’t love You, how much more may I not now hope from You, now that I love You?  I love You, O my Mother, and I would that I had a heart to love You in place of all those unfortunate creatures who don’t love You.  I would that I could speak with a thousand tongues, that all might know Your greatness, Your holiness, Your mercy, and the love with which You love all who love You.  Had I riches, I would employ them all for Your honor.  Had I subjects, I would make them all Your lovers.  In fine, if the occasion presented itself I would lay down my life for Your glory.  I love You, then, O my Mother; but at the same time I fear that I do not love You as I ought; for I hear that love makes lovers like the person loved.  If, then, I see myself so unlike You, it is a mark that I do not love You.  You are so pure, and I defiled with many sins; You so humble, and I so proud; You so holy, and I so wicked.  This, then, is what You have to do, O Mary; since You love me, make me like You.  You have all power to change hearts; take, then, mine and change it.  Show the world what You can do for those who love You.  Make me a saint; make me Your worthy child.  This is my hope.  

4
Mary Is The Mother Of Penitent Sinners.

Our Blessed Lady told St. Bridget that She was the mother not only of the just and innocent, but also of sinners, provided they were willing to repent.  O how prompt does a sinner (desirous of amendment, and who flies to Her feet) find this good mother to embrace and help Him, far more so than any earthly mother!  

Resolve to sin no more, and I promise that undoubtedly You will find Mary 
more ready to love You than any earthly mother.

   But whoever aspires to be a child of this great mother, must first abandon sin, and then may hope to be accepted as such.  In the words of Proverbs, "up rose Her children" (31:28.), the words "up rose" come first, and then the word "children," to show that no one can be a child of Mary without first endeavoring to rise from the fault into which He has fallen; for He who is in mortal sin is not worthy to be called the son of such a Mother.  And He who acts in a different manner from Mary, declares thereby that he will not be Her son.   Mary humble, and he proud; Mary pure, and he wicked; Mary full of love, and he hating his neighbor.  He gives thereby proof that he is not, and will not be, the son of his holy Mother.  The sons of Mary are Her imitators, and this chiefly in 3 things; in chastity, liberality, and humility; and also in meekness, mercy, and such like.

    While disgusting Her by a wicked life, who would dare even to wish to be the child of Mary?  A certain sinner once said to Mary, "Show Yourself a Mother;" but the Blessed Virgin replied, "Show yourself a son."  Another invoked the Heavenly Mother, calling Her the Mother of Mercy, and She answered: 

"You sinners, when you want My help, call Me Mother of Mercy,
 and at the same time do not cease by your sins to make me a Mother of sorrows and anguish."

He is cursed of God, says Sirach (3:18), that angers his mother.  That is Mary.  God curses those who by their wicked life, and still more by their obstinacy in sin, afflict this tender Mother.   I say, by their obstinacy; for if a sinner, though He may not as yet have given up His sin, endeavors to do so, and for this purpose seeks the help of Mary, this good mother will not fail to assist Him, and make Him recover the grace of God.  And this is precisely what St. Bridget heard one day from the lips of Jesus Christ, who, speaking to His mother, said, "You assist him who endeavors to return to God, and Your consolations are never lacking to anyone."  So long, then, as a sinner is obstinate, Mary cannot love him; but if he (finding himself chained by some passion which keeps him a slave of hell) recommends himself to the Blessed Virgin, and implores Her, with confidence and perseverance, to withdraw him from the state of sin in which he is, there can be no doubt but this good Mother will extend Her powerful hand to him, will deliver him from his chains, and lead him to a state of salvation.

      The doctrine that all prayers and works performed in a state of sin are sins was condemned as heretical by the Council of Trent (Sess 6 can 7). Although prayer in the mouth of a sinner is devoid of beauty, as it is unaccompanied with charity, nevertheless it is useful, and obtains grace to abandon sin; for, the prayer of a sinner, though without merit, is an act which obtains the grace of forgiveness, since the power of impetration is founded not on the merits of him who asks, but on the divine goodness, and the merits and promises of Jesus Christ, Who has said, Every one who asks, receives (Lk 11:10).  The same thing must be said of prayers offered to the Heavenly mother.  If He who prays does not merit to be heard, the merits of the mother, to whom He recommends himself, will intercede effectually.

      Therefore, have recourse in Mary, invoking Her with great confidence. If a sinner does not himself merit the graces which He asks, yet He receives them, because this Blessed Virgin asks and obtains them from God, on account of Her own merits.  These are His words, addressing a sinner: "Because You were unworthy to receive the grace yourself, it was given to Mary, in order that, through Her, You might receive all."  If a mother  knew that her 2 sons bore a mortal enmity to each other, and that each plotted against the other's life, would She not exert herself to her utmost in order to reconcile them?  This would be the duty of a good mother.  And thus it is  that Mary acts; for She is the Mother of Jesus, and the Mother of men.  When She sees a sinner at enmity with Jesus Christ, She cannot endure it, and does all in Her power to make peace between them.  

O happy Mary, You are the Mother of the criminal, and the Mother of the Judge; and being the Mother of both, they are Your children, and You can not endure discords among them.

     This most benign Lady only requires that the sinner should recommend himself to Her, and purpose amendment.  When Mary sees a sinner at Her feet, imploring Her mercy, She does not consider the crimes with which He is loaded, but the intention with which He comes; and if this is good, even should He have committed all possible sins, the most loving mother embraces Him, and does not disdain to heal the wounds of His soul; for She is not only called the Mother of Mercy, but is so truly and indeed, and shows Herself such by the love and tenderness with which She assists us all.  And this is precisely what the Blessed Virgin Herself said to St. Bridget:

 "However much a man sins, I am ready immediately to receive Him when He repents; nor do I pay attention to the number of His sins, but only to the intention with which He comes: I do not disdain to anoint and heal His wounds; for I am called, and truly am, the Mother of Mercy."

            Mary is the mother of sinners who wish to repent, and as a mother She cannot do otherwise than have compassion on them; nay more, She seems to feel the miseries of Her poor children as if they were Her own.  When the Canaanite woman begged our Lord to deliver Her daughter from the devil who possessed Her, She said, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil (Matt 15:22).  But since the daughter, and not the mother, was tormented, She should rather have said, "Lord, take compassion on my daughter:" and not, Have mercy on me; but no, She said, "Have mercy on me," and She was right; for the sufferings of children are felt by their mother as if they were their own.  And it is precisely thus,  that Mary prays to God when She recommends a sinner to Him who has had recourse to Her; She cries out for the sinful soul, "Have mercy on Me!"  "My Lord," She seems to say, "this poor soul that is in sin is My daughter, and therefore, pity not so much her as Me, who am her mother." 

    Would that all sinners had recourse to this sweet mother! for then certainly all would be pardoned by God. 

O Mary, You embrace with maternal affection a sinner despised by the whole world, 
nor do You leave Him until You have reconciled the poor creature with his Judge. 

This means that the sinner, while in the state of sin, is hated and loathed by all, even by inanimate creatures; fire, air, and earth would chastise him, and avenge the honor of their outraged Lord.  But if this unhappy creature flies to Mary, will Mary reject him?  Oh, no: provided he goes to Her for help, and in order to amend, She will embrace him with the affection of a mother, and will not let him go, until, by Her powerful intercession, She has reconciled him with God, and reinstated him in grace.

      In 2 Samuel 14:5, we read that a wise woman Thecua addressed King David in the following words:  "My lord, I had 2 sons, and for my misfortune, one killed the other; so that I have now lost one, and justice demands the other, the only one that is left, take compassion on a poor mother, and let me not be thus deprived of both."  David, moved with compassion towards the mother, declared that the delinquent should be set at liberty and restored to Her.  Mary seems to say the same thing when God is indignant against a sinner who has recommended himself to Her.  "My God," She says, "I had 2 sons, Jesus and man; man took the life of my Jesus on the cross, and now Your justice would condemn the guilty one.  O Lord, my Jesus is already dead, have pity on me, and if I have lost the one, do not make me lose the other also."

      Most certainly God will not condemn those sinners who have recourse to Mary, and for whom She prays, since He Himself commended them to Her as Her children as if He were saying: "I recommended all, but especially sinners, to Mary, as Her children, and therefore is She so diligent and so careful in the exercise of Her office, that She allows none of those committed to Her charge, and especially those who invoke Her, to perish; but as far as She can, brings all to Me."  And who can ever tell the goodness, the mercy, the compassion, the love, the benignity, the clemency, the fidelity, the benevolence, the charity, of this Virgin Mother towards men?  It is such that no words can express it.

       Let us, then cast ourselves at the feet of this good mother, and embracing them, let us not depart until She blesses us, and thus accepts us for Her children.  And who can ever doubt the compassion of this mother?  Even should She take my life, I would still hope in Her; and, full of confidence, would desire to die before Her image, and be certain of salvation.  And thus should each sinner address Her when He has recourse to this compassionate Mother; He should say:

"My Lady and Mother, on account of my sins I deserve that You should reject me, and even that You should yourself chastise me according to my deserts; but should You reject me, or even take my life, I will still trust in You, and hope with a firm hope that You will save me.  In You is all my confidence; only grant me the consolation of dying before Your picture, recommending myself to Your mercy, then I am convinced that I shall not be lost, but that I shall go and praise You in heaven, in company with so many of Your servants who left this world calling on You for help, and have all been saved by Your powerful intercession."  

Read the following example, and then say if any sinner can doubt of the mercy and love this good mother.

EXAMPLE

A noble youth named Eskil was sent by the prince, His father, to Hildesheim, a city of Saxony, to study; but He gave himself up to a disorderly life.  He afterwards fell so dangerously ill that He received Extreme Unction.  While in this state He had a vision: He found himself shut up in a fiery furnace, and believed himself already in hell; but He then seemed to escape from it by a hole, and took refuge in a great palace, in an apartment of which He saw the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who said to Him:  "Presumptuous man that you are, do you dare to appear before Me?  Depart hence, and go to that fire which you have deserved."  The young man then besought the Blessed Virgin to have mercy on him; and then addressed himself to some persons who were there present, and entreated them to recommend him to Mary.  They did so, and the Heavenly Mother replied, "But you do not know the wicked life which he leads, and that he does not even deign to salute Me with a Hail Mary."  His advocates replied:  "But, Lady, he will change his life"; and the young man added, "Yes, I promise in good earnest to amend, and I will be Your devout client."  The Blessed Virgin's anger was then appeased, and She said to him, "Well, I accept your promise; be faithful to Me, and meanwhile, with My blessing, be delivered from death and hell."  With these words the vision disappeared.  Eskil returned to himself, and, blessing Mary, related to others the grace which he had received: and from that time he led a holy life, always preserving great devotion to our Blessed Lady.  He became archbishop of Lunden in Sweden, where he converted many to the faith.  Towards the end of his life, on account of his age, He renounced his archbishopric, and became a monk in Clairvaux, where he lived for 4 years, and died a holy death.  Hence he is numbered by some authors among the Cistercian saints.

PRAYER

O my sovereign Queen and worthy Mother of my God, most Holy Mary; I seeing myself, as I do, so despicable and loaded with so many sins, ought not to presume to call You Mother, or even to approach You; yet I will not allow my miseries to deprive me of the consolation and confidence that I feel in calling You Mother; I know well that I deserve that You should reject me; but I beg You to remember all that Your Son Jesus has endured for me, and then reject me if You can.  I am a wretched sinner, who, more than all others, have despised the Infinite Majesty of God: but the evil is done.  To You have I recourse; You can help me; my Mother, help me.  Say not that You can not do so; for I know that You are all-powerful, and that You obtain whatever You desire of God; and if You say that You will not help me, tell me at least to whom I can apply in this my so great misfortune.  Either pity me, or  will I say, "O my Jesus, and forgive me, and  You too pity me, my Mother Mary, by interceding for me, or at least tell me to whom I can have recourse, who is more compassionate, or in whom I can have greater confidence than in You.". 

CHAPTER 2
I.
MARY, OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS.
Mary Is Our Life, Because She Obtains For Us The Pardon Of Our Sins.

To understand why the Holy Church makes us call Mary our life, we must know, that as the soul gives life to the body, so does divine grace give life to the soul; for a soul without grace has the name of being alive but is in truth dead, as it was said of one in Revelation,  "You have the name of being alive, and You are dead" (Rev 3:1).  Mary, then, in obtaining this grace for sinners by Her intercession, thus restores them to life.

       See how the Church makes Her speak, applying to Her the following words of Proverbs: "They that in the morning early watch for me shall find me" (Prov 8:17).  They who are diligent in having recourse to Me in the morning, that is, as soon as they can, will most certainly find Me.  In the Septuagint the words shall find me are rendered shall find grace.  So that to have recourse to Mary is the same thing as to find the grace of God.  A little further on She says, He that shall find Me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.   Listen all you who desire the kingdom of God: honor the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and you will find life and eternal salvation.

            If God did not destroy man after His first sin, it was on account of His singular love for this holy Virgin, who was destined to be born of this race.  All the mercies granted by God under the old dispensation were granted only in consideration of this most Blessed Lady. Hence St. Bernard was right in exhorting us "to seek for grace, and to seek it by Mary;" meaning, that if we have had the misfortune to lose the grace of God, we should seek to recover it, but we should do so through Mary; for though we may have lost it, She has found it; and hence the saint calls Her "the finder of grace."  The Angel Gabriel expressly declared this for our consolation, when He saluted the Blessed Virgin saying, "Fear not, Mary, You have found grace" (Lk 1:30).  But if Mary had never been deprived of grace, how could the archangel say that She had then found it?  A thing may be found by a person who did not previously possess it; but we are told by the same archangel that the Blessed Virgin was always with God, always in grace, nay, Full of Grace.  Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with You.  Since Mary, then, did not find grace for Herself, She being always full of it, for whom did She find it?  She found it for sinners who had lost it.  Let sinners, then, who by their crimes have lost grace, address themselves to the Blessed Virgin, for with Her they will surely find it; let them humbly salute Her, and say with confidence, "Lady, that which has been found must be restored to Him who has lost it; restore us, therefore, our property which You have found"  If we hope to recover the grace of God, we must go to Mary, who has found it, and finds it always.  And as She always was and always will be dear to God, if we have recourse to Her, we shall certainly succeed.

            Again, Mary says, in the sacred Canticles, that God has placed Her in the world to be our defense: I am a wall: and my breasts are as a tower (Song 8:10).  And She is truly made a Mediatrix of peace between sinners and God; Since I am become in His Presence as one finding peace.  Go to this Mother of Mercy, and show Her the wounds which your sins have left on your soul; then will She certainly entreat Her Son, by the breast that nursed Him, to pardon you all.  And this Divine Son, Who loves Her so tenderly, will most certainly grant Her petition. In this sense it is that the Holy Church, in Her almost daily prayer, calls upon us to beg our Lord to grant us the powerful help of the intercession of Mary to rise from our sins: "Grant Your help to our weakness, O most merciful God; and that we, who are mindful of the holy Mother of God, may by the help of Her intercession rise from our iniquities." 

            With reason, then, is She "the hope of malefactors"; since She alone is the one who obtains them pardon from God.  With reason is She "the sinners' ladder;" since She, the most compassionate Queen, extending Her hand to them, draws them from an abyss of sin, and enables them to ascend to God.  With reason is She "the only hope of sinners;" for by Her help alone can we hope for the remission of our sins.    

            St. John Chrysostom also says "that sinners receive pardon by the intercession of Mary alone." And therefore the saint, in the name of all sinners, thus addresses Her: "Hail, Mother of God and of us all, 'heaven,' where God dwells, 'throne,' from which our Lord dispenses all grace, 'fair Daughter, Virgin, honor, glory and firmament of our Church,' assiduously pray to Jesus that in the day of judgment we may find mercy through You, and receive the reward prepared by God for those who love Him." 

With reason, finally, is Mary called, in the words of the sacred Canticles, the dawn; "Who is She who comes forth as the morning rising?" (Sg 6:9).  Yes, for as the dawn is the end of night, and the beginning of day, well may the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was the end of vices, be called the dawn of day.  When devotion towards Mary begins in a soul, it produces the same effect that the birth of this most Holy Virgin produces in the world.  It puts an end to the night of sin, and leads the soul into the path of virtue.  Therefore, 

"O Mother of God, Your protection never ceases, Your intercession is life, and Your patronage never fails."  

To pronounce the name of Mary with affection is a sign of life in the soul, or at least, that life will soon return there.

In Luke 1:48, Mary said, "Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."   

"Yes, my Lady, all generations shall call You blessed, for You have begotten life and glory for all generations of men.  For this cause all men shall call You blessed, for all Your servants obtain through You the life of grace and eternal glory.  In You, sinners find pardon, and the just perseverance and eternal life."  

Distrust not, O sinner, even if You has committed all possible sins: go with confidence to this most glorious Lady, and You will find Her hands filled with mercy and bounty, for She desires more good for you than you can desire to receive favors from Her.

Mary is the pledge of Divine Mercy; meaning that, when sinners have recourse to Mary, that they may be reconciled with God, He assures them of pardon and gives them a pledge of it; and this pledge is Mary, whom He has bestowed upon us for our advocate, and by whose intercession (by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ) God forgives all who have recourse to Her.  St. Bridget heard an angel say, that the holy Prophets rejoiced in knowing that God, by the humility and purity of Mary, was to be reconciled with sinners, and to receive those who had offended Him to favor.  

"They exulted, foreknowing that our Lord Himself would be appeased by Your humility, and the purity of Your life, O Mary, You super-effulgent star, and that He would be reconciled with those who had provoked His Wrath."

No sinner, having recourse to the compassion of Mary, should fear being rejected; for She is the Mother of Mercy, and as such desires to save the most miserable.  Mary is that happy ark in which those who take refuge will never suffer the shipwreck of eternal perdition. At the time of the deluge even brutes were saved in Noah's Ark.  Under the mantle of Mary even sinners obtain salvation.  St. Gertrude once saw Mary with Her mantle extended, and under it many wild beasts—lions, bears, and tigers—had taken refuge.  And She remarked that Mary not only did not reject, but even welcomed and caressed them with the greatest tenderness.  The saint understood hereby that the most abandoned sinners who have recourse to Mary are not only not rejected, but that they are welcomed and saved by Her from eternal death.  Let us, then, enter this ark, let us take refuge under the mantle of Mary, and She most certainly will not reject us, but will secure our salvation.

EXAMPLE

There was a wicked woman, named, Ellen, who entered a church, and by chance heard a sermon on the Rosary.  On leaving the church She purchased a set of beads, but wore them concealed, as She did not wish it to be known that She had them.  She began to recite them, and though She did so without devotion, our most Blessed Lady poured such sweetness and consolation into Her soul during the whole time, that She could not cease repeating the Hail Marys.  At last she was filled with such a horror for her wicked life, that she could no longer find repose, and was obliged to go to confession.  She accomplished this duty with such contrition that the priest was filled with astonishment.  After her confession, she went to the foot of an altar of the most Blessed Virgin, and there, as a thanksgiving to her advocate, said the Rosary.  The Heavenly Mother then addressed Her from the image in the following words: "Ellen, you have already too much offended God and Me; from this moment change your life, and I will bestow a large share of My graces upon you."  The poor sinner, in the deepest confusion, replied: "Ah! most Holy Virgin, it is true that hitherto I have been a wicked sinner; but You can do all, help me; on my part I abandon myself to You, and will spend the remainder of my life in doing penance for my sins."  With the assistance of Mary, she distributed all her goods among the poor, and began a life of rigorous mortification.  She was tormented with dreadful temptations, but constantly recommended herself to the Mother of God, and thus was always victorious. She was favored with many extraordinary graces, with visions, revelations, and even the gift of prophecy.  Finally, before her death, which was announced to her by Mary some days before it took place, the most Blessed Virgin came Herself, with Her Divine Son, to visit her; and when she expired, her soul was seen flying towards heaven in the form of a beautiful dove.

PRAYER

Behold, O Mother of my God, my only hope, Mary, behold at Your feet a miserable sinner, who asks You for mercy.  You are proclaimed and called by the whole Church, and by all the faithful, the refuge of sinners.  You are consequently my refuge; You have to save me.  You know, most sweet Mother of God, how much Your Blessed Son desires our salvation. You know all that Jesus Christ endured for this end.  I present You, O my Mother, the sufferings of Jesus: the cold that He endured in the stable, His journey into Egypt, His toils, His sweat, the Blood that He shed, the anguish which caused His Death on the Cross, and of which You were a witness.  O, show that You love Your beloved Son, and by this love I implore You to assist me.  Extend Your hand to a poor creature who has fallen, and asks Your help.  Were I a saint, I would not need seek Your mercy: but because I am a sinner, I fly to You, who are the Mother of Mercies.  I know that Your compassionate heart finds its consolation in assisting the miserable, when You can do so, and do not find them obstinate.  Console, then, Your compassionate heart, and console me this day; for now You have the opportunity of saving a poor creature condemned to hell; and You can do so, for I will not be obstinate.  I abandon myself into Your hands, only tell me what You would have me do, and obtain for me strength to execute it, for I am resolved to do all that depends on me to recover Divine Grace.  I take refuge under Your mantle.  Jesus wills that I should have recourse to You, in order not only that His Blood may save me, but also that Your prayers may assist me in this great work; for Your glory, and for His own, since You are His Mother.  He sends me to You, that You may help me.  O Mary, see, I have recourse to You; in You do I confide.  You pray for so many others, pray also for me; say only a word.  Tell our Lord that You will my salvation, and God will certainly save me.  Say that I am Yours, and then I have obtained all that I ask, all that I desire.

2

Mary is also our Life, because She obtains for us Perseverance.

Final perseverance is so great a gift of God, that it is quite gratuitous on His part, and we cannot merit it.  Yet  all who seek for it obtain it from God; and they obtain it infallibly, if only they are diligent in asking for it to the end of their lives.  For that which is daily required must be asked for every day.  

Now, if it is true (and I hold it as certain, according to the now generally received opinion, and which I shall prove in chapter 4 of this work) that all the graces that God dispenses to men pass through the hands of Mary, it will be equally true that it is only through Mary that we can hope for this greatest of all graces,—perseverance.  And we shall obtain it most certainly, if we always seek it with confidence through Mary.  This grace She Herself promises to all who serve Her faithfully during life, in the following words of Sirach; and which are applied to Her by the Church, "Those who work by me shall not sin.  Those who explain me shall have life everlasting" (Sir 24:30). 

            In order that we may be preserved in the life of grace, we require spiritual fortitude to resist the many enemies of our salvation.  Now this fortitude can be obtained only by the means of Mary, and we are assured of it in the book of Proverbs, for the Church applies the passage to this most Blessed Virgin.  "Strength is Mine; by Me kings reign" (Prov 8:14); meaning, by the words "strength is mine," that God has bestowed this precious gift on Mary, in order that She may dispense it to Her faithful clients.  And by the words, "By Me kings reign," She signifies that by Her means Her servants reign over and command their senses and passions, and thus become worthy to reign eternally in heaven.  Oh, what strength do the servants of this great Lady possess, to overcome all the assaults of hell!  Mary is that tower spoken of in the sacred Canticles:  "Your neck is as the tower of David, which is built with bulwarks; a thousand bucklers hang upon it, all the armor of valiant men" (Sg 4:4).  She is as a well-defended fortress in defence of Her lovers, who in their wars have recourse to Her.  In Her do Her clients find all shields and arms, to defend themselves against hell.

            And for the same reason the most Blessed Virgin is called a plane-tree in the words of Sirach: "As a plant-tree by the water in the streets was I exalted" (Sir 24:19).  The plane-tree has leaves like shields, to show how Mary defends all who take refuge with Her.  This holy Virgin is called a plane-tree, because, as the plane shelters travelers under its branches from the heat of the sun and from the rain, so do men find refuge under the mantle of Mary from the ardor of their passions and from the fury of temptation. Truly are those souls to be pitied who abandon this defence, in ceasing their devotion to Mary, and no longer recommending themselves to Her in the time of danger.  If the sun ceased to rise, how could the world become other than a chaos of darkness and horror?  Take away the sun, and where will be the day?  Take away Mary, and what will be left but the darkest night? When a soul loses devotion to Mary, it is immediately enveloped in darkness, and in that darkness of which the Holy Spirit speaks in the Psalms: "You have appointed darkness, and it is night; in it shall all the beasts of the woods go about" (Ps 104:20).  When the light of heaven ceases to shine in a soul, all is darkness, and it becomes the haunt of devils and of every sin.  If any one is disregarded and condemned by Mary, He is necessarily lost, and therefore we may with reason exclaim, "Woe to those who are in opposition to this sun?" Woe to those who despise its light! that is to say, all who despise devotion to Mary.     

            St. Francis Borgia always doubted the perseverance of those in whom He did not find particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  On one occasion He questioned some novices as to the saints towards whom they had special devotion, and perceiving some who had it not towards Mary, He instantly warned the Master of novices, and desired Him to keep a more attentive watch over these unfortunate young men, who all, as He had feared, lost their vocation and renounced the religious state.

            It was, then, not without reason that the most Blessed Virgin is the breath of Christians; for as the body cannot live without breathing, so the soul cannot live without having recourse to and recommending itself to Mary, by whose means we certainly acquire and preserve the life of divine grace within our souls.  As breathing is not only a sign but even a cause of life, so the name of Mary, which is constantly found on the lips of God's servants, both proves that they are truly alive, and at the same time causes and preserves their life, and gives them every help.

            Blessed Allan was one day assaulted by a violent temptation, and was on the point of yielding, for He had not recommended himself to Mary, when the most Blessed Virgin appeared to Him; and in order that another time He might remember to invoke Her aid, She gave Him a blow, saying, "If you had recommended yourself to me, you would not have, run into such danger."

            On the other hand, Mary says in the following words of the Book of Proverbs, which are applied to Her by the Church: "Blessed is the man who hears Me, and who watches daily at My gates, and waits at the posts of My doors (Prov 8:4),—as if She would say, Blessed is He who hears My voice and is constantly attentive to apply at the door of My mercy, and seeks light and help from Me.  For clients who do this, Mary does Her part, and obtains them the light and strength they require to abandon sin and walk in the paths of virtue.  For this reason Innocent III. beautifully calls Her "the moon at night, the dawn at break of day, and the sun at mid-day."   She is a moon to enlighten those who blindly wander in the night of sin, and makes them see and understand the miserable state of damnation in which they are; She is the dawn (that is, the forerunner of the sun) to those whom She has already enlightened, and makes them abandon sin and return to God, the true sun of justice; finally, She is a sun to those who are in a state of grace, and prevents them from again falling into the precipice of sin.

            Learned writers apply the following words of Sirach to Mary: "Her bands are a healthful binding" (Sir 6: 31).  "Why bands?" except it be that She binds Her servants, and thus prevents them from straying into the paths of vice. And truly this is the reason for which Mary binds Her servants.  "My abode is in the full assembly of saints" (Sir 24:16).  Mary not only has Her abode in the full assembly of saints, but also preserves them from falling, keeps a constant watch over their virtue, that it may not fail, and restrains the evil spirits from injuring them.  Not only has She Her abode in the full assembly of the saints, but She keeps the saints there, by preserving their merits that they may not lose them, by restraining the devils from injuring them, and by withholding the arm of Her Son from falling on sinners. 

            In the Book of Proverbs we are told that all Mary's clients are clothed with double garments.  (Prov 31:21).  This double clothing consists in Her adorning Her faithful servants with the virtues of Her Son and with Her own; and thus clothed they persevere in virtue.  Therefore my children, if you desire perseverance, be devout to our Blessed Lady.  Whoever loves Mary will have perseverance.  In the parable of the prodigal son, if this dissolute youth had had a living mother, he would never have abandoned the paternal roof, or at least would have returned much sooner than He did; meaning thereby that a son of Mary either never abandons God, or, if he has this misfortune, by Her help, he soon returns.

            O, did all men but love this most benign and loving Lady, had they but recourse to Her always, and without delay, in their temptations, who would fall? who would ever be lost?  He falls and is lost who has not recourse to Mary.  The words of Sirach, "I have walked in the waves of the sea" (Sir 24: 8) applies to Mary; as She walks with Her servants in the midst of the tempests to which they are constantly exposed, to assist and preserves them from falling into sin.

            A parakeet once was taught to say "Hail, Mary!"  One day a hawk was on the point of seizing it, when the bird cried out "Hail, Mary!"  In an instant the hawk fell dead.  God intended to show thereby that if even an irrational creature was preserved by calling on Mary, how much more would those who are prompt in calling on Her when assaulted by devils, be delivered from them.  We need only, when tempted by the devil, imitate little chickens, which, as soon as they perceive the approach of a bird of prey, run under the wings of their mother for protection.  This is exactly what we should do whenever we are assaulted by temptation: we should not stay to reason with it, but immediately fly and place ourselves under the mantle of Mary.  "As chickens when they see a hawk soaring above, run and find refuge under the wings of the hen, so are we preserved under the shadow of Your wings, O Mary. And You who are our Lady and Mother, have to defend us; for, after God, we have no other refuge than You, who are our only hope and our protector, towards You we all turn our eyes with confidence" 

            O man, whoever you are, understand that in this world, you are tossed about on a stormy and tempestuous sea, rather than walking on solid ground; remember that if you would avoid being drowned, you must never turn your eyes from the brightness of this star, but keep them fixed on it, and call on Mary.  In dangers, in straits, in doubts, remember Mary, invoke Mary. Yes, in dangers of sinning, when molested by temptations, when doubtful as to how you should act, remember that Mary can help you; and call upon Her, and She will instantly help you.  Let not Her name leave your lips, let it be ever in your heart.  Your hearts should never lose confidence in Her holy name, nor should your lips ever cease to invoke it. Following Her, you will certainly not go astray.  O, so, if we follow Mary, we shall never err from the paths of salvation.  Imploring Her, you will not despair.  Each time that we invoke Her aid, we shall be inspired with perfect confidence.  If She supports you, you can not fall; if She protects you, you have nothing to fear, for you can not be lost.  With Her for your guide, you will not be weary; for your salvation will be worked out with ease.  If She is propitious, you will gain the port.   If Mary undertakes our defense, we are certain of gaining the kingdom of heaven.  This do, and you shall live (Lk 10:28).      

EXAMPLE

The history of St. Mary of Egypt, in the first book of the lives of the Fathers, is well known.  At the age of 12 years she fled from the house of her parents, went to Alexandria, where she led an infamous life, and was a scandal to the whole city.  After living for 16 years in sin, she took it into her head to go to Jerusalem.  At the time the feast of the Holy Cross was being celebrated, and, moved rather by curiosity than by devotion, she determined on entering the Church; but when at the door, she felt herself repelled by an invisible force.  She made a second attempt, and was again unable to enter; and the same thing was repeated a third and a fourth time.  Finding her efforts in vain, the unfortunate creature withdrew to a corner of the porch, and there, enlightened from above, understood that it was on account of her infamous life that God had repelled her even from the Church.  In that moment she fortunately raised her eyes and beheld a picture of Mary.  No sooner did she perceive it, than, sobbing, she exclaimed, "O Mother of God, pity a poor sinner!  I know that on account of my sins I deserve not that You should cast Yours eyes upon me.  But You are the refuge of sinners; for the love of Your Son Jesus, help me.  Permit me to enter the church, and I promise to change my life, to go and do penance in whatever place You point out to me."  She immediately heard an internal voice, as it were that of the Blessed Virgin, replying: "Since you had recourse to Me, and wish to change your life, go—enter the church, it is no longer closed against you."  The sinner entered, venerated the Cross, and wept bitterly.  She then returned to the picture, and said, "Lady, behold I am ready.  Where will You that I should go to do penance?"  "Go," the Blessed Virgin replied, "cross the Jordan, and you will find the place of your repose."  She went to confession and Communion, and then passed the river, and finding herself in the desert, she understood that it was in that place she should do penance for her sinful life.  During the first 17 years the assaults of the devil, by which he endeavored to make the saint again fall into sin, were terrible.  And what were her means of defense?  She constantly recommended herself to Mary, and this most Blessed Virgin obtained for her strength to resist during the whole of this time, after which her combats ceased.  After 57 years spent in the desert, and having attained the age of 87 years She was by a disposition of Providence met by the Abbot Zosimus; to him she related the history of her life, and entreated him to return the following year, and to bring her Holy Communion.  The saintly Abbot did so, and gave Her the Bread of Angels.  She then requested that he would again return to see her.  This also he did, but he found her dead.  Her body was encompassed by a bright light, and at her head these words were written, "Bury my body here—it is that of a poor sinner, and intercede with God for me."  A lion came and made a grave with his claws.  St. Zosimus buried her, returned to his monastery, and related the wonders of God's mercy towards this happy sinner.

PRAYER

O compassionate Mother, most Holy Virgin, behold at Your feet the traitor, who, by paying with ingratitude the graces received from God through Your means, has betrayed both You and Him.  But I must tell You, O most blessed Lady, that my misery, far from taking away my confidence, increases it; for I see that Your compassion is great in proportion to the greatness of my misery.  Show yourself, O Mary, full of liberality towards me: for thus You are towards all who invoke Your aid.  All that I ask is that You should cast Your eyes of compassion on me, and pity me.  If Your heart is thus far moved, it cannot do otherwise than protect me: and if You protect me, what can I fear?  No, I fear nothing; I do not fear my sins, for You can provide a remedy; I do not fear devils, for You are more powerful than the whole of hell; I do not even fear Your Son, though justly irritated against me, for at a word of Yours He will be appeased.  I only fear lest, in my temptations, and by my own fault, I may cease to recommend myself to You, and thus be lost.  But I now promise You that I will always have recourse to You; O, help me to fulfill my promise.  Lose not the opportunity which now presents itself of gratifying Your ardent desire to help such poor wretches as myself.  In You, O Mother of God, I have unbounded confidence.  From You I hope for grace  to bewail my sins as I ought, and from You I hope for strength never again to fall into them.  If I am sick, You, O heavenly physician, can heal me.  If my sins have weakened me, Your help will strengthen me.  O Mary, I hope all from You; for You are all-powerful with God.  Amen.

3

Mary our Sweetness; She renders Death sweet to Her Clients.

 "He who is a friend loves at all times; and a brother is proved in distress" (Prov 17:17).  We can never know our friends and relatives in the time of prosperity; it is only in the time of adversity that we see them in their true colors.  People of the world never abandon a friend as long as he is in prosperity; but should misfortunes overtake him, and more particularly should he be at the point of death, they immediately forsake him.  Mary does not act thus with Her clients.  In their afflictions, and more particularly in the sorrows of death, the greatest that can be endured in this world, this good Lady and Mother not only does not abandon Her faithful servants, but as, during our exile, She is our life, so also is She, at our last hour, our sweetness, by obtaining for us a calm and happy death.  For from the day on which Mary had the privilege and sorrow of being present at the Death of Jesus Her Son, Who was the Head of all the predestined, it became Her privilege to assist also at their deaths.  And for this reason the Holy Church teaches us to beg this most Blessed Virgin to assist us, especially at the moment of death: "…Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death! "

            O how great are the sufferings of the dying!  They suffer from remorse of conscience on account of past sins, from fear of the approaching judgment, and from the uncertainty of their eternal salvation.  Then it is that hell arms itself, and spares no efforts to gain the soul which is on the point of entering eternity; for it knows that only a short time remains in which to gain it, and that if it then loses it, it has lost it forever.  "The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that He has but a short time" (Rev 12:12).  And for this reason the enemy of our salvation, whose charge it was to tempt the soul during life, does not choose at death to be alone, but calls others to his assistance, according to the prophet Isaiah: Their houses shall be filled with serpents —Is 13:21.  And indeed they are so; for when a person is at the point of death, the whole place in which he is, is filled with devils, who all unite to make him lose his soul.

            It is related of St. Andrew Avellino, that 10,000 devils came to tempt him at his death.  The conflict that he had in his agony with the powers of hell was so terrible that all the good religious who assisted him trembled.  They saw the saint's face swelled to such a degree from agitation, that it became quite black, every limb trembled and was contorted; his eyes shed a torrent of tears, his head shook violently; all gave evidence of the terrible assault he was enduring on the part of his infernal foes.  All wept with compassion, and redoubled their prayers, and at the same time trembled with fear on seeing a saint die thus.  They were, however, consoled at seeing, that often, as if seeking for help, the saint turned his eyes towards a devout picture of Mary; for they remembered that during life he had often said that at death Mary would be his refuge.  At length God was pleased to put an end to the contest by granting him a glorious victory; for the contortions of his body ceased, his face resumed its original size and color, and the saint, with his eyes tranquilly fixed on the picture, made a devout inclination to Mary, as if in the act of thanking her, and with a heavenly smile on his countenance tranquilly breathed forth his blessed soul into the arms of Mary.  At the same moment, a Capuchiness, who was in her agony, turning to the nuns who surrounded her, said, "Recite a Hail Mary; for a saint has just expired."

            Ah, how quickly do the rebellious spirits fly from the presence of this queen!  If at the hour of death we have only the protection of Mary, what need we fear from all our infernal enemies?  David, fearing the horrors of death, encouraged himself by placing his reliance on the death of the coming Redeemer and on the intercession of the Virgin Mother.  For though, he says, I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death . . . Your rod and Your staff, they have comforted me (Ps 23:4).  Cardinal Hugo, explaining these words of the royal prophet, says that the staff signifies the cross, and the rod is the intercession of Mary; for She is the rod foretold by the prophet Isaiah: And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of His root (Is 11:1).  This Heavenly Mother is that powerful rod with which the violence of the infernal enemies is conquered.  And therefore if Mary is for us, who shall be against us?    When Fr. Emanuel Padia SJ was at the point of death, Mary appeared to him, and to console him She said: "See at length the hour is come when the angels congratulate you, and exclaim: O happy labors, O mortifications well requited!  And in the same moment an army of demons was seen taking its flight, and crying out in despair: Alas! we can do naught, for She who is without stain defends him."  In like manner, Fr. Gaspar Haywood was assaulted by devils at his death, and greatly tempted against faith; He immediately recommended himself to the most Blessed Virgin, and was heard to exclaim, "I thank You, Mary, for You has come to my aid,"  Mary sends without delay the prince of the heavenly court, St. Michael, with all the angels, to defend Her dying servants against the temptations of the devils, and to receive the souls of all who in a special manner, and perseveringly have recommended themselves to Her.  "Michael, the leader and prince of the heavenly army, with all the administering spirits, obeys Your commands, O Virgin, and defends and receives the souls of the faithful who have particularly recommended themselves to You, O Lady, day and night"   The prophet Isaiah tells us that when a man is on the point of leaving the world, hell is opened and sends forth its most terrible demons, both to tempt the soul before it leaves the body, and also to accuse it when presented before the tribunal of Jesus Christ for judgment.  The prophet says, "Hell below was in an uproar to meet you at your coming; it stirred up the giants for you"—Is 14:9.  When the soul is defended by Mary, the devils dare not even accuse it, knowing that the judge never condemned, and never will condemn, a soul protected by His august Mother.  Who would dare accuse one who is patronized by the Mother of Him who is to judge? Mary not only assists Her beloved servants at death and encourages them, but She Herself accompanies them to the tribunal-seat of God.  

            As St. Jerome says, writing to the virgin Eustochia, "What a day of joy will that be for you, when Mary the Mother of our Lord, accompanied by choirs of virgins, will go to meet you." The Blessed Virgin assured St. Bridget of this; for, speaking of Her devout clients at the point of death, She said, "Then will I, their dear Lady and Mother, fly to them, that they may have consolation and refreshment."  Not only does the most Blessed Virgin console and refresh them, but She receives the souls of the dying.  This loving Queen takes them under Her mantle, and thus presents them to the judge, Her Son, and most certainly obtains their salvation.  This really happened to Charles, the son of St. Bridget, who died in the army, far from his mother.  She feared much for his salvation on account of the dangers to which young men are exposed in a military career; but the Blessed Virgin revealed to Her that he was saved on account of his love for Her, and that in consequence She Herself had assisted him at death, and had suggested to him the acts that should be made at that terrible moment.  At the same time the saint saw Jesus on His throne, and the devil bringing 2 accusations against the most Blessed Virgin: the first was, that Mary had prevented him from tempting Charles at the moment of death; and the second was that this Blessed Virgin had Herself presented his soul to the judge, and so saved it without even giving him the opportunity of exposing the grounds on which he claimed it.  She then saw the judge drive the devil away, and Charles's soul carried to heaven.

            Sirach says, that Her bands are a healthful binding —Sir 6:31, and that in the latter end You shall find rest in Her —Vs:29.  O, you are indeed fortunate, my brother, if at death you are bound with the sweet chains of the love of the Mother of God!  These chains are chains of salvation; they are chains that will insure your eternal salvation, and will make you enjoy in death that blessed peace which will be the beginning of your eternal peace and rest.  A priest attending the death-bed of a great lover of Mary, heard him say: 'O my Father, would that you could know the happiness that I now enjoy from having served the most holy Mother of God; I cannot tell you the joy that I now experience.'"  Another priest, devoted to Mary, said that he would willingly exchange all his learning for the merit of a single "Hail Mary," died with such peace and joy, that in that moment he said, "I could not have thought that death was so sweet;" meaning, that he could never have imagined that it was possible, if He had not then experienced it, that he could have found such sweetness in death.

            You, devout reader, will, without doubt, experience the same joy and contentment in death, if you can then remember that you have loved this good mother, who cannot be otherwise than faithful to Her children who have been faithful in serving and honoring Her, by their visits, rosaries, and fasts, and still more by frequently thanking and praising Her, and often recommending themselves to Her powerful protection.  Nor will this consolation be withheld, even if you have been for a time a sinner, provided that, from this day, you are careful to live well, and to serve this most gracious and benign Lady.  In your gains, and in the temptations to despair which the devil will send you, She will console you, and even come Herself to assist you in your last moments.

     Such also will be your death, beloved reader, if you are faithful to Mary.  Though you may have hitherto offended God, She will procure you a sweet and happy death.  And if by chance at that moment you are greatly alarmed and lose confidence at the sight of your sins, She will come and encourage you, as She did Adolphus, Count of Alsace, who abandoned the world, and embraced the Order of St. Francis.  In the Chronicles of that Order, we are told that he had a tender devotion to the Mother of God; and that when he was at the point of death, his former life and the rigors of divine justice presented themselves before his mind, and caused him to tremble at the thought of death, and fear for his eternal salvation.  Scarcely had these thoughts entered his mind, when Mary (who is always active when Her servants are in pain), accompanied by many saints, presented Herself before the dying man, and encouraged him with words of the greatest tenderness, saying: "My own beloved Adolph, you are mine, you have given yourself to me, and now why you fear death so much?"  On hearing these words, the servant of Mary was instantly relieved, fear was banished from his soul, and he expired in the midst of the greatest peace and joy.

     Let us then be of good heart, though we be sinners, and feel certain that Mary will come and assist us at death, and comfort and console us with Her presence, provided only that we serve Her with love during the remainder of the time that we have to be in this world.  Our Queen, one day addressing St. Matilda, promised that She would assist all Her clients at death, who, during their lives, had faithfully served Her.  "I, as a most tender Mother, will faithfully be present at the death of all who piously serve me, and will console and protect them." O God, what a consolation will it be at that last moment of our lives, when our eternal lot has so soon to be decided, to see the Queen of Heaven assisting and consoling us with the assurance of Her protection.

     Besides the cases already given in which we have seen Mary assisting Her dying servants, there are innumerable others recorded in different works.  This favor was granted to many saints.  But, for our common consolation, I will relate the following: Mary of Oignies saw the Blessed Virgin at the pillow of a devout widow, who was ill with a violent fever.  Mary stood by Her side, consoling Her, and cooling Her with a fan.  Let us close this subject with another example, in which we shall see how great is the tenderness of this good Mother towards Her children at death. 

EXAMPLE

Of St. John of God, who was tenderly devoted to Mary, it is related that he fully expected that She would visit him on his deathbed; but not seeing Her arrive, he was afflicted, and perhaps even complained.  But when his last hour had come, the Heavenly Mother appeared, and gently reproving him for his little confidence, addressed him in the following tender words, which may well encourage all servants of Mary: "John, it is not in Me to forsake My clients at such a moment."  As though She had said: "John, of what were you thinking?  Did you imagine that I had abandoned you?  And do you not know that I never abandon my clients at the hour of death?  If I did not come sooner, it was that your time was not yet come; but now that it is come, behold me here to take you; let us go to Heaven."  Shortly afterwards the saint expired, and fled to that blessed kingdom, there to thank his most loving Queen for all eternity.

PRAYER

O my most sweet Mother, how shall I die, poor sinner that I am?  Even now the thought of that important moment when I must expire, and appear before the judgment seat of God, and the remembrance that I have myself so often written my condemnation by consenting to sin, makes me tremble.  I am confounded, and fear much for my eternal salvation.  O Mary, in the Blood of Jesus, and in Your intercession, is all my hope.  You are the Queen of Heaven, and the universe; in short, You are the Mother of God.  You are great, but Your greatness does not prevent, but it inclines You to greater compassion towards us in our miseries.  Worldly friends, when raised to dignity, disdain to notice their former friends who may have fallen into distress.  Your noble and loving heart does not act thus, for the greater the miseries it beholds, the greater are its efforts to relieve.  You, when called upon, immediately assist; yet more, You anticipate our prayers by Your favors; You console us in our afflictions; You dissipate the storms by which we are tossed about; You overcome all enemies; You never lose an occasion to promote our welfare.  May that Divine Hand which has united in You such majesty and such tenderness, such greatness and so much love, be forever blessed!  I thank my Lord for it, and congratulate myself in having so great an advantage; for truly in Your felicity do I place my own, and I consider Your lot as mine.  O comforter of the afflicted, console a poor creature who recommends himself to You.  The remorse of a conscience overburdened with sin fills me with affliction.  I am in doubt as to whether I have sufficiently grieved for them.  I see that all my actions are sullied and defective; hell awaits my death in order to accuse me; the outraged justice of God demands satisfaction.  My Mother, what will become of me?  If You do not help me, I am lost.  Will You assist me?  O compassionate Virgin, console me; obtain for me true sorrow for my sins; obtain for me strength to amend, and to be faithful to God during the rest of my life.  And finally, when I am in the last agonies of death, O Mary, my hope, don’t abandon me; then, more than ever, help and encourage me, that I may not despair at the sight of my sins, which the evil one will then place before me.  My Lady, forgive my temerity; come to comfort me with Your presence in that last struggle.  This favor You have granted to many, grant it also to me.  If my boldness is great, Your goodness is greater; for it goes in search of the most miserable to console them.  On this I rely.  For Your eternal glory, let it be said that You have snatched a wretched creature from hell, to which he was already condemned, and that You have led him to Your kingdom.  O yes, sweet Mother, I hope to have the consolation of remaining always at Your feet, in heaven, thanking and blessing and loving You eternally.  O Mary, I shall expect You at my last hour; deprive me not of this consolation.  Fiat, fiat.  Amen, Amen. 

CHAPTER 3

1

Mary is the Hope of All.

Modern heretics cannot endure that we should salute and call Mary our hope: "Hail, our Hope!"  They say that God alone is our hope; and that He curses those who put their trust in creatures in these words of the prophet Jeremiah: "Cursed be the man who trusts in man" (Jer 17:5).  Mary, they exclaim, is a creature; and how can a creature be our hope?  This is what the heretics say; but in spite of this, the holy Church obliges all ecclesiastics and religious each day to raise their voices, and in name of all the faithful invoke and call Mary by the sweet name of "our Hope,"—the hope of all.

            The angelical Doctor St. Thomas says that we can place our hope in a person in 2 ways: as a principal cause, and as a mediate one.  Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it from Him as lord; they hope for it from his minister or favorite as an intercessor.  If the favor is granted, it comes primarily from the king, but it comes through the instrumentality of the favorite; and in this case he who seeks the favor is right in calling his intercessor his hope.  The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with His graces; but because confidence is requisite on our part, and in order to increase it in us, He has given us His own Mother to be our mother and advocate, and to Her He has given all power to help us; and therefore He wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in Her.  Those who place their hopes in creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage His Divine Majesty, are most certainly cursed by God, as the prophet Jeremiah says.  But those who hope in Mary, as Mother of God, who is able to obtain graces and eternal life for them, are truly blessed and acceptable to the Heart of God, Who desires to see that greatest of His creatures honored; for She loved and honored Him in this world more than all men and angels put together.  And therefore we justly and reasonably call the Blessed Virgin our hope, trusting that we shall obtain, through Her intercession, that which we should not obtain by our own unaided prayers.  We pray to Her in order that the dignity of the intercessor may supply for our own unworthiness. To implore the Blessed Virgin in such a spirit, is not diffidence in the mercy of God, but fear of our own unworthiness.  It is, then, not without reason that the Holy Church, in the words of Sirach, called Mary the Mother of holy Hope —Sir 24:24.  She is the mother who gives birth to holy hope in our hearts; not to the hope of the vain and transitory goods of this life, but of the immense and eternal goods of heaven. 

       "Hail, then, O hope of my soul! Hail, O certain salvation of Christians; hail, O helper of sinners; hail, fortress of the faithful and salvation of the world!"  After God, our only hope is Mary. God wills (and as we shall prove at length) that all who are saved should be saved by the means of Mary.  "O Lady, cease not to watch over us; preserve and guard us under the wings of Your compassion and mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in You,  our only refuge, help, and asylum." See, O man, the designs of God,—designs by which He is able to dispense His mercy more abundantly to us; for, desiring to redeem the whole human race, He has placed the whole price of redemption in the hands of Mary, that She may dispense it at will. In the book of Exodus we read that God commanded Moses to make a mercy-seat of the purest gold, because it was thence that He would speak to Him—Ex 25:17.  The whole world embraces Mary as being this propitiatory.  "You, O Mary, are the propitiatory of the whole world.  From You does our most compassionate Lord speak to our hearts; from You He speaks words of pardon and mercy; from You He bestows His gifts; from You all good flows to us."  And therefore, before the Divine Word took flesh in the womb of Mary, He sent an Archangel to ask Her consent: because He willed that the world should receive the Incarnate Word through Her, and that She should be the source of every good.  Hence as Eve was seduced, by a fallen angel, to flee from God, so Mary was led to receive God into Her womb, obeying a good angel; and thus by Her obedience repaired Eve's disobedience, and became Her advocate, and that of the whole human race.  If Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to obey God, that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve.  And as the human race was bound to death through a virgin, it is saved through a Virgin.   Every good, every help, every grace that men have received and will receive from God until the end of time, came, and will come, to them by the intercession and through the hands of Mary. "O Mary, You who are so loving and gracious towards all who love You, tell me, who can be so unfortunate as not to love You?  You, in the midst of their doubts and difficulties, enlighten the minds of all who, in their afflictions, have recourse to You.  You encourage those who fly to You in time of danger; You help those who call upon You; You, after Your Divine Son, are the certain salvation of Your faithful servants.  Hail, then, O hope of those who are in despair, O help of those who are abandoned.  O Mary, You are all-powerful; for Your Divine Son, to honor You, complies instantly with all Your desires"  Since Mary is the source of all our good, and that She delivers us from every evil, let us invoke Her: "O, my sovereign Lady, You alone are the one whom God has appointed to be my solace here below; You are the guide of my pilgrimage, the strength of my weakness, the riches of my poverty, remedy for the healing of my wounds, the soother of my pains, the end of my captivity, the hope of my salvation!  Hear my prayers, have pity on my tears, I beg You, O You who are my queen, my refuge, my love, my help, my hope and my strength" 

    We need not, then, be surprised that Wisdom 7:11 is applied  to Mary: "Now all good things came to me together with Her." For as this Blessed Virgin is the Mother and dispenser of all good things, the whole world, and more particularly each individual who lives in it as a devout client of this great Queen, may say with truth, that with devotion to Mary, both he and the world have obtained everything good and perfect.  Since She is the Mother of all good things, and the world can truly say, that with Her (that is, the most Blessed Virgin ) it has received all good things.  Thus when we find Mary, we find all. Whoever finds Mary finds every good thing, obtains all graces and all virtues; for by Her powerful intercession She obtains all that is necessary to enrich him with divine grace.  In the Book of Proverbs Mary Herself tells us that She possesses all the riches of God, that is to say, His mercies, that She may dispense them in favor of Her lovers.  "With me are riches and glorious riches that I may enrich them that love Me."—Prov 8:18.  And therefore we ought all to keep our eyes constantly fixed on Mary's hands, that through them we may receive the graces that we desire. 

    O, how many who were once proud have become humble by devotion to Mary! how many who were passionate have become meek! how many in the midst of darkness have found light! how many who were in despair have found confidence! how many who were lost have found salvation by the same powerful means!  And this She clearly foretold in the house of Elizabeth, in Her own sublime canticle:  "Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." All generations call You blessed, O Mary because You have given life and glory to all nations for in You sinners find pardon, and the just perseverance in the grace of God. 

      What would God say but:  "Men, poor children of Adam, who live surrounded by so many enemies and in the midst of so many trials, endeavor to honor My Mother and yours in a special manner: for I have given Mary to the world, that She may be your model, and that from Her you may learn to lead good lives; and also that She may be refuge to which you can fly in all your afflictions and trials.  I have rendered this, My Daughter, such that no one need fear or have the least repugnance to have recourse to Her; and for this purpose I have created Her of so benign and compassionate a disposition, that She knows not how to despise any one who takes refuge with Her, nor can She deny Her favor to any one who seeks it.  The mantle of Her mercy is open to all, and She allows no one to leave Her feet without consoling Him."  May the immense goodness of our God be ever praised and blessed for having given us this so great, so tender, so loving a mother and advocate.

MEDITATION  ON JESUS AND MARY

"Whatsoever God foresees to be my lot, I know that He cannot refuse Himself to any one who loves Him and seeks for Him with his whole heart.  I will embrace Him with my love; and if He does not bless me, I will still cling to Him so closely that He will be unable to go without me.  If I can do nothing else, at least I will hide myself in His Wounds, and taking up my dwelling there, it will be in Himself alone that He will find me. If my Redeemer rejects me on account of my sins, and drives me from His Sacred Feet, I will cast myself at those of His beloved Mother Mary, and there I will remain prostrate until She has obtained my forgiveness; for this Mother of Mercy knows not, and has never known, how to do otherwise than compassionate the miserable, and comply with the desires of the most destitute who fly to Her for help; if not by duty, at least by compassion, She will engage Her Son to pardon me.  Look down upon us, then, O most compassionate Mother; cast Your eyes of mercy on us, for we are Your servants, and in You we have placed all our confidence." 

EXAMPLE

There was a young woman named Musa, who was very devout to the Mother of God; to whom, when She was in great danger of losing Her innocence by the bad example of Her companions, Mary appeared one day with many saints, and said: "Musa, do you also wish to be one of these?"  On Her answering "Yes," She added, "Well, withdraw from your companions, and prepare yourself, for in a month you shall come."  Musa did so, and related the vision.  On the 30th day She was at the point of death, when the most Blessed Virgin again appeared, and invited her to come.  She replied, "Behold, I come, O Lady," and sweetly expired. 

PRAYER

O Mother of Holy Love, our life, our refuge, and our hope, You well know that Your son Jesus Christ, not content with being Himself our perpetual advocate with the Eternal Father, has willed that You also should interest Yourself with Him, in order to obtain Divine Mercies for us.  He has decreed that Your prayers should aid our salvation, and has made them so efficacious that they obtain all that they ask.  To You therefore, who are the hope of the miserable, do I, a wretched sinner, turn my eyes.  I trust, O Lady, that in the first place through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through Your intercession, I shall be saved.  Of this I am certain; and my confidence in You is such, that if my eternal salvation were in my own hands, I should place it in Yours, for I rely more on Your mercy and protection than on all my own works.  My Mother and my hope, please don’t abandon me, though I deserve that You should do so.  See my miseries, and, being moved thereby with compassion, help and save me.  I admit that I have too often closed my heart, by my sins, against the lights and helps that You have procured for me from the Lord.  But Your compassion for the miserable, and Your power with God, far surpass the number and malice of my sins.  It is well known to all, both in heaven and on earth, that whosoever is protected by You is certainly saved.  All may forget me, provided only that You remember me, O Mother of an Omnipotent God.  Tell Him that I am Your servant; say only that You defend me, and I shall be saved.  O Mary, I trust in You; in this hope I live; in it I desire and hope to die, repeating always, "Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus the most Blessed Virgin Mary." 

2

Mary is the Hope of Sinners.

In Genesis 1:16, we read that God made 2 great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night.  Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary the lesser to rule the sinners; meaning that the sun is a figure of Jesus Christ, whose light is enjoyed by the just who live in the clear day of divine grace; and that the moon is a figure of Mary, by whose means those who are in the night of sin are enlightened.  Since Mary is this auspicious luminary, and is so for the benefit of poor sinners, should any one have been so unfortunate as to fall into the night of sin, what is He to do?  Whoever is in the night of sin, let Him cast His eyes on the moon, let Him implore Mary.  Since He has lost the light of the Sun of Justice by losing the grace of God, let Him turn to the moon, and implore Mary; and She will certainly give Him light to see the misery of His state, and strength to leave it without delay.  By the prayers of Mary, innumerable sinners are converted.  One of the titles which is the most encouraging to poor sinners, and under which the Church teaches us to invoke Mary in the Litany of Loreto, is that of "Refuge of Sinners."  In Judea in ancient times there were cities of refuge, in which criminals who fled there for protection were exempt from the punishments which they had deserved.  Nowadays these cities are not so numerous; there is but one, and that is Mary, of whom the Psalmist says "Glorious things are said of You, O City of God."—Ps 87:3.  But this city differs from the ancient ones in this respect—that in the latter all kinds of criminals did not find refuge, nor was the protection extended to every class of crime; but under the mantle of Mary all sinners, without exception, find refuge for every sin that they may have committed, provided only that they go there to seek for this protection.  Mary is saying: "I am the city of refuge, to all who fly to me."  And it is sufficient to have recourse to Her, for whoever has the good fortune to enter this city need not speak to be saved.  "Assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the fenced city, and let us be silent there" to speak in the words of the prophet Jeremiah (8:14).  This city is the most holy Virgin fenced in with grace and glory.  "And let us be silent there," that is, because we dare not invoke the Lord, whom we have offended, She will invoke and ask. For if we do not presume to ask our Lord to forgive us, it will suffice to enter this city and be silent, for Mary will speak and ask all that we require.  And for this reason, a devout author exhorts all sinners to take refuge under the mantle of Mary, exclaiming, "Fly, O Adam and Eve, and all you their children, who have outraged God; fly, and take refuge in the heart of this good mother; don’t you know that She is our only city of refuge, the only hope of sinners?"

You are the only advocate of sinners, O Mary, and of all who are unprotected. Hail, refuge and hospital of sinners, true refuge, in which alone they can hope for reception and liberty.  This was the meaning of David when He said, For He has hidden me in His tabernacle —Ps 27:5.  And truly what can this Tabernacle of God be, unless it is Mary, a tabernacle made by God, in which He alone entered to accomplish the great work of the redemption of man. If God granted to some who were only His servants such power, that not only their touch but even their shadows healed the sick, who were placed for this purpose in the public streets, how much greater power must we suppose that He has granted to Her who was not only His Handmaid but His Mother?  We may indeed say that our Lord has given us Mary as a public infirmary, in which all who are sick, poor, and destitute can be received.  But now I ask, in hospitals erected expressly for the poor, who have the greatest claim to admission?  Certainly the most infirm, and those who are in the greatest need.

And for this reason should any one find himself devoid of merit and overwhelmed with spiritual infirmities, that is to say, sin, He can thus address Mary: O Lady, You are the refuge of the sick poor.  Please don’t reject me; for as I am the poorest and the most infirm of all, I have the greatest right to be welcomed by You. Let us then cry out, "O Mary, we poor sinners know no other refuge than You, for You are our only hope, and on You we rely for our salvation. You are our only advocate with Jesus Christ; to You we all turn ourselves."  Mary is called the "Star preceding the sun,"  giving us thereby to understand, that when devotion towards the Heavenly Mother begins to manifest itself in a soul that is in a state of sin, it is a certain mark that before long God will enrich it with His grace.  The glorious St. Bonaventure, in order to revive the confidence of sinners in the protection of Mary, places before them the picture of a tempestuous sea, into which sinners have already fallen from the ship of divine grace; they are already dashed about on every side by remorse of conscience and by fear of the judgments of God; they are without light or guide, and are on the point of losing the last breath of hope and falling into despair; then it is that our Lord, pointing out Mary to them, who is commonly called the "Star of the Sea," raises His voice and says, "O poor lost sinners, despair not; raise up your eyes, and cast them on this beautiful star; breathe again with confidence, for it will save you from this tempest, and will guide you into the port of salvation."  If you would not be lost in the tempest, cast your eyes on the star, and invoke Mary.

Mary is the only refuge of those who have offended God, the asylum of all who are oppressed by temptation, calamity, or persecution.  This Mother is all mercy, benignity, and sweetness, not only to the just, but also to despairing sinners; so that no sooner does She perceive them coming to Her, and seeking Her health from their hearts, than She aids them, welcomes them, and obtains their pardon from Her Son.  She knows not how to despise anyone, however unworthy He may be of mercy, and therefore denies Her protection to none; She consoles all, and is no sooner called upon than She helps whoever it may be that invokes Her.  She by Her sweetness often awakens and draws sinners to Her devotion who are the most at enmity with God and the most deeply plunged in the lethargy of sin; and then, by the same means, She excites them effectually, and prepares them for grace, and thus renders them fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.  God has created this His beloved daughter of so compassionate and sweet a disposition, that no one can fear to have recourse to Her.  It is impossible for any one to perish who attentively, and with humility, cultivates devotion towards this Heavenly Mother.

   In Sirach Mary is called a plane-tree: "As a plane-tree I was exalted" (Sir 24:19).  And She is so called that sinners may understand that as the plane-tree gives shelter to travelers from the heat of the sun, so does Mary invite them to take shelter under Her protection from the Wrath of God, justly enkindled against them.  The prophet Isaiah complained of the times in which He lived, saying, "Behold You are angry, and we have sinned; there is none that rises up and takes hold of You" (Is 64:5).  It is true, O Lord, that at the time there was none to raise up sinners and without Your wrath, for Mary was not yet born; before Mary, there was no one who could thus dare to restrain the Arm of God.  But now, if God is angry with a sinner, and Mary takes Him under Her protection, She withholds the avenging Arm of Her Son, and saves Him.  And so, no one can be found more fit for this office than Mary, who seizes the sword of Divine Justice with Her own hands to prevent it from falling upon and punishing the sinner.  God, before the birth of Mary, complained by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel that there was no one to rise up and withhold Him from chastising sinners, but that He could find no one, for this office was reserved for our Blessed Lady, who withholds His Arm until He is pacified.

O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all Your necessities; call Her to your assistance, for you will always find Her ready to help you; for such is the Divine Will that She should help all in every kind of necessity. This Mother of Mercy has so great a desire to save the most abandoned sinners, that She Herself goes in search of them, in order to help them; and if they have recourse to Her, She knows how to find the means to render them acceptable to God.  The Patriarch Isaac, desiring to eat of some wild animal, promised his blessing to his son Esau on his procuring this food for him; but Rebecca, who was anxious that her other son Jacob should receive the blessing, called him and said, Go your way to the flock, bring me 2 kids of the best, that I may make of them meat for your father, such as he gladly eats (Gen 27:9).  Rebecca was a figure of Mary, who commands the angels to bring Her sinners (meant by kids), that She may adorn them in such a way (by obtaining for them sorrow and purpose of amendment) as to render them dear and acceptable to the Lord.  "O truly sagacious woman, who so well knew how to dress these kids, that not only they are equal to, but often superior in flavor to real venison." 

     There is no sinner in the world, however much he may be at enmity with God, who does not return to Him and recover His grace, if he has recourse to Her and asks Her assistance.  She would be ready to obtain the grace of God for the devil himself, if only he humbled himself so far as to seek Her aid.  That proud spirit will never humble himself so far as to implore the protection of Mary; but if such a thing were possible, Mary would be sufficiently compassionate, and Her prayers would have sufficient power to obtain both forgiveness and salvation for him from God.  But that which cannot be verified with regard to the devil is verified in the case of sinners who have recourse to this compassionate mother.  Noah's ark was a true figure of Mary; for as in it all kinds of beasts were saved, so under the mantle of Mary all sinners, who by their vices and sensuality are already like beasts, find refuge; but with this difference, that while the brutes that entered the ark remained brutes, the wolf remaining a wolf, and a tiger a tiger—under the mantle of Mary, on the other hand, the wolf becomes a lamb, and the tiger a dove.  One day St. Gertrude saw Mary with Her mantle open, and under it there were many wild beats of different kinds—leopards, lions, and bears; and She saw that not only our Blessed Lady did not drive them away, but that She welcomed and caressed them with Her benign hand.  The saint understood that these wild beasts were miserable sinners, who are welcomed by Mary with sweetness and love the moment they had recourse to Her.

      "You, O Lady, do not reject any sinner who approaches You, however loathsome and repugnant he may be.  If he asks Your assistance, You do not disdain to extend Your compassionate hand to him, to extricate him from the gulf of despair. May our God be eternally blessed and thanked, O most amiable Mary, for having created You so sweet and benign, even towards the most miserable sinners!  Truly unfortunate is he who does not love You, and who, having it in his power to obtain Your assistance, has no confidence in You."  He who has not recourse to Mary is lost; but who was ever lost that had recourse to the most Blessed Virgin?  It is related in the sacred Scriptures that Booz allowed Ruth to gather the ears of corn, after the reapers (Ruth 2:3).  As Ruth found favor with Booz, so has Mary found favor with our Lord, and is also allowed to gather the ears of corn after the reapers.  The reapers followed by Mary are all evangelical laborers, missionaries, preachers, and confessors, who are constantly reaping souls for God.  But there are some hardened and rebellious souls which are abandoned even by these.  To Mary alone it is granted to save them by Her powerful intercession. Truly unfortunate are they if they do not allow themselves to be gathered, even by this sweet Lady.  They will indeed be most certainly lost and accursed.  But, on the other hand, blessed is he who has recourse to this good Mother.  There is not in the world, any sinner, however revolting and wicked, who is despised or rejected by Mary; She can, She wills, and She knows how to reconcile him to Her most beloved Son, if only he will seek Her assistance.  With reason then, O my most sweet Queen, You are called the "hope of those who are in despair!"  With reason You are also called "the hope of malefactors," and "the only hope of sinners."  She is the safe harbor of all sailing on the sea of the world, and the consolation of those who are to be condemned.  With reason, even the desperate has reason not to despair; and, full of joy and tenderness towards his most dear Mother, he can lovingly exclaims: "Who, O Lady, can be without confidence in You, since You assist even those who are in despair?  And I doubt not, that whenever we have recourse to You, we shall obtain all that we desire.  Let him, then, who is without hope, hope in You."

EXAMPLE

There was a sinner who was at enmity with God, and who had a vision in which he found himself before the dread tribunal; the devil accused him, and Mary defended him.  The enemy produced the catalogue of his sins; it was thrown into the scales of divine justice, and weighed far more than all his good works.  But then his great advocate, extending Her sweet hand, placed it on the balance, and so caused it to turn in favor of Her client; giving him thereby to understand that She would obtain his pardon if he changed his life; and this he did after the vision, and was entirely converted.

PRAYER

O most pure Virgin Mary.  I venerate Your most holy heart, which was the delight and resting-place of God, Your heart overflowing with humility, purity, and divine love.  I, an unhappy sinner, approach You with a heart all loathsome and wounded.  O compassionate Mother, please don’t disdain me on this account; let such a sight rather move You to greater tenderness, and excite You to help me.  Do not seek virtues or merit in me before assisting me.  I am lost, and the only thing I merit is hell.  See only my confidence in You and the purpose I have to amend.  Consider all that Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if You can.  I offer You all the pains of His life; the cold that He endured in the stable; His journey into Egypt; the Blood which He shed; the poverty, sweats, sorrows, and death that He endured for me; and this in Your presence.  For the love of Jesus, take charge of my salvation.  Ah, my Mother, I will not and cannot fear that You will reject me, now that I have recourse to You and ask Your help.  Did I fear this, I should be offering an outrage to Your mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in order to help them.  O Lady, deny not Your compassion to one to whom Jesus has not denied His Blood.  But the merits of this Blood will not be applied to me unless You recommend me to God.  Through You, I hope for salvation.  I ask not for riches, honors, or earthly goods.  I seek only the grace of God, love towards Your Son, the accomplishment of His Will, and His Heavenly Kingdom, that I may love Him eternally.  Is it possible that You will not hear me?  No; for already You has granted my prayer, as I hope; already You pray for me; already You obtain me the graces that I ask; already You take me under Your protection.  My Mother, abandon me not.  Never, never cease to pray for me, until You see me safe in heaven at Your feet, blessing and thanking You forever.  Amen.     

CHAPTER 4

TO YOU DO WE CRY, POOR BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE.

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MARY, OUR HELP.

The Promptitude of Mary in assisting those who invoke Her.

Truly unfortunate are we poor children of Eve; for, guilty before God of her fault, and condemned to the same penalty, we have to wander about in this valley of tears as exiles from our country, and to weep over our many afflictions of body and soul.  But blessed is he who, in the midst of these sorrows, often turns to the comforter of the world, to the refuge of the unfortunate, to the great Mother of God, and devoutly calls upon Her and invokes Her!  "Blessed is the man who hears Me, and who watches daily at My gates (Prov 8:34).  Blessed, says Mary, is he who listens to My counsels, and watches continually at the gate of My Mercy, and invokes My intercession and aid.

     The holy Church carefully teaches us Her children with what attention and confidence we should unceasingly have recourse to this loving protector; and for this purpose commands a reverence peculiar to Mary.  And not only this, but She has instituted so many festivals that are celebrated throughout the year in honor of this great Queen: She devotes one day in the week, in an especial manner, to Her honor: in the divine office all ecclesiastics and religious are daily obliged to invoke Her in the name of all Christians; and, finally, She desires that all the faithful should salute this most holy Mother of God 3 times a day, at the sound of the Angelus-bell.  And that we may understand the confidence that the Holy Church has in Mary, we need only remember that in every calamity She invariably invites all to have recourse to the protection of this Heavenly Mother, by novenas, prayers, processions, by visiting the churches dedicated in Her honor, and Her images.  And this is what Mary desires.  She wishes us always to seek Her and invoke Her aid; not as if She were begging of us these honors and marks of veneration, for they are in no way proportioned to Her merit; but She desires them, that by such means our confidence and devotion may be increased, and that so She may be able to give us greater help and comfort.  She seeks for those, who approach Her devoutly and with reverence, for such She loves, nourishes, and adopts as Her children.  

      Ruth, whose name signifies "seeing and hastening," was a figure of Mary; for Mary, seeing our miseries, hastens in Her mercy to help us.  Mary, in the greatness of Her desire to help us, cannot admit of delay, for She is in no way an avaricious guardian of the graces She has at Her disposal as Mother of Mercy, and cannot do otherwise than immediately shower down the treasures of Her liberality on Her servants. 

            O how prompt is this good mother to help those who call upon Her!  "Your 2 breasts, " says the sacred Canticle, "are like 2 roes that are twins" (Song 4:5).  As roes are swift in their course, so are the breasts of Mary prompt to bestow the milk of mercy on all who ask it.  By the light pressure of a devout salutation and prayer they distil large drops.  The compassion of Mary is poured out on every one who asks it, even should it be sought for by no other prayer than a simple "Hail Mary."  The Blessed Virgin not only runs but flies to assist him who invokes Her.  She, in the exercise of Her mercy, knows not how to act differently from God; for, as He flies at once to the assistance of those who beg His aid, faithful to His promise, Ask, and you shall receive (Jn 16:24), so Mary, whenever She is invoked, is at once ready to assist him who prays to Her. God has wings when He assists His own, and immediately flies to them; Mary also takes wing when She is about to fly to our aid. And hence we see who the woman was, spoken of in Revelation 12:14, to whom 2 great eagle's wings were given, that She might fly to the desert. These wings represents the love with which Mary always flew to God.  She has the wings of an eagle, for She flies with the love of God. These wings of an eagle also signify the velocity, exceeding that of the seraphim, with which Mary always flies to the help of Her children. 

            This will explain a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, in which we are told that when Mary went to visit and shower graces on St. Elizabeth and Her whole family, She was not slow, but went with speed.  The Gospel says, And Mary, rising up, went into the hill country with haste (Lk 1:39).  And this is not said of Her return.  For a similar reason, we are told in the sacred Canticles that the hands of Mary are used to the lathe: Her hands are skillful at the wheel (Song 5:14), meaning that as the art of turning is the easiest and most expeditious mode of working, so also is Mary the most willing and prompt of all the saints to assist Her clients. And truly She has the most ardent desire to console all, and is no sooner invoked than She accepts the prayers, and helps.  Thus Mary is called the "salvation of all who call upon Her," meaning, that it suffices to invoke this Heavenly mother in order to be saved; for She is always ready to help those who seek Her aid.  You will always find Her ready to help you. And this great Lady is more desirous to grant us graces than we are desirous to receive them.    

            Nor should the multitude of our sins diminish our confidence that Mary will grant our petitions when we cast ourselves at Her feet.  She is the Mother of Mercy; but mercy would not be needed did none exist who require it.  As a good mother does not shrink from applying a remedy to Her child infected with ulcers, however nauseous and revolting they may be, so also is our good mother unable to abandon us when we have recourse to Her, that She may heal the wounds caused by our sins, however loathsome they may have rendered us. This is exactly what Mary gave St. Gertrude to understand, when She showed Herself to Her with Her mantle spread out to receive all who have recourse to Her.  At the same time the saint was told that "angels constantly guard the clients of this Blessed Virgin from the assaults of hell."

            This good Mother's compassion is so great, and the love She bears us is such, that She does not even wait for our prayers in order to assist us; but, as it is expressed in the Book of Wisdom, She waits for those who seek Her, so that She first shows Herself unto them (Wis 6:14).  She is beforehand for those who desire Her protection.  By this we are to understand that She obtains us many favors from God before we have recourse to Her.  For this reason, She is called the moon, fair as the moon—Song 6:9, meaning, not only that She is swift as the moon in its course, by flying to the aid of those who invoke Her, but that She is still more so, for Her love for us is so tender, that in our wants She anticipates our prayers, and Her mercy is more prompt to help us than we are to ask Her aid.  And this arises from the fact that the heart of Mary is so filled with compassion for poor sinners, that She no sooner sees our miseries than She pours Her tender mercies upon us.  Nor is it possible for this benign Queen to behold the want of any soul without immediately assisting it.  Mary, even when living in this world, showed at the marriage-feast of Cana the great compassion that She would afterwards exercise towards us in our necessities, and which now, as it were, forces Her to have pity on us and assist us, even before we ask Her to do so.  In John 2, we read that at this feast, the compassionate Mother saw the embarrassment in which the bride and bridegroom were, and that they were quite ashamed on seeing the wine fail; and therefore, without being asked, and listening only to the dictates of Her compassionate heart, which could never behold the afflictions of others without feeling for them, She begged Her Son to console them simply by laying their distress before Him: they have no wine—Jn 2:3.  No sooner had She done so, than our Lord, in order to satisfy all present, and still more to console the compassionate heart of His Mother, who had asked the favor, worked the well-known miracle by which He changed the water, brought to Him in jars, into wine.  If Mary, unasked, is thus prompt to help the needy, how much more so will She be to help those who invoke Her and ask for Her help? Should there be any one who doubts as to whether Mary will aid Him if He has recourse to Her? Who is there that ever, when in the night of sin, had recourse to this sweet Lady without being relieved? 

           "Who ever faithfully implored Your all-powerful aid and was abandoned by You?  Indeed, no one: for You can relieve the most wretched and save the most abandoned."  Such a case certainly never did and never will occur. "I am satisfied that whoever has had recourse to You, O Blessed Virgin, in His needs, and can remember that He did so in vain, should no more speak of or praise Your mercy."  Sooner would heaven and earth be destroyed than would Mary fail to assist any one who asks for Her help, provided He does so with a good intention and with confidence in Her.  When we have recourse to this Heavenly Mother, not only we may be sure of Her protection, but that often we shall be heard more quickly, and be thus preserved, if we have recourse to Mary and call on Her holy name, than we should be if we called on the Name of Jesus our Savior; and the reason for it is that to Jesus, as a judge, it belongs also to punish; but mercy alone belongs to the Blessed Virgin as a patroness. Meaning, that we more easily find salvation by having recourse to the Mother than by going to the Son—not as if Mary was more powerful than Her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Savior, and that He alone by His merits has obtained and obtains salvation for us; but it is for this reason: that when we have recourse to Jesus, we consider Him at the same time as our judge, to whom it belongs also to chastise ungrateful souls, and therefore the confidence necessary to be heard may fail us; but when we go to Mary, who has no other office than to have compassion us as Mother of mercy, and to defend us as our advocate, our confidence is more easily established, and is often greater.  We often obtain more promptly what we ask by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus.  Her Son is Lord and Judge of all, and discerns the merits of each one; and therefore if He does not immediately grant the prayers of all, He is just.  When, however, the Mother's name is invoked, though the merits of the suppliant are not such as to deserve that his prayer should be granted, those of the Mother supply that he may receive.

      Many things are asked from God, and are not granted: they are asked from Mary, and are obtained.  Why is this?  It is because God has thus determined to honor His Mother.   St. Bridget heard our Lord make a most sweet and consoling promise; for in chapter 50 of the first book of Her Revelations we read that Jesus addressed His Mother in the following words: "You shall not present Me with a petition that shall be refused.  My Mother, ask what You will, for never will I refuse You anything; and know that I promise graciously to hear all those who ask any favor of Me in Your name, though they may be sinners, if only they have the will to amend their lives" —Rev. l. i. c. 50.  The same thing was revealed to St. Gertrude, when She heard our Divine Redeemer assure His Mother, that in His Omnipotence,  He granted Her power to show mercy to sinners who invoke Her in whatever manner She might please—Insin. l. 4. c. 53).  Let all, then, say, with full confidence in the words of that beautiful prayer addressed to the Mother of Mercy, "Remember, O most pious Virgin Mary, that it never was heard of in any age that any one having recourse to Your protection was abandoned." 

EXAMPLE

We read in the life of St. Francis de Sales that he experienced the efficacy of this prayer.  When he was about 17 years of age, he was living in Paris, where he was pursuing his studies.  At the same time he devoted himself to exercises of piety and to the holy love of God, in which he found the joys of paradise.  Our Lord, in order to try him, and to strengthen the bands which united him to himself, allowed the evil spirit to persuade him that all that he did was in vain, as he was already condemned in the eternal decrees of God.  The darkness and spiritual dryness in which God was pleased at the same time to leave him (for he was then insensible to all the sweeter thoughts of the goodness of God) caused the temptation to have greater power over the heart of the holy youth: and, indeed, it reached such a pitch that his fears and interior desolation took away his appetite, deprived him of sleep, made him pale and melancholy; so much so, that he excited the compassion of all who saw him.

            As long as this terrible storm lasted, the saint could only conceive thoughts and utter words of despondency and bitter grief.  "Then," said he, "I am to be deprived of the grace of my God, who hitherto has shown Himself so lovely and sweet to me!  O love, O beauty, to which I have consecrated all my affections, I am no longer to enjoy Your consolation!  O Virgin, Mother of God, the fairest among all the daughters of Jerusalem, then I am never to see You in heaven!  Ah, Lady, if I am not to behold Your beautiful countenance in Paradise, at least permit me not to blaspheme You in hell!"  Such were the tender sentiments of that afflicted, but at the same time loving heart.  The temptation had lasted a month, when it pleased our Lord to deliver him by the means of that comforter of the world, the most Blessed Mary, to whom the saint had some time before consecrated his virginity, and in whom, as he declared, he had placed all his hopes.  One evening, on returning home, he entered a church, and saw a tablet hanging on the wall.  He read it, and found the following well-known prayer: "Remember, O most pious Virgin Mary, that it never has been heard of in any age, that any one having recourse to Your protection was abandoned."  Falling on his knees before the alter of the Heavenly Mother, he recited this prayer with tender fervor, renewed his vow of chastity, promised to say the Rosary every day, and then added: "My Queen, be my advocate with Your Son, whom I dare not approach.  My Mother, if I am so unfortunate as not to be able to love my Lord in the next world, and whom I know to be so worthy of love, at least do You obtain that I may love Him in this world as much as possible.  This is the grace that I ask and hope for from You."  Having thus addressed the Blessed Virgin, he cast himself into the Arms of Divine Mercy, and resigned himself entirely to the Will of God.  Scarcely had he finished his prayer, when in an instant he was delivered from his temptation by his most sweet Mother.  He immediately regained the peace of his soul, and with it his bodily health; and from that time forward lived most devout to Mary, whose praises and mercy he constantly extolled, both in his sermons and writings, during the remainder of his life.

PRAYER

O Mother of God, Queen of angels and hope of men, give ear to one who calls upon You and has recourse to Your protection.  Behold me this day prostrate at Your feet; I, a miserable slave of hell, devote myself entirely to You.  I desire to be forever Your servant.  I offer myself to serve and honor You to the utmost of my power during the whole of my life.  I know that the service of one so vile and miserable can be no honor to You, since I have so grievously offended Jesus, Your Son and my Redeemer.  But if You will accept one so unworthy for Your servant, and by Your intercession change me, and thus making me worthy, this very mercy will give You that honor which so miserable a wretch as I can never give You.  Receive me, then, and reject me not, O my Mother.  The Eternal Word came from heaven on earth to seek for lost sheep, and to save them, He became Your Son.  And when one of them goes to You to find Jesus, will You despise it?  The price of my salvation is already paid; my Savior has already shed His Blood, which suffices to save an infinity of worlds.  This Blood has only to be applied even to such a one as I am.  And that is Your office, O Blessed Virgin; to You does it belong to dispense the merits of this Blood to whom You please.  To You does it belong to save whomsoever You will, whomsoever You will be saved.  Oh, then, help me, my Queen; my Queen, save me.  To You do I this day consecrate my whole soul; do You save it.  O salvation of those who call upon You, save me.

2

     The Greatness of the Power of Mary to defend those who invoke Her when tempted by the Devil. Not only is the most Blessed Virgin Queen of heaven and of all saints, but She is also Queen of hell and of all evil spirits; for She overcame them valiantly by Her virtues.  From the very beginning God foretold the victory and empire that our Queen would one day obtain over the serpent, when He announced that a woman should come into the world to conquer Him: I will put enmities between You and the woman—She shall crush Your head  —Gen 3:15.  Who could this woman, His enemy, be but Mary, who by Her fair humility and holy life always conquered Him and beat down His strength?  The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was promised in the person of that woman and therefore God did not say, "I place," but "I will place;" lest He might seem to refer to Eve: meaning that God said, I will place enmities between You and the woman, to signify that the serpent's opponent was not to be Eve, who was then living, but would be another woman descending from Her, and who, would bring our first parents far greater advantages than those which they had lost by their sin. Mary, then, was this great and valiant woman, who conquered the devil and crushed his head by bringing down his pride, as it was foretold by God Himself: She shall crush your head.  Some doubt as to whether these words refer to Mary, or whether they do not rather refer to Jesus Christ; for the Septuagint renders them, He shall crush Your head.  But in the Vulgate, we find She, and not He; and thus it was understood by many church fathers.  However, be it as it may, it is certain that either the Son by means of the Mother, or the Mother by means of the Son, has overcome satan; so that this proud spirit, in spite of himself, was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen.  Beaten down and trampled under the feet of Mary, He endured a wretched slavery. Eve was the cause of death by allowing herself to be overcome by the serpent but Mary by conquering the devil, restored life to us.  And She bound Him in such a way that this enemy cannot stir so as to do the least injury to any of Her clients.

In Proverbs 31:11 we read: "The heart of Her husband trusts in Her, and He shall have no need of spoils." Applying these words to Jesus and Mary, the Heart of Her Spouse, that is Christ, trusts in Her, and He shall have no need of spoils; for She endows Him with all those whom by Her prayers, merits, and example, She snatches from the devil.  God has entrusted the Heart of Jesus to the hands of Mary, that She may insure it the love of men, and thus He will not need spoils; that is, He will be abundantly supplied with souls; for She enriches Him with those whom She has snatched from hell, and saved from the devil by Her powerful assistance.

     It is well known that the palm is a sign of victory; and therefore our Queen is placed on a high throne, in sight of all the powers, as a palm, for a sign of the certain victory that all may promise themselves who place themselves under Her protection.  I was exalted like a palm-tree in Engedi —Sir. 24:12-14,  That is, to defend My children.  Mary seems to say,  "when the enemy assails you, fly to Me; cast your eyes on Me, and be of good heart; for as I am your defender, victory is assured to you."  So that recourse to Mary is a most secure means to conquer all the assaults of hell; for She is even the Queen of hell and sovereign over the devils: since She it is who crushes them.  The most Blessed Virgin rules over the infernal regions because She brings them into subjection. For this reason Mary is said in the sacred Canticles to be terrible to the infernal powers as an army in battle array—Song 6:3, and She is called thus terrible, because She well knows how to array Her power, Her mercy, and Her prayers, to the discomfiture of Her enemies, and for the benefit of Her servants, who in their temptations have recourse to Her most powerful aid. 

            "As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor"—Sir. 24:15.  Thus does the Holy Spirit make Mary speak in the book of Sirach.  We are told, that all venomous reptiles flee from flowering vines; for, as poisonous reptiles fly from flowering vines, so do devils fly from those fortunate souls in whom they perceive the perfume of devotion to Mary.  And therefore She also calls Herself, in the same book, a cedar: "I was exalted like a cedar in Lebanon"—Sir 24:13.  Not only because Mary was untainted by sin, as the cedar is incorruptible, but also,  because, like the cedar which by its odor keeps off worms, so also does Mary by Her sanctity drive away the devils.  In Judea victories were gained by means of the ark.  Thus it was that Moses conquered His enemies, as we learn from the Book of Numbers.  And when the ark was lifted up, Moses said: "Arise, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered"—Num 10:35.  Thus was Jericho conquered; thus also the Philistines; for the Ark of God was there —1 Sam 14:18.  It is well known that this ark was a figure of Mary. In time of danger, Christians should fly to the most Blessed Virgin, who contained Christ as manna in the ark of Her womb, and brought Him forth to be the food and salvation of the world. For as manna was in the ark, so is Jesus (of whom manna was a figure) in Mary; and by means of this ark we gain the victory over our earthly and infernal enemies.  And thus,  when Mary, the ark of the New Testament, was raised to the dignity of Queen of heaven, the power of hell over men was weakened and dissolved.   

    O how the infernal spirits tremble at the very thought of Mary, and of Her august name!  O, how fearful is Mary to the devils!  The saint compares these enemies to those of whom Job speaks: He break into houses in the dark; if the morning suddenly appear, it is to them the shadow of death." —Job 24:16.  Thieves go and rob houses in the dark; but as soon as morning dawns, they flee, as if they beheld the shadow of death.  Precisely thus, do devils enter a soul in the time of darkness; meaning when the soul is in the obscurity of ignorance.

  They break into the house of our mind when it is in the darkness of ignorance.  But then if suddenly they are overtaken by the dawn, that is, if the grace and mercy of Mary enters the soul, its brightness instantly dispels the darkness, and puts the infernal enemies to flight, as if they fled from death.  O blessed is he who always invokes the beautiful name of Mary in his conflicts with hell!

     God has rendered Mary so powerful over the devils, that as often as they assault a devout client who calls on this most Blessed Virgin for help, She at a single glance instantly terrifies them, so that they flee far away, preferring to have their pains redoubled rather than see themselves thus subject to the power of Mary.  The Divine Bridegroom, when speaking of this His beloved bride, calls Her a lily: "As the lily is among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters"—Song 2:2.  As the lily is a remedy against serpents and venomous things, so is the invocation of Mary a remedy by which we may overcome all temptations, and especially those against purity, as all find who put it in practice.   "While I keep my hope in You unconquerable, O Mother of God, I shall be safe.  I will fight and overcome my enemies with no other buckler than Your protection and Your all-powerful aid. Mother of God, if I hope in You, I most certainly shall not be overcome; for, defended by You, I will follow up my enemies, and oppose them with the shield of Your protection and Your all-powerful help; and then without doubt I shall conquer.   And You, O Lord, have given us in Mary arms that no force of war can overcome, and a trophy never to be destroyed."  

            In the Old Testament, God guided His people from Egypt to the land of promise, by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire—Ex 13:21.  This stupendous pillar, at times as a cloud, at others, as fire  was a figure of Mary fulfilling the double office She constantly exercises for our good; as a cloud She protects us from the ardor of Divine Justice; and as fire She protects from devils.  Behold, the 2-fold object for which Mary is given to us; to shelter us, as a cloud, from the heat of the Sun of Justice, and, as fire, to protect us all against the devil.  She protects us as a burning fire; for as wax melts before the fire, so do the devils lose their power against those souls who often remember the name of Mary, and devoutly invoke it; and still more so, if they also endeavor to imitate Her virtues.

            The devils tremble even if they only hear the name of Mary.  In the name of Mary every knee bends; and that the devils not only fear but tremble at the very sound of that name. And as men fall prostrate with fear if a thunderbolt falls near them, so do the devils if they hear the name of Mary.  Thomas à Kempis thus expresses the same sentiment: "The evil spirits greatly fear the Queen of heaven, and fly at the sound of Her name, as if from fire.  At the very sound of the word Mary, they are prostrated as by thunder." 

            Oh, how many victories have the clients of Mary gained by only making use of Her most holy name!  It was thus that St. Anthony of Padua was always victorious; thus the Blessed Henry Suso; thus so many other lovers of this great Queen conquered.  We learn from the history of the missions in Japan, that many devils appeared under the form of fierce animals to a certain Christian, to alarm and threaten Him; but He thus addressed them: "I have no arms that you can fear; and if the Most high permits it, do whatever you please with me.  In the mean time, however, I take the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary for my defence."  At the very sound of these tremendous names, the earth opened, and the proud spirits cast themselves headlong into it.  St. Anselm declares that He himself "knew and had seen and heard many who had invoked the name of Mary in time of danger, and were immediately delivered from it. " 

"Glorious indeed, and admirable is Your name, O Mary; for those who pronounce it at death need not fear all the powers of hell;" for the devils on hearing that name instantly fly, and leave the soul in peace.  Men do not fear a powerful hostile army as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.  "You, O Lady, by the simple invocation of Your most powerful name, give security to Your servants against all the assaults of the enemy."   Oh, if only Christians were careful in their temptations to pronounce the name of Mary with confidence, never would they fall; for at the very sound of these words, "Hail, Mary"  satan flees, and hell trembles.  Our Blessed Lady Herself revealed to St. Bridget that the enemy flees even from the most abandoned sinners, who consequently are the farthest from God, and fully possessed by the devil, if they only invoke Her most powerful name with a true purpose of amendment.  All devils on hearing this name of Mary, filled with terror, leave the soul. But at the same time our Blessed Lady added, "that if the soul does not amend and obliterate its sins by sorrow, the devils almost immediately return and continue to possess it."  

EXAMPLE

In Reichersperg, in Bavaria, there was a canon regular of the name of Arnold, surnamed the Pious on account of the sanctity of His life, and who had the most tender devotion to our Blessed Lady.  When at the point of death, and having received the last sacraments, He summoned His religious brethren, and begged that they would not abandon Him in His last passage.  Scarcely had He uttered these words, when, in the presence of all, He began to tremble, to roll His eyes, and, bathed in a cold sweat, with a faltering voice said, "Ah, do you not see the devils who are endeavoring to drag me to hell?"  He then cried out, "Brothers, implore the aid of Mary for me; in Her I confide; She will give me the victory."  On hearing this His brethren recited the Litany of our Blessed Lady, and as they said "Holy Mary, pray for Him," the dying man exclaimed, "Repeat, repeat the name of Mary, for I am already before God's tribunal."  He was silent for a moment, and then added, "It is true that I did that, but I have done penance for it."  And then turning to our Blessed Lady, He said, "O Mary, I shall be delivered if You help me."  Again the devils attacked Him; but He defended himself with His crucifix and the name of Mary.  Thus was the night spent; but no sooner did morning dawn than Arnold exclaimed with the greatest calmness, and full of holy joy, "Mary, my sovereign Lady, my refuge, has obtained me pardon and salvation."  Then casting His eyes on that Blessed Virgin who was inviting Him to follow Her, He said, "I come, O Lady, I come!" and making an effort to do so even with His body, His soul fled after Her to the realms of eternal bliss, as we trust, for He sweetly expired. 

PRAYER

 Behold at Your feet, O Mary my hope, a poor sinner, who has so many times been by his own fault the slave of hell.  I know that by neglecting to have recourse to You, my refuge, I allowed myself to be overcome by the devil.  Had I always had recourse to You, had I always invoked You, I certainly should not have fallen.  I trust, O Lady most worthy of all our love, that through You I have already escaped from the hands of the devil, and that God has pardoned me.  But I tremble lest at some future period I may again fall into the same bonds.  I know that my enemies have not lost the hope of again overcoming me, and already they prepare new assaults and temptations for me.  Ah, my Queen and refuge, assist me.  Place me under Your mantle; permit me not again to become their slave.  I know that You will help me and give me the victory, provided I invoke You; but I dread lest in my temptations I may forget You, and neglect to do so.  The favor, then, that I seek of You, and which You must grant me, O most holy Virgin, is that I may never forget You, and especially in time of temptation; grant that I may then repeatedly invoke You, saying, "O Mary, help me; O Mary, help me."  And when my last struggle with hell comes, at the moment of death, ah then, my Queen, help me more than ever, and You Yourself remind me to call on You more frequently either with my lips or in my heart; that, being thus filled with confidence, I may expire with Your sweet name and that of Your Son Jesus on my lips; that so I may be able to bless You and praise You, and not depart from Your feet in Paradise for all eternity.  Amen. 

CHAPTER 5

TO YOU DO WE SIGH, MOURNING AND WEEPING, IN THIS VALLEY OF TEARS.

I.

MARY, OUR MEDIATRESS.

The Necessity of the Intercession of Mary for our Salvation

 That it is not only lawful but useful to invoke and pray to the saints, and more especially to the Queen of saints, the most holy and ever blessed Virgin Mary, in order that they may obtain us divine grace, is an article faith, and has been defined by general Councils, against heretics who condemned it as injurious to Jesus Christ, Who is our only Mediator, but if a Jeremiah after His death prayed for Jerusalem (2 Macc 15:14); if the ancients of the Apocalypse presents the prayers of the saints to God (Rev 5:8); if a St. Peter promises His disciples that after His death He will be mindful of them (2 Pet 5:15);  if a holy Stephen prays for His persecutors(Acts 7:59); if a St. Paul prays for His companions (Acts 27:24; Eph 2:16; Phil 1:4; Col  1:3); if, in fine, the saints can pray for us, why cannot we implore the saints to intercede for us?  St. Paul recommends himself to the prayers of His disciples:  "Brethren, pray for us"—1 Thess 5:25.  St. Jacob exhorts us to pray one for another:  "Pray one for another, that you may be saved"—Jacob 5:16.  Then we can do the same. 

            No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only Mediator of Justice, and that He by His merits has obtained our reconciliation with God.  But, on the other hand, it is impious to assert that God is not pleased to grant graces at the intercession of His saints, and more especially of Mary His Mother, whom Jesus desires to much to see loved and honored by all.  Who can pretend that the honor bestowed on a Mother does not redound to the honor of the son?  "The glory of children are their fathers"—Prov 17:6).  Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the mother; for the more She is honored, the greater is the glory of the Son.  There can be no doubt that whatever we say in praise of the Mother is equally in praise of the Son. That which is given to the Mother redounds to the Son; the honor given to the Queen is honor bestowed on the King. There can be no doubt that by the merits of Jesus, Mary was made the Mediatrix of our salvation; not indeed a Mediatrix of justice, but of grace and intercession; as She is often called:  "Mary, the most faithful Mediatrix of our salvation."  How can She be otherwise than Full of Grace, who has been made the ladder to paradise, the gate of heaven, the most true Mediatrix between God and man?  

   Hence if we implore our Blessed Lady to obtain us a favor, it is not because we distrust Divine Mercy, but rather that we fear our own unworthiness and the absence of proper dispositions; and we recommend ourselves to Mary, that Her dignity may supply for our lowliness.  We apply to Mary in order that the dignity of the intercessor may supply for our misery.  Hence, to invoke the aid of the most Blessed Virgin is not diffidence in the Divine Mercy, but dread of our own unworthiness.    

     That it is most useful and holy to have recourse to the intercession of Mary can only be doubted by those who have not faith.  But that which we intend to prove here is, that the intercession of Mary is even necessary to salvation; we say necessary—not absolutely, but morally.  This necessity proceeds from the Will of God, that all graces that He dispenses should pass through the hands of Mary. God wills that we should obtain all good things that we hope for from Him through the powerful intercession of the Virgin Mother, and we shall obtain them whenever (as we are in duty bound) we invoke Her.   When our Lord on the Cross said to St. John: "Behold Your Mother"—John, 19:27, it is the same thing as if He had said: "As no one can be saved except through the merits of My Sufferings and Death, so no one will be a partaker of the Blood then shed otherwise than through the prayer of My Mother.  He alone is a son of My Sorrows who has Mary for His Mother.  My wounds are ever-flowing fountains of grace; but their streams will reach no one but by the channel of Mary.  In vain will He invoke Me as a Father who has not venerated Mary as a Mother.  And You, My disciple John, if You love me, love Her; for You will be beloved by Me in proportion to Your love for Her. " This proposition (that all that we receive from our Lord comes through Mary) does not exactly please some modern writers. One who, speaks of true and false devotion with much learning and piety, yet when he treats of devotion towards the Heavenly Mother, he seems to begrudge Her that glory which was given Her without scruple by numerous saints who had no difficulty to affirming that the intercession of Mary is not only useful, but necessary.  The same author says that the proposition that God grants no grace otherwise than through Mary, is hyperbolical and exaggerated, having dropped from the lips of some saints in the heat of fervor, but which, correctly speaking, is only to be understood as meaning that through Mary we received Jesus Christ, by whose merits we obtain all graces; for He adds, "To believe that God can grant us no graces without the intercession of Mary, would be contrary to faith and the doctrine of St. Paul, who says that we acknowledge but one God and one Mediator of God and men the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).

            But with His leave, and going upon His own admissions, mediation of justice by way of merit is one thing, and mediation by grace by way of prayer is another.  And again, it is one thing to say that God cannot, and another that He will not, grant graces without the intercession of Mary.  We willingly admit that God is the source of every good, and the absolute master of all graces; and that Mary is only a pure creature, who receives whatever She obtains as a pure favor from God.  But who can ever deny that it is most reasonable and proper to assert that God, in order to exalt this great creature, who more than all others honored and loved Him during Her life, and whom, moreover, He had chosen to be the Mother of His Son, our common Redeemer, wills that all graces that are granted to those whom He has redeemed should pass through and be dispensed by the hands of Mary?  We most readily admit that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice, according to the distinction just made, and that by His merits He obtains us all graces and salvation; but we say that Mary is the Mediatrix of grace; and that receiving all She obtains through Jesus Christ, and because She prays and asks for it in the Name of Jesus Christ, yet all the same whatever graces we receive, they come to us through Her intercession.

    There is certainly nothing contrary to faith in this, but the reverse.  It is quite in accordance with the sentiments of the Church, which, in its public and approved prayers, teaches us continually to have recourse to this Heavenly Mother, and to invoke Her as the "health of the weak, the refuge of sinners, the help of Christians, and as our life and hope." In the Office appointed to be said on the feasts of Mary, this same holy Church, applying the words of Sirach to this Blessed Virgin, gives us to understand that in Her we find all hope.  "In me is all hope of life and of virtue!"—Sir 24:25)  In Mary is every grace, "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth"—Ib.  In Mary, finally, we shall find life and eternal salvation: "Who finds me finds life, and draws salvation from the Lord"—Prov 8:35.  And elsewhere: "They that work by me shall not sin; they that explain me shall have everlasting life"—Sir 24:30,31).  And surely such expressions as these sufficiently prove that we require the intercession of Mary.

    Moreover, we are confirmed in this opinion by so many theologians and Fathers, of whom it is certainly incorrect to say, as the above-named author does, that, in exalting Mary, they spoke hyperbolically and allowed great exaggerations to fall from their lips.  To exaggerate and speak hyperbolically is to exceed the limits of truth; and surely we cannot say that saints who were animated by the Spirit of God, which is truth itself, spoke thus.  If I may be allowed to make a short digression, and give my own sentiment, it is, that when an opinion tends in any way to the honor of the most Blessed Virgin, when it has some foundation, and is not repugnant to the faith, nor to the decrees of the Church, nor to truth, the refusal to hold it, or to oppose it because the reverse may be true, shows little devotion to the Mother of God.  Of the number of such as these I do not choose to be, nor do I wish my reader to be so, but rather I choose to be of the number of those who fully and firmly believe all that can without error be believed of the greatness of Mary. Among the acts of homage most pleasing to this good Mother, is firmly believing all that redounds to Her honor.  If there was nothing else to take away our fear of exceeding in the praises of Mary, whatever we may say in praise of Mary is little in comparison with that which She deserves, on account of Her dignity of Mother of God; and, moreover, the Church says, in the Mass appointed for Her festivals, "You are happy, O sacred Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise." 

      But let us return to the point, and examine what the saints say on the subject.  St. Bernard says "that God has filled Mary with all graces, so that men may receive by Her means, as by a channel, every good thing that comes to them."  He says that "She is a full aqueduct, that others may receive of Her plentitude. Before the birth of the Blessed Virgin, a constant flow of graces was lacking, because this aqueduct did not exist."  But now that Mary has been given to the world, heavenly graces constantly flow through Her on all.    

     The devil, like Holofernes, who, in order to gain possession of the city of Bethulia, ordered the aqueducts to be destroyed, exerts himself to his utmost to destroy devotion to the Mother of God in souls; for if this channel of grace is closed, he easily gains possession of them.  See, O souls, with what tender devotion our Lord wills that we should honor our Queen, by always having recourse to Her protection; and by relying on it; for in Mary He has placed the plenitude of every good, so that henceforward we may know and acknowledge that whatever hope, grace, or other advantage we possess, all comes from the hand of Mary. All graces that have ever been bestowed on men, all came through Mary.  And on this account She is called the moon. As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that She receives from the Divine Sun of Justice.        

             Again, the holy Church calls Her "the happy gate of heaven" ("Felix coeli porta"); for as every mandate of grace that is sent by a king passes through the palace-gates, so does every grace that comes from heaven to the world pass through the hands of Mary.  Mary is called the gate of heaven, because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through Her. 

            The plenitude of grace which is in Jesus Christ came into Mary, though in a different way; meaning that it is our Lord, as in the head, from which the vital spirits (that is, divine help to obtain eternal salvation) flow into us, who are the members of His Mystical Body; and that the same plenitude is in Mary, as in the neck, through which these vital spirits pass to the members.  All graces of the spiritual life that descend from Christ, their head, to the faithful, who are His Mystical Body, are transmitted through the instrumentality of Mary.               The reason for this is that as God was pleased to dwell in the womb of this holy Virgin, She acquired, so to speak, a kind of jurisdiction over all graces; for when Jesus Christ issued forth from Her most sacred womb, all the streams of divine gifts flowed from Her as from a celestial ocean.  From the moment that this Virgin Mother conceived the Divine Word in Her womb, She acquired a special jurisdiction, so to say, over all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that no creature has since received any grace from God otherwise than through the hands of Mary.  

     A commentary on a passage of Jeremiah, in which the prophet, speaking of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, and of Mary his Mother, says that a woman shall compass a man (Jer 31:22), says that "as no line can be drawn from the center of a circle without passing by the circumference, so no grace proceeds from Jesus, who is the center of every good thing, without passing by Mary, who compassed Him when She received Him into Her womb. "  For this reason, all gifts, all virtues, and all graces are dispensed by the hands of Mary to whomsoever, when, and as She pleases.  God wills that whatever good things He bestows on His creatures should pass through the hands of Mary. And therefore all are exhorted to have recourse to "this treasury of graces; " for the world and the whole human race have to receive every good that can be hoped for through Her alone.  Address yourselves to the Blessed Virgin, for by Her, and in Her, and with Her, and from Her, the world receives, and is to receive, every good.

            It must now be evident to all that when all graces come to us through Mary, this does not simply mean to say that we "received Jesus Christ, the source of every good, through Mary," but that God, Who gave us Jesus Christ, wills that all graces that have been, that are, and will be dispensed to men to the end of the world through the merits of Christ, should be dispensed by the hands and through the intercession of Mary.

            And thus it is the sentiment of the universal Church, that the intercession and prayers of Mary are, above those of all others, not only useful, but necessary.  Necessary, in accordance with what we have already said, not with an absolute necessity; for the mediation of Jesus Christ alone is absolutely necessary; but with a moral necessity; for the Church believes that God has determined that no grace shall be granted otherwise than by the hands of Mary.  God wills, that we should have nothing that has not passed through the hands of Mary.

"O Mary, God has decided on committing all good gifts that He has provided for men to Your hands, and therefore he has entrusted all treasures and riches of grace to You."   God would not become man without the consent of Mary; in the first place, that we might feel ourselves under great obligations to Her; and in the second, that we might understand that the salvation of all is left to the care of this Blessed Virgin.

      The prophet Isaiah writes: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him." —Is. 11:1.  Thus whoever desires the 7-fold grace of the Holy Spirit, let Him seek for the flower of the Holy Spirit in the rod.  That is, for Jesus in Mary; for by the rod we find the flower, and by the flower, God.  If you desire to possess this flower, bend down the rod, which bears the flower, by prayer; and so you will obtain it.  St. Matthew writes: "They found the child, with Mary his Mother"Matt 2:11.  Thus if we wish to find Jesus we must go to Mary.  We may, then, conclude, that in vain shall we seek for Jesus, unless we endeavor to find Him with Mary. I desire to be the servant of the Son; but because no one will ever be so without serving the Mother, for this reason I desire the servitude of Mary.  

 EXAMPLE

A young nobleman who was on a sea-voyage began to read an obscene book, in which he took much pleasure.  A religious noticed this, and said to Him: "Are you disposed to make a present to our Blessed Lady?"  The young man replied that he was.  "Well," the other answered, "I wish that, for the love of the most holy Virgin, you would give up that book, and throw it into the sea."  "Here it is, Father," said the young man.  "No," replied the religious, "you must yourself make Mary this present."  He did so; and no sooner had he returned to Genoa, his native place, than the Mother of God so inflamed his heart with divine love that he entered a religious Order.

 PRAYER

O my soul, see what a sure hope of salvation and eternal life our Lord has given you, by having in His Mercy inspired you with confidence in the patronage of His Mother; and this, notwithstanding that so many times by your sins you have merited His displeasure and hell.  Thank your God, and thank your protector Mary, who has condescended to take you under Her mantle; for of this you may be well convinced, after the many graces that you have received by Her means.  I  thank You, my most loving Mother, for all You have done for me who am deserving of hell.  And from how many dangers have You not delivered me, O Queen!  How many inspirations and mercies have You not obtained for me from God!  What service, what honor, have I ever rendered You, that You should do so much for me?  I know that it is Your sole goodness that has impelled You.  Ah, too little would it be in comparison with all that I owe You, did I shed my Blood and give my life for You; for You have delivered me from eternal death; You have enabled me, as I hope, to recover divine grace; to You,  I owe all I have.  My most amiable Lady, I, poor wretch that I am, can make You no return but that of always loving and praising You.  Ah, disdain not to accept the tender affection of a poor sinner, who is inflamed with love for Your goodness.  If my heart is unworthy to love You, because it is impure and filled with earthly affections, it is You who must change it.  Ah, change it, then.  Bind me to my God, and bind me so that I may never more have it in my power to separate myself from His love.  You ask of me that I should love Your God, and I ask of You that You should obtain this love for me, to love Him always; this is all that I desire.  Amen.

2

The same Subject continued

    As a man and a woman cooperated in our ruin, so it was proper that another Man and another Woman should cooperate in our Redemption, and these 2 were Jesus and His Mother Mary.   There is no doubt, that Jesus Christ alone was more than sufficient to redeem us; but it was more becoming that both sexes should cooperate in the reparation of an evil in causing which both had shared.  Hence Mary is called the "helper of redemption;"  and the Blessed Virgin Herself revealed to St. Bridget, that "as Adam and Eve sold the world for an apple, so did She with Her Son redeem it as it were with one heart"—Rev. l. 1, c. 35).  Although God could create the world out of nothing, yet, when it was lost by sin, He would not repair the evil without the cooperation of Mary.   Mary cooperated in our salvation in 3 ways; first, by having merited by a merit of congruity the Incarnation of the Word; secondly, by having continually prayed for us while She was living in this world; thirdly, by having willingly sacrificed the life of Her Son to God.  For this reason our Lord has justly decreed, that as Mary cooperated in the salvation of man with so much love, and at the same time gave such glory to God, so all men through Her intercession are to obtain their salvation.

            Mary is called "the cooperator in our justification," for to Her God has instructed all graces intended for us; and therefore all men, past, present, and to come, should look upon Mary as the means and negotiator of the salvation of all ages. Jesus Christ says, that no one can find Him unless the Eternal Father first draws Him by the means of divine grace: "No one comes to Me unless My Father draws him "John 6:44.  Thus also does Jesus address His Mother: "No one comes to Me unless My Mother first of all draws him by Her prayers. "  Jesus was the fruit of Mary, as St. Elizabeth told Her: Blessed are You among women, and blessed is the Fruit of Your womb" —Luke 1:42.  Whoever, therefore, desires the Fruit must go to the Tree; whoever desires Jesus must go to Mary; and whoever finds Mary will most certainly find Jesus.

            When St. Elizabeth saw that the most Blessed Virgin had come to visit her in her own house, not knowing how to thank Her, and filled with humility, She exclaimed: "And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should visit me? "—Ibid. 43).  Ah, yes, it was that the saint knew full well that when Mary comes She brings Jesus, and therefore it was sufficient to thank the Mother without naming the Son.

           "She is like the merchant's ship, She brings Her bread from afar"—Prov 31:14.  Mary was this fortunate ship that brought us Jesus Christ from heaven, Who is the Living Bread that comes down from heaven to give us eternal life, as He Himself says: "I am the Living Bread, Which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever"John 6:51.  In the sea of this world all will be lost who are not protected by Mary; as often as we see ourselves in danger of perishing in the midst of the temptations and contending passions of this life, let us have recourse to Mary, and cry out quickly, "O Lady, help us, save us, if You will not see us perish."   

            "Save us, we perish;" a certain author already noticed, says, that we cannot ask Mary to save us, as this belongs to God alone.  But since a culprit condemned to death can beg a royal favorite to save him by interceding with the king that his life may be spared, why cannot we ask the Mother of God to save us by obtaining us eternal life?   "Pure and immaculate Virgin, save me, and deliver me from eternal damnation."  Mary is called "the salvation of those who invoked Her." The Holy Church approves of the invocation by also calling Her the "salvation of the weak." And shall we scruple to ask Her to save us, when the way of salvation is open to none otherwise than through Mary? St. Germanus had said the same thing, speaking of Mary: "No one is saved but through You." 

            But let us now see what else the saints say of the need in which we are of the intercession of the Heavenly Mother.  St. Cajetan used to say, that we may seek for graces, but shall never find them without the intercession of Mary.  This is confirmed by St. Antoninus, who thus beautifully expresses himself: "Whoever asks and expects to obtain graces without the intercession of Mary, endeavors to fly without wings;" for, as Pharaoh said to Joseph, the land of Egypt is in your hands, and addressed all who came to him for food, "Go to Joseph"Gen 41:55, so does God send us to Mary when we seek for grace: "Go to Mary;" for "He has decreed," says St. Bernard, "that he will grant no graces otherwise than by the hands of Mary."  And thus, our salvation is in the hands of Mary; so that we Christians may with much greater reason say of Her than the Egyptians of Joseph, "Our salvation is in Your hands."  Venerable Raymond Jordano repeats the same thing: "Our salvation is in Her hands."  Cassian speaks in still stronger terms.  He says absolutely, "that the salvation of all depends on their being favored and protected by Mary."  He who is protected by Mary will be saved; he who is not will be lost.  "O Lady, since You are the dispenser of all graces, and since the grace of salvation can only come through Your hands, our salvation depends on You." 

        As we should fall into the abyss, if the ground were withdrawn from under our feet, so does a soul deprived of the help of Mary first fall into sin, and then into hell.   St. Bonaventure says, that "God will not save us without the intercession of Mary."  And that "as a child cannot live without a nurse to suckle it, so no one can be saved without the protection of Mary."  Therefore he exhorts us "to thirst after devotion to Her, to preserve it with care, and never to abandon it until we have received Her maternal blessing in heaven."  "Who could know God, were it not for You, O most holy Mary? Who could be saved? Who would be preserved from dangers? Who could receive any grace, were it not for You, O Mother of God, O Full of Grace?  There is no one, O most holy Mary, who can know God but through You; no one who can be saved or redeemed but through You, O Mother of God; no one who can be delivered from dangers but through You, O Virgin Mother; no one who obtains mercy but through You, O filled with all grace. No one would be free from the effects of the concupiscence of the flesh and from sin, unless You did open the way to Him"  

     As we have access to the Eternal Father only through Jesus Christ, so have we access to Jesus Christ only through Mary: "By You we have access to the Son, O blessed finder of grace, bearer of life, and mother of salvation, that we may receive Him by You, who through You was given to us."  This is the reason why our Lord has determined that all shall be saved by the intercession of Mary; and therefore She is called the "Mother of grace and of our salvation."

            "Then, what will become of us? What hope can we have of salvation, if You do abandon us, O Mary, who are the life of Christians?"  "But," says the modern author already quoted, "if all graces come through Mary, when we implore the intercession of other saints, they must have recourse to the mediation of Mary.  But that," he says, "no one believes or ever dreamed."  As to believing it, I reply that in that there can be no error or difficulty.  What difficulty can there be in saying that God, in order to honor His Mother, and having made Her Queen of saints, and willing that all graces shall be dispensed by Her hands, should also will that the saints should address themselves to Her to obtain favors for their clients?

            And as to saying that no one ever dreamed of such a thing, I find that St. Bernard, St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, Suarez, and others, expressly declare it to be the case.  "In vain," says St. Bernard, "would a person ask other saints for a favor, if Mary did not interpose to obtain it."  In Psalm 45:13, we read: "…All the rich among the people shall entreat Your Countenance." The saints are the rich of that great people of God, who, when they wish to obtain a favor from God for their clients, recommend themselves to Mary, and She immediately obtains it."  We beg the saints to be our intercessors with Mary, because She is their Queen and sovereign Lady. Among the saints, we do not make use of one to intercede with the other, as all are of the same order; but we do ask them to intercede with Mary, because She is their sovereign and Queen.  And this is precisely what St. Benedict promised to St. Frances of Rome, for he appeared to her, and taking her under his protection, he promised that he would be her advocate with the Heavenly Mother.

            In confirmation of this, St. Anselm addresses our Blessed Lady and says, "O Lady, whatever all the saints, united with You, can obtain, You can obtain alone."  "And why is this?" asks the saint; "why is it that You alone have such great power?  Ah, it is because You are the spouse of God; You are the universal Queen of heaven and earth.  If You do not speak for us, no saint will pray for or help us.  But if You begin to pray for us, then will all the saints do the same and help us."

      The Catholic Church applying the words of Sirach to Her, I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven"—Sir 24:8, says, that as the first sphere by its motion sets all the others in motion, so it is when Mary prays for a soul; immediately the whole heavenly court begins to pray with Her.  " Indeed, more," says St. Bonaventure, "whenever the most sacred Virgin goes to God to intercede for us, She, as Queen, commands all the angels and saints to accompany Her, and unite their prayers to hers."  And thus, finally, do we understand why the holy Church requires that we should salute and invoke the Heavenly Mother under the glorious title of "our hope" ("Spes nostra! salve!").  The impious Luther said, "that he could not endure that the Roman Church should call Mary, who is only a creature, "our hope;"  "for," said he, "God alone, and Jesus Christ as our Mediator, is our hope: and God curses those who place their hope in a creature, according to the prophet Jeremiah, Cursed be the man that trusts in man"—Jer 17:5).  But the Church teaches us to invoke Mary on all occasions, and to call Her "our hope; hail, our hope!"  Whoever places his confidence in a creature independently of God, he certainly is cursed by God; for God is the only source and dispenser of every good, and the creature without God is nothing, and can give nothing.  But if our Lord has so disposed it, as we have already proved that He has done, that all graces should pass through Mary as by a channel of mercy, we not only can but ought to assert that She, by whose means we receive the divine graces, is truly our hope.

            Therefore St. Bernard says, "that She is his greatest confidence, and the whole foundation of his hope."  St. John Damascene says the same thing; for he thus addresses the most Blessed Virgin: "O Lady, in You have I placed all my hope; and with my eyes fixed on You, from You do I expect salvation."  St. Thomas says, that "Mary is the whole hope of our salvation," and St. Ephrem, addressing Her, says, "O most holy Virgin, receive us under Your protection, if You will see us saved, for we have no hope of salvation but through Your means."

            Let us, then, endeavor to venerate this Heavenly Mother with the whole affection of our hearts; for such is the will of God, who is pleased that we should receive every gift from Her hand.  And therefore whenever we desire or ask for any grace, let us recommend ourselves to Mary, to be assured that we shall receive it by Her means, if You do not deserve the favor from God, Mary, who will ask it for You, will deserve to receive it; because You were unworthy of the gift, it was bestowed on Mary, that through Her You might receive all that You have."  Thus let us offer to God to the care of Mary, good works and prayers, if we wish our Lord to accept them.  Whatever You may offer to God, be sure to recommend it to Mary, in order not to meet with a repulse.    

 The doctrine of Mary's dignity as Mediatrix of all graces is commonly accepted by theologians today, and recent pontiffs have occasionally alluded to it.  We know that Benedict XIV has left these words on record:  "Mary is like a celestial river by which the waters of all graces and gifts are conveyed to poor mortals."  Pius IX in speaking to the bishops of the whole world made use of the words of St. Bernard:  "God wills that every grace should come to us through Her."  In his encyclical on the devotion of the Rosary, Sept. 22, 1891, Pope Leo XIII says: "In a true and natural sense may we say that from the great treasury of graces that the Lord has merited for us, nothing came to us, by the Will of God except through Mary."  Pius X declares:  "She is the dispensatory of the graces that Jesus Christ has merited for us by His Blood and His Death."  The following are the words of Benedict XV:  "It has pleased God to grant us all graces through the intercession of Mary."  Again:  "All the graces which the Giver of all good deigns to grant to the descendants of Adam, are dispensed to us, in the disposition of a loving Providence, through the hands of the Blessed Virgin."  And finally:  "The graces of all kinds that we receive from the treasury of the Redemption are dispensed by the hands of the Sorrowful Virgin."

            It is worthy of note that these 4 popes have directed special attention to this teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary.  They refer to it repeatedly, and thus place the seal of approval on the authority of those of former times who held the doctrine and particularly of St. Alphonsus.  On the strength of these testimonies one can unhesitatingly agree that the 2-fold cooperation of Mary in the work of the redemption, first on earth by Her life, prayer and suffering, and then in heaven by Her prayer alone is sound Catholic doctrine, beyond all dispute and worthy of being defined, i.e. of being raised to the dignity of an article of faith. The supreme teacher of the Church deserves to be made known not merely to the students of theology in class rooms, but in pulpit and press to the faithful of the whole world.      

EXAMPLE

The history of Theophilus, written by Eutychian, patriarch of Constantinople, and who was an eye-witness of the fact he relates, is well known.  Theophilus was archdeacon of the church of Adana, a city of Cilicia, and he was held in such veneration by the people that they wished to have him for their bishop, but he, out of humility, refused the dignity.  It happened that evil-disposed persons accused him falsely of some crime, and for this he was deposed from his archdeaconry.  He took this so much to heart, that, blinded by passion, he went to a Jewish magician, who made him consult satan, that he might help him in his misfortune.  The devil told him that if he desired to be helped by him, he must renounce Jesus and His Mother Mary, and consign him the act of renunciation written in his own hand.  Theophilus immediately complied with the demand.  The next day, the bishop having discovered that he had deceived, asked the archdeacon's pardon, and restored him to office.  No sooner was this accomplished than his conscience was torn with remorse, and he could do nothing but weep.  What could he do?  He went to a church, and there casting himself all in tears at the feet of an image of Mary, he thus addressed Her: "O Mother of God, I will not despair as long as I can have access to You, who are so compassionate, and has the power to help me."  He remained thus weeping and praying to our Blessed Lady for 40 days—when, lo, one night the Mother of Mercy appeared to Him, and said: "O Theophilus, what have You done?  You have renounced My friendship and that of My Son, and for whom?  For His and My enemy."  "O Lady," answered Theophilus, "You must pardon me, and obtain my forgiveness from Your Son."  Mary seeing his confidence, replied: "Be of good heart; I will intercede for you with God."  Theophilus, encouraged by these consoling words, redoubled his tears, mortifications, and prayers, and never left the image.  At last Mary again appeared to him, and with a cheerful countenance said: "Theophilus, be of good heart; I have presented your tears and prayers to God; He has accepted them, and has already pardoned you; but from this day forward be grateful to Him and faithful."  "But, O Lady," replied Theophilus, "that is not yet enough to satisfy me entirely; the enemy still possesses that impious writing in which I renounced You and Your Son.  You can oblige him to surrender it."  Three days afterwards, Theophilus awoke in the night, and found the writing on his breast.  On the following day he went to the church where the bishop was, and, in present of an immense concourse of people, cast himself at his feet, and with bitter tears related all that had taken place, and delivered into his hands the infamous writing.  The bishop committed it to the flames in the presence of all the people, who did nothing but weep for joy, and praise the goodness of God, and the mercy of Mary shown towards this poor sinner.  But he, returning to the church of our Blessed Lady, remained there 3 days, and then expired, his heart filled with joy, and returning thanks to Jesus and to his most holy Mother* (*The Church has enrolled this celebrated penitent among the number of the saints—Ed.)

PRAYER

O Queen and Mother of mercy, who dispenses graces to all who have recourse to You with so much liberality, because You are a Queen, and with so much love, because You are our most loving Mother; to You do I, who am so devoid of merit and virtue, and so loaded with debts to Divine Justice, recommend myself this day.  O Mary, You hold the keys of Divine Mercy; forget not my miseries, and leave me not in my poverty.  You are so liberal with all, and give more than You are asked for, O, be thus liberal with me.  O Lady, protect me; this is all that I ask of You.  If You protect me, I fear nothing.  I fear not the evil spirits; for You are more powerful than all of them.  I fear not my sins; for You by one word can obtain their full pardon from God.  And if I have Your favor, I do not even fear an angry God; for a single prayer of Yours will appease Him.  If You protect me, I hope all; for You are all-powerful.  O Mother of Mercy, I know that You take pleasure and  glory in helping the most miserable, and, provided they are not obstinate, that You can help them.  I am a sinner, but am not obstinate; I desire to change my life.  You can, then, help me; O, help me and save me.  I now place myself entirely in Your hands.  Tell me what I must do in order to please God, and I am ready for all, and hope to do all with Your help, O Mary—Mary my Mother, my light, my consolations, my refuge, my hope.  Amen, Amen. Amen.

CHAPTER 6

O GRACIOUS ADVOCATE.

MARY, OUR ADVOCATE.

1

Mary is an Advocate who is able to save all.

So great is the authority that mothers possess over their sons, that even if they are monarchs, and have absolute dominion over every person in their kingdom, yet never can mothers become the subjects of their sons.  It is true that Jesus now in heaven sits at the Right Hand of the Father, that is, even as man, on account of the hypostatical union with the Person of the Divine Word.  He has supreme dominion over all, and also over Mary; it will nevertheless be always true that for a time, when He was living in this world, He was pleased to humble himself and to be subject to Mary, as we are told by St. Luke: "And He was subject to them"—Lk 2:51.  And still more, Jesus Christ having deigned to make Mary His Mother, inasmuch as He was Her Son, He was truly obliged to obey Her.  And for this reason, of other saints we say that they are with God; but of Mary alone can it be said that She was so far favored as to be not only Herself submissive to the Will of God, but even that God was subject to Her will. And whereas of all other virgins, we must say that "they follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes"—Rev 14:4, of the Blessed Virgin Mary we can say that the Lamb followed Her, having become subject to Her.  Although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command Her Son, nevertheless Her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and consequently most powerful to obtain whatever She asks.  Mary has this great privilege, that with Her Son She above all the saints is most powerful to obtain whatever She wills. And why?  Precisely for the reason on which we have already touched, and which we shall later on again examine at greater length, because they are the prayers of a mother.

            Therefore, the Blessed Virgin can do whatever She pleases both in heaven and on earth.  She is able to raise even those who are in despair to confidence; and thus we can address Her in these words: "All power is given to You in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to You who can raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation." When the Mother goes to seek a favor for us from Jesus Christ, "the golden altar of mercy, at which sinners obtain pardon," Her Son esteems Her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy Her, that when She prays, it seems as if She rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid.  Jesus is pleased thus to honor His beloved Mother who honored Him so much during Her life by immediately granting all that She asks or desires.  This is beautifully confirmed by St. Germanus, who addressing our Blessed Lady says: "You are the Mother of God, and all-powerful to save sinners, and with God You need no other recommendation; for You are the Mother of true life."  

      At the command of Mary, all obey, even God; meaning, indeed, to say that God grants the prayers of Mary as if they were commands.  And hence St. Anselm addressing Mary says: "Our Lord, O most holy Virgin, has exalted You to such a degree that by His favor all things that are possible to Him should be possible to You."  "For Your protection is omnipotent, O Mary," says Cosmas of Jerusalem.  Yes, Mary is omnipotent, for the queen by every law enjoys the same privileges as the king.  And as, the power of the son and that of the mother is the same, a mother is made omnipotent by an omnipotent son.  And thus, God has placed the whole Church, not only under the patronage, but even under the dominion of Mary.

     Since the Mother, then, should have the same power as the Son, rightly has Jesus, who is omnipotent, made Mary also omnipotent; though, of course, it is always true that where the Son is omnipotent by nature, the Mother is only so by grace.  But that She is so is evident from the fact, that whatever the Mother asks for, the Son never denies Her; and this was revealed to St. Bridget, who one day heard Jesus talking with Mary, and thus address Her: "Ask of me what You will, for no petition of Yours can be void."  As if He had said, "My Mother, You know how much I love You; therefore ask all that You will of Me; for it is not possible that I should refuse You anything."  And the reason that He gave for this was beautiful: "Because You never denied Me anything on earth, I will deny You nothing in heaven."  My Mother, when You were in the world, You never refused to do anything for the love of Me; and now that I am in heaven, it is right that I should deny You nothing that You ask.  Mary, then, is called omnipotent in the sense in which it can be understood of a creature who is incapable of a divine attribute.  She is omnipotent , because by Her prayers She obtains whatever She wills.

            With good reason, then, O great advocate, does St. Bernard say, "You will, and all things are done."  And St. Anselm: "Whatever You, O Virgin, will can never be otherwise than accomplished." You will, and all is done.  If You are pleased to raise a sinner from the lowest abyss of misery to the highest degree of sanctity, You can do it.  Blessed Albert the Great, on this subject, makes Mary says: "I have to be asked that I may will; for if I will a thing, it is necessarily done."

Thus St. Peter Damian, reflecting on the great power of Mary, and begging Her to take compassion on us, addresses Her, saying: "O let Your nature move You, let Your power move You; for the more You are powerful, the greater should Your mercy be." O Mary, our own beloved advocate, since You have so compassionate a heart, that You can not even see the wretched without being moved to pity, and since, at the same time, You have so great power with God, that You can save all whom You protect,—disdain not to undertake the cause of us poor miserable creatures who place all our hope in You.  If our prayers cannot move You, at least let Your own benign heart do so; or, at least, let Your power do so, since God has enriched You with so great power, in order that the richer You are in power to help us, the more merciful You may be in the will to assist us.  But St. Bernard reassures us on this point; for He says that Mary is as immensely rich in mercy as She is in power; and that, as Her charity is most powerful, so also it is most clement and compassionate, and its effects continually prove it to be so.  He thus expresses himself: "The most powerful and merciful charity of the Mother of God abounds in tender compassion and in effectual help: it is equally rich in both." 

            From the time that Mary came into the world, Her only thought, after seeking the glory of God, was to help the miserable.  And even then She enjoyed the privilege of obtaining whatever She asked.   This we know from what occurred at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee.  When the wine failed, the most Blessed Virgin, being moved to compassion at the sight of the affliction and shame of the bride and bridegroom, asked Her Son to relieve them by a miracle, telling Him that they had no wine.  Jesus answered: "Woman, what is that to You and Me?  My hour is not yet come."—Jn 2:3.  And here remark, that although our Lord seemed to refuse His Mother the favor She asked, and said, What is it to You, O woman, and to Me, if the wine has failed?  This is not the time for Me to work a miracle; the time will be when I begin to preach, and when miracles will be required to confirm My doctrines.  And yet Mary, as if the favor had already been granted, desired those in attendance to fill the jars with water, for they would be immediately satisfied.  And so it was; for Jesus, to content His mother, changed the water into the best wine.  But how was this?  As the time for working miracles was that of the public life of our Lord, how could it be that, contrary to the divine decrees, this miracle was worked?  No; in this there was nothing contrary to the decrees of God; for though, generally speaking, the time for miracles was not come, yet from all eternity God had determined by another decree that nothing that She asked should ever be refused to the Heavenly Mother.  And therefore Mary, who well knew Her privilege, although Her Son seemed to have refused Her the favor, yet told them to fill the jars with water, as if Her request had already been granted.  That is the sense in which St. John Chrysostom understood it; for, explaining these words of our Lord, "Woman, what is it to You and Me? "  He says, that "though Jesus answered thus, yet in honor of His Mother He obeyed Her wish."  This is confirmed by St. Thomas, who says that by the words, My hour is not yet come, Jesus Christ intended to show, that had the request come from any other, He would not then have complied with it; but because it was addressed to Him by His Mother, He could not refuse it.  Also to honor His mother, our Lord anticipated the time for working miracles. 

            In fine, it is certain that no creature can obtain so many mercies for us as this tender advocate, who is thus honored by God, not only as His beloved handmaid, but also as His true Mother.  And this, William of Paris says, addressing Her, "No creature can obtain so many and so great favors as You obtain for poor sinners; and thus without doubt God honors You not only as a handmaid, but as His most true Mother."  Mary has only to speak, and Her Son executes all.  Our Lord conversing with the spouse in the sacred Canticles,—that is Mary,—says, You who dwell in the gardens, the friends hearken; make Me hear Your voice"—Sg 8:13.  The saints are the friends, and they, when they seek a favor for their clients, wait for their Queen to ask and obtain it; for, as we said in the fifth chapter, "no grace is granted otherwise than at the prayer of Mary."  And how does Mary obtain favors"  She has only to let Her voice be heard,—make me hear Your voice.  She has only to speak, and Her Son immediately grants Her prayer.  Listen to the Abbot William explaining, in this sense, the above-mentioned text.  In it He introduces the Son addressing Mary: "You who dwell in the heavenly gardens, intercede with confidence for whomsoever You will; for it is nor possible that I should so far forget that I am Your son as to deny anything to You, My Mother."  Only let Your voice be heard; for to be heard by a Son is to be obeyed." Although Mary obtains favors by asking, yet She asks with a certain maternal authority, and therefore we ought to feel confident that She obtains all She desires and asks for us.

     When Coriolanus was besieging Rome, the prayers of his friends and all the citizens were insufficient to make him desist; but as soon as he beheld his mother Veturia imploring him, he could no longer refuse, and immediately raised the siege.  But the prayers of Mary with Jesus are as much more powerful than those of Veturia as the love and gratitude of this Son for His most dear Mother are greater.  A single sigh of the most Blessed Mary can do more than the united suffrages of all the saints.  And this was acknowledged by the devil himself to St. Dominic, who obliged him to speak by the mouth of a possessed person; and he said that "a single sigh from Mary was worth more before God than the united suffrages of all the saints."   

        The prayers of the Blessed Virgin, being the prayers of a Mother, have in them something of a command; so that it is impossible that She should not obtain what She asks.  St. Germanus, encouraging sinners who recommend themselves to this advocate, thus addresses Her: "As You have, O Mary, the authority of a Mother with God, You obtain pardon for the most enormous sinners; since that Lord in all things acknowledges You as His true and spotless Mother, He cannot do otherwise than grant what You ask."   And so it was that St. Bridget heard the saints in heaven addressing our Blessed Lady: "O most blessed Queen, what is there that You can not do?  You have only to will, and it is accomplished."  And this corresponds with that celebrated saying, "That which God can do by His power, that can You do by prayer, O sacred Virgin." And perchance, it is unworthy of the benignity of that Lord to be thus jealous of the honor of His Mother, who declares that He came into the world, not to break, but to observe the law: but this law commands us to honor our parents.  Jesus Christ, even as it were to satisfy an obligation under which He placed Himself towards His Mother, when She consented to give Him His human nature, grants all She asks: "the Son, as if paying a debt, grants all Your petitions."          : "Rejoice, rejoice, O Mary, for You have that Son Your debtor, Who gives to all and receives from none.  We are all God's debtors for all that we possess, for all is His gift; but God has been pleased to become Your debtor in taking flesh from You and becoming man." 

       Mary, having merited to give flesh to the Divine Word, and thus supply the price of our redemption, that we might be delivered from eternal death; therefore is She more powerful than all others to help us to gain eternal life. The prayers of His Mother are a pleasure to the Son, because He desires to grant all that is granted on Her account, and thus recompense Her for the favor She did Him in giving Him His body.  St. John Damascene, Addressing the Blessed Virgin, we can says, "You, O Mary, being Mother of the most high God, can save all by Your prayers, which are increased in value by the maternal authority." 

            Let us conclude with St. Bonaventure, who, considering the great benefit conferred on us by our Lord in giving us Mary for our advocate, thus addresses Her: "O truly immense and admirable goodness of our God, which has been pleased to grant You, O sovereign Mother, to us miserable sinners for our advocate, in order that You, by Your powerful intercession, may obtain all that You please for us. O wonderful mercy of our God, Who in order that we might not fly on account of the sentence that might be pronounced against us, has given us His own Mother and the patroness of graces to be our advocate."  

 EXAMPLE

In Germany a man fell into a grievous sin; through shame He was unwilling to confess it; but, on the other hand, unable to endure the remorse of His conscience, He went to throw himself into a river; on the point of doing so, He hesitated, and weeping, He begged that God would forgive Him His sin without His confessing it.  One night, in His sleep, He felt some one shake His arm, and heard a voice which said, "Go to confession."  He went to the church, but yet did not confess.  On another night, He again heard the same voice.  He returned to the church; but when He arrived there, He declared that He would rather die than confess that sin.  But before returning home He went to recommend himself to the most Blessed Virgin, whose image was in that church.  He had no sooner knelt down than He found himself quite changed.  He immediately arose, called a confessor, and weeping bitterly, through the grace which He had received from Mary, made an entire confession of His sins; and He afterwards declared that He experienced greater satisfaction than if He had obtained all the treasures of the world.

 PRAYER

O great Mother of God, Speak, for Your Son hears You, and whatever You ask You will obtain.  Speak  then, O Mary, our advocate, in favor of us poor miserable creatures.  Remember that it was also for our good that You  received so great power and so high a dignity.  God was pleased to become Your debtor by taking humanity of You, in order that You might dispense at will the riches of Divine Mercy to sinners.  We are Your servants, devoted in a special manner to You; and I am one of these, I trust, even in a higher degree.  We glory in living under Your protection.  Since You do good to all, even to those who neither know nor honor You, nay, more, to those who outrage and blaspheme You, how much more may we not hope from Your benignity, which seeks out the wretched in order to relieve them, we who honor, love, and confide in You?  We are great sinners, but God has enriched You with compassion and power far exceeding our iniquities.  You can, and have the will to save us; and the greater is our unworthiness, the greater shall be our hope in order to glorify You the more in heaven, when by Your intercession we get there.  O Mother of Mercy, we present You our souls, once cleansed and rendered beautiful in the Blood of Jesus Christ, but, alas, since that time, defiled by sin.  To You do we present them; purify them.  Obtain for us true conversion; obtain for us the love of God, perseverance, heaven.  We ask You for much; but what is it? perhaps You can not obtain all?  It is perhaps too much for the love God bears You?  Ah, no! for You have only to open Your lips and ask Your Divine Son; He will deny You nothing.  Pray, then: and we shall with the same certainty obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.

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     Mary is so tender as Advocate that She does not refuse to defend the Cause even of the most miserable.  So many are the reasons that we have for loving this our most loving Queen, that if Mary was praised throughout the world, if in every sermon Mary was spoken of; if all men gave their lives for Mary; still all would be little in comparison with the homage and gratitude that we owe Her in return for the tender love She bears to men, and even to the most miserable sinners who preserve the slightest spark of devotion for Her.  Mary knows not how to do otherwise than love those who love Her; and that even She does not disdain to serve those who serve Her; and in favor of such a one, should he be a sinner, She uses all Her power in order to obtain his forgiveness from Her Blessed Son."  Her benignity and mercy are so great, that no one, however enormous His sins may be, should fear to cast himself at Her feet: for She never can reject anyone who has recourse to Her.  Mary, as our most loving advocate, Herself offers the prayers of Her servants to God, and especially those who are placed in  Her hands; for 

as the Son intercedes for us with the Father, so does She intercede with the Son, 

and does not cease to make interest with both for the great affair of our salvation, and to obtain for us the graces we ask. 

       With good reason, then, is the Blessed Virgin called "the singular refuge of the lost, the hope of the most abandoned, and the advocate of all sinners who have recourse to Her."  But should there by chance be a sinner who, though not doubting Her power, might doubt the compassion of Mary, fearing perhaps that She might be unwilling to help him on account of the greatness of his sins, let him take courage from the words of St. Bonaventure.  "The great, the special privilege of Mary is, that She is all-powerful with Her Son. But, to what purpose would Mary have so great power if She did not care for us?  No, let us not doubt, but be certain, and let us always thank our Lord and His Heavenly Mother for it, that in proportion as Her power with God exceeds that of all the saints, so is She in the same proportion our most loving advocate, and the one who is the most solicitous for our welfare."  "And who, O Mother of mercy,  who, after Your Jesus, is as tenderly solicitous for our welfare as You are? Who defends us in the temptations with which we are afflicted as You defend us?  Who, like You, undertakes to protect sinners, fighting, as it were, in their behalf?  Therefore, Your patronage, O Mary, is more powerful and loving than anything of which we can ever form an idea."     

       For, while all the other saints can do more for their own clients than for others, the Heavenly Mother, as Queen of all, is the advocate of all, and has a care for the salvation of all. Mary takes care of all, even of sinners; indeed She glories in being called in a special manner their advocate, as She Herself declared to the Venerable Sister Mary Villani, saying: "After the title of Mother of God, I rejoice most in that of advocate of sinners."

      Our Queen is constantly before the divine Majesty, interceding for us with Her most powerful prayers.  And as in heaven, She well knows our miseries and needs, She cannot do otherwise than have compassion on us; and thus, with the affection of a mother, moved to tenderness towards us, pitying and benign, She is always endeavoring to help and save us. And therefore let everyone be encouraged, however bad he may be, to have recourse with confidence to this sweet advocate, being assured that he will always find Her ready to help him; for Mary is always ready to pray for all.   

    Oh, with what efficacy and love does this good advocate interest Herself in the affair of our salvation!  St. Bonaventure, considering the affection and zeal with which Mary intercedes for us with the divine Majesty, in order that our Lord may pardon us our sins, help us with His grace, free us from dangers, and relieve us in our wants, says, addressing the Blessed Virgin: "We know that we have as it were but one solicitous in heaven for us, and You are this one, so greatly does Your solicitude for us exceed that of all the saints."  That is, "O Lady, it is true that all the saints desire our salvation, and pray for us; but the love, the tenderness that You show us in heaven, in obtaining for us by Your prayers so many mercies from God, obliges us to acknowledge that in heaven we have but one advocate, and that is yourself; and that You alone are truly loving and solicitous for our welfare."

      Who can ever comprehend the solicitude with which Mary constantly stands before God in our behalf!  She is never weary of defending us; meaning that so great is the compassion excited in Mary by our misery, and such is the love that She bears us, that She prays constantly, and relaxes not Her efforts in our behalf; that by Her prayers She may effectually defend us from evil, and obtain for us sufficient graces. She has never done enough.

     Truly unfortunate should we poor sinners be, had we not this great advocate, who is so powerful and compassionate, and at the same time so prudent and wise, that the Judge, Her Son cannot condemn the guilty who are defended by Her.  And therefore St. John Geometra salutes Her, saying, "Hail, O court, for putting an end to litigation."  For all causes defended by this most wise advocate are gained.      

            For this reason is Mary called "the wise Abigail." This is the woman we read of in the Second Samuel, who by her beautiful supplications knew so well how to appease King David when he was indignant against Nabal; and indeed so far as to induce him to bless her, in gratitude for having prevented him, by her sweet manners, from avenging himself on Nabal with his own hands —2 Sam  25:33.  This is exactly what Mary constantly does in heaven, in favor of innumerable sinners: by Her tender and unctuous prayers, She knows so well how, to appease the Divine Justice, that God Himself blesses Her for it, and, as it were, thanks Her for having withheld Him from abandoning and chastising them as they deserved.

     On this account it was that the Eternal Father, wishing to show all the mercy possible, besides giving us Jesus Christ, our principal advocate with Him, was please also to give us Mary, as our advocate with Jesus Christ. There is no doubt, that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of Justice, between men and God; that, by virtue of His own merits and promises, He will and can obtain us pardon and divine favors; but because men acknowledge and fear the Divine Majesty, which is in Him as God, for this reason it was necessary to assign us another advocate, to whom we might have recourse with less fear and more confidence, and this advocate is Mary, than whom we cannot find one more powerful with His Divine Majesty, or one more merciful towards ourselves.  Christ is a faithful and powerful Mediator between God and men, but in Him, men fear the Majesty of God.  A mediator, then, was needed with the Mediator Himself; nor could a more fitting one be found than Mary.  But, should any one fear to go to the feet of this most sweet advocate, who has nothing in Her of severity, nothing terrible, but who is all courteous, amiable, and benign, he would indeed be offering an insult to the tender compassion of Mary. Read, and read again, as often as you please, all that is said of Her in the Gospels, and if you can find the least trait of severity recorded of Her, then fear to approach Her.  But no, this you can never find; and therefore go to Her with a joyful heart, and She will save you by Her intercession.  

           How beautiful is the exclamation put in the mouth of a sinner who has recourse to Mary, by William of Paris!  "O most glorious Mother of God, I, in the miserable state to which I am reduced by my sins, have recourse to You, full of confidence, and if You reject me, I remind You that You are in a way bound to help me, since the whole Church of the faithful calls You and proclaims You the Mother of Mercy. You, O Mary, are that one who, from being so dear to God, are always listened to favorably.  Your great compassion was never wanting to any one; Your most sweet affability never despised any sinner that recommended himself to You, however great his sins. And what!  Perhaps falsely, and for nothing, the whole Church calls You its advocate, and the refuge of sinners.  Never, O my Mother, let my sins prevent You from fulfilling the great office of charity which is Yours, and by which You are, at the same time, our advocate and a Mediatrix of peace between men and God, and who are, after Your Son, our only hope, and the secure refuge of the miserable.  All that You possess of grace and glory, and the dignity even of Mother of God, so to speak, You owe to sinners, for it was on their account that the Divine Word made You His Mother.  Far be it from this Heavenly Mother, who brought the source itself of tender compassion into the world, to think that She should ever deny Her mercy to any sinner who has recourse to Her.  Since, then, O Mary, Your office is to be the peace-maker between God and men, let Your tender compassion, which far exceeds all my sins, move You to help me."  

EXAMPLE

In one of our missions, after the sermon on the Blessed Virgin Mary, which it is always customary in our Congregation to preach, a very old man came to make His confession to one of the Fathers.  Filled with consolation He said, "Father, our Blessed Lady has granted me a grace."  "What grace has She granted you?" the confessor asked.  "You must know, Father," He replied, "that for 35 years I have made sacrilegious confessions, for there is a sin which I was ashamed to confess; and yet I have passed through many dangers, have many times been at the point of death, and had I then died, I should certainly have been lost; but now our Blessed Lady has touched my heart with grace to tell it."  This He said weeping, and shedding so many tears, that He quite excited compassion.  The Father, after hearing His confession, asked Him what devotion He had practiced.  He replied that on Saturdays He had never failed to abstain from milk-diet in honor of Mary, and that on this account the Blessed Virgin had shown Him mercy.  At the same time He gave the Father leave to publish the fact.

PRAYER

O great Mother of my Lord, I see full well that my ingratitude towards God and You, and this too for so many years, has merited for me that You should justly abandon me, and no longer have a care of me, for an ungrateful soul is no longer worthy of favors.  But I, O Lady, have a high idea of Your great goodness; I believe it to be far greater than my ingratitude.  Continue, then, O refuge of sinners, and cease not to help a miserable sinner who confides in You.  O Mother of Mercy, deign to extend a helping hand to a poor fallen wretch who asks You for pity.  O Mary, either defend me yourself, or tell me to whom I can  have recourse, and who is better able to defend me than You, and where I can find with God a more clement and powerful advocate than You, who are His Mother.  Then, in becoming the Mother of our Savior, were thereby made the fitting instrument to save sinners, and were given me for my salvation.  O Mary, save him who has recourse to You.  I deserve not Your love, but it is Yours own desire to save sinners, that makes me hope that You love me.  And if You love me, how can I be lost?  O my own beloved Mother, if by You I save my soul, as I hope to do, I shall no longer be ungrateful, I shall make up for my past ingratitude, and for the love which You have shown me, by my everlasting praises, and all the affections of my soul.  Happy in heaven, where You reign, and will reign forever.  I shall always sing Your mercies, and kiss for eternity those loving hands which have delivered me from hell, as often as I have deserved it by my sins.  O Mary, my liberator, my hope, my Queen, my advocate, my own sweet Mother, I love You; I desire Your glory, and I love You forever.  Amen, Amen.  Thus do I hope.

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Mary is the Peace-maker between Sinners and God.

The grace of God is the greatest and the most desirable of treasures for every soul.  It is called by the Holy Spirit an infinite treasure; for by the means of divine grace we are raised to the honor of being the friends of God.  These are the words of the Book of Wisdom:  "For She is an infinite treasure to men; which they that use become the friends of God"—Wis 7:14.  And hence Jesus, our Redeemer and God, did not hesitate to call those His friends who were in grace: "You are My friends"—Jn 15:14.  O accursed sin, that dissolves this friendship!  "But your iniquities, have divided between you and your God"Isaiah 59:2.  And putting hatred between the soul and God, it is changed from a friend into an enemy of its Lord, as expressed in the Book of Wisdom: "But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike"Wis 14:9.

            What, then, must a sinner do who has the misfortune to be the enemy of God?  He must find a mediator who will obtain pardon for him, and who will enable him to recover the lost friendship of God.  Be comforted, O unfortunate soul, who have lost your God;  your Lord Himself has provided you with a mediator, and this is His Son Jesus, Who can obtain for you all that you desire?  He has given you Jesus for a mediator; and what is there that such a son cannot obtain from the Father?  

            But, O God, why should this Merciful Savior, Who gave His Life to save us, be ever thought severe?  Why should men believe Him terrible who is all love?  O distrustful sinners, what do you fear?  If your fear arises from having offended God, know that Jesus has fastened all your sins on the cross with His own lacerated Hands, and having satisfied Divine Justice for them by His Death, He has already effaced them from your souls.  Sinners imagine Him rigorous, Who is all compassion; terrible, Who is all love.  What do you fear, O you of little faith?  With His own Hands, He has fastened your sins to the Cross.  But if by chance, you fear to have recourse to Jesus Christ because the Majesty of God in Him overawes you—for though He became man, He did not cease to be God—and you desire another advocate with this Divine Mediator, go to Mary, for She will intercede for you with the Son, Who will most certainly hear Her; and then He will intercede with the Father, Who can deny nothing to such a Son.  This Heavenly Mother, O my children, is the ladder of sinners, by which they re-ascend to the height of divine grace; She is my greatest confidence, She is the whole ground of my hope. 

            The Holy Spirit, in the sacred Canticles, makes the most Blessed Virgin use the following words:  "I am a wall; and my breast are as a tower, since I am become in His Presence as one finding peace"—Sg 8:10; that is, I am the defender of those who have recourse to me, and my mercy towards them is like a tower of refuge, and therefore I have been appointed by my Lord the peace-maker between sinners and God.  Mary is the great peacemaker, who finds and obtains the reconciliation of enemies with God, salvation for those who are lost, pardon for sinners, and mercy for those who are in despair.  And therefore was She called by the Divine Bridegroom, "beautiful as the curtain of Solomon"—Sg 1:4.  In the tents of David, questions of war alone were treated; but in those of Solomon, questions of peace only were entertained; and thus does the Holy Spirit give us to understand that this Mother of Mercy never treats of war and vengeance against sinners, but only of peace and forgiveness for them.                     

            Mary was prefigured by the dove which returned to Noah in the Ark with an olive branch in its beak (Gen 8:11), as a pledge of the peace which God granted to men.  And on this idea St. Bonaventure thus addresses our Blessed Lady: "You are that most faithful dove; You were a sure Mediatrix between God and the world, lost in a spiritual deluge.  You, by presenting Yourself before God, have obtained for a lost world peace and salvation."  Mary, then, was the heavenly dove which brought to a lost world the olive-branch, the sign of mercy, since She in the first place gave us Jesus Christ, Who is the source of Mercy; and then, by His merits, obtained all graces for us. And as by Mary, heavenly peace was once for all given to the world, so by Her are sinners still reconciled to God.  Wherefore Blessed Albert the Great makes Her say: "I am that dove of Noah, which brought the olive-branch of universal peace to the Church."  

            Again, the rainbow seen by St. John, which encircled the throne of God, was an express figure of Mary:  "And there was a rainbow round about the throne"—Rev 4:3.  The rainbow round the throne is Mary, who softens the judgment and sentence of God against sinners; meaning, that She is always before God's tribunal, mitigating the chastisements due to sinners.  It was of this rainbow that God spoke when He promised Noah that He would place it in the clouds as a sign of peace, that on looking at it He might remember the eternal peace which He had covenanted to man.  "I will set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be the sign of a covenant between Me and between the earth . . . and I shall see it, and shall remember the everlasting covenant"—Gen 9:13.  Mary is this bow of eternal peace; for, as God on seeing it remembers the peace promised to the earth, so does He, at the prayers of Mary, forgive the crimes of sinners, and confirm His peace with them. 

            For the same reason Mary is compared to the moon, in the sacred Canticles: "Fair as the moon"—Song 6:10.  For as the moon is between the heavens and the earth, so does Mary continually place Herself between God and sinners in order to appease our Lord in their regard, and to enlighten them to return to Him.

            The chief office given to Mary, on being placed in this world, was to raise up souls that had fallen from divine grace, and to reconcile them with God.  "Feed Your goats"—Song 1:7, was our Lord's command to Her in creating Her.  It is well known that sinners are understood by goats, and that as at the last judgment, the just, under the figure of sheep, will be on the right hand, so will the goats be on the left.  "These goats, are entrusted to You, O great Mother, that You may change them into sheep; and those who by their sins deserve to be driven to the left, will by Your intercession be placed on the right."  Our Lord created this His beloved daughter to be as a most sweet bait by which to catch men, and especially sinners, and draw them to God.  God recommended Her own goats to Mary; for  the Blessed Virgin does not save all sinners, but those only who serve and honor Her.  So much so indeed, that those who live in sin, and neither honor Her with any particular act of homage, nor recommend themselves to Her in order to extricate themselves from sin, they certainly are not Mary's goats, but at the last judgment will, for their eternal misery, be driven to the left hand with the damned.  

            A certain nobleman, despairing of his salvation, on account of his many crimes, was encouraged by a monk to have recourse to the most Blessed Virgin, and, for this purpose, to visit a devout statue of Mary in a particular church.  He went there, and, on seeing the image, he felt as if She invited him to cast himself at Her feet and to have confidence.  He hastened to prostrate and kiss Her feet, when Mary extended Her hand, gave it him to kiss, and on it, he saw written these words: "I will deliver you from those who oppress you;" as though She had said, my son, despair not, for I will deliver you from the sins and sorrows that weigh so heavily on you.  On reading these sweet words, this poor sinner was filled with such sorrow for his sins, and, at the same time, with so ardent a love for God and His tender Mother, that He instantly expired at the feet of Mary.

            O, how many obstinate sinners does not this loadstone of hearts draw each day to God!  For thus did She call Herself one day, saying to St. Bridget, "As the loadstone attracts iron, so do I attract hearts," yea, even the most hardened hearts, to reconcile them with God.  We must not suppose that such prodigies are extraordinary events; they are every-day occurrences.  For my own part, I could relate many cases of the kind that have occurred in our missions, where certain sinners with hearts harder than iron, continued so through all the other sermons, but no sooner did they hear the one on the mercies of Mary, than they were filled with compunction and returned to God.  The unicorn is so fierce a beast, that no hunter can take it; at the voice only of a virgin crying out, will this beast approach, and without resistance allow itself to be bound by Her.  O, how many sinners; more savage than the wild beats themselves, and who fly from God, at the voice of this great Virgin Mary approach and allow themselves to be sweetly bound to God by Her!

       Another purpose for which the Blessed Virgin Mary was made the Mother of God was, that She might obtain salvation for many who, on account of their wicked lives, could not be saved according to the rigor of Divine Justice, but might be so with the help of Her sweet mercy and powerful intercession.  Mary was raised to the dignity of Mother of God rather for sinners than for the just, since Jesus Christ declares that He came to call not the just, but sinners.  For this reason, the Holy Church sings, "You do not abhor sinners, without whom You would never have been worthy of such a Son."  "O Mary, You are obliged to help sinners for all the gifts, the graces, and high honors which are comprised in the dignity of Mother of God that You have received; You owe all, so to say, to sinners; for on their account You were made worthy to have God for Your Son."  If then, Mary, was made Mother of God on account of sinners, how can I, however great my sins may be, despair of pardon? 

   The Holy Church tells us, in the prayer said in the Mass of the vigil of the Assumption, "that the Heavenly Mother was taken from this world that She might interpose for us with God, with certain confidence of obtaining all."  Hence Mary is an arbitrator.  The Eternal Word uses Mary as an arbitrator.  An arbitrator is one to whose hands contending parties confide their whole case; and so as Jesus is the mediator with the Eternal Father, so also is Mary our Mediatrix with Jesus; and that He puts all the reasons that He has for pronouncing sentence against us into Her hands.

       Mary is a pledge, a security for our reconciliation with God.  That is, that God goes about seeking for reconciliation with sinners by pardoning them; and in order that they may not doubt of their forgiveness, He has given them Mary as a pledge of it, therefore She is the peace of God with men!  If you fear that on account of your faults God in His anger will be avenged, what have you to do?  Go, have recourse to Mary, who is the hope of sinners; and, if you fear that She may refuse to take your part, know that She cannot do so, for God Himself has imposed on Her the duty of helping the miserable.  Need that sinner fear being lost to whom the Mother of the Judge offers Herself to be Mother and advocate?  "And You, O Mary, who are the Mother of mercy, will You disdain to intercede with Your Son, Who is the Judge, for another son, who is a sinner?  Will You refuse to interpose in favor of a redeemed soul, with the Redeemer Who died on a Cross to save sinners?  No, no, You will not reject Him, but with all affection You will pray for all who have recourse to You, well knowing that the Lord Who has appointed Your Son a Mediator of Peace between God and man, has also made You Mediatrix between the Judge and the culprit." 

     Then, O sinner, whoever you may be, imbedded in crime, grown old in sin, despair not; thank your Lord, Who, that He might show you mercy, has not only given His Son for your advocate, but, to encourage you to greater confidence, has provided you with a Mediatrix who by Her prayers obtains whatever She wills.   Go then, have recourse to Mary, and You will be saved.

EXAMPLE.

In Braganza there was a young man, who, after giving up the confraternity, abandoned himself to so many crimes that one day, in despair, He went to drown himself in a river; but before doing so, He addressed our Blessed Lady, saying: "O Mary, I once served You in the confraternity; help me."  The most Blessed Virgin appeared to Him and said: "Yes, and now what are you going to do?  Do you wish to lose yourself both in soul and body?  Go, confess your sins, and rejoin the confraternity."  The young man, encouraged hereby, thanked the Blessed Virgin, and changed His life. 

PRAYER.

O my most sweet Lady, since Your office is that of a Mediatrix between God and sinners, I ask You to fulfill Your office in my behalf, O tender advocate; do Your work. Say not that my cause is too difficult to gain; for I know, and all tell me so, that every cause, no matter how desperate, if undertaken by You, is never, and never will be, lost.  And will mine be lost?  Ah no, this I cannot fear.  The only thing that I might fear is, that, on seeing the multitude of my sins, You might not undertake my defence.  But, on seeing Your immense mercy, and the very great desire of Your most sweet heart to help the most abandoned sinners, even this I cannot fear.  And who was ever lost that had recourse to You?  Therefore I invoke Your aid, O my great advocate, my refuge, my hope, my mother Mary.  To Your hands do I entrust the cause of my eternal salvation.  To You do I commit my soul; it was lost, but You have to save it.  I will always thank our Lord for having given me this great confidence in You; and which, notwithstanding my unworthiness, I feel is an assurance of salvation.  I have but one fear to afflict me, O beloved Queen, and that is, that I may one day, by my own negligence, lose this confidence in You. And therefore I implore You, O Mary, by the love You bear to Jesus, to preserve and increase in me more and more this sweet confidence in Your intercession, by which I hope most certainly to recover the divine friendship, that I have hitherto so madly despised and lost; and having recovered it, I hope, through You, to preserve it; and preserving it by the same means, I hope at length to thank You for it in heaven, and there to sing God's Mercies and Yours for all eternity.  Amen.  This is my hope; thus may it be, thus will it be.

 CHAPTER 7

TURN, THEN, YOURS EYES OF MERCY TOWARDS US

MARY, OUR GUARDIAN.

Mary is All Eyes to Pity and Help Us in our Necessities.

The Heavenly Mother has been called "many-eyed," indicating thereby Her vigilance in assisting us poor creatures in this world.  A possessed person was once being exorcised, and was questioned by the exorcist as to what Mary did.  The devil replied, "She descends and ascends."  And he meant, that this benign Lady is constantly descending from heaven to bring graces to men, and re-ascending to obtain the divine favor on our prayers.  With reason, the Blessed Virgin is called the "Heavenly Commissioner," for She is continually carrying messages of mercy, and obtaining graces for all, for just and sinners.  "God fixes His eyes on the just," says the royal prophet.  "The Eyes of the Lord are on the just"—Ps 34:16.  But the eyes of the Lady are on the just and on the sinners. For, the eyes of Mary are the eyes of a mother; and a mother not only watches Her child to prevent it from falling, but when it has fallen, She raises it up.  Jesus Himself revealed this to St. Bridget, for one day He allowed Her to hear Him thus addressing His holy Mother:  "My Mother, ask me what You will."  And thus is Her Son constantly addressing Mary in heaven, taking pleasure in gratifying His beloved Mother in all that She asks.  But what does Mary ask?  St. Bridget heard Her reply: "I ask mercy for sinners."   "And so, O Mary, You are so full of mercy, so attentive in relieving the wretched, that it seems that You have no other desire, no other anxiety." And as among the miserable, sinners are the most miserable of all, Mary is always praying to Her Son for them."  Even while living in this world, the heart of Mary was so filled with tenderness and compassion for men, that no one ever suffered so much for his own pains as Mary suffered for the pains of others. The compassion for others in affliction She well showed at the marriage-feast of Cana, spoken of in the preceding chapters, when the wine failing, without being asked, She charged Herself with the office of a tender comforter; and moved to compassion at the sight of the embarrassment of the bride and bridegroom, She interposed with  Her Son, and obtained the miraculous change of water into wine. 

        "But perhaps, now that You are raised to the high dignity of Queen of heaven, You forget us poor creatures? Ah, far be such a thought from our minds, for it would little become the great compassion that reigns in Your heart O Mary ever to forget such misery as ours."  The proverb, that "honors change our manners"  does not apply to Mary.  With wordlings it is otherwise; for they, when once raised to a high dignity, become proud, and forget their former poor friends, but it is not so with Mary, who rejoices in Her own exaltation, because She is thus better able to help the miserable.

            On this subject, the words addressed to Ruth are applied to the Blessed Virgin:  "Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter, and your latter kindness has surpassed the former"—Ruth 3:10); meaning to say, that if the compassion of Mary was great towards the miserable when living in this world, it is much greater now that She reigns in heaven.  The reason for this, is that the Heavenly Mother shows, by the innumerable graces that She obtains for us, Her greater mercy; for now She is better acquainted with our miseries.  Thence, that as the splendor of the sun surpasses that of the moon, so does the compassion of Mary, now that She is in heaven, surpass the compassion She had for us when in the world.  Who is there living in this world who does not enjoy the light of the sun? and on whom does not the mercy of Mary shine?

            For this reason, in the sacred Canticles She is called "bright as the sun"—Song 6:9.  "For no one is excluded from the warmth of this sun," according to the words of the Psalmist—Ps 19:7. Our Queen, now that She is united to Her Son in heaven, cannot forget Her innate goodness; and therefore She shows Her compassion to all, even to the most impious sinners; so much so, that, as the celestial and terrestrial bodies are all illumined by the sun, so there is no one in the world, who, if he asks for it, does not, through the tenderness of Mary, partake of Divine Mercy.  Mary has made Herself all to all, and opens Her merciful heart to all, that all may receive of Her fullness; the slave redemption, the sick health, those in affliction comfort, the sinner pardon, and God glory; that thus there may be no one who can hide himself from Her warmth.  Who can there be in the world, who refuses to love this most amiable Queen?  She is more beautiful than the sun, and sweeter than honey.  She is a treasure of goodness, amiable and courteous to all.  "I salute You, then, O my Lady and Mother, nay, even my heart, my soul.  Forgive me, O Mary, if I say that I love You; for if I am not worthy to love You, at least You are all-worthy to be loved by me."                    

      When these words are addressed with devotion to the most Blessed Virgin, "Turn, then, O most gracious advocate, Yours eyes of mercy towards us," Mary cannot do otherwise than yield to the demand of whoever thus invokes Her. 

    "Truly, O great Lady, does the immensity of Your mercy fill the whole earth."  Therefore, this loving Mother has so earnest a desire to do good to all, that not only is She offended by those who positively outrage Her (as some are wicked enough to do), but She is offended at those who do not ask Her for favors or graces.   "You, O Lady, teach us to hope for far greater graces than we deserve, since You never cease to dispense graces far, far beyond our merits." 

     The prophet Isaiah foretold that, together with the great work of the redemption of the human race, a throne of Divine Mercy was to be prepared for us poor creatures:  "And a throne shall be prepared in mercy"—Is 16:5.  What is this throne?  Mary is this throne, at which all—just and sinners—find the consolations of mercy. For as we have a most merciful Lord, so also we have a most, merciful Lady.  Our Lord is plenteous in mercy to all who call upon Him, and our Lady is plenteous in mercy to all who call upon Her.  As our Lord is full of mercy, so also is our Lady; and as the Son knows not how to refuse mercy to those who call upon Him, neither does the Mother.  As if Our Lord were to say to His Mother:  "My Mother, in You will I establish the seat of My government; through You will I pronounce judgments, hear prayers, and grant the graces asked of Me.  You has given Me My human nature, and I will give You a share in My divine nature,  that is, power, by which You may be able to help to save all whomsoever You please.

     One day, when St. Gertrude was addressing the foregoing words, "Turn Yours eyes of mercy towards us," to the Heavenly Mother, She saw the Blessed Virgin pointing to the Eyes of Her Son, Whom She held in Her arms, and then said, "These are the most compassionate Eyes that I can turn for their salvation towards all who call upon Me." 

            A sinner was once weeping before an image of Mary, imploring Her to obtain pardon for him from God, when he perceived that the Blessed Virgin turned towards the child that She held in Her arms, and said, "My Son, shall these tears be lost?"  And He understood that Jesus Christ had already pardoned him. 

            How, then, is it possible that any one can perish who recommends himself to this good Mother, since Her Son, as God, has promised Her that for Her love He will show as much mercy as She pleases to all who recommend themselves to Her?  This our Lord revealed to St. Gertrude, allowing Her to hear Him make the promise to His Mother in the following words: "In my omnipotence, O revered Mother, I have granted You the reconciliation of all sinners who devoutly invoke the aid of Your compassion, in whatever way it may please You."   Considering the great power of Mary with God, and, at the same time, Her great compassion for us, full of confidence, we can say: "O Mother of mercy, Your tender compassion is as great as Your power, and You are as compassionate in forgiving as You are powerful in obtaining all. And when, did the case ever occur in which You, who are the Mother of mercy, did not show compassion?  O, when was it that You, who are the Mother of omnipotence, could not aid?  Ah, yes, with the same facility with which You see our misfortunes You obtain for us whatever You will. Satiate yourself, great Queen, with the glory of Your Son, and out of compassion, though not for any merit of ours, be pleased to send us, Your servants and children here below, the crumbs that fall from Your table."   Should the sight of our sins ever discourage us, let us call on the Mother of Mercy saying: "O Lady, do not set up my sins against me, for I oppose Your compassion to them.  Let it never be said that my sins could contend in judgment against Your mercy, which is far more powerful to obtain me pardon than my sins are to obtain my condemnation."  

 EXAMPLE.

     In the kingdom of Valencia a great sinner resolved to become a Mohammedan, hoping thereby to escape from the arm of justice.  On His way to the ship's landing where He meant to set sail, He entered a church in which the Jesuit Jerome Lopes was preaching on the Mercy of God.  Touched by the sermon, the poor sinner went to confession to the missioner.  When asked if He had practiced any special devotion to which this great grace might be attributed He replied: "I simply prayed to Mary every day not to abandon me."      In a certain hospital the same Father met a sinner who had not gone to confession for 55 years.  He had however practiced this little devotion: whenever he passed Her picture, he greeted the Mother of God and asked Her for a happy end.  He then related: one day while fighting with my enemy my dagger broke.  I turned to Mary and cried out: "Alas, alas, now I shall be killed and eternally lost; Mother of Sinners, help me."  Scarcely had he said this when he found himself in safety.  The poor sinner made a general confession and died full of confidence.

PRAYER

O greatest and most sublime of all creatures, most holy Virgin, I salute You from this earth—I, a miserable and unfortunate rebel against my God, who deserve chastisements, not favors, justice, and not mercy.  O Lady, I say not this because I doubt Your compassion.  I know that the greater You are, the more You glory in being benign.  I know that You rejoice that You are so rich, because You are thus enabled to help us poor miserable creatures.  I know that the greater is the poverty of those who have recourse to You, the more do You exert Yourself to protect and save them.  O my Mother, it was You who wept at the foot of the Cross over Your Son Who died for me.  Offer, I implore You, Your tears to God, and by these obtain for me true sorrow for my sins.  Sinners then afflicted You so much, and I, by my crimes, have done the same.  Obtain for me, O Mary, that at least from this day forward I may not continue to afflict You and Your Son by my ingratitude.  What would Your sorrow avail me if I continued to be ungrateful to You?  To what purpose would Your mercy have been shown me, if again I was unfaithful and lost?  No, my Queen, permit it not; You have supplied for all my shortcomings.  You obtain from God what You will.  You grant the prayers of all.  I ask of You 2 graces; I expect them from You, and will not be satisfied with less.  Obtain for me that I may be faithful to God, and no more offend Him, and love Him during the remainder of my life as much as I have offended Him.

CHAPTER 8

                               AND AFTER THIS OUR EXILE SHOW UNTO US 

THE BLESSED FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB, JESUS.

 MARY, OUR SALVATION.

1

Mary delivers Her Clients from Hell.

      It is impossible for a client of Mary, who is faithful in honoring and recommending himself to Her, to be lost.  To some this proposition may appear, at first sight, exaggerated; but any one to whom this might seem to be the case I would beg to suspend his judgment, and, first of all, read what I have to say on this subject.

     When we say that it is impossible for a client of Mary to be lost, we must not be understood as speaking of those clients who take advantage of this devotion that they may sin more freely.  And therefore, those who disapprove of the great praises bestowed on the clemency of this most Blessed Virgin, because it causes the wicked to take advantage of it to sin with greater freedom, do so without foundation, for such presumption people deserve chastisement, and not mercy, for their rash confidence.  It is therefore to be understood of those clients who, with a sincere desire to amend, are faithful in honoring and recommending themselves to the Mother of God.  It is, I say, morally impossible that such as these should be lost. 

     Catholic theologians traditionally have been unanimous in their agreement on this subject. As it is impossible for one who is not protected by Mary, to be saved, so is it impossible for one who recommends himself to Her, and consequently is beloved by Her, to be lost.  As it is impossible for those from whom Mary turns Her eyes of mercy to be saved, so also are those towards whom She turns these eyes, and for whom She prays, necessarily is saved and glorified.  Consequently the clients of Mary will necessarily be saved.

     Let us pay particular attention to the first part of the opinions of these saints, and let those tremble who make but little account of their devotion to this Heavenly Mother, or from carelessness give it up.  They say that the salvation of those who are not protected by Mary is impossible.  Many others declare the same thing; such as Blessed Albert, who says, that "all those who are not Your servants, O Mary, will perish."  And St. Bonaventure: "He who neglects the service of the blessed Virgin will die in His sins." Again, "He who does not invoke You, O Lady, will never get to heaven." And the saint even says, "that not only those from whom Mary turns Her face will not be saved, but that there will be no hope of their salvation."  Before Him, St. Ignatius the martyr said, "that it was impossible for any sinner to be saved without the help and favor of the most Blessed Virgin; because those who are not saved by the justice of God are with infinite mercy saved by the intercession of Mary." And in the same sense does the Church apply to Mary the words of Proverbs, " All that hate me, love death" —Prov 8:36; that is, all who do not love me, love eternal death.  For "She is like the merchant's ship"—Prov 31:14.  All those who are out of this ship will be lost in the sea of the world.  Thus, little devotion to the Mother of God is a certain mark of reprobation, and therefore I will say, "Far be it from me ever to turn from Mary."    

     But, on the other hand, Mary says in the words applied to Her by the Church, "He who harkens to me shall not be confounded "—Sir 24:30; that is to say, He who listens to what I say shall not be lost.  On which St. Bonaventure says, "O Lady, He who honors You will be far from damnation."  And this will still be the case,  even should the person during the past time have greatly offended God.  However great a sinner He may have been, if he shows himself devout to Mary, he will never perish.

       For this reason the devil does his utmost with sinners in order that, after they have lost the grace of God, they may also lose devotion to Mary.  When Sarah saw Isaac in company with Ismael, who was teaching Him evil habits, She desired that Abraham would drive away both Ismael and his mother Agar: Cast out this bond-woman and her son"—Gen 21:10.  She was not satisfied with the son being turned out of the house, but insisted on the mother going also, thinking that otherwise the son, coming to see his mother, would continue to frequent the house.  The devil, also, is not satisfied with a soul turning out Jesus Christ, unless it also turns out His Mother: Cast out this bond-woman and Her son.  Otherwise he fears that the Mother will again, by Her intercession, bring back Her Son.  And his fears are well grounded, for he who is faithful in serving the Mother of God will soon receive God Himself by the means of Mary.

      Devotion to our Blessed Lady is a charter of liberty, and our safeguard from hell. The Heavenly Mother  is the only hope of those who are in despair.  Neither the power nor the will to save us can be wanting to Mary; the power cannot be wanting, for it is impossible that Her prayers should not be heard.  It is impossible that a Mother of God should pray in vain.  Her requests can never be refused, but that She obtains whatever She wills.  The will to save us cannot be wanting, for Mary is our Mother, and desires our salvation more than we can desire it ourselves.  Since, then, this is the case, how can it be possible for a client of Mary to be lost?  He may be a sinner, but if he recommends himself to this good Mother with perseverance and purpose of amendment, She will undertake to obtain him light to abandon his wicked state, sorrow for his sins, perseverance in virtue, and, finally, a good death.  And what mother would not deliver Her son from death if it only depended on Her asking the favor to obtain it from the judge?  And can we think that Mary, who loves Her clients with a mother's most tender love, will not deliver Her child from eternal death when She can do it so easily?     

     Ah! devout reader, let us thank our Lord if we see that He has given us affection for the Queen of Heaven, and confidence in Her.  For, God only grants this favor to those whom He is determined to save.  Rekindle your hope and say: "O Mother of God, if I place my confidence in You, I shall be saved.  If I am under Your protection, I have nothing to fear, for the fact of being Your client is the possession of a certainty of salvation, and which God only grants to those whom He intends to save. Rejoice! O terror of hell; O hope of Christians; confidence in You is a pledge of salvation." 

   O, how enraged is the devil when he sees a soul persevering in devotion to the Heavenly Mother!  We read in the Life of Blessed Alphonsus Rodriguez, who was very devout to Mary, that once when in prayer, finding himself much troubled by the devil with impure thoughts, this enemy said, "Give up your devotion to Mary, and I will cease to tempt you."      God revealed to St. Catherine of Sienna, "that in His goodness, and on account of the Incarnate Word, He had granted to Mary, who was His Mother, that no one, not even a sinner, who devoutly recommends himself to Her should ever become the prey of hell."  Even the Prophet David prayed to be delivered from hell, for the sake of the love He bore to Mary.  "I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Your house … take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked"—Ps 27:8.  He says of "Your house," for Mary was the house that God Himself constructed for His dwelling on earth, and in which He could find repose on becoming man, as it is written in the Book of Proverbs, "Wisdom has built Herself a house"—Prov 9:1.

        He who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost.  "Your lovers, O Lady, enjoy peace in this life, and will never see eternal death."  The case never did and never will occur in which a humble and attentive servant of Mary was lost.  O, how many would have remained obstinate in sin, and have been eternally lost, if Mary had not interposed with Her Son, that He might show them mercy!  It is also the opinion of many theologians, and of St. Thomas (Suppl. q. 71, a. 5) in particular, that for many who have died in mortal sin the Heavenly Mother has obtained from God a suspension of their sentence and a return to life to do penance.

    Trustworthy authors give us many instances in which this has occurred (In view of these examples and of those that we read farther on, there arises the 2-fold question: Can God hinder, and can the Blessed Virgin obtain by Her prayers, that condemnation to hell be not put in execution?  With these theologians, and notably with St. Alphonsus, there is no one who could not answer, Yes.  And has it happened, thanks to the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, that sinners condemned to hell have not been plunged into it, and that by a good confession they have effaced the sentence of their condemnation?  Yes; for the facts that I cite, are affirmed by trustworthy authors as real and public facts.  Among others, Flodoardus, who lived about the ninth century, relates in his Chronicles, that a certain deacon named Adelman, who was apparently dead, and was being buried, returned to life, and said "that he had seen hell, to which he was condemned, but that, at the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, he had been sent back to this world to do penance." 

     Surius relates a similar case  of a Roman citizen named Andrew, who had died impenitent, and for whom Mary obtained that he should come to life again, that he might be pardoned.  Pelbertus  says, "that in his time, when the Emperor Sigismund was crossing the Alps with His army, a voice was heard coming from a skeleton, asking for a confessor, and declaring that the Mother of God, for whom he had a tender devotion when a soldier, had obtained that he should thus live until he had been able to make his confession; and, having done so, the soul departed" (This is undoubtedly a very strange fact.  However, who will dispute it, either by limiting the power of God or the influence of the Blessed Virgin, or by refusing to believe the authority of a writer such as Father Pelbart, who, in a book dedicated to Pope Sixtus IV., relates in detail this prodigy as having happened at his time in the presence of an illustrious emperor and the members of his court, several of whom, as they were yet living, could have convicted him of falsehood, if he had not told the truth!  This reflection is made by Father Crasset: it may also be applied to other examples not less wonderful.  Moreover, the miracle of which there is question here is affirmed by a great number of most respectable authors; among them Lyraeus is distinguished by his most circumstantial narrative in his Trisagion Marianum.

            These, and other such examples, however, must not encourage rash persons to live in sin, with the hope that Mary will deliver them from hell even should they die in this state; for as it would be the height of folly for any one to throw himself into a well with a hope that Mary would preserve His life because She has occasionally preserved some under similar circumstances, still greater folly would it be to run the risk of dying in sin, in the hope that the Blessed Virgin would save Him from hell.  But these examples serve to revive our confidence with the reflection, that if the Heavenly Mother has been able to deliver from hell even some who have died in sin, how much more will She be able to preserve from a similar lot those who, during life, have recourse to Her with a purpose of amendment, and who serve Her faithfully.

            "What, then, will be our lot, O tender Mother, who are sinners, but desire to change, and have recourse to You, who are the life of Christian? He will not be lost if You pray.  O, pray, then, for us, and we shall be preserved from hell.  Who will presume to say, if I have You to defend me, O Mother of Mercy, that the Judge will be unfavorable to me when I am presented before the Divine Tribunal!"  Blessed Henry Suso used to say, "that he had placed his soul in the hands of Mary, and that if he was condemned, the sentence must pass through Her hands;" being confident that if it was in such hands, this tender Virgin would certainly prevent its execution.  The same do I hope for myself, O my own most holy Queen; and therefore I will always say: "In You, O Lady, have I placed all my hopes; and thus I confidently trust that I shall never be lost, but praise and love You forever in heaven."

EXAMPLE.

In the year 1604, in a city of Belgium, there were 2 young men, students, but who, instead of attending to their studies, gave themselves up to a life of debauchery.  One night they were both in the house with an evil companion, when one of them, named Richard, returned home, leaving His companion there.  After He had reached home, and had begun to undress, He remembered He had not that day said some "Hail Marys," that He was in the habit of reciting.  Feeling very sleepy He was loth to say them; He did himself violence, and repeated them, though without devotion, and half asleep.  He then lay down, and had fallen into a sound slumber, when He was suddenly roused by a violent knocking at the door, and without its opening He saw His companion, deformed and hideous, standing before Him.  "Who are you?" He cried out.  "What! Do you not know me?"  "Ah, yes! but how you are changed; you seem to me a devil."  "Truly," He exclaimed, "poor unfortunate creature that I am, I am damned; and how?  When I was leaving that wicked house, a devil came and strangled me; my body is in the street, and my soul in hell; and you must know," added He, "that the same fate awaited you, had not the Blessed Virgin preserved you in consideration of that little act of homage of the 'Hail Mary.'  Fortunate are you if only you know how to take advantage of this warning sent you by the Mother of God."  With these words He opened His mantle, and, showing the flames and serpents by which He was tormented, He disappeared.  Richard immediately burst into sobs and tears, and, casting himself prostrate on the ground, he returned thanks to Mary, his protector; and, while thinking how to change his life, he heard the bell of the Franciscan monastery ringing for matins.  "Ah! it is there," says he, "that God calls me to do penance."  He went immediately to the convent, and implored the Fathers to admit Him.  But they were hardly willing to do so, knowing his wicked life; but he, sobbing bitterly, told all that had taken place; and 2 Fathers being sent to the street, and having found the strangled body, which was as black as a coal, they admitted Him.  From that time forward Richard led a most exemplary life, and at last went to preach the Gospel in the Indies, and thence to Japan, where He had the happiness of giving his life for Jesus Christ, being burnt alive for the faith.  (In the church of Ham-sur-Heure, in Hainault, there is a picture of the martyrdom of F. Richard of St. Anne with the following inscription: "The Blessed F. Richard of St. Anne, born at Ham-sur-Heure in 1589, made His religious profession as a Recollect at Nivelles, April 13, 1605, and having been ordained Priest in the Philippine Isles, was martyred at Nagasaki, September 10, 1622, being put to death by a slow fire."  He was beatified in 1867.  (See Annals of the Franciscan Missions, May, 1867.—ED.)  

PRAYER

O Mary, my most dear Mother, in what an abyss of evils should I not now be, if You had not so many times delivered me with Your compassionate hand!  How many years ago should I not have been in hell, had You not saved me by Your powerful prayers!  My grievous sins already drove me there; Divine Justice had already condemned me; the devils already longed to execute the sentence; and You came to my aid, and saved me without being even called or asked.  And what return can I make to You, O my beloved protector, for so many favors and for such love?  You also overcame the hardness of my heart, and drew me to Your love and to confidence in You.  And into how many other evils should I not have fallen, if with Your compassionate hand You had not so often helped me in the dangers into which I was on the point of falling!  Continue, O my hope, to preserve me from hell, and from the sins into which I may still fall.  Never allow me to have this misfortune—to curse You in hell.  My beloved Lady, I love You.  Can Your goodness ever endure to see a servant of Yours that loves You lost?  Ah! then, obtain that I may never more be ungrateful to You and to my God, Who for the love of You has granted me so many graces.  O Mary, tell me, shall I be lost?  Yes, if I abandon You.  But is this possible?  Can I ever forget the love You have borne me?  You, after God, are the love of my soul.  I can no longer trust myself to live without loving You.  O most beautiful, most holy, most amiable, sweetest creature in the world, I rejoice in Your happiness.  I love You, and I hope always to love You both in time and in eternity.  Amen.

2

 Mary helps Her Clients in Purgatory.

Fortunate, indeed, are the clients of this most compassionate Mother; for not only does She help them in this world, but even in purgatory they are helped and comforted by Her protection.  And as in that prison poor souls are in the greatest need of assistance, since in their torments they cannot help themselves, our Mother of Mercy does proportionately more to relieve them.  In that prison, where souls that are spouses of Jesus Christ are detained, Mary has a certain dominion and plenitude of power, not only to relieve them, but even to deliver them from their pains.  And, first, with respect to the relief She gives, those words of Sirach, have been applied to Mary, "I have walked in the waves of the sea"—Sir 24:8.  It is by visiting and relieving the necessities and torments of Her clients, who are Her children. The pains of purgatory are called waves, because they are transitory, unlike the pains of hell, which never end; and they are called waves of the sea, because they are so bitter.  The clients of Mary, thus suffering, are often visited and relieved by Her. See, therefore, of what consequence it is to be the servant of this good Lady, for Her servants She never forgets when they are suffering in those flames: for though Mary relieves all suffering souls in purgatory, yet She always obtains far greater indulgence and relief for Her own clients.

      The Heavenly Mother once addressed these words to St. Bridget: "I am the Mother of all souls in purgatory; for all the pains that they have deserved for their sins are every hour, as long as they remain there, in some way mitigated by My prayers." The compassionate Mother even condescends to go Herself occasionally into that holy prison, to visit and comfort Her suffering children.  St. Bonaventure, applying to Mary the words of Sirach, I have penetrated into the boom of the deep, says, "the deep, that is, purgatory, to relieve by my presence the holy souls detained there."  "O, how courteous and benign is the most Blessed Virgin," says St. Vincent Ferrer, "to those who suffer in purgatory! through Her they constantly receive comfort and refreshment."  

     And what other consolation have they in their sufferings than Mary, and the relief they receive from this Mother of Mercy?  St. Bridget once heard Jesus say to His holy Mother, "You are my Mother, the Mother of mercy, and the consolation of souls in purgatory." The Blessed Virgin Herself told the saint, "that as a poor sick person, bedridden, suffering, and abandoned, is relieved by words of encouragement and consolation, so are the souls in purgatory consoled and relieved by only hearing Her name." The mere name of Mary, that name of hope and salvation, and which is frequently invoked by Her beloved children in their prison, is a great source of comfort to them; for that loving Mother no sooner hears them call upon Her than She offers Her prayers to God, and these prayers, as a heavenly dew, immediately refresh them in their burning pains.     

      Mary not only consoles and relieves Her clients in purgatory, but She delivers them by Her prayers. On the day of Her assumption into heaven purgatory was entirely emptied. When Mary was going to heaven, She asked as a favor from Her Son to take all the souls then in purgatory with Her.  And from that time forward, Mary had the privilege of delivering Her servants. The Blessed Virgin has the power of delivering souls from purgatory, but particularly those of Her clients, by Her prayers, and by applying Her merits for them. By the merits of Mary, not only are the pains of those souls lessened, but the time of their sufferings is shortened through Her intercession. She has only to ask, and all is done.

     A lady named Marozia appeared after Her death to Her godmother, and told Her that on the feast of the Assumption She, together with a multitude exceeding the population of Rome, had been delivered by Mary from purgatory.  On the feasts of the Nativity and Resurrection of Jesus Christ Mary does the same thing; for on those days, accompanied by choirs of angels, She visits that prison and delivers very many souls from their torments.  On all Her own solemn feasts She delivers many souls from their sufferings.

    The promise made by our Blessed Lady to Pope John XXII is well known.  She appeared to Him, and ordered Him to make known to all that on the Saturday after their death She would deliver from purgatory all who wore the Carmelite scapular.  This was proclaimed by the same Pontiff in a Bull, which was afterwards confirmed by Alexander V, Clement VII, Pius V, Gregory XIII, and Paul V; and this latter, in a Bull of the year 1613, says, "that Christian people may piously believe that the Blessed Virgin will help them after death by Her continual intercession, Her merits, and special protection; and that on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to Her, She will in a more particular manner help the souls of the brethren of the Confraternity of our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel who have departed this life in a state of grace, provided they have worn the habit, observed the chastity of their state, and recited Her office: or, if they could not recite it, if they have observed the fasts of the Church, and abstained from meat on all Wednesdays except Christmas day."  In the solemn office of our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel we read, that it is piously believed that the Blessed Virgin comforts the brethren of this confraternity in purgatory with maternal love, and that by Her intercession She soon delivers them, and takes them to heaven.    

      Why should we not hope for the same graces and favors, if we are devout clients of this good Mother?  And if we serve Her with more special love, why can we not hope to go to heaven immediately after death, without even going to purgatory?  This really took place in the case of Blessed Godfrey, to whom Mary sent the following message: "Tell Brother Godfrey to endeavor to advance rapidly in virtue, and thus He will belong to my Son and to me: and when His soul departs, I will not allow it to go to purgatory, but will take it and offer it to my Son."  Finally, if we wish to relieve the holy souls in purgatory, let us do so by imploring the aid of our Blessed Lady in all our prayers, and especially by offering the Rosary for them, as that relieves them greatly, as we shall see in the following example.

 EXAMPLE

A noble lady, who had an only son, was informed one day that he had been killed.  The murderer had by chance taken refuge in her own palace.  She then began to reflect that Mary had forgiven the executioners of Her Son; and therefore determined that she also would pardon that criminal for the love of the sorrowful Mary.  She not only did this, but also provided him with a horse, money and clothes, that he might escape.  Her son then appeared to her, and told her that he was saved, and that for her generous conduct to his enemy the Heavenly Mother had delivered him from purgatory, in which otherwise he would have had to suffer for a long time, and that he was then going to Paradise. 

PRAYER

O Queen of heaven and earth!  O Mother of the Lord of the world!  O Mary, of all creatures the greatest, the most exalted and the most amiable! it is true that there are many in this world who neither know You nor love You; but in heaven there are many millions of angels and blessed spirits, who love and praise You continually.  Even in this world, how many happy souls are there not who burn with Your love, and live enamored of Your goodness!  O, that I also could love You, O Lady worthy of all love! O that I could always remember to serve You, to praise You, to honor You, and engage all to love You!  You have attracted the love of God, whom, by Your beauty, You have, so to say, torn from the Eternal Father, and engaged to become Man, and be Your Son.  And shall I, a poor worm of the earth, not be enamored of You?  No, my most sweet Mother, I also will love You much, and will do all that I can to make others love You also.  Accept, then, O Mary, the desire that I have to love You, and help me to execute it.  I know how favorably Your devoted followers are looked upon by God.  He, after His own glory, desires nothing more than Yours, and to see You honored and loved by all.  From You, O Lady, do I expect all; through You the remission of my sins, through You perseverance.  You must assist me at death, and deliver me from purgatory; and finally, You must lead me to heaven.  All this Your lovers hope from You, and are not deceived.  I, who love You with so much affection, and above all other things, after God, hope for the same favors.

3

 Mary leads Her Servants to Heaven.

Oh, what an evident mark of predestination have the servants of Mary!  The Holy Church, for the consolation of Her clients, puts into Her mouth the words of Sirach, "In all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord"—Sir 24:11.  Blessed is he in whose house the most Holy Virgin finds repose.  Mary, out of the love She bears to all, endeavors to excite in all devotion towards Herself; many either do not admit it into their souls, or do not preserve it.  But blessed is he who receives and preserves it.  And I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord.  That is, blessed is he whose interior offers the Blessed Virgin Mary a place of repose.  Devotion towards the Blessed Virgin remains in all who are the inheritance of our Lord; that is to say, in all who will praise Him eternally in heaven.  Mary continues, speaking in the words of Sirach:  "He Who made Me, rested in My Tabernacle, and He said to Me:  Let Your dwelling be in Jacob, and Your inheritance in Israel, and take root in My elect." —Sir 24:8.  That is, My Creator has condescended to come and repose in My heart, and His Will is, that I should dwell in the hearts of all the elect (of whom Jacob was a figure, and who are the inheritance of the Blessed Virgin), and that devotion and confidence in Me should take root in all the predestined.  O, how many blessed souls are now in heaven who would never have been there had not Mary, by Her powerful intercession, led them there:  "I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never fail"—Sir 24:6; meaning in the name of Mary, "I have caused as many lights to shine eternally in heaven as I have clients.  There are many saints in heaven through Her intercession, who would never have been there but through Her. The gates of heaven will open to all who confide in the protection of Mary. 

Hence, devotion to the Heavenly Mother  unlocks the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.  "To You, O Lady, are committed the keys and the treasures of the kingdom of heaven."  And therefore we ought constantly to pray:  "Open to us, O Mary, the gates of paradise, since You have its keys."  Nay more, the Church says, that "You are its gate."   For the same reason, again, is this great Mother called by the Church the Star of the Sea, "Hail, Star of the Sea!"  For, as sailors are guided by a star to the port, so are Christians guided to heaven by Mary. For the same reason, finally, is She called "the heavenly ladder."  For by Mary God descended from heaven into the world, that by Her men might ascend from earth to heaven.  "And You, O Lady, were filled with grace, that You might be the way of our salvation, and the means of ascent to the heavenly kingdom."She is also called  "the heavenly chariot."   And St. John Geometra salutes Her, saying, "Hail, resplendent car;"  signifying that She is the car in which Her clients mount to heaven.  "Blessed are they who know You, O Mother of God, for the knowledge of You is the high road to everlasting life, and the publication of Your virtues is the way of eternal salvation." 

    Who is there that is saved, who is there that reigns in heaven?  They are certainly saved and reign in heaven for whom this Queen of mercy intercedes.   And this Mary Herself confirms in the book of Proverbs, "By me kings reign"—Prov 8:15; through My intercession souls reign, first in this mortal life by ruling their passions, and so come to reign eternally in heaven, where all are kings.  Mary is the Queen of heaven; for there She commands as She wills, and admits whom She wills.  And applying to Her the words of Sirach, "And My power was in Jerusalem "—Sir 24:15, She is saying, "I command what I will, and introduce whom I will."   Our Blessed Lady, being Mother of the Lord of heaven, it is reasonable that She also should be sovereign Lady of that kingdom.  Thus by right She possesses the whole kingdom of Her Son.  This Heavenly Mother has already, by Her assistance and prayers, obtained heaven for us, provided we put no obstacle in the way.   Hence, he who serves Mary, and for whom She intercedes, is as certain of heaven as if he was already there.  To serve Mary and be Her courtier is the greatest honor we can possibly possess; for to serve the Queen of heaven is already to reign there, and live under Her commands is more than to govern.  On the other hand, those who do not serve Mary will not be saved; for those who are deprived of the help of this great Mother are also deprived of that of Her Son and of the whole court of heaven.  

     May the infinite goodness of our Lord be ever praised, for having been pleased to given us Mary as our advocate in heaven, that She, being at the same time the Mother of our Judge and a Mother of Mercy, may be able, by Her intercession, to conduct to a prosperous issue the great affair of our eternal salvation.   God destined Mary as a bridge of salvation, by using which we might with safety pass over the stormy sea of this world, and reach the happy haven of paradise.  Give ear, O you nations; and all you who desire heaven, serve, honor Mary, and certainly you will find eternal life.

   Nor should those even who have deserved hell be in the least doubtful as to obtaining heaven, provided they are faithful in serving this Queen.  "O, how many sinners have found God and have been saved by Your means, O Mary!"  St. John in the Apocalypse says that Mary was crowned with stars: "And on Her head a crown of 12 stars"—Rev 12:1.  On the other hand, in the sacred Canticles, She is said to be crowned with wild beasts, lions, and leopards: "Come from Lebanon, my spouse, come from Lebanon, come; You shall be crowned . . . from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards."—Song 4:8.   How is this?  These wild beasts are sinners, who by the favor and intercession of Mary have become stars of paradise, better adapted to the head of this Queen of Mercy than all the material stars of heaven.  

    Sister Seraphina of Capri, that once during the novena of the Assumption of Mary She asked our Blessed Lady for the conversion of a thousand sinners, but afterwards thought that She had asked too much; and then the Blessed Virgin appeared to Her, and corrected Her for Her ungrounded anxiety, saying, "Why do You fear?  Is it that I am not sufficiently powerful to obtain from my Son the conversion of a thousand sinners?  See, I have already obtained the favor."  With these words, She took Her in spirit to heaven, and there showed Her innumerable souls which had deserved hell, but had been saved through Her intercession, and were already enjoying eternal happiness.

     It is true that in this world no one can be certain of His salvation: "Man knows not whether he be worthy of love or hatred, says Ecclesiastes" —Eccle 9:1.  But St. Bonaventure, on the words of King David, "Lord, who shall dwell in Your tabernacle? "—Ps 15:1 and on the preceding quotation, answers, "Sinners, let us follow Mary closely, and casting ourselves at Her feet, let us not leave them until She has blessed us; for Her blessing will insure our salvation. It suffices, O Lady, that You will it, and our salvation is certain."  Souls protected by Mary, and on which She casts Her eyes, are necessarily justified and saved.                  

     With reason, therefore, did the most Holy Virgin predict that all generations would call Her blessed; for all the elect obtain eternal salvation through the means of Mary.  "And You, O great Mother, are the beginning, the middle, and the end of our happiness." The beginning, for Mary obtains us the pardon of our sins; the middle, for She obtains us perseverance in divine grace; and the end, for She finally obtains us heaven.  "By You, O Mary, was heaven opened, by You was hell emptied; by You was paradise restored; and through You is eternal life given to so many miserable creatures who deserved eternal death." 

    But that which above all should encourage us to hope with confidence for heaven, is the beautiful promise made by Mary Herself to all who honor Her, and especially to those who, by word and example, endeavor to make Her known and honored by others:  "Those who work by Me shall not sin; those  who explain Me shall have life everlasting"—Sir 24:30.  O happy they who obtain the favor of Mary; they will be recognized by the blessed as their companions, and whoever bears the stamp of a servant of Mary is already enrolled in the Book of Life.  Why, then, should we trouble ourselves about the opinions of scholastics as to whether predestination to glory precedes or follows the prevision of merits?  If we are true servants of Mary, and obtain Her protection, we most certainly shall be inscribed in the Book of Life; for God only grants devotion towards His most Holy Mother to those whom He will save.  This is also clearly expressed by our Lord in St. John:  "He who shall overcome . . . I will write upon Him the Name of my God, and the Name of the City of my God"—Rev  3:12.  And who but Mary is this city of God? "Glorious things are said of You, O city of God"—Ps 87:3.   

     Correctly, then, can we here say with St. Paul, "Having this seal, the Lord knows who are His" —2 Tim 2:19; that is to say, whoever carries with Him the mark of devotion to Mary is recognized by God as His.  Hence devotion to the Mother of God is a most certain mark of eternal salvation.  Whoever often honors our Blessed Lady with the angelical salutation, the "Hail Mary," has a very great mark of predestination. Perseverance in the  daily recital of the Rosary, is also a very great assurance of salvation.  The servants of the Mother of God are not only privileged and favored in this world, but even in heaven they are more particularly honored. In heaven they will be recognized as servants of their Queen, and as belonging to Her court, by a distinguishing and richer garment, according to the words of the Proverbs, "All Her domestics are clothed with double garments"—Prov 31:21.

       St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi saw a vessel in the midst of the sea: in it were all the clients of Mary, and this Blessed Mother Herself steered it safely into the port.  By this the saint understood, that those who live under the protection of Mary are secure, in the midst of the dangers of this life, from the shipwreck of sin, and from eternal damnation; for She guides them safely into the haven of salvation.  Let us then enter this blessed ship of the mantle of Mary, and there we can be certain of the kingdom of heaven; for the Church says: "O holy Mother of God, all those who will be partakers of eternal happiness dwell in You, living under Your protection."  

EXAMPLE.

The Franciscan Chronicles relate that a certain Brother Leo saw in a vision, 2 ladders the one red, the other white.  On the upper end of the red ladder, stood Jesus and on the other stood His holy Mother.  The brother saw that some tried to climb the red ladder; but scarcely had they mounted some rungs when they fell back, they tried again but with no better success.  Then they were advised to try the white ladder and to their surprise they succeeded for the Blessed Virgin stretched out Her hand and with Her aid they reached heaven.

(Note:  This apparition is by no means incredible; nor is it right to say that it makes the power of Mary superior to that of Christ.  The symbolic significance of the vision must be borne in mind.  The idea has been expressed repeatedly in the words of St. Bernard, and more recently by Popes Leo XIII, and Benedict XV:  "As we have no access to the Father except through the Son, so no one can come to the Son except by the Mother.  As the Son is all powerful by nature, the Mother is all powerful in so far that by the merciful disposition of God She is our Mediatrix of graces with Christ.  Therefore, frequently our petitions are heeded sooner when we address ourselves to Mary the Queen of Mercy and Compassion than when we go directly to Jesus who as King of Justice is our Judge.  

PRAYER

O Queen of heaven, Mother of Holy Love! since You are the most amiable of creatures, the most beloved of God, and His greatest lover, be pleased to allow the most miserable sinner living in this world, who, having by Your means been delivered from hell, and without any merit on his part been so benefited by You and who is filled with love for You, to love You.  I would desire, were it in my power, to let all men who know You not know how worthy You are of love, that all might love and honor You.  I would desire to die for the love of You, in defence of Your virginity, of Your dignity of Mother of God, of Your Immaculate Conception, should this be necessary, to uphold these Your great privileges.  Ah! my most beloved Mother accept this my ardent desire, and never allow a servant of Yours, who loves You, to become the enemy of Your God, whom You love so much.  Alas! poor me, I was so for a time, when I offended my Lord.  But then, O Mary, I loved You but little, and strove but little to be beloved by You.  But now there is nothing that I so much desire, after the grace of God, as to love and be loved by You.  I am not discouraged on account of my past sins, for I know that You, O most benign and gracious Lady, do not disdain to love even the most wretched sinners who love You; nay more, that You never allow Yourself to be surpassed by any in love.  Ah!  Queen most worthy of love, I desire to love You in heaven.  There, at Your feet, I shall better know how worthy You are of love, how much You have done to save me; and thus I shall love You with greater love, and love You eternally, without fear of ever ceasing to love You.  O Mary, I hope most certainly to be saved by Your means.  Pray to Jesus for me.  Nothing else is needed; You have to save me; You are my hope.  I will therefore always sing O Mary, my hope, You have to save me. 

CHAPTER 9

O MERCIFUL, O PIOUS.

CLEMENCY AND COMPASSION OF MARY.

How great are the Clemency and Compassion of Mary.

St. Bernard, speaking of the great compassion of Mary towards us poor creatures, says, "that She is the land overflowing with milk and honey promised by God."  Hence She could be called Mercy Herself.  Considering that Mary was made Mother of God on account of the miserable, and that to Her is committed the charge of dispensing mercy; considering, moreover, the tender care She takes of all, and that Her compassion is so great that She seems to have no other desire than that of relieving the needy; to look at Her, is  to see not the justice of God, but only His Divine Mercy, of which Mary is full.  "O Mary, when I behold You, I can only discern mercy, for You were made Mother of God for the wretched, and then You were instructed with their charge: You are all solicitude for them; You are walled in with mercy; Your only wish is to show it."

       The compassion of Mary is so great towards us, that Her loving heart can never remain a moment without bringing forth its fruits of tenderness.  And what can ever flow from a source of compassion but compassion itself?  Mary is also called an olive-tree: "As a fair olive-tree on the plains "Sir 24:19.  For as from the olive, oil (a symbol of mercy) alone is extracted, so from the hands of Mary graces and mercy alone proceed.  Hence  Mary may properly be called the Mother of oil, since She is the Mother of mercy.  And thus, when we go to this good Mother for the oil of Her mercy, we cannot fear that She will deny it to us, as the wise virgins in the Gospel did to the foolish ones: "lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you"Matt  25:9.  O no! for She is indeed rich in this oil of mercy, Mary is filled with the oil of compassion.  She is called by the Church not only a prudent Virgin, but most prudent, that we may understand that She is so full of grace and compassion, that She can supply all, without losing any Herself.  "You, O Blessed Virgin, are full of grace, and indeed so full, that the whole world may draw of this overflowing oil. For if the prudent virgins provided oil in vessels with their lamps, You, O most prudent Virgin, has borne an overflowing and inexhaustible vessel, from which, the oil of mercy streaming, You replenish the lamps of all."     

            But why is this beautiful olive-tree said to stand in the midst of the plains, and not rather in the midst of a garden, surrounded by a wall and hedges?  It is so that all may see Her, that all may go to Her for refuge; that all may see Her easily, and as easily have recourse to Her, to obtain remedies for all their ills.  All can go and gather the fruit of, an olive-tree that is exposed in the midst of a plain; and thus all, both just and sinners, can have recourse to Mary, to obtain Her mercy. O how many sentences of condemnation has not this most Blessed Virgin revoked by Her compassionate prayers, in favor of sinners who have had recourse to Her?  And what safer refuge can we ever find than the compassionate heart of Mary? There the poor find a home, the infirm a remedy, the afflicted relief, the doubtful counsel, and the abandoned help.

    Wretched indeed should we be, had we not this Mother of Mercy always attentive and solicitous to relieve us in our wants!  "Where there is no woman, he mourns who is in need"Sir 36:27, says the Holy Spirit. This woman is precisely the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and wherever this most holy woman is not, the sick man groans.  And surely it cannot be otherwise, since all graces are dispensed at the prayer of Mary; and where this is wanting, there can be no hope of mercy, as our Lord gave St. Bridget to understand in these words: "Unless the prayers of Mary interposed, there could be no hope of mercy." 

     But perhaps we fear that Mary does not see, or does not feel for, our necessities?  O no, She sees and feels them far better than we do ourselves.  There is not one among all the saints who can ever feel for us in our miseries, both corporal and spiritual, like this woman, the most Blessed Virgin Mary.  So much so, that there where She sees misery, She cannot do otherwise than instantly fly and relieve it with Her tender compassion.  "Therefore, O most Blessed Virgin, You dispense Your mercies with a generous hand, wherever You see necessities."  Our good Mother Herself protests that She will never cease to fulfill this office of mercy:  "And unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling-place I have ministered before Him —Sir 24:14; that is She were saying, "I will never cease until the end of the world relieving the miseries of men, and praying for sinners that they may be delivered from eternal misery, and be saved."

    The Emperor Titus was so desirous of rending service to those who applied to him, that, when a day passed without being able to grant a favor, he used to say with sorrow, "I have lost a day; for I have spent it without benefiting any one."  It is probable that Titus spoke thus more from vanity, and the desire of being esteemed, than from true charity.  But should such a thing happen to our Empress Mary, as to have to pass a day without granting a grace, She would speak as Titus did, but from a true desire to serve us, and because She is full of charity.  So much so, that She is more anxious to grant us graces than we are to receive them.  And therefore, whenever we go to Her, we always find Her hands filled with mercy and liberality.  

    Rebecca was a figure of Mary; and She, when asked by Abraham's servant for a little water to drink, replied saying, "I will draw water for Your camels, also, till they all drink"Gen 24:19.  "O Mary, You are far more liberal and compassionate than Rebecca; and therefore You are not satisfied with distributing the treasures of Your immense mercy only to the just, of whom Abraham's servants were types, but also You bestow them on sinners who are signified by the camels."  The liberality of Mary is like that of Her Son, who always gives more than he is asked for.  "He is rich unto all that call upon Him"Rom 10:12.  And the liberality of Mary is like His: She bestows more than is sought.  "O Lady, please pray for me, for You will ask for the graces I require with greater devotion than I can dare to ask for them; and You will obtain far greater graces from God for me than I can presume to seek."  

    When the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus Christ and His doctrines, St. Jacob and St. John asked Him whether they should command fire to fall from heaven and devour them; our Lord replied, "You know not of what spirit you are"Lk 9:55.  As if He had said, "I am of so tender and compassionate a spirit that I came from heaven to save and not to chastise sinners, and you wish to see them lost.  Fire, indeed! and punishment!—speak no more of chastisements, for such a spirit is not Mine."  But of Mary, whose spirit is the same as that of Her Son, we can never doubt that She is all-inclined to mercy; for, as She said to St. Bridget, She is called the Mother of Mercy, and it was by God's own mercy that She was made thus compassionate and sweet towards all: "I am called the Mother of Mercy, and truly God's mercy made Me thus merciful."  For this reason Mary was seen by St. John clothed with the sun:  "And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun"Rev 12:1.  "You, O Lady, have clothed the Sun, that is the Eternal Word, with human flesh; but He has clothed You with His power and mercy."  This Queen is so compassionate and benign, that when a sinner, whoever he may be, recommends himself to Her charity, She does not question his merits, or whether he is worthy or unworthy to be attended to, but She hears and helps all.  Mary is said to be "fair as the moon "—Song 6:9.  For as the moon enlightens and benefits the lowest creatures on earth, so does Mary enlighten and help the most unworthy sinners. And though the moon receives all its light from the sun, yet it works quicker than the sun; for what this latter does in a year the moon does in a month.  For this reason we often more quickly obtain what we ask by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus.  Though our sins may cause us to fear to approach the Almighty, because it is His infinite majesty that we have offended, we must never fear to go to Mary, for in Her we shall find nothing to terrify us.  True it is that She is holy, immaculate, and the Queen of the world; but She is also of our flesh, and, like us, a child of Adam.  All that belongs to Mary is filled with grace and mercy, for She, as a Mother of mercy, has made Herself all to all, and out of Her most abundant charity She has made Herself a debtor to the wise and the foolish, to the just and sinners, and opens to all Her compassionate heart, that all may receive of the fullness of its treasures. So much so, that as "the devil goes about seeking whom He may devour"—1 Peter 5:8, so, on the other hand, does Mary go about seeking whom She may save, and to whom She may give life. We should fully understand and always bear in mind that the protection of Mary is greater and more powerful than anything of which we can form an idea. How is it that that Lord Who under the old dispensation was so rigorous in His punishments, now shows such mercy to persons guilty of far greater crimes?  Because, it is all for the love of Mary, and on account of Her merits.  O, how long since, would the world have been destroyed, had not Mary sustained it by Her powerful intercession! But now, that we have the Son as our Mediator with the Eternal Father, and the Mother as a Mediatrix with the Son, we have full access, and can go to God with entire confidence and hope for every good thing.  How can the Father refuse to hear the Son who shows Him His side and wounds, the marks of His sufferings endured for sinners; and how can the Son refuse to hear His Mother when She shows Him Her heart and the breast that gave Him suck? A gentle maiden having lodged God in Her womb. Asks as its price peace for the world, salvation for those who are lost, and life for the dead.         

   O, how many who deserved to be condemned by the justice of the Son, are saved by the mercy of the Mother! For She is God's treasure, and the treasurer of all graces; and thus our salvation is in Her hands, and depends on Her. Let us, then, always have recourse to this compassionate Mother, and confidently hope for salvation through Her intercession; for She is our salvation, our life, our hope, our counsel, our refuge, our help. Mary is that throne of grace to which the Apostle St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, exhorts us to fly with confidence, that we may obtain Divine Mercy, and all the help we need for our salvation. "Let us therefore go with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid"—Heb 4:16.   To the throne of grace, that is, to Mary, and for this reason St. Catherine of Sienna called Mary "the dispenser of Divine Mercy."  Let us conclude with the beautiful and tender exclamation of St. Bonaventure on these words, "O merciful, O compassionate, O sweet Virgin Mary!"  "O Mary, You are clement with the miserable, compassionate towards those who pray to You, sweet towards those who love You; clement with the penitent, compassionate to those who advance, sweet to the perfect.  You show yourself clement in delivering us from chastisement, compassionate in bestowing graces, and sweet in giving yourself to those who seek You." 

EXAMPLE.

A certain unfortunate woman was having illicit relations with 2 young men.  One of these, prompted by jealousy, stabbed the other to death.  Very much frightened by what had happened, the sinful woman went to confession.  She related the following:  After the murder the unfortunate man appeared to her, all black, bound in chains, and surrounded by flames.  He held a sword in his hand with which he attempted to kill her.  Trembling with fear she cried out:  'Why do you wish to kill me?  What have I done to you?'  The man, filled with rage, replied:  'What, you wretch, you ask what you have done!  It is your fault that I have lost my God.'  Immediately the woman called on the Blessed Virgin to help Her, and at the sound of the name of Mary, the apparition vanished.

PRAYER

Mother of Mercy, since You are so compassionate, and have so great a desire to render service to us poor creatures and to grant our requests, behold I, the most miserable of all men, have now recourse to Your compassion, in order that You may grant me that which I ask.  Others may ask what they please of You,—bodily health, and earthly goods and advantages; but I come, O Lady, to ask You for that which You desired of me humility and love of contempt.  You were so patient under the sufferings of this life; obtain for me patience in trials.  You were all filled with the love of God; obtain for me the gift of His pure and holy love.  You were all love towards Your neighbor; obtain for me charity towards all, and particularly towards those who are in any way my enemies.  You were entirely united to the Divine Will; obtain for me entire conformity to the Will of God in whatever way He may be pleased to dispose of me.  You are the most holy of all creatures; O Mary, make me a saint.  Love for me is not wanting on Your part; You can do all, and You have the will to obtain me all.  The only thing, then, that can prevent me from receiving Your graces is, either neglect on my part in having recourse to You, or little confidence in Your intercession; but these 2 things You must obtain for me.  These 2 greatest graces I ask from You; from You I must obtain them; from You I hope for them with the greatest confidence, O Mary, my Mother Mary, my hope, my love, my life, my refuge, my help, and my consolation.  Amen. 

 CHAPTER 10

O SWEET VIRGIN MARY

The Sweetness of the Name of Mary during Life and at Death.

The great name of Mary, which was given to the Heavenly Mother, did not come to Her from Her parents, nor was it given to Her by the mind or will of man, as is the case with all other names that are imposed in this world; but it came from heaven, and was given Her by a divine ordinance.  The name of Mary came from the treasury of the divinity. "Ah, yes, O Mary, it was from that treasury that Your high and admirable name came forth; for the Most Blessed Trinity bestowed on You a name above every other name after that of Your Son, and ennobled it with such majesty and power, that He willed that all heaven, earth, and hell, on only hearing it, should fall down and venerate it. "The whole Trinity, O Mary, gave You a name after that of Your Son above every other name, that in Your name every knee should bend of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth." But among the other privileges of the name of Mary, and which were given to it by God, we will now examine that of the peculiar sweetness found in it by the servants of this most holy Lady during life and in death

    And in the first place, speaking of the course of our life, the  name of Mary is filled with every sweetness and divine savor; so much so, that the glorious St. Anthony of Padua found the same sweetness in the name of Mary that St. Bernard found in that of Jesus.  "Name of Jesus!" exclaimed the one.  "O name of Mary!" replied the other; "joy in the heart, honey in the mouth, melody to the ear of Her devout clients."  It is narrated in the life of the Ven. Father Juvenal Ancina, Bishop of Saluzzo, that in pronouncing the name of Mary He tasted so great and sensible a sweetness, that, after doing so, He licked His lips.  A lady at Cologne told the Bishop Massilius, that as often as She uttered the name of Mary She experienced a taste far sweeter than honey.  The Bishop imitated Her, and experienced the same thing.                   

     We gather from the sacred canticles, that on the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, the angels asked Her name 3 times.  "Who is She who goes up by the desert as a pillar of smoke?"—Song 3:6Again, "Who is She who comes forth as the morning rising?"—Ib. 6:9; and again, "Who is this who comes up from the desert, flowing with delights?"—Ib. 8:5  And why do the angels so often ask the name of their Queen? It was so sweet even to the angels to hear it pronounced, that they desired to hear that sweet name in reply.  But here I do not intend to speak of that sensible sweetness, for it is not granted to all; I speak of that salutary sweetness of consolation, of love, of joy, of confidence, of strength, which the name of Mary ordinarily brings to those who pronounce it with devotion.

     There is no other name after that of the Son, in heaven or on earth, whence pious minds derive so much grace, hope, and sweetness.  After the Most Sacred Name of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much grace, hope, and sweetness.  For there is something so admirable, sweet, and heavenly in this name of Mary, that when it meets with friendly hearts it breathes into them an odor of delightful sweetness.  The wonder of this great name is, that if heard by the lovers of Mary a thousand times, it is always heard again with renewed pleasure, for they always experience the same sweetness each time it is pronounced.     

      The Blessed Henry Suso speaking of this sweetness, says, "that when he named Mary, he felt himself so excited to confidence, and inflamed with such love and joy with which he pronounced the beloved name, he desired that his heart might leave his breast; for he declared that this most sweet name was like a honeycomb dissolving in the inmost recess of the soul;" and then he would exclaim:  "O most sweet name!  O Mary, what must You yourself be, since Your name alone is thus amiable and gracious!"

    "O great! O pious! O You who are worthy of all praise! O most Holy Virgin Mary!  Your name is so sweet and amiable, that it cannot be pronounced without inflaming those who do so with love towards You and God.  It only need occur to the thought of Your lovers to move them to love You more, and to console them. You can not be named without inflaming; You can not be thought of by those who love You without filling their minds with joy. And if riches comfort the poor, because they relieve them in their distress, O how much more does Your name, O Mary, comfort us than any earthly riches!  It comforts us in the anguishes of this life. Your name, O Mary, is far better than riches, because it can better relieve poverty. Your name, O Mother of God, is filled with heavenly graces and blessings. Your name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without bringing some grace to Him who does so devoutly.  However hardened and diffident a heart may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it is only pronounced, that heart will be wonderfully softened. "The power of Your most holy name, O ever-blessed Virgin Mary, is such that it softens the hardness of the human heart in a wonderful manner. By You does the sinner recover the hope of forgiveness and grace. Your most sweet name, O Mary is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of divine grace. Let this ointment of salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls; that is, grant, O Lady, that we may often remember to name You with love and confidence; for this practice either shows the possession of divine grace, or else is a pledge that we shall soon recover it. And truly it is so, O Mary; for the remembrance of Your name comforts the afflicted, recalls those who have erred to the way of salvation, and encourages sinners, that they may not abandon themselves to despair." 

    As Jesus Christ by His 5 Wounds gave a remedy for the evils of the world, so also does Mary, by Her most holy name which is composed of 5 letters, daily bring pardon to sinners.   For this reason is the holy name of Mary likened in the sacred canticles to oil:  " Your name is as oil poured out."  The glory of Her name is compared to oil poured out; because oil heals the sick, sends out a sweet odor, and nourishes flames.   Thus also does the name of Mary heal sinners, rejoice hearts, and inflame them with divine love.  Let sinners have recourse to this great name, because it alone will suffice to cure them of all their evils; and there is so disorder, however malignant, that does not immediately yield to the power of the name of Mary.

     On the other hand, the devils fear the Queen of heaven to such a degree, that only on hearing Her great name pronounced, they fly from him who does so as from a burning fire.  The Blessed Virgin Herself revealed to St. Bridget "that there is not on earth a sinner, however devoid He may be of the love of God, from whom the devil is not obliged immediately to fly, if He invokes Her holy name with a determination to repent." On another occasion She repeated the same thing to the saint, saying, "that all the devils venerate and fear Her name to such a degree, that on hearing it they immediately loosen the claws with which they hold the soul captive."    Our Blessed Lady also told St. Bridget, "that is the same way as the rebel angels fly from sinners who invoke the name of Mary, so also do the good angels approach nearer to just souls who pronounce Her name with devotion."  As breathing is a sign of life, so also is the frequent pronunciation of the name of Mary a sign either of the life of divine grace, or that it will soon come; for this powerful name has in it the virtue of obtaining help and life for him who invokes it devoutly.  "As breathing is a sign of life in the body, so is the frequent repetition of Your most holy name, O Virgin, by Your servants, not only a sign of life and of strength, but also it procures and conciliates both."  This admirable name of our Sovereign Lady is like a fortified tower, in which, if a sinner takes refuge, he will be delivered from death; for it depends and saves even the most abandoned. But it is a tower of strength, which not only delivers sinners from chastisement, but also defends the just from the assaults of hell.  After the Name of Jesus, there is no other in which men find so powerful assistance and salvation as in the great name of Mary.  There is not such powerful help in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon men as from the name of Mary.  Moreover, it is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that Her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity.  "And the Virgin's name was Mary"Lk 1:27.  These 2 words, Mary and Virgin, are joined together by the Evangelist, to denote that the name of this most pure Virgin should always be coupled with the virtue of chastity.  The name of Mary is an indication of chastity, meaning, that when we doubt as to whether we have consented to thoughts against this virtue, if we remember having invoked the name of Mary, we have a certain proof that we have not sinned.

     Let us, therefore, always take advantage of this beautiful advice. In dangers, in perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let Her not leave your lips; let Her not depart from your heart.  In every danger of forfeiting divine grace, we should think of Mary, and invoke Her name, together with that of Jesus; for these 2 Names always go together.  O, then, never let us permit these 2 most sweet Names to leave our hearts, or be off our lips; for they will give us strength not only not to yield, but to conquer all our temptations.

     Consoling indeed are the promises of help made by Jesus Christ to those who have devotion to the name of Mary; for one day in the hearing of St. Bridget, He promised His most holy Mother that He would grant 3 special graces to those who invoke that holy name with confidence: first, that He would grant them perfect sorrow for their sins; secondly, that their crimes should be atoned for; and, thirdly, that He would give them strength to attain perfection, and at length the glory of paradise.  And then our divine Savior added: "For Your words, O My Mother, are so sweet and agreeable to Me, that I cannot deny what You ask."  

     The name of Mary is the key of the gates of heaven, in the hands of those who devoutly invoke it.  And thus it is not without reason that Mary is the salvation of all who call upon Her. Meaning, that to obtain eternal salvation and invoke Her name are synonymous; and the devout invocation of this sweet and holy name leads to the acquisition of superabundant graces in this life, and a very high degree of glory in the next. If then, O brethren, you desire consolation in every labor, have recourse to Mary; invoke the name of Mary, honor Mary, recommend yourselves to Mary, rejoice with Mary, weep with Mary, pray with Mary, walk with Mary, seek Jesus with Mary; in fine, desire to live and die with Jesus and Mary.  By acting thus you will always advance in the ways of God, for Mary will most willingly pray for you, and the Son will most certainly grant all that His Mother asks.  Thus we see that the most holy name of Mary is sweet indeed to Her clients during life, on account of the very great graces that She obtains for them.  But sweeter still will it be to them in death, on account of the tranquil and holy end that it will insure them.

      Let all who assist the dying exhort them to frequently pronounce the name of Mary; for this name of life and hope, when repeated at the hour of death, suffices to put the devils to flight, and to comfort such persons in their sufferings.  The invocation of the Sacred Names of Jesus and Mary is a short prayer which is as sweet to the mind, and as powerful to protect those who use it against the enemies of their salvation, as it is easy to remember.

      "Blessed is the man who loves Your name, O Mary. Yes, truly blessed is he who loves Your sweet name, O Mother of God! Your name is so glorious and admirable, that no one who remembers it has any fears at the hour of death."  Such is its power, that none of those who invoke it at the hour of death fear the assaults of their enemies.  Oh, that we may end our lives as did the Capuchin Father, Fulgentius of Ascoli, who expired singing, "O Mary, O Mary, the most beautiful of creatures! Let us depart together;" or according to the annals of the Order, like Blessed Henry the Cistercian, who expired in the very moment that He was pronouncing the most sweet name of Mary.   Let us then, O devout reader, beg God to grant us, that at death the name of Mary may be the last word on our lips.  "May the last movement of my tongue be to pronounce the name of the Mother of God."   O sweet, O safe is that death which is accompanied and protected by so saving a name; for God only grants the grace of invoking it to those whom He is about to save.

     "O my sweet Lady and Mother, I love You much, and because I love You, I also love Your holy name.  I purpose and hope, with Your assistance, always to invoke it during life and at death.  I ask You, O Mary, for the glory of Your name, to come and meet my soul when it is departing from this world, and to take it in Your arms. Disdain not, O Mary to come then and comfort me with Your presence.  Be my soul's ladder and way to heaven.  Obtain for me the grace of forgiveness and eternal repose. O Mary, our advocate, it is for You to defend Your clients, and to undertake their cause before the tribunal of Jesus Christ."

EXAMPLE

St. Camillus de Lellis urged the members of his community to remind the dying often to utter the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  Such was his custom when assisting people in their last hour.  When he himself came to die he gave an edifying example of confidence in the Holy Names.  When death was approaching, the saint invoked the sweet Names of Jesus and Mary with such tender devotion that all present were inflamed with love for the sacred Names.  With his eyes fixed on the images of Jesus and Mary, and his arms crossed on his breast, an expression of heavenly peace rested on his face when his soul took its flight.  His last words were the sacred Names of Jesus and Mary.

 PRAYER

O great Mother of God and my Mother Mary, it is true that I am unworthy to name You; but You, who love me and desire my salvation, must, notwithstanding the impurity of my tongue, grant that I may always invoke Your most holy and powerful name in my aid, for Your name is the help of the living, and the salvation of the dying.  Ah, most pure Mary, most sweet Mary, grant that henceforth Your name may be the breath of my life.  O Lady, delay not to help me when I invoke You, for in all the temptations which assail me, and in all my wants, I will never cease calling upon You, and repeating again and again, Mary, Mary.  Thus it is that I hope to act during my life, and more particularly at death, that after that last struggle I may eternally praise Your beloved name in heaven, O clement, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary.  Ah, Mary, most amiable Mary, with what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what tenderness, is my soul penetrated in only naming, in only thinking of You!  I thank my Lord and God, who, for my good, has given You a name so sweet and deserving of love, and at the same time so powerful.  But, my sovereign Lady, I am not satisfied with only naming You, I wish to name You with love: I desire that my love may every hour remind me to call on You, so that I may be able to exclaim, "O name of the Mother of God, You are my love."  My own dear Mary, O my beloved Jesus, may Your most sweet Names reign in my heart, and in all hearts.  Grant that I may forget all others to remember, and always invoke, Your lovable Names alone.  Ah!  Jesus my Redeemer, and my Mother Mary, when the moment of death comes when I must breathe forth my soul and leave this world, deign, through Your merits, to grant that I may then pronounce my last words, and that they may be "I love You, O Jesus; I love You, O Mary; to You do I give my heart and my soul."

PART 2

DISCOURSES ON THE FEASTS OF MARY.

DISCOURSE 1

MARY'S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.

Dec. 8.

1

How befitting it was that each of the 3 Divine Persons 

should preserve Mary from Original Sin.

Great indeed was the injury entailed on Adam and all his posterity by his accursed sin; for at the same time that he thereby, for his own great misfortune, lost grace, he also forfeited all the other precious gifts with which he had originally been enriched, and drew down upon himself and all his descendants the hatred of God and an accumulation of evils. But from this general misfortune, God was pleased to exempt that Blessed Virgin whom He had destined to be the Mother of the Second Adam,  Jesus Christ—Who was to repair the evil done by the first. Now, let us see how befitting it was that God, and all 3 Divine Persons, should thus preserve Her from it; that the Father should pre­serve Her as His daughter, the Son as His Mother, and the Holy Spirit as His Spouse.

In the first place, it was befitting that the Eternal Father should preserve Mary from the stain of original sin, because She was His daughter, and His first-born daughter, as She herself declares: "I came out of the Mouth of the Most High, the First-Born be­fore all creatures"—Sir 24:5.For this text is applied to Mary by sacred interpreters, the holy Fathers, and by the Church on the solemnity of Her Conception. For whether She be the first-born inasmuch as She was predestined in the divine decrees, together with the Son, before all creatures, according to the Scotists; or the first-born of grace as the predestined Mother of the Redeemer, after the prevision of sin, accord­ing to the Thomists; nevertheless all agree in calling Her the first-born of God. This being the case, it was quite becoming that Mary should never have been the slave of satan, but only and always pos­sessed by Her Creator; and this She in reality was, as we are assured by Herself: "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His ways"Prov 8:22. Hence She is called the one and only daughter of life. She is the one and only daughter of life, in contradistinction to others who, being born in sin, are daughters of death. Besides this, it was quite becoming that the Eter­nal Father should create Her in His grace, since He destined Her to be the repairer of the lost world, and the Mediatrix of peace between men and God; and, as such she is looked upon and spoken of by the holy Fathers, and in particular by St. John Damas­cene, who thus addresses Her: "O Blessed Virgin, You were born that You might minister to the salvation of the whole world." Noah's ark was a type of Mary; for as, by its means, men were preserved from the deluge, so are we all saved by Mary from the ship­wreck of sin: but with the difference, that in the ark few were saved, and by Mary the whole human race was rescued from death. Therefore, She is called "the new Eve, and the Mother of life;" and not without reason, for the first was the Mother of death, but the most Blessed Virgin was the Mother of true life. Thus she is hailed as the one who has taken away Eve's sorrow being the peacemaker between men and God. Thus the Church prays: “Hail You who are appointed umpire between God and men and the peacemaker and reconciler of the whole world!"

But now, it certainly would not be becoming to choose an enemy to treat of peace with the offended person, and still less an accomplice in the crime it­self.  An enemy cannot un­dertake to appease his judge, who is at the same time the injured party; for if he did, instead of ap­peasing him, he would provoke him to greater wrath. And therefore, as Mary was to be the Mediatrix of peace between men and God, it was of the utmost importance that she should not herself appear as a sinner and as an enemy of God, but that she should appear in all things as a friend, and free from every stain.

Still more was it becoming that God should pre­serve Her from original sin, for He destined Her to crush the head of that infernal serpent, which, by seducing our first parents, entailed death upon all men: and this our Lord foretold: "will put enmities between you and the Woman, and your seed and Her Seed: She shall crush your head"Gen 3:15.But if Mary was to be that valiant woman brought into the world to conquer satan, certainly it was not becoming that he should first conquer Her, and make Her his slave; but it was reasonable that She should be preserved from all stain, and even momentary subjection to Her opponent. The proud spirit endeavored to infect the most pure soul of this Virgin with his venom, as he had already infected the whole human race. But praised and ever blessed be God, Who, in His infinite goodness, pre-endowed Her for this purpose with such great grace, that, remaining always free from any guilt of sin, She was ever able to beat down and confound his pride. For the devil is the head of original sin, this head it was that Mary crushed: for sin never had any entry into the soul of this Blessed Virgin, which was consequently free from all stain. It was becoming that the Blessed Virgin Mary, by whom our shame was to be blotted out, and by whom the devil was to be conquered, should never, even for a moment, have been under his dominion. But, above all, it principally became the Eternal Father to preserve this His daughter unspotted by Adam's sin, because He destined Her to be the Mother of His Only Begotten Son.  She was preordained in the Mind of God, before all creatures, that She might beget God Himself as man. If, then, for no other end, at least for the honor of His Son, Who was God, it was reasonable that the Father should create Mary free from every stain. All things that are ordained for God should be holy and free from stain. Holiness is to be attributed to those things that are ordained for God. Hence when David was planning the Temple of Jerusalem, on a scale of magnificence be­coming God, he said, "For a House is prepared not for man, but for God"1Chron 29:1.How much more reasonable, then, is it not, to suppose that the Sovereign Archi­tect, Who destined Mary to be the Mother of His own Son, adorned Her soul with all most precious gifts, that She might be a dwelling worthy of a God! God, the Artificer of all things, when constructing a worthy dwelling for His Son, adorned it with all attractive graces. And the Holy Church herself, in the following prayer, assures us that God prepared the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin so as to be a worthy dwelling on earth for His Only-Begotten Son: "Al­mighty and Eternal God, You, by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, prepared the body and soul of the glorious Virgin and Mother Mary, that She might become a worthy habitation for Your Son. “We know that a man's highest honor is to be born of noble parents: "And the glory of children are their fathers"Prov 17:6.Hence in the world the reputation of being possessed of only a small fortune, and little learn­ing, is more easily tolerated than that of being of low birth; for, While a poor man may become rich by his industry, an ignorant man learned by study, it is very difficult for a person of humble origin to attain the rank of nobility; but, even should he attain it, his birth can always be made a subject of re­proach to him. How, then, can we suppose that God, Who could cause His Son to be born of a noble Mother by preserving Her from sin, would on the contrary permit Him to be born of one infected by it, and thus enable satan always to reproach Him with the shame of having a Mother who had once been his slave and the enemy of God? No, cer­tainly, the Eternal Father did not permit this; but He well provided for the honor of His Son by preserving His Mother always immaculate, that she might be a Mother becoming such a Son. The Greek Church bears witness to this, saying, "that God, by a singular Providence, caused the most Blessed Virgin to be as perfectly pure from the very first moment of Her existence, as it was fitting that She should be, who was to be the worthy Mother of Christ."

It is a common axiom among theologians that no gift was ever bestowed on any creature with which the Blessed Virgin was not also enriched. Thus, it is certainly not wrong to suppose that that which has evidently been bestowed, even only on a few, was not denied to so great a Virgin.  Therefore, it is reasonable to assert that nothing was ever granted to any saint which did not shine in a much higher degree in Mary from the very first moment of Her existence. And as it is true that there is an infinite difference between the Mother of God and the servants of God, we must certainly suppose, that God conferred privileges of grace in every way greater on His Mother than on His servants. And now, considering this, we ask: was the Wisdom of God unable to form a pure dwelling, and to remove every stain of human nature from it? Perhaps God could not prepare a clean habitation for His Son by preserving it from the common contagion? God could preserve angels in heaven spotless, in the midst of the devas­tation that surrounded them; was He, then, unable to preserve the Mother of His Son and the Queen of angels from the common fall of men? As God could grant Eve the grace to come immaculate into the world, could He not, then, grant the same favor to Mary? Yes indeed! God could do this, and did it; for on every account it was becoming, that that Virgin, on whom the Eter­nal Father intended to bestow His Only-Begotten Son, should be adorned with such purity as not only to exceed that of all men and angels, but ex­ceeding any purity that can be conceived after that of God.   Our Lord had pre­served the soul, together with the body of the Blessed Virgin, in that purity which became Her who was to receive God into Her womb; for, as He is Holy, He only reposes in Holy Places. And thus the Eternal Father could well say to His beloved daughter, "As the lily among thorns, so is My love among the daughters" Song 2:2. My daughter, among all My other daughters, You are as a lily in the midst of thorns; for 'they are all stained with sin, but You were always immaculate, and always My Beloved.

2

In the second place, it was becoming that the Son should preserve Mary from sin, as being His Mother. No man can choose His mother; but should such a thing ever be granted to any one, who is there who, if able to choose a queen, would wish for a slave? If able to choose a noble lady, would he wish for a servant? Or if able to choose a friend of God, would he wish for His enemy? If, then, the Son of God alone could choose a Mother according to His own Heart, His liking, we must con­sider, as a matter of course, that He chose one be­coming God.  The Creator of men becoming man, must have selected Himself a Mother whom He knew became Him. And as it was becoming that the Most Pure God should have a Mother pure from all sin, He created Her spotless. Considering the different degrees of sanctification, the third is that obtained by becoming the Mother of God; and that this sanctification consists in the entire re­moval of original sin. This is what took place in the Blessed Virgin: truly God created Mary such, both as to the eminence of Her nature and the perfection of grace with which He endowed Her, as became Him Who was to be born of Her. Here we may apply the words of the Apostle to the Hebrews: "…it was fitting that we should have such a high priest; holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners" Heb 7:26.It was fitting that our Blessed Redeemer should not only be separated from sin, but also from sinners; for it was necessary that He, Who came to take away sins, should be separated from sinners, as to the fault under which Adam lay. But how could Jesus Christ be said to be separated from sin­ners if He had a Mother who was a sinner?

Christ chose this vessel into which He was about to descend, not of earth, but from heaven; and He consecrated it a Temple of purity for "The first man was of the earth, earthly: the second man from heaven, heavenly"1 Cor 15:47. The Heavenly Mother is not "a heavenly vessel," because Mary was not earthly by nature, but because She was Heavenly by Grace. She was as supe­rior to the angels of heaven in sanctity and purity, as it was becoming that She should be, in whose womb the King of Glory was to dwell. It was not becoming that the King of Glory should repose otherwise than in a choice vessel, exceeding all men and angels in purity. Mary was a clean and an unclean vessel; clean, for She was fair; but unclean, because She was born of a sinner though She was conceived without sin, that the Son might be born of Her without sin. And note these last words, “Mary was conceived without sin that the Divine Son might be born of Her without sin." Not that Jesus Christ could have contracted sin; but that He might not be reproached with even having a mother infected with it, who would con­sequently have been the slave of the devil.

The Holy Spirit says that "the glory of a man is from the honor of his father, and a father without honor is the disgrace of the son"Sirach 3:13.Therefore it was, that Jesus preserved the body of Mary from corruption after death; for it would have redounded to His dishonor had that virginal flesh with which He had clothed Himself be­come the food of worms. Corruption is a disgrace of human nature; and as Jesus was not subject to it, Mary was also exempted; for the flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary. But since the corruption of Her body would have been a disgrace for Jesus Christ, because He was born of Her, how much greater would the disgrace have been, had He been born of a mother whose soul was once infected with the corruption of sin? For not only is it, that the flesh of Jesus is the same as that of Mary, the flesh of our Savior, even after His Resurrection, remained the same that He had taken from His Mother. The flesh of Christ is the flesh of Mary; and though it was glorified by the glory of His Resurrection, yet it remains the same that was taken from Mary. Hence the Flesh of Mary and that of Christ are one; and therefore I consider the glory of the Son as being not so much common to, as one with, that of His Mother. And now if this is true, supposing that the Blessed Virgin was conceived in sin, though the Son could not have contracted its stain, nevertheless His having united flesh to Himself which was once infected with sin, a vessel of uncleanness and sub­ject to satan, would always have been a blot.

Mary was not only the Mother, but the worthy Mother of our Savior. She alone was found worthy to be chosen as the one in whose virginal womb the King of kings should have His first abode.  Before she conceived She was already fit to be the Mother of God.  The Holy Church herself attests that Mary merited to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, saying, "the Blessed Virgin, merited to bear in Her womb Christ our Lord…" The Blessed Vir­gin is said to have merited to bear the Lord of all; not that She merited His Incarnation, but that She merited, by the graces She had received, such a de­gree of purity and sanctity, that She could becom­ingly be the Mother of God; that is to say, Mary could not merit the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, but by Divine Grace, She merited such a de­gree of perfection as to render Her worthy to be the Mother of a God. Her singular sanctity, the effect of grace, merited that She alone should be judged worthy to receive  God. And now, supposing that Mary was worthy to be the Mother of God, "what excellency and what perfection was there that did not become her?  

When God chooses any one for a particular dignity, He renders him fit for it. 

 God, having chosen Mary for His Mother, He also by His grace rendered Her worthy of this highest of all dignities. 

The Blessed Virgin was di­vinely chosen to be the Mother of God, and therefore we cannot doubt that God had fitted Her by His grace for this dignity; and we are assured of it by the angel: "…You have found grace with God, be­hold You shall conceive…"—Lk 1:30,31. The Blessed Virgin never committed any actual sin, not even a venial one. Otherwise, She would not have been a mother worthy of Jesus Christ; for the ignominy of the mother would also have been that of the Son, for He would have had a sinner for His Mother. And now if Mary, on account of a single venial sin, which does not de­prive a soul of Divine Grace, would not have been a mother worthy of God, how much more unworthy would She have been had She contracted the guilt of original sin, which would have made Her an enemy of God and a slave of the devil? And this reflection it was that made St. Augustine utter those memo­rable words, that, "when speaking of Mary for the honor of our Lord, whom She merited to have for Her Son, he would not entertain even the question of sin in Her; for we know, that through Him, Who it is evident was without sin, and Whom She merited to conceive and bring forth, She re­ceived grace to conquer all sin."

Therefore, we must consider it as certain that the Incarnate Word chose Himself a becoming Mother, and one of whom He would not have to be ashamed. He dwelt in a womb which He had created free from all that might be to His dis­honor. It was no shame to Jesus Christ, when He heard Himself contemptuously called by the Jews the Son of Mary, meaning that He was the Son of a poor woman: "Is not His Mother called Mary?"—Matt 13:55.  For He came into this world to give us an example of humility and patience. But, on the other hand, it would undoubtedly have been a disgrace, could He have heard the devil say, "Was not His Mother a sinner? was He not born of a wicked Mother, who was once our slave?" It would even have been unbecoming had Jesus Christ been born of a woman whose body was deformed, or crippled, or possessed by devils: but how much more would it have been so, had He been born of a woman whose soul had been once deformed by sin, and in the possession of satan?

Ah! Indeed, God, Who is Wisdom itself, well knew how to prepare Himself a becoming dwelling, in which to reside on earth: "Wisdom has built herself a house"—Prov 9:1.The Most High has sanctified His own tabernacle; to render Her worthy of Himself; for it was not becoming that a holy God should choose Himself a dwelling that was not holy;  "Holiness becomesYourHouse"—Ps 93:5.And if God declares that " wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul nor dwell in a body subject to sin"—Wis 1:4,how can we ever think that the Son of God chose to dwell in the soul and body of Mary, without having previously sanctified and preserved it from ever stain of sin? For the Eternal Word dwelt not only in the soul of Mary, but even in Her womb. The holy Church sings: "You, O Lord have not disdained to dwell in the Virgin's womb. “Yes, for He would have disdained to have taken flesh in the womb of an Agnes, a Gertrude, a Teresa, because these vir­gins, though holy, were nevertheless for a time stained with original sin; but He did not disdain to become Man in the womb of Mary, because this be­loved Virgin was always pure and free from the least shadow of sin, and was never possessed by the infernal serpent. And therefore the Son of God never made Himself a more worthy dwelling than Mary, who was never pos­sessed by the enemy, or despoiled of Her orna­ments. On the other hand, whoever heard of an architect who built himself a temple, and yielded up the first possession of it to his greatest enemy? Yes, the Lord Who commanded us to honor our parents would not do otherwise, when He be­came Man, than observe it, by giving His Mother every grace and honor. He Who said, Honor your father and your mother, that He might observe His own decree, gave all grace and honor to His Mother. Therefore, we must certainly believe that Jesus Christ preserved the body of Mary from corruption after death; for if He had not done so, He would not have observed the law, which, at the same time that it commands us to honor our mother, forbids us to show Her disrespect. But how little would Jesus have guarded His Mother's honor, had He not pre­served Her from Adam's sin! Certainly that son would sin, who, having it in his power to preserve his mother from original sin, did not do so; but that which would be a sin in us, must certainly be considered unbecoming in the Son of God, Who, while He could make His Mother immaculate, did  not do so. "Ah, no, since You, the Supreme Prince, chose to have a Mother, certainly You owe Her honor. But now if You permitted Her, who was to be the dwelling of all purity, to be in the abomination of original sin, certainly it would ap­pear that that law was not well fulfilled. "

Moreover, we know, that the Divine Son came into the world more to redeem Mary than all other creatures. There are 2 means by which a person may be re­deemed; the one by raising him up after having fallen, and the other by preventing him from falling.  This last means is doubtless the most honorable. He is more hon­orably redeemed, who is prevented from falling, than he who after falling is raised up; for thus the injury or stain is avoided which the soul always contracts by falling. This be­ing the case, we ought certainly to believe that Mary was redeemed in the more honorable way, and the one which became the Mother of God; for it is to be believed that the Holy Spirit, as a very special favor, re­deemed and preserved Her from original sin by a new kind of sanctification, and this in the very moment of Her conception; not that sin was in Her, but that it otherwise would have been. Others had Jesus as a liberator, but to the most Blessed Virgin He was a Pre-liberator; meaning, that all others had a Re­deemer Who delivered them from sin with which they were already defiled, but that the most Blessed Virgin had a Redeemer Who, because He was Her Son, preserved Her from ever being defiled by it.

To conclude this point, "the tree is known by its fruit"—Matt 12:33. If the Lamb was always immaculate, the Mother must also have been always immaculate. Such the Lamb, such the Mother of the Lamb; for the tree is known by its fruit. Hence we sa­lute Mary, saying: "O worthy Mother of a worthy Son;…" meaning, that no other than Mary was wor­thy to be the Mother of such a Son, and no other than Jesus was a worthy Son of such a Mother. "O fair Mother of beauty itself, O high Mother of the Most High, O Mother of God! “Let us thus address this most Blessed Mother, "Suckle, O Mary, Your Creator, give milk to Him Who made You, and Who made You such that He could be made of You. “Thus, it was becoming that the Father should preserve Mary from sin as His daughter, and the Son as His Mother, it was also becoming that the Holy Spirit should preserve Her as His spouse.

Mary was that only one who merited to be called the Mother and Spouse of God. For the Divine Spirit, the love itself of the Father and the Son, came corporally into Mary, and enriching Her with graces above all creatures, reposed in Her and made Her His Spouse, the Queen of heaven and earth. He came into Her corporally, that is, as to the effect: for He came to form of Her immaculate body the immaculate body of Jesus Christ, as the Archangel had already predicted to Her: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you"—Lk 1:35.And therefore it is, that Mary is called the Temple of the Lord, and the sacred resting-place of the Holy Spirit for by the operation of the Holy Spirit, She became the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

And now had an excellent artist the power to make his bride such as he could represent her, what pains would he not take to render her as beautiful as possible! Who, then, can say that the Holy Spirit did otherwise with Mary, when He could make Her who was to be His spouse as beautiful as it became Him that She should be? Ah no! He acted as it be­came Him to act; for this same Lord Himself de­clares: "You are all fair. O My love, and there is nota spot in You"—Song 4:7.These words are properly to be understood of Mary, and they are to be understood precisely as ap­plying to Her Immaculate Conception. Thus we address Her, saying, "You are all fair, O most glorious Virgin, not in part, but wholly; and no stain of mortal, venial, or original sin is in You."  The Holy Spirit signified the same thing when He called this His spouse an enclosed garden and a sealed fountain:  "My sister, My spouse, is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up"—Song 4:12. Mary was this enclosed garden and sealed fountain, into which no guile could enter, against which no fraud of the enemy could prevail, and who always was holy in mind and body. "You are an enclosed garden, into which the sinner's hand has never entered to pluck its flowers." 

We know that this Divine Spouse loved Mary more than all the other saints and angels put to­gether. He loved Her from the very beginning, and exalted Her in sanctity above all oth­ers, as it is expressed by David: "The foundations thereof are in the holy mountains: the Lord loves the gates of Zion above all the taber­nacles of Jacob...a Man is born in Her, and the High­est Himself has founded Her"—Ps 87:1.Words which all sig­nify that Mary was holy from Her conception. The same thing is signified by other passages addressed to Her by the Holy Spirit. In Proverbs we read: "Many daughters have gathered together riches: You have surpassed them all"—Prov 31:29. If Mary has surpassed all others in the riches of grace, She must have had original justice, as Adam and the angels had it. In the Canticles we read, "There are...young maidens without number. One is My dove, My perfect one (in the Hebrew it is my entire, my immaculate one)is but one, She is the only one of Her mother"—Song 6:7. All just souls are daughters of divine grace; but among these Mary was the dove without the gall of sin, the perfect one without spot in Her origin, the one con­ceived in grace.

Hence it is that the angel, before She became the Mother of God, already found Her full of grace, and thus saluted her, Hail, Full of Grace.  Grace is given partially to other saints, but to the Blessed Virgin all was given. So much so, that grace not only rendered the soul, but even the flesh of Mary holy, so that this Blessed Virgin might be able to clothe the Eternal Word with it. Now all this leads us to the conclusion that Mary, from the moment of Her conception, was enriched and filled with divine grace by the Holy Spirit. The plenitude of grace was in Her; for from the very moment of Her conception the whole grace of the Divinity overflowed upon Her, by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hence the Holy Spirit was about to bear Her off entirely to Himself, who was chosen and pre-elected by God. "To bear her off," to denote the holy velocity of the Di­vine Spirit in being beforehand in making this Spouse His own before satan should take posses­sion of Her.

  CONCLUSION

I wish to conclude this discourse, which I have prolonged beyond the limits of the others, because our Congregation has this Blessed Virgin Mary, precisely under the title of Her Immaculate Conception, for its principal Patroness.  I say that I wish to conclude by giving in as few words as possible the reasons which make me feel certain, and which, in my opinion, ought to convince every one of the truth of so pious a belief, and which is so glorious for the Heavenly Mother, that is, that She was free from original sin.

            There are many Doctors who maintain that Mary was exempted from contracting even the debt of sin.  And this opinion is also probable; for if it is true that the wills of all men were included in that of Adam, as being the head of all, and this opinion is founded on the doctrine of St. Paul, contained in Romans 5:12.  If this opinion, I say, is probable, it is also probable that Mary did not contract the debt of sin; for while God distinguished Her from the common of men by so many graces, it ought to be piously believed that He did not include Her will in that of Adam.

            This opinion is only probable, and I adhere to it as being more glorious for my sovereign Lady.  But I consider the opinion that Mary did not contract the sin of Adam as certain: and it is considered so, and even as proximately definable as an article of faith.  I omit, however, the revelations which confirm this belief, particularly those of St. Bridget, which were approved of 4 Sovereign Pontiffs, and which are found in various parts of the sixth book of Her Revelations. 

            But on no account can I omit the opinions of the holy Fathers on this subject, whereby to show their unanimity in conceding this privilege to the Heavenly Mother. …  "Receive me not from Sarah, but from Mary; that it may be an uncorrupted Virgin, a Virgin free by grace from every stain of sin." …  "She was not infected by the venomous breath of the serpent."   … "She was immaculate, and remote from all stain of sin." …   (on the words "Hail, full of grace,") "By these words the angel shows that She was altogether (remark the word 'altogether') excluded from the wrath of the first sentence, and restored to the full grace of blessing." …  "that cloud was never in darkness, but always in light" …  "Nor did justice endure that that vessel of election should be open to common injuries; for being far exalted above others, She partook of their nature, not of their sin." … "He who formed the first Virgin without deformity, also made the second one without spot or sin." …  "the Virgin is therefore called immaculate, for in nothing was She corrupt."  …  "it is evident that She was free from original sin." …  "the serpent never had any access to this paradise."  …  "the flesh of the Virgin, taken from Adam, did not admit of the stain of Adam. " …  "that Mary is that uncorrupted earth which God blessed, and was therefore free from all contagion of sin. " …  "that our Sovereign Lady was full of preservative grace for Her sanctification; that is,  against the corruption of original sin." …  "it is not to be believed that He, the Son of God, would be born of a Virgin, and take Her flesh, were She in the slightest degree stained with original sin."  …  "She was prevented in blessings from Her very conception."  … (On the words, You have found grace) "You have found a singular grace, O most sweet Virgin, that of preservation from original sin." .  And many other Doctors speak in the same sense. (Church fathers cited have been deleted in this condensed internet edition by the editor along with the long winded Latin translations and quoted sources which can be found in other editions on the internet) 

But, finally, there are 2 arguments that conclusively prove the truth of this pious belief. The first of these is the universal concurrence of the faithful.  All the religious Orders follow this opinion. But that which above all should persuade us that our pious belief is in accordance with the general sentiment of Catholics, is that we are assured of it in the celebrated bull of Alexander VII, Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, published in 1661, in which He says, "This devotion and homage towards the Mother of God was again increased and propagated, . . . so that the universities having adopted this opinion" (that is, the pious one) "already nearly all Catholics have embraced it."  And in fact this opinion is defended in Catholic universities, in which all who take their degrees are obliged to swear that they will defend the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception.  The general sentiment of the faithful is also a convincing argument, which cannot do otherwise than convince; for, in fact, if nothing else does, the general consent of the faithful makes us certain of the sanctification of Mary in Her mother's womb, and of Her Assumption, in body and soul, into heaven.  Why, then, should not the same general feeling and belief, on the part of the faithful, also make us certain of Her Immaculate Conception?

The second reason, and which is stronger than the first, that convinces us that Mary was exempt from original sin, is the celebration of Her Immaculate Conception commanded by the universal Church.  And on this subject I see, on the one hand, that the Church celebrates the first moment in which Her soul was created and infused into Her body: for this was declared by Alexander VII, in the above-named bull, in which He says that the Church gives the same worship to Mary in Her Conception, which is given to Her by those who hold the pious belief that She was conceived without original sin.  On the other hand, I hold it as certain, that the Church cannot celebrate anything which is not holy, according to the doctrine of the holy Pope St. Leo, and that of the Sovereign Pontiff St. Eusebius: "In the Apostolic See the Catholic religion was always preserved spotless."  All theologians agree on this point.  The Church celebrates the nativity of the Blessed Virgin; but a feast is celebrated only for a saint: therefore the Blessed Virgin was sanctified in Her mother's womb.  But if it is certain, that Mary was sanctified in Her mother's womb, because it is only on that supposition that the Church can celebrate Her nativity, why are we not to consider it as equally certain that Mary was preserved from original sin from the first moment of Her conception, knowing as we do that it is in this sense that the Church Herself celebrates the feast?

Finally, in confirmation of this great privilege of Mary, we may be allowed to add the well-known innumerable and prodigious graces that our Lord is daily pleased to dispense throughout the kingdom of Naples, by means of the pictures of Her Immaculate Conception*. (*These effects of the divine mercy have shone forth in a no less wonderful manner in France and elsewhere, especially in 1832 and during the following years, by means of the miraculous medal of which every one has heard.  Since the time when St. Alphonsus wrote this discourse, the devotion to "Mary conceived without sin" continued to grow throughout the Catholic world, being sustained and favored more and more by the Holy See, and by the signal marks of Her heavenly protection.  Finally, yielding to the multiplied solicitations of the Bishops, of the clergy, of the religious Orders, of the reigning sovereigns, and of the laity, Pope Pius IX, during the Pontifical  Mass celebrated in the Basilica of the Vatican, December 8, 1854, in the presence of the bishops assembled from all parts of the world, solemnly pronounced the decree by which He defined as an article of faith, that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been protected and preserved from every stain of original sin from the first instant of Her conception, in accordance with the text the Bull published the following day. This glorious event was hailed at Rome, as well as by the whole world, with extraordinary demonstrations of joy and gratitude.  What pleasure, what delight must it have given in heaven to our saint, who during His life here below labored with so much zeal to bring about such a declaration, and who protested with an oath, as we see in the prayer that concludes this discourse, that He was ready to shed His Blood in so beautiful a cause!—ED.)  I could refer to many which passed, so to say, through the hands of Fathers of our own Congregation; but I will content myself with 2 which are truly admirable.

EXAMPLES

A woman came to a house of our little Congrega­tion in this kingdom to let one of the Fathers know that her husband had not been to confession for many years, and the poor creature could no longer tell by what means to bring him to his duty; for if she named confession to him, he beat her. The Fa­ther told her to give him a picture of Mary Im­maculate. In the evening the woman once more begged her husband to go to confession; but has usual turned a deaf ear to her entreaties. She gave him the picture. Behold! He had scarcely received it, when he said, "Well, when will you take me to confession, for I am willing to go?" The wife, on seeing this instantaneous change, began to weep for joy. In the morning he really came to our church, and when the Father asked him how long it was since he had been to confession, he answered, "28 years." The Father again asked him what had induced him to come that morning. "Fa­ther, he said, "I was obstinate; but last night my wife gave me a picture of our Blessed Lady, and in the same moment I felt my heart changed, so much so, that during the whole night every moment seemed a thousand years, so great was my desire to go to confession." He then confessed his sins with great contrition, changed his life, and continued for a long time to go frequently to confession to the same Father.

In another place, in the diocese of Salerno, in which we were giving a mission, there was a man who bore. a great hatred to another who had of­fended him. One of our Fathers spoke to him that he might be reconciled; but he answered: "Father, did you ever see me at the sermons? No, and for this very reason, I do not go. I know that I am damned; but nothing else will satisfy me, I must have revenge." The Father did all that he could to convert him; but seeing that he lost his time, he said, "Here, take this picture of our Blessed Lady." '1'he man at first replied, "But what is the use of this picture?" But no sooner had he taken it, than, as if he had never refused to be reconciled, he said to the missionary, "Father, is anything else required be­sides reconciliation?—I am willing." The following morning was fixed for it. When, however, the time came, he had again changed, and would do noth­ing. The Father offered him another picture, but he refused it; but at length, with great reluctance, took it, when, behold! he scarcely had possession of it than he immediately said, "Now let us be quick; where is Mastrodati?" and he was instantly recon­ciled with him, and then went to confession.

PRAYER

Ah, my Immaculate Lady! I rejoice with You on seeing you enriched with so great purity. I thank, and resolve always to thank, our common Creator for having preserved You from every stain of sin; and I firmly believe this doctrine, and am prepared to defend this Your so great and singu­lar privilege of being conceived immaculate. I would that the whole world knew You and ac­knowledged You as being that beautiful "Dawn" which was always illumined with divine light; as that chosen "Ark" of salvation, free from the com­mon shipwreck of sin; that perfect and immaculate "Dove" which Your Divine Spouse declared you to be that "enclosed Garden" which was the delight of God; that "sealed Fountain" whose waters were never troubled by an enemy; and finally, as that" white Lily," which You are, and who, though born in the midst of the thorns of the children of Adam, all of whom are conceived in sin, and the enemies of God, were alone conceived pure and spotless, and in all things the beloved of Your Creator. Permit me, then, to praise You also as Your God Himself has praised You: "You are all fair, and there is not a spot in you.' O most pure Dove, all fair, all beautiful, always the friend of God. "O how beautiful are You, My beloved! how beautiful are You"—Song 4:7. Ah, most sweet, most amiable, immaculate Mary, You who are so beautiful in the Eyes of Your Lord,—ah, disdain not to cast Your compassionate eyes on the wounds of my soul, loathsome as they are. Behold me, pity me, heal me. O beautiful loadstone of hearts, draw also my miserable heart to Yourself. O You, who from the first moment of Your life appeared pure and beautiful before God, pity me, who not only was born in sin, but have again since baptism stained my soul with crimes. What grace will God Who chose You for His daughter, His Mother, and Spouse, and therefore preserved You from even, stain, and in His love preferred You to all other creatures ever refuse You? Immaculate Virgin, You have to save me. Grant that I may always remember You; please never forget me.  The happy day, when I shall go to behold Your beauty in Paradise, seems a thousand years off; so much do I long to praise and love You more than I can now do my Mother, my Queen, my Beloved, most beautiful, most sweet, most pure Immaculate  Mary.  Amen.

DISCOURSE 2

THE BIRTH OF MARY.

September 8

Mary was born a saint, and a great saint; for the

grace with which God enriched Her from the beginning was great, and

the fidelity with which She immediately corresponded to it was great

Men usually celebrate the birth of their children with great feasts and rejoicings; but they should rather pity them, and show signs of mourning and grief on reflecting that they are born, not only de­prived of grace and reason, but worse than this, they are infected with sin and are children of wrath, and therefore condemned to misery and death. It is indeed right, however, to celebrate with festivity and universal joy the birth of our infant Mary; for she first saw the light of this World a babe, it is true, in point of age, but great in merit and virtue. Mary was born a saint, and a great saint. But to form an idea of the greatness of Her sanctity, even at this early period, we must consider, first, the greatness of the first grace with which God enriched Her; and secondly, the greatness of Her fidelity in immediately corresponding to it.

1

To begin with the first point, it is certain that Mary's soul was the most beautiful that God had ever created: nay more, after the work of the Incar­nation of the Eternal Word, this was the greatest and most worthy of Himself that an omnipotent God ever did in the world. It was truly a work only surpassed by God. Hence it follows that divine grace did not come into Mary by drops as in other saints, "but like rain on the grass"—Ps 72:6, as it was foretold by David. The soul of Mary imbibed the whole shower of grace, without losing a drop. The holy Virgin was Full of Grace, because She was elected and pre-elected by God, and the Holy Spirit was about to take full possession of Her. Hence She said, by the lips of Sirach, "My abode is in the full assembly of saints"—Sir 24:16, that is, She held in plenitude all that other saints have held in part. And considering the sanctity of Mary before Her birth, the Blessed Virgin was sanctified (surpassed in sanctity) in Her mother's womb above all saints and angels. The grace that the Blessed Virgin received ex­ceeded not only that of each particular saint, but of all the angels and saints put together. This opinion, so glorious for our Queen, is now generally recognized, and considered as beyond doubt by modern theologians who have professedly exam­ined the question, and this was never done by the more ancient theologians. But if this opinion is general and certain, the other is also very probable; namely, that Mary re­ceived this grace, exceeding that of all men and an­gels together, in the first instance of Her Immaculate Conception. But besides the authority of theologians, there are 2 great and convincing arguments, which sufficiently prove the correctness of the above-mentioned opinion.

1 The first is, that Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of the Divine Word. Hence,  as She was chosen to an order superior to that of all other creatures (for in a certain sense the dignity of Mother of God, belongs to the order of hypo­static union), it is reasonable to suppose that from the very beginning of Her life gifts of a superior or­der were conferred upon Her, and such gifts as must have incomparably surpassed those granted to all other creatures. And indeed it cannot be doubted that when the Person of the Eternal Word was, in the divine decrees, predestined to make Himself Man, a Mother was also destined for Him, from whom He was to take His human nature; and this Mother was our infant Mary. Now, God gives every one grace propor­tioned to the dignity for which He destines him. St. Paul teaches us the same thing when he says, "Who also has made us fit ministers of the New Testament"—2 Cor 3:6; that is, the apostles received gifts from God, proportioned to the greatness of the office with which they were charged. It is an axiom in theology, that when a person is chosen by God for any state, he receives not only the dispositions necessary for it, but even the gifts which he needs to sustain that state with decorum. But as Mary was chosen to be the Mother of God, it was quite becoming that God should adorn Her, in the first moment of Her exis­tence, with an immense grace, and one of a superior order to that of all other men and angels, since it had to correspond to the immense and most high dignity to which God exalted Her. The Blessed Virgin was chosen to be the Mother of God; and therefore it is not to be doubted that God fitted Her for it by His grace; so much so that Mary, before becoming Mother of God, was adorned with a sanctity so perfect that it rendered Her fit for this great dignity. In the Blessed Virgin there was a preparatory perfection, which rendered Her fit to be the Mother of Christ, and this was the perfection of sanctification.

Mary was called Full of Grace, not on the part of grace itself, for She had it not in the highest possible degree, since even the habitual grace of Jesus Christ was not such, that the absolute power of God could not have made it greater, although it was a grace sufficient for the end for which His Hu­manity was ordained by Divine Wisdom, that is, for its union with the Person of the Eternal Word, Although divine power could make something greater and better than the habitual grace of Christ, it could. not fit it for anything greater than the per­sonal union with the Only-Begotten Son of the Fa­ther, and to which union that measure of grace suf­ficiently corresponds, according to the limit placed by Divine Wisdom. Divine power is so great, that, how­ever much it gives, it can always give more; and al­though the natural capacity of creatures is in itself limited as to receiving, so that it can be entirely filled, nevertheless its power to obey the divine will is unlimited, and God can always fill it more by in­creasing its capacity to receive. As far as its natu­ral capacity goes, it can be filled; but it cannot be filled as far as its power of obeying goes. But now to return to our proposition, the Blessed Virgin was not filled with grace, as to grace itself, nevertheless She is called Full of Grace as to Herself, for She had an immense grace, one which was Sufficient, and corresponded to Her immense dignity, so much so that it fitted Her to be the Mother of God:  The Blessed Virgin is full of grace, not with the fullness of grace itself, for She had not grace in the highest degree of excellence in which it can be had, nor had She it as to all its ef­fects; but She was said to be Full of Grace as to Her­self, because She had sufficient grace for that state to which She was chosen by God, that is, to be the Mother of His Only-Begotten Son. Hence, the measure whereby we may know the greatness of the grace communicated to Mary is Her dignity of Mother of God.

It was not without reason, then, that David said that the foundations of this city of God, that is, Mary, are planted above the summits of the moun­tains: "The foundations thereof are in the holy moun­tains"—Ps 87:1.Whereby we are to understand that Mary, in the very beginning of Her life, was to be more per­fect than the united perfections of the entire lives of the saints could have made Her. And the Prophet continues: "The Lord loves the gates of Zion above all the tabernacles of Jacob." And the same king David tells us why God thus loved her; it was be­cause he was to become man in her virginal womb: "A man is born in her". Hence it was becoming that God should give this Blessed Virgin, in the very moment that He created Her, a grace corresponding to the dignity of Mother of God.

Isaiah signified the same thing, when he said that, in a time to come, a mountain of the house of the Lord (which was the Blessed Virgin) was to be pre­pared on the top of all other mountains; and that, in consequence, all nations would run to this moun­tain to receive Divine Mercies. "And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be ex­alted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it"—Is 2:2. It is a mountain on the top of mountains; for the perfec­tion of Mary is resplendent above that of all the saints. It is "a mountain in which God was well pleased to dwell"—Ps 68:17. Therefore Mary was called a cypress, but a cypress of Mount Zion: She was called a cedar, but a cedar of Lebanon, an olive tree, but a fair olive tree; (Sir 24:17,19) beautiful, but beautiful as the sun; (Song 6:9) for as  the light of the sun so greatly surpasses that of the stars, that in it they are no longer visible; it so overwhelms them, that they are as if they were not, so does the great Virgin Mother surpass in sanctity the whole court of heaven.

2. The second argument by which it is proved that Mary was more holy in the first moment of Her existence than all the saints together, is founded on the great office of mediatrix of men, with which She was charged from the beginning; and which made it necessary that She should possess a greater treasure of grace from the beginning than all other men together. It is well known with what unanim­ity theologians and holy Fathers give Mary this title of mediatrix, on account of Her having obtained salvation for all, by Her powerful intercession and Her merit "of congruity," thereby procuring the great benefit of redemption for the lost world. I say by Her merit of congruity, for Jesus Christ Alone is our Mediator by Way of Justice and by Merit, He having offered His merits to the Eternal Father, Who accepted them for our salvation. Mary, on the other hand, is a mediatrix of grace, by way of simple intercession and merit of congruity, She having offered to God, Her mer­its, for the salvation of all men; and God, as a fa­vor, accepted them With the Merits of Jesus Christ. On this account,  She effected our salvation in common with Christ. Mary desired, sought, and obtained the salvation of all; nay, even She effected the salvation of all. So that every­thing good, and every gift in the order of grace, which each of the saints received from God, Mary obtained for them. And the holy Church wishes us to understand this, when She honors the heavenly Mother by apply­ing the following verses of Sirach to her: "In Me is all grace of the way and the truth"—Sir 24:24. "Of the way," because by Mary all graces are dispensed to wayfarers. "Of the truth," because the light of truth is imparted by Her. "In Me is all hope of life and of virtue"—Sir 24:24. "Of life," for by Mary we hope to obtain the life of grace in this world, and that of glory in heaven. "And of virtue," for through Her we ac­quire virtues, and especially the theological virtues, which are the principal virtues of the saints. I am the Mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowl­edge, and of holy hope. Mary, by Her intercession, obtains for Her servants the gifts of divine love, holy fear, heavenly light, and holy perseverance. From which it is a doctrine of the Church that Mary is the universal Mediatrix of our salvation. "Magnify the finder of grace, the Mediatrix of salvation, the restorer of ages. This I am taught by the Church proclaiming it; and thus also she teaches me to proclaim the same thing to others." The reason for which the Archangel Gabriel called Her Full of Grace, Hail, Full of Grace! was be­cause only limited grace was given to others, but it was given to Mary in all its plenitude. Truly was She full; for grace is given to other saints partially, but the whole plenitude of grace poured itself into Mary. She re­ceived this plenitude that She might thus be a wor­thy Mediatrix between men and God "Hail Full of Grace, mediates between God and men, and by whom heaven and earth are brought together and united. “otherwise, had not the Blessed Virgin been full of divine grace, how could She have become the ladder to heaven, the advocate of the world, and the most true Mediatrix between men and God. The second argument has now become clear and evident. If Mary, as the already destined Mother of our common Redeemer, received from the very beginning the office of Mediatrix of all men, and con­sequently even of the saints, it was also requisite from the very beginning She should have a grace ex­ceeding that of all the saints for whom She was to intercede. I will explain myself more clearly. If, by the means of Mary, all men were to render them­selves dear to God, necessarily Mary was more holy and more dear to Him than all men together. Oth­erwise, how could She have interceded for all oth­ers? That an intercessor may obtain the favor of a prince for all his vassals, it is absolutely necessary that he should be more dear to his prince than all the other vassals. And therefore, Mary deserved to be made the worthy repairer of the lost world, because She was the most holy and the most pure of all creatures. The pure sanctity of Her heart, surpassing the purity and sanctity of all other creatures, merited for Her that She should be made the repairer of the lost world.

Mary, then, was the Mediatrix of men; it may be asked, but how can She be called also the Mediatrix of angels? Many theologians maintain that Jesus Christ merited the grace of perseverance for the angels also; so that as Jesus was their mediator de condigno, so also Mary may be said to be the Mediatrix even of the angels de congruo, She hav­ing hastened the coming of the Redeemer by Her prayers. At least meriting de congruo to become the Mother  of the Messiah, She merited for the angels that the thrones lost by the devils should be filled up. Thus She at least merited this accidental glory for them; and therefore, by Her every creature is repaired; by Her the ruin of the angels is remedied; and by Her, human nature is reconciled. And before Him, all things are recalled and reinstated in their primitive state by this Blessed Virgin. Let us conclude that our heavenly child, because She was appointed Mediatrix of the world, as also because She was destined to be the Mother of the Redeemer, received, at the very beginning of Her ex­istence, grace exceeding in greatness that of all the saints together. Hence, how delightful a sight must the beautiful soul of this happy child have been to heaven and earth, although still enclosed in Her mother's womb! She was the most amiable creature in the Eyes of God, because She was already loaded with grace and merit, and could say, "When I was a little one I pleased the Most High." And She was at the same time the creature above all others that had ever appeared in the world up to that moment, who loved God the most; so much so, that had Mary been born immediately after Her most pure conception, She would have come into the world richer in merits, and more holy, than all the saints united. Then let us only reflect how much greater Her sanctity must have been at Her nativity; coming into the world after acquiring all the merits that She did acquire during the whole of the 9 months that She remained in the womb of Her mother.

2

Now let us pass to the consideration of the second point, that is to say, the greatness of the fidelity with which Mary immediately corresponded to di­vine grace. It is not a private opinion only, but it is the opinion of all, that the holy child, when She received sancti­fying grace in the womb of St Anne, received also the perfect use of Her reason, and was also divinely enlightened in a degree corresponding to the grace with which She was enriched. So that we may well believe, that from the first moment that Her beauti­ful soul was united to Her most pure body, She, by the light She had received from the Wisdom of God, knew well the eternal truths, the beauty of virtue, and above all, the infinite goodness of God; and how much He deserved to be loved by all, and par­ticularly by Herself, on account of the singular gifts with which He had adorned and distinguished Her above all creatures, by preserving Her from the stain of original sin, by bestowing on Her so immense grace, and destining Her to be the Mother of the Eternal Word, and Queen of the universe.** The Blessed Virgin had, however, no explicit knowledge of Her sublime destiny, as may be seen in the 2 following discourses.—ED.

Hence from that first moment Mary, grateful to God, began to do all that She could do, by immedi­ately and faithfully trafficking with that great capi­tal of grace which had been bestowed upon Her; and applying Herself entirely to please and love the Di­vine Goodness, from that moment She loved Him with all Her strength, and continued thus to love Him always, during the whole of the 9 months preceding Her birth, during which She never ceased for a moment to unite Herself more and more closely with God by fervent acts of love. She was already free from original sin, and hence was ex­empt from every earthly affection, from every ir­regular movement, from every distraction, from every opposition on the part of the senses, which could in any way have hindered Her from always advancing more and more in Divine Love: Her senses also concurred with Her blessed spirit in tending towards God. Hence Her beautiful soul, free from every impediment, never lingered, but always flew towards God, always loved Him, and always in­creased in love towards Him.

It was for this reason that She called Herself a plane tree, planted by flowing waters: "As a plane tree by the waters...was I exalted. "Sir 24:19.  For She was the noble plant of God which always grew by the streams of divine grace. And therefore She also calls Herself a vine. "As a vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor"—Ib. 23.  Not only because She was so humble in the eyes of the world, but because She was like the vine, which, according to the common proverb, "never ceases to grow." Other trees—the orange tree, the mulberry, the pear tree—have a deter­mined height, which they attain; but the vine al­ways grows, and grows to the height of the tree to which it is attached. And thus did the most Blessed Virgin always grow in perfection. "Hail, then, O vine, always growing; “for She was always united to God, on Whom alone She depended. Hence it was of Her that the Holy Spirit spoke, saying, Who is this who comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon Her Beloved? —Song 8:5, which we thus para­phrase: "She it is who comes up, clinging to the Eternal Word, as a vine to a vine stock. Who is this accompanied by the Divine Word, that grows as a vine planted against a great tree? " Many learned theologians say that a soul that possesses a habit of virtue, as long as it corresponds faithfully to the actual grace which it receives from God, always produces an act equal in intensity to the habit it possesses; so much so that it acquires each time, a new and double merit, equal to the sum of all the merits previously acquired. This kind of argumentation was, it is said, granted to the angels in the time of their probation; and if it was granted to the angels, who can ever deny that it was granted o the heavenly Mother when living in this world, and especially during the time of which I speak, that she was in the womb of Her mother, in which She was certainly more faithful than the angels in corresponding to divine grace? Mary, then, during the whole of that time, in each moment, doubled that sublime grace which She possessed from the first in­stant; for, corresponding to Her whole strength, and In the most perfect manner in Her every act, She subsequently doubled Her merits in every instance. So that supposing She had a thousand degrees of grace in the first instance, in the second She had 2,000, in the third, 4,000, in the fourth, 8,000, in the fifth, 16,000, in the sixth, 32,000. And we are as yet only at the sixth instance; but multiplied thus for an en­tire day, multiplied for 9 months, consider what treasures of grace, merit, and sanctity Mary had al­ready acquired at the moment of Her birth!

Let us, then, rejoice with our beloved infant, who was born so holy, so dear to God, and so full of grace. And let us rejoice, not only on Her account, but also on our own; for She came into the world Full of Grace, not only for Her own glory, but also for our good. St. Thomas remarks, in his eighth treatise, that the most Blessed Virgin was full of grace in 3 ways: first, She was filled with grace as to Her soul, so that from the beginning Her beautiful soul belonged all to God. Secondly, She was filled with grace as to Her body, so that She merited to clothe the Eternal Word with Her most pure flesh. Thirdly, She was filled with grace for the benefit of all, so that all men might partake of it: "She was also full of grace as to its overflowing for the benefit of all men." The angelical Doctor adds, that some Saints have so much grace that it is not only sufficient for themselves, but also for the sal­vation of many, though not for all men: only to Je­sus Christ and to Mary was such a grace given as sufficed to save all: "should any one have as much as would suffice for the salvation of all, this would be the greatest: and this was in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin." Thus far St. Thomas. So that what St. John says of Jesus, "And of His fullness we all have received"—Jn 1:16, the saints say of Mary. She is called "full of grace, of whose plenitude all receive;" so much so that there is no one who does not partake of the grace of Mary. And who is there in the world to whom Mary is not benign, and does not dispense some mercy? Who was ever found to whom the Blessed Virgin was not propitious? Who is there whom Her mercy does not reach?

From Jesus, however, it is (we must understand) that we receive grace as the Author of Grace, from Mary as a Mediatrix; from Jesus as a Savior, from Mary as an advocate; from Jesus as a source, from Mary as a channel. Hence, God established Mary as the channel of the mercies that He wished to dispense to men; there­fore He filled Her with grace, that each one's part might be communicated to him from Her fullness: a full aqueduct, that others may receive of Her fullness, but not fullness itself. Therefore, consider, with how much love God wills that we should honor this great Virgin, since He has deposited the whole treasure of His graces in Her: so that whatever we possess of hope, grace, and salvation, we may thank our most loving Queen for all, since all comes to us from Her hands and by Her powerful intercession. Behold with what tender feelings of devotion He wills that we should honor Her! He Who has placed the plenitude of all good in Mary; that thus, if we have any hope, or anything salutary in us, we may know that it was from Her that it overflowed.

Miserable is that soul that closes this channel of grace against itself, by neglecting to recommend it­self to Mary! When Holofernes wished to gain pos­session of the city of Bethulia, he took care to de­stroy the aqueducts: "He commanded their aqueduct to be cut off"Judith 7:6). And this the devil does when he wishes to become master of a soul; he causes it to give up devotion to the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and when once this channel is closed, it easily loses supernatural light, the fear of God, and finally eter­nal salvation. Read the following example, in which may be seen how great is the compassion of the heart of Mary, and the destruction that he brings on himself who closes this channel against himself, by giving up devotion to the Queen of heaven.

EXAMPLE

There were 2 young noblemen in Madrid, of whom the one encouraged the other in leading a wicked life, and in committing all sorts of crimes. One of them one night in a dream saw his friend taken by certain men, and carried to a tem­pestuous sea. They were going to take him in a similar manner, but he had recourse to Mary, and made a vow that he would embrace the religious state; on which he was delivered from those men. He then saw Jesus on a throne, as if in anger, and the Blessed Virgin imploring mercy for him. After this his friend came to pay him a visit, and he then related what he had seen; but his companion only turned it into ridicule, and he was shortly after­wards stabbed and died. When the young man saw this his vision was verified, he went to confession, and renewed his resolution to enter a religious Or­der, and for this purpose he sold all that he had; but instead of giving it to the poor, as he had intended, he spent it in all sorts of debauchery. He then fell ill, and had another vision. He thought he saw hell open, and the Divine Judge, Who had already con­demned him. Again he had recourse to Mary, and She once more delivered him. He recovered his health and went on worse than ever. He afterwards went to Lima in South America, where he relapsed into his former illness; and in the hospital of that place he was once more touched by the grace of God, confessed his sins to the Jesuit Father, Francis Perlino, and promised him that he would change his life; but again he fell into his former crimes. At last the same Father, going into another hospital in a distant place, saw the miserable wretch extended on the ground, and heard him cry out: "Ah, aban­doned wretch that I am for my greater torment this Father is come to witness my chastisement. From Lima I came hither, where my vices have brought me to this end; and now I go to hell." With these words he expired, without even leaving the Father time to help him.

PRAYER

O holy and heavenly Infant, You who are the destined Mother of my Redeemer and the great Mediatrix of miserable sinners, pity me. Behold at Your feet another ungrateful sinner who has recourse to You and asks Your compassion. It is true, that for my ingratitude to God and to You I deserve that God and You should abandon me; but I have heard, and believe it to be so (knowing the great­ness of Your mercy), that You do not refuse to help any one who recommends himself to You with con­fidence. O most exalted creature in the world! since this is the case, and since there is no one but God above You, so that compared with You the greatest saints of heaven are little; O saint of saints, O Mary! abyss of charity, and full of grace, help a miserable creature who by his own fault has lost the divine favor. I know that You are so dear to God that He denies You nothing I know also that Your pleasure is to use Your greatness for the relief of miserable sinners. Ah, then, show how great is the favor that You enjoy with God, by obtaining me a divine light and flame so powerful that I may be changed from a sinner into a saint; and detaching myself from every earthly affection, divine love may be enkindled in me. Do this, O Lady, for You can do it. Do it for the love of God, Who has made You so great, so powerful, and so com­passionate. This is my hope. Amen.

DISCOURSE 3

THE PRESENTATION OF MARY.

November 21.

The Offering that Mary made of Herself to God was prompt

 without delay and entire without reserve.

There never was, and never will be, an offering on the part of a pure creature greater or more perfect than that which Mary made to God when, at the age of 3 years, She presented Herself in the tem­ple to offer Him, not aromatical spices, nor calves, nor gold, but Her entire self, consecrating Herself as a perpetual victim in His honor. She well under­stood the Voice of God, calling Her to devote Herself entirely to His love, when He said, "Arise, make haste, My love, My dove, My beautiful one, and come"—Song 2:10.Therefore Her Lord willed that from that time She should forget Her country, and all, to think only of loving and pleasing Him: "Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline Your ear; and forget Your people, and Your father's house"—Ps 45:2. She with promptitude and at once obeyed the divine call. Let us, then, consider how acceptable was this offering which Mary for it was prompt and entire. Hence the 2 points for our consideration are, first, Mary's offering was prompt and without de­lay; secondly, it was entire and without reserve.

1

Mary's offering was prompt. From the first mo­ment that this heavenly child was sanctified in Her mother's womb, which was in the instant of Her Immaculate Conception, She received the perfect use of reason, that She might begin to merit. This is in accordance with the general opinion of theologians. The most perfect way in which God sanctifies a soul is by its own merit. It is thus we must believe that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified. To be sanctified by one's own act is the more perfect way. Therefore it is to be believed that the Blessed Virgin was thus sanctified. And if this privilege was granted to the angels, and to Adam, much more ought we to believe that it was granted to the heavenly Mother, on whom, certainly, we must suppose that God, having condescended to make Her His Mother, also conferred greater gifts than on all other creatures. From her, He received His Human Nature, and there­fore She must have obtained a greater plenitude of grace from Christ than all others. For being a mother, she has a sort of special right to all the gifts of Her Son; and as, on account of the hypostatic union, it was right that Jesus should receive the plenitude of all graces, so, on account of the Divine Maternity, it was becoming that Jesus should confer, as a natural debt, greater graces on Mary than He granted to all other saints and angels.

Thus, from the beginning of Her life, Mary knew God, and knew Him so that no tongue will ever express how clearly this Blessed Virgin understood His greatness in that very first moment of Her existence. And thus enlightened, She instantly offered Her entire self to Her Lord, dedicating Herself, without reserve, to His love and glory. Our Queen determined to sacrifice Her will to God, and to give Him all Her love for the whole of Her life. No one can understand how en­tire was the subjection in which She then placed Her will, and how fully She was determined to do all ac­cording to His Pleasure.

But the immaculate child, afterwards understand­ing that Her holy parents, Joachim and Anne, had promised God, even by vow, as many authors re­late, that if He granted them issue, they would consecrate it to His service in the Temple; as it was, moreover, an ancient custom among the Jews to take their daughters to the temple, and there to leave them for their education (for which purpose there were cells contiguous) as it is recorded by Josephus the Jewish historian and also by others, and as we may easily gather from 2ndMacha­bees 3:18, where, speaking of Heliodorus, who besieged the temple, that he might gain possession of the treasures there deposited, says, Because the place was like to come into contempt...and the virgins also that were shut up came forth, some to Onias.

Mary hearing this, I say, having scarcely attained the age of 3 years. In Her third year she was brought to the temple—an age at which children are the most desirous and stand in the greatest need of their parents' care, She de­sired to offer and solemnly to consecrate Herself to God, by presenting Herself in the Temple. Hence, of Her own accord, She requested Her parents with ear­nestness to take Her there, that they might thus accomplish their promise. And Her holy mother did not long delay leading Her to the Temple, and offering Her to God.  Behold now Joachim and Anne, generously sacri­ficing to God the most precious treasure that they possessed in the world, and the one that was dearest to their heart, setting out from Nazareth, carrying their well-beloved little daughter in turns, for She could not otherwise have undertaken so long a journey as that from Nazareth to Jerusalem, it being a distance of 80 miles. They were accompanied by few relatives, but choirs of angels, escorted and served the immaculate little Virgin, who was about to consecrate Herself to the Divine Majesty. "How beautiful are Your steps, O prince's daughter"—Song 7:1!O, how beautiful (must the an­gels have sung), how acceptable to God is Your every step, taken on Your way to present and offer Yourself to Him! O noble daughter, most beloved of our common Lord! God Himself, with the whole heavenly court, made great rejoicings on that day, beholding His spouse coming to the Temple. For He never saw a more holy creature, or one whom He so tenderly loved,  come to offer Her­self to Him. Go then, go, O Queen of the world, O Mother of God, go joyfully to the House of God, there to await the coming of the Di­vine Spirit, Who will make You the Mother of the Eternal Word. Enter with exultation the courts of the Lord, in expectation of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the Conception of the Only-Begotten Son of God.

When the holy company had reached the Temple the fair child turned to Her parents, and on Her knees kissed their hands and asked their blessing; and then, without again turning back, She ascended the 15 steps of the Temple, and presented Herself to the priest, St. Zachariah. Having done this, She bade farewell to the world, and renouncing all the pleasures that it promises to its votaries, She offered and conse­crated Herself to Her Creator.

At the time of the deluge a raven sent out of the ark by Noah remained to feed on the dead bodies; but the dove, without resting her foot, quickly "re­turned to him into the ark"Gen 8:9.  Many who are sent by God into this world unfortunately remain to feed on earthly goods. It was not thus that Mary, our heavenly dove, acted; She knew full well that God should be our only good, our only hope, our only love; She knew that the world is full of dangers, and that he who leaves it the soonest is free from its snares; hence She sought to do this in Her tenderest years, and as soon as possible shut Herself up in the sacred retirement of the Temple, where She could better hear His Voice, and honor and love Him more.

Thus did the Blessed Virgin in Her very first ac­tions render Herself entirely dear and agreeable to Her Lord, as the holy Church says in Her name: "Rejoice with Me, all you who love God; for when I was a little one I pleased the Most High." For this reason She was likened to the moon; for as the moon completes Her course with greater velocity than the other planets, so did Mary attain perfec­tion sooner than all the saints, by giving Herself to God promptly and without delay, and making Her­self all His without reserve. Let us now pass to the second point, on which we shall have much to say.

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The enlightened child well knew that God does not accept a divided heart, but wills that, as He has commanded, it should be consecrated to His love without the least reserve: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart."—Deut 6:5.   Hence from the first moment of Her life, She began to love God with all Her strength, and gave Herself entirely to Him. But still Her most holy soul awaited with the most ar­dent desire the moment when She might consecrate Herself to Him in a more solemn and public way. Let us, then, consider with what fervor this loving and tender Virgin, on finding Herself actually en­closed in the holy place, first prostrate, kissed that ground as the House of Her Lord; and then adored His infinite majesty, thanked Him for the favor She had received in being thus brought to dwell for a time in His House, and then offered Her entire self to God, wholly, without reserving anything—all Her powers and all Her senses, Her whole mind and Her whole heart, Her whole soul and Her whole body; for then it was, that to please God, She vowed Him Her virginity, a vow which, Mary was the first to make. And the offering She then made of Her entire self was without any reserve as to time. Mary offered and dedicated Herself to the perpetual service of God; for Her intention was to dedicate Herself to the service of His Divine Majesty in the Temple for Her whole life, should such be the good pleasure of God, and never to leave that sacred place. O, with what effusion of soul must She then have exclaimed, "My beloved to Me, and I to Him!"—Song 2:16; meaning, "I will live all His, and die all His." "My Lord and My God, “She said, "I am come here to please You alone, and to give You all the honor that is in My power; here will I live all Yours, and die all Yours, should such be Your pleasure; accept the sacrifice which Your poor ser­vant offers You, and enable me to be faithful to You."

Here let us consider how holy was the life Which Mary led in the Temple, where, as the morning ris­ing, which rapidly bursts out into the full bright­ness of mid-day, she progressed in perfection. Who can ever tell the always increasing brightness with which Her resplendent virtues shone forth from day to day: charity, modesty, humility, silence, mortifi­cation, meekness. This fair olive tree, planted in the House of God, and nur­tured by the Holy Spirit, became the dwelling-place of all virtues; led to the temple, and thenceforward planted in the House of God, and cultivated by the Spirit, She as a fruitful olive tree became the abode of all virtues. The countenance of the Blessed Virgin was modest, Her mind humble, Her words proceeding from a composed interior were engaging. She turned Her thoughts far from earthly things, embracing all virtues; and thus exercising Herself in perfection, She made so rapid progress  in a short time, that She merited to become a Temple worthy of God. Mary was doc­ile, spoke little, was always composed, did not laugh, and Her mind was never disturbed. She also persevered in prayer, in the study of the sa­cred Scriptures, in fastings, and all virtuous works.

Mary thus regulated Her life: In the morning until the third hour She remained in prayer; from the third hour until the ninth She em­ployed Herself with work; and from the ninth hour She again prayed until the angel brought Her food, as he was wont to do. She was always the first in watchings, the most exact in the observance of the Divine Law, the most profoundly humble, and the most perfect in every virtue. No one ever saw Her angry: Her every word carried such sweetness with it that it was a witness to all that God was with Her.

The heavenly Mother Herself revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary that "when Her father and mother left Her in the Temple, She determined to have God alone for Her Father, and often thought how She could please Him most." Moreover, as we learn from the Revelations of St Bridget, "She determined to con­secrate Her virginity to Him, and to possess nothing  in the world, and to give Him Her entire will."  Besides this, She told St. Elizabeth that of all the commandments to be observed, She especially kept this one before Her eyes:  "You shall love the Lord Your God…;" and that at midnight She went before the altar of the Temple to beg that He would grant Her the grace to observe them all, and also that She might live to see the birth of the Mother of the Redeemer, entreating Him at the same time to preserve Her eyes to behold Her, Her tongue to praise Her, Her hands and feet to serve Her, and Her knees to adore Her Divine Son in Her womb.  St. Elizabeth, on hearing this, said, "But, Lady, were You not full of grace and virtue?"  Mary replied, "Know that I considered myself most vile and unworthy of divine grace, and therefore thus earnestly prayed for grace and virtue."  And finally, that we might be convinced of the absolute necessity under which we all are of asking the graces that we require from God, She added:  "Do You think that I possessed grace and virtue without effort?  Know that I obtained no grace from God without great effort, constant prayer, ardent desire, and many tears and mortifications."

     But above all we should consider the revelation made to St. Bridget of the virtues and practices of the Blessed Virgin in Her childhood, in the following words:  "From Her childhood Mary was full of the Holy Spirit, and as She advanced in age She advanced also in grace.  Thenceforward She determined to love God with Her whole heart, so that She might never offend Him, either by Her words or actions; and therefore She despised all earthly goods.  She gave all that She could to the poor.  In Her food She was so temperate, that She took only as much as was barely necessary to sustain Her body.  Afterwards, on discovering in Sacred Scriptures that God was to be born of a Virgin, that He might redeem the world, Her soul was to such a degree inflamed with divine love, that She could desire and think of nothing but God; and finding pleasure in Him alone, She avoided all company, even that of Her parents, lest their presence might deprive Her of His remembrance.

 She desired, with the greatest ardor, to live until the time of the coming of the Messiah, that She might be the servant of that happy Virgin, who merited to be His Mother."  Ah, yes, for the love of this exalted child the Redeemer did indeed hasten His coming into the world; for while She, in Her humility, looked upon Herself as unworthy to be the servant of the Heavenly Mother, She was Herself chosen to be this Mother; and by the sweet odor of Her virtues and Her powerful prayers She drew the Divine Son into Her virginal womb.  For this reason Mary was called a turtle-dove by Her Divine Spouse:

"The voice of the turtle is heard in our land "—Song 2:12,23.  Not, only because as a turtle-dove She always loved solitude, living in this world as in a desert, but also because, like a turtle-dove, which always sighs for its companions, Mary always sighed in the Temple, compassionating the miseries of the lost world, and seeking from God the re­demption of all. O, with how much greater feeling and fervor than the prophets did She repeat their prayers and sighs, that God would send the prom­ised Redeemer! "Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the Ruler of the earth " —Is 16:1. "Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just "—Ib. 14:8.  O that You would rend the heavens, and would come down!"—Ib. 64:1.

In a word, it was a subject of delight to God to behold this tender virgin always ascending towards the highest perfection, like a pillar of smoke, rich in the sweet odor of all virtues, as the Holy Spirit Him­self clearly describes Her in the Sacred Canticles: "Who is she that goes up by the desert as a pillar of smoke, of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankin­cense, and of all the powders of the perfumer?"—Song  3:6.  This child was truly God's gar­den of delights; for He there found every kind of flower, and all the sweet odors of virtues. Hence, God chose Mary for His Mother in this world because He did not find on earth a Virgin more holy and more per­fect than She was, nor any dwelling more worthy than Her most sacred womb. There was not on earth a more worthy place than the virginal womb. The Blessed Virgin, to be chosen for, and destined to the dignity of Mother of God, was necessarily so great and con­summate in perfection as to surpass all other crea­tures. The last grace of perfection is that which prepared Her for the conception of the Son of God.

As, then, the holy child Mary presented and of­fered Herself to God in the Temple with promptitude and without reserve, so let us also present ourselves this day to Mary without delay and without re­serve; and let us entreat Her to offer us to God, Who will not reject us when He sees us presented by the hand of that blessed creature, who was the living Temple of the Holy Spirit, the delight of Her Lord, and the chosen Mother of the Eternal Word. Let us also have unbounded confidence in this high and gracious Lady, who rewards, indeed, with the greatest love the homage that She receives from Her clients, as we may gather from the following ex­ample.

EXAMPLE

Sister Domenica del Para­diso was born of poor parents, in the village of Paradiso, near Florence. From her very infancy she began to serve the heavenly Mother. She fasted everyday in Her honor, and on Saturdays gave to the poor her food, of which she deprived herself. Every Saturday she went into the garden and into the neighboring fields, and gathered all the flowers that she could find, and presented them be­fore  an image of the Blessed Virgin with the Child in Her arms, which she kept in the house. But let us now see with how many favors this most gracious Lady recompensed the homage of Her servant. One day, when Domenica was 10 years of age, standing at the window, she saw in the street a lady of noble bearing, accompanied by a little child, and they both extended their hands, asking for alms. She went to get some bread, when in a moment, without the door being opened, she saw Them by her side and perceived that the Child's Hands and Feet and Side were wounded. She therefore asked the Lady who had wounded the Child. The Mother answered, "It was love." Domenica, inflamed with love at the sight of the beauty and modesty of the Child, asked Him if the Wounds pained Him? His only answer was a smile. But, as they were standing near the statue of Jesus and Mary, the Lady said to Domenica: "Tell Me, My child, what is it that makes you crown these images with flowers?" She replied, "It is the love that I bear to Jesus and Mary." "And how much do you love Them?" "I love them as much as I can." "And how much canst you love them?"  "As much as they enable me." "Continue, then," added the Lady, "continue to love Them; for They will amply repay your love in heaven. The little girl then perceiving that a heavenly odor came forth from those Wounds, asked the Mother with what ointment She anointed them, and if could be bought. The Lady answered, "It is bought with faith and good works." Domenica then offered the bread. The Mother said, "Love is the food of My Son: tell Him that you love Jesus, and He will be satisfied." The child at the word love seemed filled with joy, and turning towards the little girl, asked her how much she loved Jesus. She answered that she loved Him so much, that night and day she always thought of Him, and sought for nothing else but to give Him as much pleasure as she possibly could." "It is well," He replied: "love Him for love will teach you what to do to please Him. The sweet odor which exhaled from those Wounds then increasing, Domenica cried out, "O God! this odor makes me die of love." If the odor of a Child is so sweet, what must that of heaven be? But behold the scene now changed; the Mother appear, clothed as a Queen, and the Child resplendent with beauty like the sun. He took the flowers and scattered them on the head of Domenica, who, recognizing Jesus and Mary in those personages, was already prostrate before Them. Thus the vision ended. Domenica afterwards took the habit of Dominican, and died in the odor of sanctity the year 1553.  

PRAYER

O beloved Mother of God, most amiable child Mary, O that, as you presented Yourself in the Temple, and with promptitude and without reserve, consecrated Yourself to the glory and love of God, I could offer You, this day, the first years of my life, to devote myself without reserve to Your ser­vice, my holy and most sweet Lady! But it is now too late to do this; for, unfortunate creature that I am, I have lost so many years in the service of the world and my own caprices, and have lived in al­most entire forgetfulness of You and of God. Woe to that time in which I did not love You! But it is better to begin late than not at all. Behold, O Mary, I this day present myself to You, and I offer myself without reserve to Your service for the long or short time that I still have to live in this world; and in union with You I renounce all creatures, and de­vote myself entirely to the love of my Creator. I consecrate my mind to You, O Queen, that it may always think of the love that You deserve, my tongue to praise You, my heart to love You. Accept, O most holy Virgin, the offering which this miserable sinner now makes You. Accept it, I implore you, by the consolation that Your heart ex­perienced when You gave Yourself to God in the Temple. But since I enter Your service late, it is rea­sonable that I should redouble my acts of  homage and love, thereby to compensate for lost time. Help my weakness with Your powerful intercession, O Mother of Mercy, by obtaining me perse­verance from Your Jesus, and strength to be always faithful to You until death; that thus always serving You in life, I may praise You in Paradise for all eternity. Amen.

DISCOURSE 4

THE ANNUNCIATION OF MARY. 

March 25.

In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, Mary could not have 

humbled Herself more than She did humble Herself. 

God, on the other hand, could not have exalted Her more than He did exalt Her.

Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted—Matt 23:12. These are the words of our Lord, and cannot fail. Therefore, God having determined to become Man, that He might redeem lost man, and thus show the world His Infinite Goodness, and having to choose a Mother on earth, He sought among women for the one that was the most holy and the most humble. But among all, one there was whom He admired, and this one was the tender Virgin Mary, who, the more exalted were Her virtues, so much the more dove-like was Her simplicity and humility, and the more lowly was She in Her own estimation. There are young maidens without number: one is My dove, My perfect one—Song 6:8.  Therefore God said: This one shall be My chosen Mother. Let us now see how great was Mary's humility, and consequently how greatly God exalted Her. Mary could not have humbled Herself more than She did humble Herself in the Incarnation of the Word; this will be the first point. That God could not have exalted Mary more than He did exalt Her; this will be the second.

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The Holy Spirit in the Sacred Canticles, speaking precisely of the humility of the most humble Virgin, says: While the King was at His repose, My spikenard, sent forth the odor thereof—Song 1:11.  Spikenard, being a small and lowly herb, was a type of Mary, the sweet odor of whose humility, ascending to heaven so to say, awakened the Divine Word, reposing in the Heart of the Eternal Father, and drew Him into Her virginal womb. So that our Lord, drawn as it were by the sweet odor of this humble Virgin, chose Her for His Mother, when He was pleased to become man to redeem the world. But He, for the greater glory and merit of this Mother, would not become Her Son without Her previous consent. He would not take flesh from Her unless She gave it. Hence, when this humble Virgin (for so it was re­vealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary) was in Her poor little cottage, sighing and imploring God more fer­vently than ever, and with desire more than ever ardent, that He would send the Redeemer; behold, the Archangel Gabriel arrives, the bearer of the great message. He enters and salutes Her, saying: "Hail, Full of Grace; the Lord is with You! Blessed are You among women"—Luke, 1:28.   Hail, O Virgin Full of Grace; for You were always full of grace above all other saints. The Lord is with You, because You are so hum­ble, You are blessed among women, for all others fell under the curse of sin; but You, because You are the Mother of the blessed one, are, and always will be blessed, and free from every stain. 

But what does the humble Mary answer to a salu­tation so full of praises? Nothing; She remains si­lent, but reflecting upon it, is troubled: Who having heard was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. Why was She troubled? Did She fear an illusion, or was it Her virginal modesty which caused Her to be disturbed at the sight of a man, as some suppose, in the belief that the angel appeared under a human form?  No, the text is clear:  She was troubled at His saying.  Not at his appearance, but at what he said. Her trouble, then, arose entirely from Her humility, which was disturbed at the sound of praises so far exceeding Her own lowly estimate of Herself.  Hence, the more the angel exalted Her, the more She humbled Herself, and entered into the consideration of Her own nothingness.  Had the angel said, O Mary, You are the greatest sinner in the world, Her astonishment would not have been so great; the sound of so high praises filled Her with fear. She was troubled; for, being so full of humility, She abhorred every praise of Herself, and Her only desire was that Her Creator, the giver of every good thing, should be praised and blessed.  This Mary Herself revealed to St. Bridget, when speaking of the time in which She became Mother of God: "I desired not My own praise, but only that My Creator, the giver of all, should be glorified." 

     The Blessed Virgin was already well aware, from the sacred Scriptures, that the time foretold by the prophets for the coming of the Messiah had arrived; that the weeks of Daniel were completed; that already, according to the prophecy of Jacob, the scepter of Judah had passed into the hands of Herod, a strange king. She already knew that a vir­gin was to be the Mother of the Messiah. She then heard the angel give Her praises which, it was evi­dent, could apply to no other than to the Mother of God. Hence, may not the thought, or at least some vague impression, have entered Her mind, that per­haps She was this chosen Mother of God? No, Her profound humility did not even admit such an idea. Those praises only caused great fear in Her: So much so, that as Christ was pleased to be comforted by an angel, so was it necessary that the Blessed Virgin should be encouraged by one. St. Gabriel, seeing Mary so troubled and almost stupefied by the salutation, was obliged to encourage Her, saying, disturbed at the sight of a man, as some suppose, in the belief that the angel appeared under a human form?  No, the text is clear:  She was troubled at His saying.  Not at his appearance, but at what he said. Her trouble, then, arose entirely from Her humility, which was disturbed at the sound of praises so far exceeding Her own lowly estimate of Herself.  Hence, the more the angel exalted Her, the more She humbled Herself, and entered into the consideration of Her own nothingness.  Had the angel said, O Mary, You are the greatest sinner in the world, Her astonishment would not have been so great; the sound of so high praises filled Her with fear.  She was troubled; for, being so full of humility, She abhorred every praise of Herself, and Her only desire was that Her Creator, the giver of every good thing, should be praised and blessed.  This Mary Herself revealed to St. Bridget, when speaking of the time in which She became Mother of God: "I desired not My own praise, but only that My Creator, the giver of all, should be glorified."  The Blessed Virgin was already well aware, from the sacred Scriptures, that the time foretold by the prophets for the coming of the Messiah had arrived; that the weeks of Daniel were completed; that already, according to the prophecy of Jacob, "Fear not, Mary; for You have found grace with God.""—Luke 1:30. Fear not, O Mary, and be not surprised at the great titles by which I have saluted You; for if You in Your own eyes are so little and lowly, God, Who exalts the humble, has made You worthy to find the grace lost by men; and therefore He has preserved You from the common stain of the children of Adam. Hence, from the moment of Your conception, He has honored You with a grace greater than that of all the saints; and therefore He now finally exalts You even to the dignity of being His Mother. Behold, You shall conceive in Your womb, and shall bring forth a Son; and You shall call His Name Jesus"—Luke 1:31.  And now, why this delay, O Mary? The angel awaits the reply and we also, O Lady, on whom the sentence of condemnation weighs so heavily, await the Word of Mercy; we, who are already condemned to death. Behold, the price of our salvation is offered You; we shall be in­stantly delivered if You consent. Behold, O Mother of us all, the price of our salvation is already offered you: that price will be the Divine Word, made man in You; in that moment in which You accept Him for Your Son, we shall be delivered from death. For Your Lord Himself desires Your consent, by which He has determined to save the world, with an ardor equal to the love with which He has loved Your beauty. Answer then, O sacred Virgin; why de­lay giving life to the world? Answer quickly, O Lady; no longer delay the salvation of the world, which now depends upon your consent.

But see, Mary already answers; She says to the angel: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done tome according to your word "—Luke 1:38.  O, what more beautiful, more humble, or more prudent answer could all the wisdom of men and angels together have invented, had they reflected for a million years? O powerful answer, which rejoiced heaven, and brought an immense sea of graces and blessings into the world! The answer had scarcely fallen from the lips of Mary, before it drew the Only Begotten Son of God from the Heart of His Eternal Father, to become Man in Her most pure womb! Yes indeed; for scarcely had She uttered these words, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word, when instantly "the Word was made flesh"—John 1:14; the Son of God became also the Son of Mary. "O powerful Fiat!"  "O efficacious Fiat! O Fiat to be venerated above every other Fiat! For with a fiat, God created light, heaven, earth; but with Mary's fiat, "God became man, like us."

Let us, however, not wander from our point, but consider the great humility of the Blessed Virgin in this answer. She was fully enlightened as to the greatness of the dignity of a Mother of God. She had already been assured by the angel that She was this happy Mother chosen by our Lord. But with all this, She in no way rises in Her own estimation, She does not stop to rejoice in Her exaltation; but seeing, on the one side, Her own nothingness, and other the Infinite Majesty of God, Who chose Her for His Mother, She acknowledges how unwor­thy She is of so great an honor, but will not oppose His Will in the least thing. Hence, when Her consent is asked, what does She do? What does She say? Wholly annihilated within Herself, yet all inflamed at the same time by the ardor of Her desire to unite Herself thus still more closely to God, and abandon­ing Herself entirely to the Divine Will, She answers, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Behold the slave of the Lord, obliged to do that which Her Lord commands. As if She meant to say: Since God chooses Me for His Mother, who have nothing of My own, and since all that I have is His gift, who can ever think that He has done so on account of My own merits? Behold the handmaid of the Lord. What merit can a slave ever have, that She should become the Mother of Her Lord? Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May the goodness of God alone be praised, and not His slave: since it is all His goodness, that He fixes His Eyes on so lowly a creature as 1 am, to make Her so great.

O humility as nothing in its own eyes, yet sufficiently great for the divinity! Insufficient for itself, sufficient for Him Whom the heavens cannot contain. O great humility of Mary! which makes Her little to Herself, but great before God. Unworthy in Her own eyes, but worthy in the eyes of that immense Lord Whom the world cannot contain. How, O Lady, could you unite in Your heart so humble an opinion of Yourself with so great purity, with such innocence, and so great a plenitude of grace as You possessed? And how, O Blessed Virgin, did this humility and so great hu­mility ever take so deep root in Your heart, seeing Yourself thus honored and exalted by God? From where is Your humility, and so great humility, O blessed one? The devil, seeing himself endowed with great beauty, aspired to exalt his throne above the stars, and to make himself like God: "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God...I will be like the Most High."—Is 14:13.  O what would that proud spirit have said, and to what would he have aspired, had he ever been adorned with the gifts of Mary! The humble Mary did not act thus; the higher She saw herself raised, the more She humbled Herself. Ah, Lady, by this admirable humility You did indeed render Yourself worthy to be re­garded by God with singular love; worthy to capti­vate Your King with Your beauty; worthy to draw, by the sweet odor of Your humility, the Eternal Son from His repose, from the Heart of God, into Your most pure womb. She was indeed worthy to be looked upon by the Lord, whose beauty the King so greatly desired, and by whose most sweet odor He, was drawn from the Eternal repose of His Father’s Heart.  Hence Mary merited aim by saying with humility, Behold the handmaid of the Lord! than all pure creatures could merit together by all their good works. Thus, this innocent Virgin, although She made Herself dear to God by Her virginity, yet it was by Her humility that She rendered Herself worthy, as far as a creature can be worthy, to become the Mother of Her Creator. Though She pleased by Her virginity, She conceived by Her humility. God chose Her to be His Mother more on account of Her humility than all Her other sublime virtues. Mary Herself also assured St. Bridget of the same thing, saying: "How was it that I merited so great a grace as to be made the Mother of My Lord, if it was not that I knew My own nothingness, and that I had nothing, and humbled Myself." This She had already declared in Her canticle, breathing forth the most profound humility, when She said: "Because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid ...He that is mighty has done great things for me"—Lk 1:48,49.  The Blessed Virgin did not say He has regarded the virginity, or the innocence, but only the humility and by this hu­mility, Mary did not mean to praise the virtue of Her own humility, but She meant to declare that God had regarded Her nothingness (humility, that is nothingness), and that, out of His pure goodness, He had been pleased thus to exalt Her.

Mary's humility was a ladder by which our Lord deigned to descend from heaven to earth, to become man in Her womb. Mary's humility, became a heavenly ladder, by which God came into the world.  The humility of Mary was Her most perfect virtue, and the one that immediately prepared Her to become the Mother of God. The last grace of perfection is preparation for the conception of the Son of God, which preparation is made by profound humility. The prophet Isaiah foretold the same tiding: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of His root"—Is 11:1.  The flower, that is to say, the Only-Begotten Son of God, was to be born, not from the summit, nor from the trunk, of the tree of Jesse, but from the root, precisely to denote the humility of the Mother. By the root humility of heart is understood. Remark that the flower rises, not from the summit, but out of the root. For this reason God said to His beloved daughter, "Turn away Your eyes from Me, for they have made Me flee"—Song 6:4.  Why have they made You flee, unless it be from the Heart of Your Father into the womb of Your Mother? The most humble eyes of Mary, which She always kept fixed on the divine greatness, never los­ing sight of Her own nothingness, did such violence to God Himself, that they drew Him into Her womb. Thus it is that we can understand why the Holy Spirit praised the beauty of this His spouse, so greatly, on account of Her dove's eyes: “How beauti­ful are You, My love! How beautiful are You! Yours eye's are dove's eyes""—Song 4:1.  For Mary, looking at God with the eyes of a simple and humble dove, enamored Him to such a degree by Her beauty that with the bands of love She made Him a prisoner in Her chaste womb. Whereon earth could so beautiful a Virgin be found, who could allure the King of Heaven by Her eyes, and by a holy violence lead Him captive, bound in the chains of love? So that, to conclude this point, we will remark, that in the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, as we have already seen at the commence­ment of our discourse, Mary could not have hum­bled Herself more than She did humble Herself. Let us now see how it was that God, having made Her His Mother, could not have exalted Her more than He did exalt Her.

2

To understand the greatness to which Mary was exalted, it would be necessary to understand the sublimity and greatness of God. It is sufficient, then, to say simply, that God made this Blessed Virgin His Mother, to understand that God could not have exalted Her more than He did exalt Her. God, by becoming the Son of the Blessed Virgin, established Her in a rank far above that of all the saints and angels. So that, with the exception of God Himself, there is no one who is so greatly exalted. Her glory is incompa­rably greater than that of all the other celestial spirits. God excepted, She is higher than all. “No one is equal to You, O Lady. God alone is above You, and all that is not God is inferior to You." The greatness and dignity of this Blessed Virgin are such, that God alone can, comprehend it.

In this reflection, we have more than sufficient to take away the surprise which might be caused on seeing that the sacred Evangelists, who have so fully recorded the praises of a John the Baptist and of a Magdalene, Nay  so little of the precious gifts of Mary. It was sufficient to say of Her, "Of whom was born Jesus." What more could you wish the Evangelists to have said of the greatness of this Blessed Virgin? Is it not enough that they declare that She was the Mother of God? In these few words they recorded the greatest, the whole, of Her precious gifts; and since the whole was therein con­tained, it was unnecessary to enter into details. And why not?  When we say of Mary She is the Mother of God, this alone transcends every greatness that can be named or imagined after that of God. Address Her as Queen of heaven, Empress of the angels, or any other title of honor you may please, but never can you honor Her so much as by simply calling Her the Mother of God. The reason of this is evident: for the nearer a thing approaches its author, the greater is the perfection that it receives from him; and therefore Mary being of all creatures the nearest to God, She, more than all others, has partaken of His graces, perfection's, and greatness. The Blessed Virgin Mary was the nearest possible to Christ; for from Her it was that He re­ceived His human nature, and therefore She must have obtained a greater plenitude of grace from Him than all others. The reason for which the dignity of Mother of God is above every other created dignity is that it belongs in a certain way to the order of hypo­static union; for it intrinsically appertains to it; and has a necessary conjunction with it. Hence, after the hypostatic union there is none more intimate than that of the Mother of God with Her Son. This is the supreme, the highest degree of union that a pure creature can have with God. It is a sort of. supreme union with an infinite person. To be the Mother of God is the highest dignity after that of being God. Hence, Mary could not have been more closely united to God than She was without becoming God.  To become Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin had to be raised to a sort of equality with the divine Persons by an almost infin­ity of graces. And, as children are, morally speak­ing, regarded one with their parents, so that their properties and honors are in common, it follows, that God, Who dwells in creatures in different ways, dwelt in Mary in an es­pecial way, and was singularly identified with Her, making Himself one and the same thing with Her. The fourth mode in which God is in a creature is that of identity; and this He is in the Blessed Virgin Mary, for He is one with Her. Thus let every creature be silent and tremble, and scarcely dare glance at the immensity of so great a dignity. God dwells in the Blessed Virgin, with whom He has the identity of one nature.  Therefore, when Mary be­came Mother of God, by reason of so close a union with an infinite good, She received a dignity which is infinite in its kind. The dig­nity of Mother of God is the greatest dignity that can be conferred on a pure creature. For even the humanity of Jesus Christ could have received greater habitual grace from God—since grace is a created gift, and therefore its essence is finite; for all creatures have a determined measure of capacity, so that it is yet in God's power to make another creature whose de­termined measure is greater,—yet since His humanity was destined to a personal union with a Di­vine Person, it could not have for its subject any­thing greater; or, though the Divine Power could create something greater and better than the habitual grace of Christ, nevertheless it could not destine it to anything greater than the Personal union of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father. Thus, on the other hand, the Blessed Virgin could not have been raised to a greater dignity than that of Mother of God. Which dignity is in a certain manner infi­nite, inasmuch as God is an infinite good; in this re­spect, then, She could not have been made greater. There is something infinite in being the Mother of Him Who is infinite. The state to which God exalted Mary in making Her His Mother was the highest state that could be conferred on a pure creature: so that He could not have exalted Her more. Thus in bestowing on Mary the maternity of God, God gave Her the highest gift of which a pure creature is capable. To be the Mother of God is the greatest grace that can be conferred on a creature. It is such that God could make a greater world, a greater heaven, but that He cannot exalt a creature more than by making Her His Mother. But no one has so well expressed the greatness of the dignity to which God had raised Her as His Mother than Herself when She said, He Who is mighty has done great things for Me—Lk 1:49.   And why did not the Blessed Virgin make known what were the great things conferred on Her by God? Mary did not explain them because they could not be expressed.  She did not explain them, because they were unfathomable.

For this Blessed Virgin, who was to be His Mother, God cre­ated the whole world. And  its existence depends on Her will.  "The world which You with God formed from the beginning continues to exist at Your will, O most holy Virgin"  from an application of  Proverbs 8:30 applied by the Church to Mary: "I was with Him forming all things. "  It was for the love of Mary that God did not destroy man after Adam's sin. He preserved it on account of His most singular love for this Blessed Virgin. Hence the Holy Spirit with reason sings of Mary: She has chosen the best part; for this Virgin Mother not only chose the best things, but She chose the best part of the best things; God endowing Her in the highest degree, with all the general and particular graces and gifts conferred on all other creatures, in consequence of the dignity granted Her of the Divine Maternity. Thus Mary was a child, but of this state She had only the inno­cence, not the defect of incapacity; for from the very first moment of Her existence, She had always the perfect use of reason. She was a Virgin without the reproach of sterility. She was a Mother, but at the same time possessed the precious treasure of virginity. She was beautiful, even most beautiful, as St. Denis the Areopagite asserts, who (as it is believed) had the happiness of once beholding Her beauty; and he declared that had not faith taught him that She was only a creature, he should have adored Her as God. Our Lord Himself also re­vealed to St. Bridget that the beauty of His Mother surpassed that of all men and angels. Allowing the saint to hear Him addressing Mary, He said: "Your beauty exceeds that of all angels, and of all created things." She was most beautiful, I say; but without prejudice to those who looked upon Her, for Her beauty banished all evil thoughts, and even enkin­dled pure ones. So great was Her grace, that not only it preserved Her own virginity, but conferred that admirable gift of purity on those who beheld Her. Sanctifying grace not only repressed all irregular motions in the Blessed Virgin Herself, but was also efficacious for others; so that, notwithstanding the greatness of Her beauty, She was never coveted by others. For this reason, She was called myrrh, which prevents corruption, in the words of Sirach, applied to her by the Church: I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh.—Sir 24: 20.  The labors of active life, when engaged in them, did not interrupt Her union with God. In Her contem­plative life, She was wrapped in Him, but not so as to cause Her to neglect Her temporal affairs and the charity due to Her neighbor. She had to die, but Her death was unaccompanied by its usual sorrows; and not followed by the corruption of the body.

In conclusion, then, this heavenly Mother is infi­nitely inferior to God, but immensely superior to all creatures; and as it is impossible to find a Son more noble than Jesus, so is it also impossible to find a Mother more noble than Mary. This reflection should cause the clients of so great a Queen not only to rejoice in Her greatness, but should also in­crease their confidence in Her powerful patronage; for as She is the Mother of God; She has a certain peculiar right to His gifts, to dispense them to those for whom She prays. God can­not do otherwise than grant the petitions of this Mother; for He cannot but acknowledge Her for His true and immaculate Mother. "You, who by Your maternal authority have great power with God, obtain the very great grace of reconciliation even for those who have been guilty of grievous crimes. It is impossible that You should not be graciously heard; for God in all things complies with Your wishes as being those of His true and spotless Mother. Therefore power to help us is not lacking to You, O Mother of God, and Mother of us all. The will is not lacking, neither the power nor the will can fail You. For You well know that God did not create You for Himself only; He gave You to the angels as their re­storer, to men as their repairer, to the devils as their vanquisher; for through Your means we recover di­vine grace, and by You the enemy is conquered and crushed." If we really desire to please the heavenly Mother, let us often salute Her with the "Hail Mary." She once appeared to St. Mechtilde, and assured her that She was honored by nothing more than by this salutation. By its means we shall certainly obtain even special graces from this Mother of Mercy, as will be seen in the following example.

EXAMPLE

A young man, of vicious habits and laden with sins, went to confession to Father Nicholas Zucchi in Rome. The confessor received him with charity, and, filled with compassion for his unfortunate state, assured him that devotion to our Blessed Lady could deliver him from the accursed vice to which he was addicted; he therefore imposed on him as his penance, that he should say a "Hail Mary," to the Blessed Virgin, every morning and evening, on getting up and on going to bed, until his next confession; and, at the same time, that he should offer Her his eyes, his hands, and his whole body, imploring Her to preserve them as something belonging to Herself, and that he should kiss the ground 3 times. The young man performed the penance, but at first there was only slight amendment. The Father, however, continued to inculcate the same practice on him, desiring him never to abandon it, and at the same time encouraged him to confide in the patronage of Mary. In the mean time the penitent left Rome with other companions, and during several years traveled in different parts of the world. On his return he again sought out his confessor, who, to his great joy and admiration, found that he was entirely changed, and free from his former evil habits. "My son," said he, "how have you obtained so wonderful a change from God? The young man replied, "Father, our Blessed Lady obtained me this grace on account of that lit­tle devotion which you taught me." Wonders did not cease here. The same confessor related the above fact from the pulpit; a captain heard it who for many years had carried on improper relationship with a certain woman, and determined that he also would practice the same devotion, that he too might be delivered from the horrible chains which bound him a slave of the devil (for it is necessary that sinners should have this intention, in order that the Blessed Virgin may be able to help them), and he also gave up his wickedness and changed his life.  But still more.  After 6 months he foolishly, and relying too much on his own strength, went to pay a visit to the woman, to see if she also was converted.  But on coming up to the door of the house, where he was in manifest danger of relapsing into sin, he was driven back by an invisible power, and found himself as far from the house as the whole length of the street, and standing before his own door.  He was then clearly given to understand that Mary had thus delivered him from perdition.  From this we may learn how solicitous our good Mother is, not only to withdraw us from a state of sin, if we recommend ourselves to her for this purpose, but also to deliver us from the danger of relapsing into it.

 PRAYER

O Immaculate and Holy Virgin!  O creature the most humble and the most exalted before God!  You were so lowly in Your own eyes, but so great in the Eyes of Your Lord, that He exalted You to such a degree as to choose You for His Mother, and then made You Queen of heaven and earth.  I therefore thank God Who so greatly has exalted You, and rejoice in seeing You so closely united with Him, that more cannot be granted to a pure creature.  Before You, who are so humble, though endowed with so precious gifts, I am ashamed to appear, I who am so proud in the midst of so many sins.  But miserable as I am, I will also salute You, Hail, Mary, Full of Grace.  You are already full of grace; impart a portion of it to me.  Our Lord is with You.  That Lord Who was always with You from the first moment of Your creation, has now united Himself more closely to You by becoming Your Son.  Blessed are You among women.  O Lady, blessed among all women, obtain the divine blessing for us also.  And blessed is the fruit of Your womb.  O blessed plant which has given to the world so noble and holy a fruit!  "Holy Mary, Mother of God!"  O Mary, I acknowledge that You are the true Mother of God, and in defence of this truth I am ready to give my life a thousand times.  Pray for us sinners.  But if You are the Mother of God, You are also the Mother of our salvation, and of us poor sinners; since God became man to save sinners, and made You His Mother, that Your prayers might have power to save any sinner.  Hasten, then, O Mary, and pray for us, now, and at the hour of our death.  Pray always: pray now, that we live in the midst of so many temptations and dangers of losing God; but still more, pray for us at the hour of our death, when we are on the point of leaving this world, and being presented before God's tribunal; that, being saved by the merits of Jesus Christ and by Your intercession, we may come one day, without further danger of being lost; to salute You and praise You with Your Son in heaven for all eternity.  Amen.  

      DISCOURSE 5

THE VISITATION OF MARY

July 2.

Mary is the Treasurer of all Divine Graces, there­fore, whoever desires

Graces must have recourse to Mary; and he who has recourse to Mary

may be sure of obtaining the Graces that he desires.

Fortunate does that family consider itself which is visited by a royal personage, both on account of the honor that redounds from such a visit, and the ad­vantages that may be hoped to accrue from it. But still more fortunate should that soul consider itself that is visited by the Queen of the world, the most holy Virgin Mary, who cannot but fill with riches and graces those blessed souls whom She deigns to visit by Her favors. The house of Obededom was blessed when visited by the Ark of God: "And the Lord blessed his house " 1 Chron 13:14.  But with how much greater blessings are those persons enriched who receive a loving visit from this living ark of God, for such was the Heavenly Mother! Happy is that house which the Mother of God visits.

This was abundantly experienced by the house of St. John the Baptist; for Mary had scarcely entered it when She heaped graces and heavenly blessings on the whole family: and for this reason the present feast of the Visitation is commonly called that of  "Our Blessed Lady of Graces." Hence we shall see in the present discourse that the Heavenly Mother is the treasurer of all graces. We shall di­vide the subject into 2 parts. In the first we shall see that whoever desires graces must have recourse to Mary. In the second, that he who has recourse to Mary should be confident of receiving the graces he desires.

After the Blessed Virgin had heard from Arch­angel Gabriel that Her cousin St. Elizabeth had been 6 months pregnant, She was internally enlightened by the Holy Spirit to know that the In­carnate Word, Who had become Her Son, was pleased then to manifest to the world the riches of His Mercy in the first graces that He desired to im­part to all that family. Therefore, without interpos­ing any delay, according to St. Luke, "Mary, rising up...went into the hill country with haste" Lk 1: 39.  Rising from the quiet of contemplation to which She was always devoted, and quitting Her beloved solitude, She immediately set out for the dwelling of St. Elizabeth; and because "charity bears all things" 1 Cor 13:7 and cannot support delay, the Holy Spirit knows not slow undertakings, without even reflecting on the ar­duousness of the journey, this tender Virgin, I say, immediately undertook it. On reaching the house, She salutes Her cousin: "And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth" Lk 1: 40.   Mary was the first to salute Elizabeth. The visit of Mary, however, had no resemblance to those of worldlings, which, for the greater part, consist in ceremony and outward demonstrations, devoid of all sincerity; for it brought with it an accumulation of graces. The moment She entered that dwelling, on Her first salu­tation, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit; and St. John was cleansed from original sin, and sanctified; and therefore gave this mark of joy by leaping in his mother's womb, wishing thereby to manifest the grace that he had received by the means of the Blessed Virgin, as St. Elizabeth herself declared: "As soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy" Lk 1: 44.   Thus, by vir­tue of Mary's salutation St. John received the grace of the Divine Spirit Which sanctified him.  

When the Blessed Virgin saluted Elizabeth, the voice of the salutation, entering her ears, descended to the child, and by its virtue he received the Holy Spirit. And now, if all these first-fruits of Redemption passed through Mary as the channel through which grace was communicated to the Baptist, the Holy Spirit to Elizabeth, the gift of prophecy to Zachary and so many other blessings to the whole house, the first graces that to our knowledge the Eternal Word had granted on earth after His Incarnation, it is quite correct to believe that thenceforward God made Mary the universal channel through which all the other graces that our Lord is pleased to dispense to us should pass, as we have already declared in Chap­ter 5 of the first part of this work. With reason, then, is this Heavenly Mother called the treasure, the treasurer, and the dispenser of divine graces. She is thus called  "the Treasure of God, and the Treasurer of "the Treasure of graces;" "the Treasure of divine graces;"  "the Treasurer of Jesus Christ;"  "the Dispenser of graces;" "the storehouse of all good things."  Mary is said to be thus full of grace, for in Her all the treasures of graces were hidden.  Mary is a treasure, because God has placed all gifts of graces in Her as in a treasury; and thence He bestows great stipends on His soldiers and laborers. She is a treasury of mercies, with which our Lord enriches His servants.

Our Queen Mary is the field in the Gos­pel, in which a treasure is hidden, and which should be purchased at however great a price, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field, which a man having found hid it, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has and buys that field" Mt 13:44,  in which Jesus Christ the treasure of God the Father, is hid, and with Jesus Christ the source and flow­ing fountain of all graces. Our Lord has deposited the plenitude of every grace in Mary, that we may thus know that if we possess hope, grace, or anything salutary, that it is from Her that it came.   Of this we are also assured by Mary Herself, saying, "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth" Sir 24:25;  in me are all the graces of real blessings that you men can desire in life.

"Yes, sweet Mother and our Hope, we know full well that all the treasures of Divine Mercies are in Your hands.  O Lady, all the graces that God has decreed for men He has determined to grant through Your hands; and therefore to You has He committed all the treasures and ornaments of grace, so that, O Mary, no grace is dispensed to any one otherwise than through Your hands; there is no one saved but by You; no one who receives a gift of God but through You. Fear not, Mary, for You have found grace with God. Fear not, O Mary, for You have found, not taken grace, as satan tried to take it; You have not lost it as Adam lost it; You have not bought it as Simon Magus would have bought it; but You have found it because You have desired and sought it. You have found uncreated grace; that is, God Himself became Your Son; and with that grace You have found and obtained every created good." This great Virgin and Mother found grace to re­store thereby salvation to all men. Mary found a grace so full that it suf­ficed to save all: "You have found grace, but how great a grace! It was such that it filled You; and so great was its plenitude, that it could be poured down as a torrent on everyone"  So much so indeed that as God made the sun, that by its means light might be dif­fused through the whole earth, so He made Mary, that by Her all Divine Mercies may be dispensed to the world. From the time that the Virgin Mother conceived the Divine Word in Her womb, She obtained a kind of juris­diction, so to say, over all the temporal manifestations of the Holy Spirit; so that no creature can obtain any grace from God that is not dispensed by this tender and compassionate Mother.  Hence let us conclude this point with the thought that if we wish to obtain any grace, we must have recourse to Mary, the finder of grace, who cannot but obtain all that She asks for Her servants; for She has recov­ered the Divine Grace which was lost, and always finds it.  Let us seek for grace, and seek it by Mary; for that which She seeks, She finds, and cannot be frustrated.  If we, then, desire graces, we must go to this treasurer and dispenser of graces; for it is the Sovereign Will of the Giver of every good thing; that all graces should be dispensed by the hands of Mary for such is His Will, Who is pleased that we should have all by Mary.  All, and he who says all excludes nothing 

2

But because confidence is necessary to obtain graces, we will now consider how sure we ought to feel of obtaining them when we have recourse to Mary.  Why did Jesus Christ (deposit all the riches of Mercy that He intends for us in the hands of His Mother, unless it was that She might therewith en­rich all Her clients who love Her, who honor Her, and who have recourse to Her with confidence?  "With Me are riches... that I may enrich them that love Me"— Prov 8:18, 21.   Thus the Blessed Virgin Herself assures us that it is so in this passage, which the Holy Church ap­plies to Her on so many of Her festivals. Therefore for no other purpose than to serve us are those riches of eternal life kept by Mary, in whose breast our Lord has deposited the treasure of the miserable, and that the poor being supplied from it may become rich. The riches of salvation are in custody of the Blessed Virgin for our use. Christ has made Mary's womb the treas­ury of the poor. Thus the poor are enriched.  And She is a full aqueduct, that others may receive of Her plenitude.   Mary was therefore given to the world that Her graces might continually descend from heaven upon men.

But why did St. Gabriel, having found the Heavenly Mother already full of grace, according to his salu­tation, Hail, full of grace, afterwards say, that the Holy Spirit would come upon Her to fill her still more with grace? If She was already full of grace, what more could the coming of the Divine Spirit ef­fect?   Mary was already full of grace; but the Holy Spirit filled Her to overflowing, for our good, that from Her superabundance, we miserable creatures might be provided.  For this same reason Mary was called the moon, of which it is said, "She is full for herself and others."                          

"He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord "— Prov 8:35.   Blessed is he who finds Me by having recourse to Me, says our Mother. He will find life, and will find it easily; for as it is easy to find and draw as much water as we please from a great fountain, so it is easy to find graces and eter­nal salvation by having recourse to Mary.  We have only to seek graces from our Blessed Lady to receive them. That it was because the Blessed Virgin was not yet born that in ancient times the great abundance of grace which we now see flow on the world was  lacking; for Mary, this desirable chan­nel, did not exist. But now that we have this Mother of Mercy, what graces are there that we need fear not to obtain when we cast ourselves at Her feet?  She is the city of refuge for all those who have recourse to Her. "Come, then, to Me, My children; for from Me you will obtain graces, and these in greater abundance than you can possibly imagine."

It is true that that which the Venerable Sister Mary Villani saw in a celestial vision is experienced by many. This servant of God once saw the Heavenly Mother as a great fountain, to which men went, and from it they carried off the waters of grace in great abundance. But what then happened? Those who had sound jars preserved the graces they re­ceived' but those who brought broken vessels, that is to say, those whose souls were burdened with sin, received graces, but did not long preserve them. It is, however, certain that men, even those who are ungrateful sinners and the most miserable, daily ob­tain innumerable graces from Mary. "Through you do the miserable obtain mercy, the ungracious grace, sinners pardon, the weak strength, the worldly heavenly things, mortals life, and pilgrims their country."

Let us then, O devout clients of Mary, rouse our­selves to greater and greater confidence each time that we have recourse to Her for graces. That we may do so, let us always remember 2 great pre­rogatives of this good Mother; Her great desire to do us good, and the power She has with Her Son to obtain whatever She asks.

To be convinced of the desire that Mary has to be of service to all, we need only consider the mystery of the present festival, that is, Mary's visit to St. Elizabeth. The journey from Nazareth, where the most Blessed Virgin lived, to the city of Hebron, which St. Luke calls a city of Judea, and in which St. Eliza­beth resided, was at least 70 miles long; but, notwithstanding the arduousness of the undertaking, the Blessed Virgin, tender and delicate as She then was, and unaccustomed to such fatigue did not delay Her departure. And what was it that impelled Her? It was that great charity with which Her most tender heart was ever filled that drove Her, so to say, to go and at once begin Her great office of dispenser of graces.  She did not go in incredulity of the prophecy, but glad to do what She had undertaken; it was joy that hastened Her steps, in the fulfillment of a religious office.  This means, that She did not un­dertake the journey to inquire into the truth of what the angel had pronounced to Her of the preg­nancy of St. Elizabeth, but exulting in the greatness of Her desire to be of service to that family, and hastening for the joy She felt in doing good to others, and wholly intent on that work of charity. "Rising, She went with haste"— Lk 1:39.    Here, let it be observed, the Evangelist, in speaking of Mary's departure for the house of Elizabeth, says, that She went with haste; but when he speaks of Her return, he no longer says anything of haste, but simply that "Mary abode with her about 3 months; and She returned to Her own house"— Lk 1:56.    What other object, then,  could the Mother of God have had in view, when She hastened to visit the house of St. John the Baptist, if it was not the desire to render service to that family?  What caused her to hasten in the per­formance of that act of charity but the charity which burnt in Her heart?     

This charity of Mary towards men certainly did not cease when She went to heaven; nay more, it greatly increased there, for there She better knows our needs, and has still greater compassion for our miseries. Mary desires more earnestly to do us good and grant us graces than we desire to receive them.  So much so, that She considers Herself offended by those who do not ask Her for graces. "Not only those, O Lady, offend You who outrage You, but You are also offended by those who neglect to ask Your favors."  For Mary's desire to enrich all with graces is, so to say, a part of Her nature, and She superabundantly enriches Her ser­vants.  Mary is God's treasure, and the treasurer of His graces; She plentifully endows Her servants with choice gifts.  Hence , he who finds Mary finds every good.   And every one can find Her, even the most miserable sinner in the world; for She is so benign that She rejects none who have recourse to Her:  Her benignity is such, that no one need fear to approach Her. And Her mercy is so great, that no one meets with a repulse.  "I invite all to have recourse to me; I expect all, I desire all, and I never despise any sinner, however unworthy he may be, who comes to seek my aid."    Whoever goes to ask graces from Mary  finds Her always prepared to help; that is, She is always ready and inclined to help us, and to obtain for us every grace of eternal salvation by Her powerful prayers.

I say, by Her powerful prayers; for another reflec­tion, which should increase our confidence, is that we know and are certain that She obtains from God all that She asks for Her clients. Observe especially in this visit of Mary to St. Elizabeth, the great power of Her words. According to the Evangelist, at the sound of Her voice the grace of the Holy Spirit was conferred on St. Eliza­beth, as well as on her son St. John the Baptist. "And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the saluta­tion of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit"— Lk 1:41.    See how great is the power of the words of our lady; for no sooner has She pro­nounced them, than the Holy Spirit is given.'

Jesus is greatly pleased when Mary intercedes with Him for us; for all the graces which He is, so to say, forced to grant through Her prayers, He considers as granted not so much to us as to Herself. And remark the words, "forced to grant through Her prayers, Yes, for Jesus cannot do oth­erwise than graciously accede to all that Mary asks; wishing, as it were, in this to obey Her as His true Mother. Hence the prayers of this Mother have a certain maternal authority with Jesus Christ; so that She obtains the grace of pardon even for those who have been guilty of grievous crimes, and  commend themselves to Herfor it is not possible that She should not be graciously heard; for God in all things acts towards Her as His true and spotless Mother. This is fully confirmed by what took place at the marriage-feast of Cana, when Mary asked Her Son for wine which had failed: "They have no wine. Jesus answered: Woman, what is that to Me and to you? My hour is not yet come"— Jn 2:3, 4. But though the time for miracles was not yet come, yet the Savior, notwithstanding His answer, and to obey His Mother, worked the miracle She asked for,  and converted the water into wine.

"Let us go, therefore, with confidence to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid"— Heb 4:16.  The throne of grace is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  If, then, we wish for graces, let us go to the throne of grace, which is Mary; and let us go with the certain hope of being heard; for we have Mary's intercession, and She ob­tains from Her Son all whatever She asks. Let us seek for grace,  I repeat  and let us seek it through Mary,  trusting to what the Blessed Virgin Mother Herself said to St. Mechtilde, that the Holy Spirit, filling Her with all His sweet­ness, has rendered Her so dear to God, that who­ever seeks graces through Her intercession is certain to obtain them. 

Salvation is occasionally more easily obtained by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking  the Name of Jesus;  we shall sometimes sooner obtain graces by having recourse to Mary than by having directly recourse to our Savior Jesus Him­self; not that He is not the source and Lord of all graces, but because, when we have recourse to the Mother, and she prays for us, her prayers have greater efficacy than ours, as being those of a mother. Let us then never leave the feet of this treasurer of graces; but ever address her in the words: "O Blessed Mother of God, open to us the gate of Mercy; for You are the salvation of the human race."

O Mother of God, open to us the door of Your compassion, by always praying for us; for Your prayers are the salva­tion of all men. When we have recourse to Mary, it would be advisable to entreat Her to ask and obtain us the graces which She knows to be the most expe­dient for our salvation; this is precisely what the Dominican Brother Reginald did, as it is related in the chronicles of the Order.  This servant of Mary was ill, and he asked Her to obtain him the recovery of his health. His sovereign Lady appeared to him, accompanied by St. Cecila and St. Catharine, and said with the greatest sweetness, "My son, what do you desire of Me? The religious was confused at so gracious an offer on the part of Mary, and knew not what to answer. Then one of the saints gave him this advice Reginald, I will tell you what to do; ask for nothing, but place yourself entirely in Her hands, for Mary will know how to grant you a greater grace than you can possibly ask. The sick man followed this advice, and the Heavenly Mother obtained the reestablishment of his health.  But if we also desire the happiness of receiving the visits of this Queen of heaven, we should often visit Her by going before Her image, or praying to Her in churches dedicated to Her honor. Read the follow­ing example, in which you will see with what special favors She rewards the devout visits of Her clients.

EXAMPLE

A certain cavalier named Ansald of the city of Dole in France, received in battle a wound from an arrow, which entered so deep into the jawbone that it was not possible to extract the iron point which remained.  After 4 years, the poor man, unable any longer to endure the torment, and being besides very ill, thought of having the wound re­opened, that the surgeons might again try to extract the iron. He recommended himself to the Blessed Virgin, and made a vow that he would every year visit a devout image of Mary, which was in that place, and make an offering of a certain sum of money, should She grant his prayer. He had no sooner made the vow than he felt the iron drop of its own accord in his mouth. On the following day, ill as he was, he went to visit the image, and scarcely had he placed his offering on the altar when he found himself entirely restored to health.

PRAYER

Immaculate and Blessed Virgin, since You are the universal dispenser of all divine graces, You are the hope of all, and my hope. I will ever thank my Lord for having granted me the grace to know You, and for having shown me the means by which I may obtain graces and be saved. You are this means, O great Mother of God; for I now under­stand that it is principally through the merits of Je­sus Christ, and then through Your intercession, that my soul must be saved. Ah! My Queen, You hastened so greatly to visit, and by that means sanctified the dwelling of St. Elizabeth; choose now, to visit, and visit quickly, the poor house of my soul. Ah! Hasten, then, for You well know, and far better than I do, how poor it is, and with how many maladies it is afflicted; with disordered affec­tions, evil habits, and sins committed, all of which are pestiferous diseases, which would lead it to eternal death. You can enrich it, O treasurer of God; and You can heal all its infirmities. Visit me, then, in life, and visit me especially at the mo­ment of death, for then I shall more than ever re­quire Your aid. I do not indeed expect, neither am I worthy, that You should visit me on this earth with Your visible presence, as You have visited so many of Your servantsbut they were not unworthy and ungrateful as I am. I am satisfied to see You in Your Kingdom of Heaven, there to be able to love You more, and thank You for all that You have done for me. At present I am satisfied that You should visit me with Your mercy; Your prayers are all that I desire. Pray, then, O Mary, for me, and commend me to Your Son. You, far better than I do, know my miseries and my needs. What more can I say? Pity me; I am so miserable and ignorant, that I neither know nor can I seek for, the graces that I stand the most in need of. My most sweet Queen and Mother, seek and obtain for me from Your Divine Son those graces which You know to be the most expedient and necessary for my soul. I aban­don myself entirely into Your hands, and only beg the Divine Majesty, that by the merits of my Savior Je­sus, He will grant me the graces which You ask Him for me. Ask, ask, then, O most Holy Virgin, that which You see best for me; Your prayers are never rejected, they are the prayers of a Mother addressed to a Son, Who loves You, His Mother, so much, and rejoices in doing all that You desire, that He may honor You more, and at the same time show You the great love that He bears You. Let us make an agreement, O Lady, that while I live confiding in You, You on Your part will charge Yourself with my salvation. Amen.

DISCOURSE 6

THE PURIFICATION OF MARY.

February 2.

The great Sacrifice which Mary made on this day

 to God in offering Him the Life of Her Son.

In the old law there were 2 precepts concerning the birth of the first-born sons: one was, that the mother should remain as unclean, retired in her house for 40 days; after which she was to go to purify herself in the temple. The other was, that the parents of the first-born son should take him to the Temple, and there offer him to God. On this day the most Blessed Virgin obeyed both these precepts. Although Mary was not bound by the law of puri­fication, since She was always a virgin and always pure, yet Her humility and obedience made Her wish to go like other mothers to purify Herself. She at the same time obeyed the second precept, to present and offer Her Son to the Eternal Father. "And after the days of Her purification, according to the Law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Him to Jeru­salem to present Him to the Lord"— Lk 2:22.   But the Blessed Virgin did not offer Him as other mothers offered their sons. Others offered them to God; but they knew that this oblation was simply a legal cere­mony, and that by redeeming them they made them their own, without fear of having again to offer them to death. Mary really offered Her son to Death, and knew for certain that the Sacrifice of the Life of Jesus which She then made was one day to be actually consummated on the Altar of the Cross; so that Mary, by offering the Life of Her Divine Son, came, in consequence of the love She bore this Son, really to sacrifice Her own entire self to God. Leaving, then, aside all other considerations into which we might enter on the many mysteries of this festival, we will only consider the greatness of the sacrifice which Mary made of Herself to God in offering Him on this day the Life of Her Son. And this will be the whole subject of the following discourse.

The Eternal Father had already determined to save man, who was lost by sin, and to deliver him from eternal death. But because He willed at the same time that His Divine Justice should not be de­frauded of a worthy and due satisfaction, He spared not the Life of His Son already become man to re­deem man, but willed that He should pay with the utmost rigor the penalty which men had deserved. "He Who spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…"— Rom 8:32.  He sent Him, therefore, on earth to become Man. He destined Him a Mother, and willed that this Mother should be the blessed Virgin Mary. But as He willed not that His Divine Word should become Her Son before She by an express consent had accepted Him, so also He willed not that Jesus should sacrifice His Life for the salvation of men without the concurrent assent of Mary; that, together with the sacrifice of the life of the Son, the Mother's heart might also be sacrificed. St. Thomas teaches that the quality of a mother gives her a spe­cial right over her children; hence, Jesus being in Himself innocent and undeserving of punishment, it seemed fitting that He should not be condemned to the Cross as a victim for the sins of the world with­out the consent of His Mother, by which She should spontaneously offer Him to Death.  But although from the moment She became the Mother of Jesus, Mary consented to His Death, yet God willed that on this day, She should make a sol­emn sacrifice of Herself, by offering Her Son to Him in the Temple, sacrificing His precious life to Divine Justice. Hence She is called "a priest." And now we begin to see how much this sacrifice cost Her, and what heroic virtues She had to practice when She Herself subscribed the sentence by which Her beloved Jesus was condemned to Death.

Behold Mary is actually on Her road to Jerusalem to offer Her Son; She hastens Her steps towards the place of sacrifice, and She Herself bears the beloved victim in Her arms. She enters the Temple, ap­proaches the altar, and there, beaming with mod­esty, devotion, and humility, presents Her Son to the Most High. In the mean time the holy Simeon, who had received a promise from God that he should not die without having first seen the ex­pected Messiah, takes the Divine Child from the hands of the Blessed Virgin, and, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, announces to Her how much the sacri­fice which She then made of Her Son would cost Her, and that with Him, Her own blessed soul would also be sacrificed.

Imagine the holy old man becoming troubled and silent at the thought of having to give utterance to a prophecy so fatal to this poor Mother.  Con­sider Mary, who asks him, "Why, O Simeon, are you thus troubled in the midst of such great conso­lations?" "O royal Virgin," he replies, "I would de­sire not to announce to You so bitter tidings; but since God thus wills it for Your greater merit, listen to what I have to say. This Child, which is now such a source of joy to You—and, O God, with how much reason?—this Child, I say, will one day be a source of so bitter grief to You that no creature in the world has ever experienced the like; and this will be when You see Him persecuted by men of every class, and made a butt upon earth for their scoffs and outrages; they will even go so far as to put Him to Death as a malefactor before Your own eyes. You so greatly rejoiced in this Infant; but, behold, He is placed for a sign which shall be contradicted. Know that after His Death there will be many mar­tyrs, who for the love of this Son of Yours will be tormented and put to death; their martyrdom, how­ever, will be endured in their bodies; but Yours, O Heavenly Mother, will be endured in Your heart. O, how many thousands will be torn to pieces and put to death for the love of this child! and al­though they will all suffer much in their bodies, You, O Virgin, will suffer much more in Your heart."'  Yes, in Her heart; for compassion alone for the sufferings of this Most Beloved Son was the Sword of Sorrow which was to pierce the heart of the Mother, as St. Simeon exactly foretold: "And Your own soul a sword shall pierce"— Lk 2:35.   Already the most Blessed Virgin, was enlightened by the Sacred Scriptures, and knew the sufferings that the Redeemer was to endure in His Life, and still more at the time of His Death. She fully understood from the prophets that He was to be betrayed by one of His disciples: "For even the man of my peace, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has greatly sup­planted me"— Ps 41:9, as David foretold: that he was to be abandoned by them: "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered"— Zach 13:7.  She well knew the con­tempt, the spitting, the blows, the derisions that He was to suffer from the people: "I have given My Back to the strikers, and My Cheeks to those who plucked them: I have not turned away My Face from those who rebuked Me and who spit upon Me"— Isa 50:6.  She knew that He was to become the reproach of men, and the out­cast of the most degraded of the people, so as to be saturated with insults and injuries: "But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the out­cast of the people"— Ps 22:6.  "He shall be filled with re­proaches"— Lam 3:30.  She knew that at the end of His Life, His Most Sacred Flesh would be torn and mangled by scourges: "But He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins"— Is 53:5.  And this to such a degree that His whole Body was to be disfigured, and be­come like that of a lepers, all wounds, and the Bones appearing. "There is no beauty in Him nor comeli­ness...and we have thought Him, as it were, a leper"— Is 53:2.  "They have numbered all My Bones"— Ps 22:18. She knew that He was to be pierced by nails: "They have pierced My Hands and Feet"— Ps 22:16.  To be ranked with malefactors: "And was reputed with the wicked"— Is 53:12.  And that finally, hanging on a Cross, He was to die for the salvation of men: "And they shall look upon Me, Whom they have pierced"— Zec 12:10. 

Mary, I say, already knew all these torments that Her Son was to endure; but, in the words addressed to Her by Simeon: "And your own soul a sword shall pierce"— Lk 2:35, all the minute circumstances of the suffer­ings, internal and external, that were to torment Her Jesus in His Passion, were made known to Her, as our Lord revealed to St. Teresa. She consented to all with a constancy which filled even the angels with astonishment; She pronounced the sentence that Her Son should die, and die by so ignominious and painful a death, saying, "Eternal Father, since You will that it should be so, not My will, but Yours be done. I unite My will to Your Most Holy Will, and I sacrifice this My Son to You.  I am satis­fied that He should lose His Life for Your glory and the salvation of the world. At the same time I sacri­fice My heart to You, that it may be transpierced with sorrow, and this as much as You please it suffices Me, My God, that You are glorified and satisfied with My offering: Not My will, but Yours be done. O charity without measure! O constancy without parallel! O victory which deserves the eter­nal admiration of heaven and earth!

Hence it was that Mary was silent during the Pas­sion of Jesus, when He was unjustly accused. She said nothing to Pilate, who was somewhat inclined to set Him at liberty, knowing, as he did, His inno­cence; She only appeared in public to assist at the great sacrifice, which was to be accomplished on Calvary; She accompanied Her beloved Son to the place of execution; She was with Him from the first moment, when He was nailed on the Cross: "…There stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother"— Jn 19:25, until She saw Him expire, and the Sacrifice was consum­mated. And all this She did to complete the offering which She had made of Him to God in the Temple.

To understand the violence which Mary had to offer Herself in this Sacrifice, it would be necessary to understand the love that this Mother bore to Je­sus. Generally speaking, the love of mothers is so tender towards their children that, when these are at the point of death, and there is fear of losing them, it causes them to forget all their faults and defects, and even the injuries that they may have re­ceived from them, and makes them suffer an inex­pressible grief. And yet the love of these mothers is a love divided amongst other children, or at least among other creatures. Mary had an only Son, and He was the most beautiful of all the sons of Adam—most amiable, for He had everything to make Him so: He was obedient, virtuous, innocent, holy; suffice it to say, He was God. Again, this Mother's love was not divided among other ob­jects; She had concentrated all Her love in this only Son; nor did She fear to exceed in loving Him; for this Son was God, Who merits infinite love. This Son it was Who was the victim that She of Her own free-will had to sacrifice to death.

Let each one, then, consider how much it must have cost Mary, and what strength of mind She had to exercise in this act, by which She sacrificed the life of so amiable a Son to the Cross. Behold, there­fore, the most fortunate of mothers, because the Mother of God; but who was at the same time, of all mothers, the most worthy of compassion, being the most afflicted, inasmuch as She saw Her Son destined to the Cross from the day on which He was given to Her. What mother would accept of a child, knowing that she would afterwards miserably lose him by an ignominious death, and that moreover she herself would be present and see him thus die? Mary willingly accepts this Son on so hard a condi­tion; and not only does She accept Him, but She Her­self on this day offers Him, with Her own hand, to death, sacrificing Him to Divine Justice.  The Blessed Virgin would have accepted the pains and death of Her Son far more willingly for Herself; but to obey God, She made the great offering of the Divine Life of Her be­loved Jesus, conquering, but with an excess of grief, the tender love which She bore Him. "Could it have been so, She would willingly have endured all the torments of Her Son; but it pleased God that His Only Begotten Son should be offered for the salva­tion of the human race. Hence it is that in this of­fering Mary had to do Herself more violence and was more generous than if She had offered Herself to suffer all that Her Son was to endure. Therefore She surpassed all the martyrs in generosity; for the martyrs offered their own lives, but the Blessed Virgin offered the life of Her Son, Whom She loved and esteemed infinitely more than Her own life. Nor did the sufferings of this painful offering end here; nay, even, they only began; for from that time forward, during the whole life of Her Son, Mary had con­stantly before Her eyes the Death and all the tor­ments that He was to endure. Hence, the more this Son showed Himself beautiful, gracious, and amia­ble, the more did the anguish of Her heart increase.

Ah, most sorrowful Mother, had You loved Your Son less, or had He been less amiable, or had He loved You less, Your sufferings in offering Him to Death would certainly have been diminished. But there never was, and never will be, a mother who loved her son more than You loved Yours; for there never was, and never will be a son more amia­ble, or one who loved his mother more than Your Je­sus loved You. O God, had we beheld the beauty, the majesty of the Countenance of that Divine Child, could we have ever had courage to sacrifice His life for our salvation? And You, O Mary, who were His Mother, and a Mother loving Him with so tender a love, You could offer Your Innocent Son, for the salvation of men, to a Death more painful and cruel than ever was endured by the greatest malefactor on earth!

Ah, how sad a scene from that day forward must love have continually placed before the eyes of Mary—a scene representing all the outrages and mockeries which Her poor Son was to endure! See, love already represents Him agonized with sorrow in the garden, mangled with scourges, crowned with thorns in the praetorium, and finally hanging on the ignominious Cross on Calvary! "Behold, O Mother," says love, "what an amiable and innocent Son You offer to so many torments and to so horrible a Death!" And to what purpose save Him from the hands of Herod, since it is only to reserve Him for a far more sorrowful end?

Thus Mary not only offered Her Son to death in the Temple, but She renewed that offering every moment of Her life; for She revealed to St. Bridget "that the sorrow announced to Her by the holy Simeon never left Her heart until Her assumption into heaven."  "O compassionate Lady, I cannot believe that You could have endured for a moment so excru­ciating a torment without expiring under it, had not God Himself, the Spirit of Life sustained You. But   You died living, enduring a sorrow more cruel than death." In every moment She lived dying; for in every moment She was assailed by the sorrow of the Death of Her beloved Jesus, which was a torment more cruel than any death. Hence the Heavenly Mother, on account of the great merit that She acquired by this great sacrifice which She made to God for the salvation of the world, was justly called by various saints "the Repairer of the human race;" …  "the Redeemer of captives;" …  "the Repairer of a lost world;" … "our Liberator from our calamities;" …  "the Mother of all the faithful;" …  "the Mother of the liv­ing; … "the Mother of life." For the wills of Christ and of Mary were then united, so that both offered the same holocaust; She thereby producing with Him the one effect, the salvation of the world.  At the Death of Jesus Mary united Her will to that of Her Son; so much so, that both offered one and the same sacrifice; and therefore, both the Son and the mother ef­fected human redemption, and obtained salvation for men—Jesus by satisfying for our sins, Mary by obtaining the application of this satisfaction to us. Hence, the Heavenly Mother can also be called the savior of the world, since by the pain that She endured in com­miserating Her Son (willingly sacrificed by Her to Divine Justice), She merited that through Her prayers the merits of the Passion of the Redeemer should be communicated to men.

     Mary, then, having by the merit of Her sorrows, and by sacrificing Her Son, become the Mother of all the redeemed, it is right to believe that through Her hands, Divine Graces, and the means to obtain eternal life, which are the fruits of the Sufferings of Je­sus Christ, are given to men. When God was about to redeem the human race, He deposited the whole price in Mary's hands meaning, that the merits of the Redeemer are applied to our souls by the interces­sion of the Blessed Virgin; for all graces that are the fruits of Jesus Christ were comprised in that price of which She had charge.

If the sacrifice of Abraham by which he offered his son Isaac to God was so pleasing to the Divine Majesty, that as a reward He promised to multiply his descendants as the stars of heaven"Because you have done this thing, and have not spared your only-begotten son for your sake, I will bless you, and I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven"— Gen 22:15we must certainly believe that the more noble sacrifice which the great Mother of God made to Him of Her Jesus, was far more agreeable to Him, and therefore that He has granted that through Her prayers the number of the elect should be multiplied, that is to say, increased by the number of Her fortunate chil­dren; for She considers and protects all Her devout clients as such.

St. Simeon received a promise from God that he should not die until he had seen the Messiah born: And he had received an answer from the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord"— Lk 2:26. But this grace he only received through Mary, for it was in Her arms that he found the Savior. Hence, he who desires to find Jesus, will not find Him otherwise than by Mary. Let us, then, go to this Heavenly Mother if we wish to find Je­sus, and let us go with great confidence.  Mary told Her servant Prudenziana Zagnoni that every year, on this day of Her purification, a great grace would be bestowed upon some sinner. Who knows but one of us may be the favored sinner of this day? If our sins are great, the power of Mary is greater. The Son can deny nothing to such a Mother. If Jesus is irritated against us, Mary immediately appeases Him.  Plu­tarch relates that Antipater wrote a long letter to Alexander the Great, filled with accusations against his mother Olympia. Having read the letter, Alex­ander said, "Antipater does not know that a single tear of my mother suffices to cancel 600 let­ters of accusation."  We also may imagine that Je­sus thus answers the accusations presented against us by the devil, when Mary prays for us: "Does not satan know that a prayer of My Mother in favor of a sinner suffices to make Me forget all accusa­tions of offences committed against Me?" The fol­lowing example is a proof of this.

EXAMPLE

This example was told to me by a priest, a friend of mine, as having happened to himself. This priest was hearing con­fessions in a church (to compromise no one, I do not mention the name of the place, though the peni­tent gave him leave to publish the fact), when a young man stood before him, who seemed to wish, but at the same time to fear, to go to confession. The Father, after looking at him several times, at length called him, and asked him if he wished to confess. He replied that he did; but as his confes­sion was likely to be very long, he begged to be taken to a private room. The penitent there began by saying that be was a foreigner, and of noble birth, but who had led such a life that he did not believe it possible that God would pardon him. Be­sides the other innumerable shameful crimes and murders he had committed, he said that, having en­tirely despaired of salvation, he committed sins, no longer from inclination, but expressly to outrage God, out of the hatred he bore Him. He said, among other things, that he wore a crucifix, and that he beat it out of disrespect; and that that very morning, only a short time before, he had communicated sacrilegiously; and for what purpose? It was that he might trample the sacred particle under his feet. And he had indeed already received it, and had only been prevented from executing his horri­ble design by the people who would have seen him. He then consigned the sacred particle in a piece of paper to the confessor. Having done this, he said that, passing before the church, he had felt himself strongly impelled to enter it; that, unable to resist, he had done so. After entering, he was seized with great remorse of conscience; and at the same time a sort of confused and irresolute desire to confess his sins; and hence the reason for which he stood be­fore the confessional; but while standing there, his confusion and diffidence were so great that he en­deavored to go away, but it seemed to him as if some one held him there by force. "In the mean time," he said, "Father, you called me, and now I am here making my confession, and I know not how." The Father then asked him if he ever prac­ticed any devotion during the time, meaning to­wards the Blessed Virgin; for such conversions only come through the powerful hands of Mary. "None, Father. Devotions, indeed! I looked on myself as damned." "But reflect again, said the Father. "Fa­ther, I did nothing," he repeated. But, putting his hand to his breast to uncover it, he remembered that he wore the scapular of Mary's dolors. "Ah, my son," said the confessor, "do you not see it is our Blessed Lady who has obtained you so ex­traordinary a grace? And know," he added, "that to Her this church is dedicated." On hearing this the young man was moved, and began to grieve, and at the same time to weep; then, continuing the confession of his sins, his compunction increased to such a degree that with a loud sob he fell fainting at the Father's feet. When he had been restored to consciousness, he finished his confession; and the Father with the greatest consolation absolved him, and sent him back to his own country entirely con­trite, and resolved to change his life, giving the Fa­ther full permission to preach and publish every­where the great mercy that Mary had shown him.

PRAYER

O holy Mother of God, and my Mother Mary, You were so deeply interested in my salvation as to offer to Death the dearest object of Your heart, Your beloved Jesus! Since, then, You so much de­sired to see me saved, it is right that, after God, I should place all my hope in You. O yes, most Blessed Virgin, I do indeed entirely confide in You. Ah, by the merit of the great sacrifice which You offered this day to God, the Sacrifice of the Life of Your Son, entreat Him to have pity on my poor soul, for which this Immaculate Lamb did not re­fuse to die on the Cross, I could desire, O my Queen, to offer my poor heart to God on this day, in imita­tion of You; but I fear that, Seeing it so sordid and loathsome, He may refuse it. But if You offer it to Him, He will not reject it. He is always pleased with and accepts the offerings presented to Him by Your most pure hands. To You, then, O Mary, do I this day present myself, miserable as I am; to You do I give myself without reserve. Offer me as Your servant, together with Jesus, to the Eternal Father; and implore Him, by the merits of Your Son and for Your sake, to accept me and take me as His own. Ah, my sweetest Mother, for the love of Your sacrificed Son, help me always and at all times, and never abandon me. Never permit me to lose by my sins this most amiable Redeemer, Whom on this day You offered with so bitter grief to the cruel Death of the Cross. Remind Him that I am Your ser­vant; that in You I have placed all my hope; say that You will my salvation, and He will cer­tainly graciously hear You.

DISCOURSE 7

THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY

August 15.

On this day the Church celebrates in honor of Mary 2 solemn festi­vals; the first is that of Her happy passage from this world; the second, that of Her glorious Assumption into Heaven. 

How precious was the death of Mary, both on ac­count of the special graces that attended it,  and on account of the manner in which it took place.

 Death being the punishment of sin, it would seem that the Heavenly Mother—all holy, and exempt as She was from its slightest stain—should also have been exempt from death, and from encountering the mis­fortunes to which the children of Adam, infected by the poison of sin, are subject. But God was pleased that Mary should in all things resemble Jesus; and as the Son died, it was becoming that the mother should also die; because, moreover, He wished to give the just an example of the precious death pre­pared for them, He willed that even the most Blessed Virgin should die, but by a sweet and happy death. Let us, therefore, now consider how pre­cious was Mary's death: first, on account of the special favors by which it was accompanied; secondly, on account of the manner in which it took place.

1

There are 3 things that render death bitter: at­tachment to the world, remorse for sins, and the uncertainty of salvation. The death of Mary was entirely free from these causes of bitterness, and was accompanied by 3 special graces, which rendered it precious and joyful. She died as She had lived, entirely detached from the things of the world; She died in the most perfect peace; She died in the certainty of eternal glory. 1. And in the first place, there can be no doubt that attachment to earthly things renders the death of the worldly bitter and miserable, as the Holy Spirit says: O death, how bitter is the remembrance of you to a man who has peace in his possessions!' But because the saints die detached from the things of the world, their death is not bitter, but sweet, lovely, and precious; that is to say, worth purchasing at any price, however great"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord"— Rev 14:15. Who are they who, being already dead, die? They are those happy souls who pass into eternity al­ready detached, and, so to say, dead to all affection for terrestrial things; and who, like St. Francis of Assisi, found in God alone all their happiness, and with him could say, "My God and my all." But what soul was ever more detached from earthly goods, and more united to God, than the beautiful soul of MaryShe was detached from Her parents; for at the age of 3 years, when children are most attached to them, and stand in the greatest need of their assistance, Mary, with the greatest intrepidity, left them, and went to shut Herself up in the Temple to attend to God alone. She was detached from riches, contenting Herself always to live poor, and supporting Herself with the labor of Her own hands. She was detached from honors, loving a humble and abject life, though the honors due to a queen were Hers, as She was descended from the kings of Israel. The Blessed Virgin Herself revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, that when Her parents left Her in the Temple, She resolved in Her heart to have no father, and to love no other good than God.

St. John saw Mary represented in that woman, clothed with the sun, who held the moon under her feet"And a great sign appeared in heaven: a Woman clothed with the sun and the moon under Her feet"— Rev 12:1. In­terpreters explain the moon to signify the goods of this world, which, like Her, are uncertain and changeable. Mary never had these goods in Her heart, but always despised them and trampled them under Her feet; living in this world as a solitary tur­tle-dove in a desert, never allowing Her affection to center itself on any earthly thing; so that of Her it was said: "The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land"— Sg 2:12. And: "Who is She that goes up by the de­sert"— Sg 3:6?  "Thus did You go up by the desert O Mary; having a solitary soul." Mary, then, having lived always and in all things detached from the earth, and united to God alone, death was not bitter, but, on the contrary, very sweet and dear to Her; since it united Her more closely to God in heaven, by an eternal bond.

2. Peace of mind renders the death of the just precious. Sins committed during life are the worms that so cruelly torment and gnaw the hearts of poor dying sinners, who, about to appear before the Di­vine Tribunal, see themselves at that moment sur­rounded by their sins, which terrify them, and cry out, "we are your works; we will not abandon you."  Mary certainly could not be tormented at death by any remorse of con­science, for She was always pure, and always free from the least shade of actual or original sin; so much so, that of Her it was said: "You are all fair, O My love, and there is not a spot in You"— Sg 4:7. From the moment that She had the use of reason, that is, from the first moment of Her Immaculate Concep­tion in the womb of St. Anne, She began to love God with all Her strength, and continued to do so, always advancing more and more throughout Her whole life in love and perfection. And all Her thoughts, desires, and affections were of and for God alone; She never uttered a word, made a movement, cast a glance, or breathed, but for God and His glory; and never departed a step or de­tached Herself for a single moment from Divine Love. Ah, how did all the lovely virtues that She had practiced during life surround Her blessed bed in the happy hour of Her death! That faith so constant; that loving confidence in God; that unconquerable patience in the midst of so many sufferings; that humility in the midst of so many privileges; that modesty; that meekness; that tender compassion for souls; that insatiable zeal for the glory of God; and, above all, that most perfect love towards Him, with that entire conformity to the Divine Will: all, in a word, surrounded Her, and consoling Her, said: "We are Your works; we will not abandon You." Our Lady and Mother, we are all daughters of Your beau­tiful heart; now that You are leaving this miserable life, we will not leave You; we also will go, and be Your eternal accompaniment and honor in Paradise, where, by our means You will reign as Queen of all men and of all angels.

3. Finally, the certainty of eternal salvation ren­ders death sweet. Death is called a passage; for by death we pass from a short to an eternal life. And as the dread of those is indeed great who die in doubt of their salvation, and who approach the sol­emn moment with well-grounded fear of passing into eternal death; thus, on the other hand, the joy of the saints is indeed great the close of life, hoping with some security to go and possess God in heaven. A nun of the Order of St. Teresa, when the doctor announced to her approaching death to her, was so filled with joy that she exclaimed, "O, how is it, sir, that you announce to me such welcome news, and demand no fee?" St. Laurence Justinian, being at the point of death, and perceiving his servants weeping round him, said: "Away, away with your tears; this is no time to mourn." Go elsewhere to weep; if you would remain with me, rejoice, as I re­joice, in seeing the gates a heaven open to me, that I may be united to my God. Thus also a St. Peter of Alcantara, a St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and so many other saints, on hearing that death was at hand, burst forth into exclamations of joy and gladness. And yet they were not certain of being in possession of Divine Grace, nor were they secure of their own sanctity, as Mary was.

     But what joy must the Heavenly Mother have felt in receiving the news of Her approaching death! She who had the fullest certainty of the possession of Divine Grace, especially after the Angel Gabriel had assured Her that She was full of grace, and that She already possessed God. "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with You... You have found grace…"— Lk 1:28,30.  And well did She Herself know that Her heart was continually burning with divine love; so that, Mary, by a singular privilege granted to no other saint, loved, and was always actually loving God, in every moment of Her life, with such ardor, that it required a con­tinued miracle to preserve Her life in the midst of such flames."

Of Mary it had already been asked in the sacred canticles, "Who is She that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke, of aromatical spices, of myrrh, and frankincense, and all the powders of the per­fumer"— Sg 3:6? Her entire mortification typified by the myrrh, Her fervent prayers signified by the incense, and all Her holy virtues united to Her perfect love for God, kindled in Her a flame so great that Her beautiful soul, wholly devoted to and consumed by Divine Love, arose continually to God as a pillar of smoke, breathing forth on every side a most sweet odor. "Such smoke, nay even such a pillar of smoke, have You, O Blessed Mary, breathed forth a sweet odor to the Most High."  A pillar of smoke, because burning interiorly as a holocaust with the Flame of Divine Love, She sent forth a most sweet odor.   As the lov­ing Virgin lived, so did She die. As Divine Love gave Her life., so did it cause Her death; for the Doctors and holy Fathers of the Church generally say She died of no other infirmity than pure love; Mary either ought not to have died, or only to die of love.

 2

But now let us see how Her blessed death took place. After the Ascension of Jesus Christ, Mary re­mained on earth to attend to the propagation of the faith. Hence the disciples of our Lord had recourse to Her, and She solved their doubts, comforted them in their persecutions, and encouraged them to labor for the Divine Glory and the salvation of redeemed souls. She willingly remained on earth, knowing that such was the Will of God, for the good of the Church; but She could not but feel the pain of being far from the Presence and sight of Her beloved Son, Who had ascended to heaven. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"— Lk 12:34,said the Redeemer. Where any one believes his treasure and his happi­ness to be, here he always holds the love and desires of his heart fixed. If Mary, then, loved no other good than Jesus, He being in heaven, all Her desires were in heaven.   Heaven was the cell of the hea­venly and most Blessed Virgin Mary; for, being there with all Her desires and affections, She made it Her continual abode. Her school was eternity; for She was always detached and free from temporal possessions. Her teacher was divine truth; for Her whole life was guided by this alone. Her book was the purity of Her own conscience, in which She al­ways found occasion to rejoice in the Lord. Her mirror was the divinity; for She never admitted any representations into Her soul but such as were trans­formed into and clothed with God, that so She might always conform Herself to His Will. Her or­nament was devotion; for She attended solely to Her interior sanctification, and was always ready to fulfill the Divine Commands. Her repose was union with God; for He alone was Her treasure and the resting-place of Her heart. The most holy Virgin consoled her loving heart during this painful separation by visiting, as it is re­lated, the holy places of Palestine, where Her Son had been during His life. She frequently visited—at one time the stable at Bethlehem, where Her Son was born; at another, the workshop of Nazareth, where Her Son had lived so many years poor and despised; now the Garden of Gethsemane, where Her Son began His Passion; then the Praetorium of Pilate, where He was scourged, and the spot on which He was crowned with thorns; but She visited most frequently the Mount Calvary, where Her Son expired; and the Holy Sepulcher in which She had finally left Him: thus did the most loving Mother soothe the pains of Her cruel exile. But this could not be enough to satisfy Her heart, which was unable to find perfect repose in this world. Hence She was continually sending up sighs to Her Lord, exclaiming with David: "Who will give Me wings like a dove, and I will fly and be at rest"— Ps 55:6 Who will give Me wings like a dove, that I may fly to My God, and there find My repose? "As the hart pants after the fountains of water: so my soul pants after You, my God"— Ps 42:1.  As the wounded stag pants for the foun­tain, so does my soul, wounded by Your love, O My God, desire and sigh after You.  Yes, indeed, the sighs of this holy turtle-dove could not but deeply penetrate the Heart of Her God, Who indeed so tenderly loved Her. "The voice of the turtle is heard in our land"— Sg 2:12. Wherefore being unwilling to defer any longer the so greatly desired consolation of His beloved, behold, He graciously hears Her desire, and calls Her to His Kingdom.

Some days before Her death, our Lord sent Her the Archangel Gabriel, the same that announced to Her that She was that blessed woman chosen to be the Mother of God: "My Lady and Queen," said the angel, "God has already graciously heard Your holy desires, and has sent me to tell You to prepare Yourself to leave the earth; for He wills You in heaven. Come, then, to take possession of Your kingdom; for I and all its holy inhabitants await and desire You." On this happy annunciation, what else could our most humble and most holy Virgin do, but, with the most profound humility, answer in the same words in which She had an­swered St. Gabriel when he announced to Her that She was to become the Mother of God: Behold the handmaid of the Lord" Behold, She answered again, the slave of the Lord. He in His pure goodness chose Me and made Me His Mother; He now calls Me to Paradise. I did not deserve that honor, nor do I deserve this. But since He is pleased to show in My person His Infinite Liberality, behold, I am ready to go where He pleases"Behold the handmaid of the Lord…."—Lk 1:38. May the Will of My God and Lord be ever accomplished in Me!

After receiving this welcome word, She im­parted it to St. John. We may well imagine with what grief and tender feelings he heard the news; he who for so many years had attended upon her as a son, and had enjoyed the heavenly conversation of this most holy Mother. She then once more visited the holy places of Jerusalem, tenderly taking leave of them, and especially of Mount Calvary, where Her beloved Son had died. She then retired into Her poor cottage, there to prepare for death.

During this time the angels did not cease their vis­its to their beloved Queen, consoling themselves with the thought that they would soon see Her crowned in heaven.  Before Her death, the apostles, and also many disciples who were scattered in different parts of the world, were miraculously assembled in Mary's room, and that when She saw all these Her dear chil­dren in Her presence, She thus addressed them: "My beloved children, through love for you and to help you, My Son left Me on earth. The holy faith is now spread throughout the world, already the fruit of the divine seed is grown up; hence My Lord, see­ing that My assistance on earth is no longer neces­sary, and compassionating My grief in being sepa­rated from Him, has graciously listened to My desire to quit this life and to go and see Him in heaven. Remain, then, to labor for His Glory. If I leave you, My heart remains with you; the great love I bear you I shall carry with Me and always preserve. I go to Paradise to pray for you."

Who can form an idea of the tears and lamenta­tions of the holy disciples at this sad announce­ment, and at the thought that soon they were to be separated from their Mother? All then, weeping, exclaimed, "Then, O Mary, you are already about to leave us. It is true that this world is not a place worthy of or fit for you; and as for us, we are un­worthy to enjoy the society of the Mother of God; but, remember, you are our Mother; hitherto you have enlight­ened us in our doubts; you have con­soled us in our afflictions; you have been our strength in persecutions; and now, how can you abandon us, leaving us alone in the midst of so many enemies and so many conflicts, deprived of your consolation? We have already lost on earth Je­sus, our Master and Father, Who has ascended into heaven; until now we have found consolation in You, our Mother; and now, how can You also leave us orphans without father or mother? Our own sweet Lady, either remain with us, or take us with You." "No, my children" (thus sweetly the loving Queen began to speak), "this is not according to the Will of God; be satisfied to do that which He has decreed for Me and for you. To you it yet remains to labor on earth for the glory of your Redeemer, and to make up your eternal crown. I do not leave you to aban­don you, but to help you still more in heaven by My intercession with God. Be satisfied. I commend the Holy Church to you; I commend redeemed souls to you; let this be My last farewell, and the only re­membrance I leave you. Execute it if you love Me, labor for the good of souls and for the glory of My Son; for one day we shall meet again in Paradise, never more for all eternity to be separated."

     She then begged them to give burial to Her body after death; blessed them, and desired St. John to give after Her death 2 of Her gowns to 2 virgins who had served Her for some time. She then decently composed Herself on Her poor little bed, where She laid Herself to await death, and with it the meeting with the Divine Spouse, Who shortly was to come and take Her with Him to the Kingdom of the blessed. Behold, She al­ready feels in Her heart a great joy, the forerunner of the coming of the Bridegroom, which inundates Her with an unaccustomed and novel sweet­ness. The holy apostles, seeing that Mary was already on the point of leaving this world, renewing their tears, all threw themselves on their knees around Her bed; some kissed Her holy feet, some sought a special blessing from Her, some recommended a particular need, and all wept bitterly; for their hearts were pierced with grief at being obliged to separate themselves for the rest of their lives from their be­loved Lady. And She, the most loving Mother, consoled each one; to some promising Her patronage, blessing others with particular affection, and encouraging others to the work of the conversion of the world; especially, She called St. Peter to Her, and as head of the Church and Vicar of Her Son, recommended to him in a particular manner the propagation of the faith, promising him at the same time Her special protec­tion in heaven. But more particularly did She call St. John to Her, who more than any other was grieved at this moment when he had to part with his Holy Mother; and the most gracious Lady, re­membering the affection and attention with which this holy disciple had served Her during all the years She had remained on earth since the Death of Her Son, said: "My own John" (speaking with the great­est tenderness)—"My own John, I thank you for all the assistance that you have afforded Me; My son, be assured of it, I shall not be ungrateful. If I now leave you, I go to pray for you. Remain in peace in this life until we meet again in heaven, where I await you. Never forget Me. In all your needs call Me to your aid; for I will never forget you, My be­loved son. Son, I bless you. I leave you My bless­ing. Remain in peace. Farewell!"

     But already the death of Mary is at hand; Divine Love, with its vehement and blessed flames, had al­ready almost entirely consumed the vital spirits; the heavenly phoenix is already losing Her life in the midst of this fire. Then the host of angels come in choirs to meet Her, as if to be ready for the great tri­umph with which they were to accompany Her to Paradise. Mary was indeed consoled at the sight of these holy spirits, but was not fully consoled; for She did not yet see Her beloved Jesus, Who was the whole love of Her heart. Hence She often repeated to the angels who descended to salute Her: "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find My Be­loved, that you tell Him that I languish with love"— Sg 5:8. Holy angels, O fair citizens of the heavenly Jerusa­lem, you come in choirs kindly to console Me; and you all console Me with your sweet presence. I thank you; but you do not fully satisfy Me, for as yet I do not see My Son coming to console Me; go, if you love Me, return to Paradise, and on My part tell My Beloved that I languish with love. Tell Him to come, and to come quickly, for I am dying with the vehemence of My desire to see Him.

     But, behold, Jesus is now come to take His Mother to the Kingdom of the Blessed. It was re­vealed to St. Elizabeth that Her Son appeared to Mary before She expired with His Cross in His Hands, to show the special glory He had obtained by the redemption; having, by His Death, made acquisition of that great creature, who for all eternity was to honor Him more than all men and angels.  Our Lord Himself gave Her the Viaticum, saying with tender love, "Receive, O My Mother, from My Hands that same Body that You gave to Me." And the Mother, having re­ceived with the greatest love that last Holy Communion, with Her last breath said, "My Son, into Your hands do I commend My spirit. I commend to You this soul, which from the beginning You created rich in so many graces, and by a singular privilege, preserved from the stain of original sin. I commend to You My body, from which You chose to take Your Flesh and Blood. I also commend to You these My beloved children (speaking of the holy disciples, who surrounded Her); they are grieved at My departure. You, Who love them more than I do, console them; bless them, and give them strength to do great things for Your glory."

The life of Mary being now at its close, the most heavenly music was heard in the room where She lay; and, according to a revelation of St. Bridget, the room was also filled with a brilliant light. The sweet music, and the un­accustomed splendor, warned the holy apostles that Mary was then departing. This caused them again to burst forth in tears and prayers; and raising their hands, with one voice they exclaimed, "O, Mother, You already go to heaven; You leave us; give us Your last blessing, and never forget us miserable creatures." Mary, turning Her eyes around upon all, as if to bid them a last farewell, said, "Adieu, my children; I bless You; fear not, I will never forget you." And now death came; not indeed clothed in mourning and grief, as it does to others, but adorned with light and gladness. But what do we say? Why speak of death? Let us rather say that Divine Love came, and cut the thread of that noble life. And as a light, before going out, gives a last and brighter flash than ever, so did this beautiful creature, on hearing Her Son's invitation to follow Him, wrapped in the Flames of Love, and in the midst of Her amorous sighs, give a last sigh of still more ardent love, and breathing forth Her soul, expired. Thus was that great soul, that beautiful dove of the Lord, loosened from the bands of this life; thus did She enter into the glory of the blessed, where She is now seated, and will be seated, Queen of Paradise, for all eternity.

     Mary, then, has left this world; She is now in heaven. Thence does this compassionate Mother look down upon us who are still in this valley of tears. She pities us, and, if we wish it, promises to help us. Let us always implore Her by the merits of Her blessed death, to obtain us a happy death; and should such be the good pleasure of God, let us beg Her to obtain us the grace to die on a Saturday, which is a day dedicated in Her honor, or on a day of a novena, or within the octave of one of Her feasts; for this She has obtained for so many of Her clients, and especially for St. Stanislaus Kostka, for whom She obtained that he should die on the feast of Her Assumption.

EXAMPLE

During his lifetime this holy youth, who was wholly dedicated to the love of Mary, happened, on the first of August, to hear a sermon preached by Father Peter Canisius, in which, exhorting the nov­ices of the Society, he urged them all, with the greatest fervor, to live each day, as if it were the last of their lives, and the one on which they were to be presented before God's Tribunal. After the sermon, St. Stanislaus told his companions that that advice had been for him, in a special manner, the Voice of God; for that he was to die in the course of that very month. It is evident, from what followed, that he said this either because God had expressly re­vealed it to him, or at least because He gave him a certain internal presentiment of it. Four days af­terwards the blessed youth went with Father Emanuel to St. Mary Major's. The conversation fell On the approaching feast of the Assumption, and the saint said, "Father, I believe that on that day a new Paradise is seen in Paradise, as the glory of the Mother of God, crowned Queen of heaven, and seated so near to our Lord, above all the choirs of angels, is seen. And if—as I firmly believe it to be—this festival is renewed every year, I hope to see the next." The glorious martyr St. Lawrence had fallen by lot to St. Stanislaus as his patron for that month, it being customary in the Society thus to draw lots for the monthly patrons. It is said that he wrote a letter to his Mother Mary, in which he begged her to obtain him the favor to be present at her next festival in heaven. On the feast of St. Law­rence, he received Holy Communion, and after­wards entreated the saint to present his letter to the Heavenly Mother, and to support his petition with his intercession, that the most Blessed Virgin might graciously accept and grant it. Towards the close of that very day, he was seized with fever; and though the attack was slight, he considered that certainly he had obtained the favor asked for. This indeed he joyfully expressed, and with a smiling countenance, on going to bed, said, "From this bed I shall never rise again." And speaking to Father Claudius Aquaviva, he added, "Father, I believe that St. Lawrence has already obtained me the fa­vor from Mary to be in heaven on the feast of Her Assumption." No one, however, took much notice of his words. On the vigil of the feast his illness still seemed of little consequence, but the saint assured a brother that he would die that night. "O brother," the other answered, "it would be a greater miracle to die of so slight an illness than to be cured." Nevertheless in the afternoon he fell into a deathlike swoon; a cold sweat came over him, and he lost all his strength. The Superior hastened to him, and Stanislaus entreated him to have him laid on the bare floor, that he might die as a penitent. To satisfy him, this was granted: he was laid on a thin mattress on the ground. He then made his confession, and in the midst of the tears of all pre­sent received the Viaticum: I say, of the tears of all present, for when the Divine Sacrament was brought into the room, his eyes brightened up with celestial joy, and his whole countenance was inflamed with holy love, so that he seemed like a seraph. He also received extreme unction, and in the mean while, did nothing but constantly raise his eyes to heaven and lovingly press to his heart an image of Mary. A Fa­ther asked him to what purpose he kept a rosary in his hand, since he could not use it? He replied, "It is a consolation to me, for it is' something belong­ing to my Mother." "O, how much greater will your consolation be," added the Father, "when in a short time you will see Her and kiss Her hands in heaven!" On hearing this, the saint, with his coun­tenance all on fire, raised his hands to express his desire soon to be in Her presence. His dear Mother then appeared to him, as he himself told those who surrounded him; and shortly afterwards, at the dawn of day on August 15th ,   with his eyes fixed on heaven, he expired like a saint, with­out the slightest struggle; so much so, that it was only on presenting him the image of the Blessed Virgin, and seeing that he made no movement to­wards it, that it was perceived that he was already gone to kiss the feet of his beloved Queen in Para­dise.

PRAYER

    O most sweet Lady and our Mother, You have al­ready left the earth and reached Your kingdom, where, as Queen, You are enthroned above all the choirs of angels, as the Church sings: She is exalted above the choirs of angels in the celestial kingdom? We well know that we sinners are not worthy to possess You in this valley of darkness; but we also know that You, in Your greatness, have never forgot­ten, us miserable creatures, and that by being ex­alted to so great glory You have, ever lost com­passion for us poor children of Adam; nay, even that it is increased in You. From the high throne, then, to which You are exalted, turn. O Mary, Your compassionate eyes upon us, and pity us. Remem­ber, also, that in leaving this world, You promised not to forget us. Look at us and help us. See in the midst of what tempests and dangers we constantly are, and shall be until the end of our lives. By the merits of Your happy death obtain us holy perseverance in the friendship of God that we may finally quit this life in His grace; and thus we also shall one day come to kiss Your feet in Para­dise, and unite with the blessed spirits in praising You and singing Your glories as You deserve. Amen.

DISCOURSE 8

SECOND DISCOURSE ON THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY

How glorious was the Triumph of Mary when She ascended to Heaven

 How exalted was the Throne to which She was elevated in Heaven.

It would seem right that on this day of the As­sumption of Mary to heaven the Holy Church should rather invite us to mourn than to rejoice, since our sweet Mother has quitted this world and left us deprived of Her sweet presence. But no; the Holy Church invites us to rejoice' "Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrat­ing a festival in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary." And justly; for, if we love our Mother, we ought to congratulate ourselves more upon Her glory than on our own private consolation. What son does not rejoice, though on account of it, he has to be sepa­rated from his mother, if he knows that she is going to take possession of a kingdom? Mary, on this day, is crowned Queen of heaven; and shall we not keep it a festival and rejoice if we truly love Her? "Let us rejoice, then; let us all rejoice." And that we may rejoice, and be consoled the more by Her exaltation, let us consider first, how glorious was the triumph of Mary when She ascended to heaven; and secondly, how glorious was the throne to which She was there exalted.

1

After Jesus Christ our Savior had completed, by His Death, the Work of Redemption, the angels ar­dently desired to possess Him in their heavenly country; hence they were continually supplicating Him in the words of David: "Arise, O Lord, into Your resting place, You and the Ark which You have sanctified"— Ps 132:8. Come, O Lord, come quickly, now that You have redeemed men; come to Your kingdom and dwell with us, and bring with You the Living Ark of Your sanctification; Your Mother, who was the Ark which You sanctified by dwelling in Her womb. Let Mary Your most holy Mother, sanctified by Your conception, also ascend." Our Lord was, therefore, at last pleased to satisfy the desire of these heavenly citizens by calling Mary to Paradise. But if it was His Will that the Ark of the old dispensation should be brought with great pomp into the city of DavidAnd David and all the house of Israel brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord with joyful shouting, and with sound of trumpet"   "— 2 Sam 6:15,  with how much greater and more glorious pomp did He ordain that His Mother should enter heaven! The prophet Elias was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, which, according to, interpreters, was no other than a group of angels who bore him off from the earth. "But to conduct You to heaven, O Mother of God, a fiery chariot was not enough; the whole court of heaven, headed by its King, Your Son, went forth to meet and accompany You." Jesus, to honor the triumph of His most sweet Mother, went forth in His glory to meet and accompany Her.  It was precisely for this purpose that the Redeemer was pleased to ascend to heaven before His Mother; that is, He did so not only to prepare a throne for Her in that kingdom, but also that He might Himself accompany Her with all the blessed spirits, and thus render Her entry into heaven more glorious, and such as became one who was His Mother.  Hence, we shall find it more glorious than the Ascension of Jesus Christ; for to meet the Redeemer, angels only went forth; but when the Blessed Virgin was as­sumed to glory, She was met and accompanied by the Lord Himself of Glory, and by the whole blessed company of saints and angels. "To honor the Father, I descended from heaven; to honor My Mother, I reascended there: that thus I might be enabled to go forth to meet Her, and Myself accompany Her to Paradise. "

Let us now consider how our Savior went forth from heaven to meet His Mother. On first meeting Her, and to console Her, He said: "Arise, make haste, My love, My dove, My beautiful one, and come, for winter is now past and gone"— Sg 2:10.    Come, My own dear Mother, My pure and beautiful dove; leave that val­ley of tears, in which, for My love, You have suf­fered so much"Come from Lebanon, My Spouse, come from Lebanon, come: You shall be crowned"— Sg 4:8.  Come in, soul and body, to enjoy the recompense of Your holy life. If Your sufferings have been great on earth, far greater is the glory which I have prepared for You in heaven. Enter, then, that kingdom, and take Your seat near Me; come to receive that crown which I will bestow upon You as Queen of the uni­verse. Behold, Mary already leaves the earth, at which She looks with affection and compassion: with affection, remembering the many graces She had there received from Her Lord; and with affec­tion and compassion, because in it, She leaves so many poor children surrounded with miseries and dangers. But see, Jesus offers Her His Hand, and the Blessed Mother already ascends; already She has passed beyond the clouds, beyond the spheres. Be­hold Her already at the gates of heaven. When monarchs make their solemn entry into their king­doms, they do not pass through the gates of the capital, for they are removed to make way for them on this occasion. Hence, when Jesus Christ entered Paradise, the angels cried out: "Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates; and the King of Glory shall enter in"—Ps 24:7. Thus also, now that Mary goes to take possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, the angels who accompany Her cry out to those within: "Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates; and the Queen of glory shall enter in."

     Behold, Mary already enters that blessed country. But on Her entrance the celestial spirits, seeing Her so beautiful and glorious, ask the angels with united voices of exultation, "Who is this who comes up from the desert, leaning upon Her Beloved"— Sg 8:5. And who can this creature so beautiful be, that comes from the desert of the earth—a place of thorns and tribulation? But this one comes pure and rich in virtue, leaning on Her beloved Lord, Who is gra­ciously pleased Himself to accompany Her with so great honor. Who is She? The angels accompany­ing Her answer: "She is the Mother of our King; She is our Queen, and the blessed one among women; Full of Grace, the Saint of saints, the Beloved of God, the Immaculate One, the Dove, the Fairest of all crea­tures." Then all the blessed spirits begin to bless and praise Her; singing with far more reason than the Hebrews did to Judith: "You are the glory of Je­rusalem; You are the joy of Israel; You are the honor of our people"—Judith 15:10. Ah. Our Lady and our Queen, You, then, are the Glory of Paradise, the Joy of our coun­try, You are the Honor of us all: be ever wel­come; be ever blessed! Behold Your kingdom; behold us also, who are Your servants, ever ready to obey Your commands. All the saints who were in Paradise then came to welcome Her and salute Her as their Queen. All the holy virgins came; "…The daughters saw Her and de­clared Her most blessed; and they praised Her. "—Sg 6:9. "We," they said, "O most Blessed Lady, are also queens in this kingdom, but You are our Queen; for You were the first to give us the great example of conse­crating our virginity to God; we all bless and thank You for it." Then came the holy confessors to sa­lute Her as their Queen; who, by Her holy life, had taught them so many beautiful virtues. The holy martyrs also came to salute Her as their Queen; for She, by Her great constancy in the Sorrows of Her Son's Passion, had taught them, and also by Her merits had obtained them strength, to lay down their lives for the faith. St. Jacob, the only one of the apostles who was yet in heaven, also came to thank Her in the name of all the other apostles for all the comfort and help She had afforded them while She was on earth. The prophets next came to salute Her, and said: "Ah, Lady, You were the one foreshadowed in our prophecies." The holy patri­archs then came, and said: "O Mary, it is You who were our hope; for You it was that we sighed with such ardor and for so long a time." But among these latter came our first parents, Adam and Eve, to thank Her with the greatest affection. "Ah, be­loved daughter," they said, "You have repaired the injury which we inflicted on the human race; You have obtained for the world that blessing which we lost by our crime; by You we are saved, and for it be ever blessed."

     St. Simeon then came to kiss Her feet, and with joy reminded Her of the day when he received the Infant Jesus from Her hands. St. Zachary and St. Elizabeth also came, and again thanked Her for that loving visit which, with so great humility and char­ity, She had paid them in their dwelling, and by which they had received such treasures of grace. St. John the Baptist came with still greater affection to thank Her for having sanctified him by Her voice. But how must Her holy parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, have spoken when they came to salute Her! O God, with what tenderness must they have blessed Her, saying: "All beloved daughter, what a favor it was for us to have such a child! Be now our Queen; for You are the Mother of our God, and as such we salute You."

     But who can ever form an idea of the affection with which Her dear spouse, St. Joseph, came to sa­lute Her? Who can ever describe the joy which the holy patriarch felt at seeing his spouse so trium­phantly enter heaven and made Queen of Paradise? With what tenderness must he have addressed Her: "Ah, my Lady and Spouse, how can I ever thank our God as I ought, for having made me Your Spouse, You who are His true Mother! Through You I merited to assist on earth the Childhood of the Eternal Word, to carry Him so often in my arms, and to receive so many special graces. Ever blessed be those moments which I spent in life in serving Jesus and You, my Holy Spouse. Behold our Jesus! Let us rejoice that now He no longer lies on straw in a manger, as we saw Him at His Birth in Bethlehem. He no longer lives poor and despised in a shop, as He once lived with us in Nazareth; He is no longer nailed to an infamous gibbet, as when He died in Jerusalem for the salvation of the world; but He is seated at the Right Hand of His Father, as King and Lord of Heaven and Earth. And now, O my Queen, we shall never more be separated from His Feet; we shall there bless Him and love Him for all eternity."

     All the angels then came to salute Her; and She, the great Queen, thanked all for the assistance they had given Her on earth, and more especially, She thanked Archangel Gabriel, who was the happy ambassador, the bearer of all Her glories, when he came to announce to Her that She was the chosen Mother of God.

     The humble and holy Virgin, then kneeling, adored the Divine Majesty, and all absorbed in the consciousness of Her own nothingness, thanked Him for all the graces bestowed upon Her by His pure goodness, and especially for having made Her the Mother of the Eternal Word. And then let him who can, comprehend with what love the Most Holy Trinity blessed Her. Let him comprehend the welcome given to His daughter by the Eternal Fa­ther, to His Mother by the Son, to His spouse by the Holy Spirit. The Father crowned Her by imparting His power to Her; the Son, His wisdom; the Holy Spirit, His love. And the 3 Divine Persons, plac­ing Her throne at the Right of that of Jesus, declared Her Sovereign of heaven and earth; and com­manded the angels and all creatures to acknowledge Her as their Queen, and as such to serve and obey Her.

2

Let us now consider how exalted was the throne to

 which Mary was raised in heaven.

   If the mind of man, can never comprehend the immense glory prepared in heaven by God for those who on earth have loved Him, as the Apostle tells us, who can ever compre­hend the glory that He has prepared for His beloved Mother, who, more than all men, loved Him on earth; nay, even from the very first moment of Her creation, loved Him more than all men and angels united?   Rightly, then, does the Church sing, that Mary having loved God more than all the angels, the Mother of God has been exalted above them all in the heavenly kingdom. Yes, She was ex­alted above the angels; so that She sees none above Her but Her Son,  Who is the Only-Begotten of the Father.  Hence, as all the orders of angels and saints are divided into 3 hierarchies (according to the angelic Doctors), so does Mary of Herself constitute a hierarchy apart, the sublimest of all, and next to that of God.  And as  the Queen is, without comparison, above Her servants, so is Mary, who is the sovereign Lady of the angels, exalted incomparably above the angelic hierar­chies.  To understand this, we need only know what David said: "The Queen stood on Your Right Hand …"—Ps 45:9.  These words mean that Mary is placed at the Right Hand of God.  It is certain, that Mary's good works incomparably surpassed in merit those of all the saints, and therefore Her reward must have surpassed theirs in the same proportion; for as that which She bore was incomprehensible, so is the reward which She merited and received incom­prehensibly greater than that of all the saints.   And since it is certain that God rewards according to merit, as the Apostle writes, "…Who will render to every man according to his works"—Rom 2:6; it is also certain, that the Blessed Virgin, who was equal to and even superior in merit to all men and angels, was exalted above all the celestial orders. Let us measure the singular grace that She acquired on earth, and then we may measure the singular glory which She obtained in heaven; for, according to the measure of Her grace on earth is the measure of Her glory in the Kingdom of the Blessed.  The glory of Mary, which is a full, a complete glory, differs in that from the glory of other saints in heaven. It is true that in heaven all the blessed enjoy perfect peace and full content­ment; yet it will always be true that no one of them enjoys as great glory as he could have merited had he loved and served God with greater fidelity. Hence, though the saints in heaven desire nothing more than they possess, yet in fact there is some­thing that they could desire. It is also true that the sins which they have committed, and the time which they have lost, do not bring suffering; still it cannot be denied that a greater amount of good done in life, innocence preserved, and time well em­ployed, give the greatest happiness. Mary desires nothing in heaven, and has nothing to desire. Who among the saints in heaven, except Mary, if asked whether he has committed sins, could say no? It is certain, as the holy Council of Trento has defined, that Mary never committed any sin or the slightest imperfection. She not only never lost Divine Grace, and never even obscured it, but She never kept it idle; She never performed an action which was not meritorious; She never pro­nounced a word, never had a thought, never drew a breath, that was not directed to the greater glory of God. She never cooled in Her ardor or stopped a single moment in Her onward course to­wards God; She never lost anything by negligence, but always corresponded to grace with Her whole strength, and loved God as much as She could love Him. "O Lord," She now says to Him in heaven, "if I loved You not as much as You deserved, at least I loved You as much as I could."

      In each of the saints there were different graces, as St. Paul says, "there are diversities of graces"—1 Cor 12:4. So that each of them, by corresponding to the grace that he had received, excelled in some particular virtue—the one in saving souls, the other in leading a penitential life; one in enduring torments, another in a life of prayer: and this is the reason for which the Holy Church, in celebrating their festivals, says of each, there was not found one like him.  And as in their merits they differ, so do they differ in celestial gloryfor star differs from star"—1 Cor 15:41.  Apostles differ from martyrs, confessors from virgins, the innocent from penitents. The Blessed Virgin, being full of all graces, excelled each saint in every particular virtue: She was the Apostle of the apostles; She was the Queen of martyrs, for She suffered more than all of them; She was the standard-bearer of virgins, the model of married people; She united in Herself per­fect innocence and perfect mortification: in truth, She united in Her heart all the most heroic virtues that any saint ever practiced. Hence of Her it was said that "…the Queen stands on Your Right Hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety"—Ps 45:9 DRBFor all the graces, privileges, and merits of the other saints were all united in Mary. "The prerogatives of all the saints, O Virgin, You have united in Yourself." She possessed them in such a degree that, as the splendor of the sun exceeds that of all the stars united, so does Mary's glory exceed that of all the blessed. As the light of the moon and stars is so entirely eclipsed on the appearance of the sun, that it is as if it was not, so also does Mary's glory so far exceed the splendor of all men and an­gels, that, so to say, they do not appear in heaven. Hence, the blessed participate in part in the Divine Glory; but that the Blessed Virgin has been, in a certain way, so greatly enriched with it, that it would seem that no creature could be more closely united with God than Mary is. She has penetrated into the bottom of the deep, and seems immersed as deeply as it is possible for a creature in that inaccessible light.   Our Queen contemplates the Majesty of God in incomparably closer proximity than all other creatures.  As the other planets are illu­mined by the sun, so do all the blessed receive light and an increase of happiness from the sight of Mary.  When the glorious Virgin Mother of God ascended to heaven, She augmented the joy of all its inhabi­tants.  For the greatest glory of the blessed in heaven is, after seeing God, the presence of this most beautiful Queen.   After God, our greatest glory and our greatest joy is Mary.  Let us, then, rejoice with Mary that God has ex­alted Her to so high a throne in heaven. Let us also rejoice on our own account; for though our Mother is no longer present with us on earth, having as­cended in glory to heaven, yet in affection She is al­ways with us. Nay, even being there nearer to God, She better knows our miseries; and Her pity for us is greater, while She is better able to help us. "Is it possible. O Blessed Virgin, because You are so greatly exalted, You have for­gotten us in our miseries? Ah no, God forbid that we should have such a thought! So compassionate a heart cannot but pity our so great miseries." If Mary's compassion for the miserable was great when She lived upon earth, it is far greater now that She reigns in heaven.  Let us, in the mean time, dedicate ourselves to the service of this Queen, to honor and love Her as much as we can; for, She is not like other rulers, who oppress their vassals with burdens and taxes; but She en­riches Her servants with graces, merits and re­wards.   Let us also entreat Her with the words: "O Mother of Mercy, You who sit on so lofty a throne and in such close proximity to God, satiate Yourself with the glory of Your Jesus, and send us, Your servants, the fragments that are left. You do now enjoy the heavenly banquet of Your Lord; and we, who are still on earth, as dogs under the table, ask Your mercy."              

EXAMPLE

     Brother Marinus having had the misfor­tune to sin against the holy virtue, went shortly af­ter before an altar of the Blessed Virgin and conse­crated himself to Her service. As a sign of this obla­tion, he put a girdle around his neck and addressed the Blessed Virgin in these words: "Dear Lady, mirror of purity, I poor sinner have offended God and You. I know no other remedy but to enter Your holy Service. I therefore offer myself to You today: deign to take a poor rebel and do not reject me. At the foot of the altar he left a sum of money and promised that every year he would offer an equal amount as a mark of his servitude. When af­ter a long and God-fearing life he came to die, he said shortly before expiring: "Arise, arise—and render homage to our loving Virgin Mother. What a favor for me, O Queen of Heaven, that You should deign to visit Your poor servant. Bless me, my Lady, and do not let me be lost after being hon­ored by Your presence." Shortly after, his brother Damian entered and the dying man told him of the apparition, adding that Mary had blessed him.  At the same time he complained because those present had not arisen when Mary appeared to him. In a few minutes he closed his eyes in death.

PRAYER

O great, exalted, and most glorious Lady, pros­trate at the foot of Your throne we venerate you from this valley of tears. We rejoice at Your immense glory, with which our Lord has enriched You; and now that You are enthroned as Queen of heaven and earth, ah forget us not, Your poor servants. Dis­dain not, from the high throne on which You reig­n, to cast Your eyes of mercy on us miserable creatures. The nearer You are to the source of graces, in the greater abundance can You procure those graces for us. In heaven You see more plainly our miseries; hence You must compassion­ate and help us the more. Make us Your faithful servants on earth, that thus we may one day bless You in heaven. On this day, on which You were made Queen of the universe, we also consecrate ourselves to Your service. In the midst of Your so great joy, console us also by accepting us as Your servants. You are, then, our Mother. Ah, most sweet Mother, most amiable Mother, Your altars are sur­rounded by many people: some ask to be cured of a disorder, some to be relieved in their necessities, some for an abundant harvest, and some for suc­cess in litigation. We ask You for graces more pleasing to Your heart; obtain for us that we may be humble, detached from the world, resigned to the Divine Will; obtain us the holy fear of God, a good death, and Paradise. O Lady, change us from sin­ners into saints; work this miracle, which will re­dound more to Your honor than if You did restore sight to a thousand blind persons, or raised a thousand from the dead. You are so powerful with God, we need only say that You are His Mother, His beloved one, His most dear one, filled with His grace. What can He ever deny you? O most beautiful Queen, we have no pretensions to see You on earth, but we do desire to go to see You in Paradise; and it is You who must obtain us this grace. For it we hope with confidence. Amen, Amen.

PART 3

The Dolors of Mary

The feast in honor of the Dolors of the Blessed Virgin is commemorated on September 15th.

DISCOURSE

Mary is the Queen of Martyrs, for Her Martyrdom was longer and greater than that of all the Martyrs.

Who can ever have a heart so hard that it will not melt on hearing the most lamentable event that once occurred in the world? There was a noble and holy mother who had an only son. This son was the most amiable that can be imagined—innocent, virtuous, beautiful, who loved his mother most ten­derly; so much so that he had never caused her the least displeasure, but had always shown her all respect, obedience, and affection; hence this mother had placed all her affections on earth in this son. Hear, then, what happened. This son, through envy, was falsely accused by his enemies; and though the judge knew, and himself confessed, that he was innocent, yet, that he might not offend his enemies, he condemned him to the ignominious death that they demanded. This poor mother had to suffer the grief of seeing that amiable and be­loved son unjustly snatched from her in the spring of his youth by a barbarous death; for, by dint of torments and drained of all his blood, he was made to die on an infamous gibbet in a public place of execution, and this before her own eyes. Devout souls, what say you? Is not this event, and is not this unhappy mother, worthy of compassion? You already understand of Whom I speak. This Son, so cruelly executed, was our loving Redeemer Jesus; and this Mother was the Blessed Virgin Mary; who, for the love She bore us, was willing to see Him sacrificed to Divine Justice by the barbarity of men. This great torment, then, which Mary en­dured for us—a torment that was more than a thousand deaths—deserves both our compassion and our gratitude. If we can make no other return for so much love, at least let us give a few moments this day to consider the greatness of the sufferings by which Mary became the Queen of Martyrs; for the sufferings of Her great martyrdom exceeded those of all the martyrs; being, in the first place, the longest in point of duration; and in the second place, the greatest in point of intensity.

1

As Jesus is called the King of Sorrows and the King of Martyrs, because He suffered during His Life more than all other martyrs; so also is Mary with reason called the Queen of Martyrs, having merited this title by suffering the most cruel martyrdom possible after that of Her Son. Hence with reason is She called "the Martyr of Martyrs;" and of Her can the words of Isaiah with all truth be said, "He will crown you with a crown of tribulation."—Is 22:18; that is to say, that that suf­fering itself, which exceeded the suffering of all the other martyrs united, was the crown by which She was shown to be the Queen of Martyrs.

That Mary was a true martyr cannot be doubted, for it is an evident that suffering sufficient to cause death is martyrdom, even though death does not ensue from it. St. John the Evangelist is revered as a martyr, though he did not die in the caldron of boiling oil, but came out more vigorous than he went in. To have the glory of martyrdom, it is sufficient to exercise obedience in its highest degree, that is to say, to be obedient unto death. Mary was a martyr not by the sword of the executioner, but by bitter sorrow of heart. If Her body was not wounded by the hand of the execu­tioner, Her blessed heart was transfixed by a sword of grief at the Passion of Her Son, grief which was sufficient to cause Her death not once, but a thou­sand times. From this we shall see that Mary was not only a real martyr, but that Her martyrdom sur­passed all others; for it was longer than that of all others, and Her whole life may be said to have been a prolonged death.

The Passion of Jesus, be­gan with His Birth. So also did Mary, in all things like unto Her Son, endure Her martyrdom through­out Her life. Among other significations of the name of Mary, is that of "bitter sea." Hence to Her is applicable the text of Jeremiah: "Great as the sea is Your destruc­tion."—Lam 2:13. For as the sea is all bitter and salt, so also was the life of Mary always full of bitterness at the sight of the Passion of the Redeemer, which was ever present to Her mind. There can be no doubt, that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit in a far higher degree than all the prophets, She, far better than they, understood the predictions recorded by them in the Sacred Scriptures concerning the Messiah.

The Blessed Virgin, even before She became His Mother, knowing how much the Incarnate Word was to suffer for the salvation of men, and compassionating this inno­cent Savior, Who was to be so cruelly put to death for crimes not His own, even then began Her great martyrdom.

Her grief was immeasurably increased when She became the Mother of this Savior; so that at the sad sight of the many torments that were to be en­dured by Her poor Son, She indeed suffered a long martyrdom, a martyrdom which lasted Her whole life. This was signified with great exactitude to St. Bridget in a vision which she had in Rome, in the church of St. Mary Major, where the Blessed Virgin with St. Simeon, and an angel bearing a very long sword, reddened with blood, appeared to her, de­noting thereby the long and bitter grief which transpierced the heart of Mary during Her whole life. If the Mother of God were to speak to our hearts, She would say: "Redeemed souls, and My be­loved children, do not pity Me only for the hour in which I beheld My dear Jesus expiring before My eyes; for the sword of sorrow predicted by Simeon pierced My soul during the whole of My life; when I was nursing My Son, when I was warming Him in My arms, I already foresaw the bitter Death that awaited Him. Consider, then, what long and bitter sorrows I must have endured.  'Truly My life is wasted with grief and my years in sighs'—Ps 31:10.  'My sorrow is continually before me'—Ps 38:17. My whole life was spent in sorrow and in tears; for My sorrow, which was compassion for My beloved Son, never departed from before My eyes, as I always foresaw the Sufferings and Death which He was one day to endure. Even after the Death and Ascen­sion of My Son, whether I ate, or worked, the re­membrance of His Passion was ever deeply im­pressed on My mind, and fresh in My heart. Hence I  spent My whole life in continual sorrow; for My heart was always occupied with sadness and with suffering. "

Therefore time, which usually mitigates the sor­rows of the afflicted, did not relieve Mary; nay, even it increased Her sorrows; for, as Jesus, on the one hand, advanced in age, and always appeared more and more beautiful and amiable; so also, on the other hand, the time of His Death always drew nearer, and grief always increased in the heart of Mary, at the thought of having to lose Him on earth. So, as the rose grows up among thorns, so the Mother of God advanced in years in the midst of suffering; and as the thorns increase with the growth of the rose, so also did the thorns of Her sorrows increase in Mary, the chosen rose of the Lord, as She advanced in age; and so much the more deeply did they pierce Her heart. 

2

Having now considered the length of this sorrow in point of duration,

let us pass to the second point—its greatness in point of intensity.

Ah, Mary is not only Queen of Martyrs because Her martyrdom was longer than that of all others, but also because it was the greatest of all martyr­doms. Who, however, can measure its greatness? Jeremiah seems unable to find any one with whom he can compare this Mother of Sorrows, when he considers Her great sufferings at the Death of Her Son. "To what shall I compare You? Or to what shall I liken You, O Daughter of Jerusalem?...for great as the sea is Your destruction. Who shall heal You?"—Lam 2:13.   Wherefore we comment on these words, saying, "O Blessed Virgin, as the sea in bitterness exceeds all other bitterness, so does Your grief exceed all other grief."  Had not God by a special miracle pre­served the life of Mary in each moment of Her life, Her grief was such that it would have caused Her death.  Truly, the grief of Mary was so great that, were it divided among all men, it would suffice to cause their immediate death.

But let us consider the reasons for which Mary's martyrdom was greater than that of all martyrs. In the first place, we must remember that the mar­tyrs endured their torments, which were the effect of fire and other material agencies, in their bodies; Mary suffered Hers in Her soul, as St. Simeon fore­told: "And Your own soul a sword shall pierce"—Lk 2:35.  As if the holy old man had said: "O most sacred Virgin, the bodies of other martyrs will be torn with iron, but You will be transfixed, and martyred in Your soul by the Passion of Your own Son." Now, as the soul is more noble than the body, so much greater were Mary's sufferings than those of all the mar­tyrs, because there is no comparison between the sufferings of the soul and those of the body. Thus whoever had been present on Mount Calvary, to witness the great sacrifice of the Immaculate Lamb, would there have beheld 2 great altars, the one in the Body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary; for, on that Mount, at the same time that the Son sacrificed His Body by Death, Mary sacrificed Her soul by compassion. Moreover, while other mar­tyrs suffered by sacrificing their own lives, the Blessed Virgin suffered by sacrificing Her Son's Life—a Life that She loved far more than Her own; so that She not only suffered in Her soul all that Her Son endured in His Body, but moreover the sight of Her Son's torments brought more grief to Her heart than if She had endured them all in Her own person. No one can doubt that Mary suffered in Her heart all the outrages that She saw inflicted on Her be­loved Jesus. Any one can understand that the suf­ferings of children are also those of their mothers who witness them. St. Augustine, considering the anguish endured by the mother of the Maccabees in witnessing the tortures of her sons, says, "she, seeing their sufferings, suffered in each one; because she loved them all, she endured in her soul what they endured in their flesh." Thus also did Mary suffer all those torments, scourges, thorns, nails, and the Cross, which tortured the innocent Flesh of Jesus; all entered at the same time into the heart of this Blessed Virgin, to complete Her martyrdom. He suffered in the Flesh, and She in the heart. So much so, that the heart of Mary be­came, as it were, a mirror of the Passion of the Son, in which might be seen, faithfully reflected, the spitting, the blows and wounds, and all that Jesus suf­fered. Those wounds which were scattered over the Body of our Lord were all united in the single heart of Mary. Thus was our Blessed Lady, through the compassion of Her loving heart for Her Son, scourged, crowned with thorns, insulted, and nailed to the Cross. Thus, considering Mary on Mount Calvary, present at the Death of Her Son, we can  question Her in these words: "O Lady, tell me where did You stand? Was it only at the foot of the Cross? Ah, much more than this, You were on the Cross itself, crucified with Your Son."  On the words of the Redeemer, spo­ken by Isaiah the prophet"I have trodden the wine­press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me"—Is 63:3; we can say, "It is true, O Lord, that in the work of human redemption You suffered alone, and that there was not a man who sufficiently pitied You; but there was a woman with You, and She was Your own Mother; She suffered in Her heart all that You endured in Your Body."

But all this is saying too little of Mary's sorrows since, as I have already observed, She suffered more in witnessing the Sufferings of Her beloved Jesus than if She had Herself endured all the outrages and Death of Her Son. Parents in general are more cruelly tormented by their children's sufferings than by their own. This is not always true, but in Mary it evidently was so; for it is certain that She loved Her Son and His Life beyond all comparison more than Herself or a thou­sand lives of Her own. Therefore, the afflicted Mother, at the sorrowful sight of the torments of Her beloved Je­sus, suffered far more than She would have done had She Herself endured His whole Passion. The reason is evident, for the soul is more where it loves than where it lives. Our Lord Himself had already said the same thing: where our treasure is, there also is our heart"—Lk 12:34. If Mary, then, by love, lived more in Her Son than in Herself, She must have endured far greater torments in the Sufferings and Death of Her Son than She would have done, had the most cruel death in the world been inflicted upon Her.

Here we must reflect on another circumstance which rendered the martyrdom of Mary beyond all comparison greater than the torments of all the martyrs: it is, that in the Passion of Jesus, She suf­fered much, and She suffered, moreover, without the least alleviation.  The martyrs suffered under the torments inflicted on them by tyrants; but the love of Jesus rendered their pains sweet and agreeable. A St. Vincent was tortured on a rack, torn with pincers, burnt with red-hot iron plates; but, it seemed as if it was one who suffered, and an­other who spoke. The saint addressed the tyrant with such energy and contempt for his torments that it seemed as if one Vincent suffered and an­other spoke; so greatly did God strengthen him with the sweetness of His love in the midst of all he endured. A St. Boniface had his body torn with iron hooks; sharp-pointed reeds were thrust be­tween his nails and flesh; melted lead was poured into his mouth; and in the midst of all he could not tire saying, "I give You thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ." A St. Mark and a St. Marcellinus were bound to a stake, their feet pierced with nails; and when the tyrant addressed them, saying, "Wretches, see to what a state you are reduced; save yourselves from these torments," they answered: "Of what pains, of what torments do you speak? We never enjoyed so luxurious a banquet as in the present moment, in which we joyfully suffer for the love of Jesus Christ." A St. Lawrence suffered; but when roasting on the gridiron, "the interior flame of love, was more powerful in consol­ing his soul than the flame without in torturing his body." Hence love rendered him so courageous that he mocked the tyrant, saying, "If you desire to feed on my flesh, a part is sufficiently roasted; turn it, and eat." But how, in the midst of so many torments, in that prolonged death, could the saint thus rejoice? "Ah!" replies St. Augustine, "inebri­ated with the wine of divine love, he felt neither torments nor death."

So that the more the holy martyrs loved Jesus, the less did they feel their torments and death; and the sight alone of the sufferings of a crucified God was sufficient to console them. But was our suffering Mother also consoled by love for Her Son, and the sight of His torments? Ah, no; for this very Son Who suffered was the whole cause of them, and love She bore Him was Her only and most cruel execu­tioner; for Mary's whole martyrdom consisted in beholding and pitying Her innocent and beloved Son, Who suffered so much. Hence, the greater was Her love for Him, the more bitter and inconsolable was Her grief. Great as the sea is your destruction; what shall heal you?"— Lam 2:13. Ah, Queen of Heaven, love has mitigated the sufferings of other martyrs, and healed their wounds; but who has ever soothed Your bitter grief? Who has ever healed the too cruel wounds of Your heart? "Who shall heal You," since that very Son Who could give You consolation was, by His Sufferings, the only cause of Yours, and the love which You bore Him was the whole in­gredient of Your martyrdom. So that, as other mar­tyrs are all represented with the instruments of their sufferings—a St. Paul with a sword, a St. Andrew with a cross, a St. Lawrence with a gridirons—Mary is represented with Her Dead Son in Her armsfor Jesus Himself, and He alone, was the instrument of Her martyrdom, by reason of the love She bore Him. In other martyrs, the greatness of their love soothed the pains of their martyrdom; but in the Blessed Virgin, the greater was Her love, the greater were Her sufferings, the more cruel was Her martyr­dom.  It is certain that the more we love a thing, the greater is the pain we feel in losing it. We are more afflicted at the loss of a brother than at the loss of a beast of burden; we are more grieved at the loss of a son than at the loss of a friend. Now, to understand the greatness of Mary's grief at the Death of Her Son, we must un­derstand the greatness of the love She bore Him. But who can ever measure that love? In the heart of Mary were united  2  kinds of love for Her Jesus—supernatural love, by which She loved Him as Her God, and natural love, by which She loved Him as Her Son. So that these 2 loves became one; but so immense a love, that the Blessed Vir­gin  loved Him as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him.   Hence, as there was no love like Her love, so there was no sorrow like Her sorrow. And if the love of Mary towards Her Son was immense, im­mense also must have been Her grief in losing Him by Death. Where there is the greatest love, there also is the greatest grief.

Let us now imagine to ourselves the Heavenly Mother standing near Her Son expiring on the Cross, and justly applying to Herself the words of Jeremiah, thus addressing us: "O all you who pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to My sorrows"—Lam 1:12. O you who spend your lives upon earth, and pity Me not, stop a while to look at Me, now that I behold this beloved Son dying before My eyes; and then see if, among all those who are af­flicted and tormented, a sorrow is to be found like unto My sorrow. "No, O most suffering of all mothers, no more bitter grief than Yours can be found; for no son more dear than Yours can be found." Ah, "there never was a more amiable son in the world than Jesus, nor has there ever been a mother who more tenderly loved her son than Mary! But since there never has been in the world a love like unto Mary's love, how can any sorrow be found like unto Mary's sorrow?" To say that Mary's sorrows were greater than all the torments of the martyrs united, is to say too little. The most cruel tortures inflicted on the holy martyrs were tri­fling, or as nothing in comparison with the martyr­dom of Mary. As the sun exceeds all the other planets in splendor, so did Mary's sufferings exceed those of all the other martyrs. So great was the sorrow of this tender Mother in the Passion of Jesus, that She alone could compassionate adequately the Death of God made Man. We ask, "And why, O Lady, did You also go to sacrifice Yourself on Calvary? Was not the Crucified God sufficient to redeem us, that You, His Mother, would also go to be crucified with Him?" Indeed, the Death of Jesus was more than enough to save the world, and an infinity of worlds; but this good Mother, for the love She bore us, wished also to help the cause of our salvation with the merits of Her sufferings, which She offered for us on Calvary. Therefore, as we are under great obligations to Jesus for His Pas­sion endured for our love, so also are we under great obligations to Mary for the martyrdom which She voluntarily suffered for our salvation in the Death of Her Son. I say voluntarily, since, our compassionate and benign Mother was satisfied rather to endure any torment than that our souls should not be re­deemed, and be left in their former state of perdi­tion. And, indeed, we may say that Mary's only relief in the midst of Her great sorrow in the Passion of Her Son was to see the lost world redeemed by His Death, and men who were His enemies reconciled with God. While grieving She rejoiced, that a sacrifice was offered for the redemption of all, by which He Who was angry was appeased. So great a love on the part of Mary deserves our gratitude, and that gratitude should be shown by at least meditating upon and pitying Her in Her sor­rows. But  very few do so, and that the greater part of the world lived in forgetfulness of them: "I look around at all who are on earth to see if by chance there are any who pity me and meditate upon my sorrows; and I find that there are very few. Therefore, though I am forgotten by many, at least you should not forget Me; consider My anguish, and imi­tate, as far as you can, My grief." To understand how pleasing it is to the Blessed Virgin that we should remember Her dolors, we need only know that, in the year 1239 She appeared to 7 devout clients of Hers (who were afterwards founders of the religious Order of the Servants of Mary), with a black garment in Her hand, and desired them, if they wished to please Her, often to meditate on Her sorrows: for this purpose, and to remind them of Her sorrows, She expressed Her desire that in future they should wear that mourning dress. Jesus Christ Himself revealed to Blessed Veronica da Binasco, that He is, as it were, more pleased in seeing His Mother compassionated than Himself; for thus He addressed her: "My daughter, tears shed for My Passion are dear to Me; but as I loved My Mother Mary with an immense love, the meditation of the torments which She endured at My Death is even more agreeable to Me."

Wherefore the graces promised by Jesus to those who are devoted to the dolors of Mary are very great. It was revealed to St. Elizabeth, that after the assumption of the Blessed Virgin into heaven, St. John the Evangelist desired to see Her again. The favor was granted him; his dear Mother appeared to him, and with Her Jesus Christ also appeared; the saint then heard Mary ask Her Son to grant some special grace to all those who are devoted to Her dolors. Jesus promised Her 4 principal ones: 1st, that those who before death in­voked the Heavenly Mother in the name of Her sor­rows should obtain true repentance of all their sins; 2nd, that He would protect all who have this devo­tion in their tribulations, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death; 3rd, that He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their re­ward for it in heaven; 4th, that He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, with the power to dispose of them in whatever manner She might please, and to obtain for them all the graces that She might desire. In proof of this, let us see, in the following example, how greatly devotion to the dolors of Mary aids in obtaining eternal salvation.

EXAMPLE

In the revelations of St. Bridget we read that there was a rich man, as noble by birth as he was vile and sinful in his habits. He had given himself, by an express compact, as a slave to the devil; and for 60 successive years had served him, leading such a life as may be imagined, and never ap­proached the sacraments. Now this prince was dy­ing; and Jesus Christ, to show him mercy, com­manded St. Bridget to tell her confessor to go and visit him and exhort him to confess his sins. The confessor went, and the sick man said that he did not require confession, as he had often approached the Sacrament of Penance. The priest went a second time; but this poor slave of hell persevered in his obstinate determination not to confess. Jesus again told the saint to desire the confessor to return. He did so; and on the third occasion told the sick man the revelation made to the saint, and that he had re­turned so many times because our Lord, who wished to show him mercy, had so ordered. On hearing this the dying man was touched, and began to weep: "But how," he exclaimed, "can I be saved; I, who for 60 years have served the devil as his slave, and have my soul burdened with innumerable sins?" "My son," answered the Father, encourag­ing him, "doubt not; if you repent of them, on the part of God I promise you pardon." Then, gaining confidence, he said to the confessor, "Father, I looked upon myself as lost, and already despaired of salvation; but now I feel a sorrow for my sins, which gives me confidence; and since God has not yet abandoned me, I will make my confession." In fact, he made his confession 4 times on that day, with the greatest marks of sorrow, and on the fol­lowing morning received Holy Communion. On the 6th day, contrite and resigned, he died. After his death, Jesus Christ again spoke to St. Bridget, and told her that that sinner was saved; that he was then in purgatory, and that he owed his salvation to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin his Mother; for the deceased, although he had led so wicked a life, had nevertheless always preserved devotion to the dolors, and whenever he thought of them pitied Her.

Prayer

O my afflicted Mother, Queen of martyrs and of sorrows, You  so bitterly wept over Your Son, Who died for my salvation; but what will Your tears avail me if I am lost? By the merits, then, of Your Sorrows, obtain for me true contrition for my sins, and a real amendment of life, together with con­stant and tender compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and Your dolors. And if Jesus and You, being so innocent, have suffered so much for love of me, obtain that at least I, who am deserving of hell, may suffer something for Your love. O Lady, if I have offended You, in justice wound my heart; if I have served You, I now ask wounds for my reward. It is shameful to me to see my Lord Jesus wounded, and You wounded with Him, and myself without a wound. In truth, O my Mother, by the grief that You experienced in seeing Your Son bow down His Head and expire on the Cross in the midst of so many torments, implore You to obtain me a good death. Ah, cease not, O advocate of sinners, to assist my afflicted soul in the midst of the combat in which it will have to engage on its great passage from time to eternity. And as it is probable that I may then have lost my speech and strength to invoke Your name and the Divine Name of Jesus, Who are all my hope, I do so now; I invoke Your Son and You to help me in that last moment; and I say, Jesus and Mary, to You I commend my soul. Amen.

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary.

Reflections on Each of the 7 Dolors of Mary.

1

St. Simeon's Prophecy.

In this valley of tears every man is born to weep, and all must suffer, by enduring the evils which are of daily occurrence. But how much greater would the misery of life be, did we also know the future evils which await us! Unfortunate, indeed, would his lot be who, knowing the future, would have to suffer all by anticipation.  Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials which await us, that, whatever they may be, we may endure them but once. He did not show Mary this compassion; for She, whom God willed to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like His Son, had to see always before Her eyes and continu­ally to suffer all the torments that awaited Her; and these were the sufferings of the Passion and Death of Her beloved Jesus; for in the Temple, St. Simeon, having received the Divine Child in his arms, fore­told to Her that that Son would be a mark for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. "Behold, this Child is set...for a sign which shall be contra­dicted"—Lk 2:34. And therefore, that a sword of sorrow should pierce Her soul: "And Your own soul a sword shall pierce"—Vs: 35.

The Blessed Virgin herself told St. Matilda, that, on this announcement of St. Simeon, "all Her joy was changed into sorrow." For though the Blessed Mother already knew that the life of Her Son would be sacrificed for the Salvation of the world, yet She then learnt more distinctly and in greater detail the Sufferings and cruel Death that awaited Her poor Son. She knew that He would be contradicted, and this in every­thing contradicted in His doctrines; for, instead of being believed, He would be esteemed a blasphemer for teaching that He was the Son of God; this He was declared to be by the impious Caiphas, saying, "He has blasphemed, He is guilty of death"—Matt 26:65. Contra­dicted in His reputation; for He was of noble, even of royal descent, and was despised as a peasant: "Is not this the carpenter's son? "—Matt 13:55.  "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary? "—Mk 6:3. He was wisdom itself, and was treated as ignorant: "How does this man know letters, having never learned?"—John 7:15. As a false prophet: "And they blindfolded Him, and smote His face...saying: Prophesy, who is it that struck You? "—Lk 22:64. He was treated as a madman: "He is mad, why hear Him?"—Jn 10:20.

As a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of sinners: Behold a man that is a glutton, and a drinker of wine, a friend of publicans and sinners. As a sor­cerer: By the prince of devils He casts out devils. As a heretic, and possessed by the evil spirit: "Do we not say well of You that You are a Samaritan and have a devil"—Jn 8:48.. In a word, Jesus was considered so notoriously wicked, that, as the Jews said to Pilate, no trial was necessary to condemn him. If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to you"—Jn 18:30. He was contradicted in his very soul; for even His Eternal Father, to give place to Divine Justice, contradicted Him, by refusing to hear His prayer, when He said, Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me"—Matt 16:39; and abandoned Him to fear, weariness, and sadness; so that our afflicted Lord exclaimed, "My soul is sorrowful unto death."—Ib. 38. and His interior sufferings even caused Him to sweat Blood. Contradicted and persecuted, in fine, in all His Body and in His Life; for He was tortured in all His sacred members, in His Hands, His Feet, His Face, His Head, and in His whole Body; so that, drained of His Blood, and an object of scorn, He died of torments on an ignominious Cross.

When David, in the midst of all his pleasures and regal grandeur, heard from the Prophet Nathan, that his son should die—"The child that is born to you shall surely die"—2 Sam 12:14, he could find no peace, but wept, fasted, and slept on the ground. Mary with the greatest calmness received the announcement that Her Son should die, and always peacefully submitted to it; but what grief must She continually have suffered, seeing this amiable Son always near Her, hearing from Him words of eternal life, and witnessing His holy demeanor!

Abraham suffered much during the 3 days he passed with his beloved Isaac, after knowing that he was to lose him. O God, not for 3 days, but for 33 years had Mary to endure a like sorrow! But do I say a like sorrow? It was as much greater as the Son of Mary was more lovely than the son of Abraham.

The Blessed Virgin Herself revealed to St. Bridget, that, while on earth, there was not an hour in which this grief did not pierce Her soul: "as often," She continued, "as I looked at My Son, as often as I wrapped Him in His swaddling clothes, as often as I saw His Hands and Feet, so often was My soul ab­sorbed, so to say, in fresh grief; for I thought how He would be crucified." —Rev. 1. 6, c. 57.   Ah, Son, I clasp You in My arms, be­cause You are so dear to Me; but the dearer You are to Me, the more do You become a bundle of myrrh and sorrow to Me when I think of Your suffer­ings. Mary re­flected that the Strength of the saints was to be re­duced to Agony; the Beauty of Paradise to be dis­figured; the Lord of the world to be bound as a criminal; the Creator of all things to be made livid with blows; the Judge of all to be condemned; the Glory of heaven despised; the King of kings to be crowned with thorns, and treated as a mock king.

It was revealed to St. Bridget, that the afflicted Mother, already knowing what Her Son was to suffer, "when nursing Him, thought of the gall and vinegar; when swathing Him, of the cords with which He was to be bound; when bearing Him in Her arms, of the Cross to which He was to be nailed; when sleeping, of His death." As often as She put on Him His garment, She reflected that it would one day be torn from Him, that He might be crucified; and when She be­held His sacred Hands and Feet, She thought of the nails which would one day pierce them; and then, Mary said to St. Bridget, "My eyes filled with tears, and My heart was tortured with grief.'

The Evangelist says as Jesus Christ advanced in years, so also did "He advance in wisdom and in grace with God and men"—Lk 2:52. This is to be understood as that He advanced in wisdom and grace in the estimation of men and before God, inasmuch as all His works would continually have availed to increase His merit, had not grace been conferred upon Him from the beginning, in its com­plete fullness, by virtue of the hypostatic union. But, since Jesus advanced in the love and esteem of others, how much more must He have advanced in that of Mary! But, O God, as love increased in Her, so much the more did Her grief increase at the thought of having to lose Him by so cruel a Death; and the nearer the time of the Passion of Her Son approached, so much the deeper did that Sword of Sorrow, foretold by St. Simeon, pierce the heart of His mother. That Sword of Sorrow was every hour approaching nearer to the Blessed Virgin, as the time for the Passion of Her Son drew near.

Since then, Jesus, our King, and His most holy Mother, did not refuse, for love of us, to suffer so cruel pains throughout their lives, it is reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something. Jesus, Crucified, once appeared to Sister Magdalene Orsini, who had been long suffering under a great trial, and encour­aged her to remain, by means of that affliction, with Him on the Cross. Sister Magdalene complain­ingly answered: "O Lord, You were tortured on the cross only for 3 hours, and I have endured my pain for many years." The Redeemer then re­plied: "Ah, ignorant soul, what do you say? From the first moment of My conception I suffered in Heart all that I afterwards endured dying on the Cross." If, then, we also suffer and complain, let us imagine Jesus, and His Mother Mary, addressing the same words to us.

EXAMPLE

A young man had the devotion of every day visiting a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, in which She was represented with 7 swords piercing Her heart. The unfortunate youth one night committed a mortal sin. The next morning, going as usual to visit the image, he perceived that there were no longer only 7, but 8 swords in the heart of Mary. Wondering at this, he heard a voice telling him that his crime had added the 8th. This moved his heart; and, penetrated with sorrow, he immediately went to confession, and by the inter­cession of his advocate recovered divine grace.

PRAYER

Ah, my Blessed Mother, it is not one sword only with which I have pierced Your heart, but I have done so with as many as are the sins which I have committed. Ah, Lady, it is not to You, who are innocent, that sufferings are due, but to me, who am guilty of so many crimes. But since You have been pleased to suffer so much for me, oh, by Your merits, obtain me great sorrow for my sins, and patience under the trials of this life, which will always be light in comparison with my demerits; for I have often deserved hell. Amen.

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary

2

THE FLIGHT OF JESUS INTO EGYPT.

As the deer, wounded by an arrow, carries the pain with him wherever he goes, because he carries with him the arrow which has wounded him, so did the Heavenly Mother, after the sad prophecy of St. Simeon, as we have already seen in the considera­tion of the first dolor, always carry Her sorrow with Her in the continual Remembrance of the Passion of Her Son. In Song 7:5, — "The hairs of your head, as the purple of king, bound in the channel, these purple hairs were Mary's continual thoughts of the Pas­sion of Jesus, which kept the Blood Which was one day to flow from His Wounds always before Her eyes: "Your mind, O Mary, and Your thoughts, steeped in the Blood of our Lord's Passion, were always filled with sorrow, as if they actually beheld the blood flowing from His Wounds." Thus Her Son Himself was that arrow in the heart of Mary; and the more amiable He appeared to Her, so much the more deeply did the thought of losing Him by so cruel a death wound Her heart.  Let us now consider the second sword of sorrow which wounded Mary, in the flight of Her Infant Je­sus into Egypt from the persecution of Herod.

Herod, having heard that the expected Messiah was born, foolishly feared that He would deprive him of his kingdom. Hence reprov­ing him for his folly, we address him: "Why are you troubled, O Herod? This King Who is born comes not to conquer kings by the sword, but to subjugate them wonderfully by His Death." The impious Herod, therefore, waited to hear from the holy Magi where the King was born, that he might take His life; but finding himself deceived, he or­dered all the infants that could be found in the neighborhood of Bethlehem to be put to death. Then it was that the angel appeared in a dream to St. Joseph, and desired him to Arise, and take the Child and His Mother, and flee into Egypt"—­Matt 2:13. St. Joseph immediately, on that very night, made the order known to Mary; and taking the Infant Jesus, they set out on their jour­ney, as it is sufficiently evident from the Gospel it­self: Who arose and took the Child and His Mother, by night, and retired into Egypt"—­Matt 2:13.

"O God, must He then flee from men, Who came to save men?" Then the afflicted Mother knew that already the prophecy of Simeon concerning Her Son began to be verified: He is set for a sign that shall be contradicted! Seeing that He was no sooner born than He was persecuted unto death, what anguish, must the intimation of that cruel exile of Herself and Her Son have caused in Her heart: "Flee from Your friends to strangers, from God's Temple to the tem­ples of devils. What greater tribulation than that a newborn child, hanging from its mother's breast, and She too in poverty, should with Him be forced to flee?"

Any one may imagine what Mary must have suf­fered on this journey. To Egypt the distance was great. It was 300 miles; so that it was a journey of upwards of 30 days. The road was, rough and unknown. It was in the winter season; so that they had to travel in snow, rain, and wind, through rough and dirty roads. Mary was then 15 years of age—a delicate young woman, unac­customed to such journeys. They had no one to at­tend upon them. Jo­seph and Mary have no male or female servants; they were themselves both masters and servants.  

O God, what a touching sight must it have been to have beheld that tender Virgin, with Her new-born babe in Her arms, wandering through the world! But how did they obtain their food? Where did they repose at night? How were they lodged? What can they have eaten but a piece of hard bread, either brought by St. Joseph or begged as an alms? Where can they have slept on such a road (especially on the 200 miles of desert, where there were neither houses nor inns), unless on the sand or under a tree in a wood, exposed to the air and the dangers of robbers and wild beasts, with which Egypt abounded? Ah, had any one met these 3 great­est personages in the world, for whom could he have taken them but for poor wandering beggars?

They resided in Egypt in the city of Heliopo­lis, or at Memphis, now called old Cairo. Here let us consider the great poverty they must have suf­fered during the 7 years which  they spent there. They were foreigners, unknown, without revenues, money, or relatives, barely able to sup­port themselves by their humble efforts. As they were destitute, it is evident that they must have labored much to provide themselves with the necessities of life. Let this be a consolation for the poor that Mary lived there in the midst of such poverty that at times She had not even a bit of bread to give to Her Son, when, urged by hunger, He asked for it.

After the death of Herod, St. Matthew relates, the angel again appeared to St. Joseph in a dream, and directed them to return to Judea. How much greater the Blessed Virgin's sufferings must have been on account of the pains of Jesus being so much in­creased, as He was then about 7 years of age—an age at which He was too big to be carried, and not strong enough to walk with­out assistance.

The sight, then, of Jesus and Mary wandering as fugitives through the world, teaches us that we also must live as pilgrims here below; detached from the goods which the world offers us, and which we must soon leave to enter eternity: "We have not here a lasting city, but seek one that is to come"—Heb 13:14. You are a guest: you give a look, and pass on. It also teaches us to em­brace crosses, for without them we cannot live in this world. Blessed Veronica da Binasco was carried in spirit to accompany Mary with the Infant Jesus on their journey into Egypt; and after it the Heavenly Mother said, "Daugh­ter, you have seen with how much difficulty we have reached this country; now learn that no one receives graces without suffering." Whoever wishes to feel less the sufferings of this life must go in company with Jesus and Mary: "Take the Child and His Mother." All sufferings become light, and even sweet and desirable, to him who by his love bears this Son and this Mother in his heart. Let us, then, love them; let us console Mary by welcoming in our hearts Her Divine Son, Whom men even now con­tinue to persecute by their sins.

EXAMPLE

The most holy Virgin one day appeared to Blessed Collette, a Franciscan nun, and showed her the Infant Jesus in a basin, torn to pieces, and then said: "Thus it is that sinners continually treat My Son, renewing His Death and My sorrows. My daughter, pray for them, that they may be con­verted." To this we may add another vision, which the Venerable Sister Joanna of Jesus and Mary, also a Franciscan nun, had. She was one day medi­tating on the Infant Jesus persecuted by Herod, when she heard a great noise, as of armed men pursuing some one; and immediately she saw before her a most beautiful child, who, all out of breath and running, exclaimed: "O my Joanna, help me, conceal Me, I am Jesus of Nazareth; I am fleeing from sinners, who wish to kill Me, and persecute Me as Herod did. Save Me."

PRAYER

Then, O Mary, even after Your Son died by the hands of men, who persecuted Him unto Death, these ungrateful men have not yet ceased persecut­ing Him by their sins, and continue to afflict You, O sorrowful Mother! And, O God, I also have been one of these. Ah, my most sweet Mother, obtain me tears to weep over such ingratitude. By the suf­ferings You  endured in that journey to Egypt, assist me in the journey in which I am now making to eternity; that thus I may at length be united to You in loving my persecuted Savior in the King­dom of the Blessed. Amen.

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary

3

THE LOSS OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

The Apostle St. Jacob says that our perfection consists in the virtue of patience, "And patience has a perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing"—Jacob 1:4.  Our Lord having, then, given us the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model of perfection, it was necessary that She should be laden with sor­rows, that in Her, we might admire heroic patience, and endeavor to imitate it. The sorrow which we have this day to consider was one of the greatest that Mary had to endure in Her life—the loss of Her Son in the Temple. He who is born blind feels but little the privation of the light of day; but he who has once enjoyed it, and loses it by becoming blind, indeed suffers much. Thus it is also with those unhappy souls who, blinded by the mire of the world, have but lit­tle knowledge of God—they suffer but little at not finding him; but, on the other hand, he who, illu­mined by celestial light, has become worthy to find by love the sweet presence of the supreme good, O God, how bitterly does he grieve when he finds himself deprived of it! Hence, let us see how much Mary must have suffered from this third sword of sorrow which pierced Her heart, when, having lost Her Jesus in Jerusalem for 3 days, She was deprived of His most sweet Divine Presence, accustomed as She was constantly to enjoy it. St. Luke relates, in Chapter 2 of his Gos­pel, that the Blessed Virgin, with Her spouse St. Jo­seph, and Jesus, was accustomed every year at the paschal solemnity to visit the Temple. When Her Son was 12 years of age, She went as usual, and Jesus remained in Jerusalem. Mary did not at once perceive it, thinking He was in company with others. When She reached Nazareth, She inquired for Her Son; but not finding Him, She immediately returned to Jerusalem to seek for Him, and only found Him after 3 days. Now let us imagine what anxiety this afflicted Mother must have experienced in those 3 days during which She was seeking everywhere for Her Son, and inquiring for Him with the spouse in the Canticles: Have you seen Him Whom my soul loves? ?"—Song  3:3. But She could have no tidings of Him. O, with how far greater tenderness must Mary, overcome by fa­tigue, and having not yet found Her beloved Son, have repeated those words of Ruben, concerning his brother Joseph: "The boy does not appear; and where shall I go? "—Gen 37:30.   "My Jesus does not appear, and I no longer know what to do to find Him; but where shall I go without My  Divine Treasure?" Weeping continu­ally, with how much truth did She repeat with David, during those 3 days,  "My tears have been my bread day and night while it is said to me daily: Where is your God?"—Ps 42:4.

 Wherefore with reason, we know  that during those nights the afflicted Mary did not sleep; She was constantly weeping, and en­treating God that He would enable Her to find Her Divine Son. Frequently, during that time, She addresses Her Son in the words of the spouse in the Canticles: "Show me where You feed, where You lie in the mid-day, lest I begin to wander"—Sg 1:6.  My Son, tell Me where You are, that I may no longer wander, seeking You in vain. There are some who assert, and not without rea­son, that this dolor was not only one of the great­est, but the greatest and most painful of all. For, in the first place, Mary, in Her other dolors, had Jesus with Her.  She suffered when St. Simeon prophesied to Her in the Temple. She suffered in the flight into Egypt; but still in company with Jesus; but in this dolor She suffered far from Jesus, not knowing where He was: "…and the light of my eyes it­self is not with me"—Ps  38:10.  Thus weeping She then said, "Ah, the Light of My eyes, My Dear Jesus, is no longer with Me; He is far from Me, and I do not know where He is gone?  Through the love which this holy Mother bore Her Divine Son, She suf­fered more in this loss of Jesus than any martyr ever suffered in the separation of his soul from his body. Ah, too long indeed were those 3 days for Mary; they seemed 3 ages; they were all bit­terness, for there was none to comfort Her. And who can ever comfort Me, She said with Jeremiah, who can console Me, since He Who could alone do so is far from Me? And therefore My eyes can never weep enough: "Therefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water: because the Comforter...is far from me."—Lam 1:16. And with Tobias She repeated, "What manner of joy shall be to me who sit in darkness and see not the light of heaven?"—Tob 5:12.

In the second place, Mary, in all Her other sor­rows, well understood their cause—the redemption of the world, the Divine Will; but in this She knew not the cause of the absence of Her Son. The sor­rowful Mother was grieved at the absence of Jesus, because, in Her humility, She considered Herself unworthy to remain longer with or to attend upon Him on earth, and have the charge of so great a Treasure. And who knows, perhaps She thought within Herself, "maybe I have not served Him as I ought; perhaps I have been guilty of some negligence, for which He has left Me." They sought Him, lest per­chance He had entirely left them.  It is certain that, to a soul that loves God, there can be no greater pain than the fear of having displeased Him. There­fore in this sorrow alone did Mary complain, lov­ingly expostulating with Jesus, after She had found Him; Son, why have You done so to us? Your father and I have sought You sorrowing.' By these words She had no idea of reproving Jesus, as heretics blas­phemously assert, but only meant to express to Him the grief proceeding from the great love She bore Him which She had experienced during His absence. It was not a rebuke, but a loving complaint.

This sorrow of Mary ought, in the first place, to serve as a consolation to those souls who are deso­late, and no longer enjoy, as they once enjoyed, the sweet Divine Presence of their Lord. They may weep, but they should weep in peace, as Mary wept over the absence of Her Son; and let them take courage and not fear that on this account they have lost the di­vine favor; for God Himself assured St. Teresa, that "no one is lost without knowing it; and that no one is deceived without wishing to be deceived." If our Lord withdraws Himself from the sight of a soul that loves Him, He does not, therefore, depart from the heart; He often conceals Himself from a soul, that it may seek Him with a more ardent desire and greater love. But whoever wishes to find Jesus, must seek Him, not amidst delights and the pleas­ures of the world, but amidst crosses and mortifica­tions, as Mary sought Him. 'We sought You sorrowing,' as Mary said to Her Son. Learn, then, from Mary to seek Jesus.

Moreover, in this world She would seek no other good than Jesus. Job was not unhappy when he lost all that he possessed on earth: riches, children, health, and honors, and even descended from a throne to a dunghill; but because he had God with him, he was even then happy. He had lost what God had given him, but he still had God Himself. Truly miserable and unhappy are those souls that have lost God. If Mary wept the absence of Her Son for 3 days, how should sinners weep, who have lost divine grace, and to whom God says: "You are not My people, and I will not be yours!"—Hosea 1:9.  For this is the effect of sin; it sepa­rates the soul from God: "Your iniquities have divided between you and your God."—Is 59:2. Hence, if sinners pos­sess all the riches of the earth, but have lost God, all, even in this world, becomes vanity and afflic­tion to them, as Solomon confessed: "Behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."—Eccle 1:14.

 But the greatest mis­fortune of these poor blind souls is that if they lose an ox, they do not fail to go in search of it; if they lose a sheep, they use all diligence to find it; if they lose a beast of burden, they cannot rest; but when they lose their God, Who is the Supreme Good, they eat, drink, and repose.

EXAMPLE

Saint Benvenuta once asked the Blessed Virgin for the grace to share the pain the Mother of Christ felt at the loss of Her Divine Son. Mary appeared to Her with the Divine Child in Her arms. At the sight of the beautiful babe St. Benvenuta fell into an ecstasy but the vision suddenly disappeared. The pain thus occasioned to the saint was so great that she besought Mary to help her lest she die of grief. After 3 days the Blessed Virgin appeared again and said to her: "My daughter, your suffering is only a small part of that which I endured at the loss of My Divine Son."

PRAYER

O Blessed Virgin, why do You afflict Yourself, seeking for Your lost Son? Is it that You know not where He is? Don’t You know that He is in Your heart? Are You ignorant that He feeds amongst lilies? You Yourself have said it: "My Beloved to me, and I to him, who feeds among the lilies."—Song 2:16. These, Your thoughts and affections, which are all humble, pure, and holy, are all lilies which invite Your Divine Spouse to dwell in You. Ah, Mary, do You sigh after Jesus, You who love none but Jesus? Leave sighs to me, and to so many sinners who love Him not, and who have lost Him by offending Him. My most amiable Mother, if through my fault Your Son is not yet returned to my soul, obtain for me that I may find Him. I well know that He is found by those who seek Him: "The Lord is good to the soul that seeks Him."—Lam 3:25. But make me seek Him as I ought. You are the gate through which all find Jesus; through You I also hope to find Him. Amen. 

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary

4

The Meeting of Mary with Jesus, when He was going to Death.

To form an idea of the greatness of Mary's grief in losing Her Jesus by Death, we must consider the love that this Mother bore to Her Son. All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own. Hence, when the Ca­naanite woman entreated our Savior to deliver her daughter from devil that tormented her, she asked Him rather to pity her, the mother, than her daughter: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, You Son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil."—Matt 15:22. But what mother ever loved her son as Mary loved Jesus? He was Her only Son, reared amidst so many troubles; a most amiable Son, and tenderly loving His Mother; a Son Who, at the same time that He was Her Son, was also Her God, Who had come on earth to enkindle in the hearts of all the fire of Di­vine Love, as He Himself declared: "I am came to cast fire on the earth, and what will but that it be kin­dled!" Lk 12:49. Let us only imagine what a flame He must have enkindled in that pure heart of His holy Mother, void as it was of every earthly affection. In fine, the Blessed Virgin Herself told St. Bridget, "that love had rendered Her heart and that of Her Son but one." That blending together of servant and Mother, of Son and God, created in the heart of Mary a fire composed of a thousand flames. But the whole of this flame of love was afterwards, at the time of the passion, changed into a sea of grief, when that if all the sor­rows of the world were united, they would not equal that of the glorious Virgin Mary. Yes, be­cause, the more tenderly His Mother loved, so much the more deeply was She wounded.  The greater was Her love for Him, the greater was Her grief at the sight of His Sufferings; and especially When She met Her Son, already condemned to death, and bearing His Cross to the place of punishment. This is the fourth sword of sorrow that we have this day to consider.

The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget, that when the time of the Passion of our Lord was ap­proaching, Her eyes were always filled with tears, as She thought of Her beloved Son, Whom She was about to lose on earth, and that the prospect of that approaching suffering caused Her to be seized with fear, and a cold sweat to cover Her whole body."—Rev. 1. 4, c. 70.

Behold, the appointed day at last came, and Je­sus, in tears, went to take leave of His Mother, be­fore going to death.  "You spent it without sleep, and while others slept You  remained watching." In the morning the disciples of Jesus Christ came to this afflicted Mother, the one to bring Her one account, the other another; but all were tidings of sorrow, verifying in Her the proph­ecy of Jeremiah: "Weeping, She has wept in the night, and Her tears are on Her cheeks; there is none to com­fort Her of all them that were dear to Her." —Lam 1:2. Some then came to relate to Her the cruel treatment of Her Son in the house of Caiphas; and others, the insults He had received from Herod. Finally—to come to our point, I omit all the rest—St. John came, and an­nounced to Mary that the most unjust Pilate had already condemned Him to die on the Cross. I say the most unjust Pilate; for this unjust judge condemned Him to Death with the same lips with which he had declared Him inno­cent. Ah! afflicted Mother," said St. John, "Your Son is already condemned to death; He is already gone forth, bearing Himself , His Cross, on His way to Calvary," as the saint afterwards related in his Gospels: "and bearing His own Cross, He went forth to that place which is called Calvary"—Jn 19:17. "Come, if You desire to see Him, and bid Him a last farewell, in some street through which He must pass."

Mary goes with St. John, and by the Blood with which the way is sprinkled, She perceives that Her Son has already passed. This She revealed to St. Bridget: "By the footsteps of My Son, I knew where He had passed: for along the way the ground was marked with Blood."' The afflicted Mother taking a shorter way, placed Herself at the corner of a street, to meet Her af­flicted Son as He was passing by. The most sor­rowful Mother met Her most sorrowful Son. While Mary was waiting in that place, how much must She have heard said by the Jews, who soon recognized Her, against Her beloved Son, and perhaps even words of mocking against Herself.

Alas, what a scene of sorrows then presented itself before Her!—the nails, the hammers, the cords, the fatal instruments of the Death of Her Divine Son, all of which were borne before Him. And what a sword must the sound of that trumpet have been to Her heart, which proclaimed the sentence pronounced against Her Jesus! But behold, the instruments, the trumpeter, and the executioners, have already passed; She raised Her eyes, and saw, O God! a Young Man covered with Blood and Wounds from Head to Foot, a wreath of thorns on His Head, and 2 heavy beams on His Shoulders. She looked at Him, and hardly recog­nized Him, saying, with Isaiah, "and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness"—Is 53:2. Yes, for the Wounds, the bruises, and the clotted Blood, gave Him the appearance of a leper: "we have thought Him as it were a leper"—Is 53:4;  so that he could no longer be known: "and His look was, as it were, hidden and de­spised; whereupon we esteemed Him not."—Ibid 3. But at length love revealed Him to Her, and as soon as She knew that it indeed was He, ah, what love and fear must then have filled Her heart!  On the one hand She desired to behold Him, and on the other She dreaded so heartrending a sight. At length they looked at each other. The Son wiped from His Eyes the clotted Blood, Which prevented Him from seeing, and looked at His Mother, and the Mother looked at Her Son. Ah, looks of bitter grief, which, as so many arrows, pierced through and through those 2 beautiful and loving souls.

When Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas More, met her father on his way to death, she could only exclaim, "O father! father! and fell fainting at his feet. Mary, at the sight of Her Divine Son, on His way to Calvary, did not faint; no, for it was not be­coming that this Mother should lose the use of Her reason: nor did She die, for God reserved Her for greater grief; but though She did not die, Her sorrow was enough to have caused Her a thousand deaths.

The Mother would have embraced Him but the guards thrust Her aside with insults, and urged forward the suffering Lord; and Mary followed Him. Ah, holy Virgin, where do You go? To Calvary. And can You trust Yourself to behold Him Who is Your Life, hanging on a Cross? "And your life shall be, as it were, hanging before you."—Deut. 28:66"Ah, stop, My Mother, where do You go? Where would You come? If You come where I go, You will be tortured with My Sufferings, and I with yours." But although the sight of Her Dying Je­sus was to cost Her so bitter Sorrow, the loving Mary will not leave Him: the Son advanced, and the Mother followed, to be also Crucified with Her Son. The Mother also took up Her Cross and followed, to be crucified with Him. We even pity wild beasts, and if we saw a lioness following her cub to death, the sight would move us to com­passion. And shall we not also be moved to com­passion on seeing Mary follow Her Immaculate Lamb to Death? Let us, then, pity Her, and let us also accompany Her Son and Herself, by bearing with patience the cross that our Lord imposes on us. St. John Chrysostom asks why Jesus Christ, in His other sufferings, was pleased to endure them alone, but in carrying His cross was assisted by the Cyrenean? He replies, that it was "that you may understand that the Cross of Christ is not suffi­cient without yours "

EXAMPLE

Our Savior one day appeared to Sister Diomira, a nun in Florence, and said, "Think of Me and love Me and I will think of you and love you." At the same time He presented her with a bunch of flowers and a Cross, signifying thereby that the consolations of the saints in this world are always to be accom­panied by the Cross. The Cross unites souls to God. Blessed Jerome Emilian, when a soldier, and loaded with sins, was shut up by his enemies in a tower. There, moved by his misfortunes, and enlightened by God to change his life, he had recourse to the ever-blessed Virgin; and from that time, by the help of this Heavenly Mother, he began to lead the life of a saint, so much so that he merited once to see the very high place that God had prepared for him in heaven. He became the founder of the religious Order of the Somaschi, died as a saint, and has lately been canonized by the holy Church.

PRAYER

My sorrowful Mother, by the merit of that grief which You felt in seeing Your beloved Jesus led to Death, obtain me the grace, that I also may bear with patience the crosses which God sends me. Happy indeed shall I be, if I only know how to ac­company You with my cross until death. You with Your Jesus—and You were both innocent—have carried a far heavier cross; and shall I, a sinner, who have deserved hell, refuse to carry mine? Ah, Immaculate Virgin, from You do I hope for help to bear all crosses with patience. Amen.

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary

5

The Death of Jesus.

We have now to witness a new kind of martyr­dom—a Mother condemned to see an innocent Son, and One Whom She loves with the whole affec­tion of Her soul, cruelly tormented and put to Death before Her own eyes. "There stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother"—Jn 19:25. St. John believed that in these words he had said enough of Mary's martyrdom. Consider Her at the foot of the Cross in the Presence of Her Dying Son, and then see if there be a sorrow like unto Her Sor­row. Let us remain for awhile this day on Calvary, and consider the fifth sword, which, in the Death of Jesus, transfixed the heart of Mary. As soon as our agonized Redeemer had reached the Mount of Calvary, the executioners stripped Him of His clothes, and piercing His Hands and Feet, not with sharp, but with blunt nails, to torment Him more, they fastened Him on the Cross. Having crucified Him, they planted the Cross, and thus left Him to die. The executioners left Him, but not so Mary. She then drew nearer to the Cross, to be present at His Death: "I did not leave Him" (thus the Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget), "but stood nearer to the cross." —Rev. 1. I, c. 35.

"But what did it avail You, O Lady, to go to Calvary, and see this Son expire? Shame should have prevented You; for His disgrace was Yours, since You were His Mother. At least, horror of witnessing such a crime as the Cruci­fixion of a God by His own creatures should have prevented You from going there. Ah, Your heart did not then think of its own sorrows, but of the Sufferings and Death of Your Dear Son, and therefore You would Yourself be present, at least to compassionate Him. Ah, true Mother, most lov­ing Mother, whom not even the fear of death could separate from Your beloved Son!"

But, O God, what a cruel sight was it there to be­hold this Son in Agony on the Cross, and at its foot this Mother in agony, suffering all the torments en­dured by Her Son! Listen to the words in which Mary revealed to St. Bridget the sorrowful state in which She saw Her dying Son on the cross: "My dear Jesus was breathless, exhausted, and in His last Agony on the Cross; His Eyes were sunk, half closed, and lifeless; His Lips hanging, and His Mouth open; His Cheeks hollow and drawn in; His Face elongated, His Nose sharp, His Countenance sad; His Head had fallen on His Chest, His Hair was black with Blood, His Stomach collapsed, His Arms and Legs stiff, and His whole Body covered with Wounds and Blood."

All these sufferings of Jesus were also those of Mary; "Every torture inflicted on the body of Je­sus, was a wound in the heart of the Mother." "Whoever then was present on the Mount of Calvary, might see 2 altars, on which 2 great sacrifices were consummated; the one in the Body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary." Nay, better still may we say "there was but one altar—that of the Cross of the Son, on which, together with His Divine Lamb, the Victim, the Mother was also sacrificed;" "O Lady, where are You? Near the cross? Nay, rather, You are on the Cross, cruci­fied, sacrificing Yourself with Your Son."  "The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ Crucified the Mother was also cruci­fied." Yes; for "Love inflicted on the heart of Mary the tortures caused by nails in the Body of Jesus." So much so, that, "At the same time that the Son sac­rificed His Body, the Mother sacrificed Her soul."

Mothers ordinarily flee from the presence of their dying children; but when a mother is obliged to wit­ness such a scene, she procures all possible relief for her child; she arranges his bed, that he may be more at ease; she administers refreshments to him; and thus the poor mother soothes her own grief. "Ah, most afflicted of all Mothers! O Mary, You have to witness the Agony of Your Dying Jesus; but You can administer Him no relief." Mary heard Her Son ex­claim, "I thirst," but She could not even give Him a drop of water to refresh Him in that great thirst. She could only say, "My Son, I have only the water of tears." She saw that on that bed of torture Her Son, suspended by 3 nails, could find no repose; She would have clasped Him in Her arms to give Him relief, or that at least He might there have expired; but She could not. "In vain did She extend Her arms; they sank back empty on Her breast." She beheld that poor Son, Who in His sea of grief sought consolation, as it was foretold by the prophet, but in vain"I have trodden the winepress alone; I looked about and there was none to help; I sought, and there was none to give aid"—Is 63:3But who amongst men would console him, since all were enemies? Even on the Cross He was taunted and blasphemed on all sides"And they that passed by, blasphemed Him, wagging their heads." —Mt 27:39. Some said to His Face, "If you be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Others, "He saved others, Himself He can­not save. Again, "If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross." Our Blessed Lady Herself said to St. Bridget, "I heard some say that My Son was a thief; others, that He was an im­postor; others, that no one deserved death more than He did; and every word was a new sword of grief to My heart."

But that which the most increased the sorrows which Mary endured through compassion for Her Son, was hearing Him complain on the Cross that even His Eternal Father had abandoned Him"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" —Mt 27:46.  Words which the Heavenly Mother told the same St. Bridget could never, during Her whole life, depart from Her mind.' So that the afflicted Mother saw Her Jesus suffering on every side; She desired to comfort Him, but could not.

That which the most grieved Her was to see that She Herself, by Her presence and sorrow, increased the Sufferings of Her Son. "The grief which filled Mary's heart, as a torrent flowed into and embittered the Heart of Jesus. So much so, that, on the Cross, Jesus suffered more from compassion for His Mother than from His own torments." "I stood with My eyes fixed on Him, and His on Me, and He grieved more for Me than for Himself."  She lived dying without being able to die. Near the Cross of Christ His Mother stood half-dead; She spoke not; dying She lived, and living She died; nor could She die, for death was Her very life. Jesus Christ Himself one day, speaking to Blessed Baptista Varani of Camerino, assured her that when on the Cross, so great was His affliction at seeing His Mother at His Feet in so bitter an anguish, that compassion for Her caused Him to die without consolation; so much so, that the Blessed Baptista, being supernaturally enlightened as to the greatness of this suffering of Jesus, ex­claimed, "O Lord, tell me no more of this Your Sor­row, for I can no longer bear it."  "All who then saw this Mother silent, and not uttering a complaint in the midst of so great suffering, were filled with astonishment." But if Mary's lips were silent, Her heart was not so, for She incessantly offered the life of Her Son to the Divine Justice for our salvation. There­fore, we know that by the merits of Her dolors, She cooperated in our birth to the life of grace; and hence we are the children of Her Sorrows"Christ was pleased that She, the coop­erator in our redemption, and whom He had de­termined to give us for our Mother, should be there present; for it was at the foot of the cross that She was to bring us, Her children, forth." If any conso­lation entered that sea of bitterness, the heart of Mary, the only one was this, that She knew that by Her sorrows, She was leading us to eternal salvation, as Jesus Himself revealed to St. Bridget: "My Mother Mary, on account of Her compassion and love, was made the Mother of all in heaven and on earth." And indeed these were the last words with which Jesus bid Her farewell before His Death: this was his last recommendation, leaving us to Her for Her children in the person of St. John: "Woman, be­hold Your son."—Jn 19:26.  From that time Mary began to per­form this good office of a Mother for us; for by the prayers of Mary, who stood between the cross of the good thief and that of Her Son, the thief was converted and saved and thereby She repaid a former service." For, as other authors also relate, this thief had been kind to Jesus and Mary on their journey to Egypt; and this same office the Blessed Virgin has ever continued, and still continues, to perform.

EXAMPLE

Blessed Joachim Piccolomini had always a most tender devotion for Mary, and from his childhood was in the habit of visiting an image of our Blessed Lady of Sorrows, which was in the neighboring church, 3 times a day; and on Saturdays, in Her honor, he abstained from all food; and in addition to this he always rose at midnight to meditate on Her dolors. But let us see how abundantly this good Mother recompensed him. In the first place, when he was a young man She appeared to him and de­sired him to embrace the Order of the Servites and this the holy young man did. Again, in the latter years of his life She appeared to him with 2 crowns in Her hands: the one was composed of ru­bies, and this was to reward him for his compassion for Her sorrows; the other of pearls, as a recom­pense for his virginity, which he vowed in Her honor. Shortly before his death, She once more ap­peared to him; and then the saint begged, as a fa­vor, that he might die on the same day on which Je­sus Christ had expired. Our Blessed Lady immediately gratified him, saying: "It is well: prepare yourself; for tomorrow, Good Friday, you shall die suddenly as you desire; tomorrow you shall be with Me in heaven." And so it was; for the next day, during the singing of the Passion according to St. John, at the words, Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, he fell into the last struggles of death; and at the words, He bowed down His Head and expired, the saint also breathed his last; and in the same moment the whole church was filled with an extraordinary light and most delicious perfume.

PRAYER

Ah, Mother, the most sorrowful of all mothers, Your Divine Son is, then, dead; that Son so amiable, and Who loved You so much! Weep, then, for You have reason to weep. Who can ever console You? The thought alone that Jesus, by His Death, conquered hell, opened heaven until then closed to men, and gained so many souls, can console You. From that throne of the Cross, He will reign in so many hearts, which, conquered by His love, will serve Him with love. Disdain not, in the mean time, O my Mother, to keep me near You, to weep with You, since I have so much reason to weep for the crimes by which I have offended Him. Ah, Mother of Mercy, I hope, first, through the Death of my Redeemer, and then through Your sorrows, to obtain pardon and eternal salvation. Amen.

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary

6

The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross.

"O all you that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow"—Lam 1:12 Devout souls, listen to what the sorrowful Mary says this day: "My beloved children, I do not wish you to console Me; no, for My soul is no longer susceptible of consolation in this world after the Death of My dear Jesus. If you wish to please Me, this is what I ask of you; behold Me, and see if there ever has been in the world a grief like Mine, in seeing Him Who was all My love torn from Me with such cruelty." But, my sovereign Lady, since you will not be consoled, and have so great a thirst for suffer­ings, I must tell You that, even with the Death of Your Divine Son, Your sorrows have not ended. On this day You will be wounded by another sword of sorrow, a cruel lance will pierce the Side of Your Son already dead, and You have to receive Him in Your arms af­ter He is taken down from the Cross. Now we are to consider the sixth dolor which af­flicted this poor Mother. Attend and weep. Hith­erto the dolors of Mary tortured Her one by one; on this day they are all, as it were, united to assail her.

It is enough to tell a mother that her son is dead, to excite all her love towards her lost child. Some persons, that they may lessen a mother's grief, remind her of the displeasure at one time caused by her departed child. But I, my Queen, did I thus wish to lighten Your grief for the Death of Jesus, for what displeasure that He ever caused You could I remind You? No, indeed. He always loved You, always obeyed You, and always respected You. Now You have lost Him. Who can ever tell Your grief? Do You explain it, You who have experienced it.

 When our beloved Re­deemer was dead, the first care of the great Mother was to accompany in spirit the Most Holy Soul of Her Son, and present it to the Eternal Father. "I present You, O my God the Immaculate Soul of Yours and My Son; He has now obeyed You unto Death; do You, then, receive it in Yours Arms. Your Justice is now satisfied, Your Will is accomplished; behold, the great sacrifice to Your Eternal Glory is consum­mated." Then, turning towards the lifeless mem­bers of Her Jesus"O Wounds, O Wounds of Love, I adore You, and in You do I rejoice; for by Your means, salvation is given to the world. You will remain open in the Body of My Son, and be the refuge of those who have recourse to You. O, how many, through You, will receive the pardon of their sins, and by You be inflamed with love for the su­preme good!"

That the joy of the following Paschal Sabbath might not be disturbed, the Jews desired that the Body of Jesus should be taken down from the Cross; but as this could not be done unless the criminals were dead, men came with iron bars to break our Lord's legs, as they had already done those of the 2 thieves who were crucified with Him. Mary was still weeping over the Death of Her Divine Son, when She saw these armed men advancing towards Her Jesus. At this sight She first trembled with fear, and then exclaimed: "Ah, My Son is already dead; cease to outrage Him; torment Me no more, who am His poor Mother." She implored them not to break his legs." But while She thus spoke, O God! She saw a soldier brandish a lance, and pierce the Side of Jesus: "One of the sol­diers with a spear opened His Side, and immediately there came out Blood and Water."—Jn 19:34.   At the stroke of the spear the Cross shook, and, as it was afterwards re­vealed to St. Bridget, the Heart of Jesus was divided into 2. There came out Blood and Water; for only those few drops of Blood remained, and even those our Savior was pleased to shed, that we might understand that He had no more Blood to give us. The injury of that stroke was inflicted on Jesus, but Mary suffered its pain. "Christ shared this Wound with His Mother; He received the insult, His Mother en­dured its Agony."

The holy Fathers maintain that this was literally the sword foretold to the Blessed Virgin by St. Simeon: a sword, not a material one, but one of grief, which transpierced Her blessed soul in the Heart of Jesus, where it always dwelt. Thus, the lance which opened His Side passed through the soul of the Blessed Virgin, which could never leave Her Son's Heart. The Heavenly Mother Herself revealed the same thing to St. Bridget: "When the spear was drawn out, the point appeared red with Blood: "then, seeing the Heart of My Most Dear Son pierced, it seemed to Me as if My own heart was also pierced." An angel told the same saint, "that such were the sufferings of Mary, that it was only by a miraculous interposition on the part of God that She did not die." In Her other dolors She at least had Her Son to compassionate Her; but now She has not even Him to pity Her. The afflicted Mother, fearing that other injuries might still be inflicted on Her Son, entreated Joseph of Arimathea to obtain the Body of Her Jesus from Pilate, that at least in death She might guard and protect it from further outrage. Joseph went, and represented to Pilate the grief and desires of this af­flicted Mother. Compas­sion for the Mother softened the heart of Pilate, and moved him to grant Her the Body of the Savior.

Jesus then was taken down from the Cross. most sacred Virgin, after You have given Your Son to the world, with so great love, for our salvation, be­hold the world now restores Him to You; but, O God, in what state do You receive Him?

"O world, how do You return Him to Me?" "My Son was white and ruddy; "—Song 5:10but you return Him to Me blackened with bruises, and red—yes! But with the Wound which you have inflicted upon Him. He was all fair and beautiful; but now there is no more beauty in Him; He is all disfigured. His aspect enamored all: now He excites horror in all who be­hold Him." Oh, how many swords pierced the poor Mother's soul when She received the Body of Her Son from the Cross! Let us only consider the anguish it would cause any mother to receive into her arms the body of her lifeless son.

It was revealed to St. Bridget that 3 ladders were placed against the cross to take down the Sa­cred Body; the holy disciples first drew out the nails from the Hands and Feet, and gave them to Mary. Then one sup­ported the upper part of the Body of Jesus, and the other the lower, and thus they took it from the Cross. The afflicted Mother is standing, and extending Her arms to meet Her Dear Son; She embraced Him, and then sat at the foot of the Cross. His Mouth was open, His Eyes were dim; She then examined His mangled Flesh and uncovered Bones; She took off the crown, and saw the sad injuries which the thorns had inflicted on that Sacred Head; She saw the holes in His Hands and Feet, and thus addressed Him: "Ah, Son, to what has Your love for men brought You; and what evil had You done them, that they should thus cruelly have tormented You? You were My Fa­ther, "You were My Brother, My Spouse, My De­light, My Glory; You were My All!  My Son, see My affliction, look at Me, console Me; but no, You no longer look at Me. Speak; say but a word, and console Me; but You speak no more, for You are dead." Then, turning to those barbarous instru­ments of torture, She said, "O cruel thorns, O cruel nails, O merciless spear, how, how could you thus torture your Creator? But why do I speak of thorns or nails? Alas! sinners, it is you who have thus cruelly treated My Son."

Thus did Mary speak and complain of us. But what would She now say, were She still susceptible of suffering? What would be Her grief to see that men, notwithstanding that Her Son has died for them, still continue to torment and crucify Him by their sins! Let us, at least, cease to torment this af­flicted Mother; and if we have hitherto grieved Her by our sins, let us now do all that She desires. She says"Return, you transgressors, to the Heart. Sinners, return to the Wounded Heart of My Jesus; return as penitents, and He will welcome you. Flee from Him to Him, from the Judge to the Redeemer, from the Tribunal to the Cross." Our Blessed Lady Herself revealed to St. Bridget, that "She closed the Eyes of Her Son, when He was taken down from the Cross, but She could not close His Arms;" Jesus Christ giv­ing us thereby to understand that He desired to re­main with His Arms extended to receive all penitent sinners who return to Him"O world, behold, then, your time is the time of lovers."—Ez 16: 8.  "Now that My Son has died to save you, it is no longer for you a time of fear, but one of love—a time to love Him, Who to show you the love He bore you was pleased to suffer so much." The Heart of Jesus was wounded that, through the visible wound, the invisible wound of love might be seen. "If, then, My Divine Son by excess of love was pleased that His Side should be opened, that He might give you His Heart, it is right, O man, that you in return should also give Him yours." And if you desire, O children of Mary, to find a place in the Divine Heart of Jesus, without fear of being rejected, go, go with Mary; for She will obtain the grace for you.

EXAMPLE

In the city of Cesena there lived 2 sinners who were great friends. One of them, whose name was Bartholomew, in the midst of his wickedness pre­served the devotion of daily reciting the hymn "Sta­bat Mater" in honor of Mary in Sorrow. He was one day reciting this hymn, when he had a vision, in which he seemed to stand with his wicked friend in a lake of fire; and he saw that the most Holy Virgin moved to compassion, extended her hand to him, withdrew him from the fire, and advised him to ask pardon of Jesus Christ, who seemed to forgive him on account of the prayers of his Mother. After the vision, Bartholomew heard that his companion was dead, having been shot; and he thus knew that what he had seen was true. He then renounced the world, and entered the Order of Capuchins, where he led a most austere life, and died with the reputa­tion of sanctity.

PRAYER

O afflicted Virgin! O soul great in virtue but great also in sorrow, for the one and the other took their rise in that immense love with which Your heart was inflamed towards God, for You could love Him alone; ah, Mother, pity me, for instead of loving God I have greatly offended Him. Your sorrows en­courage me to hope for pardon. But this is not enough; I wish to love my Lord; and who can better obtain me this love than You; who are the Mother of fair love? Ah, Mary, You comfort all; con­sole me also. Amen.

Part 3

The Dolors of Mary.

7

The Burial of Jesus.

When a mother is by the side of her suffering and dying child, she undoubtedly feels and suffers all his pains; but after he is actually dead, when, before the body is carded to the grave, the afflicted mother must bid her child a last farewell; then, indeed, the thought that she is to see him no more is a grief that exceeds all other griefs. Behold the last sword of Mary's sorrow, which we have now to consider; for after witnessing the Death of Her Son on the Cross, and embracing for a last time His lifeless Body, this Blessed Mother had to leave Him in the Sepulcher, never more to enjoy His beloved Presence on earth.

That we may better understand this last dolor, we will return to Calvary and consider the afflicted Mother, who still holds the lifeless Body of Her Son clasped in Her arms. O My Son, She seemed to say in the words of Job, "My Son, ‘You are changed to be cruel towards me’—Job 30:21. Yes, for all Your noble qualities, Your beauty, grace, and virtues, Your engaging man­ners, all the marks of special love which You have bestowed upon Me, the peculiar favors You have granted Me—all are now changed into grief, and as so many arrows pierce My heart, and the more they have excited Me to love You, so much the more cruelly do they now make Me feel Your loss. Ah, My own beloved Son, in losing You I have lost all. O truly Begotten of God, You were to Me a Father, a Son, a Spouse: You were My very soul! Now I am de­prived of My Father, widowed of My Spouse, a deso­late, childless Mother; having lost My only Son, I have lost all."

Thus was Mary, with Her Son locked in Her arms, absorbed in grief. The holy disciples, fearful that the poor Mother might die of grief, approached Her to take the Body of Her Son from Her arms to bear it away for burial. This they did with gentle and re­spectable violence, and having embalmed it, they wrapped it in a linen cloth which was already pre­pared. On this cloth, which is still preserved at Tu­rin, our Lord was pleased to leave to the world an impression of His Sacred Body.

The disciples then bore Him to the tomb. To do this, they first of all raised the Sacred Body on their shoulders, and then the mournful train set forth; choirs of angels from heaven accompanied it; the holy women followed, and with them the afflicted Mother also followed Her Son to the place of burial. When they had reached the appointed place, "O how willingly would Mary have there bu