The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
O CLEMENS! O PIA! Oh clement! Oh merciful
HOW GREAT IS THE CLEMENCY AND MERCY OF MARY
ST. BERNARD, speaking of the great mercy of Mary for us poor sinners, says that she is the very Land promised by God, flowing with milk and honey. St. Leo says, that to the Virgin has been given such bowels of compassion, that she not only merits to be called merciful, but should be called mercy itself. And St. Bonaventure, considering that Mary was made the mother of God for the sake of us sinners, and that to her was committed the charge of dispensing mercies; and considering, moreover, the great care she has for all those in misery, which renders her so rich in compassion, that she appears to desire nothing else than to relieve the necessitous, says, that when he looked on Mary, it seemed to him that he no longer beheld the divine justice, but only the divine mercy with which Mary is filled.
In a word, the mercy of Mary is so great, that as Guerric the Abbot says: Her bowels of love can never for a moment cease to bring forth for us the fruits of mercy. And what, exclaims St. Bernard, can flow but mercy from a fountain of mercy? "Quid de fonte pietatis nisi pietas?" For this reason Mary was called the olive-tree: As a fair olive-tree in the plains: "Quasi oliva speciosa in campis." For, as the olive-tree produces nothing but oil, the symbol of mercy, thus from the hands of Mary nothing but graces and mercies proceed. Hence, justly, says the venerable Louis da Ponte, is Mary called the mother of oil, since she is the mother of mercy. If, then, we have recourse to this mother, and ask of her the oil of her mercy, we cannot fear that she will refuse us, as the wise virgins refused the foolish, answering: "Lest there be not enough for us and for you." No, for she is, indeed, rich in that oil of mercy, as St. Bonaventure remarks: Mary abounds in the oil of mercy: "Maria plena oleo pietatis." She is called by the Church not only prudent, but most prudent, and by this we may understand, as Hugo of St. Victor says, that Mary is so full of grace and mercy that there is enough for all without exhausting her.
But why, I would ask, is it said that this fair olive is in the midst of the plains, and not rather in a garden surrounded by walls and hedges? Cardinal Hugo answers to this question: In order that all may easily see her, and thus may easily have recourse to her, to obtain relief for their necessities. St. Antoninus confirms this beautiful thought, when he says: That as all can go and gather the fruit of an olive-tree that is exposed in the open fields, so all, both the just and sinners, can have recourse to Mary to obtain mercy. And then the saint adds: Oh how many sentences of punishment have been revoked through the merciful prayers of this most holy Virgin, in favor of sinners who have had recourse to her! And what more secure refuge can we find, says the devout Thomas À Kempis, than the compassionate heart of Mary? There the poor find shelter; the sick medicine; the afflicted consolation; the doubtful counsel; the abandoned help.
Wretched should we be, if we had not this mother of mercy, mindful and solicitous to help us in our miseries! "Where there is no wife," says the Holy Spirit, "he mourneth that is in want." This wife, remarks St. John Damascene, is certainly Mary, without whom the sick man suffers and mourns. So, indeed, it is, since God has ordained that all graces should be dispensed by the prayers of Mary: where these are wanting, there is no hope of mercy, as our Lord signified to St. Bridget, saying to her: "Unless Mary interposes by her prayers, there is no hope of mercy."
But perhaps we fear that Mary does not see or pity our miseries. Oh, no! she sees them and feels them more than we do ourselves. And who among the saints can be found, says St. Antoninus, who pities us in our miseries as Mary does? Hence, wherever she sees misery she cannot refrain from hastening to relieve it with her great compassion. Thus Richard of St. Victor remarks, and Mendoza confirms it by saying: Therefore, oh blessed Virgin, wherever thou seest misery, there thou dost pour forth thy mercies. And our good mother, as she herself declares, will never cease to exercise this office of mercy: And unto the world to come I shall not cease to be; and in the holy dwelling-place, I have ministered before him. Upon which words Cardinal Hugo remarks: I will not cease, says Mary, even to the end of the world, to succor men in their miseries, and to pray for sinners, that they may be saved and rescued from eternal misery.
Suetonius relates of the Emperor Titus, that he was so desirous to grant favors to those who asked them of him, that on those days when he had no opportunity of doing so, he would say, sorrowfully, I have lost a day: "Diem perdidi." This day has been lost to me, because I have passed it without benefiting any one. Probably Titus said this more through vanity, or a desire for esteem, than through a movement of charity. But our Empress Mary, if a day should ever pass in which she did not confer some favor, would say it only because she is full of charity, and of a desire to do us good; for as Bernardino de Bustis says, she is more desirous to confer favors on us, than we are to receive them from her. And this same author adds, that when we have recourse to her, we shall always find her with her hands full of mercy and liberality
Rebecca was the type of Mary, who when the servant of Abraham asked her for a little water, answered that she would give him water enough not only for himself, but for his camels also. Hence the devout St. Bernard addressing the blessed Virgin, says: Oh Lady, not to the servant of Abraham only, but also to his camels give from thy overflowing pitcher. By which he intends to say: Oh Lady, thou art merciful and more liberal than Rebecca, therefore thou dost not rest contented witli dispensing the favors of thy unbounded compassion to the servants of Abraham alone by whom are meant the faithful servants of God, but thou dost bestow them also on the camels, who rep resent sinners. And, as Rebecca gave more than she was asked, so Mary bestows more than we pray for. The liberality of Mary, says Richard of St. Laurence, resembles the liberality of her Son, who always gives more than is asked, and is therefore named by St. Paul: "Rich to all that call upon him;" that is, giving abundantly his graces to all those that have recourse to him with their prayers. Hear the words of Richard: The bounty of Mary is like the bounty of her Son; she gives more than is asked. f Hence a devout author, addressing the Virgin, says: Oh Lady, pray for me, for thou wilt ask favors for me with greater devotion than I can do; and thou wilt obtain from God graces greater by far than I can pray for.
When the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus Christ and his doctrine, St. James and St. John said to their Master: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But the Saviour answered: "You know not of what spirit you are." As if he had said: I am of so mild and merciful a spirit, that I have come from heaven to save, not to punish sinners, and would you wish to iee them lost? What fire? What punishment? Be silent, speak to me no more of punishment, that is not my spirit. But we cannot doubt that Mary, whose spirit is in every thing so like that of her Son, is wholly inclined to exercise mercy; for, as she told St. Bridget, she is called the mother of mercy, and the mercy of God itself has made her so compassionate and sweet towards all. Wherefore Mary was seen by St. John clothed with the sun: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun." Upon which passage St. Bernard remarks, addressing the Virgin: Thou hast clothed the sun, and art thyself clothed with it. Oh Lady, thou hast clothed the sun, the divine Word, with hu man flesh, but he hath clothed thee with his power and his mercy.
So compassionate, then, and kind is this queen, says St. Bernard, that when a sinner recommends himself to her mercy, she does not begin to examine his merits, and whether he is worthy or not of being heard, but she graciously hears all and succors them. Hence St. Idelbert remarks, that Mary is called fair as the moon: "Pulchra ut Luna:" because, as the moon illuminates and benefits the smallest bodies upon the earth, so Mary enlightens and helps the most unworthy sinners. And although the moon receives all her light from the sun, she moves more quickly than the sun; for, as a certain author remarks, what the sun does in a year, the moon does in a month. Hence, says St. Anselm: Our relief is sometimes more immediate when the name of Mary is invoked than when we invoke the name of Jesus. Wherefore Hugo of St. Victor tells us, that if by reason of our sins we fear to draw near to God, because he is an infinite majesty that we have offended, we should not hesitate to have recourse to Mary, be cause in her we shall find nothing to alarm us. She is indeed holy, immaculate, queen of the world, and mother of God; but she is of our flesh, and a child of Adam, like ourselves.
In a word, says St. Bernard, whatever appertains to Mary is full of grace and mercy; for she, as mother of mercy, has become all things to all, and by her great charity has made herself a debtor to the just and to sinners, and open to all the bowels of her compassion, that all may share it. As the devil according to St. Peter, on the contrary, says Bernardino de Bustia, Mary goeth about seeking to whom she can give life and salvation.
We should understand that the protection of Mary, as St. Germanus says, is greater and more powerful than we can comprehend. And how is it that the same Lord, who was under the old law so severe in punishing, exercises so great mercy towards the greatest sinners? Thus asks the author del Pomerio; and he also answers: He does all this for the love and merits of Mary. Oh, how long since would the world have been destroyed, says St. Fulgeiitius, if Mary had not preserved it by her intercession! But we may with confidence go to God, as St. Arnold Carnotensis asserts, and hope for every blessing, now that the Son is our mediator with the divine Father, and the mother with the Son. How can it be that the Father will refuse to hear graciously the Son, when he shows him the wounds he has received for sinners? And how can it be that the Son will not graciously hear the mother, when she shows him the breasts from which she has nourished us? St. Peter Chrysologus says with, great energy, that this favored Virgin, having received God in her womb, demands in return, peace for the world, salvation for the lost, life for the dead.
Oh how many, exclaims the Abbot of Celles, who merits to be condemned by the divine justice, are saved by the mercy of Mary! for she is the treasure of God and the treasure of all graces; therefore it is that our salvation is in her hands. Let us always then have recourse to this mother of mercy, and confidently hope to be saved by means of her intercession; since she, as Bernardine de Bustis encourages us to believe, is our salvation, our life, our hope, our counsel, our refuge, our help. Mary is that very throne of grace, says St. Antoninus, to which the apostle exhorts us to have recourse with confidence, that we may obtain the divine mercy, with all needed help for our salvation. To the throne of grace, that is, to Mary, as St. Antoninus remarks. Hence, Mary was called by St. Catherine of Sienna; The dispenser of di- vine mercy: Administratrix misericordiae.
Let us conclude, then, with the beautiful and sweet exclamation of St. Bernard upon the words: Oh clement, oh merciful, oh sweet Virgin Mary! "Oh clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria." Oh Mary, thou art clement to the unhappy, merciful to those who pray thee, sweet to those who love thee: clement to the penitent, merciful to the advancing, sweet to the perfect. Thou showest thyself clement by rescuing us from punishment, merciful by bestowing on us graces, sweet by giving thyself to those who seek thee.
Father Charles Bovius relates that in Doinana, in France, lived a married man who had held a criminal connection with another woman. Now the wife being unable to endure this, continually besought God to punish the guilty parties; and one day in particular went to an altar of the blessed Virgin, which was in a certain church to implore vengeance upon the woman who had alienated her husband from her; and this very woman went also every day to the same altar, to repeat a "Hail Mary." One night the divine mother appeared in a dream to the wife, who, on seeing her, began her accustomed petition: "Justice, mother of God, justice." But the blessed Lady answered: "Justice! do you seek justice from me? Go and find others, to execute justice for you. It belongs not to me to do it for you. Be it known to you," she added, "that this very sinner offers every day a devotion in my honor, and that I cannot allow any sinner who does this, to suffer and be punished for his sins." The next day the wife went to hear mass in the above-named church of our Lady, and on coming out met her husband's friend; at the sight of her she began to reproach her and call her a sorceress, who had even enchanted with her sorceries the blessed Virgin. "Be silent," cried the people: "what are you saying?" "I be silent!" she answered: "what I say is only too true; this night the Virgin appeared to me; and when I implored justice of her, she answered me, that she could not grant it on account of a salutation which this wicked woman repeats daily in her honor." They asked the woman what salutation she repeated to the mother of God, She answered that it was the "Hail Mary;" and then on hearing that the blessed Virgin had dealt with her so mercifully in return for that trivial act of devotion, she cast herself on the ground before the sacred image, and there, in the presence of all the people, asked pardon for her scandalous life, and made a vow of perpetual continence. She after wards put on a religious habit, built for herself a little cell near the church, where she retired, and persevered in continual penance until the day of her death.
Oh mother of mercy! since thou art so compassionate, and hast so great a desire to do good to us sinners, and to satisfy our demands, I, the most wretched of all men, to-day have recourse to thy mercy, that thou mayest grant my requests. Let others ask what they will, health of body, wealth, or temporal advantages; I come to ask of thee, oh Lady, those things which thou thyself dost most desire of me, and which are most comforinable and most pleasing to thy sacred heart. Thou who wast so humble, obtain for me humility and love of contempt. Thou who wast so patient in the difficulties of this life, obtain for me patience in things contrary to my wishes. Thou who didst overflow with love to God, obtain forme the gift of a holy and pure love. Thou who wast all charity towards the neighbor, obtain for me charity towards all men, and es pecially towards those who are my enemies. Thou who wast wholly united to the divine will, obtain for me a perfect uniformity with the will of that God in all his dispositions concerning me. Thou, in a word, art the most holy of all creatures; oh Mary, obtain for me the grace to become a saint. Thy love is unfailing;thou canst and wilt obtain all things for me. Nothing, then, can hinder me from receiving thy graces but my neglect to invoke thee, or my want of confidence in thy intercession. But thou thyself must obtain for me the grace to seek thee, and this grace of confidence in thy intercession. These two greatest gifts I ask from thee from thee will I receive them from thee do I confidently hope for them. Oh Mary! Mary, my mother, my hope, my love, my life, my refuge, and my consolation. Amen.