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CHAPTER III.

 Spes nostra!  Salve.

MARY, OUR HOPE.

I.

Mary is the Hope of All.

Modern heretics cannot endure that we should salue 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 Jeremias: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man ("Maledictus homo qui confidit in homine"—Jer. xvii. 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. Thoma says (2. 2, q. 25, a. 1, ad 3), that we can place our hope in a person in two 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 Jeremias 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, as Cardinal Bellarmin says, "that we shall obtain, through her intercession, that which we should not obtain by our own unaided prayers."  "We pray to her," says the learned Suarez, "in order that the dignity of the intercessor may supply for our own unworthiness; so that" ("Ut dignitas intercessoris suppleat inopiam nostram"), he continues, "to implore the Blessed Virgin in such a spirit, is not diffidence in the mercy of God, but fear of our own unworthiness" ("Unde, virginem interpellare, non est de divina misericordia diffidere, sed de propria indignitate timere"—De Inc. p. 2, d. 23, s. 3).

            It is, then, not without reason that the holy Church, in the words of Ecclesiasticus, called Mary the Mother of holy Hope ("Ego mater . . . sanctae spei"—Ecclus. xxiv. 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!" exclaims St. Ephrem, addressing this divine Mother; "hail, O certain salvation of Christians; hail, O helper of sinners; hail, fortress of the faithful and salvation of the world!" ("Ave animae Spes! Ave, Christianorum firma Salus! Ave. peccatorum Adjutrix! Ave. Vallum fideliuim et mundi Salus!"—De Laud. Dei Gen.).  Other saints remind us, that after God, our only hope is Mary; and therefore they call her, "after God, their only hope" ("Post Deum, sola spes nostra"—Cant. p. Psalt).

            St. Ephrem, reflecting on the present order of Providence, by which God wills (as St. Bernard says, and as we shall prove at length) that all who are saved should be saved by the means of Mary, thus addresses her: "O Lady, cease not to watch over us; preserve and guard us under the wings of thy compassion and mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in thee" ("Nobis non est alia quam in te fidueia, O Virgo sincerissima! sub alis tuae pietatis protιgι et custody nos"—De Laud. Dei Gen.).  St. Thomas of Villanova repeats the same thing, calling her "our only refuge, help, and asylum" ("Tu unicum refugium, subsidium, et asylum"—In Nat. B. V. Conc. 3).  St. Bernard seems to give the reason for this when he says, "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" ("Intuere, O homo, consilium Dei, consilium pietatis: redempturus humanum genus, pretium universum contulit in Mariam"—De Aquaed).

            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.  Thou shalt make also a propitiatory of the purest gold . . . Thence will I give orders, and will speak to thee ("Facies et propitiatorium de auro mundissimo . . . Inde praecipiam et loquar ad te"—Exod. xxv. 17).  St. Andrew of Crete says that "the whole world embraces Mary as being this propitiatory."   And commenting on his words a pious author exclaims, "Thou, O Mary, art the propitiatory of the whole world.  From thee does our most compassionate Lord speak to our hearts; from thee he speaks words of pardon and mercy; from thee he bestows his gifts; from thee all good flows to us" ("Te universus mundus continent commune propitiatorium: inde pientissimus Dominus nobis loquitur ad cor; inde response dat benignitatis et veniae; inde response dat benignitatis et veniae: inde munera largitur: inde omne nobis bonum emanate"—Paciucch. in Sal. Ang. Exc. 20).  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 St. Irenaeus remarks, that 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" ("Quid est quod sine Mariae consensus non perficitur Incarnationis mysterium? quia nempe vult illam Deus omnium bonorum esse principium"—Ap. C. ΰ Lap. In Prov. xxxi. 29).  And Blessed Raymond Jordano also says, "that 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" ("Per ipsam, habet mundus et habiturus est omne bonum"—Cont. B. M. in prol.)

            The devout Blosius, then, might well exclaim, "O Mary, O though who art so loving and gracious towards all who love thee, tell me, who can be so infatuated and unfortunate as not to love thee?  Thou, in the midst of their doubts and difficulties, enlightenest the minds of all who, in their afflictions, have recourse to thee.  Thou encouragest those who fly to thee in time of danger; thou succorest those who call upon thee; thou, after thy divine Son, art the certain salvation of thy faithful servants.  Hail, then, O hope of those who are in despair, O succor of those who are abandoned.  O Mary, thou art all-powerful; for thy divine Son, to honor thee, complies instantly with all thy desires" ("O Maria! quis te non amet? tu enim in dubiis es lumen, in moeroribus solatium, in periculis refugium.  Tu, post Unigenitum tuum certa fidelium salus.  Ave, desperantium Spes, ave, destitutorum Adjutrix! Cujus honori tantum tribuit Filius, ut, quiidquid volueris, mox fia"—Par. An. p. 2, c. 4).  

         St. Germanus, recognizing in Mary the source of all our good, and that she delivers us from every evil, thus invokes her: "O, my sovereign Lady, thou alone art the one whom God has appointed to be my solace here below; thou art 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 conjure thee, O thou who art my queen, my refuge, my love, my help, my hope and my strength" ("O Domina mea, tu sola mihi ex Deo solatium, itineris mei direction, debilitates meae potential, mendicitatis meae divitiae, vulnerum meorum medicina, dolorum meorum relevatio, vinculorum meorum solution, salutis meae spes; exaudi orations meas, miserere suspiriorum meorum, Domina mea, Refugium, Vita, Auxilium, Spes, et Robut meum!"—Encom. In S. Deip.)

            We need not, then, be surprised that St. Antoninus applies the following verse of the Book of Wisdom to Mary: Now all good things came to me together with her ("Venerunt autem mihi omnia bona partier cum illa"—Wisd. vii, 11).  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.  The saint thus expresses his thought: "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" ("Omnium bonorum mater est, et venerunt mihi omnia bona cum illa scilicet virgine, potest dicere mundus"—P. 4, l. 15, c. 20, #12).  And hence the Blessed Abbot of Celles expressly declares, "that when we find Mary, we find all" ("Inventa Maria, invenitur omne bonum"—De Cont. de V. M. in Prol.).  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 ("Mecum sunt divitiae, et . . . opes superbae . . . ut ditem diligentes me"—Prov. viii. 18).  And therefore St. Bonaventure says: "That we ought all to keep our eyes constantly fixed on Mary's hands, that through them we may receive the graces that we desire" ("Oculi omnium nostrum ad manus Mariae simper debent respicere, ut per manus ejus aliquid boni accipiamus"—Spec. B. V. lect. 3)").     

            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 ("Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent mones generations").  And St. Bernard, interpreting her words, says:  "All generations call thee blessed, because thou has given life and glory to all nations ("Ex hoc Beatam te dicent omnes generations, quae omnibus generationibus vitam et gloriam genuisti"—In Pentec. s. 2), for in thee sinners find pardon, and the just perseverance in the grace of God" ("In te justi gratiam, peccatores veniam inveniunt in aeternum"—In Pent. s. 2)

            Hence the devout Lanspergius makes our Lord thus address the world:  "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" ("Matrem meam devotione praaecipua venerate.  Ego enim hanc mundo dedi, in puritatis exemplum, in praesidium tutissimum, ut sit tribulatis asylum.  Quam nemo formidet, nemo ad eam accedere trepidet; propterea namque adeo feci eam mitem, adeo misericordem, ut neminem aspernetur, nulli se neget, omnibus pietatis sinum apertum teneat; neminem a se redire cristem sinat"—Alloq. l 1, p. 4, can. 12).  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.

            O God, how tender are the sentiments of confidence expressed by the enamoured St. Bonaventure towards Jesus our most loving Redeemer, and Mary our most loving advocate!  He says, "Whatever God forsees 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."  And the saint concludes, "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 succor; and therefore," he says, "if not by duty, at least by compassion, she will engage her Son to pardon me" ("Quantumcumque me Deus Praesciverit, scio quod seipsum negare non potest.  Eum amplexabor, et, si non mihi benedixerit, nec tunc dimittam; et sine me recedere non valebit.  In cavernis vulnerum suorum me abscondam, ibique extra se me invenire non poterit.  Ad matris suae pedes provolutus stabo, ut mihi veniam impetret.  Ipsa enim non misereri ignorat, et miseris non satisfacere nunquam scivit.  Ideoque ex compassione maxima mihi ad indulgentiam Filium inclinabit"—Stim. Div. am. p. 3, c. 13).

            "Look down upon us, then," let us exclaim, in the words of Euthymius, "look down upon us, O most compassionate Mother; cast thine eyes of mercy on us, for we are thy servants, and in thee we have placed all our confidence" ("Respice, O Mater misericordiosissima! Respice servos tuos; in te enim omnem spem nostram collocavimus"—Ap. Sur. 31 Aug.)

EXAMPLE

St. Gregory relates that 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, dost thou also wish to be one of these?"  On her answering "Yes," she added, "Well, withdraw from thy companions, and prepare thyself, for in a month thou shalt come."  Musa did so, and related the vision.  On the thirtieth 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 (Dial. 1. 4. c. 17)

 

Prayer

O Mother of holy love, our life, our refuge, and our hope, thou well knowest that thy son Jesus Christ, not content with being himself our perpetual advocate with the eternal Father, has willed that thou also shouldst interest thyself with him, in order to obtain the divine mercies for us.  He has decreed that thy prayers should aid our salvation, and has made them so efficacious that they obtain all that they ask.  To thee therefore, who art 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 thy intercession, I shall be saved.  Of this I am certain; and my confidence in thee is such, that if my eternal salvation were in my own hands, I should place it in thine, for I rely more on thy mercy and protection than on all my own works.  My mother and my hope, abandone me not, though I deserve that thou shouldst do so.  See my miseries, and, being moved thereby with compassion, help and save me.  I own that I have too often closed my heart, by my sins, against the lights and helps that thou hast procured for me from the Lord.  But thy compassion for the miserable, and thy 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 thee is certainly saved.  All may forget me, provided only that thou dost remember me, O Mother of an omnipotent God.  Tell him that I am thy servant; say onl that thou defendest me, and I shall be saved.  O mary, I trust in thee; 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" ("Unica spes mea Jesus et post Jesum Virgo Maria")

 

 

II.

Mary is the Hope of Sinners.

In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis we read that God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night ("Fecitque Deus duo luminaria magna: luminare majus, ut praeesset diei, et luminare minus, ut praeesset nocti"—Gen. 1, 16).  Cardinal Hugo says that "Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary the lesser to rule the sinners" ("Luminare majus, Christus, qui praeest justis; luminare minus, Beata Maria, quae praeest peccatoribus"); 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?  Innocent III replies, "Whoever is in the night of sin, let him cast his eyes on the moon, let him implore Mary" ("Qui jacet in nocte culpae, respiciat Lunam, deprecetur Mariam"—In Assumpt. s. 2).  Since he has lsot the light of the sun of justice by losing the grace of God, let him turn to the moon, and beseech Mary; and she will certainly give him light to see the misery of his state, and strength to leave it without delay.  St. Methodius says "that by the prayers of Mary almost innumerable sinners are converted" ("Mariae virtute et precibus pene innumerae peccatorum conversions fiunt"—Paciucch. in Ps. lxxxvi. exc, 17).

            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 Loretto, 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 thee, O city of God ("Gloriosa dicta sunt de te. Civitas Dei"—Ps. lxxxvi. 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.  "I am the city of refuge," says St. John Damascene, in the name of our Queen, "to all who fly to me" ("Ego Civitas refugii omnium ad me confugientum"—In Dorm. B. V. or. 2).  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 ("Ingrediamur civitatem munitam, et sileamus ibi—Jer. viii. 14), to speak in the words of the prophet Jeremias.  This city, says Blessed Albert the Great, is the most holy Virgin fenced in with grace and glory.  "And let us be silent there," that is, continues an interpreter, "because we dare not invoke the Lord, whom we have offended, she will invoke and ask" ("Quia non audemus deprecari Dominum, quem offendimus, ipsa deprecetur et roget"—Bib. Mar. Jer. n. 3).  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 bosom of this good mother; know you not that she is our only city of refuge?" ("Fugite, O Adam et Eva! Fugite ipsorum liberi, intra sinum Matris Mariae: ipsa est Civitas refugii, spes unica peccatorum"—B. Fernandes in Gen. c 3, s. 22) "the only hope of sinners" ("Spes unica peccatorum"—Serm. 194, E. B. app.), as she is also called in a sermon by an ancient writer, found in the works of St. Augustine. 

            St. Ephrem, addressing this Blessed Virgin, says, "Thou art the only advocate of sinners, and of all who are unprotected."  And then he salutes her in the following words: "Hail, refuge and hospital of sinners!" ("Ave, peccatorum Refugium et Hospitium"—De Laud. Dei gen.)—true refuge, in which alone they can hope for reception and liberty.  And an author remarks that this was the meaning of David when he said, For He hath hidden me in his tabernacle ("Protexit me in abscondito Tabernaculi sui"—Ps. xxvi. 5).  And truly what can this tabernacle of God be, unless it is Mary! who is called by St. Germanus, "A tabernacle made by God, in which he alone entered to accomplish the great work of the redemption of man" ("Tabernaculum a Deo fabricatum, in quo solus Deus ingressus est, sacris mysticis occulte operaturus in te pro salute omnium"—In Nat. S. M. or. 2).

            St. Basil of Seleucia remarks, "that 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 ("Aperuit nobis Deus publicum valetudinarium"), 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, thou art the refuge of the sick poor: reject me not; for as I am the poorest and the most infirm of all, I have the greatest right to be welcomed by thee.

            Let us then cry out with St. Thomas of Vallanova, "O Mary, we poor sinners know no other refuge than thee, for thou art our only hope, and on thee we rely for our salvation" ("Nescimus aliud refugium, nisi te; tu sola es unica Spes nostra, in qua confidimus; tu sola Patrona nostra, ad quam omnes aspicimus"—De Nat. V. M. conc. 3).  Thou art our only advocate with Jesus Christ; to thee we all turn ourselves.

            In the revelations of St. Bridget, Mary is called the "Star preceding the sun" ("Sidus vadens ante Solem"—Rev. Extr. c. 50), giving us thereby to understand, that when devotion towards the divine 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" ("Respirate ad illam, perditi peccatores, et perducet vos ad portum"—Psal. B. V. ps. 18).  St. Bernard says the same thing: "If thou wouldst not be lost in the tempest, cast thine eyes on the star, and invoke Mary" ("Si non vis obrui procellis, respice Stellam, voca Mariam"—De Laud. V. M. hom. 2)

            The devout Blosius declares that "she 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 any one, 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."  The pious author concludes in these words: "It is impossible for any one to perish who attentively, and with humility, cultivates devotion towards this divine Mother" ("Ipsa peccantium singulare refugium.  Ipsa omnium, quos tentatio, calamitas, aut persecution aliqua urget, tutissimum asylum.  Tota mitis est, tota suavis, non solum justis, verum etiam peccatoribus ac desperatis.  Quos, ut ad se ex corde clamare conspexerit, statim adjuvat, suscipit, et Judici reconciliat.  Nullum asperantur, nulli se negat; omnes consolatur, et, vel tenuiter invocate, praesto adest.  Sua bonitate saepe eos, qui Deo minus afficiuntur, ad sui cultum blande allicit, potenterque excitat ut per hujuscemodi stadium, praeparentur ad gratiam, et tandem apti reddantur regno coelorum.  Talis a Deo facta est, ut nemo ad eam accedere trepidet.  Fieri non potest, ut pereat, qui Mariae sedulous et humilis cultor fuerit"—Par. An. fid. p. 1, c. 18).

            In Ecclesiasticus Mary is called a plane-tree: As a plane-tree I was exalted ("Quasi platanus exaltata sum"—Ecclus. xxiv. 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.  St. Bonaventure remarks that the prophet Isaias complained of the times in which he lived, saying, Behold thou art angry, and we have sinned . . . there is none . . . that riseth up and taketh hold of thee ("Ecce tu iratus es, et peccavimus . . . ; non est qui . . . consurgat, et teneat te"—Is. lxiv. 5).  And then he makes the following commentary: "It is true, O Lord, that at the time there was none to raise up sinners and without thy wrath, for Mary was not yet born;" "before Mary," to quote the saint's own words, "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," continues the same saint, "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" ("Ante Mariam, non fuit qui sic detinere Dominum auderet.  Detinet Filium, ne peccatores percutiat.  Nemo tam idoneus, qui gladio Domini pro nobis manum objiciat, ut tu Dei amantissima"—Spec. B. V. lect. 7, 14).  Upon the same subject Richard of St. Laurence says that "God, before the birth of Mary, complained by the mouth of the prophet Ezechiel 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 ("Conquerebatur Dominus, antequam Maria nasceretur: Non est qui consurgat, et teneat me"—De Laud. B. M. l. 2, p. 5).

            Basil of Seleucia encourages sinners, saying, "O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all thy necessities; call her to thine assistance, for thou wilt always find her ready to help thee; for such is the divine will that she should help all in every kind of necessity" ("Ne diffidas, peccator; sed in cunctis Mariam sequere et invoca, quam voluit Deus in cunctis subvenire"—Paciucch. in Salve R. exc. 7).  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 thy way to the flock, bring me two kids of the best, that I may make of them meat for thy father, such as he gladly eateth ("Pergens ad gregem, affer mihi duos haedos"—Gen. xxvii. 9).  St. Antoninus says (P. 4, t. 15, c. 2, #2), that 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."  And here we may well apply to our Blessed Lady the words of the Abbot Franco: "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 rel venison" ("Vere sapiens Mulier, quae sic novit haedos condire, ut gratiam cervorum coaequent, aut etiam superent"—De Grat. D. l. 3).

            The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that 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" ("Nullus ita alienatus est de Deo, qui, si me invocaverit, non revertatur ad Deum"—Rev. l. 6, c. 10).    The same St. Bridget one day heard Jesus Christ address his mother, and say that "she would be ready to obtain the grace of God for Lucifer himself, if only he humbled himself so far as to seek her aid" ("Etiam diabolo exhiberes misericordiam, si humiliter peteret"—Rev. extr. c. 50).  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 beats, find refuge; but with this difference, as a pious author remarks, 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" ("Quod arca animalia suscepit, animalia servavit"—Paciucch. In Sal. Ang. exc. 4).  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 (Insin. l. 4, c. 50).

            It was, then, not without reason that St. Bernard addressed the Blessed Virgin, saying, "Thou, O Lady, dost not reject any sinner who approaches thee, however loathsome and repugnant he may be.  If he asks thy assistance, thou dost not disdain to extend thy compassionate hand to him, to extricate him from the gulf of despair" ("Tu peccatorem, quantumlibet faetidum non horres; si ad te suspiraverit, tu illum a desperationis barathro pia manu retrahis"—Depr. Ad. B. V.).  May our God be ternally blessed and thanked, O most amiable Mary, for having created thee so sweet and benign, even towards the most miserable sinners!  Truly unfortunate is he who loves thee not, and who, having it in his power to obtain thy assistance, has no confidence in thee.  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 ("Colligebat spicas post terga metentium"—Ruth, ii. 3).  St. Bonaventure says, "that 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" ("Ruth in oculis Booz, Maria in oculis Domini hanc gratiam invenit, ut ipsa spicas, id est, animas a messoribus derelictas, colligere ad veniam posit"—Spec. B. V. M. lect. 5).  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," says the devout Blosius, "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" ("Nullum tam exsecrabilem peccatorem orbis habet, quem ipsa abominetur, et a se repellat, quemque dilectissimo Nato suo, modo suam precetur opem, non posit, sciat, et velit reconciliare"—Sac. An. fid. p. 3, c. 5)

            With reason then, O my most sweet Queen, did St. John Damascene salute and call thee the "hope of those who are in despair" ("Salve. Spes desperatorum!").  With reason did St. Laurence Justinian call thee "the hope of malefactors" ("Delinquentium Spes"), and another ancient writer "the only hope of sinners" ("Spes unica peccatorum").  St. Epherem calls her "the safe harbor of all sailing on the sea of the world" ("Naufragorum Portus tutissimus").  This last-named saint also calls her "the consolation of those who are to be condemned" ("Protectrix damnatorum").  With reason, finally, does St. Bernard exhort even the desperate not to despair; and, full of joy and tenderness towards his most dear Mother, he lovingly exclaims: "And who, O Lady, can be without confidence in thee, since thou assistest even those who are in despair?  And I doubt not, that whenever we have recourse to thee, we shall obtain all that we desire.  Let him, then, who is without hope, hope in thee" ("Quis non sperabit in te, quae etiam adjuvas desperantes? . . . Non dubito quod, si ad te venerimus, habebimus quod volemus; in te ergo speret, qui desperate"—Med. in Salv. R.).

 

EXAMPLE

St. Antonine relates (P. 4, t. 15, c. 5, #1) that 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 thy most holy heart, which was the delight and resting-place of God, thy heart overflowing with humility, purity, and divine love.  I, an unhappy sinner, approach thee with a heart all loathsome and wounded.  O compassionate Mother, disdain me not on this account; let such a sight rather move thee to greater tenderness, and excite thee to help me.  Do not stay to 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 thee and the purpose I have to amend.  Consider all that Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if thou canst.  I offer thee 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 thy presence.  For the love of Jesus, take charge of my salvation.  Ah, my Mother, I will not and cannot fear that thou wilt reject me, now that I have recourse to thee and ask thy help.  Did I fear this, I should be offering an outrage to thy mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in order to help them.  O Lady, deny not thy compassion to one to whom Jesus has not denied his blood.  But the merits of this blood will not be applied to me unless thou recommendest me to God.  Through thee do I hope for salvation.  I ask not for riches, honors, or earthly goods.  I seek only the grace of God, love towards thy Son, the accomplishment of his will, and his heavenly kingdom, that I may love him eternally.  Is it possible that thou wilt not hear me?  No; for already thou has granted my prayer, as I hope; already thou prayest for me; already thou obtainest me the graces that I ask; already thou takest me under thy protection.  My Mother, abandon me not.  Never, never cease to pray for me, until thou seest me safe in heaven at thy feet, blessing and thanking thee forever.  Amen.     

 


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