The Glories of Mary
by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Evae.
TO THEE DO WE CRY, POOR BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE.
I. MARY, OUR HELP.
The Promptitude of Mary in assisting those who invoke her.
Truly unfortunate are we poor children of Eve; for, guilty before God of her fault, and condemned to the same penalty, we have to wander about in this valley of tears as exiles from our country, and to weep over our many afflictions of body and soul. But blessed is he who, in the midst of these sorrows, often turns to the comfortress of the world, to the refuge of the unfortunate, to the great Mother of God, and devoutly calls upon her and invokes her! Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates (“Beatus homo, qui audit me, et qui vigilat ad fores meas quoddie”—Prov. viii. 34). Blessed, says Mary, is he who listens to my counsels, and watches continually at the gate of my mercy, and invokes my intercession and aid.
The holy Church carefully teaches us her children with what attention and confidence we should unceasingly have recourse to this loving protectress; and for this purpose commands a worship peculiar to Mary. And not only this, but she has instituted so many festivals that are celebrated throughout the year in honor of this great Queen: she devotes one day in the week, in an especial manner, to her honor: in the divine office all ecclesiastics and religious are daily obliged to invoke her in the name of all Christians; and, finally, she desires that all the faithful should salute this most holy Mother of God three times a day, at the sound of the Angelus-bell. And that we may understand the confidence that the holy Church has in Mary, we need only remember that in all publica calamities she invariably invites all to have recourse to the protection of this divine Mother, by novenas, prayers, processions, by visiting the churches dedicated in her honor, and her images. And this is what Mary desires. She wishes us always to seek her and invoke her aid; not as if she were begging of us these honors and marks of veneration, for they are in no way proportioned to her merit; but she desires them, that by such means our confidence and devotion may be increased, and that so she may be able to give us greater succor and comfort: “She seeks for those,” says St. Bonaventure, “who approach her devoutly and with reverence, for such she loves, nourishes, and adopts as her children” (“Ipsa tales quaerit, qui ad eam devote et reverenter accedant; hos enim diligit, hos nutrit, hos in filios suos suscipit”—Stim. Am. p. 5, c. 16).
This last-named saint remarks, that Ruth, whose name signifies “seeing and hastening,” was a figure of Mary; “for Mary, seeing our miseries, hastens in her mercy to succor us” (“Videns etiam nostram miseriam, est et festinans ad impendendam suam misericordiam”—Spec. B. M. V. lect. v). Novarino adds, that “Mary, in the greatness of her desire to help us, cannot admit of delay, for she is in no way an avaricious guardian of the graces she has at her disposal as mother of mercy, and cannot do otherwise than immediately shower down the treasures of her liberality on her servants” (“Nescit nectere moras, benefaciendi cupida, nec gratiarum avara custos est; tarda nescit molimina misericordiae Mater, beneficentiae suae thesaurus in suos effusura”—Umbr. Virg. exc. 73).
O how prompt is this good mother to help those who call upon her! Thy two breasts, says the sacred Canticle, are like two roes that are twins (“Duo ubera tua, sicut duo hinnuli capreae”—Cant. iv. 5). Richard of St. Laurence explains this verse, and says, that as roes are swift in their course, so are the breast of Mary prompt to bestow the milk of mercy on all who ask it. “By the light pressure of a devout salutation and prayer they distil large drops” (“Compressione levissima devotae Salutationis et orationis, larga distillabit (Virgo )stillicidia”—De Laud. B. M. l. 1, c. 8). The same author assures us that the compassion of Mary is poured out on every one who asks it, even should it be sought for by no other prayer than a simple “Hail Mary.” Wherefore Novarino declares that the Blessed Virgin not only runs but flies to assist him who invokes her. “She,” says this author, “in the exercise of her mercy, knows not how to act differently from God; for, as he flies at once to the assistance of those who beg his aid, faithful to his promise, Ask, and you shall receive (“Petite, et acipietis”—John, xvi. 24), so Mary, whenever she is invoked, is at once ready to assist him who prays to her. “God has wings when he assists his own, and immediately flies to them; Mary also takes wing when she is about to fly to our aid” (“Alis utitur Deus; ut suis opituletur, statim advolat; alas sumit et Virgo, in nostril auxilium advolatura”—Umbra Virg. exc. 74). And hence we see who the woman was, spoken of in the following verse of the Apocalypse, to whom two great eagle’s wings were given, that she might fly to the desert. And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she ight fly into the desert (“Et datae sunt mulieri alae duae aquilae magnae, ut volaret in desertum”—Apoc. xii. 14). Ribeira explains these wings to mean the love with which Mary always flew to God. “She has the wings of an eagle, for she flies with the love of God” (“Pennas habet aquilae, quia amore Dei volat”). But the blessed Amadeus, more to our purpose, remarks that these wings of an eagle signify “the velocity, exceeding that of the seraphim, with which Mary always flies to the succor of her children” (“Motu celerrimo Seraphim alas excedens, ubique suis ut mater occurrit”—De Laud. B. V. hom. 8).
This will explain a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, in which we are told that when Mary went to visit and shower graces on St. Elizabeth and her whole family, she was not slow, but went with speed. The Gospel says, And Mary, rising up, went into the hill country with haste (“Exurgens autem Maria . . . abiit in Montana cum festinatione”—Luke i. 39). And this is not said of her return. For a similar reason, we are told in the sacred Canticles that the hands of Mary are used to the lathe: her hands are skillful at the wheel (“Manus illius tornatiles”—Cant. v. 14), meaning, says Richard of St. Laurence, “that as the art of turning is the easiest and most expeditious mode of working, so also is Mary the most willing and prompt of all the saints to assist her clients” (“Sicut ars tornandi promptior est aliis artibus, sic Maria ad benefaciendum promptior est omnibus Sanctis”—De Laud. B. M. l. 5). And truly “she has the most ardent desire to console all, and is no sooner invoked than she accepts the prayers, and helps” (“Omnes consolatur, et. Vel tenuiter invocate, praesto adest”—Par. An. fid. p. 1, c. 18). St. Bonaventure, then, was right in calling Mary the “salvation of all who call upon her” (“O salus te invocantium!”—Cant. p. Psalt.), meaning, that it suffices to invoke this divine mother in order to be saved; for, according to Richard of St. Laurence, she is always ready to help those who seek her aid. “Thou wilt always find her ready to help thee” (“Semper paratam auxiliary”—De Laud B. M. l. 2, p. 1). And Bernardine de Bustis adds, “that this great Lady is more desirous to grant us graces than we are desirous to receive them” (“Plus desierat ipsa facere tibi bonum, quam tu accipere concupiscas”—Marial. p. 2, s. 5).
Nor should the multitude of our sins diminish our confidence that Mary will grant our petitions when we cast ourselves at her feet. She is the mother of mercy; but mercy would not be needed did none exist who require it. On this subject Richard of St. Laurence remarks, “that as a good mother does not shrink from applying a remedy to her child infected with ulcers, however nauseous and revolting they may be, so also is our good mother unable to abandon us when we have recourse to her, that she may heal the wounds caused by our sins, however loathsome they may have rendered us” (“Non enim Mater haec dedignatur peccatores, sicut nec bona Mater filium scabiosum; quia propter peccatores factam se recolit Misericordiae Genitricem; ubi enim non est miseria, misericordia non habet locum”—De Laud. B. M. l. 4). This is exactly what Mary gave St. Gertrude to understand, when she showed herself to her with her mantle spread out to receive all who have recourse to her. At the same time the saint was told that “angels constantly guard the clients of this Blessed Virgin from the assaults of hell.”
This good Mother’s compassion is so great, and the love she bears us is such, that she does not even wait for our prayers in order to assist us; but, as it is expressed in the Book of Wisdom, she preventeth them that covet her, so that she first showeth herself unto them (“Praeoccupat, qui se concupiscent, ut illis se prior ostendat”—Wisd. vi. 14). St. Anselm applies these words to Mary, and says that she is beforehand with those who desire her protection. By this we are to understand that she obtains us many favors from God before we have recourse to her. For this reason Richard of St. Victor remarks, that she is called the moon, fair as the moon (“Pulchra ut luna”—Cant. vi. 9), meaning, not only that she is swift as the moon in its course, by flying to the aid of those who invoke her, but that she is still more so, for her love for us is so tender, that in our wants she anticipates our prayers, and her mercy is more prompt to help us than we are to ask her aid (“Velocitate praestat. Velocius occurrit ejus pietas, quam invocetur, et causas miserorum anticipat”). “And this arises,” adds the same Richard, “from the fact that the heart of Mary is so filled with compassion for poor sinners, that she no sooner sees our miseries than she pours her tender mercies upon us. Nor is it possible for this benign Queen to behold the want of any soul without immediately assisting it” (“A Deo pietate replentur ubera tua, ut, alicujus miseriae notitia tacta, lac fondant misericordiae: nec possis miseries scire, et non subvenire”—In Cant. c. 23).
Mary, even when living in this world, showed at the marriage-feast of Cana the great compassion that she would afterwards exercise towards us in our necessities, and which now, as it were, forces her to have pity on us and assist us, even before we ask her to do so. In the second chapter of St. Luke we read that at this feast the compassionate Mother saw the embarrassment in which the bride and bridegroom were, and that they were quite ashamed on seeing the wine fail; and therefore, without being asked, and listening only to the dictates of her compassionate heart, which could never behold the afflictions of others without feeling for them, she begged her Son to console them simply by laying their distress before him: they have no wine (“Vinum no habent”—John ii. 3). No sooner had she done so, than our Lord, in order to satisfy all present, and still more to console the compassionate heart of his Mother, who had asked the favor, worked the well-known miracle by which he changed the water, brought to him in jars, into wine. From this Novarinus argues, that “if Mary, unasked, is thus prompt to succor the needy, how much more so will she be to succor those who invoke her and ask for her help?” (“Si tam prompta ad auxilium currit non quaesita, quid requaesita praestitura est?”—Umbra Virg. exc. 72).
Should there be any one who doubts as to whether Mary will aid him if he has recourse to her, Innocent III thus reproves him: Who is there that ever, when in the night of sin, had recourse to this sweet Lady without being relieved?” (“Quis invocavit eam, et non est exauditus ab ipsa?”—De Assumpt. s. 2).
“Who ever,” exclaims the Blessed Eutychian (“Quis, O Domina! Fideliter omnipotentem tuam rogavit opem, et fuit derelictus? Revera nullus unquam”—Vit. S. Theoph. Ap. Sur. 4 Febr.), “faithfully implored thy all-powerful aid and was abandoned by thee?” Indeed, no one: for thou canst relieve the most wretched and save the most abandoned. Such a case certainly never did and never will occur.
“I am satisfied,” says St. Bernard, “that whoever has had recourse to thee, O Blessed Virgin, in his wants, and can remember that he did so in vain, should no more speak of or praise thy mercy” (“Sileat misericordiam tuam, Virgo Beata, qui invocatam te in necessitatibus suis sibi meminerit defuisse”—De Assumpt. s. 4).
“Sooner,” says the devout Blosius, “would heaven and earth be destroyed than would Mary fail to assist any one who asks for her help, provided he does so with a good intention and with confidence in her” (“Cutuys ciekyn cyn terra oeruerutm qyan tym akuqyenm serui te unokirabtenm tya ioe destutyas”—Consol. Pusil. c. 35).
St. Anselm, to increase our confidence, adds, that “when we have recourse to this divine Mother, not only we may be sure of her protection, but that often we shall be heard more quickly, and be thus preserved, if we have recourse to Mary and call on her holy name, than we should be if we called on the name of Jesus our Savior;” and the reason he gives for it is, “that to Jesus, as a judge, it belongs also to punish; but mercy alone belongs to the Blessed Virgin as a patroness” (“Velocior est nonnunquam salus, memorato nominee Mariae, quam invocato nominee Jesu: Filius Dominus est et Judex . . . invocato autem nominee Matris, etsi merita invocantis non merentur: merita tamen Matris intercedunt, ut exaudiatur”—De Excell. V. c. 6). Meaning, that we more easily find salvation by having recourse to the Mother than by going to the Son—not as if Mary was more powerful than her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Savior, and that he alone by his merits has obtained and obtains salvation for us; but it is for this reason: that when we have recourse to Jesus, we consider him at the same time as our judge, to whom it belongs also to chastise ungrateful souls, and therefore the confidence necessary to be heard may fail us; but when we go to Mary, who has no other office than to compassionate us as Mother of mercy, and to defend us as our advocate, our confidence is more easily established, and is often greater. “We often obtain more promptly what we ask by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus. Her Son is lord and judge of all, and discerns the merits of each one; and therefore if he does not immediately grant the prayers of all, he is just. When, however, the Mother’s name is invoked, though the merits of the suppliant are not such as to deserve that his prayer should be granted, those of the Mother supply that he may receive.”
“Many things,” says Nicephorus, “are asked from God, and are not granted: they are asked from Mary, and are obtained.” And how is this? It is “because God has thus decreed to honor his Mother” (“Multa petuntur a Deo, et non obtinentur: multa petuntur a Maria, et obtinentur; non quia potentior, sed quia Deus eam decrevit sic honorare.”) St. Bridget heard our Lord make a most sweet and consoling promise; for in the 50소 chapter of the first book of her Revelations we read that Jesus addressed his Mother in the following words: “Thou shalt present me with no petition that shall be refused. My Mother, ask what thou wilt, for never will I refuse thee anything; and know,” he added, “that I promise graciously to hear all those who ask any favor of me in thy name, though they may be sinners, if only they have the will to amend their lives” (“Nulla erit petition tua ad me, quae non exaudiatur, et per te omnes, qui petunt misericordiam cum voluntate emendandi, gratiam habebunt”—Rev. l. i. c. 50). The same thing was revealed to St. Gertrude, when she heard our divine Redeemer assure his Mother, that in his omnipotence he granted her power to show mercy to sinners who invoke her in whatever manner she might please (“Ex omnipotentia mea, Mater, tibi concessi potestatem propitiandi peccatis omnium qui devote invocant tuae pietatis auxilium, qualicumque modo placet tibi”—Insin. l. 4. c. 53).
Let all, then, say, with full confidence in the words of that beautiful prayer addressed to the Mother of mercy, and commonly attributed to St. Bernard, “Remember, O most pioius Virgin Mary, that it never was heard of in any age that any one having recourse to thy protection was abandoned” (“Memorare, piissima Maria, a saeculo non fuisse auditum quemquam ad tua praesidia confugientem esse derelictum”).
We read in the life of St. Francis de Sales that he experienced the efficacy of this prayer. When he was about seventeen years of age, he was living in Paris, where he was pursuing his studies. At the same time he devoted himself to exercises of piety and to the holy love of God, in which he found the joys of paradise. Our Lord, in order to try him, and to strengthen the bands which united him to himself, allowed the evil spirit to persuade him that all that he did was in vain, as he was already condemned in the eternal decrees of God. The darkness and spiritual dryness in which God was pleased at the same time to leave him (for he was then insensible to all the sweeter thoughts of the goodness of God) caused the temptation to have greater power over the heart of the holy youth: and, indeed, it reached such a pitch that his fears and interior desolation took away his appetite, deprived him of sleep, made him pale and melancholy; so much so, that he excited the compassion of all who saw him.
As long as this terrible storm lasted, the saint could only conceive thoughts and utter words of despondency and bitter grief. “Then,” said he, “I am to be deprived of the grace of my God, who hitherto has shown himself so lovely and sweet to me! O love, O beauty, to which I have consecrated all my affections, I am no longer to enjoy thy consolation! O Virgin, Mother of God, the fairest amongst all the daughters of Jerusalem, then I am never to see thee in heaven! Ah, Lady, if I am not to behold thy beautiful countenance in Paradise, at least permit me not to blaspheme thee in hell!” Such were the tender sentiments of that afflicted, but at the same time loving heart. The temptation had lasted a month, when it pleased our Lord to deliver him by the means of that comfortress of the world, the most Blessed Mary, to whom the saint had some time before consecrated his virginity, and in whom, as he declared, he had placed all his hopes. One evening, on returning home, he entered a church, and saw a tablet hanging on the wall. He read it, and found the following well-known prayer; commonly called “the prayer of St. Bernard:” “Remember, O most pious Virgin Mary, that it never has been heard of in any age, that any one having recourse to thy protection was abandoned.” Falling on his knees before the alter of the divine Mother, he recited this prayer with tender fervor, renewed his vow of chastity, promised to say the Rosary every day, and then added: “My Queen, be my advocate with thy Son, whom I dare not approach. My Mother, if I am so unfortunate as not to be able to love my Lord in the next world, and whom I know to be so worthy of love, at least do thou obtain that I may love him in this world as much as possible. This is the grace that I ask and hope for from thee.” Having thus addressed the Blessed Virgin, he cast himself into the arms of divine mercy, and resigned himself entirely to the will of God. Scarecely had he finished his prayer, when in an instant he was delivered from his temptation by his most sweet Mother. He immediately regained the peace of his soul, and with it his bodily health; and from that time forward lived most devout to Mary, whose praises and mercy he constantly extolled, both in his sermons and writings, during the remainder of his life.
O Mother of God, Queen of angels and hope of men, give ear to one who calls upon thee and has recourse to thy protection. Behold me this day prostrate at thy feet; I, a miserable slave of hell, devote myself entirely to thee. I desire to be forever thy servant. I offer myself to serve and honor thee to the utmost of my power during the whole of my life. I know that the service of one so vile and miserable can be no honor to thee, since I have so grievously offended Jesus, thy Son and my Redeemer. But if thou wilt accept one so unworthy for thy servant, and by thy intercession change me, and thus making me worthy, this very mercy will give thee that honor which so miserable a wretch as I can never give thee. Receive me, then, and reject me not, O my Mother. The Eternal Word came from heaven on earth to seek for lost sheep, and to save them he became thy Son. And when one of them goes to thee to find Jesus, wilt thou despise it? The price of my salvation is already paid; my Savior has already shed his blood, which suffices to save an infinity of worlds. This blood has only to be applied even to such a one as I am. And that is thy office, O Blessed Virgin; to thee does it belong, as I am told by St. Bernard, to dispense the merits of this blood to whom thou pleasest. To thee does it belong, says St. Bonaventure, to save whomsoever thou willest, “whomsoever thou willest will be saved” (“Quem vis, ipse salvus erit”). Oh, then, help me, my Queen; my Queen, save me. To thee do I this day consecrate my whole soul; do thou save it. O salvation of those who invoke thee, I conclude in the words of the same saint, “O salvation of those who call upon thee, do thou save me” (“O Salus te invocantium!”).
II. The Greatness of the Power of Mary to defend those who invoke her when tempted by the Devil.
Not only is the most Blessed Virgin Queen of heaven and of all saints, but she is also Queen of hell and of all evil spirits; for she overcame them valiantly by her virtues. From the very beginning God foretold the victory and empire that our Queen would one day obtain over the serpent, when he announced that a woman should come into the world to conquer him: I will put enmities between thee and the woman—she shall crush thy head (“Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem . . . ipsa conteret caput tuum”—Gen. iii. 15).
Who could this woman, his enemy, be but Mary, who by her fair humility and holy life always conquered him and beat down his strength? The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was promised in the person of that woman (“Mater Domini nostril Jesu Christi in illa Muliere promissa est”—De Viro perf. Inter op. S. Hier), as it is remarked by St. Cyprian (Test. L. 2, c. 9), and after him another ancient writer; and therefore God did not say, “I place,” but “I will place;” lest he might seem to refer to Eve: meaning that God said, I will place enmities between thee and the woman, to signify that the serpent’s opponent was not to be Eve, who was then living, but would be another woman descending from her, and who, as St. Vincent Ferrer observes, “would bring our first parents far greater advantages than those which they had lost by their sin” (“Quod ab eis procederet una Virgo sanctissima, quae afferret majus bonum, quam ipsi perdidissent”—Serm. De Concep. B. V. M.). Mary, then, was this great and valiant woman, who conquered the devil and crushed his head by bringing down his pride, as it was foretold by God himself: she shall crush thy head. Some doubt as to whether these words refer to Mary, or whether they do not rather refer to Jesus Christ; for the Septuagint renders them, He shall crush thy head. But in the Vulgate, which alone was approved of by the sacred Council of Trent, we find She, and not He; and thus it was understood by St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and a great many others. However, be it as it may, it is certain that either the Son by means of the Mother, or the Mother by means of the Son, has overcome Lucifer; so that, as St. Bernard remarks, this proud spirit, in spite of himself, was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. “Beaten down and trampled under the feet of Mary, he endured a wretched slavery” (“Sub Mariae pedibus conculcatus et contritus, miseram patitur servitutem”—In Sign. Magn.). St. Bruno says “that Eve was the cause of death,” by allowing herself to be overcome by the serpent, “but that Mary,” by conquering the devil, “restored life to us” (“In Eva mors, et in Maria vita consistit; illa a diabolo victa est, haec diabolum ligavit et vicit”—De B. V. s. 2). And she bound him in such a way that this enemy cannot stir so as to do the least injury to any of her clients.
Beautiful is the explanation given by Richard of St. Laurence of the following words of the Book of Proverbs: The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils (“Confidit in ea cor viri sui, et spoliis non indigebit”—Prov. xxxi. 11). He says, applying them to Jesus and Mary: “The heart of her spouse, that is Christ, trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils; for she endows him with all those whom by her prayers, merits, and example, she snatches from the devil” (“Quis, quoscumque suis orationibus, meritis et exemplis, liberat a diabolo, appoinit et assignat dominio Sponsi sui”—De Laud. B. M. l. 6). “God has entrusted the heart of Jesus to the hands of Mary, that she may insure it the love of men,” says Cornelius à Lapide; and thus he will not need spoils; that is, he will be abundantly supplied with souls; for she enriches him with those whom she has snatched from hell, and saved from the devil by her powerful assistance.
It is well known that the palm is a sign of victory; and therefore our Queen is placed on a high throne, in sight of all the powers, as a palm, for a sign of the certain victory that all may promise themselves who place themselves under her protection. I was exalted like a palm-tree in Cades (“Quasi palma exaltata sum in Cades”—Ecclus. xxiv. 18), says Ecclesiasticus: “that is, to defend,” adds Blessed Albert the Great (“Scilicet ad defendendum”—Bibl. Marian). “My children, “Mary seems to say, “when the enemy assails you, fly to me; cast your eyes on me, and be of good heart; for as I am your defender, victory is assured to you.” So that recourse to Mary is a most secure measns to conquer all the assaults of hell; for she, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, is even the Queen of hell and sovereign mistress of the devils: since she it is who tames and crushes them. He thus expresses his thought: “The most Blessed Virgin rules over the infernal regions. She is therefore called the ruling mistress of the devils, because she brings them into subjection” (“Beata Virgo dominator in regno inferni; merito ergo domina dicitur, quasi domans daemonum manus”—Pro Fest. V. M. s. 3, a. 2, c. 2). For this reason Mary is said in the sacred Canticles to be terrible to the infernal powers as an army in battle array (“Terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata”—Cant. vi. 3), and she is called thus terrible, because she well knows how to array her power, her mercy, and her prayers, to the discomfiture of her enemies, and for the benefit of her servants, who in their temptations have recourse to her most powerful aid.
As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor (“Ego, quasi vitis, fructificavi suavitatem odoris”—Ecclus. xxiv. 23). Thus does the Holy Ghost make Mary speak in the book of Ecclesiasticus. “We are told,” says St. Bernard on this passage, that “all venomous reptiles fly from flowering vines” (“Aiunt, florescentibus vineis, omne reptile venenatum cedere loco”—In Cant. s. 60); for, as poisonous reptiles fly from flowering vines, so do devils fly from those fortunate souls in whom they perceive the perfume of devotion to Mary. And therefore she also calls herself, in the same book, a cedar: I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus (“Quasi cedrus exaltata sum in Libano”—Ecclus. xxiv. 17). Not only because Mary was untainted by sin, as the cedar is incorruptible, but also, as Cardinal Hugo remarks on the foregoing text, because, “like the cedar which by its odor keeps off worms, so also does Mary by her sanctity drive away the devils” (“Cedrus odore suo fugat serpents, et Beata Virgo daemons”).
In Judea victories were gained by means of the ark. Thus it was that Moses conquered his enemies, as we learn from the Book of Numbers. And when the ark was lifted up, Moses said: Arise, O Lord, and let Thy enemies be scattered (“Cumque elevaretur Arca, dicebat Moyses: Surge Domine, et dissipentur inimici tui”—Num. X. 35). Thus was Jericho conquered; thus also the Philistines; for the Ark of God was there (“Erat enim ibi Arca Dei”—1 Kings, xiv. 18). It is well known that this ark was a figure of Mary. Cornelius à Lapide says, “In time of danger, Christians should fly to the most Blessed Virgin, who contained Christ as manna in the ark of her womb, and brought him forth to be the food and salvation of the world” (“Quae Christum quasi Manna in arca ventris sui continuity”). For as manna was in the ark, so is Jesus (of whom manna was a figure) in Mary; and by means of this ark we gain the victory over our earthly and infernal enemies. “And thus,” St. Bernardine of Sienna well observes, “that when Mary, the ark of the New Testament, was raised to the dignity of Queen of heaven, the power of hell over men was weakened and dissolved” (“Quando elevate fuit Virgo gloriosa ad coelestia regna, daemonis potential imminuta est et dissipata”—Pro Fest. V. M. s. 12, a. 1, c. 3).
O how the infernal spirits tremble at the very thought of Mary, and of her august name! says St. Bonaventure. “O, how fearful is Mary to the devils!” (“O quam tremenda est Maria daemonibus!”) The saint compares these enemies to those of whom Job speaks: He diggeth through houses in the dark; if the morning suddenly appear, it is to them the shadow of death (“Perfodit in tenebris domos . . .; si subito apparuerit aurora, arbitrantur umbram mortis”—Job, xxiv. 16). Thieves go and rob houses in the dark; but as soon as morning dawns, they fly, as if they beheld the shadow of death. “Precisely thus,” in the words of the same saint, “do the devils enter a soul in the time of darkness;” meaning when the soul is in the obscurity of ignorance. They dig through the house of our mind when it is in the darkness of ignorance. But then, he adds, “if suddenly they are overtaken by the dawn, that is, if the grace and mercy of Mary enters the soul, its brightness instantly dispels the darkness, and puts the infernal enemies to flight, as if they fled from death” (“Perfodiunt in tenebris ignorantiae, domos mentium nostrarum. . . Si subito apparuerit aurora, si supervenerit Mariae gratia et misericordia, sic fugiunt, sicut hominess fugiunt umbram mortis”—Spec. B. V. lect. 3, 11). O blessed is he who always invokes the beautiful name of Mary in his conflicts with hell!
In confirmation of this, it was revealed to St. Bridget “that God had rendered Mary so powerful over the devils, that as often as they assault a devout client who calls on this most Blessed Virgin for help, she at a single glance instantly terrifies them, so that they fly far away, preferring to have their pains redoubled rather than see themselves thus subject to the power of Mary” (“Super omnes etiam malignos spiritus ipsam sic Deus potentem effecit, quod. quotiescumque ipsi hominem Virginis auxilium implorantem impugnaverint, ad ipsius Virginis nutum illico pavidi procul diffugiunt, volentes potius poenas suas multiplicari, quam ejusdem Virginis potentiam super se taliter dominari”—Serm. Ang. c. 20).
The divine Bridgegroom, when speaking of this his beloved bride, calls her a lily: As the lily is amongst the thorns, so is my beloved amongst the daughters (“Sicut lilium inter spinas, sic amica mea inter filias”—Cant. ii. 2). On these words Cornelius à Lapide makes the reflection, “that as the lily is a remedy against serpents and venomous things, so is the invocation of Mary a specific by which we may overcome all temptations, and especially those against purity, as all find who put it in practice” (“Sicut lilium valet adversus serpents et venena, sic Beatae Virginis invocation singulare est remedium in omni tentatione, praesertim libidinis, uti experiential constat”).
St. John Damascene used to say, “While I keep my hope in thee unconquerable, O Mother of God, I shall be safe. I will fight and overcome my enemies with no other buckler than thy protection and thy all-powerful aid” (“Insuperabilem spem tuam habens, O Deipara! servabor . . . : persequar inimicos meos, solam habens, ut thoracem, protectionem tuam et omnipotens auxilium tuum”—In Ann. Dei gen.). And all who are so fortunate as to be the servants of this great Queen can say the same thing. O Mother of God, if I hope in thee, I most certainly shall not be overcome; for, defended by thee, I will follow up my enemies, and oppose them with the shield of thy protection and thy all-powerful help; and then without doubt I shall conquer. For says St. james the monk (who was a Doctor amongst the Greeks), addressing our Lord on the subject of Mary, “Thou, O Lord, hast given us in Mary arms that no force of war can overcome, and a trophy never to be destroyed” (“Tu arma omni vi belli potentiora, trophaeumque invictum eam praestitisti”—Or. in Nat. Deip.).
It is said in the Old Testament, that God guided his people from Egypt to the land of promise, by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire (“Per diem in columna nubis, et per noctem in columna ignis”—Exod. xiii. 21). This stupendous pillar, at times as a cloud, at others, as fire, says Richard of St. Laurence, was a figure of Mary fulfilling the double office she constantly exercises for our good: as a cloud she protects us from the ardor of divine justice; and as fire she protects as from the devils. “Behold, the twofold object for which Mary is given to us; to shelter us, as a cloud, from the heat of the sun of justice, and, as fire, toprotect us all against the devil” (“Ecce duo official ad quae data est nobis Maria: scilicet, ut nos protegat fervore solis justitiae, tamquam nubes; et tamquam ignis, ut nos protegat contra diabolum”—De Laud. B. Virg. l. 7). She protects us as a burning fire: for, St. Bonaventure remarks: “As wax melts before the fire, so do the devils lose their power against those souls who often remember the name of Mary, and devoutly invoke it; and still more so, if they also endeavor to imitate her virtues” (“Fluunt sicut cera a facie ignis, ubicumque invenerint crebram hujus nominis recordationem, devotam invocationem, sollicitam imitationem”—Spec. B. M. V. lect. 3).
The devils tremble even if they only hear the name of Mary. St. Bernard declares that in “the name of Mary every knee bows; and that the devils not only fear but tremble at the very sound of that name” (“Daemones, non solum Virginem pertimescunt, sed, audita hac voce, Maria, contremiscunt”—Apud Lyraeum, Tris. Mar. l. 3, t. 9). And as men fall prostrate with fear if a thunderbolt falls near them, so do the devils if they hear the name of Mary. Thomas à Kempis thus expresses the same sentiment: “The evil spirits greatly fear the Queen of heaven, and fly at the sound of her name, as if from fire. At the very sound of the word Mary, they are prostrated as by thunder” (“Expavescunt coeli Reginam spiritus maligni, et diffugiunt, audito nomme ejus, velut ab igne. Tanquam tonitruum de coelo factum sit, prosternuntur ad Sanctae Mariae vocabulum”—Ad Nov. s. 23).
Oh, how many victories have the clients of Mary gained by only making use of her most holy name! It was thus that St. Anthony of Padua was always victorious; thus the Blessed Henry Suso; thus so many other lovers of this great Queen conquered. We learn from the history of the missions in Japan, that many devils appeared under the form of fierce animals to a certain Christian, to alarm and threaten him; but he thus addressed them: “I have no arms that you can fear; and if the Most high permits it, do whatever you please with me. In the mean time, however, I take the holy names of Jesus and Mary for my defence.” At the very sound of these tremendous names, the earth opened, and the proud spirits cast themselves headlong into it. St. Anselm declares that he himself “knew and had seen and heard many who had invoked the name of Mary in time of danger, and were immediately delivered from it” (“Saepe vidimus et audivimus plurimos hominum in suis periculis recordari nominis Mariae, et omnis periculi malum illico evasisse”—De Excell. Virg. c. 6).
“Glorious indeed, and admirable, exclaims St. Bonaventure, “is thy name, O Mary; for those who pronounce it at death need not fear all the powers of hell” (“Gloriosum et admirabile est nomen tuum, O Maria! qui illud retinent, non expavescent in puncto mortis”—Psalt. B. V. ps. 110); for the devils on eharing that name instantly fly, and leave the soul in peace. The same saint adds, “that men do not fear a powerful hostile army as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary” (“Non sic timent hostes visibiles castrorum multitudinem copiosam, sicut aereae potestates Mariae vocabulum, et patrocinium”—Spec. B. M. V. lect. 3). “Thou, O Lady,” says St. Germanus, “by the simple invocation of thy most powerful name, givest security to thy servants against all the assaults of the enemy” (“Tu hostis contra invasions servos tuos sola tui nominis invocatione, tutos servas”—De Zona Deip.). Oh, were Christians but careful in their temptations to pronounce the name of Mary with confidence, never would they fall; for, as Blessed Allan remarks, “At the very sound of these words, Hail, Mary! Satan flies, and hell trembles.” Our Blessed Lady herself revealed to St. Bridget that the enemy flies even from the most abandoned sinners, who consequently are the farthest from God, and fully possessed by the devil, if they only invoke her most powerful name with a true purpose of amendment. “All devils on hearing this name of Mary, filled with terror, leave the soul” (“Satan fugit, infernos contremiscit, cum dico: Ave Maria”—De Psalt. p. 4, c. 30). But at the same time our Blessed Lady added, “that if the soul does not amend and obliterate its sins by sorrow, the devils almost immediately return and continue to possess it” (“Daemones, audito nominee meo, statim relinquunt animam, quasi territi. Sed. Revertuntur ad eam, nisi aliqua emendation subsequatur”—Rev. l. 1, c. 9).
In Reichersperg, in Bavaria, there was a canon regular of the name of Arnold, surnamed the Pious on account of the sanctity of his life, and who had the most tender devotion to our Blessed Lady. When at the point of death, and having received the last sacraments, he summoned his religious brethren, and begged that they would not abandon him in his last passage. Scarcely had he uttered these words, when, in the presence of all, he began to tremble, to roll his eyes, and, bathed in a cold sweat, with a faltering voice said, “Ah, do you not see the devils who are endeavoring to drag me to hell?” He then cried out, “Brothers, implore the aid of Mary for me; in her I confide; she will give me the victory.” On hearing this his brethren recited the Litany of our Blessed Lady, and as they said “Holy Mary, pray for him,” the dying man exclaimed, “Repeat, repeat the name of Mary, for I am already before God’s tribunal.” He was silent for a moment, and then added, “It is true that I did that, but I have done penance for it.” And then turning to our Blessed Lady, he said, “O Mary, I shall be delivered if thou helpest me.” Again the devils attacked him; but he defended himself with his crucifix and the name of Mary. Thus was the night spent; but no sooner did morning dawn than Arnold exclaimed with the greatest calmness, and full of holy joy, “Mary, my sovereign Lady, my refuge, has obtained me pardon and salvation.” Then casting his eyes on that Blessed Virgin who was inviting him to follow her, he said, “I come, O Lady, I come!” and making an effort to do so even with his body, his soul fled after her to the realms of eternal bliss, as we trust, for he sweetly expired (Auriemma, Aff. Scamb. p. 2, c. 8—Ludewig, Chron. Reichersp. anno 1166).
Behold at thy feet, O Mary my hope, a poor sinner, who has so many times been by his own fault the slave of hell. I know that by neglecting to have recourse to thee, my refuge, I allowed myself to be overcome by the devil. Had I always had recourse to thee, had I always invoked thee, I certainly should not have fallen. I trust, O Lady most worthy of all our love, that through thee I have already escaped from the hands of the devil, and that God has pardoned me. But I tremble lest at some future period I may again fall into the same bonds. I know that my enemies have not lost the hope of again overcoming me, and already they prepare new assaults and temptations for me. Ah, my Queen and refuge, do thou assist me. Place me under thy mantle; permit me not again to become their slave. I know that thou wilt help me and give me the victory, provided I invoke thee; but I dread lest in my temptations I may forget thee, and neglect to do so. The favor, then, that I seek of thee, and which thou must grant me, O most holy Virgin, is that I may never forget thee, and especially in time of temptation; grant that I may then repeatedly invoke thee, saying, “O Mary, help me; O Mary, help me.” And when my last struggle with hell comes, at the moment of death, ah then, my Queen, help me more than ever, and thou thyself remind me to call on thee more frequently either with my lips or in my heart; that, being thus filled with confidence, I may expire with thy sweet name and that of thy Son Jesus on my lips; that so I may be able to bless thee and praise thee, and not depart from thy feet in Paradise for all eternity. Amen.