Mary, Hope of Sinners 1
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Redemptorist Fathers, 1931
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur
Published on the Web with Permission


God made the two great lights: the greater light to govern

the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. [Gn. 1:16]

Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary is the lesser light to rule sinners.1

Since Mary is this auspicious light, created for poor sinners, what should people do if they find themselves in the darkness of sin? Let them cast their eyes on the moon. Let them pray to Mary.2

One of the most comforting titles of our Lady-----and one which the Church teaches us to use in the Litany of Loretto-----is that of "Refuge of Sinners."

In Judea in ancient times there were cities of refuge where criminals fled to escape punishment. Nowadays such cities do not exist; there is only one, and that is Mary, of whom the Psalmist sings:

"Glorious things are said of you, O city of God." [Ps. 87:3]

However, there is one difference. In the old cities of refuge protection was not extended to every class of crime. But under Mary's mantle all sinners without exception find refuge for every sin they have committed,
if only they go there to seek this protection.

We may say with St. Basil that God has given us Mary as a public infirmary to receive the sick, the poor, the destitute. But in hospitals which are erected expressly for the poor, who have the first claim to admission?
Surely those who are sicker than others.

Say then, with St. Thomas of Villanova, "O Mary, we poor sinners know no
other refuge but thee; thou art our only patroness, and we all look to thee!"

In the revelations of St. Bridget, Mary is called the "Star that rises before the Sun."  When a soul in sin begins to show signs of devotion to Mary, it is a clear indication that before very long God will enrich it with
His grace.

The glorious St. Bonaventure, to build up the confidence of sinners in our Lady's protection, calls up before them the picture of a storm at sea. Sinners have fallen into it from the ship of God's grace. They are tossed
about by remorse and the dread of God's judgments. They have no light, no mark to guide them, and are on the point of despair.

Then our Lord, pointing out Mary to them, the Star of the Sea, raises His voice and says: "Poor lost sinners, do not despair. Lift your eyes to this star of beauty. Breathe freely again, for this Star will save you out of the
storm and bring you at last to the harbor of salvation.

In another work the same Saint remarks how Isaiah complained of the times in which he lived:

"Behold, Thou art angry, and we are sinful;
there is none who rises up to cling to Thee." [Is. 64:4, 7]

Then he comments" "It is true, O Lord that in those days there was no one to raise up sinners and hold back Thy wrath, for Mary was not born yet . . . But now she restrains her Divine Son, lest He destroy sinners . . .
There is no one more capable of seizing and holding the sword of God's vengeance than thee, Most Beloved of God!"

The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget that there is no sinner in the world, however far from God, who does not come back to Him and recover grace, if such a sinner has recourse to her assistance. And one day St. Bridget heard Jesus speaking  to His Mother in these words:

"Thou wouldst offer mercy even to Lucifer, if he humbled himself to ask for it."

That proud spirit will never humble himself to that degree. But, if such a thing were possible, Mary would show instant compassion, and her prayers would have sufficient power to obtain his forgiveness and salvation.

There are however, some hardened souls and rebellious spirits who are abandoned by missionaries, confessors,  evangelical laborers, who constantly reap souls for God. Mary, like Ruth in the Old Testament, is allowed to reap the ears of grain after the reapers have left the fields. Mary alone has the special privilege of saving them by her powerful intercession.3

It was with good reason therefore, my most sweet Queen, that St. John Damascene saluted thee as the "hope of those who have no hope." St. Lawrence Justinian called thee 'the hope of the condemned," and St. Ephrem called thee "the protectress of the damned."  St. Bernard, full of joy and tenderness exclaimed: "O Lady, who can lack confidence in thee, since thou dost help even those who are in despair? And I have not the least that, whenever we run to thee, we shall obtain all we desire. Let those then who have no hope, hope in thee."

Lady Ravisher of hearts! ravish my poor heart that really longs to love thee. Mother, thou hast beguiled God Himself with thy beauty and drew Him down from Heaven into thy chaste womb; and shall I go on without loving thee?

I will join with one of thy most loving sons, St. John Berchmans, I will say with him:

"I will never rest until I am sure I have mastered love for thee-----a constant and tender
love for thee, my Mother."

What would I be now, O Mary, if thou hadst not secured so many mercies for me? Since thou doth persisted in loving me when I had no love for thee, there is so much I can expect from thee, now that I do love thee.

I love thee, my Mother. And I wish I had a heart to make up for all those unhappy creatures who do not love thee. I wish I could speak with a thousand tongues, so that all the world might learn about thy greatness, and holiness, and mercy, and the love thou hast for all those who love thee.

And so I love thee, my Mother. But I cannot help feeling that I do not love thee as I should: I hear that love makes a lover resemble the beloved. And if I find myself so different from thee, that means that I do not really love thee.

Thou art pure; I am darkened with sin. Thou art humble; I am proud. Thou art holy, and I am sinful. This, then is what thou wilt have to do, O Mary: since thou lovest me, make me resemble thee.

Thou hast the power to change hearts; take mine and change it. Show the world what thou canst do for anyone who loves thee. make me holy; make me a child worthy of his Mother. Amen. So I hope. So may it be.

This kindest of Ladies demands only one thing that-----sinners recommend themselves to her and be determined to change their ways. When she finds sinners at her feet imploring mercy, she does not fix her attention on their crimes, but she looks only at the motive that brings them to her. If the motive is good, and even though they have committed every conceivable sin, this most loving Mother takes them into her arms to heal the wounds of their souls.

She is not only called the Mother of Mercy. She is the Mother of Mercy. And she proves herself such by the loving tenderness with which she helps us all . . .

It is absolutely certain that God will not condemn those sinners who have recourse to Mary and for whom she prays. For did He not Himself commend them to her as her children?


1. Liguori, Alphonsus, THE GLORIES OF MARY, p. 72, citing Cardinal Hugo.
2. Ibid., p. 73, citing Pope Innocent III.
3. Ibid., p. 79, citing St. Bonaventure.