OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS.
LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS.
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 the Apocalypse, Thou hast
the name of being alive, and thou art dead
("Nomen habes quod vivas, et mortuus es"Apoc.
iii. 1). Mary, then, in obtaining this grace for sinners by
her intercession, thus restores them to life.
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
("Qui mane vigilant ad me, invenient me"Prov. viii. 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 ("Qui me invenerit, inveniet
vitam, et hauriet salutem a Domino"). "Listen,"
exclaims St. Bonaventure on these words, "listen, all you who desire the
kingdom of God: honor the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and you will find life
and eternal salvation" ("Audite qui
ingredi cupitis regnum Dei: Virginem Mariam honorate, et invenietis vitam
et salutem perpetuam"Psalt. B. V. ps. 48).
Bernardine of Sienna says, that 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. And the saint adds, "that he has
no doubt but that all the mercies granted by God under the old
dispensation were granted only in consideration of this most Blessed Lady"
("Omnes indulgentias factas in Veteri Testamento non ambigo Deum fecisse
propter hujus benedictae Puelae reverentiam et amorem"Pro Fest. V. M.
s. 5, c. 2).
St. Bernard was right in exhorting us "to seek for grace, and to seek it
by Mary" ("Inventrix gratiae."In Adv.
D. s. 2); 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"
("Inventrix gratiae."In Adv. D. s.
2). The angel Gabriel expressly declared this for our
consolation, when he saluted the Blessed Virgin saying, Fear not, Mary,
thou hast found grace ("Ne timeas,
Maria: invenisti enim gratiam."Luke, 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 thee
("Ave, gratia plena! Dominus tecum"). Since Mary, then,
did not find grace for herself, she being always full of it, for whom did
she find it? Cardinal Hugo, in his commentary on the above text,
replies that she found it for sinners who had lost it. "Let sinners,
then," says this devout write, "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 thou hast found"
("Currant igitur peccatores ad Virginem, qui gratiam amiserunt peccando,
et eam invenient apud ipsam; secure dicant: Redde nobis rem nostrum, quam
invenisti"). On this subject, Richard of St. Laurence
concludes, "that if we hope to recover the grace of God, we must go to
Mary, who has found it, and finds it always"
("Cupientes invenire gratiam, quaeramus inventricem gratiae, quae, quia
simper invenit, frustrari non poterit."De Laud. V. 1. 2, p. 5).
And as she always was and always will be dear to God, if we have recourse
to her, we shall certainly succeed.
Mary says, in the eighth chapter of the sacred Canticles, that God has
placed her in the world to be our defence: I am a wall: and my breasts
are as a tower
("Ego murus, et ubera mea sicut turris, ex quo facta sum coram eo quasi
pacem reperiens"Cant. viii. 10). And she is truly
made a mediatress of peace between sinners and God; Since I am become
in His presence as one finding peace. On these words St. Bernard
encourages sinners, saying, "Go to this Mother of Mercy, and show her the
wounds which thy sins have left on thy soul; then will she certainly
entreat her Son, by the breast that gave him suck, to pardon thee all.
And this divine Son, who loves her so tenderly, will most certainly grant
her petition" ("Vade ad Matrem
misericordiae, et ostende illi tuorum plagas peccatorum, et illa ostendet
pro te ubera; exaudiet utique Matrem Filius"). 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 Thy 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"
("Concede, misericors Deus, fragilitati nostrae praesidium; ut qui sanctae
Dei Genitricis memoriam agimus, intercessionis ejus auxilio a nostris
reason, then, does St. Laurence Justinian call her "the hope of
malefactors" ("Delinquentium spes"S. de
Nat. V. M.); since she alone is the one who obtains them pardon
from God. With reason does St. Bernard call her "the sinners'
("Peccatorum scala"De Aquad);
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 does an ancient writer call her "the only hope of sinners;" for by
her help alone can we hope for the remission of our sins
("Tu es spes unica peccatorum, quia per te
speramus veniam omnium delictorum"Serm. 194, E. B. app.).
John Chrysostom also says "that sinners receive pardon by the intercession
of Mary alone" ("Per hanc peccatorum
veniam consequimur"). 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 thee, and receive the reward prepared by God for those who love
him" ("Ave igitur, Mater, Coelum, Thronus,
Ecclesiae nostrae decus; assidue precare Jesum, ut per te misericordiam
invenire in die judicii, et, quae reposita sunt iis, qui diligent Deum,
bona consequi possimus"Off. B. M. lect. 6).
With reason, finally, is Mary called, in the words of the
sacred Canticles, the dawn; Who is she that cometh forth as the morning
rising?" ("Quae est ista, quae progreditur
quasi aurora consurgenus?"Cant. vi. 9). Yes, says
Pope Innocent III; "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" ("Cum aurora sit
finis noctis et origo diei, merito per auroram designator Virgo Maria,
quae fuit finis vitiorum"In Assumpt. s. 2). 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, St. Germanus says, "O Mother of God, thy protection never
ceases, thy intercession is life, and thy patronage never fails"
(In Dorm. B. V. s. 2). And in a sermon the same saint
says, that 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.
We read in the Gospel of St. Luke, that Mary said, Behold,
from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed"
("Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes
generations"Luke, 1. 48). "Yes, my Lady," exclaims
St. Bernard, "all generations shall call thee blessed, for thou has
begotten life and glory for all generations of men"
("Ex hoc Beatam te dicent omnes generations, quae omnibus generationibus
vitam et gloriam genuisti"In Pentec.). For this cause
all men shall call thee blessed, for all thy servants obtain through thee
the life of grace and eternal glory. "In thee do sinners find
pardon, and the just perseverance and eternal life"
("In te justi gratiam, peccatores veniam, invenerunt in aeternum"In
Pentec. s. 2). "Distrust not, O sinner," says the devout
Bernardine de Bustis, "even if thou has committed all possible sins: go
with confidence to this most glorious Lady, and thou wilt find her hands
filled with mercy and bounty." And, he adds, for "she desires more
to thee good than thou canst desire to receive favors from her"
("O peccator! non diffidas, etiamsi commisisti omnia peccata, sed secure
ad istam gloriosissimam Dominam recurras; invenies enim eam in minibus
plenam misericordia et largitate. Plus enim desiderat ipsa facere
tibi bonum, et largiri gratiam, quam tu accipere concupiscas"Marial.
p. 2, s. 5).
St. Andrew of Crete calls Mary the pledge of divine mercy
("Fidejussio divinarum reconciliationum,
quae dato pignore fit"In Dorm. B. V. s. 3); 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 thy humility, and the purity of thy life, O
Mary, thou super-effulgent star, and that he would be reconciled with
those who had provoked his wrath" ("Exsultabant
autem praenoscentes, quod ipse Dominus, ex tua humilitate, et vitae
puritate, o Maria, stella praefulgida! placaretur, et quod reciperet eos
in suam gratiam, qui ipsum ad iracundiam provocaverant"Serm. Ang.
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, says St.
Bernard, "in which those who take refuge will never suffer the shipwreck
of eternal perdition" ("Arca in qua
naufragium evadimus"S. de B. V. M. Deip.). 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 beastslions, bears,
and tigershad taken refuge (Insin.
l. 4, c. 50). 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.
Father Bovio (Es. E. Mir. p. 1, es.
2) relates that 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 divine mother then addressed her from the image in the following
words: "Ellen, thou has already too much offended God and me; from this
moment change your life, and I will bestow a large share of my graces upon
thee." The poor sinner, in the deepest confusion, replied: "Ah! most
Holy Virgin, it is true that hitherto I have been a wicked sinner; but
thou canst do all, help me; on my part I abandon myself to thee, 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.
Behold, O Mother of my God, my only hope, Mary, behold at thy feet a
miserable sinner, who asks thee for mercy. Thou art proclaimed and
called by the whole Church, and by all the faithful, the refuge of
sinners. Thou art consequently my refuge; thou hast to save me.
I will say with William of Paris, Thou knowest, most sweet Mother of God,
how much thy Blessed Son desires our salvation
("Tu . . . enim, dulcissima Dei Mater, nosti quantum placeat benedicto
Filio tuo salus nostra"Rhθt. Div. c. 18). Thou
knowest all that Jesus Christ endured for this end. I present thee,
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 thou
wast thyself a witness. O, show that thou lovest thy beloved Son,
and by this love I implore thee to assist me. Extend thy hand to a
poor creature who has fallen, and asks thy help. Were I a saint, I
would not need seek thy mercy: but because I am a sinner, I fly to thee,
who art the Mother of Mercies. I know that thy compassionate heart
finds its consolation in assisting the miserable, when thou canst do so,
and dost not find them obstinate. Console, then, thy compassionate
heart, and console me this day; for now thou hast the opportunity of
saving a poor creature condemned to hell; and thou canst do so, for I will
not be obstinate. I abandon myself into thy hands, only tell me what
thou wouldst have me do, and obtain for me strength to execute it, for I
am resolved to do all that depends on me to recover the divine grace.
I take refuge under thy mantle. Jesus wills that I should have
recourse to thee, in order not only that his blood may save me, but also
that thy prayers may assist me in this great work; for thy glory, and for
his own, since thou art his Mother. He sends me to thee, that thou
mayst help me. O Mary, see, I have recourse to thee; in thee do I
confide. Thou prayest for so many others, pray also for me; say only
a word. Tell our Lord that thou willest my salvation, and God will
certainly save me. Say that I am thine, and then I have obtained all
that I ask, all that I desire.
also our Life, because she obtains for us Perseverance.
Final perseverance is so great a gift of God, that (as it was declared by
the Holy Council of Trent) it is quite gratuitous on his part, and we
cannot merit it. Yet we are told by St. Augustine, that all
who seek for it obtain it from God; and, according to Father Suarez, they
obtain it infallibly, if only they are diligent in asking for it to the
end of their lives. For, as Bellarmin well remarks, "that which is
daily required must be asked for every day"
("Quotidie petenda est, ut quotidie obtineatur"). Now, if it
is true (and I hold it as certain, according to the now generally received
opinion, and which I shall prove in the fourth chapter 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 Ecclesiasticus; and which are applied to her by the
Church (Off. Imm. Conc.), on the
Feast of her Immaculate Conception; They that work by me shall not sin.
They that explain me shall have life everlasting
("Qui operantur in me, non peccabunt; qui
elucidant me, vitam aeternam habebunt"Ecclus. xxiv. 30).
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
("Mea est fortitudeo; per me reges
regnant"Prov. viii. 14.Off. B.V.); 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: Thy neck is
as the tower of David, which is built with bulwarks; a thousand bucklers
hang upon it, all the armor of valiant men
("Sicut turris David collum tuum, quae aedificata est cum propugnaculis:
mille clypei pendent ex ea, omnis armature fortium"Cant. iv. 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.
the same reason the most Blessed Virgin is called a plane-tree in the
words of Ecclesiasticus: As a plant-tree by the water in the streets was I
exalted ("Quasi platanaus exaltata sum
juxta aquas in plateis"Ecclus. xxiv. 19). Cardinal
Hugo explains them, and says that the "plane-tree has leaves like shields"
("Platanus habet folia scutis similia"), to show how Mary defends
all who take refuge with her. Blessed Amedeus gives another
explanation, and says that 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
("Virgo ramorum extensione se ubique expandit, ut filios Adae ab aestu, et
a turbine, et a pluvial, umbra desiderabili protegeret"De Laud. B. V.
hom. 8). 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, says St. Bernard, how could the world become other than a
chaos of darkness and horror? And applying his question to Mary, he
repeats it. "Take away the sun, and where will be the day?
Take away Mary, and what will be left but the darkest night?"
("Tolle corpus hoc solare, ubi dies? Tolle Mariam, quid nisi
tenebrae relinquentur?"De Aquoed) When a
soul loses devotion to Mary, it is immediately enveloped in darkness, and
in that darkness of which the Holy Ghost speaks in the Psalms:
Thou hast appointed darkness, and it is night; in it shall all the beasts
of the woods go about ("Posuisti
tenebras, et facta est nox; in ipsa pertransibutn omnes bestiae silvae"Ps.
ciii. 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. St. Anselm says, that "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?"
("Vae eis qui Solem istum aversantur!") Woe to those who
despise its light! that is to say, all who despise devotion to Mary.
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.
then, not without reason that St. Germanus called the most Blessed Virgin
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. But I will quote the saint's own
words: "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 succor"
("Sic respiration non solum est signum
vitae, sed etiam causa; sic Mariae nomen, quod in servorum Dei ore
versatur, simul argumentum est quod vere vivunt, simul etiam hanc vitam
efficit et conservat, omnemque eis opem impertitur"De Zona Deip.).
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 thou
hadst recommended thyself to me, thou wouldst not have, run into such
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 that heareth
me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my
doors ("Beatus homo qui audit me, et
qui vigilat ad fores meas quotidie, et observat ad postes ostii mei"Prov.
viii. 34.Off. B. V.),as if she would say, Blessed is he
that hearts 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"
("Luna lucet in nocte, aurora in diluculo,
sol in die"In Assumpt. s. 2). 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.
writers apply the following words of Ecclesiasticus to Mary: Her bands are
a healthful binding ("Vincula illius
alligatura salutaris"Ecclus. vi. 31). "Why bands?"
asks St. Laurence Justinian, "except it be that she binds her servants,
and thus prevents them from straying into the paths of vice"
("'Vincula illius,' id est, exempla et
servitia quibus ligamur, ne discurramus per campos licentiate"De Laud
B. M. l. 2, p. 3). And truly this is the reason for which
Mary binds her servants. St. Bonaventure also, in his commentary on
the words of Ecclesiasticus, frequently used in the office of Mary, My
abode is in the full assembly of saints
("In plenitudine sanctorum detention mea"Ecclus. xxiv. 16),
says that 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
("Ipsa quoque, non solum in plenitudine sanctorum detinetur, sed etiam in
plenitudine sanctos detinet, ne eorum plenitude minuatur; detinet nimirum
virtutes, ne fugianti; detinet merita, ne pereant; detinet daemons, ne
noceant"Spec B. V. M. lect. 7).
Book of Proverbs we are told that all Mary's clients are clothed with
double garments. For all her domestics are clothed with double
garments ("Omnes enim domestici ejus
vestiti sunt duplicibus"Prov. xxxi. 21). Cornelius ΰ
Lapide explains what this double clothing is: he says that it "consists in
her adorning her faithful servants with the virtues of her Son and with
her own" ("Duplici veste ipsa ornate sibi
devotos, quia tam Christi quam suis virtutibus eos induit"); and
thus clothed they persevere in virtue.
Therefore St. Philip Neri, in his exhortations to his penitents, used
always to say: "My children, if you desire perseverance, be devout to our
Blessed Lady." The Venerable John Berchmans, of the Society of
Jesus, used also to say: "Whoever loves Mary will have perseverance."
Truly beautiful is the reflection of the Abbot Rupert on this subject in
his commentary on the parable of the prodigal son. He says, "That if
this dissolute youth had had a mother living, he would never have
abandoned the paternal roof, or at least would have returned much sooner
than he did" ("Si Prodigus Filius viventem
matrem habuisset, vel a paterna domo nunquam discessisset, vel forte
citius rediisset"); meaning thereby that a son of Mary either never
abandons God, or, if he has this misfortune, by her help he soon returns.
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. St. Laurence Justinian applies to Mary the words of
Ecclesiasticus, I have walked in the waves of the sea
("In fluctibus maris ambulavi"Ecclus.
xxiv. 8): and makes her say, "I walk with my servants in the midst
of the tempests to which they are constantly exposed, to assist and
preserve them from falling into sin" ("Cum
familiaribus meis, ut ipsos eriperem a naufragio peccatorum"De Laud.
B. M. l. 2, p. 1).
Bernardine de Bustis relates that a bird was taught to say "Hail, Mary!"
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, says St. Thomas of
Villanova, 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. I will, however, quote the saint's own words addressed to
Mary: "As chickens when they see a kite soaring above, run and find refuge
under the wings of the hen, so are we preserved under the shadow of thy
("Sicut pulli, volitantibus desuper milvis,
ad gallinae alas occurrunt. ita nos sub velamento alarum tuarum
abscondimur"De Nat. V. conc. 3). "And Thou,"
he continues, "who art our Lady and Mother, hast to defend us; for, after
God, we have no other refuge than thee, who art our only hope and our
protectress, towards thee we all turn our eyes with confidence"
("Nescimus aliud refugium nisi te; tu sola
es unica Spes nostra; tu sola Patrona nostra, ad quam omnes aspicimus"De
Nat. V. con. 3).
then conclude in the words of St. Bernard: "O man, whoever thou art,
understand that in this world thou art tossed about on a stormy and
tempestuous sea, rather than walking on solid ground; remember that if
thou wouldst avoid being drowned, thou must never turn thine 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"
("O quisquis te intelligis in hujus
saeculi profluvio magis inter procellas et tempestates fluctuare, quam per
terram ambulare! ne avertas oculos a fulgore hujus Sideris, si non
vis obrtui procellis. Respice stellam, voca Mariam. In
periculis, in angustiis, in rebus dubiis Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca"De
Laude. V. M. hom. 2). 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 succor
you. "Let not her name leave thy lips, let it be ever in thy heart."
Your hearts should never lose confidence in her holy name, nor should your
lips ever cease to invoke it. "Following her, thou wilt certainly
not go astray." O, so, if we follow Mary, we shall never err from
the paths of salvation. "Imploring her, thou wilt not despair."
Each time that we invoke her aid, we shall be inspired with perfect
confidence. "If she supports thee, thou canst not fall;" "if
she protects thee thou has nothing to fear, for thou canst not be lost:"
"with her for thy guide, thou wilt not be weary; for thy salvation will be
worked out with ease." "If she is propitious, thou wilt gain the
("Non recedat ab ore, non recedat a corde.
Ipsam sequens, non devias; ipsam rogans, non desperas. Ipsa tenente,
non corruis; ipsa protegente, non metuis; ipsa duce, non fatigaris; ipsa
propitia, pervenis"De Laud V. M. hom. 2). If Mary
undertakes our defence, we are certain of gaining the kingdom of heaven.
This do, and thou shalt live ("Sic fac, et
vives"Luke x. 28).
The history of St. Mary of Egypt, in the first book of the lives of the
Fathers, is well known. At the age of twelve 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 sixteen 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 thou shouldst cast thine eyes upon me. But thou art the
refuge of sinners; for the love of thy 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 thou pointest out to me." She immediately heard an
internal voice, as it were that of the Blessed Virgin, replying: "Since
thou has recourse to me, and wishest to change thy life, goenter the
church, it is no longer closed against thee." The sinner entered,
adored the cross, and wept bitterly. She then returned to the
picture, and said, "Lady, behold I am ready. Where wilt thou that I
should go to do penance?" "Go," the Blessed Virgin replied, "cross
the Jordan, and thou wilt find the place of thy 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 seventeen 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 defence?
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 fifty-seven years spent in the
desert, and having attained the age of eighty-seven 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 the 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 hereit 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.
O compassionate Mother, most sacred Virgin, behold at thy feet the
traitor, who, by paying with ingratitude the graces received from God
through thy means, has betrayed both thee and him. But I must tell
thee, O most blessed Lady, that my misery, far from taking away my
confidence, increases it; for I see that thy compassion is great in
proportion to the greatness of my misery. Show thyself, O Mary, full
of liberality towards me: for thus thou art towards all who invoke thy
aid. All that I ask is that thou shouldst cast thine eyes of
compassion on me, and pity me. If thy heart is thus far moved, it
cannot do otherwise than protect me: and if thou protectest me, what can I
fear? No, I fear nothing; I do not fear my sins, for thou canst
provide a remedy; I do not fear devils, for thou art more powerful than
the whole of hell; I do not even fear thy Son, though justly irritated
against me, for at a word of thine he will be appeased. I only fear
lest, in my temptations, and by my own fault, I may cease to recommend
myself to thee, and thus be lost. But I now promise thee that I will
always have recourse to thee; O, help me to fulfill my promise. Lose
not the opportunity which now presents itself of gratifying thy ardent
desire to succor such poor wretches as myself. In thee, O Mother of
God, I have unbounded confidence. From thee I hope for grace to
bewail my sins as I ought, and from thee I hope for strength never again
to fall into them. If I am sick, thou, O heavenly physician, canst
heal me. If my sins have weakened me, thy help will strengthen me.
O Mary, I hope all from thee; for thou art all-powerful with God.
Sweetness; she renders Death sweet to her Clients.
He that is a friend loveth at all times; and a brother is proved in
distress ("Omni tempore diligit, qui
amicus est; et frater in angustiis comprobatur"Prov. xvii. 17),
says the Book of Proverbs. 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!
("Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae").
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 hath
but a short time
("Descendit diabolus ad vos, habens iram
magnam, sciens quod modicum tempus habet"Apoc. xii. 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 Isaias: Their
houses shall be filled with serpents
("Replebuntur domus eorum draconibus"Is. xiii. 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.
related of St. Andrew Avellino, that ten thousand 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 (who it is believed then appeared to him), 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 agoy, turning to the nuns who
surrounded her, said, "Recite a Hail Mary; for a saint has just expired."
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
. . . thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me
("Et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis . . . virga tua, et baculus tuus,
ipsa me consolata sunt"Ps. xxii. 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 Isaias: And there shall come forth a rod out of
the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root
("Egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice ejus ascendet"Is.
xi. 1). "This divine Mother," says St. Peter Damian, "is that
powerful rod with which the violence of the infernal enemies is conquered"
("Haec est virga illa, qua retunduntur
impetus adversantium daemoniorum"S. de Assumpt.). And
therefore does St. Antoninus encourage us, saying,
"If Mary is for us, who shall be against
us?" ("Si Maria pro nobis, quis contra nos?")
Father Emanuel Padia, of the Society of Jesus, 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 thee, 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 nought, for she who is without stain defends him." In like
manner, Father 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 thee, Mary, for
thou has come to my aid" (Menol. 28
Bonaventure tells us that 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. The saint, addressing our Blessed Lady, says,
"Michael, the leader and prince of the heavenly army, with all the
administering spirits, obeys thy commands, O Virgin, and defends and
receives the souls of the faithful who have particularly recommended
themselves to thee, O Lady, day and night"
("Michael, dux et princes militiae coelestis, cum omnibus spiritibus
administratoriis, tuis, Virgo, paret praeceptis, in defendendis in corpore
et suscipiendis de corpore animabus fidelium, specialiter tibi, Domina,
die ac nocte se commendantium"Spec. B. V. lect. 3).
prophet Isaias 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 thee at thy coming;
it stirred up the giants for thee
("Infernus subter conturbatus est in
occursum adventus tui; suscitabit tibi gigantes"Is. xiv. 9).
But Richard of St. Laurence remakrs that 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.
He asks, "Who would dare accuse one who is patronized by the Mother of Him
who is to judge?" (Quis apud Filium
accusare audeat, cui viderit Matrem patrocinantem?"De Laud V. l.
2, p. 1) Mary not only assists her beloved servants at death
and encourages them, but she herself accompanies them to the tribunal-seat
Jerome says, writing to the virgin Eustochia, "What a day of joy will that
be for thee, when Mary the Mother of our Lord, accompanied by choirs of
virgins, will go to meet thee"
("Qualis erit illa dies, quum tibi Maria,
Mater Domini, choris occurret comitata virgineis?"De Cust. Virg.).
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" ("Ideo, ego carissima domina
eorum et Mater, occurram eis in morte, ut etiam in ipsa morte
consolationem et refrigerium habeant"Rev. l. 1, c. 29).
St. Vincent Ferrer says, that not only does the most Blessed Virgin
console and refresh them, but that "she receives the souls of the dying
("Beata Virgo animas morientium suscipit").
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
(Rev. l. 7, c. 13), 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 two 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.
Ecclesiasticus says, that her bands are a healthful binding
("Vincula illus, alligatura salutaris"Ecclus.
vi. 31), and that in the latter end thou shalt find rest in her
("In novissimis invenies requiem in ea"Ibid.
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.
Father Binetti, in his book on the perfections of our blessed Lord, says,
"that having attended the death-bed of a great lover of Mary, he heard
him, before expiring, utter these words: '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'"
(Chef-d'oeuvre de D. p. 3, ch. 6).
Father Suarez (in consequence of his devotion to Mary, which was such that
he used to say 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"
("Non putabam tam dulce esse mori");
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.
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.
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. Scarecely 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, thou art
mine, thou hast given thyself to me, and now why thou 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 (Auriemma, Aff. Scamb.
p. 2, c. 8).
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"
("Ego omnibus, qui mihi pie et sancta
deserviunt, volo in morte fidelissime tamquam mater piissima, adesse,
eosque consolari ac protegere"Apud Blos. Concl. An. fid. C. 12).
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.
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 St. Clare; to St. Felix, of the Order of
Capuchins; to St. Clare of Montefalco; to St. Teresa; to St. Peter of
Alcantara. But, for our common consolation, I will relate the
following: Father Crasset (Vιr. Dιv.
p. 1, tr. 1, q. 11) tells us, that Mary of Oignies saw the Blessed
Virgin at the pillow of a devout widow of Willenbroc, 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.
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 divine 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 wast thou thinking? Didst thou imagine that I had
abandoned thee? And dost thou not know that I never abandon my
clients at the hour of death? If I did not come sooner, it was that
thy time was not yet come; but now that it is come, behold me here to take
thee; let us go to Heaven." Shortly afterwards the saint expired,
and fled to that blessed kingdom, there to thank his most loving Queen for
"Haec est hora qua devotis meis famulis
deesse nunquam soleo."Boll. 8 Mart. Vit. 2, c. 8.)
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 thy intercession, is all my hope. Thou
art the Queen of Heaven, the mistress of the universe; in short, thou art
the Mother of God. Thou art great, but thy greatness does not
prevent, nay even it inclines thee 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. Thy noble
and loving heart does not act thus, for the greater the miseries it
beholds, the greater are its efforts to relieve. Thou, when called
upon, dost immediately assist; nay more, thou dost anticipate our prayers
by thy favors; thou consolest us in our afflictions; thou dissipatest the
storms by which we are tossed about; thou overcomest all enemies; thou, in
fine, never losest an occasion to promote our welfare. May that
divine hand which has united in thee 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 thy felicity do I place my own, and I consider thy lot as mine. O
comfortress of the afflicted, console a poor creature who recommends
himself to thee. 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 thou dost not help me, I am lost. What sayest thou,
wilt thou 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, abandon me not; 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 thyself to comfort me with thy presence in that
last struggle. This favor thou hast granted to many, grant it also
to me. If my boldness is great, thy goodness is greater; for it goes
in search of the most miserable to console them. On this I rely.
For thy eternal glory, let it be said that thou hast snatched a wretched
creature from hell, to which he was already condemned, and that thou hast
led him to thy kingdom. O yes, sweet Mother, I hope to have the
consolation of remaining always at thy feet, in heaven, thanking and
blessing and loving thee eternally. O Mary, I shall expect thee at
my last hour; deprive me not of this consolation. Fiat, fiat.