PART THE SECOND.
DISCOURSES ON THE PRINCIPAL FEASTS OF MARY
MARY'S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
befitting it was that each of the Three Divine Persons should preserve
Mary from Original Sin.
Great indeed was the injury entailed on Adam and all his posterity by his
accursed sin; for at the same time that he thereby, for his own great
misfortune, lost grace, he also forfeited all the other precious gifts
with which he had originally been enriched, and drew down upon himself and
all his descendants the hatred of God and an accumulation of evils. But
from this general misfortune God was pleased to exempt that Blessed Virgin
whom he had destined to be the Mother of the Second AdamJesus Christwho
was to repair the evil done by the first. Now, let us see how befitting
it was that God, and all the three divine Persons, should thus preserve
her from it; that the Father should preserve her as his daughter, the Son
as his Mother, and the Holy Ghost as his Spouse.
In the first place, it was befitting that the Eternal Father should
preserve Mary from the stain of original sin, because she was his
daughter, and his first-born daughter, as she herself declares: I came
out of the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before all creatures
("Ego ex ore Altissimi prodivi,
primogenita ante omnem creaturam"Ecclus. xxiv. 5). For
this text is applied to Mary by sacred interpreters, the holy Fathers, and
by the Church on the solemnity of her Conception. For whether she be the
first-born inasmuch as she was predestined in the divine decrees, together
with the Son, before all creatures, according to the Scotists; or the
first-born of grace as the predestined Mother of the Redeemer, after the
prevision of sin, according to the Thomists; nevertheless all agree in
calling her the first-born of God. This being the case, it was quite
becoming that Mary should never have been the slave of Lucifer, but only
and always possessed by her Creator; and this she in reality was, as we
are assured by herself: The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His
ways ("Dominus possedit me in initio
viarum suarum"Prov. viii. 22,). Hence Denis of Alexandria
rightly calls Mary "the one and only daughter of life" ("Una et sola,
Filia vitae"Ep. Contra Paul. Sam.). She is the one and only daughter of
life, in contradistinction to others who, being born in sin, are daughters
Besides this, it was quite becoming that the Eternal Father
should create her in his grace, since he destined her to be the repairer
of the lost world, and the mediatress of peace between men and God; and,
as such she is looked upon and spoken of by the holy Fathers, and in
particular by St. John Damascene, who thus addresses her: "O Blessed
Virgin, thou wast born that thou mightest minister to the salvation of the
whole world" ("In vitam prodiisti, ut
orbis universi Administram te praeberes"De Nat. B. V. s. 1).
For this reason, St. Bernard says "that Noah's ark was a type of Mary; for
as, by its means, men were preserved from the deluge, so are we all saved
by Mary from the shipwreck of sin: but with the difference, that in the
ark few were saved, and by Mary the whole human race was rescued from
death" ("Sicut per illam omnes evaserunt
diluviam, sic per istam peccati naufragium; per illam paucorum facta est
liberation, per istam humani generic salvation"S. de B. M. Deip).
Therefore, in a sermon found amongst the works of St. Athanasius, she is
called "the new Eve, and the Mother of life"
("Nova Eva, Mater vitae"In Annunt.);
and not without reason, for the first was the Mother of death, but the
most Blessed Virgin was the Mother of true life. St. Theophanius, of
Nice, addressing Mary, says, "Hail, thou who hast taken away Eve's
sorrow!" (Salve, quae sustulisti
tristitiam Evae"Men. Grac. 9 Jan. Od. 8). St. Basil
of Seieucia calls her the peace-maker between men and God: "Hail thou who
art appointed umpire between God and men!" and St. Ephrem, the peace-maker
of the whole world: "Hail, reconciler of the whole world!"
("Ave, totius orbis Conciliatrix!"De
Laud. Dei Gen).
But now, it certainly would not be becoming to choose an enemy
to treat of peace with the offended person, and still less an accomplice
in the crime itself. St. Gregory (Past.
P. 1, c. 11) says, "that an enemy cannot undertake to appease his
judge, who is at the same time the injured party; for if he did, instead
of appeasinghim, he would provoke him to greater wrath." And therefore,
as Mary was to be the mediatress of peace between men and God, it was of
the utmost importance that she should not herself appear as a sinner and
as an enemy of God, but that she should appear in all things as a friend,
and free from every stain.
Still more was it becoming that God should preserve her from
original sin, for he destined her to crush the head of that infernal
serpent, which, by seducing our first parents, entailed death upon all
men: and this our Lord foretold: I will put enemities between thee and
the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head
("Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem,
et semen tuum et semen illius; ipsa conteret caput tuum"Gen. iii.
15). But if Mary was to be that valiant woman brought into the
world to conquer Lucifer, certainly it was not becoming that he should
first conquer her, and make her his slave; but it was reasonable that she
should be preserved from all stain, and even momentary subjection to her
opponent. The proud spirit endeavored to infect the most pure soul of
this Virgin with his venom, as he had already infected the whole human
race. But praised and ever blessed be God, who, in his infinite goodness,
pre-endowed her for this purpose with such great grace, that, remaining
always free from any guilt of sin, she was ever able to beat down and
confound his pride, as St. Augustine, or whoever may be the author of the
commentary on Genesis, says: "Since the devil is the head of original sin,
this head it was that Mary crushed: for sin never had any entry into the
soul of this Blessed Virgin, which was consequently free from all stain"
("Cum subjection originalis peccati caput
sit diaboli, tale caput Maria contrivit; quia nulla peccati subjection
ingressum habuit in animam Virginis, et ideo ab omni macula immunis fuit").
And St. Bonaventure more expressly says, "It was becoming that the Blessed
Virgin Mary, by whom our shame was to be blotted out, and by whom the
devil was to be conquered, should never, even for a moment, have been
under his dominion" ("Congruum erat ut
Beata Virgo Maria, per quam aufertur nobis opprobrium, vinceret diabolum,
ut nec ei succumberet ad modicum"In Sent. iii. d. 3, p. 1, a. 2,
But, above all, it principally became the Eternal Father to
preserve this his daughter unspotted by Adam's sin, as St. Bernardine of
Sienna remarks, because he destined her to be the Mother of his only
begotten Son: "Thou wast preordained in the mind of God, before all
creatures, that thou mightest beget God himself as man"
("Tu ante omnem creaturam in mente Dei
praeordinata fuisti, ut Deum ipsum hominem procreares"Pro Fest. V. M.
s. 4, a. 3, c. 4). If, then, for no other end, at least for the
honor of his Son, who was God, it was reasonable that the Father should
create Mary free from every stain. The angelic St. Thomas says, that all
things that are ordained for God should be holy and free from stain:
"Holiness is to be attributed to those things that are ordained for God"
("Sanctitas illis rebus attribuitur, quae
in Deum ordinantur"P. 1, q. 36, a. 1). Hence when David was
planning the temple of Jerusalem, on a scale of magnificence becoming a
God, he said, For a house is prepared not for man, but for God
("Nec enim homini praeparatur habitation,
sed Deo"1 Par. xxix. 1). How much more reasonable, then,
is it not, to suppose that the sovereign architect, who destined Mary to
be the Mother of his own Son, adorned her soul with all most precious
gifts, that she might be a dwelling worthy of a God! Denis the Carthusian
says, "that God, the artificer of all things, when constructing a worthy
dwelling for his Son, adorned it with all attractive graces"
("Omnium Artifex, Deus, Filio suo dignum
habitaculum fabricaturus, eam omnium gratificantium charismatum adornavit"De
Laud. V. l. 2, a. 2). And the Holy Church herself, in the
following prayer, assures us that God prepared the body and soul of the
Blessed Virgin so as to be a worthy dwelling on earth for his
only-begotten Son: "Almighty and Eternal God, who, by the co-operation of
the Holy Ghost, didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin and
Mother Mary, that she might become a worthy habitation for thy Son"
("Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui
gloriosae Virginis Matris Mariae corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui
habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante, praeparasti").
We know that a man's highest honor is to be born of noble
parents: And the glory of children are
their fathers ("Gloria filiorum
patres eorum"Prov. xvii. 6). Hence in the world the
reputation of being possessed of only a small fortune, and little
learning, is more easily tolerated than that of being of low birth; for,
whilst a poor man may become rich by his industry, an ignorant man learned
by study, it is very difficult for a person of humble origin to attain the
rank of nobility; but, even should he attain it, his birth can always be
made a subject of reproach to him. How, then, can we suppose that God,
who could cause his Son to be born of a noble mother by preserving her
from sin, would on the contrary permit him to be born of one infected by
it, and thus enable Lucifer always to reproach him with the shame of
having a mother who had once been his slave and the enemy of God? No,
certainly, the Eternal Father did not permit this; but he well provided
for the honor of his Son by preserving his Mother always immaculate, that
she might be a Mother becoming such a Son. The Greek Church bears witness
to this, saying, "that God, by a singular Providence, caused the most
Blessed Virgin to be perfectly pure from the very frist moment of her
existence, as it was fitting that she should be, who was to be the worthy
Mother of Christ" ("Providentia singulari
perfecit, ut Sanctissima Virgo, ab ipso vitae suae principio, tam omnino
existeret pura, quam decebat illam quae Christo digna existeret"Menol.
It is a common axiom amongst theologians that no gift was ever bestowed on
any creature with which the Blessed Virgin was not also enriched. St.
Bernard says on this subject, "It is certainly not wrong to suppose that
that which has evidently been bestowed, even only on a few, was not denied
to so great a Virgin" ("Quod vel paucis
mortalium constat fuisse collatum, fas certe non est suspicari tantae
Virgini esse negatum"Epist. 174). St. Thomas of Villanova
says, "Nothing was ever granted to any saint which did not shine in a much
higher degree in Mary from the very first moment of her existence"
("Nihil unquam alicui Sanctorum concessum
est, quod non a principio vitae accumulatius perfulgeat in Maria"De
Ass. conc. 1). And as it is true that "there is an infinite
difference between the Mother of God and the servants of God"
("Matris Dei et servorum Infinitum est
discrimen"De Dorm. B. M. or. 1), according to the
celebrated saying of St. John Damascene, we must certainly suppose,
according to the doctrine of St. Thoams, that "God conferred privileges of
graces in every way greater on his Mother than on his servants"
("Quod prae omnibus aliis majora
privilegia gratiae acceperit"P. 3, q. 27, a. 1). And now
admitting this, St. Anselm, the great defender of the Immaculate Mary,
takes up the question and says, "Was the wisdom of God unable to form a
pure dwelling, and to remove every stain of human nature from it?"
("Impotensne fuit sapientia Dei mundum
sibi habitaculum condere, remota omni labe conditionis humanae?")
Perhaps God could not prepare a clean habitation for his Son by preserving
it from the common contagion? "God," continues the same saint, "could
preserve angels in heaven spotless, in the midst of the devastation that
surrounded them; was he, then, unable to preserve the Mother of his Son
and the Queen of angels from the common fall of men?"
("Angelis aliis peccantibus, bonos a
peccatis servavit; et Matrem ab aliorum peccatis exsortem servare non
valuit?"De Conc. B. M.). And I may here add, that as God
could grant Eve the grace to come immaculate into the world, could he not,
then, grant the same favor to Mary?
Yes indeed! God could do this, and did it; for on every
account "it was becoming," as the same St. Anselm says, "that that Virgin,
on whom the Eternal Father intended to bestow his only-begotten Son,
should be adorned with such purity as not only to exceed that of all men
and angels, but exceeding any purity that can be conceived after that of
God" ("Decens erat ut ea puritate, qua
major sub Deo nequit intelligi, Virgo illa niteret, cui Deus Pater unicum
Filium suum dare disponebat"De Conc. Virg. c. 18). And St.
John Damascene speaks in still clearer terms; for he says, "that our Lord
had preserved the soul, together with the body of the Blessed Virgin, in
that purity which became her who was to receive a God into her womb; for,
as he is holy, he only reposes in holy places"
("Sic Virginis una cum corpore animam
conservasset, ut eam decebat quae Deum in sinu suo exceptura erat; sanctus
enim ipse cum sit, in sanctis requiescat"De Fide Orth. L. 4, c.
15). And thus the Eternal Father could well say to his beloved
daughter, As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters
("Sicut lilium inter spinas, sic Amica mea
inter filias"Cant. ii. 2). My daughter, amongst all my
other daughters, thou art as a lily in the midst of thorns; for they are
all stained with sin, but thou wast always immaculate, and always my
In the second place, it was becoming that the Son should preserve Mary
from sin, as being his Mother. No man can choose his mother; but should
such a thing ever be granted to any one, who is there who, if able to
choose a queen, would wish for a slave? If able to choose a noble lady,
would he wish for a servant? Or if able to choose a friend of God, would
he wash for his enemy? If, then, the Son of God alone could choose a
Mother according to his own heart, his liking, we must consider, as a
matter of course, that he chose one becoming a God. St. Bernard says,
"that the Creator of men becoming man, must have selected himself a Mother
whom he knew became him" (Factor hominum,
nasciturus de homine, talem sibi debuit eligere Matrem, qualem se decree
sciebat"De Laud. V. M. hom. 2). And as it was becoming
that a most pure God should have a mother pure from all sin, he created
her spotless. St. Bernardine of Sienna, speaking of the different degrees
of sanctification, says, that "the third is that obtained by becoming the
Mother of God; and that this sanctification consists in the entire removal
of original sin. This is what took place in the Blessed Virgin: truly God
created Mary such, both as to the eminence of her nature and the
perfection of grace with which he endowed her, as became him who was to be
born of her" ("Tertia fuit sanctification
maternalis, et haec removet culpam originalem. Haec fuit in Beata Virgine;
sane Deus talem, tam nobilitate naturae, quam perfectione gratiae,
condidit matrem, qualem eam decebat habere suam majestatem"Pro Fest.
V. M. s. 4, a. 1, c. 1). Here we may apply the words of the
Apostle to the Hebrews: For it was fitting that we should have such a
high priest; holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners
("Talis enim decebat ut nobis esset
Pontifex, sanctus, innocens, impollutus, segregatus a peccatoribus"Heb.
vii. 26). A learned author observes that, according to St. Paul,
it was fitting that our Blessed Redeemer should not only be separated from
sin, but also from sinners; according to the explanation of St. Thomas,
who says, "that it was necessary that he, who came to take away sins,
should be separated from sinners, as to the fault under which Adam lay"
("Oportuit eum, qui peccata venerat
tollere, esse a peccatoribus segregatum, quantum ad culpam cui Adam
subjacuit"P. 3, q. 4, a. 6). But how could Jesus Christ be said
to be separated from sinners if he had a Mother who was a sinner?
St. Ambrose says, "that Christ chose this vessel into which he
was about to descend, not of earth, but from heaven; and he consecrated it
a temple of purity" ("Non de terra, sed de
coelo. Vas sibi hoc, per quod descenderet, Christus elegit, et sacravit
Templum pudoris"Inst. Virg. c. 5). The saint refers to the
text of St. Paul: The first man was of the earth, earthly; the second
man from heaven, heavenly ("Primus
homo de terra, terrenus; secundus homo de coelo, coelestis"1 Cor.
xv. 47). The saint calls the divine Mother "a heavenly vessel,"
not because Mary was not earthly by nature, as heretics have dreamt, but
because she was heavenly by grace; she was as superior to the angels of
heaven in sanctity and purity, as it was becoming that she should be, in
whose womb a king of glory was to dwell. This agrees with that which St.
John the Baptis revealed to St. Bridget, saying, "It was not becoming that
the King of Glory should repose otherwise than in a chosen vessel,
exceeding all men and angels in purity"
("Non decuit Regem gloriae jacere, nisi in Vase purissimo et mundissimo et
electissimo prae omnibus Angelis et hominibus"Rev. 1. 1, c. 31).
And to this we may add that which the Eternal Father himself said to the
same saint: "Mary was a clean and an unclean vessel: clean, for she was
all fair; but unclean, because she was born of sinners; though she was
conceived without sin, that my Son might be born of her without sin"
("Maria fuit Vas mundum, et non mundum;
mundum, quia tota pulchra, sed non mundum, quia de peccatoribus nata est,
licet sine peccato concepta, ut Filius meus de ea sine peccato nasceretur"Rev.
l. 5, 4. 13, exp.). And remark these last words, "Mary was
conceived without sin, that the divine Son might be born of her without
sin." Not that Jesus Christ could have contracted sin; but that he might
not be reproached with even having a mother infected with it, who would
consequently have been the slave of the devil.
The Holy Ghost says that the glory of a man is from the
honor of his father, and a father without honor is the disgrace of the son
("Gloria enim hominis, ex honore patris
ejus; et dedecus filii, pater sine honore"Ecclus. iii. 13).
"Therefore it was," says an ancient writer, that Jesus preserved the body
of Mary from corruption after death; for it would have redounded to his
dishonor had that virginal flesh with which he had clothed himself become
the food of worms." For he adds, "Corruption is a disgrace of human
nature; and as Jesus was not subject to it, Mary was also exempted; for
the flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary"
("Putredo namque humanae est opprobrium conditionis a quo cum Jesus sit
alienus, natura Mariae excipitur; caro enim Jesu, caro Mariae est").
But since the corruption of her body would have been a disgrace for Jesus
Christ, because he was born of her, how much greater would the disgrace
have been, had he been born of a mother whose soul was once infected with
the corruption of sin? For not only is it true that the flesh of Jesus is
the same as that of Mary, "but," adds the same author, "the flesh of our
Savior, even after his resurrection, remained the same that he had taken
from his Mother." "The flesh of Christ is the flesh of Mary; and though
it was glorified by the glory of his resurrection, yet it remains the same
that was taken from Mary" ("Caro Jesu,
caro est Mariae; et quamvis Gloria resurrectionis fuerit magnificata,
eadem tamen mansit, quae suscepta est de Maria"Lib. de Ass. c. 5).
Hence the Abbot Arnold of Chartres says, "The flesh of Mary and that of
Christ are one; and therefore I consider the glory of the Son as being not
so much common to, as one with, that of his Mother"
("Una est Mariae et Christi caro; Filii
gloriam cum Matre non tam communem judico, quam eandem"De Laud. B. M.
V.). And now if this is true, supposing that the Blessed
Virgin was conceived in sin, though the Son could not have contracted its
stain, nevertheless his having united flesh to himself which was once
infected with sin, a vessel of uncleanness and subject to Lucifer, would
always have been a blot.
Mary was not only the Mother, but the worthy Mother of our
Savior. She is called so by all the holy Fathers. St. Bernard says,
"Thou alone wast found worthy to be chosen as the one in whose virginal
womb the King of kings should have his first abode"
("Tu sola inventa es digna, ut in tua
virginali aula Rex regum primam sibi mansionem elegeret"Depr. Ad gl. V.).
St. Thomas of Villanova says, "Before she conceived she was already fit to
be the Mother of God" ("Antequam
conciperet, jam idonea erat, ut esset Mater Dei"De Nat. V. M. conc.
3). The holy Church herself attests that Mary merited to be the
Mother of Jesus Christ, saying, "the Blessed Virgin, who merited to bear
in her womb Christ our Lord" ("Beata
Virgo, cujus sicera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum"In Nat. D.
respt. 4); and St. Thomas Aquinas, explaning these words, says,
that "the Blessed Virgin is said to have merited to bear the Lord of all;
not that she merited his incarnation, but that she merited, by the graces
she had received, such a degree of purity and sanctity, that she could
becomingly be the Mother of God" ("Beata
Virgo dicitur meruisse portare Dominum omnium, non quia meruit ipsum
incarnari, sed quia meruit, ex gratia sibi data, illum peritatis et
sanctitatis gradum, ut congrue posset esse Mater Dei"P. 3, q. 2, a. 11);
that is to say, Mary could not merit the Incarnation of the Eternal Word,
but by divine grace she merited such a degree of perfection as to render
her worthy to be the Mother of God; according to what St. Augustine also
writes: "Her singular sanctity, the effect of grace, merited that she
alone should be judged worthy to receive a God"
("Promeruit hoc singularis sanctitas ejus
et singularis gratia, qua susceptione Dei singulariter aestimata est digna"Lib.
de Ass. c. 4).
And now, supposing that Mary was worthy to be the Mother of
God, "what excellency and what perfection was there that did not become
her?" ("Quae autem excellentia, quae
perfectio, decuit eam, ut esset idonea Mater Dei?"De Nat. V. M. conc.
3) asks St. Thomas of Villanova. The angelic Doctor says, "that
when God chooses any one for a particular dignity, he renders him fit for
it;" whence he adds, "that God, having chosen Mary for his Mother, he also
by his grace rendered her worthy of this highest of all dignities." "The
Blessed Virgin was divinely chosen to be the Mother of God, and therefore
we cannot doubt that God had fitted her by his grace for this dignity; and
we are assured of it by the angel: For thou hast found grace with God;
behold thou shalt conceive ("Beata
autem Virgo fuit electa divinitus, ut esset Mater Dei; et ideo non est
dubitandum quin Deus, per suam gratiam, eam ad hoc idoneam reddiderit,
juxta illud: 'Invenisti gratiam apud Deum: ecce, concipies in utero et
paries Filium'"Luke i. 50). And thence the saint argues
that "the Blessed Virgin never committed any actual sin, not even a venial
one. Otherwise," he says, "she would not have been a mother worthy of
Jesus Christ; for the ignominy of the Mother would also have been that of
the Son, for he would have had a sinner for his mother"
("Non fuisset idonea Mater Dei, si
peccasset aliquando, quia ignominia Matris ad Filium redundasset"P. 3, q.
27, a. 4). And now if Mary, on account of a single venial sin,
which does not deprive a soul of divine grace, would not have been a
mother worthy of God, how much more unworthy would she have been had she
contracted the guilt of original sin, which would have made her an enemy
of God and a slave of the devil? And this reflection it was that made St.
Augustine utter those memorable words, that, "when speaking of Mary for
the honor of our Lord," whom she merited to have for her Son, he would not
entertain even the question of sin in her; "for we know," he says, "that
through him, who it is evident was without sin, and whom she merited to
conceive and bring forth, she received grace to conquer all sin"
("Excepta itaque Sancta Virgine Maria, de
qua, propter honorem Domini, nullam prorsus, cum de peccatis agitur,
haberi volo quaestionem; unde enim scimus, quod ei plus gratiae collatum
fuerit ad vincendum ex omni parte peccatum, quae concipere ac parere
meruit, quem constat nullum habuisse peccatum"De Nat. et Gratia,
Therefore, as St. Peter Damian observes, we must consider it
as certain "that the Incarnate Word chose himself a becoming Mother, and
one of whom he would not have to be ashamed"
("Talem creavit eam, ut ipse digne nasci
potuisset ex ea"De Nat. D. s. 3). St. Proclus also says,
"that he dwelt in a womb which he had created free from all that might be
to his dishornor" (Intra viscera, quae
citra ullam sui dedecoris notam creaverat habitavit"Laudat. In S. M.
or. 1). It was no shame to Jesus Christ, when he heard himself
contemptuously called by the Jews the Son of Mary, meaning that he was the
Son of a poor woman: Is not His Mother called Mary?"
("Nonne mater ejus dicitur Maria?"Matt.
xiii. 55) for he came into this world to give us an example of
humility and patience. But, on the other hand, it would undoubtedly have
been a disgrace, could he have heard the devil say, "Was not his Mother a
sinner? ("Nonne mater ejus exstitit
peccatrix?") was he not born of a wicked Mother, who was once our
slave?" It would even have been unbecoming had Jesus Christ been born of
a woman whose body was deformed, or cripped, or possessed by devils: but
how much more would it have been so, had he been born of a woman whose
soul had been once deformed by sin, and in the possession of Lucifer?
Ah! indeed, God, who is wisdom itself, well knew how to
prepare himself a becoming dwelling, in which to reside on earth: Wisdom
hath built herself a house ("Sapientia
aedificavit sibi domum"Prov. ix 1). The Most High hath
sanctified His own tabernacle. . . . God will help it in the morning
early (Sanctificavit tabernaculum suum
Altissimus . . . Adjuvabit eam Deus mane diluculo"Ps. xiv. 5).
David says that our Lord sanctified this his dwelling in the morning
early; that is to say, from the beginning of her life, to render her
worthy of himself; for it was not becoming that a holy God should choose
himself a dwelling that was not holy: Holiness becometh Thy house
("Domum tuam decet sanctitudo"Ps.
xcii. 5). And if God declares that he will never enter a malicious
soul, or dwell in a body subject to sin, for wisdom will not enter into
a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sin
("In malevolam animam non introibit
Sapientia nec habitabit in corpore subdito peccatis"Wisd. i. iv),
how can we ever think that the Son of God chose to dwell in the soul and
body of Mary, without having previously sanctified and preserved it from
every stain of sin? for, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, "the
Eternal Word dwelt not only in the soul of Mary, but even in her womb"
("Dei Filius in ipsa habitavit, non solum
in anima, sed etiam in utero"P. 3, q. 27, a. 4). The holy Church
sings, "Thou, O Lord, hast not disdained to dwell in the Virgin's womb"
("Non horruisti Virginis uterum"Hymn.
Te Deum). Yes, for he would have disdained to have taken flesh
in the womb of an Agnes, a Gertrude, a Teresa, because these virgins,
though holy, were nevertheless for a time stained with original sin; but
he did not disdain to become man in the womb of Mary, because this beloved
Virgin was always pure and free from the least shadown of sin, and was
never possessed by the infernal serpent. And therefore St. Augustine
says, "that the Son of God never made himself a more worthy dwelling than
Mary, who was never possessed by the enemy, or despoiled of her ornaments"
("Nullam digniorem domum sibi Filius Dei
aedificavit quam Mariam, quae nunquam fuit ab hostibus capta, neque suis
ornamentis spoliata"). On the other hand, St. Cyril of Alexandria
asks, "Who ever heard of an architect who built himself a temple, and
yielded up the first possession of it to his great enemy?"
("Quis unquam audivit architectum, qui
sibi domum aedificavit, in ea habitare prohibitum fuisse?"In Conc.
Eph. hom. 6)
Yes, says St. Methodius, speaking on the same subject, that
Lord who commanded us to honor our parents, would not do otherwise, when
he became man, than observe it, by giving his Mother every grace and
honor: "He who said, Honor thy father and thy mother, that he might
observe his own decree, gave all grace and honor to his Mother"
("Qui dixit: 'Honora patrem tuum et matrem,'
ut decretum a se promulgatum servaret, omnem Matri gratiam et honorem
impendit"De Sim. et Anna). Therefore the author of the
book already quoted from the works of St. Augustine says, "that we must
certainly believe that Jesus Christ preserved the body of Mary from
corruption after death, for if he had not done so, he would not have
observed the law, which, at the same time that it commands us to honor our
mother, forbids us to show her disrespect"
("Sicut honorem matris praecipit, ita inhonorationem damnat"Lib. de
Ass. c. 5). But how little would Jesus have guarded his
Mother's honor, had he not preserved her from Adam's sin! "Certainly that
son would sin," says the Augustinian Father Thomas of Strasburg, "who,
having it in his power to preserve his mother from original sin, did not
do so; but that which would be a sin in us," continues the same author,
"must certainly be considered unbecoming in the Son of God, who, whilst he
could make his Mother immaculate, did it not." "Ah, no," exclaims Gerson,
"since Thou, the supreme prince, choosest to have a Mother, certainly Thou
owest her honor. But now if Thou didst permit her, who was to be the
dwelling of all purity, to be in the abomination of original sin,
certainly it would appear that that law was not well fulfilled"
("Cum tu, summus Princeps, vis habere
Matrem, illi debebis honorem; nunc autem appareret illam legem non bene
adimpleri, si in hujusmodi abominatione peccati aliquot tempore
permitteres illam, quae esse debet habitaculum totius puritatis"De
Conc. B. V. s. 1).
"Moreover, we know," says St. Bernardine of Sienna, "that the
divine Son came into the world more to redeem Mary than all other
creatures" ("Christus plus pro ipsa
redimenda venit, quam pro omni alia creatura"Pro Fest. V. M. s. 4,
a. 3, c. 3). There are two means by which a person may be
redeemed, as St. Augustine teaches us: the one by raising him up after
having fallen, and the other by preventing him from falling"
("Duplex est redimendi modus; unus,
erigendo lapsum; alter, praeveniendo jamjam lapsurum, ne cadat"De Inc.
p. 2, d. 3, s. 5); and this last means is doubtless the most
honorable. "He is more honorably redeemed," says the learned Suarez, "who
is prevented from falling, than he who after falling is raised up"
("Nobilius redimitur, cui providetur ne
cadat, quam ut lapsus erigatur"P. 1, t. 8, c. 2); for thus the
injury or stain is avoided which the soul always contracts by falling.
This being the case, we ought certainly to believe that Mary was redeemed
in the more honorable way, and the one which became the Mother of God, as
St. Bonaventure remarks; 'for it is to be belileved that the Holy Ghost,
as a very special favor, redeemed and preserved her from original sin by a
new kind of sanctification, and this in the very moment of her conception;
not that sin was in her, but that it otherwise would have been"
("Credendum est enim quod novo
sanctificationis genere, in ejus conceptionis primordio, Spiritus Sanctus
eam a peccato originali, non quod infuit, sed quod infuisset redemit,
atque singulari gratia praeser vavit"De B. V. s. 2). The
sermon from which this passage is taken is proved by Frassen
(Scotus Academicus, de Inc. d. 3,
a. 3, s. 3, q. 1, #5) to be really the work of the holy Doctor
above named. On the same subject Cardinal Cusano beautifully remarks,
that "others had Jesus as a liberator, but to the most Blessed Virgin he
was a pre-liberator" ("Praeliberatorem
enim Virgo Sancta habuit, caeteri Postliberatorem"Excit. l. 8,
Sicut lil.); meaning, that all others had a Redeemer who
delivered them from sin with which they were already defiled, but that the
most Blessed Virgin had a Redeemer who, because he was her Son, preserved
her from ever being defiled by it.
In fine, to conclude this point in the words of Hugo of St.
Victor, the tree is known by its fruits. If the Lamb was always
immaculate, the Mother must also have been always immaculate: "Such the
Lamb, such the Mother of the Lamb; for the tree is known by its fruit"
("Talis Agnus, quails Mater Agni; quoniam
omnis arbor ex fructu suo cognoscitur"De Verbo inc. c. 3).
Hence this same Doctor salutes Mary, saying: "O worthy mother of a worthy
Son;" meaning, that no other than Mary was worthy to be the mother of such
a Son, and no other than Jesus was a worthy Son of such a Mother: and then
he adds these words, "O fair Mother of beauty itself, O high Mother of the
Most High, O Mother of God!" ("O Digna
Digni! Formosa Pulchri, Excelsa Altissimi, Mater Dei!"De Assumpt.
c. 3) Let us then address this most Blessed Mother in the words of
St. Illdephonsus, "Suckle, O Mary, thy Creator, give milk to him who made
thee, and who made thee such that he could be made of thee"
("Lacta, maria. Creatorem tuum; lacta eum
qui fecit te, qui talem fecit te, ut ipse fieret ex te"De Nat. B. V.
Since, then, it was becoming that the Father should preserve Mary from sin
as his daughter, and the Son as his Mother, it was also becoming that the
Holy Ghost should preserve her as his spouse.
St. Augustine says that "Mary was that only one who merited to
be called the Mother and Spouse of God" ("Haec
est quae sola meruit Mater et Sponsa vocari"Serm. 208, E. B.
app.). For St. Anselm asserts that "the divine Spirit, the
love itself of the Father and the Son, came porporally into Mary, and
enriching her with graces above all creatures, reposed in her and made her
his Spouse, the Queen of heaven and earth"
("Ipse Spiritus Dei, ipse Amor Patris et Filii, corporaliter venit in eam,
singularique gratia prae omnibus requievit in ea, et Reginam coeli et
terrae fecit eam"De Excell. Virg. c. 4). He says that he
came into her corporally, that is, as to the effect: for he came to form
of her immaculate body the immaculate body of Jesus Christ, as the
Archangel had already predicted to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon
thee ("Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in
te"Luke, i. 35). And therefore it is, says St. Thomas,
"that Mary is called the temple of the Lord, and the sacred resting-place
of the Holy Ghost: for by the operation of the Holy Ghost she became the
Mother of the Incarnate Word" ("Unde
dicitur Templum Domini, Sacrarium Spiritus Sancti, quia concepit ex
Spiritu Sancto"Exp. In Sal. Ang.).
And now, had an excellent artist the power to make his bride
such as he could represent her, what pains would he not take to render her
as beautiful as possible! Who, then, can say that the Holy Ghost did
otherwise with Mary, when he could make her who was to be his spouse as
beautiful as it became him that she should be? Ah no! he acted as it
became him to act; for this same Lord himself declares: Thou art all
fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee
("Tota pulchra es, Amica mea, et macula
non est in te"Cant. iv. 7). These words, say St.
Ildephonsus and St. Thomas, are properly to be understood of Mary, as
Cornelius ΰ Lapide remarks; and St. Bernardine of Sienna
(Pro Fest. V. M. s. 4, a. 2, c. 2),
and St. Laurence Justinian (In Net. B.
V.), assert that they are to be understood precisely as
applying to her Immaculate Conception; whence Blessed Raymond Jordano
addresses her, saying, "Thou art all fair, O most glorious Virgin, not in
part, but wholly; and no stain of mortal, venial, or original sin is in
thee" ("Tota pulchra es, Virgo
gloriosissima! non in parte, sed in toto; et macula peccati, sive mortalis,
sive venialis, sive originalis, non est in te"Cont. de V. M. c. 2).
The Holy Ghost signified the same thing when he called this
his spouse an enclosed garden and a sealed fountain: My sister, my
spouse, is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up
("Hortus conclusus, soror mea, Sponsa,
Hortus conclusus, Fons signatus"Cant. iv. 12). "Mary,"
says St. Sophronius, "was this enclosed garden and sealed fountain, into
which no guile could enter, against which no fraud of the enemy could
prevail, and who always was holy in mind and body"
(Haec est Hortus conclusus, Fons signatus,
ad quam nulli potuerunt doli irrumpere; nec praevaluit fraus inimici, sed
permansit sancta mente et corpore"De Assumpt.). St.
Bernard likewise says, addressing the Blessed Virgin, "Thou art an
enclosed garden, into which the sinner's hand has never entered to pluck
its flowers" ("Hortus conclusus tu es, ad
quem deflorandum manus peccatorum nunquam introivit"Depr. ad. gl. V.).
We know that this divine Spouse loved Mary more than all the
other saints and angels put together, as Father Suarez
(De Inc. p. 2, d. 18, s. 4),
with St. Laurence Justinian, and others, assert. He loved her from the
very beginning, and exalted her in sanctity above all others, as it is
expressed by David in the Psalms: The foundations thereof are in the
holy mountains; the Lord loveth the gates of Sion above all the
tabernacles of Jacob . . . a man is born in her, and the Highest Himself
hath founded her ("Fundamenta ejus in
moontibus sanctis; diligit Dominus portus Sion super omnia tabernacula
Jacob . . . Homo natus est in ea; et ipse fundavit eam Altissimus"Ps.
lxxxvi. 1). Words which all signify that Mary was holy from her
conception. The same thing is signified by other passages addressed to
her by the Holy Ghost. In Proverbs we read: Many daughters have
gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all
("Multae filiae congregaverunt divitias:
tu supergressa es universas"Prov. xxxi. 29). If Mary has
surpassed all others in the riches of grace, she must have had original
justice, as Adam and the angels had it. In the Canticles we read,
There are . . . young maidens without number. One is my dove, my perfect
one (in the Hebrew it is my entire, my immaculate one) is
but one, she is the only one of her mother
(Adolescentularum non est numerus; una est
columba mea, perfecta mea, una est matris suae"Cant. vi. 7).
All just souls are daughters of divine grace; but amongst these Mary was
the dove without the gall of sin, the perfect one without
spot in her origin, the one conceived in grace.
Hence it is that the angel, before she became the Mother of
God, already found her full of grace, and thus saluted her, Hail, full
of grace; on which words St. Sophronius writes, that "grace is given
partially to other saints, but to the Blessed Virgin all was given"
("Bene 'Plena,' quia caeteris per partes
praestatur, Mariae vero simul se tota infudit plenitude gratiae"De
Assumpt.). So much so, says St. Thomas, that "grace not only
rendered the soul, but even the flesh of mary holy, so that this Blessed
Virgin might be able to clothe the Eternal Word with it"
("Anima Beatae Virginis ita fuit plena,
quod ex ea refudit gratia in carnem, ut de ipsa conciperet Deum"Exp.
In Sal. Ang.). Now all this leads us to the conclusion that
Mary, from the moment of her conception, was enriched and filled with
divine grace by the Holy Ghost, as Peter of Celles remarks, "the plenitude
of grace was in her; for from the very moment of her conception the whole
grace of the divinity overflowed upon her, by the outpouring of the Holy
Ghost" ("Simul in ea collecta est gratiae
plenitude, quia ab exordio suae conceptionis, aspersione Spiritus Sancti,
tota Deitatis gratia est superfusa"De Pan. c. 12). Hence
St. Peter Damian says, "that the Holy Spirit was about to bear her off
entirely to himself, who was chosen and preλlected by God"
("A Deo electam et praeelectam, totam eam
rapturus erat sibi Spiritus Sanctus"De
Annunt.). The saint
says "to bear her off," to denote the holy velocity of the divine Spirit
in being beforehand in making this Spouse his own before Lucifer should
take possession of her.
I wish to conclude this discourse, which I have prolonged beyond the
limits of the others, because our Congregation has this Blessed Virgin
Mary, precisely under the title of her Immaculate Conception, for his
principal Patroness. I say that I wish to conclude by giving in as few
words as possible the reasons which make me feel certain, and which, in my
opinion, ought to convince every one of the truth of so pious a belief,
and which is so glorious for the divine Mother, that is, that she was free
from original sin.
There are many Doctors who maintain that Mary was exempted
from contracting even the debt of sin; for instance, Cardinal Galatino
(De Arc. l. 7, passim.),
Cardinal Cusano (Excit. l. 8,
Sicut lil.), De Ponte (In
Cant. l. 2, exh. 19), Salazar
(Pro Imm. Conc. c. 7),
Catharinus (De Pecc. Orig. c.
ult.), Novarino (Umbra Virg.
exc. 18), Viva (P. 8, d. 1, q.
2, a. 2), De Lugo (De Inc.
d. 7, s. 3, 4), Egidio (De Imm.
Conc. l. 2, q. 4, a. 5), Denis the Carthusian
(De Dign. M. l. 1, a. 13),
and others. And this opinion is also probable; for if it is true that the
wills of all men were included in that of Adam, as being the head of all,
and this opinion is maintained as probable by Gonet
(Clyp. p. 2, tr. 5, d. 7, a. 2),
Habert (Tr. De Vit. Et Pecc. c. 7,
#1), and others, founded on the doctrine of St. Paul, contained in
the fifth chapter to the Romans (Rom.
v. 12). If this opinion, I say, is probable, it is also probable
that Mary did not contract the debt of sin; for whilst God distinguished
her from the common of men by so many graces, it ought to be piously
believed that he did not include her will in that of Adam.
This opinion is only probable, and I adhere to it as being
more glorious for my sovereign Lady. But I consider the opinion that Mary
did not contract the sin of Adam as certain: and it is considered so, and
even as proximately definable as an article of faith (as they express it),
by Cardinal Everard, Duval (De Pecc.
q. ult. a. 7), Raynauld (Piet.
Lugd. erga V. Imm. n. 20), Lossada (Disc.
Thomist. De Imm. Conc.), Viva
(P. 8, d. 1, q. 2, a. 2), and many others. I omit, however, the
revelations which confirm this belief, particularly those of St. Bridget,
which were approved of by Cardinal Turrecremata, and by four Sovereign
Pontiffs, and which are found in various parts of the sixth book of her
Revelations (Rev. l. 6, c. 12, 49,
But on no account can I omit the opinions of the holy Fathers
on this subject, whereby to show their unanimity in conceding this
privilege to the divine Mother.
St. Ambrose says, "Receive me not from Sarah, but from Mary;
that it may be an uncorrupted Virgin, a Virgin free by grace from every
stain of sin" ("Suscipe me non ex Sara,
sed ex Maria, ut incorrupta sit Virgo, sed Virgo per gratiam ab omni
integra labe peccati"In Ps. cxviii. s. 22).
Origen, speaking of Mary, asserts that "she was not infected
by the venomous breath of the serpent" ("Nec
serpentis venenosis afflatibus infecta est"In Div. hom. 1).
St. Ephrem, that "she was immaculate, and remote from all
stain of sin" ("Immaculata et ab omni
peccati labe alienissima"Orat. Ad Deip.).
As ancient writer, in a sermon, found amongst, the words of
St. Augustine, on the words "Hail, full of grace," says, "By these words
the angel shows that she was altogether (remark the word 'altogether')
excluded from the wrath of the first sentence, and restored to the full
grace of blessing" ("Ave 'gratia plena!'
Quibus verbis ostendit ex integro iram exclusam primae sententiae, et
plenam benedictionis gratiam restitutam"Serm. 123, E. B. app.).
The author of an old work, called the Breviary of St. Jerome,
affirms that "that cloud was never in darkness, but always in light"
("Nubes illa non fuit in tenebris, sed
simper in luce"Brev. In Ps. 77).
St. Cyprian, or whoever may be the author of the work on the
77th Psalm, says, "Nor did justice endure that that vessel of
election should be open to common injuries; for being far exalted above
others, she partook of their nature, not of their sin"
("Nec sustinebat justitia ut illud Vas
electionis communibus lassaretur injuriis; quoniam, plurimum a caeteris
differens, natura communicabat, non culpa"De Chr. Op. De Nat.).
St. Amphilochius, that "He who formed the first Virgin without
deformity, also made the second one without spot or sin"
("Qui antiquam illam virginem sine probro
condidit, ipse et secundam sine nota et crimine fabricatus est"In S.
Deip. et Sim.).
St. Sophronius, that "the Virgin is therefore called
immaculate, for in nothing was she corrupt"
("Virginem ideo dici immaculatam, quia in
nullo corrupta est"In Conc. Oecum. 6, act. 11).
St. Ildephonsus argues, that "it is evident that she was free
from original sin" ("Constat eam ab omni
originali peccato fuisse immunem"Cont. Disp. De Virginit. M.).
St. John Damascene says, that "the serpent never had any
access to this paradise" ("Ad hunc
paradisum serpens adytum non habuit"In Dorm. Deip. or. 2).
St. Peter Damian, that "the flesh of the Virgin, taken from
Adam, did not admit of the stain of Adam"
("Caro Virginis, ex Adam assumpta, maculas Adae non admisit"In Assumpt.).
St. Bruno affirms, "that Mary is that uncorrupted earth which
God blessed, and was therefore free from all contagion of sin"
("Haec est incorrupta terra illa cui
benedixit Dominus, ab omni propterea peccati contagione libera"In Ps.
St. Bonaventure, "that our Sovereign Lady was full of
preventing grace for her sanctification; that is, preservative grace
against the corruption of original sin" ("Domina
nostra fuit plena gratia praeveniente in sua sanctificatione, gratis
scilicet praeservativa contra foeditatem originalis culpae"De B. V.
St. Bernardine of Sienna argues, that "it is not to be
believed that he, the Son of God, would be born of a Virgin, and take her
flesh, were she in the slightest degree stained with original sin"
("Non est credendum, quod ipse Filius Dei
voluerit nasci ex virgine, et sumere ejus carnem, quae esset maculate ex
aliquot peccato originali"Quadr. s. 49, p. 1).
St. Laurence Justinian affirms, "that she was prevented in
blessings from her very conception" ("Ab
ipsa sui conceptione, in benedictionibus est praeventa"In Annunt.).
The Blessed Raymond Jordano, on the words, Thou hast found
grace, says, "thou hast found a singular grace, O most sweet Virgin,
that of preservation from original sin"
("'Invenisti gratiam;' invenisti, O dulcissima Virgo! gratiam coelestem;
quia fuit in te ab originis labe praeservatio"Cont. de V. M. c. 6).
And many other Doctors speak in the same sense.
But, finally, there are two arguments that conclusively prove
the truth of this pious belief.
The first of these is the universal concurrence of the
faithful. Father Egidius, of the Presentation
(De Imm. Conc. l. 3, q. 6, a. 3),
assures us that all the religious Orders follow this opinion; and a modern
author tells us that though there are ninety-two writers of the order of
St. Dominic against it, nevertheless there are a hundred and thirty-six in
favor of it, even in that religious body. But that which above all should
persuade us that our pious belief is in accordance with the general
sentiment of Catholics, is that we are assured of it in the celebrated
bull of Alexander VII, Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, published in
1661, in which he says, "This devotion and homage towards the Mother of
God was again increased and propagated, . . . so that the universities
having adopted this opinion" (that is, the pious one) "already nearly all
Catholics have embraced it" ("Aucta rursus
et propagate fuit pietas haec et cultus erga Deiparam. . . . ita ut,
accedentibus plerisque celebriorbus academiis ad hanc sententiam, jam fere
omnes Catholici eam amplectantur"). And in fact this opinion is
defended in the universities of the Sorbonne, Alcala, Salamanca, Coimbra,
Cologne, Mentz, Naples, and many others, in which all who take their
degrees are obliged to swear that they will defend the doctrine of Mary's
Immaculate Conception. The learned Petavius mainly rests his proofs of
the truth of this doctrine on the argument taken from the general
sentiment of the faithful (De Inc.
l. 14, c. 2). An argument, writes the most learned bishop Julius
Torni, which cannot do otherwise than convince; for, in fact, if nothing
else does, the general consent of the faithful makes us certain of the
sanctification of Mary in her mother's womb, and of her Assumption, in
body and soul, into heaven. Why, then, should not the same general
feeling and belief, on the part of the faithful, also make us certain of
her Immaculate Conception?
The second reason, and which is stronger than the first, that
convinces us that Mary was exempt from original sin, is the celebration of
her Immaculate Conception commanded by the universal Church. And on this
subject I see, on the one hand, that the Church celebrates the first
moment in which her soul was created and infused into her body: for this
was declared by Alexander VII, in the above-named bull, in which he says
that the Church gives the same worship to Mary in her Conception, which is
given to her by those who hold the pious belief that she was conceived
without original sin. On the other hand, I hold it as certain, that the
Church cannot celebrate anything which is not holy, according to the
doctrine of the holy Pope St. Leo (Ep.
Decret. 4, c. 2), and that of the Sovereign Pontiff St.
Eusebius: "In the Apostolic See the Catholic religion was always preserved
spotless" ("In Sede Apostolica, extra
maculam semper et Catholica servata religio"Decr. Causa 24, q. 1,
c. 1, c. In sede). All theologians, with St. Augustine
(S. 310, 314, Ed. B),
St. Bernard (Epist. 174),
and St. Thomas, agree on this point; and the latter, to prove that Mary
was sanctified before her birth, makes use of this very argument: "The
Church celebrates the nativity of the Blessed Virgin; but a feast is
celebrated only for a saint: therefore the Blessed Virgin was sanctified
in her mother's womb" ("Ecclesia celebrat
Nativitatem Beatae Virginis; non autem celebratur festum in Ecclesia, nisi
pro aliquot Sancto: ergo Beata Virgo fuit in utero sanctificara"P. 3, q.
27, a. 1). But if it is certain, as the angelic Doctor says, that
Mary was sanctified in her mother's womb, because it is only on that
supposition that the Church can celebrate her nativity, why are we not to
consider it as equally certain that Mary was preserved from original sin
from the first moment of her conception, knowing as we do that it is in
this sense that the Church herself celebrates the feast?
Finally, in confirmation of this great privilege of Mary, we
may be allowed to add the well-known innumerable and prodigious graces
that our Lord is daily pleased to dispense throughout the kingdom of
Naples, by means of the pictures of her Immaculate Conception*.
(*These effects of the divine mercy have
shone forth in a no less wonderful manner in France and elsewhere,
especially in 1832 and during the following years, by means of the
miraculous medal of which every one has heard. Since the time when St.
Alphonsus wrote this discourse and the dissertations that one may read on
the same subject in his other works (Theol. Mor. L. 7, c. 2Opera
dogm. sess. 5), the devotion to "Mary conceived without sin" continued
to grow throughout the Catholic world, being sustained and favored more
and more by the Holy See, and by the signal marks of her heavenly
protection. Finally, yielding to the multiplied solicitations of the
Bishops, of the clergy, of the religious Orders, of the reigning
sovereigns, and of the laity, Pope Pius IX, during the Pontifical Mass
celebrated in the Basilica of the Vatican, December 8, 1854, in the
presence of the bishops assembled from all parts of the world, solemnly
pronounced the decree by which he defined as an article of faith, that the
Blessed Virgin Mary had been protected and preserved from every stain of
original sin from the first instant of her conception, in accordance with
the text the Bull published the following day: Definimus doctrinam,
qua tenet Bealissimam Virginam Mariam in prima instanti suae conceptionis
fuisse, signulari omnipotentia Dei gratis et privilegia, intuitu meritorum
Christi Jesu, Salvatoris humani generic, ab omni originalis cuple labe
preservatam immunem, esse a Deo revelatam, atque indcirco ab omnibus
fidelibus firmiter constanterque credendam. This glorious event was
hailed at Rome, as well as by the whole world, with extraordinary
demonstrations of joy and gratitude. What pleasure, what delight must it
have given in heaven to our saint, who during his life here below labored
with so much zeal to bring about such a declaration, and who protested
with an oath, as we see in the prayer that concludes this discourse, that
he was ready to shed his blood in so beautiful a cause!ED.) I
could refer to many which passed, so to say, through the hands of Fathers
of our own Congregation; but I will content myself with two which are
A woman came to a house of our little Congregation in this kingdom to let
one of the Fathers know that her husband had not been to confession for
many years, and the poor creature could no longer tell by what means to
bring him to his duty; for if she named confession to him, he beat her.
The Father told her to give him a picture of Mary Immaculate. In the
evening the woman once more begged her husband to go to confession; but he
as usual turned a deaf ear to her entreaties. She gave him the picture.
Behold! he had scarcely received it, when he said, "Well, when will you
take me to confession, for I am willing to go?" The wife, on seeing this
instantaneous change, began to weep for joy. In the morning he really
came to our church, and when the Father asked him how long it was since he
had been to confession, he answered, "Twenty-eight years." The Father
again asked him what had induced him to come that morning. "Father," he
said, "I was obstinate; but last night my wife gave me a picture of our
Blessed Lady, and in the same moment I felt my heart changed, so much so,
that during the whole night every moment seemed a thousand years, so great
was my desire to go to confession." He then confessed his sins with great
contrition, changed his life, and continued for a long time to go
frequently to confession to the same Father.
In another place, in the diocese of Salerno, in which we were
giving a mission, there was a man who bore a great hatred to another who
had offended him. One of our Fathers spoke to him that he might be
reconciled; but he answered: "Father, did you ever see me at the sermon?
No, and for this very reason, I do not go. I know that I am damned; but
nothing else will satisfy me, I must have revenge." The Father did all
that he could to convert him; but seeing that he lost his time, he said,
"Here, take this picture of our Blessed Lady." The man at first replied,
"But what is the use of this picture?" But no sooner had he taken it,
than, as if he had never refused to be reconciled, he said to the
missionary, "Father, is anything else required besides reconciliation?I
am willing." The following morning was fixed for it. When, however, the
time came, he had again changed, and would do nothing. The Father offered
him another picture, but he refused it; but at length, with great
reluctance, took it, when, behold! he scarcely had possession of it than
he immediately said. Now let us be quick; where is Mastrodati?" and he
was instantly reconciled with him, and then went to confession.
Ah, my Immaculate Lady! I rejoice with thee on seeing thee enriched with
so great purity. I thank, and, resolve always to thank, our common
Creator for having preserved thee from every stain of sin; and I firmly
believe this doctrine, and am prepared and swear even to lay down my life,
should this be necessary, in defence of this thy so great and singular
privilege of being conceived immaculate. I would that the whole world
knew thee and acknowledged thee as being that beautiful "Dawn" which was
always illumined with divine light; as that chosen "Ark" of salvation,
free from the common shipwreck of sin; that perfect and immaculate "Dove"
which thy divine Spouse declared thee to be; that "enclosed Garden" which
was the delight of God; that "sealed Founain" whose waters were never
troubled by an enemy; and finally, as that "white Lily," which thou art,
and who, though born in the midst of the thorns of the children of Adam,
all of whom are conceived in sin, and the enemies of God, wast alone
conceived pure and spotless, and in all things the beloved of thy
Creator. Permit me, then, to praise thee also as thy God himself has
praised thee: Thou art all fair, and there is not a spot in thee
("Tota pulchra es, Amica mea, et macula
non est in te"Cant. iv. 7). O most pure Dove, all fair,
all beautiful, always the friend of God. O how beautiful art thou, my
beloved! How beautiful art thou! ("Quam
pulchra es, amica mea, quam pulchra es!"Ib. 1). Ah, most
sweet, most amiable, immaculate Mary, thou who art so beautiful in the
eyes of thy Lord,ah, disdain not to cast thy compassionate eyes on the
wounds of my soul, loathsome as they are. Behold me, pity me, heal me. O
beautiful loadstone of hearts, draw also my miserable heart to thyself. O
thou, who from the first moment of thy life didst appear pure and
beautiful before God, pity me, who not only was born in sin, but have
again since baptism stained my soul with crimes. What grace will God ever
refuse thee, who chose thee for his daughter, his Mother, and Spouse, and
therefore preserved thee from every stain, and in his love preferred thee
to all other creatures? I will say, in the words of St. Philip Neri,
"Immaculate Virgin, thou hast to save me." Grant that I may always
remember thee; and thou, do thou never forget me. The happy day, when I
shall go to behold thy beauty in Paradise, seems a thousand years off; so
much do I long to praise and love thee more than I can now do, my Mother,
my Queen, my beloved, most beautiful, most sweet, most pure, Immaculate