MY dear reader and brother in Mary, since the devotion which has urged me to write, and now moves you to read this book, renders us both happy children of this good mother, if you ever should hear any one say that I could have spared this labor, there being so many learned and celebrated books that treat of this subject, answer him, I pray you, in the words of Francone the abbot, which we find in the Library of the Fathers, that the praise of Mary is a fountain so full that the more it extends, the fuller it becomes, and the fuller it becomes the more it extends;* which signifies, that the blessed Virgin is so great and sublime, that the more we praise her, the more there is to praise. So that St. Augustine says: All the tongues of men, even if all their members were changed to tongues, would not be sufficient to praise her as she deserves. †
I know that there are innumerable books, both great and small, which treat of the glories of Mary; but as these are rare or voluminous, and not according to my plan, I have endeavor ed to collect in a small space, from all the authors at my command, the most select and pithy sentences of the Fathers and theologians, in order to give devout persons an opportunity, with little effort or expense, to inflame their ardor by reading of the love of Mary, and especially, to present materials to priests which may enable them to excite by their sermons devotion to the divine mother.
Worldly lovers are accustomed to mention frequently and to praise the persons beloved, that these may be praised and applauded also by others; then how poor must we suppose the love of those to be who boast of being lovers of Mary, but who seldom remember to speak of her, and inspire the love of her also in others! Not so the true lovers of our most lovely Lady: they would praise her everywhere, and see her loved by all the world; and therefore in public and in private, wherever it is in their power, they endeavor to kindle in the hearts of all, those bless ed flames of love with which theirs are burning for their beloved queen.
But that every one may be persuaded of how great benefit it is to himself and the people to promote devotion to Mary, let us hear what the Fathers say of it. St. Bonaventure declares that those who are devoted to publishing the glories of Mary, are secure of paradise ; and Richard of St. Laurence confirms this by saying, that to honor the queen of angels is to acquire life ever lasting; since our most grateful Lady, adds the same author, pledges herself to honor in the other life him who promises to honor her in this; f and is there any one ignorant of the promise made by Mary herself to those who engage in promoting the knowledge and love of her upon the earth? “They that explain me shall have life everlasting,” J as the holy Church ap plies it on the festival of her Immaculate Conception. Exult, exult! oh my soul ! said St. Bonaventure, who was so assiduous in proclaiming the praises of Mary, and rejoice in her, because many good things are prepared for those who praise her; and since all the Holy Scriptures, he added, speak in praise of Mary, let us endeavor always with heart and tongue to celebrate this our divine mother, that we may be conducted by her to the kingdom of the blessed.
We are told in the revelations of St. Bridget, that the blessed Emingo, Bishop, being accus tomed to begin his sermons with the praises of Mary, the Virgin herself appeared one day to the saint, and said to her: “Tell that prelate who is accustomed to commence his discourses with my praises, that I will be his mother, and that I will present his soul to God, and that he shall die a good death;”* and he indeed died like a saint, in prayer and in celestial peace. Mary appeared before his death to another religious, a Dominican, who was accustomed to terminate his sermons by speaking of her. She defended him from the assaults of the demons, comforted him, and bore away with her his happy soul, The devout Thomas a Kempis represents Mary as commending to her Son those who publish her praise, and saying, “Oh, my Son, have compas sion on the souls of thy lovers, and of those who speak in my praise.
As far as the advantage of the people is con cerned, St. Anselm says, that the sacred womb of Mary having been made the way of salvation for sinners, sinners cannot but be converted and saved by discourses in praise of Mary. If the assertion is true and incontrovertible, as I believe it to be, and as I shall prove, in the fifth chapter of this book, that all graces are dispensed by the hand of Mary alone, and that all those who are saved, are saved solely by means of this divine mother; it may be said, as a necessary consequence, that the salvation of all depends upon preaching Mary, and confidence in her in tercession. We know that St. Bernard of Sienna sanctified Italy; St. Dominic converted many provinces; St. Louis Bertrand, in all his sermons, never failed to exhort his hearers to practise devotion towards Mary; and many others also have done the same.
I find that Father Paul Segneri, the younger, a celebrated missionary, in every mission preach ed a sermon on devotion to Mary, and this he called his favorite sermon. And we can attest, in all truth, that in our missions, where we have an invariable rule not to omit the sermon on our Lady, no discourse is so profitable to the people, or excites more compunction among them, than that on the mercy of Mary. I say on the mercy of Mary: for St. Bernard says, we may praise her humility, and marvel at her virginity; but being poor sinners, we are more pleased and at tracted by hearing of her mercy; for to this we more affectionately cling, this we more often remember and invoke. Therefore in this little book, leaving to other authors the description of the other merits of Mary, I have confined my self especially to treating of her great compassion and her powerful intercession; having collected, as far as possible, with the labor of years, all that the holy Fathers and the most celebrated authors have said of the mercy and power of Mary; and because these attributes of the blessed Virgin are wonderfully set forth in the great prayer of the Salve Regina, approved by the Church and required by her to be recited the greater part of the year by all the clergy, secular and regular, I have undertaken, in the first place, to explain in separate discourses this most devout prayer. Besides this, I believed it would be acceptable to the servants of Mary, if I added discourses on her principal festivals and upon the virtues of our divine mother, placing at the conclusion of them the practices of devotion most in use among her servants, and approved by the Church.
Devout reader, if this little work of mine pleases you, as I hope it will, I pray you to commend me to the Holy Virgin, that I may obtain great confidence in her protection. Ask for me this grace, and I will ask the same for you, who ever you may be, who bestow on me this charity. Oh, blessed is he who clings with love and confidence to those two anchors of salvation, Jesus and Mary ! He certainly will not be lost. Let us both say, oh my reader, with the devout Alphonso Rodriguez: Jesus and Mary, my sweet loves, for you I will suffer, for you I will die; may I be wholly yours, may I be in nothing my own. May we love Jesus and Mary, and become saints, since we can aspire and hope for no greater happiness than this. Farewell, till we meet in heaven at the feet of this sweet mothef and her dearly beloved Son, to praise them, to thank them, and love them, in their immediate presence through all eternity. Amen.