The Glories Of Mary
by ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
ET JESUM BENEDICTUM FRUCTUM VENTRIS TUI NOBIS POST HOC EXILIUM OSTENDE.
And after this our exile, show us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
MARY RESCUES HER SERVANTS FROM HELL.
IT is impossible that a servant of Mary who faithfully honors her and recommends himself to her should be lost. This proposition at first sight may appear to some persons extravagant. But I would beg them not to condemn it before reading what will hereafter be said on this point. When it is said that a devoted servant of Mary cannot be lost, those servants are not intended who abuse their devotion by sinning with less fear. Therefore it is unjust to say, as some do who disapprove extolling the mercy of Mary to sinners, that by so doing they are encouraged to sin the more; for such presumptuous persons for their presumption merit punishment and not mercy. It is understood, then only of those of her servants who, with the desire to amend, faithfully honor and commend themselves to the mother of God. That these should be lost is, I say, morally impossible. And I find Father Crasset has affirmed the same thing in his book upon devotion to Mary and before him Vega, Mendoza, and other theologians. And that we may know that they have not spoken unadvisedly, let us see what the Doctors and Saints have said on this subject. Let no one be surprised if I here quote several sentences, of different authors, containing the same thing; for I have wished to record them all, in order to show how unanimously all waters agree on this point. St. Anselm says, that as he who is not devoted to Mary and protected by her cannot be saved, so it is impossible that he should be condemned who recommends himself to the Virgin, and is regarded by her with affection. St. Antoninus asserts the same thing in nearly the same words: As it is impossible that those from whom Mary turns away her eyes of compassion should be saved, so it must be that all those towards whom she turns her eyes, and for whom she intercedes, shall be saved and glorified. This saint adds, then, that the servants of Mary must necessarily be saved.
Let us note, however, the first part of the statement of these saints, and let those tremble who little esteem, or abandon, through negligence, devotion to this divine mother. They say that it is impossible for those to be saved who are not protected by Mary. And this is also assented by others, as the blessed Albertus Magnus: All those who are not thy servants, oh Mary, shall perish: "Gens quse non servierit tibi peribit." St. Bonaventure, too: He who neglects the service of Mary shall die in sin. And in another place: He who has not recourse to thee, oh Lady, will not reach paradise. And on Psalm xcix. the saint goes so far as to say that those from whom Mary turns away her face, not only will not be saved, but can have no hope of salvation. And before this St. Ignatius, the martyr, said the same thing, asserting that a sinner cannot be saved except by means of the holy Virgin, who, on the other hand, saves by her merciful intercession many that would be condemned by the divine justice. Some persons doubt whether this passage is from St. Ignatius; at least Father Crasset says that St. John Chrysostom has adopted it as his own. It is also repeated by the Abbot of Celles. And in the same sense the-holy Church applies to Mary these words of Proverbs: All that hate me love death: "Omnes qui me oderunt, diligunt mortem" For, as Richard of St. Laurence says, commenting on the words: She is like the merchant's ship: all those who are out of this ship shall be submerged in the sea of this world. Even the heretic Ecolampadius esteemed neglect of devotion in any one to the mother of God as a certain sign of reprobation; hence, he said: Let it never be heard of me that I am averse to Mary, to be ill affected toward whom I should think a certain sign of a reprobate mind.
On the other hand, Mary says: He that hearkeneth to me shall not be confounded. He who has recourse to me, and listens to what I say to him, shall not be lost. From which St. Bonaventure said: Oh, Lady, those who are mindful to honor thee, shall be far from perdition. Even when, as St. Hilary says, they have hitherto deeply offended God.
Hence the devil strives so hard with sinners, in order that, having lost divine grace, they may also lose devotion to Mary. Sarah, seeing Isaac playing with Ishmael, who was teaching him evil habits, asked Abraham to send him away, and his mother Agar also: Cast out this bond-woman and her son." She was not satisfied that the son alone should leave the house without the mother, fearing lest the son would come to visit his mother, and thus continue to frequent the house. In like manner, the devil is not satisfied with seeing Jesus cast out from a soul, if he does not see the mother also cast out: "Cast out this bond-woman and her son." Otherwise he fears that the mother, by her intercession, may again obtain the return of her son. And he has cause to fear, for as the learned Father Paciucchelli remarks: He who is faithful in honoring the mother of God, through Mary, will soon receive him. Therefore rightly was the devotion to our Lady called by St. Ephreni: The passport of escape from hell: "Charta libertatis." The divine mother was also named by him: The protectress of the condemned; "Patrocinatrix damnatorum." And with truth St. Bernard says, that Mary is neither wanting in the power nor the will to save us. Not in the power, because it is impossible that her prayers should not be heard, as St Antoninus asserts and St. Bonaventure says also, that her requests cannot be unavailing, but obtain for her what she wishes: Quod quserit invenit et frustrari non potest. Not in the will to save us, for Mary is our mother, and desires our salvation more than we desire it our selves. If this is then true, how can it ever happen that a servant of Mary should be lost? He may be a sinner, but if, with perseverance and at desire for amendment, he commends himself to this good mother, she will take care to obtain for him light to guide him out of his bad state, contrition for his sins, perseverance in goodness, and finally a good death. And is there any mother who would not rescue her child from death, if she could do it by praying his judge for mercy? And can we belive that Mary, the most loving mother possible to her servants, would fail to rescue one of them from eternal death, when she can do it so easily?
Ah, devout reader, let us thank the Lord if we find that he has given us the love of the queen of heaven, and confidence in her; for God, as St. John Damascene says, does not grant this grace except to those whom he wishes to save. These the beautiful words of the saint, with which he would quicken his own and our hope: Oh mother of God, if I place my confidence in thee I shall he saved. If I am under thy protection, I have nothing to fear, because to be thy servant is to have certain arms of salvation, which God only grants to those whom he will save. Hence Erasmus thus salutes the Virgin: Hail, terror of hell hail, hope of Christians! confidence in thee secures salvation.
Oh, how much it grieves the devil to see a soul persevering in its devotion to the divine mother! We read in the life of Father Alphonsus Alverez, who had a special devotion to Mary, that being in prayer, and finding himself tormented by impure temptations with which the devil afflicted him, the enemy said to him: Quit thy devotion to Mary, and I will cease to tempt thee.
The Lord revealed to St. Catherine of Sienna, as we read in Blosius, that he, in his goodness, had granted to Mary, from love to his only begotten Son, whose mother she is, that not even one sinner, who commends himself devoutly to her, should be the prey of hell. The Prophet David, too, prayed to be rescued from hell, for the honor in which he held Mary: "I have loved, oh Lord, the beauty of thy house; take not away my soul with the wicked." He says of thy house, "Domus tuae," because Mary was, indeed, that house of God, which he himself, when he became man, built on this earth for his habitation, and for the place of his rest, as we read in Proverbs: Wisdom hath built herself a house. No, he surely will not be lost, says St. Ignatius, the martyr, who is constant in his devotion to this virgin mother. And this is confirmed by St. Bonaventure, who says: Oh Lady, those who love thee enjoy great peace in this life, and in the other they shall not see eternal death. No, for it never did, and never will happen, as the devout Blosius assures us, that an humble and constant servant of Mary will be lost.
Oh, how many would have been eternally condemned, or remained in obstinacy, if Mary had not interceded with her Son to exercise mercy! Thus says Thomas a Kempis. And it is the opinion of many doctors, especially of St. Thomas, that the divine mother has obtained from God a reprieve for many persons who had even died in mortal sin, and their return to life to do penance. "We have many example of this given by writers of good authority. Among others, Flodoard, who lived about tht ninth century, narrates, in his chronicles, that one Adelman, a deacon, who appeared to be dead, was about to be buried, when he returned to life, and said, that he had seen the place in hell to which he had already been condemned, but that, through the intercession of the blessed Virgin, he had been sent back to earth to do penance. Surius also relates, that a Roman citizen, named Andrew, had died without doing penance, and that Mary had obtained his return to life that he might procure pardon. Pelbart, moreover, relates, that in his time, when the Emperor Sigismund was crossing the Alps with his army, a voice was heard, proceeding from a dead body, of which only the bones remained, asking for confession, and saying, that the mother of God, to whom he had been devoted whilst he was a soldier, had obtained for him that he should live in those bones until he had made his confession. Having confessed, he died. These and similar examples must not serve as encouragement for some rash person who would live in sin, in the hope that Mary would free him from hell, even if he should die in sin; for as it would be a great folly to throw one's self into a well, in the hope that Mary would save us from death, because the Virgin has rescued some persons under similar circumstances; thus a greater folly would it be for one to run the risk of dying in sin, on the presumption that the holy Virgin would rescue him from hell. But these examples should serve to strengthen our confidence by the consideration, that if the intercession of this divine mother could deliver those from hell even those who have died in sin how much more will it prevent those from falling into hell who in life have recourse to her with the intention to amend and serve her faithfully?
Then, oh our mother, let us say with St. Germanus: What will becomeof us who are sinners, but who wish to amend and have recourse to thee, who art the life of Christians? Let us, oh Lady, hear what St. Anselm says of thee, that he will not be lost for whom thou hast once offered thy prayers. Pray, then, for us, and we shall be saved from hell. Who will tell me, says Richard of Victor, that when I am presented at the divine tribunal, the Judge will not be favorable to me, if I shall have thee to defend my cause, oh mother of mercy? And the blessed Henry Buso declared, that he had placed his soul in the care of Mary, and he said, that if the Judge wished to condemn him, he would have the sentence pass through the hands of Mary. For he hoped that when the sentence of condemnation should fall into the kind hands of the Virgin, its execution would certainly be prevented. I ask and hope the same for myself, oh my most holy queen. Whence I will always repeat with St. Bonaventure: Oh Lady, in theel have placed all my hopes, therefore I securely hope not to be lost, but safe in heaven to praise and love thee forever.
In the year 1604 there lived in a city of Flanders two young students, who, instead of attending to their studies, gave themselves up to excesses and dissipation. One night, having gone to the house of a woman of ill fame, one of them, named Richard, after some time returned home, but the other remained. Richard having gone home was undressing to go to rest, when he remembered that he had not recited that day, as usual, some "Hail Marys." He was oppressed with sleep and very weary, yet he roftsed himself and recited them, although without devotion, and only half awake. He then went to bed, and having just fallen asleep, he heard a loud knocking at the door, and immediately after, before he had time to open it, he saw before him his companion, with a hideous and ghastly appearance. "Who are you?" he said to him. "Do you not know me?" answered the other. "But what has so changed you? you seem like a demon." "Alas!" exclaimed this poor wretch, "I am damned." "And how is this?" "Know," he said, "that when I came out of that infamous house, a devil attacked me and strangled me. My body lies in the middle of the street, and my soul is in hell. Know that my punishment would also have been yours, but the blessed Virgin, on account of those few Hail Marys said in her honor, has saved you. Happy will it be for you, if you know how to avail yourself of this warning, that the mother of God sends you through me." After these words he opened his cloak, showed the fire and serpents that were consuming him, and then disappeared. Then the youth, bursting into a flood of tears, threw himself with his face on the ground, to thank Mary, his deliverer, and while he was revolving in his mind a change of life, he hears the matin bell of a neighboring Franciscan Monastery. "It is there," he exclaimed, "that God calls me to do penance." He went immediately to the convent to beg the fathers to receive him. Knowing how bad his life had been, they objected. But after he had related the circumstance which had brought him. there, weeping bitterly all the while, two of the fathers went out to search in the street, and actually found there the dead body of his companion, having the marks of strangulation, and black as a coal. Whereupon the young man was received. Richard from that time led an exemplary life. He went into India to preach the faith; from thence passed to Japan, and finally had the good fortune and received the grace of dying a martyr for Jesus Christ, by being burned alive.
Oh Mary! oh my most dear mother! in what an abyss of evil I should find myself, if thou, with thy kind hand, hadst not so often preserved me! Yea, how many years should I already have been in hell, if thou, with thy powerful prayers, hadst not rescued me! My grievous sins were hurrying me there; divine justice had already condemned me; the raging demons were waiting to execute the sentence; but thou didst appear, oh mother, not invoked nor asked by me, and hast saved me. Oh my dear deliverer, what return can I make thee for so much grace and so much love? Thou hast overcome the hardness of my heart, and hast drawn me to love thee and confide in thee. And oh, into what an abyss of evils I afterwards should have fallen, if thou, with thy kind hand, hadst not so many timei protected me from the dangers into which I was on the brink of falling! Continue, oh my hope, continue to save me from hell, but first of all from the sins into which I might again fall. Do not permit that I shall have to curse thee in hell. My beloved Lady, I love thee, and how an thy goodness endure to see one of thy servants who loves thee, lost? Ah, obtain for me the grace to be no longer ungrateful to thee and to my God, who for love of thee hath granted me so many favors. Oh Mary, what dost thou say to me? Shall I be lost? I shall be lost if I leave thee. But who will any more venture to forsake thee? Shall I ever forget thy love for me? Thou, after God, art the love of my soul. I dare live no longer without loving thee. I bless thee! I love thee! and I hope that I shall al ways love thee in time and in eternity, oh creature most beautiful! most holy! most sweet! most amiable of all creatures in this world! Amen.