Devotion to Mary necessarily means that Mary has a major role to play in our spiritual life. This section will offer suggestions, based on the writings of the saints, popes and theologians of the Church, on the the variety of ways in which Mary can fulfill her role as our spiritual Mother and how we can fulfill our duties as her spiritual children.
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COMMEND YOURSELF TO MARY
Posted September 22, 2103
The end of all devotion is Christ. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (Apoc. 1:8). Christ is the cornerstone of our salvation, for "this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). "There is no other name under Heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12)
If Christ is not the rock upon which rests the spiritual edifice of our sanctification, then the edifice is doomed, and great will be the fall thereof. But if the edifice is founded upon Christ, then the winds of the tempter may blow and the rains of his temptations may fall and the floods of passion may rise and beat upon that house, and it will not fall, because it is founded upon a rock (Cf. Luke 6:47-49).
We must be one with Christ according to His words: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither; and they shall gather him up and cast him into the fire, and he burneth" (John 15:4-6).
We must be one with Christ because, Christ being our Mediator with His eternal Father, it is only "by Him and in Him and through Him that we can render all honor and glory" to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. It is only through Christ that we can be holy ourselves and radiate holiness around us.
Now, devotion to Mary is devotion to Christ, because Mary has given us Christ. The humble Virgin was chosen, by the eternal Father, to shed upon a sinful world, without lesion to her glorious virginity, its eternal light: Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Savior of men.
But union with God was essential in order for Mary to accomplish this, the most wondrous work ever given to a mortal to perform. And Mary was most intimately united with God, for the angelic ambassador said to her, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28). Mary's union with God has been most tersely and accurately expressed by a child of genius.
"Mary's fullness of grace," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "was so great that it brought her to a most intimate union with the Author of grace; that this fitted her to receive into her holy womb the One who contained all graces; and that thus, in conceiving Him, she became, in some sort, the source of that grace which He was to pour forth over all mankind, and so concurred in giving the human race its Deliverer" (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 27, art. 5).
Mary's intimate union with her divine Son is the reason for her power with Him. "He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord" (Prov. 8:35). "For God," says St. Bernard, "Who has given us His Son through Mary, has willed that we should obtain the graces He has merited for us by the intercession of Mary."
God, all-powerful though He is, could not bestow upon a creature a degree of honor higher than that conferred on His mother. He could not make her divine by nature, but He has, through the grace that He so freely lavished on her in virtue of the divine maternity, made her inseparable from Him in the salvation of souls. The heart of Christ and the heart of Mary beat in unison. When we love and honor the mother, we must necessarily love and honor the Son. The closer the union with Mary, the more intimate the association with Christ. He who will not have Mary for his mother, cannot have Christ for his Brother.
The indissoluble union of Jesus and Mary established by the eternal Father and the Holy Spirit is the best proof of Mary's love for Christ and, consequently, for souls redeemed by the blood of Christ. Mary loves Christ because she is His mother, and she loves us because she is our mother. From the revelations of our Lord to St. Gertrude (a German mystic, 1256-c. 1302), Christ is Mary's firstborn according to the flesh, and we are her second-born according to the spirit. Through the oblation of her divine Son on Calvary, Mary, with a sorrow "great as the sea" (Lam. 2:13), brought us forth to a life of grace and thus became our spiritual mother.
Mary, our spiritual mother, heard the dying legacy of Jesus Christ: "Woman, behold thy son." After that, He said to the disciple John, "Behold thy mother" (John 19:26-27). In His death agony, the infinite Lover of immortal souls ratified on Calvary the oblation that Mary makes for them, by giving them His mother to be their mother; for since all Christians form one body with Christ and are morally one person with Christ, St. John represented them on the mount of crucifixion.
“Thou art, then, O Mary, after thy divine Son, God's most precious gift to man. Thy love for us, therefore, is inferior only to the love of Him who purchased us at the cost of His life.”
Mary's love for us is the sum and soul of her powerful intercession for us with Christ. Hence, absolute trust in Mary's help is a necessary part of the virtue of hope. "I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth; in me is all hope of life and of virtue" (Ecclus. 24:24-25). The hope of grace from God, the source of grace, however, will yield fruit and redound to our spiritual welfare only through our free cooperation. And the true Christian does all he can so that grace may benefit him.
But how high is the standard, how lofty the ideal, that is set for the true Christian! Never does human nature, with its myriad frailties, measure up to the standard; never does it realize the ideal. Impelled by the law of his own impotence, man can only soar upward on the wings of constant endeavor. Unaided, he can accomplish little; he is a social being, and since he lives, moves, and fulfills his destiny only in society, he is therefore dependent upon his neighbor.
In the natural order, then, mutual assistance is a necessary consequence of man's mutual dependence, and in the supernatural order, it accords perfectly with Christian hope for one member of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church, to intercede for another.
The unbeliever sits in defiant judgment upon this truth and boldly proclaims, with all the assertiveness of error, that Catholics offer the Virgin Mother of God and the other saints divine worship. If praying to Mary and the other saints is identical with divine worship, the unbeliever must, by the force of his own false premises, arrive at a decidedly erroneous conclusion. The acceptance of such premises would fill the world with idolaters: when I solicit the aid of my neighbor, or when I beg his intercession for me, I am an idolater in the strict sense of the term.
This false reasoning ramifies in many directions, making devastating inroads upon man's nature as a social being and upon the domain of faith; for to state that men do not intercede for one another is to deny a very obvious fact of experience to proclaim that man is not a social being. Such reasoning is, moreover, rebellion against Christ, the infallible Truth, who with His own lips taught us this mutual intercession. Such reasoning falsifies not only the Our Father, but also the admonition of the apostle: "Pray one for another, that you may be saved" (James 5:16); and therefore it is destructive of the unity of Christ's divine organism, since it divorces the Church Militant from the Church Triumphant in Heaven and the Church Suffering in Purgatory. The Church Militant comprises all the members of the Church on earth, the Church Triumphant, the members in Heaven, and the Church Suffering, the souls in Purgatory.
It is wrong to suppose that our brethren who have fallen asleep in the Lord do not intercede for us so that we, too, may obtain the incorruptible crown, because the beatitude of the saints consists in the possession of God, and therefore in loving all that God loves.
How consoling, how comforting, is this doctrine taught by the infallibly constituted exponent of truth, the Church this doctrine that links earth with Heaven! It is inspiring to know that we have Christ, our elder Brother, "always living to make intercession for us" (Heb. 7:25) and the saints whose names we hear, and Mary, the Queen of Saints, ever pleading for us before the throne of mercy in God's eternal kingdom. And oh, the power of Mary's intercession, Mary, loved by the Father as the mother of His Son, loved by the Son as His own mother, and loved by the Holy Spirit as His most pure spouse! "He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord" (Prov. 8:35).
Human eloquence, poetry, and art all fail to describe Mary's power, the true genesis of which is her great love for us. That love we can never question when we consider the sacrifices that she made, in union with her divine Son, for our salvation. In our redemption, according to the eternal plans of an all-merciful God, Mary was morally indispensable. Fatal, then, is the delusion that we can progress spiritually without the help of our mother.
In the natural order, there is something abnormal in the physical development of a child who loses his mother in his earliest and tenderest years. The same truth holds in the supernatural order. Without our spiritual mother's unfailing love and fostering care from our very birth, progress in virtue is impossible. But to establish our claim to Mary's help, we must imitate her virtues, especially her humility, her purity, and her love of God.
The practice of these virtues will shelter us under the protecting folds of her maternal mantle. With Mary's aid, we will be ever on our guard against the treacherous cunning of all the enemies of our soul. We will meet their full assaults with intrepid determination and their hostile charges with fearless courage. We will be devoted to the service of God.
To thy protection, then, Virgin Most Powerful, we thy children commend ourselves with a confidence horn of thy great love for those who, like thee, are humble and pure, and love God above all things. In the stern struggle for salvation, the mightiest and most momentous of all struggles, help us. Forsake us not until our enemies are conquered and the spoils of victory are ours forever!
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE WITH MARY PART ONE : INTRODUCTION
Posted August 22, 2013 In this modern world, we find ourselves living amongst and using good of an inferior quality. Plastic has replaced the good solid materials of old. Newly built churches are flimsy and quickly fall into disrepair and won’t even see their 100th year birthday, while the cathedrals of old, solidly built, still stand and watch the ‘new kids on the block’ come and go. The same can be said of spirituality. There is an increase of ‘plastic’ or ‘candy-floss’ spirituality, that seeks to ignore the solid and lasting foundations of the spirituality of old.
In this section on the Spiritual Life, we will leave aside the ‘plastic’ or ‘candy-floss’ spirituality and return to the solid foundations and proven success of the age-old, ever-enduring, traditional spirituality of the Church. We will mostly refer to the masters and disciples of those masters in the principles and recommendations that we will give. We will simply hand-down what we have received from the Church’s many centuries of forming and making saints. It is, after all, only saints that go to Heaven. Those saints have to be real saints, not plastic saints. To become saints, they need a real spirituality, not a plastic spirituality! So let us begin by laying the foundations of what a spiritual life is all about, and, for this purpose, let us turn to one of the greatest doctrinal and ascetical theologians of the 20th century, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., who taught these principles at the famous Angelicum (the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas) in Rome, for over 20 years, and based himself upon the masters of the spiritual life, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis de Sales. Here is what he has to say of the importance of the spiritual life in general:
“The interior life is, for all, the one thing necessary. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties. And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence—the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. And it is important to us, not only as individuals, but also in our social relations, for it is evident that we can exert no real or profound influence upon our fellow-men, unless we live a truly interior life ourselves.” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Three Conversions of the Spiritual Life, chapter 1).
“It is all the more important to recall the necessity and the true nature of the interior life… the infusion of the new life of grace and charity... The blotting out and remission of sins can be effected only by the infusion of sanctifying grace and charity …. Sanctifying grace, the principle of our interior life, makes us truly the children of God ... Truly sanctifying grace is a real and formal participation of the divine nature …. "Grace," says the whole of Tradition, "is the seed of glory." Fundamentally, it is always the same supernatural life, the same sanctifying grace and the same charity … Grace, then, is eternal life already begun within us … St. Thomas expresses this doctrine in the brief statement: “Grace is nothing else but a certain beginning of glory within us." … We may well understand, therefore, how St. Thomas could write: "Bonum gratiae unius majus est quam bonum naturae totius universi" which means the lowest degree of grace in a soul, for example in that of a small child after its baptism, is of greater value than the natural goodness of the whole universe.” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Three Conversions of the Spiritual Life, chapter 1).
“The pressing need of devoting ourselves to the consideration of the one thing necessary, is especially manifest in these days of general chaos and unrest, when so many men and nations, neglecting their true destiny, give themselves up entirely to acquiring earthly possessions, failing to realize how inferior these are to the everlasting riches of the spirit. God is now showing men what a great mistake they make when they try to do without Him, when they regard earthly enjoyment as their highest good, and thus reverse the whole scale of values. They are seeking happiness in an abundance of material possessions which are incapable of giving it. The remedy is this, and this only: to consider the one thing necessary, and to ask God to give us saints who live only on this thought, saints who will give the world the spirit that it needs. God has always sent us saints in troubled times. We need them especially today.” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Three Conversions of the Spiritual Life, chapter 1).
One of those saints, St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, takes up the same thread as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange:
“It is certain that growth in the holiness of God is your vocation. All your thoughts, words, actions, everything you suffer or undertake, must lead you towards that end. Otherwise you are resisting God, in not doing the work for which He created you and for which He is even now keeping you in being. What a marvelous transformation is possible! Dust into light, uncleanness into purity, sinfulness into holiness, creature into Creator, man into God! A marvelous work, I repeat, so difficult in itself, and even impossible for a mere creature to bring about, for only God can accomplish it by giving His grace abundantly and in an extraordinary manner. The very creation of the universe is not as great an achievement as this. (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §3).
“Chosen soul, how will you bring this about? What steps will you take to reach the high level to which God is calling you? The means of holiness and salvation are known to everybody, since they are found in the Gospel; the masters of the spiritual life have explained them; the saints have practiced them and shown how essential they are for those who wish to be saved and attain perfection. These means are: sincere humility, unceasing prayer, complete self-denial, abandonment to divine Providence, and obedience to the will of God.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §4).
“The grace and help of God are absolutely necessary for us to practice all these, but we are sure that grace will be given to all, though not in the same measure. I say "not in the same measure," because God does not give His graces in equal measure to everyone (Rom. 12:6), although in His infinite goodness He always gives sufficient grace to each. A person who corresponds to great graces performs great works, and one who corresponds to lesser graces performs lesser works. The value and high standard of our actions corresponds to the value and perfection of the grace given by God and responded to by the faithful soul. No one can contest these principles.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §5).
“To find the grace of God, we must discover Mary. It all comes to this, then. We must discover a simple means to obtain from God the grace needed to become holy. It is precisely this I wish to teach you. My contention is that you must first discover Mary if you would obtain this grace from God.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §6).
“Mary alone found grace with God for herself and for every individual person (Lk. 1:30). No patriarch nor prophet nor any other holy person of the Old Law could manage to find this grace. It was Mary who gave existence and life to the author of all grace and, because of this, she is called the "Mother of Grace." God the Father, from Whom, as from its essential source, every perfect gift and every grace come down to us (Jas. 1:17), gave her every grace when He gave her His Son. Thus, as St. Bernard says, the will of God is manifested to her in Jesus and with Jesus. (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §7-9).
“God chose her to be the treasurer, the administrator and the dispenser of all His graces, so that all His graces and gifts pass through her hands. Such is the power that she has received from Him that, according to St. Bernardine, she gives the graces of the eternal Father, the virtues of Jesus Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost to whom she wills, as and when she wills, and as much as she wills.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §10).
“God the Son has communicated to His Mother all that He acquired by His life and His death … He has made her the treasurer of all that His Father gave Him. It is by her that He applies His merits to His members, and that He communicates His virtues, and distributes His graces. She is His mysterious canal; she is His aqueduct, through which He makes His mercies flow gently and abundantly. To Mary, His faithful spouse, God the Holy Ghost has communicated His unspeakable gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispenser of all He possesses, in such wise that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills and when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Ghost gives no heavenly gift to men which He does not have pass through her virginal hands. Such has been the will of God, who has willed that we should have everything through Mary” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, §24-25).
“ ‘This man and that man is born in her’ (Ps. 86:5), says the Holy Ghost through the Royal Psalmist. According to the explanation of some of the Fathers, the first man that is born in Mary is the Man-God, Jesus Christ; the second is a mere man, the child of God and Mary by adoption. If Jesus Christ, the Head of men, is born in her, then the predestinate, who are the members of that Head, ought also to be born in her, by a necessary consequence. One and the same mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the members, or the members without the head; for this would be a monster of nature. So in like manner, in the order of grace, the head and the members are born of one and the same Mother; and if a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ—that is to say, one of the predestinate—were born of any other mother than Mary, who has produced the Head, he would not be one of the predestinate, nor a member of Jesus Christ, but simply a monster in the order of grace.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, §32).
“As in the natural life a child must have a father and a mother, so in the supernatural life of grace a true child of the Church must have God for his Father and Mary for his mother. If he prides himself on having God for his Father, but does not give Mary the tender affection of a true child, he is an imposter and his father is the devil. (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §11).
“Since Mary produced the head of the elect, Jesus Christ, she must also produce the members of that head, that is, all true Christians. A mother does not conceive a head without members, nor members without a head. If anyone, then, wishes to become a member of Jesus Christ, and consequently be filled with grace and truth, (Jn.1:14), he must be formed in Mary through the grace of Jesus Christ, which she possesses with a fullness enabling her to communicate it abundantly to true members of Jesus Christ, her true children.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §12).
So, in summary, let us stress once again that the spiritual life is the most important of all forms of life. It is the only form of life that can lead us to Heaven—which is our highest good and ultimate goal. Nothing else really matters in comparison to that goal. The fuel for the spiritual life is grace. Without grace we cannot get to Heaven. To find that grace, we must find Mary, the Mediatrix of all Grace. Everything else fades into insignificance if we cannot obtain Heaven. As Our Lord so truly said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mk. 8:36). The most valuable possessions are spiritual possessions: “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also” (Mt. 6:21) … so “lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal” (Mt. 6:20). Martha was busy with material things, while her sister, Mary, sat at the feet of Jesus listening to His words. Jesus said that Mary was doing the better thing—not that material work is evil and not necessary, but spiritual work is even better: “And the Lord answering, said to her: 'Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her'” (Lk. 10:41-42).
We need to reorder our set of values and make ourselves place the spiritual above all else, to give priority to the spiritual before the physical, material, financial, or any other competitor. “Jesus said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.” Firstly, let us engrave that truth into our minds, and then let us put that truth into practice. God comes first! Everything else must wait! This is exactly what Our Lady did, and in this we must imitate her. May the Blessed Virgin, through whom all graces come, grant us this grace, which is the foundation upon which to build our spiritual edifice or temple—“Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). Our Lady knew this and lived this—she will help you do the same, as St. Louis-Marie de Montfort so beautifully says:
“When Mary has struck her roots in a soul, she produces there marvels of grace, which she alone can produce, because she alone is the fruitful Virgin who never has had, and never will have, her equal in purity and in fruitfulness. Mary has produced, together with the Holy Ghost, the greatest thing which has been or ever will be—a God Man; and she will consequently produce the greatest saints that there will be in the end of time. The formation and the education of the great saints who shall come at the end of the world are reserved for her. For it is only that singular and miraculous Virgin who can produce, in union with the Holy Ghost, singular and extraordinary things.” (St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, §35).
May Our Lady bless you, fill you with heavenly grace and lead you to her Divine Son. To Jesus through Mary! Ave Maria!
MARY, A MOTHER OF MERCY by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (taken from his book The Mother of the Savior and our Interior Life)
Chapter 4 : Mother of Mercy
Article I : GREATNESS AND POWER OF THIS MATERNITY
The title of Mother of Mercy is one of Mary's greatest. Mercy is not the same thing as mere emotional pity. Mercy is in the will, pity is but a good inclination of the sensibility. Pity, which does not exist in God Who is a pure spirit, leads us to suffer in unison with our neighbor as if we felt his suffering in ourselves. It is a good inclination but usually a timid one, being accompanied by fear of harm to ourselves and often helpless to render effective aid.
Mercy, on the contrary, is a virtue of the will, and, as St. Thomas so well notes (Summa Theologica, Ia, q. 2i, a. 3; IIa IIae, q. 30, a. 4.). Whereas pity is found most of all in feeble and timid beings, who feel themselves threatened by the evil that has befallen their neighbor; mercy is the virtue of the powerful and the good, who are capable of giving real assistance. That is why it is found in God especially: as one of the prayers of the Missal says, “Deus qui maxime parcendo et miserando, potentiam tuam manifestas” it is one of the greatest manifestations of His power and goodness. St. Augustine remarked that it was more glorious for God to obtain good out of evil, than to create out of nothing: it is greater to convert a sinner, by giving him grace, than to make a whole universe, Heaven and earth, out of nothing (Cf. Summa Theologica, la IIae, q. 113, a. 9.).
As Mother of Mercy, Mary reminds us that if God is Being, Truth and Wisdom, He is also Goodness and Love, and that His infinite Mercy, which is the radiation of His Goodness, flows from His love and anticipates His vindicatory justice which proclaims the inalienable right that the Supreme Good has to be loved above every other object: "Mercy exalteth itself above justice" (James ii, i3). She teaches us, though, that if mercy is not justice it is not opposed to it as injustice is, but unites itself to it and goes beyond it: most of all in pardoning, for to pardon is to go beyond what is demanded by justice in forgiving an offence (Summa Theologica, Ia, q. 21, a. 3, ad 2).
Every work of divine justice presupposes a work of mercy or of gratuitous goodness (ibid. a. 4: "Opus divinae justitiae semper praesupponit opus misericordiae, et in eo fundatur"). If God can be said to owe anything to a creature, it is because of some preceding gratuitous gift: if He owes a recompense to our merits, it is because He has first of all given the grace to merit; and if He punishes, it is after having given us the assistance, which made the accomplishment of His precepts really possible, for He never commands the impossible.
Mary reminds us, too, that God often gives us His mercy more than we need, more than He is obliged, in justice to Himself, to give; that He gives us more than we merit—the grace of Holy Communion, for example, which is not merited. She tells us that mercy is wedded to justice in the trials of this life. Trials are a medicine to heal us, to make us right again, to bring us to the good. She tells us, finally, that mercy often makes the good inequality of natural conditions among men, by a correspondingly more generous distribution of graces. This is the lesson of the different beatitudes of the poor, the meek, those that weep, those that hunger and thirst after justice, those that are merciful, those that are pure of heart, those that are peacemakers, those that suffer persecution for justice.
Article II : PRINCIPAL MANIFESTATIONS OF MERCY
Mary manifests herself as Mother of Mercy by being Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comforter of the Afflicted, and the Help of Christians. The gradation of titles here is very beautiful. It shows that Mary is merciful to those who are sick of body, in order to benefit their souls; and that afterwards she consoles them in their afflictions and strengthens them in the midst of all the difficulties they have to overcome. Among creatures no one is higher than Mary, and yet no one is more approachable, more helpful, and more gentle.
These points are developed by the Polish Dominican, Justin of Miechow, in his Collationes in Litanias B. Mariae Virginis, translated into French by A. Ricard under the title Conferences sur les litanies de la Tres Sainte Vierge, 3rd edit., Paris, 1870. We shall draw much of our inspiration for the following pages from this work.
HEALTH OF THE SICK
Mary is Health of the Sick by the many providential or miraculous cures which have been obtained through her intercession in Christian sanctuaries, up to our own days. So many have these cures been, that, it may be said that, Mary is a fathomless ocean of miraculous healing. But it is to help the infirmity of the soul that she cures the body. Her most important cures are those of the four spiritual wounds, which we have suffered as a result of Original Sin and our personal sins—the wounds of concupiscence, of weakness, of ignorance, and of malice.
She heals concupiscence—a wound of our sensibility—by diminishing the ardor of our passions and by breaking our sinful habits. She helps the sinner to begin to will what is right, with sufficient firmness, to enable him to reject evil desires, as well as the appeal of honors and riches. In this way she cures the concupiscence of the flesh and that of the eyes.
She heals the wound of weakness, too, our feeble pursuit of the good, our spiritual sloth. She makes the will constant and firm in its practice of virtue, and helps it to despise the attractions of this world, by throwing itself into the arms of God. She strengthens those who falter, and lifts up those who have fallen.
She heals the wound of ignorance by lighting up the darkness of our minds and providing us with the means to escape from error. She calls to our minds the simple and profound truths of the Our Father, thereby lifting our minds up to God. St. Albert the Great—to whom she gave the light to persevere in his vocation and to see through the wiles of Satan—said, frequently, that she preserves us from losing rightness and firmness of judgement, that she helps us not to grow weary in the pursuit of truth, and that she leads us eventually to a relish of the things of God. He himself speaks of her in his Mariale with a spontaneity, an admiration, a freshness, and a fluency which are rarely found in the works of great students.
She heals us, finally, of the wounds of malice, by urging our wills 'Godwards', sometimes by gentle advice, sometimes by stern reproaches. Her sweetness checks anger, her humility lowers pride and restrains the temptations of the evil one. In a word, she heals us of the wounds which we bear as a result of Original Sin and which our personal sin has made all the more dangerous.
Sometimes this healing power of hers works in a miraculous manner, by producing its effects instantaneously. An example is the conversion of the young Alphonse Ratisbonne—at the time a Jew and far removed from the Faith—who visited the Church of Sant' Andrea delle Frate, in Rome, through curiosity. Mary appeared to him there, as she is represented on the Miraculous Medal, with rays of light issuing from her hands. She indicated gently to him to kneel. He obeyed, and, while on his knees, he lost the use of his senses. When he returned to himself he expressed an intense desire for baptism. He was baptized and, later, with his brother—who had been converted before him—founded the congregation of the Fathers of Sion and that of the Religious of Sion, to pray, suffer, and work for the conversion of the Jews, saying daily at Holy Mass: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
REFUGE OF SINNERS
Mary is Refuge of Sinners precisely because she is so holy. Detesting sin, which does so much harm to souls, she welcomes sinners and wishes to bring them to repentance. She frees them from the bonds of sinful habits, by the power of her intercession; she obtains their reconciliation with God, by the merits of her Son, and reminds the sinner, too, of the same merits. Once converted to penance, she protects them from Satan, against everything which could lead to fresh falls. She helps them to learn of the sweetness of penance.
To her, after Jesus, all sinners now in Heaven owe their salvation. She has converted them in countless numbers, especially in places of pilgrimage—at Lourdes where she issued the invitation "Pray and do penance", and more recently at Fatima, where the number of conversions since 1917 is known to God alone. There are many condemned criminals who owe to her their conversion at the last moment of their lives. She has inspired the foundation of religious orders consecrated to prayer, to penance, and to the apostolate of the conversion of sinners—those of St. Dominic and of St. Francis, the Redemptorists, the Passionists, and so many others.
What sinners are there whom she does not protect? Those only who despise God's mercy and call down His malediction on themselves. She is not the refuge of those who are obstinate in evil—in blasphemy, perjury, impurity, avarice, pride of the spirit. But even to them she sends from time to time, as Mother of Mercy, graces for the mind and the will, and, if they accept them, they will be led from grace to grace and finally to the grace of conversion. To such she has suggested, by the lips of a dying mother, that they should say at least one Hail Mary each day, and often it has happened that, though they made no other effort than that to change their lives, the feeble spark of good-will it contained, was enough to light them the way to a worthy and penitent reception of the Last Sacraments. They have been the 'laborers of the last hour', called and saved by Mary. This was the case, in France, of the immoral writer, Armand Silvestre. For almost two thousand years Mary has been the Refuge of Sinners.
COMFORTER OF THE AFFLICTED
Mary was Comforter of the Afflicted even during her lifetime on earth: she consoled Jesus by her presence on Calvary; she consoled the Apostles in the difficulties they encountered in the conversion of the pagan world, and obtained for them a spirit of strength and holy joy in their sufferings. She must have helped St. Stephen, by her prayers, when he was being stoned to death. She obtained for many the grace to bear persecution patiently and without giving way to cowardly fears. Though she saw the dangers which threatened the infant Church, she did not waver; her face was ever calm, for her soul was tranquil and confident. Sadness never took possession of her heart. What we know of the intensity of her love of God, assures us that she remained joyous in affliction, that she did not complain of poverty or privations, that insults had no power to alter her meekness. Her example alone was enough to hearten many a despairing soul.
She has given to many saints the grace to be themselves consolers of the afflicted. Such were St. Genevieve, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Germaine de Pibrac.
The Holy Ghost is called the Consoler most of all because He makes us shed tears of contrition, thereby to wash away our sins and to restore to us the joy of God's friendship. For the same reason the Blessed Virgin is the Consoler of the afflicted when she prompts them to bewail their sins from a contrite heart.
Mary is particularly attentive to our inner or secret poverty: she knows how little are the resources of our hearts, and she comes to their assistance. She knows all the needs of soul and body : she has consoled Chrstians in persecution, she has delivered the possessed, she has assisted and strengthened the dying by calling to their minds the infinite merits of her Son. She lessens the rigors of Purgatory, and obtains for those who suffer there that the faithful pray and have Masses offered on their behalf.
In a sense, Mary's power as Consoler of the afflicted is felt even in the terrible regions of Hell. For St. Thomas tells us that the damned suffer less than they deserve (Summa Theologica, Ia, q. 21, a. 4, ad I.) since the Divine Mercy is found even in the strictest exercise of Divine Justice. Whatever less there is of the pain of Hell than there might be is due to the merits of Jesus and Mary. St. Odilon of Cluny says, in his sermon on the Assumption, that the Feast of the Assumption brings some slight alleviation of pain to Hell's torments.
Mary has been Consoler of the afflicted, throughout the ages, in the most varied ways, because of her great knowledge of the many trials through which men pass.
HELP OF CHRISTIANS
Mary is Help of Christians. Help is an effect of love, and Mary has now consummated fullness of love. She loves the souls redeemed by Jesus' blood. She helps them in their difficulties and assists them in the practice of the virtues.
The thought of Mary, Help of Christians, inspired St. Bernard, in the well-known passage from his second homily on the Missus est: "If the tempest of temptation rages, if the torrent of tribulation carries you away, look at the star, look at Mary. If the waves of pride and ambition, of slander and jealousy, buffet you and almost engulf you, look at the star, look at Mary. If anger or avarice or passion tosses the frail bark of your soul and threatens to wreck it, look once more at Mary. Let her memory be ever in your heart and her name always on your lips.... But remember that to obtain the benefit of her prayer you must walk in her footsteps."
She has been the refuge of whole peoples, as well as of individuals. Baronius tells us that Narses, general of the armies of the Emperor Justinian, delivered Italy by her help, in 553, from bondage to Totila the Goth. He tells us also that in 718 the city of Constantinople was rescued from the Saracens, who had been put to flight on many similar occasions already, with Mary's aid. In the 13th century, Simon, Count of Montfort, defeated a powerful Albigensian army near Toulouse, while St. Dominic invoked the Mother of God. In 1513, the city of Dijon was delivered miraculously through her. On the 7th of October, 1571, a Turkish fleet, much more numerous and powerful than that of the Chrstians, was defeated at Lepanto, at the entrance of the Gulf of Corinth, through the help of Mary invoked in the Rosary. Finally, Mary's title of Our Lady of Victories reminds us how often her intervention on the battlefield has been decisive in favor of oppressed Christian peoples.
The four invocations of the Litany of Loreto--Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Comforter of the Afflicted, Help of Christians--recall unceasingly, to the faithful, how truly Mary is Mother of Divine Grace and Mother of Mercy. The Church sings that she is our hope: "Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy! Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope!" She is our hope in that she has merited, with her Son, all that we need of help from God, and in that she transmits it to us now by her intercession. She is, therefore, the living expression and the instrument of God's helping Mercy, which is the formal motive of our hope. Confidence, or firm hope, is certain in its tendency to salvation, (9. IIa IIae, q. 18, a. 4: 'Spes certitudinaliter tendit ad suam finem, quasi participans certitudinem a fide.') and its certainty increases with our growth in grace. This certainty derives from our faith in the goodness of God Omnipotent and in His fidelity to His promises. Thence comes that almost constant sense of His watchful Paternity, which we find in the Saints. Mary's influence leads us, gradually, to this perfect confidence and makes its motive ever more clear.
Mary is even called Mother of Holy Joy and Cause of our Joy, for she obtains for generous souls the hidden treasure, or spiritual joy, in the midst of suffering. She obtains for them, from time to time, the grace to carry their Cross with joy, after the Lord Jesus. She initiates them into love of the Cross. And, even though they do not experience that joy uninterruptedly themselves, she helps them to communicate it to others.
In La Vie Spirituelle (The Spiritual Life), April, 1941, p. 281, Fr. M. J. Nicolas, O.P., has written of a holy religious, Fr. Vayssiere, who died as Provincial of the Dominicans at Toulouse:
“The grace of intimacy with Mary that he received, he owed first of all to the state of littleness to which he had been reduced and to which he had consented. But he owed it as well to his Rosary. During the long days of solitude at Sainte-Baume, he had acquired the habit of saying several Rosaries in the day, sometimes as many as six. He often said the whole of it kneeling. And it was not a mechanical and superficial recitation: his whole soul went into it, he delighted in it, he devoured it, he was persuaded that he found in it all that one could seek for in prayer. ‘Recite each decade’, he used to say, ‘less reflecting on the mystery than communicating through the heart in its grace, and in the spirit of Jesus and Mary as the mystery presents it to us. The Rosary is the evening Communion (elsewhere he calls it the Communion of the whole day) and it translates into light and fruitful resolution the morning Communion. It is not merely a series of Ave Marias piously recited; it is Jesus living again in the soul through Mary's maternal action.’ Thus he lived in the perpetually moving cycle of his Rosary, as if "surrounded" by Christ and by Mary, communicating, as he said, in each of their states, in each aspect of their grace, entering thus into and remaining in the depth of God's Heart: ‘The Rosary is a chain of love from Mary to the Trinity.’ One can understand what a contemplation it had become for him, what a way to pure union with God, what a need, like to that of Communion.”