VITA., DULCEDO! HAIL, OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS!
XXVI.-MARY IS OUR SWEETNESS; SHE RENDERS DEATH SWEET TO HER CLIENTS.
As St. Jerome says, writing to the virgin Eustochia: “What a day of joy will that be for thee when Mary, the Mother of our Lord, accompanied by choirs and virgins, will go to meet thee!” The Blessed Virgin assured St. Bridget of this; for, speaking of her devout clients at the point of death, she said: “Then will I, their dear Lady and Mother, fly to them, that they may have consolation and refreshment.” St. Vincent Ferrer says that not only does the most Blessed Virgin console and refresh them, but that she receives the souls of the dying. This loving Queen takes them under her mantle and thus presents them to the Judge, her Son, and most certainly obtains their salvation. This really happened to Charles, the son of St. Bridget, who died in the army far from his mother. She feared much for his salvation on account of the dangers to which young men are exposed in a military career; but the Blessed Virgin revealed to her that he was saved on account of his love for her and that, in consequence, she herself had assisted him at death and had suggested to him the acts that should be made at that terrible moment. At the same time the Saint saw Jesus on His throne and the devil bringing two accusations against the most Blessed Virgin: the first was that Mary had prevented him from tempting Charles at the moment of death; and the second was that this Blessed Virgin had herself presented his soul to the Judge, and so saved it without even giving him the opportunity of exposing the grounds on which he claimed it. She then saw the Judge drive the devil away, and Charles’ soul carried to Heaven.
Ecclesiasticus says that her bands are a healthful binding-(Ecclus. vi. 31), and that in the latter end thou shalt find rest in her-(Ecclus. vi. 29). Oh, you are indeed fortunate if at death you are bound with the sweet chains of the love of the Mother of God! These chains are chains of salvation; they are chains that will insure your eternal salvation, and will make you enjoy in death that blessed peace which will be the beginning of your eternal peace and rest. Father Binetti, in his book on the Perfection of Our Blessed Lord, says that, having attended at the death-bed of a great lover of Mary, he heard him, before expiring, utter these words: “O my Father; would that you could know the happiness that I now enjoy from having served the most holy Mother of God; I cannot tell you the joy that I now experience.” Father Suarez (in consequence of his devotion to Mary which was such that he used to say that he would willingly exchange all his learning for the merit of a single “Hail Mary”) died with such peace and joy that in that moment he said: “I could not have thought that death was so sweet”; meaning that he could never have imagined that it was possible, if he pad not then experienced it, that he could have found such sweetness in death. You will, without doubt, experience the Same joy and contentment in death if you can then remember that you have loved this good Mother who cannot be otherwise than faithful to her children who have been faithful in serving and honouring her by their Visits, Rosaries, and Fasts, and still more by frequently thanking and praising her, and often recommending themselves to her powerful protection. Nor will this consolation be withheld even if you have been for a time a sinner provided that, from this day, you are careful to live well and to serve this most gracious and benign Lady. In your pains and in the temptations to despair which the devil will send you, she will console you, and even come herself to assist you in your last moments. St. Peter Damian relates that his brother Martin had one day offended God grievously. Martin went before an altar of Mary to dedicate himself to her as her slave; and for this purpose, and as a mark of servitude, put his girdle round his neck, and thus addressed her: “My sovereign Lady, mirror of that purity which I, miserable sinner that I am, have violated, thereby outraging my God and thee, I know no better remedy for my crime than to offer myself to thee for thy slave. Behold me then: to thee do I this day dedicate myself, that I may be thy servant; accept me, though a rebel, and reject me not.” He then left a sum of money on the step of the altar and promised to pay a like sum each year as a tribute which he owed as a slave of Mary. After a certain time Martin fell dangerously ill; but one morning, before expiring, he was heard to exclaim: “Rise, rise, pay homage to my Queen!” and then he added: “And whence is this favour, O Queen of Heaven, that thou shouldst condescend to visit thy poor servant? Bless me, O Lady, and permit me not to be lost after having honoured me with thy presence.” At this moment. his brother Peter entered and to him he related the visit of Mary, and added that she had blessed him, but at the same time he complained that those who were present had remained seated in the presence of this great Queen: and shortly afterwards he sweetly expired in our Lord.