The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
MARY IS A MERCIFUL ADVOCATE, WHO DOES NOT REFUSE TO DEFEND THE CAUSE OF THE MOST MISERABLE SINNERS.
THERE are so many reasons why we should love this our loving queen, that if all the earth should praise Mary, and all sermons treat of her alone, and all men should give their lives for Mary, it would yet be little compared to the homage and gratitude we owe her, for the very tender love she bears to all men, even to the most miserable sinners who preserve towards her any feeling of devotion. Raymond Jordan declares that Mary cannot but love those who love her. Nay she does not disdain even to serve those who serve her, using, if they are sinners, all the power of her intercession to obtain pardon for them from her blessed Son. And so great, he goes on to say, is her kindness and compassion, that no one, however degraded he may be, should fear to cast himself at her feet, since she rejects no one who has recourse to her. Mary, as our most loving advocate, offers herself to God the prayers of her servants, especially those which are offered to her; for as the Son intercedes for us with the Father, thus she intercedes for us with the Son, and never ceases to intercede with both for our salvation, and to obtain for us the favors that we ask. Rightly, then, does the blessed Denis, the Carthusian, call the holy Virgin the peculiar refuge of the lost, the hope of the wretched and the advocate of all sinners who have recourse to her.
But if there ever be any sinner who, indeed does not doubt the power, but has no trust in the mercy of Mary, fearing that she may not be willing to aid him on account of the magnitude of his offences, St. Bonaventure encourages him by saying; Great and peculiar is the privilege which Mary has with her Son, of obtaining by her prayers whatever she desires; but what would this great power of Mary avail us, he adds, if she should be indifferent to our welfare? No, let us not doubt, concludes the saint, let us be secure, and always thank the Lord and his divine mother for it; for, as she is the most powerful of all saints with God, so she is the most loving advocate, and the most desirous of our welfare. And who, oh mother of sinners! joyfully exclaims St. Germanus, who, after thy Jesus, has so much care of us, and of our welfare, as thou? Who doth defend us in the trials that afflict us, as thou dost defend us? Who take upon himself to protect sinners, as if combating in their behalf, as thou dost? Wherefore, he adds, thy patronage, oh Mary! is more powerful and loving than we are able to comprehend. Whilst, as the Idiot says, all the other saints can aid their own servants by their patronage more than others; the divine mother, as she is the queen of all, so is she the advocate of all, and cares for the salvation of all.
She cares for all, even for sinners, and glories especially in being called their advocate; as she herself declared to the venerable sister Mary Villani, saying: "Next to the title of mother of God, I glory most in being named the advocate of sinners." The blessed Amadeus says, that our queen is always before the divine Majesty, interceding for us with her powerful prayers. And since in heaven she knows perfectly our miseries and necessities, she cannot but have pity on us; so, with the affection of a mother, moved by com passion for us, she kindly and mercifully endeavors to relieve and save us. It is with good rea son, then, that Richard of St. Laurence encourages every one, however degraded he may be, to appeal confidently to this sweet advocate, in the certain belief that he will always find her ready to help him. It is also well said by Godfrey, that Mary is every ready to pray for all.
And oh, with how much efficacy and love, St. Bernard exclaims, this good advocate of ours conducts the cause of our salvation! St. Augustine, contemplating the affection and earnestness with which Mary is continually occupied in interceding with the divine Majesty for us, that the Lord may pardon our sins, assist us with his grace, free us from dangers, and relieve us from our miseries, thus addresses the holy Virgin: Oh Lady! it is true that all the saints desire our salvation and pray for us; but the charity and tenderness which thou dost manifest for us in heaven, by obtaining with thy prayers so many mercies from God, obliges us to confess, that we have in heaven only one advocate, that is thyself, and that thou alone art the only true lover watchful of our welfare. And who can comprehend the solicitude with which Mary is always waiting on God in our behalf? St. Germanus says: She is never satisfied with defending us: "Non est satietas defensionis ejus." The expression is beautiful. So great is the pity which Mary has for our miseries, and so great is the love she bears us, that she prays always, and prays again and is never satisfied with praying for us, and defending us from evil with her prayers, and obtaining for us favors she is never satisfied with defending us.
What poor sinners we should be if we had not this advocate, so powerful and so merciful, and at the same time so prudent and so wise, that the judge, her Son, cannot condemn the guilty, if she defends them, as Richard of St. Laurence says. Well then, does St. John (the geometrician) salute her: Hail, authority which puts an end to strife. For all the causes defended by this most wise advocate are gained. Hence Mary is called by St. Bonaventure, the wise Abigail "Abigail sapiens." This was the woman who, as we read in the first of Kings, knew so well how to appease King David, by her persuasive entreaties, when he was full of indignation against Nabal, that he himself blessed and thanked her for having with her sweet words, prevented him from revenging himself upon Nabal with his own hands. Precisely the same thing does Mary continually in heaven, in behalf of innumerable sinners: she knows so well how to appease the divine justice with her tender and wise entreaties, that God himself blesses her for it, and as it were thanks her, that thus he restrains him from abandoning and punishing them as they deserve. For this end, says St. Bernard, the eternal Father, desirous to show all possible compassion towards us, besides Jesus Christ, our principal advocate with himself, has given us Mary for our advocate with Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt, says St. Bernard, that Jesus is the only mediator of justice between men and God, who in virtue of his merits can, and according to his promises will, obtain for us pardon and divine grace; but because men recognize and fear in Jesus Christ the divine majesty, which dwells in him as God, it was necessary that another advocate should be assigned to us, to whom we could have recourse with less fear and more confidence; and this is Mary, than whom we can find no advocate more powerful with the divine majesty and more compassionate towards us. But he would greatly wrong the mercy of Mary, continues the saint, who should still fear to cast himself at the feet of this most sweet advocate, who is in nothing severe or terrible, but is in all things kind, lovely, and compassionate. Read and revolve as much as you will all the history found in the Gospel, and if you find any act of austerity in Mary, then fear to approach her. But you will never find any; go then joyfully to her, for she will save thee by her intercession.
Exceedingly beautiful is the exclamation which William of Paris puts in the mouth of a sinner who has recourse to Mary: Oh mother of my God, I come to tbee full of confidence, even in the miserable state to which I find myself reduced by my sins; if thou dost reject me, I will plead with thee, for in a certain sense thou art bound to help me since all the Church of the faithful calls thee and proclaims thee mother of mercy. Thou, oh Mary, art so dear to God that he always graciously listens to thee; thy great mercy has never failed; thy most sweet condescension has never despised any sinner, however enormous his sins, who has had recourse to thee. What! could the whole Church falsely and in vain name thee her advocate and the refuge of sinners? No, never be it said that my sins prevent thee, oh my mother, from exercising the great office of mercy which thou dost hold, by which thou art at the same time the advocate and mediator of peace between God and man, and next to thy Son the only hope and refuge of sinners. Whatever of grace and glory is thine, even the dignity of being mother of God itself, if I may so speak, thou owest to sinners, since for their sake the divine Word has made thee his mother. Far from this divine mother who has brought forth unto the world the fountain of mercy, be the thought that she, could refuse her compassion to any sinner who recommends himself to her. Since, then, oh Mary, thy office is that of peacemaker between God and man, may thy great mercy, which far exceeds all my sins, move thee to aid me.
Console yourselves, then, oh ye faint of heart, I will say with St. Thomas of Villanova, take heart, oh miserable sinners; this great Virgin, who is the mother of your judge and God, is the advocate of the human race. Powerful and able to obtain whatever she wishes from God; most wise, for she knows every method of appeasing him; universal, for she welcomes all, and refuses to defend none.
Our advocate has shown how great is her kindness towards sinners by her mercy to Beatrice, a nun in the monastery of Fontebraldo, as related by Cesarius, and by Father Rho. This unhappy religious, having contracted a passion for a certain youth, agreed to flee with him from the convent; and in fact she went one day before a statue of the blessed Virgin, there deposited the keys of the monastery, for she was portress, and boldly departed. Arrived in another country, she led the miserable life of a prostitute for fifteen years. It happened that she met, one day, the agent of the monastery in the city where she was living, and asked of him, thinking he would not recognize her again, if he knew sister Beatrice? "I knew her well," he said: "she is a holy nun, and at present is mistress of novices." At this intelligence she was confounded and amazed, not knowing how to understand it. In order to ascertain the truth, she put on another dress and went to the monastery. She asked for sister Beatrice, and behold, the most holy Virgin appeared before her in the form of that same image to which at parting she had committed her keys, and her dress, and the divine mother thus spoke to her: "Beatrice, be it known to thee that, in order to prevent thy disgrace, I assumed thy form, and have filled thy office for the fifteen years that thou hast lived far from the monastery and from God. My child, return, and do penance, for my Son is still waiting for thee; and strive by thy holy life to preserve the good name I have gained thee." She spoke thus and disappeared Beatrice re-entered the. monastery, resumed the habit of a religious, and, grateful tor the mercy of Mary, led the life of a saint. At her death she made known the fore going incident, to the glory of this great queen.
Oh great mother of my Lord, I now see that the ingratitude shown by me for so many years to God and to thee, would justly merit that thou shouldst abandon all care of me, for the ungrateful are no more worthy of favors. But, oh Lady, I have a great idea of thy goodness; I believe it to be far greater than my ingratitude; continue, then, oh refugeof sinners, to help a miserable sinner who confides in thee. Oh mother of mercy, extend thy hand to raise a poor fallen creature who implores thy mercy. Oh Mary, defend thou me, or tell me to whom I shall have recourse, and who can protect me better than thou. Can I find an advocate with God more merciful and more powerful than thou, who art his mother? Thou having been created for the mother of the Saviour, art destined to save sinners, and hast been given me for my salvation. Oh Mary, save him who has recourse to thee. I do not merit thy love, but the desire thou hast to save the lost gives me the hope that thou dost love me; and if thou lovest me, how can I be lost? Oh my beloved mother, if, as I hope, I am saved by thee, I will no longer be ungrateful; I will make amends by perpetual praises and by all the affection of my soul for my past ingratitude, and will make some return for the love thou bearest me. In heaven, where thou reignest and wilt reign forever, I will always joyfully sing thy mercies, and forever I will kiss those loving hands that have freed me from hell as often as I have deserved it for my sins. Oh Mary, my liberator, my hope, my queen, my advocate, my mother, I love thee, I wish thee well, and will always love thee. Amen, amen; thus I hope, so may it be.