te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrymarum valle.
TO THEE DO WE SIGH, MOURNING AND WEEPING,
IN THIS VALLEY OF TEARS.
The Necessity of the
Intercession of Mary for our Salvation
it is not only lawful but useful to invoke and pray to the saints, and
more especially to the Queen of saints, the most holy and ever blessed
Virgin Mary, in order that they may obtain us the divine grace, is an
article faith, and has been defined by general Councils, against heretics
who condemned it as injurious to Jesus Christ, who is our only mediator,
but if a Jeremias after his death prayed for Jerusalem
(2 Mach. xv. 14); if the
ancients of the Apocalypse presents the prayers of the saints to God
(Apoc. v. 8); if a St. Peter
promises his disciples that after his death he will be mindful of them
(2 Pet. L. 15); if a holy
Stephen prays for his persecutors (Act.
vii. 59); if a St. Paul prays for his companions
(Act. xxvii. 24; Eph. ii.
16; Phil. i. 4; Col. I. 3); if, in fine, the saints
can pray for us, why cannot we beseech the saints to intercede for us?
St. Paul recommends himself to the prayers of his disciples: Brethren,
pray for us ("Orate pro nobis"1 Thess. v. 25). St. James exhorts us to
pray one for another: Pray one for another, that you may be saved
("Orate pro invicem, ut salvemini"James,
v. 16). Then we can do the same.
No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only mediator of
justice, and that he by his merits has obtained our reconciliation with
God. But, on the other hand, it is impious to assert that God is not
pleased to grant graces at the intercession of his saints, and more
especially of Mary his Mother, whom Jesus desires to much to see loved and
honored by all. Who can pretend that the honor bestowed on a mother does
not redound to the honor of the son? The glory of children are their
fathers ("Gloria filiorum, patres
eorum"Prov. xvii. 6). Whence St. Bernard says, "Let us not
imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish
on the mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of
the Son." "There can be no doubt," says the saint, "that whatever we say
in praise of the Mother is equally in praise of the Son"
("Non est dubium, quidquid in laudibus
Matris proferimus, ad Filium pertinere"De Laud. V. M. hom. 4).
And St. Ildephonsus also says, "That which is given to the Mother redounds
to the Son; the honor given to the Queen is honor bestowed on the King"
("Redundat ad Filium, quod impenditur
Matri; transit honor in Regem; qui defertur in famulatum Reginae"De
Virginit. S. M. c. 12). There can be no doubt that by the
merits of Jesus, Mary was made the mediatress of our salvation; not indeed
a mediatress of justice, but of grace and intercession; as St. Bonaventure
expressly calls her "Mary, the most faithful mediatress of our salvation"
("Maria, fidelissima Mediatrix nostrae
salutis"Spec. B. V. M. lect. 9). And St. Laurence
Justinian asks, "How can she be otherwise than full of grace, who has been
made the ladder to paradise, the gate of heaven, the most true mediatress
between God and man?" (Quomodo non est
plena gratia, quae effecta est paradise Scala; coeli Janua; Dei et hominum
verissima Mediatrix?" S. in Ann. B. M.).
Hence the learned Suarez justly remarks, that if we implore
our Blessed Lady to obtain us a favor, it is not because we distrust the
divine mercy, but rather that we fear our own unworthiness and the absence
of proper dispositions; and we recommend ourselves to Mary, that her
dignity may supply for our lowliness. He says that we apply to Mary "in
order that the dignity of the intercessor may supply for our misery.
Hence, to invoke the aid of the most Blessed Virgin is not diffidence in
the divine mercy, but dread of our own unworthiness"
("Ut dignitas intercessoris suppleat
inopiam nostram; unde Virginem interpellare, non est de divina
misericordia diffidere, sed de propria indignitate timere"De Inc.
p. 2, d. 23, s. 3).
That it is most useful and holy to have recourse to the
intercession of Mary can only be doubted by those who have not faith. But
that which we intend to prove here is, that the intercession of Mary is
even necessary to salvation; we say necessarynot absolutely, but
morally. This necessity proceeds from the will itself of God, that all
graces that he dispenses should pass through the hands of Mary, according
to the opinion of St. Bernard, and which we may now with safety call the
general opinion of theologians and learned men. The author of the
Reign of Mary positively asserts that such is the case. It is
maintained by Vega, Mendoza, Paciucchelli, Segneri, Poirι, Crasset, and by
innumerable other learned authors. Even Father Natalis Alexander, who
always uses so much reserve in his propositions, even he says that it is
the will of God that we should expect all graces through the intercession
of Mary. I will give his own words: "God wills that we should obtain all
good things that we hope for from him through the powerful intercession of
the Virgin Mother, and we shall obtain them whenever (as we are in duty
bound) we invoke her" ("Deus vult ut omnia
bona ab ipso exspectemus, potentissima Virginis Matris intercessione, cum
eam, ut par est, invocamus, impetranda"Ep. 50 in calce Theol.).
In confirmation of this, he quotes the following celebrated passage of St.
Bernard: "Such is God's will, that we should have all through Mary"
("Sic est voluntas ejus, qui totum nos
habere voluit per Mariam"De Aquaed). Father Contenson is
also of the same opinion; for, explaining the words addressed by our Lord
on the cross to St. John: Behold thy Mother
("Ecce mater tua"John, xix, 27),
he remarks, "That it is the same thing as if he had said: As no one can be
saved except through the merits of my sufferings and death, so no one will
be a partaker of the blood then shed otherwise than through the prayer of
my Mother. He alone is a son of my sorrows who has Mary for his Mother.
My wounds are ever-flowing fountains of grace; but their streams will
reach no one but by the channel of Mary. In vain will he invoke me as a
Father who has not venerated Mary as a Mother. And thou, my disciple
John, if thou lovest me, love her; for thou wilt be beloved by Me in
proportion to thy love for her ("Quasi
diceret: Nullus sanguinis illius particeps erit, nisi intercessione Matris
meae. Vulnera gratiarum fonts sunt; sed ad nullos derivabuntur rivi, nisi
per Marianum canalem. Joannes discipule, tantum a me amaberis, quantum
eam amaveris"Theol. Mentis et cord. t. 2, l. 10, d. 4, c. 1).
This proposition (that all that we receive from our Lord comes
through Mary) does not exactly please a certain modern writer*
(*This author is the celebrated Muratori.
An anonymous writer having attacked St. Alphonsus on the subject of the
reproach directed here against Muratori, and of the doctrine maintained in
this chapter, the saint sent him a reply which will be found at the end of
this work.Ed.), who, although in other respects he speaks of true
and false devotion with much learning and piety, yet when he treats of
devotion towards the divine mother he seems to grudge her that glory which
was given her without scruple by a St. Germanus, a St. Anselm, a St. John
Damascene, a St. Bonaventure, a St. Antoninus, a St. Bernardine, the
Venerable Abbot of Celles, and so many other learned men, who had no
difficulty to affirming that the intercession of Mary is not only useful,
but necessary. The same author says that the proposition that God grants
no grace otherwise than through Mary, is hyperbolical and exaggerated,
having dropped from the lips of some saints in the heat of fervor, but
whicvh, correctly speaking, is only to be understood as meaning that
through Mary we received Jesus Christ, by whose merits we obtain all
graces; for he adds, "To believe that God can grant us no graces without
the intercession of Mary, would be contrary to faith and the doctrine of
St. Paul, who says that we acknowledge but one God and one Mediator of
God and men the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. ii. 5).
But with his leave, and going upon his own admissions,
mediation of justice by way of merit is one thing, and mediation by grace
by way of prayer is another. And again, it is one thing to say that God
cannot, and another that he will not, grant graces without the
intercession of Mary. We willingly admit that God is the source of every
good, and the absolute master of all graces; and that Mary is only a pure
creature, who receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God. But
who can ever deny that it is most reasonable and proper to assert that
God, in order to exalt this great creature, who more than all others
honored and loved him during her life, and whom, moreover, he had chosen
to be the Mother of his Son, our common Redeemer, wills that all graces
that are granted to those whom he has redeemed should pass through and be
dispensed by the hands of Mary? We most readily admit that Jesus Christ
is the only Mediator of justice, according to the distinction just made,
and that by his merits he obtains us all graces and salvation; but we say
that Mary is the mediatress of grace; and that receiving all she obtains
through Jesus Christ, and because she prays and asks for it in the name of
Jesus Christ, yet all the same whatever graces we receive, they come to us
through her intercession.
There is certainly nothing contrary to faith in this, but the
reverse. It is quite in accordance with the sentiments of the Church,
which, in its public and approved prayers, teaches us continually to have
recourse to this divine Mother, and to invoke her as the "health of the
weak, the refuge of sinners, the help of Christians, and as our life and
hope" ("Salus infirmorum, Refugium
peccatorum, Auxilium Christianorum, Vita, Spes nostra"). In the
Office appointed to be said on the feasts of Mary, this same holy Church,
applying the words of Ecclesiasticus to this Blessed Virgin, gives us to
understand that in her we find all hope. In me is all hope of life and
of virtue! ("In me omnis spes vitae et
virtutis"Ecclus. xxiv. 25) in Mary is every grace, In me
is all grace of the way and of the truth
("In me gratia omnis viae et veritatis"Ib.).
In Mary, finally, we shall find life and eternal salvation: Who finds
me finds life, and draws salvation from the Lord
("Qui me invenerit, inveniet vitam, et
hauriet salutem a Domino"Prov. viii. 35). And elsewhere:
They that work by me shall not sin; they that explain me shall have
everlasting life ("Qui operantur in
me, non peccabunt. Qui elucidant me, vitam aeternam habebunt"Ecclus.
xxiv. 30, 31). And surely such expressions as these sufficiently
prove that we require the intercession of Mary.
Moreover, we are confirmed in this opinion by so many
theologians and Fathers, of whom it is certainly incorrect to say, as the
above-named author does, that, in exalting Mary, they spoke hyperbolically
and allowed great exaggerations to fall from their lips. To exaggerate
and speak hyperbolically is to exceed the limits of truth; and surely we
cannot say that saints who were animated by the Spirit of God, which is
truth itself, spoke thus. If I may be allowed to make a short digression,
and give my own sentiment, it is, that when an opinion tends in any way to
the honor of the most Blessed Virgin, when it has some foundation, and is
not repugnant to the faith, nor to the decrees of the Church, nor to
truth, the refusal to hold it, or to oppose it because the reverse may be
true, shows little devotion to the Mother of God. Of the number of such
as these I do not choose to be, nor do I wish my reader to be so, but
rather of the number of those who fully and firmly believe all that can
without error be believed of the greatness of Mary, according to the Abbot
Rupert, who, amongst the acts of homage most pleasing to this good Mother,
places that of firmly believing all that redounds to her honor
("Ejus magnolia firmiter credere").
If there was nothing else to take away our fear of exceeding in the
praises of Mary, St. Augustine (Serm.
208. E. B. app.) should suffice; for he declares that
whatever we may say in praise of Mary is little in comparison with that
which she deserves, on account of her dignity of Mother of God; and,
moreover, the Church says, in the Mass appointed for her festivals, "Thou
art happy, O sacred Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise"
("Felix namque es, sacra Virgo Maria, et
omni laude digaissima; quia ex te ortus est Sol justitiae, Christus Deus
noster"M. Vot. A. Nat.Resp. 7).
But let us return to the point, and examine what the saints
say on the subject. St. Bernard says "that God has filled Mary with all
graces, so that men may receive by her means, as by a channel, every good
thing that comes to them." He says that "she is a full aqueduct, that
others may receive of her plentitude" ("Plenus
Aquaeductus, ut accipiant caeteri de ejus plenitudine"). On this
the saint smakes the following significant remark: "Before the birth of
the Blessed Virgin, a constant flow of graces was wanting, because this
aqueduct did not exist" ("Ideo tanto
tempore humano generi fluenta gratiae defuerunt, quia necdum intercederet
is Aquaeductus"De Aquaed.). But now that Mary has been
given to the world, heavenly graces constantly flow through her on
The devil, like Holofernes, who, in order to gain possessin of
the city of Bethulia, ordered the aqueducts to be destroyed, exerts
himself to his utmost to destroy devotion to the Mother of God in souls;
for if this channel of grace is closed, he easily gains possession of
them. And here, continues the same St. Bernard, "See, O souls, with what
tender devotion our Lord wills that we should honor our Queen, by always
having recourse to her protection; and by relying on it; for in Mary he
has placed the plenitude of every good, so that henceforward we may know
and acknowledge that whatever hope, grace, or other advantage we possess,
all comes from the hand of Mary" ("Intuemini
quanto devotionis affectu a nobis eam voluerit honorari, qui totius boni
plenitudinem posuit in Maria; ut proinde, si quid spei in nobis est, si
quid gratiae, si quid salutis, ab eas noverimus redundare"De Aquaed).
St. Antoninus says the same thing: "All graces that have ever been
bestowed on men, all came through Mary"
("Per eam exivit de coelis, quidquid gratiae venit in mundum"P. 4, tit.
15, c. 20, #12). And on this account she is called the moon,
according to the following remark of St. Bonaventure: "As the moon, which
stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it
receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this
world the heavenly graces that she receives from the divine sun of
justice" ("Quia, sicut luna inter corpora
coelestia et terrene est media, et quod ab illis accipit, ad inferiora
refundit; sic et Virgo Regia inter nos et Deum est media, et gratiam ipsa
nobis refundit"Spann. Polyanth. Litt. M. t. 6).
Again, the holy Church calls her "the happy gate of heaven"
("Felix coeli porta"); for as the
same St. Bernard remarks: "As every mandate of grace that is sent by a
king passes through the palace-gates, so does every grace that comes from
heaven to the world pass through the hands of Mary"
("Nulla gratia venit de coelo ad terram,
nisi transeat per manus Mariae"Apud S. Bernardin, Pro Fest. V. M.
s. 5, c. 8). St. Bonaventure says that Mary is called "the gate of
heaven, because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing
through her" ("Nullus potest coelum
intrare, nisi per Mariam transeat, tamquam per portam"In Luc. i).
An ancient author, probably St. Sophronius, in a sermon on the
Assumption, published with the works of St. Jerome, says "that the
plenitutde of grace which is in Jesus Christ came into Mary, though in a
different way" ("In Christo fuit plenitude
gratiae, sicut in Capite influente; in Maria, sicut in collo transfundente");
meaning that it is our Lord, as in the head, from which the vital spirits
(that is, divine help to obtain eternal salvation) flow into us, who are
the members of his mystical body; and that the same plenitutde is in Mary,
as in the neck, through which these vital spirits pass to the members.
The same idea is confirmed by St. Bernardine of Sienna, who explains it
more clearly, saying, "that all graces of the spiritual life that descend
from Christ, their head, to the faithful, who are his mystical body, are
transmitted through the instrumentality of Mary"
("Per Verginem, a Capite Christo, vitals
gratiae in ejus Corpus mysticum transfunduntur"). The The same St.
Bernardine endeavors to assign a reason for this when he says, "that as
God was pleased to dwell in the womb of this holy Virgin, she acquired, so
to speak, a kind of jurisdiction over all graces; for when Jesus Christ
issued forth from her most sacred womb, all the streams of divine gifts
flowed from her as from a celestial ocean"
("Cum tota natura divina intra Virginis uterum exstiterit, non timeo
dicere quod in omnes gratiarum effluxus quamdam jurisdictionem habuerit
haec Virgo, de cujus utero, quasi de quodam Divinitatis oceano, flumina
emanant omnium gratiarum"). Elsewhere, repeating the same idea in
more distinct terms, he asserts that "from the moment that this Virgin
Mother conceived the divine Word in her womb, she acquired a special
jurisdiction, so to say, over all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, so that no
creature has since received any grace from God otherwise than through the
hands of Mary" ("A tempore a quo Virgo
Mater concepit in utero Verbum Dei, quondam, ut sic dicam, jurisdictionem
obtinuit in omni Spiritus Sancti processione temporali; ita quod nulla
creatura aliquam a Deo obtinuit gratiam, nisi secundum ipsius piae Matris
dispensationem"Pro Festo V. M. s. 5, c. 8).
Another author, in a commentary on a passage of Jeremias, in
which the prohet, speaking of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, and of
Mary his Mother, says that a woman shall compass a man
(Jer. xxxi. 22), remarks,
that "as no line can be drawn from the centre of a circle without passing
by the circumference, so no grace proceeds from Jesus, who is the centre
of every good thing, without passing by Mary, who compassed him when she
received him into her womb" (Crasset, Vιr. Dιv. p. 1, tr. 1, q. 5,
St. Bernardine says that for this reason, "all gifts, all
virtues, and all graces are dispensed by the hands of Mary to whomsoever,
when, and as she pleases" ("Ideo omnia
dona, virtutes et gratiae, quibus vult quando vult, quomodo vult, per
manus ipsius dispensantur"Pro Fest. V. M. s. 5, c. 8).
Richard of St. Laurence also asserts "that God wills that whatever good
things he bestows on his creatures should pass through the hands of Mary"
("Deus, quidquid boni dat creatures suis,
per manus Matris Virginis vult transpire"De Laud. B. M. l. 2, p.
3). And therefore the Venerable Abbot of Celles exhorts all to
have recourse to "this treasury of graces" (for so he calls her); for the
world and the whole human race have to receive every good that can be
hoped for through her alone. "Address yourselves to the Blessed Virgin,"
he says; "for by her, and in her, and with her, and from her, the world
receives, and is to receive, every good"
("Accede ad Virginem, quia per ipsam, mundus habiturus est omne bonum"Cont.
de V. M. in prol).
It must now be evident to all that
when these saints and authors tell us in such terms that all graces come
to us through Mary, they do not simply mean to say that we "received Jesus
Christ, the source of every good, through Mary," as the before-named
writer pretends; but that they assure us that God, who gave us Jesus
Christ, wills that all graces that have been, that are, and will be
dispensed to men to the end of the world through the merits of Christ,
should be dispensed by the hands and through the intercession of Mary.
And thus Father Suarez concludes, that it is the sentiment of
the universal Church, "that the intercession and prayers of Mary are,
above those of all others, not only useful, but necessary"
("Senit Ecclesia Virginis intercessionem
esse utilem ac necessariam"D. Inc. p. 2, d. 23, s. 3).
Necessary, in accordance with what we have already said, not with an
absolute necessity; for the mediation of Jesus Christ alone is absolutely
necessary; but with a moral necessity; for the Church believes with St.
Bernard, that God has determined that no grace shall be granted otherwise
than by the hands of Mary. "God wills," says the saint, "that we should
have nothing that has not passed through the hands of Mary"
("Nihil nos Deus habere voluit, quod per
Mariae manus non transiret"In Vig. Nat. D. s. 3); and
before St. Bernard, St. Ildephonsus asserted the same thing, addressing
the Blessed Virgin in the following terms: "O Mary, God has decided on
committing all good gifts that he has provided for men to thy hands, and
therefore he has intrusted all treasures and riches of grace to thee"
("Omnia bona quae illic summa Majestas
decrevit facere, tuis minibus voluit commendare: commissi quipped sunt
tibi thesauri . . . . et ornamenta gratiarum"In Cor. Virg. c. 15).
And therefore St. Peter Damian remarks, "that God would not become man
without the consent orf Mary; in the first place, that we might feel
ourselves under great obligations to her; and in the second, that we might
understand that the salvation of all is left to the care of this Blessed
Virgin" (Paciuncch. In Ps. lxxxvi.
St. Bonaventure, on the words of 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, and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him
("Egredietur Virga de radice Jesse, et
Flos de radice ejus ascendet; et requiescat super eum Spiritus Domini"Is.
xi. 1), makes a beautiful remark, saying: "Whoever desires the
sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit, let him seek for the flower of the
Holy Ghost in the rod." That is, for Jesus in Mary; "For by the rod we
find the flower, and by the flower, God"
("Quicumque Spiritus Sancti gratiam adipisci desiderat, Florem in Virga
quaerat: per Virgam enim ad Florem, per Florem ad Spiritum, pervenimus.Si
hunc Florem habere desideras, Virgam Floris precibus flectas"Spec.
B. M. V. lect. 6.12).
And in the twelfth chapter of the same work, he adds, "If you desire to
possess this flower, bend down the rod, which bears the flower, by prayer;
and so you will obtain it." The seraphical Father, in his sermon for the
Epiphany, on the words of St. Matthew, They found the child, with Mary
his Mother ("Invenerunt puerum cum
Maria, Matre ejus"Matth. Ii. 11), redminds us, that if we
wish to find Jesus we must go to Mary ("Si
ergo hunc puerum vis invenire, ad Mariam accede"). We may, then,
conclude, that in vain shall we seek for Jesus, unless we endeavor to find
him with Mary ("Nunquam invenitur Christus,
nisi cum Maria, nisi per Mariam. Frustra igitur quaerit, qui cum Maria
invenire non quaerit"Spann. Polyanth. Litt. M. t. 6). And
so St. Ildephonsus says, "I desire to be the servant of the Son; but
because non one will ever be so without serving the Mother, for this
reason I desire the servitude of Mary" ("Ut
sim servus Filii, servitutem appeto Genitricis"De Virginit. Mar.
A young nobleman who was on a sea-voyage began to read an obscene book, in
which he took much pleasure. A religious noticed this, and said to him:
"Are you disposed to make a present to our Blessed Lady?" The young man
replied that he was. "Well," the other answered, "I wish that, for the
love of the most holy Virgin, you would give up that book, and throw it
into the sea." "Here it is, Father," said the young man. "No," replied
the religious, "you must yourself make Mary this present." He did so; and
no sooner had he returned to Genoa, his native place, than the Mother of
God so inflamed his heart with divine love that he entered a religious
Order (Nadasi, Ann. Mar. S. J.
O my soul, see what a sure hope of salvation and eternal life our Lord has
given thee, by having in his mercy inspired thee with confidence in the
patronage of his mother; and this, notwithstanding that so many times by
thy sins thou hast merited his displeasure and hell. Thank thy God, and
thank thy protectress Mary, who has condescended to take thee under her
mantle; for of this thou mayest be well convinced, after the many graces
that thou hast received by her means. O yes, I do thank thee, my most
loving Mother, for all thou hast done for me who am deserving of hell.
And from how many dangers hast thou not delivered me, O Queen! How many
inspirations and mercies hast thou not obtained for me from God! What
service, what honor, have I ever rendered thee, that thou shouldst do so
much for me? I know that it is thy sole goodness that has impelled thee.
Ah, too little would it be in comparison with all that I owe thee, did I
shed my blood and give my life for thee; for thou hast delivered me from
eternal death; thou hast enabled me, as I hope, to recover divine grace;
to thee, in fine, I owe all I have. My most amiable Lady, I, poor wretch
that I am, can make thee no return but that of always loving and praising
thee. Ah, disdain not to accept the tender affection of a poor sinner,
who is inflamed with love for thy goodness. If my heart is unworthy to
love thee, because it is impure and filled with earthly affecgions, it is
thou who must change it. Ah, change it, then. Bind me to my God, and
bind me so that I may never more have it in my power to separate myself
from his love. Thou askest of me that I should love thy Godk, and I ask
of thee that thou shouldst obtain this love for me, to love him always;
this is all that I desire. Amen.
St. Bernard says, "that as a man and a woman cooperated in our ruin, so it
was proper that another man and another woman should cooperate in our
redemption, and these two were Jesus and his Mother Mary." "There is no
doubt," says the saint, "that Jesus Christ alone was more than sufficient
to redeem us; but it was more becoming that both sexes should cooperate in
the reparation of an evil in causing which both had shared"
("Congruum magis ut adesset nostrae
reparationi sexus uterque, quorum corruptioni neuter defuisset"In
Sign. Magn.). Hence Blessed Albert the Great calls Mary, the
"helper of redemption" ("Adjutrix redemptionis"Super Miss. q. 29, #3);
and the Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget, that "as Adam and
Eve sold the world for an apple, so did she with her Son redeem it as it
were with one heart" ("Sicut Adam et Eva
vendiderunt mundum pro uno pomo, sic Filius meus et ego redemimus mundum
quasi cum uno corde"Rev. l. 1, c. 35). This is confirmed
by St. Anselm, who says, "that although God could create the worl dout of
nothing, yet, when it was lost by sin, he would not repair the evil
without the cooperation of Mary" ("Qui
potuit omnia de nihilo facere, noluit ea violate sine Maria reficere"Orat.
Suarez says (De Inc. p.
2, d. 23, s. 1), "that Mary cooperated in our salvation in three
ways; first, by having merited by a merit of congruity the Incarnation of
the Word; secondly, by having continually prayed for us whilst she was
living in this world; thirdly, by having willingly sacrificed the life of
her Son to God." For this reason our Lord has justly decreed, that as
Mary cooperated in the salvatin of man with so much love, and at the same
time gave such glory to God, so all men through her intercession are to
obtain their salvation.
Mary is called "the cooperator in our justiciation," for to
her God has instructed all graces intended for us
("Auxiliatrix nostrae justificationis;
Deus enim omnes gratias faciendas Mariae commisit"Marial. p. 3, s.
1); and therefore St. Bernard affirms, "that all men, past,
present, and to come, should look upon Mary as the means and negotiator of
the salvation of all ages ("Ad illam,
sicut ad medium, sicut ad arcam Dei, sicut ad negotium saeculorum
respiciunt, et qui praecesserunt, et nos qui summus, et qui sequentur"In
Pent. s. 2).
Jesus Christ says, that no one can find him unless the Eternal
Father first draws him by the means of divine grace: No one comes to me
unless my Father draws him ("Nemo
potest venire ad me, nisi Pater, qui misit me, traxerit eum"John,
vi. 44). Thus also does Jesus address his Mother, says Richard of
St. Laurence: "No one comes to me unless my Mother first of all draws him
by her prayers" ("Nemo potest venire ad
me, nisi Mater mea suis precibus traxerit eum"De Laud. B. M. 1.
12, p. 2). Jesus was the fruit of Mary, as St. Elizabeth told her:
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb"
("Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus Fructus ventris tui"Luke, i.
42). Whoever, therefore, desires the fruit must go to the tree; whoever
desires Jesus must go to Mary; and whoever finds Mary will most certainly
When St. Elizabeth saw that the most Blessed Virgin had come
to visit her in her own house, not knowing how to thank her, and filled
with humility, she exclaimed: And whence is this to me, that the Mother
of my Lord should visit me? ("Et unde
hoc mihi, ut veniat Mater Domini mei ad me?"Ibid. 43). Ah,
yes, it was that the saint knew full well that when Mary comes she brings
Jesus, and therefore it was sufficient to thank the Mother without naming
She is like the merchant's ship, she bringeth her bread from
afar ("Facta est quasi navis institoris,
de longe portans panem suum"Prov. xxxi 14). Mary was this
fortunate ship that brought us Jesus Christ from heaven, who is the living
bread that comes down from heaven to give us eternal life, as he himself
says: I am the living bread, which came down from heaven: if any man eat
of this bread, he shall live forever ("Ego
sum Panis vivus, qui de coelo descendi; si quis manducaverit ex hoc Pane,
vivet in aeternum"John, vi. 51). And hence Richard of St.
Laurence says, "that in the sea of this world all will be lost who are not
protected by Mary;" and therefore he adds, "As often as we see ourselves
in danger of perishing in the midst of the temptations and contending
passions of this life, let us have recourse to Mary, and cry out quickly,
O Lady, help us, save us, if thou wilt not see us perish"
("In mare mundi submergentur omnes illi,
quos non suscipit Navis ista. Ideo, quoties videmus insurgents super nos
fluctus ejus maris, clamare debemus ad Mariam: Domina! salva nos, perimus"De
Laud. B. M. l. 11, c. 8).
Remark, by the by, that this writer does not scruple to
address these words to Mary: "Save us, we perish;" as does a certain
author already noticed, and who says, that we cannot ask Mary to save us,
as this belongs to God alone. But since a culprit condemned to death can
beg a royal favorite to save him by interceding with the king that his
life may be spared, why cannot we ask the Mother of God to save us by
obtaining us eternal life? St. John Damascene scrupled not to address her
in these words: "Pure and immaculate Virgin, save me, and deliver me from
eternal damnation" ("Regina immaculate et
pura! Salva me, libera me ab aeterna damnatione"Paracl. In Deip.).
St. Bonaventure called Mary "the salvation of those who invoked her"
("O Salus te invocantium!"). The
holy Church approves of the invocation by also calling her the "salvatin
of the weak" ("Salus infirmorum").
And shall we scruple to ask her to save us, when "the way of salvation is
open to none otherwise than through Mary?"
("Nemini, nisi per eam, patet aditus ad salutem"Paciucch. In Ps.
lxxxvi. exc. 1) as a certain author remarks. And before him St.
Germanus had said the same thing, speaking of Mary: "No one is saved but
through thee" ("Nullus est qui salvus
fiat, nisi per te"De Zona Deip.).
But let us now see what else the saints say of the need in
which we are of the intercession of the divine Mother. The glorious St.
Cajetan used to say, that we may seek for graces, but shall never find
them without the intercession of Mary. This is confirmed by St. Antoninus,
who thus beautifully expresses himself: "Whoever asks and expects to
obtain graces without the intercession of Mary, endeavors to fly without
wings" ("Qui petit sine ipsa duce, sine
alis tentat volare"P. 4, tit. 15, c. 22, #9); for, as
Pharaoh said to Joseph, the land of Egypt is in thy hands, and
addressed all who came to him for food to Joseph, Go to Joseph
("Ite ad Joseph"Gen. xli. 55),
so does God send us to Mary when we seek for grace: "Go to Mary;" for "He
has decreed," says St. Bernard, "that he will grant no graces otherwise
than by the hands of Mary" ("Totum nos
habere voluit per Mariam"De Aquaed). "And thus," says
Richard of St. Laurence, "our salvation is in the hands of Mary; so that
we Christians may with much greater reason say of her than the Egyptians
of Joseph, Our salvation is in thy hands"
("Salus nostra in manu Mariae est; ut ei
dicere muito melius valeamus nos Christiani, quam dixerint AEgyptii
Joseph: Salus nostra in manus tua est"(Gen. xlvii.25)De Laud.
B. M. l. 2, c. 1). The Venerable Raymond Jordano repeats the
same thing: "Our salvation is in her hands"
("Salus nostra in manu illius est"Cont.
de V. in prol.). Cassian speaks in still stronger terms. He
says absolutely, "that the salvation of all depends on their being favored
and protected by Mary" ("Tota salus humani
generic consistit in multitudine gratiae Mariae et favoris"Pelbart,
Stell. l. 12, p. 1, a. 3). He who is protected by Mary will be
saved; he who is not will be lost. St. Bernardine of Sienna thus
addresses this Blessed Virgin: "O Lady, since thou art the dispenser of
all graces, and since the grace of salvation can only come through thy
hands, our salvation depends on thee" ("Tu
Dispensatrix omnium gratiarum"Pro Fest. V. M. s. 13, a. 2, c. 3).
Therefore, Richard of St. Laurence had good reason for saying,
that "as we should fall into the abyss, if the ground were withdrawn from
under our feet, so does a soul deprived of the succor of Mary first fall
into sin, and then into hell" ("Sic,
subtracto nobis adjutorio Mariae, statim labimur in peccatum, et inde in
infernum"De Laud. B. M. l. 8). St. Bonaventure says, that
"God will not save us without the intercession of Mary"
("Ipse, sine ea, non salvabit te").
And that "as a child cannot live without a nurse to suckle it, so no one
can be saved without the protection of Mary"
("Quemadmodum infans, sine nutrice, non
potest vivere; ita nec sine Domina nostra, potes habere salutem").
Therefore he exhorts us "to thirst after devotion to her, to preserve it
with care, and never to abandon it until we have received her maternal
blessing in heaven" ("Sitiat ergo anima
tua ad ipsam; tene eam, nec dimitte, donec benedixerit tibi"Cont. in
Psalt). "And whoever," exclaims St. Germanus, "could know God,
were it not for thee, O most holy Mary? who could be saved? who would be
preserved from dangers? who could receive any grace, were it not for thee,
O Mother of God, O full of grace?"
The following are the beautiful words in which he expresses
himself: "There is no one, O most holy Mary, who can know God but through
thee; no one who can be saved or redeemed but through thee, O Mother of
God; no one who can be delivered from dangers but through thee, O Virgin
Mother; no one who obtains mercy but through thee, O filled with all
grace." And iin another place, addressing her, he says, "No one would be
free from the effects of the concupiscence of the flesh and from sin,
unless thou didst open the way to him" ("Nemo
est, O Sanctissima, qui ad Dei notitiam venit, nisi per te, Nome qui
salvus fiat, nisi per te, Dei Parens! Nemo liber a periculis, nisi per te,
Virgo Mater! Emo donum Dei suscipit, nisi per te, gratia Plena. Nisi
enim tu iter aperires, nemo spiritualis evaderet"In Dorm. V. M. s.
And as we have access to the Eternal Father, says St. Bernard,
only through Jesus Christ, so have we access to Jesus Christ only through
Mary: "By thee wehave access to the Son, O blessed finder of grace, bearer
of life, and mother of salvation, that we may receive him by thee, who
through thee was given to us" ("Per te
accessum habemus ad filium, O Inventrix gratiae, Mater salukis! Ut per te
nos suscipiat, qui per te datus est nobis"De Adv. Dom. s. 2).
This is the reason given by the saint why our Lord has determined that all
shall be saved by the intercession of Mary; and therefore he calls her the
Mother of grace and of our salvation.
"Then," asks St. Germanus, "what will become of us? What hope
can we have of salvation, if thou dost abandon us, O Mary, who art the
life of Christians?" ("Si tu nos
deserueris, quid erit de nobis, O Vita Christianorum?De Zona Deip.).
"But," says the modern author already quoted, "if all graces
come through Mary, when we implore the intercession of other saints, they
must have recourse to the mediation of Mary. But that," he says, "no one
believes or ever dreamed."
As to believing it, I
reply that in that there can be no error or difficulty. What difficulty
can there be in saying that God, in order to honor his Mother, and having
made her Queen of saints, and willing that all graces shall be dispensed
by her hands, should also will that the saints should address themselves
to her to obtain favors for their clients?
And as to saying that no one ever dreamed of such a thing, I
find that St. Bernard, St. Anselm, St. Bonaventure, Suarez, and others,
expressly declare it to be the case. "In vain," says St. Bernard, "would
a person ask other saints for a favor, if Mary did not interpose to obtain
it" ("Frustra alios Sanctos oraret, quem
ista non adjuvaret"). Some other author, explaining the words of
the Psalm, All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance"
("Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites
plebes"Ps. xliv. 13), says, "that the saints are the rich
of that great people of God, who, when they wish to obtain a favor from
God for their clients, recommend themselves to Mary, and she immediately
obtains it." And Father Suarez correctly remarks, "that we beg the saints
to be our intercessors with Mary, because she is their Queen and sovereign
Lady." "Amongst the saints," he says, "we do not make use of one to
intercede with the other, as all are of the same order; but we do ask them
to intercede with Mary, because she is their sovereign and Queen"
("Inter alios Sanctos non utimur uno ut
intercessore ad alium, quia omnes sunt ejusdem ordinis; ad Virginem autem,
tanquam ad Reginam et Dominam, alii adhibentur intercessors"De Inc.
p. 2, d. 23, s. 3). And this is precisely what St. Benedict
promised to St. Frances of Rome, as we read in Father Marchese; for he
appeared to her, and taking her under his protection, he promised that he
would be her advocate with the divine Mother.
In confirmation of this, St. Anselm addresses our Blessed Lady
and says, "O Lady, whatever all the saints, united with thee, can obtain,
thou canst obtain alone." "And why is this?" asks the saint; "why is it
that thou alone hast such great power? Ah, it is because thou art the
spouse of God; thou art the universal Queen of heaven and earth. If thou
dost not speak for us, no saint will pray for or help us. But if thou
beginnest to pray for us, then will all the saints do the same and succor
us" ("Quod possunt omnes isti tecum, tu
sola potes sine illis omnibus. Quare hoc potes? Quia Mater es Salvatoris
nostril, Sponsa Dei, Regina coeli et terrae. Te tacente, nullus orabit,
nullus juvabit. Te orante, omnes orabunt, omnes juvabunt"Orat.
So that Father Segneri (Div.
di. M. p. 1, c. 7, #4), in his Devout Client of Mary,
applying with the Catholic Church the words of Ecclesiasticus to her, I
alone have compassed the circuit of heaven
("Gyrum coeli circuivi sola"Ecclus.
xxiv. 8), says, that "as the first sphere by its motion sets all
the others in motion, so it is when Mary prays for a soul; immediately the
whole heavenly court begins to pray with her." "Nay, more," says St.
Bonaventure, "whenever the most sacred Virgin goes to God to intercede for
us, she, as Queen, commands all the angels and saints to accompany her,
and unite their prayers to hers" ("Quando
Sanctissima Virgo procedit ad Deum pro nobis deprecandum, imperat Angelis
et Sanctis, ut eam comitentur, ut simul cum ipsa Altissimum pro nobis
exorent"Paciucch. Super Sal. Ang. exc. 19).
And thus, finally, do we understand why the holy Church
requires that we should salute and invoke the divine Mother under the
glorious title of "our hope" ("Spes
nostra! salve!"). The impious Luther said, "that he could not
endure that the Roman Church should call Mary, who is only a creature,
"our hope" ("Ferre nequeo ut Maria dicatur Spes et Vita nostra"); "for,"
said he, "God alone, and Jesus Christ as our Mediator, is our hope: and
God curses those who place their hope in a creature, according to the
prophet Jeremias, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man"
("Maledictus homo qui confidit in homine"Jer.
xvii. 5). But the Church teaches us to invoke Mary on all
occasions, and to call her "our hope; hail, our hope!" Whoever places his
confidence in a creature independently of God, he certainly is cursed by
God; for God is the only source and dispenser of every good, and the
creature without God is nothing, and can give nothing. But if our Lord
has so disposed it, as we have already proved that he has done, that all
graces should pass through Mary as by a channel of mercy, we not only can
but ought to assert that she, by whose means we receive the divine graces,
is truly our hope.
Therefore St. Bernard says, "that she is his greatest
confidence, and the whole foundation of his hope"
("Filioli, haec mea maxima Fiducia est,
haec tota ratio spei meae"De Aquaed.). St. John Damascene
says the same thing; for he thus addresses the most Blessed Virgin: "O
Lady, in thee have I placed all my hope; and with my eyes fixed on thee,
from thee do I expect salvation ("In te
spem meam collocavi ex animo, et intentis oculis abs te pendeo"Paracl.
In Deip.). St. Thomas says, that "Mary is the whole hope of
our salvation" ("Omnis Spes vitae"Exp.
In Sal. Ang.), and St. Ephrem, addressing her, says, "O most
holy Virgin, receive us under thy protection, if thou wilt see us saved,
for we have no hope of salvation but through thy means"
("Nobis non est alia quam in te fiducia. O Virgo sincerissima! Sub alis
tuae pietatis protιgι et custody nos"De Laud. Dei gen.).
Let us, then, in the
words of St. Bernard, "endeavor to venerate this divine Mother with the
whole affection of our hearts; for such is the will of God, who is pleased
that we should receive every gift from her hand"
("Totis medullis cordium Mariam hanc veneremur; quia sic est voluntas ejus,
qui totum nos habere voluit per Mariam"De Aquaed.). And
therefore the saint exhorts us,
whenever we desire or ask for any grace, to recommend ourselves to Mary,
and to be assured that we shall receive it by her means
("Quaeramus gratiam, et per Mariam
quaeramus"); for he says, if thou dost not deserve the favor from
God, Mary, who will ask it for thee, will deserve to receive it; "because
thou wast unworthy of the gift, it was bestowed on Mary, that through her
thou mightest receive all that thou hast"
("Quia indignus eras cui donaretur, datum est Mariae, ut per illam
acciperes quidquid haberes"In Viq. Nat. D. s. 3). The
saint then advises us to recommend all that we offer to God to the care of
Mary, be they good works or prayers, if we wish our Lord to accept them.
"Whatever thou mayest offer to God, be sure to recommend it to Mary, in
order not to meet with a repulse" ("Quidquid
Deo offerre paras, Mariae commendare memento, si non vis sustinere
The doctrine of Mary's dignity as
mediatrix of all graces is commonly accepted by theologians today, and
recent pontiffs have occasionally alluded to it. We know that Benedict
XIV has left these words on record: "Mary is like a celestial river by
which the waters of all graces and gifts are conveyed to poor mortals."
Pius IX in speaking to the bishops of the whole world made use of the
words of St. Bernard: "God wills that every grace should come to us
through her." In his encyclical on the devotion of the Rosary, Sept. 22,
1891, Pope Leo XIII says: "In a true and natural sense may we say that
from the great treasury of graces that the Lord has merited for us,
nothing came to us, by the will of God except through Mary." Pius X
declares: "She is the dispensatrix of the graces that Jesus Christ has
merited for us by His blood and His death." The following are the words
of Benedict XV: "It has pleased God to grant us all graces through the
intercession of Mary." Again: "All the graces which the Giver of all
good deigns to grant to the descendants of Adam, are dispensed to us, in
the disposition of a loving Providence, through the hands of the Blessed
Virgin." And finally: "The graces of all kinds that we receive from the
treasury of the Redemption are dispensed by the hands of the Sorrowful
It is worthy of note that the
last four popes have directed special attention to this teaching on the
Blessed Virgin Mary. They refer to it repeatedly, and thus place the seal
of approval on the authority of those of former times who held the
doctrine and particularly of St. Alphonsus. On the strength of these
testimonies one can unhesitatingly subscribe to the judgment of the
Apologist Bainvel, S.J.: "The twofold cooperation of Mary in the work of
the redemption, first on earth by her life, prayer and suffering, and then
in heaven by her prayer alone is sound Catholic doctrine, beyond all
dispute and worthy of being defined, i.e. of being raised to the dignity
of an article of faith" (Dict. Apolog. D'Hales III. col. 301).
Father Jansen, C.SS.R. says
that what the supreme teacher of the Church proclaims so loudly, deserves
to be made known not merely to the students of theology in class rooms,
but in pulpit and press to the faithful of the whole world (Nederl.
Katho. Stemmen 18 (1918) 273).
The history of Theophilus, written by Eutychian, patriarch of Constinople,
and who was an eye-witness of the fact he relates, is well known. It is
attested by St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Antonine,
and by others quoted by Father Crasset (Vιr.
Dιv. p. 1, tr. 1, q. 10).
Theophilus was archdeacon of the church of Adana, a city of
Cilicia, and he was held in such veneration by the people that they wished
to have him for their bishop, but he, out of humility, refused the
dignity. It happened that evil-disposed persons accused him falsely of
some crime, and for this he was deposed from his archdeaconry. He took
this so much to heart, that, blinded by passion, he went to a Jewish
magician, who made him consult Satan, that he might help him in his
misfortune. The devil told him that if he desired to be helped by him, he
must renounce Jesus and His Mother Mary, and consign him the act of
renunciation written in his own hand. Theophilus immediately complied
with the demand. The next day, the bishop having discovered that he had
deceived, asked the archdeacon's pardon, and restored him to office. No
sooner was this accomplished than his conscience was torn with remorse,
and he could do nothing but weep. What could he do? He went to a church,
and there casting himself all in tears at the feet of an image of Mary, he
thus addressed her: "O Mother of God, I will not despair as long as I can
have access to thee, who art so compassionate, and has the power to help
me." He remained thus weeping and praying to our Blessed Lady for forty
dayswhen, lo, one night the Mother of mercy appeared to him, and said: "O
Theophilus, what hast thou done? Thou hast renounced my friendship and
that of my Son, and for whom? For his and my enemy." "O Lady," answered
Theophilus, "thou must pardon me, and obtain my forgiveness from they
Son." Mary seeing his confidence, replied: "Be of good heart; I will
intercede for thee with God." Theophilus, encouraged by these consoling
words, redoubled his tears, mortifications, and prayers, and never left
the image. At last Mary again appeared to him, and with a cheerful
countenance said: "Theophilus, be of good heart; I have presented thy
tears and prayers to God; he has accepted them, and has already pardoned
thee; but from this day forward be grateful to him and faithful." "But, O
Lady," replied Theophilus, "that is not yet enough to satisfy me entirely;
the enemy still possesses that impious writing in which I renounced thee
and thy Son. Thou canst oblige him to surrender it." Three days
afterwards, Theophilus awoke in the night, and found the writing on his
breast. On the following day he went to the church where the bishop was,
and, in present of an immense concourse of people, cast himself at his
feet, and with bitter tears related all that had taken place, and
delivered into his hands the infamous writing. The bishop committed it to
the flames in the presence of all the people, who did nothing but weep for
joy, and praise the goodness of God, and the mercy of Mary shown towards
this poor sinner. But he, returning to the church of our Blessed Lady,
remained there three days, and then expired, his heart filled with joy,
and returning thanks to Jesus and to his most holy Mother*
(*The Church has enrolled this celebrated
penitent among the number of the saints. His life may be read in the
Bollandists, in Surius, as well as in Giry, February 4Ed.)
O Queen and Mother of mercy, who dispensest graces to all who have
recourse to thee with so much liberality, because thou art a Queen, and
with so much love, because thou art our most loving Mother; to thee do I,
who am so devoid of merit and virtue, and so loaded with debts to the
divine justice, recommend myself this day. O Mary, thou holdest the keys
of all the divine mercies; forget not my miseries, and leave me not in my
poverty. Thou art so liberal with all, and givest more than thou art
asked for, O, be thus liberal with me. O Lady, protect me; this is all
that I ask of thee. If thou protectest me, I fear nothing. I fear not
the evil spirits; for thou art more powerful than all of them. I fear not
my sins; for thou by one word canst obtain their full pardon from God.
And if I have thy favor, I do not even fear an angry God; for a single
prayer of thine will appease him. In fine, if thou protectest me, I hope
all; for thou art all-powerful. O Mother of mercy, I know that thou
takest pleasure and dost glory in helping the most miserable, and,
provided they are not obstinate, that thou canst help them. I am a
sinner, but am not obstinate; I desire to change my life. Thou canst,
then, help me; O, help me and save me. I now palce myself entirely in thy
hands. Tell me what I msut do in order to please God, and I am ready for
all, and hope to do all with thy help, O MaryMary my Mother, my light, my
consolations, my refuge, my hope. Amen, amen. Amen.