The Blessings of Mary
Taken from A GARLAND FOR OUR LADY
Irish Ursulines, 1920 with IMPRIMATUR
The Conversion of a Dying Sinner
At Cracow, in Poland, in 1901, a sinner lay dying. He had been a great criminal, having spent his live in terrible evil-doing, even, as it was said, to the shedding of human blood. Nevertheless, though about to meet his God, and seemingly well aware of it, he persistently refused to prepare himself.
Many pious persons were praying for him; several priests had tried to gain access to him, but he had given orders that not one of them should be allowed to enter his room. However, a member of a religious order, who had been at college with him, determined, if possible, to save the soul of his former comrade, and contrived to evade the command, on the plea of oldtime friendship.
As soon as he saw the sick man the priest was convinced that to endeavour to reason with him would avail nothing. Therefore, with a resolution born of necessity as well as piety, the priest took the easiest, and in his opinion the most efficacious, means of softening the heart of the reprobate. He fell on his knees beside the bed and began to recite aloud the "Hail Mary." He was answered by a blasphemy. He continued, however, to repeat the prayer, and the invalid, too weak for further remonstrance, resigned himself to listen to it. After some time the dying man opened his eyes and said, in a voice weak but perfectly rational: "I would like to make my confession." The priest, though overjoyed, was much surprised. Great as had been his faith and confidence in the Mother of God, he was not prepared for so sudden a change. The sick man repeated his request, which was immediately complied with.
After his confession, he asked the priest to open a drawer in his table. There, among his papers, he directed him where to find a small picture of the Blessed Virgin. "It is a souvenir of my Mother," said the contrite sinner. "She gave it to me, enjoining me never to part with it. In order to please her I took it from her dear hands. I have often been on the point of destroying it when sorting my papers, but could never bring myself to do so." He took the picture, pressed it to his heart, and then kissed it fervently, tears streaming from his eyes. He received Holy Viaticum with joy and fervour, full of gratitude to her who is so justly called the Refuge of Sinners.