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CHAPTER IX.

 O Clemens, O Pia!

O MERCIFUL, O PIOUS.

 

CLEMENCY AND COMPASSION OF MARY.

How great are the Clemency and Compassion of Mary.

St. Bernard, speaking of the great compassion of Mary towards us poor creatures, says, "that she is the land overflowing with milk and honey promised by God" ("Terra repromissionis, Maria, lacte et melle manans"—In Salve Reg. s. 3).  Hence St. Leo observes, "that the Blessed Virgin has so merciful a heart, that she deserves not only to be called merciful, but mercy itself" ("Maria adeo praedita est misericordiae visceribus, ut, non tantum misericors, sed ipsa Misericordia dici promereatur").  St. Bonaventure also, considering that Mary was made Mother of God on account of the miserable, and that to her is committed the charge of dispensing mercy; considering, moreover, the tender care she takes of all, and that her compassion is so great that she seems to have no other desire than that of relieving the needy; says, that when he looks at her, he seems no longer to see the justice of God, but only the divine mercy, of which Mary is full.  "O Mary, when I behold thee, I can only discern mercy, for thou wast made Mother of God for the wretched, and then thou wast instructed with their charge: thou art all solicitude for them; thou art walled in with mercy; thy only wish is to show it" ("Certe, Domina! cum te aspicio, Nihil nisi misericordiam cerno; nam pro miseris Mater Dei facta es, et tibi miserendi est officium commissum; undique sollicita de miseris, misericordia vallaris, solum misereri tu videris appetere"—Stim. Div. am. p. 3, c. 19).

            In fine, the compassion of Mary is so great towards us, that the Abbot Guerric says, "that her loving heart can never remain a moment without bringing forth its fruits of tenderness" ("Cujus viscera nunquam desinunt fructum parturire pietatis"—De Assumpt. s. 1).  "And what," exclaims St. Bernard, "can ever flow from a source of compassion but compassion itself?" ("Quid de fonte pietatis procederet, nisi pietas?"—Dom. 1 p. Epiph. s. 1)

            Mary is also called an olive-tree: As a fair olive-tree on the plains ("Quasi oliva speciosa in campis"—Ecclus. xxiv. 19).  For as from the olive, oil (a symbol of mercy) alone is extracted, so from the hands of Mary graces and mercy alone proceed.  Hence the Venerable Father Luis de Ponte says, "that Mary may properly be called the Mother of oil, since she is the Mother of mercy" ("Optime dici potest Mater olei: est enim Mater misericordiae"—In Cant. l. 1, exh. 21).  And thus, when we go to this good Mother for the oil of her mercy, we cannot fear that she will deny it to us, as the wise virgins in the Gospel did to the foolish ones: lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you ("Ne forte non sufficiat nobis et vobis"—Matt. xxv. 9).  O no! for she is indeed rich in this oil of mercy, as St. Bonaventure assures us, "Mary is filled with the oil of compassion" ("Maria plena est oleo pietatis"—Spec. B. M. V. lect. 7).  She is called by the Church not only a prudent Virgin, but most prudent, that we may understand, says Hugo of St. Victor, that she is so full of grace and compassion, that she can supply all, without losing any herself.  "Thou, O Blessed Virgin, art full of grace, and indeed so full, that the whole world may draw of this overflowing oil."  "For if the prudent virgins provided oil in vessels with their lamps, thou, O most prudent Virgin, has borne an overflowing and inexhaustible vessel, from which, the oil of mercy streaming, thou replenishest the lamps of all" ("Gratis plena: in tantum plena, ut ex tuo redundante totus hauriat mundus; si enim prudentes Virgines oleum acceperunt in vasis cum lampadibus, tu, prudentissima Virgo, gestasti vas redundans et indeficiens, ex quo, effuso oleo misericordiae, omnium lampades illuminares"—De Verb. Inc. c. 3)

            But why, I ask, is this beautiful olive-tree said to stand in the midst of the plains, and not rather in the midst of a garden, surrounded by a wall and hedges?  The same Hugo of St. Victor tells us, that it is "that all may see her, that all may go to her for refuge" ("Ut omnes peccatores ad ipsam respiciant, ad ipsam confugiant"—De Assumpt. s. 2); that all may see her easily, and as easily have recourse to her, to obtain remedies for all their ills.  This beautiful explanation is confirmed by St. Antoninus, who says, "that all can go to, and gather the fruit of, an olive-tree that is exposed in the midst of a plain; and thus all, both just and sinners, can have recourse to Mary, to obtain her mercy" ("Ad olivam in campis, omnes possunt accedere, et accipere fructum ejus; sic ad Mariam et justi et peccatores accedere possunt, ut inde misericordiam accipiant").  He then adds, "O how many sentences of condemnation has not this most Blessed Virgin revoked by her compassionate prayers, in favor of sinners who have had recourse to her?" ("Oh, quot sententias flagellorum, quae meruit mundus propter peccata sua, haec Sanctissima Virgo misericorditer revocavit!"—P. 3, 1, 31. c. 4, #3).  And "What safer refuge," says the devout Thomas ΰ Kempis, "can we ever find than the compassionate heart of Mary? there the poor find a home, the infirm a remedy, the afflicted relief, the doubtful counsel, and the abandoned succor" ("Non est tutior locus ad latendum, quam sinus Mariae; ibi pauper habet domicilium; ibi infirmus invenit remedium; ibi tristis accipit solatium; ibi turbatus meretur consilium; ibi destitutus acquirit juvamentum"—Ad Nov. s. 24).

            Wretched indeed should we be, had we not this Mother of mercy always attentive and solicitous to relieve us in our wants!  Where there is no woman, he mourneth that is in want ("Ubi non est mulier, ingemiscit egens"—Ecclus. xxxvi. 27), says the Holy Ghost.  "This woman," says St. John Damascene, "is precisely the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and wherever this most holy woman is not, the sick man groans" ("Ingemiscit infirmus, ubi non fuerit haec sanctissima Mulier").  And surely it cannot be otherwise, since all graces are dispensed at the prayer of Mary; and where this is wanting, there can be no hope of mercy, as our Lord gave St. Bridget to understand in these words: "Unless the prayers of Mary interposed, there could be no hope of mercy" ("Nisi preces Matris meae intervenirent, non esset spes misericordiae"—Rev. l. 6, c. 26)

           But perhaps we fear that Mary does not see, or does not feel for, our necessities?  O no, she sees and feels them far better than we do ourselves.  "There is not one amongst all the saints," St. Antoninus, "who can ever feel for us in our miseries, both corporal and spiritual, like this woman, the most Blessed Virgin Mary" ("Non reperitur aliquem Sanctorum ita compati in infirmitatibus, sicut Mulier haec, Beata Virgo Maria"—P. 4, tit. 15, c. 2).  So much so, that there where she sees misery, she cannot do otherwise than instantly fly and relieve it with her tender compassion ("Ubicumque fuerit miseria, tua et currit et succurrit misericordia"—In Cant. c. 23).  Richard of St. Victor repeats the same thing; and Mendoza says, "Therefore, O most Blessed Virgin, thou dispensest thy mercies with a generous hand, wherever thou seest necessities" ("Itaque, O Virgo Mater! ubi nostras miseries invenis, ibi mas, misericordias effundis"—In Reg. c. iv. n. 11, ann. 12).  Our good Mother herself protests that she will never cease to fulfill this office of mercy:  And unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling-place I have ministered before him ("Et usque ad futurum saeculum non desinam, et in habitatione sancta coram ipso ministravi"—Ecclus. xxiv. 14); that is, as Cardinal Hugo explains, "I will never cease until the end of the world relieving the miseries of men, and praying for sinners" ("Usque ad futurum saeculum, quod est saeculum Beatorum, non desinam miseris subveniere et pro peccatoribus orare"), that they may be delivered from eternal misery, and be saved.

            Suetonius relates (In Tit. c. 8), that the Emperor Titus was so desirous of rending service to those who applied to him, that, when a day passed without being able to grant a favor, he used to say with sorrow, "I have lost a day; for I have spent it without benefiting any one."  It is probable that Titus spoke thus more from vanity, and the desire of being esteemed, than from true charity.  But should such a thing happen to our Empress Mary, as to have to pass a day without granting a grace, she would speak as Titus did, but from a true desire to serve us, and because she is full of charity.  "So much so, indeed," says Bernardine de Bustis, "that she is more anxious to grant us graces than we are to receive them" ("Plus desiderat ipsa facere tibi bonum et largiri aliquam gratiam, quam tu accipere concupiscas").  "And therefore," says the same author, "whenever we go to her, we always find her hands filled with mercy and liberality" ("Invenies eam in minibus plenam pietate, misericordia, et largitate"—Marial. p. 2, s. 5)

            Rebecca was a figure of Mary; and she, when asked by Abraham's servant for a little water to drink, replied, that not only would she give him plenty for himself, but also for his camels, saying, I will draw water for thy camels, also, till they all drink ("Quin et camelis tuis hauriam aquam, donec cuncti bibant"—Gen. xxiv. 19).  On these words of St. Barnard addresses our Blessed Lady, saying: "O Mary, thou art far more liberal and compassionate than Rebecca; and therefore thou art not satisfied with distributing the treasures of thy immense mercy only to the just, of whom Abraham's servants were types, but also thou bestowest them on sinners who are signified by the camels" ("Domina! nec puero Abrahae tantum, sed et camelis tribuas de supereffluenti hydria tua"—In Sign. Magn.).  "The liberality of Mary," says Richard of St. Laurence, "is like that of her Son, who always gives more than he is asked for" ("Largitas Mariae assimilate largitatem Filii sui, qui dat amplius quam petatur"—De Laud. B. M. l. 4)He is, says St. Paul, rich unto all that call upon Him ("Dives in omnes qui invocant illum"—Rom. x. 12).  "And the liberality of Mary is like his: she bestows more than is sought."  Hear how a devout writer thus addresses the Blessed Virgin: "O Lady, do thou pray for me, for thou wilt ask for the graces I require with greater devotion than I can dare to ask for them; and thou wilt obtain far greater graces from God for me than I can presume to seek" ("Majori devotione orabis pro me, quam ego auderem petere; et majora mihi impetrabis, quam petere praesumam"—De Rhet. div. c. 18)

            When the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus Christ and his doctrines, St. James and St. John asked him whether they should command fire to fall from heaven and devour them; our Lord replied, You know not of what spirit you are ("Nescitis cujus spiritus estis"—Luke, ix. 55).  As if he had said, "I am of so tender and compassionate a spirit that I came from heaven to save and not to chastise sinners, and you wish to see them lost.  Fire, indeed! and punishment!—speak no more of chastisements, for such a spirit is not mine."  But of Mary, whose spirit is the same as that of her Son, we can never doubt that she is all-inclined to mercy; for, as she said to St. Bridget, she is called the Mother of mercy, and it was by God's own mercy that she was made thus compassionate and sweet towards all: "I am called the mother of mercy, and truly God's mercy made me thus merciful" ("Ego vocor Mater misericordiae; vere, filia, misericordia Filii mei fecit me misericordem"—Rev. l. 2, c. 23).  For this reason Mary was seen by St. John clothed with the sun:  And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun ("Et signum magnum apparuit in coelo: Mulier amicta sole"—Apoc. xii. 1).  On which words St. Bernard, turning towards the Blessed Virgin, says, "Thou, O Lady, hast clothed the sun, that is the Eternal Word, with human flesh; but he has clothed thee with his power and mercy" ("Vestis Solem, et Sole ipsa vestiris"—In Sign. Magn.).

            "This Queen," continues the same St. Bernard, "is so compassionate and benign, that when a sinner, whoever he may be, recommends himself to her charity, she does not question his merits, or whether he is worthy or unworthy to be attended to, but she hears and succors all" ("Non discutit merita, sed omnibus sese exorabilem praebet"—Ibid.).  "And therefore," remarks St. Idelbert, "Mary is said to be fair as the moon ("Pulchra ut luna"—Cant. vi. 9).  For as the moon enlightens and benefits the lowest creatures on earth, so does Mary enlighten and succor the most unworthy sinners" ("Pulchra ut luna, quia pulchrum est benefacere indignis").  And though the moon, says another writer, receives all its light from the sun, yet it works quicker than the sun; "for what this latter does in a year the moon does in a month" ("Quod sol facit in anno, luna facit in mense"—Joann. A. S. Gem. Summ. l. 1, c. 3).  For this reason St. Anselm says "that we often more quickly obtain what we ask by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus" ("Velocior est nonnunquam salus, memorato nominee Mariae, quam invocato nominee Jesu"—De Excel. V. c. 6).  On this subject Hugo of St. Victor remarks, that "though our sins may cause us to fear to approach the Almighty, because it is his infinite majesty that we have offended, we must never fear to go to Mary, for in her we shall find nothing to terrify us.  True it is that she is holy, immaculate, and the Queen of the world; but she is also of our flesh, and, like us, a child of Adam" ("Si pertimescis ad Deum accedere, respice ad Mariam: non illie invenis quod timeas; genus tuum vides"—Spinelli, M. Deip. c. 30, n. 12)

            "In fine," says St. Bernard, "all that belongs to Mary is filled with grace and mercy, for she, as a Mother of mercy, has made herself all to all, and out of her most abundant charity she has made herself a debtor to the wise and the foolish, to the just and sinners, and opens to all her compassionate heart, that all may receive of the fullness of its treasures" ("Plena omnia pietatis et gratiae, quae ad eam pertinent; denique, omnibus omnia facta est, sapientibus et insipientibus copiosissima charitate debitricem se fecit; omnibus misericordiae sinum aperit, ut de plenitudine ejus accipiant university"—In Sign. Magn.).  So much so, that as the devil, according to St. Peter, goes about seeking whom he may devour ("Circuit, quaerens quem devoret"—1 Peter. v. 8), so, on the other hand, says Bernardine de Bustis, does Mary go about seeking whom she may save, and to whom she may give life ("Ipsa simper circuit, quaerens quem salvet"—Marial. p. 3, s. 1).

            We should fully understand and always bear in mind a remark of St. Germanus, who says, "that the protection of Mary is greater and more powerful than anything of which we can form an idea" ("Patrocinium tuum majus est quam comprehendi posit"—De Zona Deip.).  "How is it," asks another writer, "that that Lord who under the old dispensation was so rigorous in his punishments, now shows such mercy to persons guilty of far greater crimes?"  And he answers, "that it is all for the love of Mary, and on account of her merits" ("Quare parcit nunc mundo ipse Deus, qui olim multo his minora peccata acrius punivit?  Totum hoc facit propter Beatam Virginem et ejus merita"—Pelbart, Stell. l. 11, p. 2, c. 2).  "O, how long since," exclaims St. Fulgentius, "would the world have been destroyed, had not Mary sustained it by her powerful intercession!" ("Coelum et terra jamdudum ruissent; si Maria suit precibus non sustentasset"—Pelbart, loco cit.).  "But now," says Arnold of Chartres, "that we have the Son as our mediator with the Eternal Father, and the Mother as a mediatress with the Son, we have full access, and can go to God with entire confidence and hope for every good thing.  "How," he goes on to say, "can the Father refuse to hear the Son who shows him his side and wounds, the marks of his sufferings endured for sinners; and how can the Son refuse to hear his Mother when she shows him her bosom and the breast that gave him suck?" ("Securum accessum jam habet homo ad Deum, ubi Mediatorem causae suae Filium habet ante Patrem, et ante Filium Matrem.  Christus Patri ostendit latus et vulnera; Maria Christo pectus et ubera"—De Laud. B. V.).  St. Peter Chrysologus says, "that a gentle maiden having lodged a God in her womb. Asks as its price peace for the world, salvation for those who are lost, and life for the dead" ("Una Puella sic Deum sui pectoris capit hospitio, ut pacem terries, coelis gloriam, salutem perditis, vitam mortuis, pro ipsa domi exigat pensione"—Serm. 140).        

            "O, how many," exclaims the Abbot of Celles, "who deserved to be condemned by the justice of the Son, are saved by the mercy of the Mother! for she is God's treasure, and the treasurer of all graces; and thus our salvation is in her hands, and depends on her" (Saepe, quos justitia Filii potest damnare, Matris misericordia liberat; quia Thesaurus Domini est, et Thesauraria gratiarum, salus nostra in minibus illius est"—Cont. de V. M. in prol.).  Let us, then, always have recourse to this compassionate Mother, and confidently hope for salvation through her intercession; for she, according to the encouraging assurance of Bernardine de Bustis, "is our salvation, our life, our hope, our counsel, our refuge, our help" ("Haec est nostra Salus, Vita, Spes, Consilium, Refugium, Auxilium nostram"—Marial. p. 1, s. 6).  "Mary," says St. Antoninus (P. 4, t. 15, c. 14, #7), is that throne of grace to which the Apostle St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, exhorts us to fly with confidence, that we may obtain the divine mercy, and all the help we need for our salvation."  Let us therefore go with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid ("Adeamus ergo cum fiducia ad Thronum gratiae, ut misericordiam consequamur, et gratiam inveniamus in auxilio opportune"—Hebr. iv. 16).    "To the throne of grace, that is, to Mary," says St. Antoninus; and for this reason St. Catherine of Sienna called Mary "the dispenser of divine mercy" ("Administratrix misericordiae"—Or. ini Annunt.)

            Let us conclude with the beautiful and tender exclamation of St. Bonaventure on these words, "O merciful, O compassionate, O sweet Virgin Mary!"  "O Mary, thou art clement with the miserable, compassionate towards those who pray to thee, sweet towards those who love thee; clement with the penitent, compassionate to those who advance, sweet to the perfect.  Thou showest thyself clement in delivering us from chastisement, compassionate in bestowing graces, and sweet in giving thyself to those who seek thee" ("O clemens indigentibus! O pia exorantibus! dulcis diligentibus! O clemens poenitentibus, pia proficientibus, dulcis contemplantibus, O clemens laborando, pia largiendo, dulcis te donando!"—Med. in Salve Reg.)

 

EXAMPLE.

In the life of Father Anthony de Colleli we find the following occurrence narrated: "A certain unfortunate woman was having illicit relations with two young men.  One of these, prompted by jealousy, stabbed the other to death.  Very much frightened by what had happened, the sinful woman went to confession to Father Onofrius.  She related the following:  After the murder the unfortunate man appeared to her, all black, bound in chains, and surrounded by flames.  He held a sword in his hand with which he attempted to kill her.  Trembling with fear she cried out:  'Why do you wish to kill me?  What have I done to you?'  The man, filled with rage, replied:  'What, you wretch, you ask what you have done!  It is your fault that I have lost my God.'  Immediately the woman called on the Blessed Virgin to help her, and at the sound of the name of Mary, the apparition vanished" (c. 32, #5).                   

 

Prayer.

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

 


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