by Rev. John Kelly, 1897
Civilization, beloved Brethren, owes an incalculable debt to the ideal of virtue fostered in the Christian world in the person of the Mother of God. From the earliest times it was a maxim with the children of the Church that God prepared every one, by the operation of His providence, to fill with credit and honour the sphere allotted to him in the pre-ordained system of the world. Be he prophet, or priest, or judge, if God has called him to any great work, His bounty has provided him with overflowing graces and superabundant aids, as endowed him with a constitution of soul, and disciplined him by the circumstances and events of his life, for the adequate performance of the commission with which he has been entrusted.
Grounded on this safe principle as a foundation, Christians have logically and securely filled in the scanty outline of Mary's character as it is painted in the Holy Scriptures, and by a constant tradition coming down to us from the Apostolic age, have venerated and loved the cherished image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as that of the all-perfect woman, the loveliest copy of the Divine Attributes, embodied in a mere creature, that has ever shone upon the world. To our enemies this amplification of the Scriptural portrait seems altogether gratuitous. But it is far from being so. All the virtues we ascribe to that paragon of virgins and model of mothers, as the stem, branches and leaves of the oak are embossomed in the acorn, are included in the one proposition: she conceived and gave birth to the Son of God. There, is the patent of her nobility! There, is the all-sufficient guarantee of her pre-eminence in grace! The Son of God predestined her from all eternity to be His own dear mother, nay, His mother and father in one; He would receive the flesh and blood that united him to the race of Adam, only from her chaste womb; He would accept from her the mould of His features, and the likeness of her soul, as the child re-produces the mother in face, and form, and disposition--for to these human laws did He conform Himself; He would be to her a Son unmatched for filial love, as she should be a mother, supreme in maternal tenderness and devotion; that thus they might form the bright examplar of that unique relationship through time and eternity.
What follows from this? Surely and certainly that He made her worthy of her position; that He created her full of grace, and full of the virtues of which grace is the seed; that He adorned her like some delicious garden, with every flower and fruit that could delight His soul; so that the sight of her might be refreshment to Him in this weary world, and the thought of her like a lingering perfume. "My sister, my spouse is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates, with the fruits of the orchard. Cyprus with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron, sweet cane and cinnamon, with all the trees of Libanus, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief perfumes." Tell me the gift He shall grudge her. Show me what adornment she can dispense with, to be a mother, not unworthy of such a Son. Ah! beloved Brethren, He will not cling in her embrace with all the fond abandonment of the babe, to whom the mother is above all in the whole world, without first pouring upon her in unstinted and divine profusion every attribute of soul, which forms the attraction of His saints. He will not give any other daughter of Eve such superior fascinations of virtue as to divert Him from His chosen mother; or to demand in justice a higher place in His kingdom, in return for higher merit or a warmer place in His heart.
Thus reasoning, beloved Brethren, the faithful have in all ages held Mary to be non-pareil, the unequalled type, of all that is perfect in human nature. And this unshared supremacy and queenliness of virtue, far from eclipsing the brightness of her beloved Son, has only enhanced His sun-like splendour and majesty of character; for all the embellishments she owns are of His bestowing, and a necessary result of His incomprehensible perfections, which would give its highest sanction to holiness in the person of His mother; and, therefore, all her brilliance and beauty proclaim His supreme brightness and glory, because it is all but a borrowed and reflected light.
And this ideal of a delicate, fragile, modest and retiring lady, overtopping in her grandeur the sons of men, yet retaining supereminently a woman's heart, has done more towards banishing the barbarism, allying the brutality, softening the hardness, developing the humanity of the native disposition bequeathed to Adam's children, than all the teachings of philosophers, and all the projects and devices of statesmen and sages. To that ideal we owe the emancipation of woman, slowly but steadily, through all the ramifications of society; until she has come to occupy a position which the womankind of pagan ages past, and of pagan countries now, might well contemplate with envy. It is the veneration and love of Mary that has raised her sex out of the dust where she was the slave of man's will, and the instrument of his pleasure; and filled every manly breast with deepest respect and tenderest courtesy towards these his sisters, whose weakness appeals to his strength, and whose gentleness of nature is a study for his imitation. The knights indeed of mediaeval days have passed in their gleaming armour, with nodding plume and twinkling lance-head, into the shadows of the melancholy past; but that sworn courtesy to the weaker sex, that sweet simplicity of heart, in doing them honour; that self-forgetful devotion to the cause of the oppressed and the helpless, that vowed reverence and affection for Mary's name, which reigned in their hearts and dictated all their duties and functions of honour, kindliness and true knighthood did not die with them, but fructified through the ages, the same essential spirit in other outward forms.
Yes, beloved Brethren, the love of Mary, the study of Mary's character and the imitation of her virtues, is no debasing influence, as her enemies pretend, rather it is a stimulus to every good quality that owns a root in the soil of our nature. She is the woman, who (according to the first recorded prophecy), was marked out in the designs of God to crush the serpent's head. And in the breasts of her faithful children and votaries, her heel is upon that malignant crest, and the poisonous tongue of Satan plays vainly in his jaws. His heads are many as Hydra's, all venomous, all threatening, all watchful. He has many shapes, which no heel can crush but hers. Here is the serpent of pride, with its asp-brood of boastful speech, arrogant presumption, the simulation of absent virtues: obstinate adherence to error, unbrotherly wrangling, an unaccommodating and perverse disposition, reluctance to obey. In another soul Satan takes the form of the greedy dragon of avarice, gaping for his prey. Here it is, the green-eyed monster envy. Here his eyes flash and his mouth foams; and his hissings tell you his name is Anger. Here, again, he lies surfeited and bloated, breathing the fumes of strong drink, and you recognize the vice of gluttony, with sloth beside it, lying relaxed and helpless, its torpid offspring. And last of this hideous den of dragons is the monster lust, vomiting its horrors, and making the air unbearable with its stench: while it cowers out of sight and turns away its hateful eyes from the light, as that chaste maiden mother comes at the invocation of her child to drive the invader forth.
Oh, how many are the temptations to which life exposes us! Let us thank God that He has given us so potent a protector and guardian. Let us bless Jesus for bestowing upon us this mother, our Lady of Perpetual Succour, to cast sin out of our souls, to stave off eternal death, to crush the deadly serpent in all his forms and disguises. Let us never fail to invoke her in time of trial and temptation; crying with all the undoubting trustfulness of a little child: "Mother, help me. Mary, oh Mary, come to my aid." Let it not be merely prayer of the lips, when day by day we cry out to her: "Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death." For death approaches, beloved Brethren, step by step, stealthily but surely; and we know not how soon the clock may strike our last hour, and send us forth into the dark way where none may go with us, save Mary our mother, to shelter us from the wiles and snares, the re-doubled wrath and violence of our adversary, who lies in wait, and employs his whole force at that last scene of our life's campaign, knowing that his time is short.
O Mother of God, Remember Me
O MOTHER of God, and my most dear Mother, by the heart of Jesus, I beg of you each time I shall say "O Mother of God, remember me," to adore then for me the Heart of your divine Son, and offer my unworthy one to him, asking pardon for all that is amiss in it, telling that God of love how much it desires perfectly to love him, and obtain by your all powerful intercession, a love that may consume in it all earthly affections, and that he may replenish it to the full extent of its small capacity. This, dear Mother, I beg through the Heart of Jesus, to which I am sure you can refuse nothing, and by which I know you cannot be rejected. O show then yourself a Mother, and comply with the desires of your poor unworthy child.Prayer of Petition to the Blessed Virgin Mary
by St. Alphonsus M. de Liguori
Mother of God, most holy Mary, how often by my sins have I merited hell! Ere now the judgment had gone forth against my first mortal sin, hadst not in thy tender pity, stayed awhile God's justice, and then, softening my hard heart, drawn me on to take confidence in thee! And oh! how often, in dangers which beset my steps, had I fallen, hadst not thou, loving mother that thou art, preserved me by thy graces which thou didst obtain for me. My queen, what will thy pity and thy favor have availed me, if I perish in the flame of hell? If ever I have not loved thee, now, after God, I love thee above all things. Ah! suffer not that I turn away from thee and from God, Who through thee had granted me so many mercies.
Lady most worthy of all love, suffer not that I be doomed to hate and curse thee forever in hell. Couldest thou bear to see a servant whom thou lovest lost forever? O Mary! say not so. Say not that I shall be among the lost! yet lost am I assuredly, if I abandon thee. But who can have the heart to leave thee? How can I ever forget the love which thou hast borne me? No, it is impossible for him to perish who hath recourse to thee, and who with loyal heart confides in thee. Leave me not to myself, my mother, or I am lost. Let me ever have recourse to thee! Save me, my hope! save me from hell, and first from sin, which alone can cause my eternal ruin.
Say the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen) three times.
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
(Indulgence Of Three Hundred Days, once a day, to those who, with at least contrite heart and devotion, shall say this prayer, together with the Salve Regina, three times)