The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
AD TE CLAMAMTJS EXULES FILII HEVAE. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
HOW READY MARY IS TO SUCCOR THOSE WHO CALL UPON HER.
WE poor children of the unhappy Eve, guilty before God of her sin, and condemned to the same punishment, go wandering through this valley of tears, exiles from our country, weeping and afflicted by innumerable pains of body and soul! But blessed is he who in the midst of so many miseries turns to the consoler of the world, to the refuge of the unhappy, to the great mother of God, and devoutly invokes her and supplicates her! "Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates." Blessed, says Mary, is he who listens to my counsels, and incessantly watches at the door of my mercy, invoking my help and intercession! The holy Church instructs us her children with how great attention and confidence we should have continually recourse to this our loving protectress; ordaining special devotions to her, that during the year many festivals should be celebrated in her honor; that one day of the week should be especially consecrated to her; that every day, in the divine office, all ecclesiastics and members of religious orders should invoke her in behalf of the whole Christian people, and that three times a day all the faithful, at the sound of the bell, should salute her. This will suffice to show how, in all seasons of public calamity, the holy Church always directs her children to have recourse to the divine mother with novenas, prayers, processions, visits to her churches and altars. This, Mary herself wishes us to do, namely, always to invoke and supplicate her, not to ask our homage and praise, which are too poor in comparison with her merit, but that our confidence and devotion to her thus increasing, she may aid and console us more. She seeks such as approach her devoutly and reverently, says St. Bonaventure; these she cherishes, loves, and adopts as her children.
The same St. Bonaventure says, that Mary was prefigured by Ruth, whose name, being interpreted, signifies seeing, hastening for Mary, seeing our miseries, hastens to aid us by her compassion. To which Novarino adds, that Mary is so desirous to do us good, that she can bear no delay; and not being a miserly keeper of her favors, but the mother of mercy, she cannot restrain herself from dispensing, as soon as possible among her servants, the treasures of her liberality.
Oh, how ready is this good mother to aid him who invokes her! "Thy two breasts are like two young roes." Richard of St. Laurence, explaining this passage, says that the breasts of Mary readily, like the roes, give the milk of mercy to those who ask it. The same author assures us that the mercy of Mary is bestowed on all who ask it, though they offer no prayer but a "Hail Mary." Hence, Novarino affirms, that the blessed Virgin not only hastens, but flies to aid those who have recourse to her. She, says this author, in exercising mercy, can not but resemble God; for, as the Lord hastens to succor those who ask help from him, being very faithful to observe the promise which he has made to us Ask, and you shall receive so Mary, when she is invoked, immediately hastens to help those who call upon her. And by this is explained who was the woman of the Apocalypse, with two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert. Ribeira explains these two wings to signify the love with which Mary always hastens to God. But the blessed Amadeus says, remarking on this passage, that the wings of an eagle signify the velocity with which Mary, surpassing in swiftness the seraphs, always comes to the help of her children.
We read in the Gospel of St. Luke, that when Mary went to visit St. Elizabeth, and be stow blessings on all her family, she was not slow, but travelled that whole journey with haste. But we do not read that it was so on her return. For the same reason, it is said in the sacred Canticles, that the hands of Mary are turned. For, as Richard of St. Laurence explains it, The art of turning is easier and quicker than other arts, so Mary is more ready than any other of the saints to aid her supplicants. She has the greatest desire to console all, and she scarcely hears herself invoked before she graciously receives the petition and comes to our aid. Justly, then, St. Bonaventure calls Mary, The salvation of those who invoke her; "O salus te invocantium!" signifying, that to be saved it is sufficient to appeal to this divine mother, who, according to Richard of St. Laurence, is always ready to aid those who pray to her. For, as St. Bernardine de Bustis says; This great Lady is more desirous to confer favors upon us than we are to receive them.
Neither should the multitude of our sins diminish our confidence that we shall be graciously heard by Mary, if we cast ourselves at her feet. She is the mother of mercy, and there would be no occasion for mercy, if there were no wretchedness to be relieved Therefore, as a good mother does not hesitate to apply a remedy to her child, however loathsome its disease, although the cure may be troublesome and disgusting; thus our good mother does not abandon us, when we recur to her however great may be the filth of our sins, which she comes to cure. This sentiment is taken from Richard of St. Laurence. And Mary intended to signify the same when she appeared to St. Gertrude, spreading her mantle to receive all who had recourse to her: at the same time it was given the saint to understand, that the angels are waiting to defend the devout suppliants of Mary from the assaults of hell
So great is the love and pity which this good mother has for us, that she does not wait for our prayers before giving us her aid. "She preventeth them that covet her, so that she first showeth herself unto them." These words of wisdom St. Anselm applies to Mary, and says that she anticipates those who desire her protection. By this we are to understand, that she obtains many graces from God for us before we ask them from her. Therefore Richard of St. Victor says: Mary is called the moon: Pulchra ut luna not only because she hastens as the moon to shine on those who seek her light, but because she so earnestly desires our welfare that in our necessities she anticipates our prayers, and in her compassion she is more prompt to help us than we are to have recourse to her. For, adds the same Richard, the breast of Mary is so full of pity that she scarcely knows our miseries before she offers us the milk of her mercy, neither can this gracious queen perceive the necessities of any soul without relieving it.
And truly, Mary manifested to us while she was on earth, in the nuptials of Cana, her great compassion for our sufferings, which prompts her to relieve them before we pray to her. This kind mother saw the trouble of that pair who were mortified to find that their wine had failed at the wedding banquet; and without being requested, moved only by her compassionate heart, which cannot look upon the afflictions of others without pity, prayed her Son, to console them by merely mentioning to him the necessities of the family: They have no wine: "Vinum non habent." After which, her Son, to comfort that family, and still more to satisfy the compassionate heart of his mother, performed, as she desired, the well-known miracle of changing the water contained in vases into wine. Kovarino here remarks, that if Mary, though un asked, is so ready to aid us in our necessities, how muclh more so will she be when we invoke her and implore her aid!
If any one doubts that he shall be assisted by Mary when he has recourse to her, let him listen to the words of Innocent III.: Who has ever invoked this sweet Lady, and has not been heard by her? Who, oh holy Virgin, exclaims the blessed Eutychian, has ever sought thy powerful protection, which can relieve the most miserable and rescue the most degraded, and has been abandoned by thee? No, this has never happened, and never will happen. Let him be silent concerning thy mercy, oh blessed Virgin, whose necessities have been neglected by thee after he has implored thy aid.
Sooner will heaven and earth be destroyed, says the devout Blosius, than Mary fail to aid those who, with a pure intention, recommend themselves to her and put their confidence in her. And to increase our confidence, St. Anselm adds, that when we have recourse to this divine mother, we may not only be sure of her protection, but that sometimes we shall be sooner heard and saved by invoking her holy name than that of Jesus our Saviour. And he gives this reason: Because it belongs to Christ, as our judge, to punish, but to Mary, as our advocate, to pity. By this he would give us to under stand, that we sooner find salvation by recurring to the mother than the Son; not because Mary is more powerful than her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus is our only Saviour, and that by his merits alone he has obtained and does obtain for us salvation; but because when we have recourse to Jesus, considering him also as the judge to whom it belongs to punish the ungrateful, we may lose the confidence necessary to be heard; but going to Mary, who holds no other office than that of exercising compassion towards us as mother of mercy, and defending us as our advocate our confidence will be more secure and greater. We ask many things of God and do not obtain them; we ask them from Mary and obtain them; how is this? Nicephorus answers: This does not happen because Mary is more powerful than God, but because God has seen fit thus to honor his mother.
How consoling is the promise that our Lord himself made on this subject to St. Bridget. We read in her revelations, that one day this saint heard Jesus speaking with his mother, and that he said to her: "Mother, ask of me what ever thou wilt, for I will refuse nothing that thou dost ask and be assured," he added, "that all those who for love of thee seek any favor, although they are sinners, if they desire to amend. I promise to hear them." The same thing was revealed to St. Gertrude, who heard our Redeemer himself say to Mary, that he had in his omnipotence permitted her to exercise mercy towards sinners who invoke her, in what ever manner it should please her.
Every one invoking this mother of mercy may then say, with St. Augustine: "Remember, oh most compassionate Lady! that since the beginning of the world there never has been any one abandoned by thee. Therefore pardon me if I say that I do not wish to be the first sinner who has sought thy aid in vain."
St. Francis of Sales, as we read in his life, efficaciously experienced the power of this prayer. At seventeen years of age he was living in Paris, engaged in study, and at the same time wholly devoted to pious exercises and holy love of God, which gave him a perpetual foretaste of heavenly joy. At this time the Lord, to try his faith, and attach him more strongly to his love, permitted the devil to represent to him that his efforts were in vain, because he was already condemned by the divine decree. The darkness and dryness in which it pleased God to leave him at the time for he was insensible to all consoling thoughts of the divine goodness, caused this temptation to have more power over the heart of the holy youth; so that through great fear and desolation he lost his appetite, sleep, color, and cheerfulness, and excited the compassion of all those who looked upon him.
Whilst this horrible conflict lasted, the saint could conceive no other thoughts and utter no other words but those of sorrow and distrust. "Shall I, then," he said, as it is related in his life, "be deprived of the favor of my God, who hitherto has shown himself so gracious and so kind to me? Oh love! oh beauty! to which I have consecrated all my affections, shall I never more enjoy your consolations? Oh Virgin mother of God, the most beautiful of all the daughters of Jerusalem, am I then never to see thee in paradise? Ah, my Lady! if I am never to see thy lovely face, do not permit me to be forced to blaspheme and curse thee in hell." These were the tender sentiments of that afflicted heart, still so enamored of God and the Virgin. This temptation lasted for a month, but at length the Lord was pleased to deliver him from it by means of the consolor of the world, most holy Mary, to whom the saint had before made a vow of chastity, and upon whom he used to say he had placed all his hopes. One evening, on returning home, he entered a church, where he saw a small tablet suspended from the wall; he found written on it the prayer of St. Augus tine above mentioned: "Remember, oh most merciful Mary! that no one, in any age, was ever known to have fled to thee for help and found himself abandoned." He prostrated himself be fore the altar of the divine mother, and recited with deep feeling this prayer; he renewed his vow of chastity, promised to recite daily the rosary, and then added: "Oh my queen, be my advocate with thy Son, whom I dare not ap proach. My mother, if in the other world I should be so unhappy as not to be able to love my Lord, whom I know is so worthy to be lov ed, at least obtain for me that I may love him as much as I can in this world. This is the grace that I ask of thee, and from thee I hope for it." Thus he supplicated the Virgin, and then abandoned himself to the divine mercy, resigning himself entirely to the will of God. But hardly had he finished his prayer, when by his most sweet mother he was suddenly freed from temptation; he immediately recovered his interior peace, and with it health of body, and from that time continued to live a most devout servant of Mary, whose praises and mercies he never ceased to proclaim in his preaching and his writings to the end of his life.
Oh mother of God! oh queen of angels! oh hope of men! listen to him who invokes thee and has recourse to thee. Behold me to-day prostrate at thy feet; I, a miserable slave of hell, consecrate myself to thee as thy servant forever, offering myself to serve and honor thee to the utmost of my power all the days of my life. I know that thy honor is not increased by the service of so vile and wretched a slave as I arn who have so grievously offended thy Son and my Redeemer Jesus. But if thou wilt accept one so unworthy as I for thy servant, and changing him by thy intercession, wilt render him worthy, thy own compassion will confer upon thee that honor which I, vile as I am, cannot render thee. Accept me, then, and do not reject me, oh my mother! The eternal Word came from heaven upon earth to seek the lost sheep, and to save them, became thy Son. And wilt thou despise a poor sheep, who comes to thee to help him find Jesus? The price has already been paid for my salvation; my Saviour has shed his blood, which is enough to save infinite worlds. It only remains this blood should be applied to me; and to thee it belongs, oh Blessed Virgin! to thee it belongs, as St. Bernard says, to bestow the merits of this blood on whomsoever it may please thee. To thee it belongs, as St. Bonaventure also says, to save whom thou wilt. Oh my queen, help me, then! my queen, save me! To you this day I commit my soul; and do thou secure its safety. Oh, salvation of those who invoke thee I will exclaim with the same saint, save me.