THE COMFORTER OF THE AFFLICTED
Through her martyrdom, Mary has become in a special way the comfortress of the afflicted. It was by her own experience of sorrow that she was taught the sympathy which enables her to comfort her children in all their afflictions. God gave her a mighty and a sympathetic heart for this great task.
For all God's children, the way to heaven leads across the mount of Calvary ---- the way of trial and suffering. In the company of our Sorrowful Mother we walk more easily, fight more courageously, and suffer more patiently, perseveringly and joyfully; for she holds up before us not only the example of the sufferings and death of her Divine Son, but also the victory, the joy and the glory which He has won through His sufferings.
How often do we grow impatient, fainthearted, despondent and in constant in suffering, without endurance, without resignation, full of complaints and murmurings! Oh! let us deeply engrave in our hearts the sorrows of Mary. May she, our Sorrowful Mother, ever be our model in suffering, in the patient endurance of trials, and in the humble acceptance of sorrows and afflictions. When the hand of God lays a heavy cross upon our shoulders, let us turn to Mary Sorrowing, and we shall obtain consolation and strength to carry the cross patiently and meritoriously.
The Mother of Mercy
Devotion to the sorrows of Mary should be practiced especially by souls who wish to rid themselves of sinful habits. This devotion nourishes the spirit of compunction, affords great consolation, strengthens confidence in God's mercy, draws down the special protection of the Blessed Mother in the hour of temptation, and preserves the converted sInner from relapsing into sin.
The Mother of God once said to her faithful servant St. Bridget: "No matter how numerous a person's sins may be, if he turns to me with a sincere purpose of amendment, I am prepared forthwith to receive him graciously, for I do not regard the number of sins he has committed, but look only upon the dispositions with which he comes to me; for I feel no aversion. in healing his wounds, because I am called and am in truth the Mother of Mercy."
"Poor abandoned sinners," exclaims St. Alphonsus Liguori, "do not despair! Raise your eyes to Mary and be comforted, trusting in the clemency of this good Mother. For she will rescue you from the shipwreck you have suffered, and conduct you to the haven of salvation."
The Mother of Sorrows likewise lends her gracious assistance in bringing back to the true fold those who, unhappily, have been separated from the household of the Faith.
The great apostleship of prayer, which was organized in England for the conversion of that country, invokes Mary as the Mother of Sorrows. The fruits of this society are so great that annually ten thousand or more Protestants return to the true fold. Anyone who will but make a trial of this devotion will experience that the Blessed Virgin will not leave a single Hail Mary unanswered.
Those who implore her aid in virtue of her sufferings may confidently expect her assistance. It seems that this devotion is destined by Heaven to avert God's punishment from sinful mankind, or at least to mitigate it.
A Guide to Sanctity
The life of Saint Gabriel Possenti, who died February 27, 1862 at the age of twenty-four, manifests how quickly the Sorrowful Mother guides her clients to sanctity. The early life of the Saint gave no presage of his future holiness. In fact, for some time he resisted the grace of a religious vocation. However, having been called in a special manner by Our Lady to enter the Passionist Order, the hitherto rather worldly and pleasure-loving youth was changed to the humble, mortified Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows. It has been asserted that one of the chief sources of his sanctity was his tender, fervent devotion to the Sorrowful Mother. A particular love for her prompted him to choose this title for his name in religion. His devotion was concentrated on the Dolorous Mother. His meditations were made in her pierced Heart; his constant desire was to meet her approval. Devotion to her clothed all his virtues and led him in a short time to the height of religious perfection. He spoke of her sorrows very often. She was his predominant thought, his heart, his all. "My Heaven is the dolorous Heart of my dear Mother!" he would often say.
St. Gabriel sought every means to promote this devotion among his companions. "When we have a few minutes left over from our office," he would say to them, "we can use them to no better advantage than in compassionating our dear Mother." If he had a little free time during the day, he always employed it in this exercise. "Let us not forget her anguish, and at the hour of death, she will console and assist us," he would say. Nor was his hope confounded. During his last illness, which he bore with heroic patience, he manifested most touching marks of affection for his sorrowing Mother. Often he would press her picture to his parched and burning lips. His dying act was to place an image of the Sorrowful Virgin upon his heart; then, raising his eyes to Heaven, he cried with indescribable confidence and love: "O my Mother, make haste!"
"He became a Saint in so short a time and has had such a beautiful death!" exclaimed a brother-religious at the edifying death of this angelic youth. Truly, Mary Sorrowful was his guide; she led him quickly up the mount of perfection, and at his peaceful death enclosed him securely in the sanctuary of her wounded Heart.
Contrary to custom, this youthful Saint was beatified less than fifty years after his death. His canonization took place on May 13, 1920.
Thou hast been proclaimed by Holy Church the Comforter of the Afflicted, and to thee constant recourse is had by the sorrowful in their afflictions, the sick in their maladies, the dying in their agony, the poor in their straitened circumstances, those who stand in all manner of need in both public and private calamities; and from thee they all receive consolation and strength.
Our dearest Mother, turn upon us also, wretched sinners that we are, thy merciful eyes, and graciously accept our humble and confident prayers. Aid us in all our spiritual and temporal necessities, deliver us from all evil and especially from sin, which is the greatest evil, and from all danger of falling into it; obtain for us from thy Son Jesus every blessing of which thou seest we stand in need both in soul and body, and especially the greatest blessing of all, which is Divine grace. Comfort our spirits, troubled and afflicted in the midst of the many dangers that threaten us, and the countless miseries and misfortunes that beset us on every side. This we ask through that immense joy which filled thy pure soul in the glorious Resurrection of thy Divine Son.Obtain tranquillity for Holy Church, help and comfort for her visible Head, the Sovereign Pontiff, peace for Christian princes, refreshment in their pains for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; for sinners, the forgiveness of their sins, and for the just, perseverance in well-doing. Receive us all, our most tender Mother, under thy loving and mighty protection, that we may be enabled to live virtuously, die holily and attain to everlasting happiness in Heaven. Amen.