JUST as the soul gives life to the body, so grace gives life to the soul. And so our Lady, obtaining grace for sinners through her intercession, brings back life to their souls.
They who find me find life, and win favor from the Lord (Prv. 8:35). All you who hunger for the Kingdom of God, honor the most Blessed Virgin Mary and you will find life and eternal salvation. 12
St. Bernardine of Siena says that the reason why God did not destroy the human race after the first sin was His singular love for this holy Virgin, who was eventually to be born of the race.
Indeed, he says, all the mercies granted under the old dispensation were no doubt granted only in consideration of this most Blessed Lady.
In the Song of Songs (6: 10) Mary is called the dawn: Who is she that comes forth as the dawn? Dawn is the end of night and the beginning of day; the Blessed Virgin is the dawn of day, because she is the end of vice. 13
When devotion to Mary begins in anyone, it produces the same effect that our Lady's birth produces in the world: it ends the night of sin and leads a person along the bright path of virtue.
St. Germanus once said in a sermon that to pronounce the name of Mary with affection is a sign of life in the soul, or at least a sign that life will soon return there.
Do not be afraid (Bernardine de Bustis encourages every sinner), even if you are guilty of every crime possible. Go with trust to this most glorious Lady.
You will find her hands filled with mercy and bounty. She longs to do you good much more than you could ever long to receive good from her.
No sinner who turns to this compassionate Lady should ever be afraid of being spurned --- she is the very Mother of Mercy and, because she is, it is her ambition to save the most miserable of all.
Mary is the ark which saves from eternal destruction anyone who takes shelter in it. 14
In the great Deluge even beasts were saved in Noah's ark. Under the shelter of Mary even sinners are saved.
St. Gertrude once had a vision of Mary with her mantle spread out wide, and under its folds were many wild beasts. And she noticed that Mary did more than just accept the beasts; she welcomed them and caressed them with the most delicate tenderness.
Then let us go to this Ark; let us take cover under Mary's mantle. Surely she will do more than merely receive us; surely she will welcome us and secure our eternal salvation.
2. Mary Is
THE grace of final perseverance is such a great and precious gift that (as the Council of Trent declares) God gives it only gratuitously. We cannot merit it.
Yet St. Augustine tells us that all who seek it obtain it. And, according to Suarez, they can be absolutely sure of obtaining it if they keep on asking for it to the end of their life.
I hold it as certain, according to the common opinion today, that all the graces God gives to human beings pass through the hands of Mary. By the same token it is equally true that only through the hands of Mary can we hope for this crown of all grace --- perseverance.
We can be absolutely sure of obtaining it if we always seek it with confidence through Mary. She herself, in the words of Sirach (traditionally applied to her by the Church), promises this grace to everyone who serves her faithfully through life:
They who obey me will not be put to shame, they who serve me will never fail. (24:21)
Again in the words of Sirach (24:14), the Blessed Virgin is called a plane tree: I am raised aloft like a plane tree growing beside the water.
Cardinal Hugo, in explaining these words, says that the plane has leaves like shields, showing how Mary defends all who take refuge in her.
Surely, we ought to feel sorry for those persons who abandon this refuge, giving up their devotion to Mary, and no longer recommending themselves to her in the occasions of sin.
If the sun failed to rise, what would the world be but a chaos of horrible darkness? Take away the sun, and where is the day? Take away Mary, and what is left but the darkest night? 15
If Mary ignores and condemns someone, that person is inevitably lost. Therefore, woe to those who turn their back on this Sun! 16
Woe to those who despise its light --- who make little of devotion to Mary!
St. Francis Borgia always doubted the perseverance of anyone in whom he did not find particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin. One time he questioned some novices about the Saints for whom they had special reverence and discovered that there were some who had no personal devotion to our Lady.
The Saint immediately warned the novice master and suggested that he keep a very watchful eye on these novices. Just as he had feared, they eventually lost their vocation and gave up the religious life.
So it was perfectly natural for St. Germanus to style the Blessed Virgin the Breath of Christians. "As breathing is not only the sign but even the cause of life, so the name of Mary, continually on the lips of her clients, not only proves the presence of supernatural life, but also causes and preserves it, and gives them strength for everything."
Blessed Allan one day was assaulted by a violent temptation and had all but yielded (for he had not turned to Mary for help), when she appeared to him. To teach him to be more alert the next time, she struck him and said: "If you had prayed to me, you would not find yourself in such trouble."
In the case of those who listen to her voice and watch daily at the posts of her doors (to make use of the words of the Book of Proverbs, which the Church applies to her), Mary always does her part and obtains for them the light and strength they need to abandon sin and walk the path of virtue.
"The moon at night, the dawn at break of day, the sun at noon" --- this is the way Innocent III beautifully speaks of Mary .
When exhorting his penitents, St. Philip Neri used to say: "If you want to persevere, have devotion to our Blessed Lady ." And St. John Berchmans also used to say: "Whoever loves Mary will persevere."
Then consider this beautiful reflection from the pen of the Abbot Rupert on the parable of the prodigal son: "If the prodigal's mother were living, he would never have left home; or at any rate he would have returned much sooner than he did."
If only all persons loved this kind and most loving Lady --- if only they had re- course to her always and instantly in their temptations --- would they ever fall into sin? Would anyone ever be lost ? Those souls will fall and be lost who do not have recourse to Mary.
When we are tempted, says St. Thomas of Villanova, all we need do is what little chicks do. As soon as they see a hawk, they run under the wings of the mother hen. And this is the way we should act when tempted --- not linger to reason with the danger, but immediately fly and take cover under Mary's mantle.
A certain man who had committed a grievous sin was so ashamed that he refused to go to confession. Driven by remorse of conscience, he went to drown himself in the river. On the point of doing so, he changed his mind and begged God, with tears, to forgive him the sin without his having to confess it.
One night, as he was sleeping, he felt someone shake his arm and heard a voice: "Go to confession." He went to the church --- but shame kept him from making his confession.
Another night he heard the same voice. He returned to the church; but when he got there he felt he would rather die than confess the sin. But before leaving church he went to the shrine of the most Blessed Virgin to put himself in her hands. He had no sooner knelt down than he felt himself completely changed.
He got up immediately, asked for a priest, and, through the grace he had received from Mary, made a full confession of his sins, weeping bitterly. He said afterwards that he experienced greater satisfaction than if he had been given all the wealth of the world.
To conclude with the words of St. Bernard: "Remember that in this world you are tossed about on a stormy sea; you are not walking on solid ground. Remember that if you don't want to be lost at sea, you must keep your eyes fixed on this bright star and call on Mary.
"In danger, in trials, in doubts, think of Mary and cry out to her. Following her, you will never lose your way. Calling out to her, you will never despair.
"If Mary holds you, you can never fall. If she protects you, fear nothing, for you can never be lost. If she guides you, you will never know weariness, for you will work out your salvation with ease. If she is propitious, you will infallibly reach your Heaven."
So, if Mary takes up our cause, we are certain of reaching the Kingdom of Heaven.
THE person who is a friend is always a friend, and a brother or sister is born for the time of stress (Prv. 17: 17) .We never really know our friends and relatives when all is going well with us. It is only when we are in trouble that we see them in their true colors.
People of the world never desert friends as long as those friends are riding high in prosperity. But if such friends run into misfortune --- above all, if they are brought to death's door --- people leave them to themselves.
Mary does not deal that way with her clients. In all our misfortunes, and especially in death, which is our greatest affliction here on earth, this good Lady and Mother is our life and our sweetness --- our life during our exile, our sweetness in the last hour, securing for us a calm and happy death.
For on that day when Mary had the sad privilege of witnessing the death of her Son Jesus, Who was the head of the elect, she was granted the further privilege of assisting at the death of all the elect themselves. So in the Hail Mary the Church teaches us to beg our Lady to help us now, and particularly at the hour of our death.
Consider the anguish of the dying. They suffer remorse over past sins. They are filled with fear of the coming judgment and have no absolute assurance of their eternal salvation.
Then Hell arms itself and battles for the soul as it approaches the doors of eternity. The devils know that they have but a short time to gain that soul, and if they lose it, then they lose it forever.
But how quickly the devils flee from the face of this Queen! If at the hour of death we have our Lady to protect us, we need fear nothing from all the rebel Angels of Hell.
When Father Manuel Padial, S.J., lay dying, Mary herself came to him to console him. "See," she said, "the hour has finally come when the angels congratulate you and exclaim: "O happy sufferings, O mortifications now at last rewarded!' " At that moment an army of demons was seen rushing away in despair and crying out: "We are powerless --- the Immaculate defends him!"
Similarly Father Jasper Haywood was assailed by devils at his death and severely tempted against faith. But he commended himself at once to the Blessed Virgin and was heard exclaiming: "I thank you, Mother, for coming to my aid!"
The Blessed Virgin assured St. Bridget of this. Speaking of her devoted clients at the point of death, she said: "Then I, their dear Lady and Mother, will come hurrying to them, to bring consolation and relief."
Like a loving Queen, she takes them under her mantle and brings them with her to the Judge. And with absolute certainty she obtains their salvation.
This really happened to Charles, St. Bridget's son, who died in the army, far from his mother. She feared for his salvation because of the dangers that normally go with a military career .
However, our Lady revealed to her that because of his love for her he had been saved, and that she herself had helped him at death and suggested the acts that should be made at the critical moment. At the same time St. Bridget saw Jesus seated on His throne and the devil bringing two accusations against the most Blessed Virgin.
The first accusation was that Mary had prevented the devil from tempting Charles at the moment of death. The second was that without offering any proof or reason for claiming him as her own, she herself presented Charles to be judged and thus saved him.
St. Bridget then saw Jesus driving the devil away and Charles's soul being transported to Heaven.
St. Mary Oignies saw the Blessed Virgin by the pillow of the devout widow of William Brock, who was suffering from a violent fever. Mary stood by her side, comforting her, and cooling her with a fan. 17
Sirach says that Mary's fetters are a throne of majesty, and that [in the latter end] you will find rest in her (6:30, 29).
Happy for you, my brother or sister, if death finds you bound with the sweet chains of the love of the Mother of God. These are the chains of salvation, and they will bring to you in death that blessed peace which is the beginning of your eternal peace.
Father Suarez had such devotion to Mary that he used to say he would gladly exchange all his learning for the merit of a single Hail Mary. As a consequence of that devotion, he died with such peace that in that moment he said: "I never knew death could be so sweet."
Mary will not refuse her comfort at death even if you have led a sinful life for a time, provided that, from this day on, you take care to lead a good life and serve this most gracious and benignant Lady. In your agony, and in the temptations to despair which the devil will send you, she will come and encourage you.
Devout reader, you too will taste the same joy in death if you can then fall back on the memory of how you have loved this good Mother. She cannot help being loyal to her children when they have been loyal to her, serving and honoring her by their visits, rosaries, and feasts, and especially by often thanking and praising her, and commending themselves to her powerful protection.
Therefore let us be of good
we be sinners. Let us feel certain that Mary will come and help us at
if only we serve her with love for the remainder of our life.