CONFRATERNITIES OF OUR BLESSED LADY
The Sovereign Pontiffs have approved and highly commended Confraternities and also enriched them with many Indulgences. St. Francis de Sales, with great earnestness, exhorts all seculars to join them. What pains, moreover did not St. Charles Borromeo take to establish and multiply these Confraternities. In his Synods, he particularly recommends confessors to engage their penitents to join them. And with good reason; for these Sodalities, especially those of our Blessed Lady, are so many Noe’s arks, in which poor seculars find a refuge from the deluge of temptations and sins which inundates the world. We, from the experience of our Missions, well know the utility of these Confraternities. As a rule, a man who does not attend the meetings of a Confraternity commits more sins that twenty men who do attend them. A Confraternity can well be called a tower of David; a thousand bucklers hang upon it — all the armour of valiant men (Cant. iv. 4). The reason that Confraternities do so much good is that in them the members acquire many weapons of defence against hell, and put in practice the requisite means of preservation in Divine grace, which are seldom made use of by seculars who are not members of these Confraternities.
1. In the first place, one means of salvation is, to meditate on the eternal truths: Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin (Ecclus. vii. 40). How many are lost because they neglect to do this! With desolation is all the land made desolate; because there is none that considereth in his heart (Jer. xii. 11). But those who frequent the meetings of their Confraternities are led to think of these truths by the many meditations, lectures, and sermons they there hear: My sheep hear my voice (Jo. x. 27).
2. To save one’s soul prayer is necessary: Ask, and you shall receive (Jo. xvi. 24); this the members of the Confraternities do constantly. God also hears their prayers the more readily; for He has Himself said that He grants graces more willingly to prayers offered up in common: If two of you shall consent upon earth concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father (Matt. xviii. 19): on which St. Ambrose says that “many who are weak, when united become strong; and it is impossible that the prayers of so many should not be heard.”
3. In Confraternities the Sacraments are most likely to be frequented, both on account of the rules and the example given by the other members. And thus perseverance in grace is more easily obtained, the sacred Council of Trent having declared that Holy Communion is “an antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults, and be preserved from mortal sins.”
4. Besides the frequentation of the Sacraments in these Confraternities, many acts of mortification, humility, and charity towards the sick brethren and the poor, are performed. Well would it be if this holy custom of assisting the sick-poor of the place were introduced into all Confraternities.
5. We have already said how profitable it is for our salvation to serve the Mother of God; and what else do the members do in the Confraternity but serve her? How much is she not praised there! How many prayers are not there offered to her! From the very beginning, the members are consecrated to her service; they choose her in an especial manner for their sovereign Lady and Mother; they are inscribed in the Register of Mary’s children; hence, as they are her servants and children in an especial manner, in an especial manner are they treated by her, and she protects them in life and in death. So that a member of a Confraternity of Mary can say, Now all good things came to me together with her (Wis. vii. 11).
Each member should therefore pay attention to two things: First of all, the object that he should have in view should be no other than to serve God and his Mother Mary and save his soul; secondly, not to allow worldly affairs to prevent his attendance at the meeting on the appointed days; for he has there to attend to the most important business that he has in the world, which is his eternal salvation. He should also endeavour to draw as many others as he can to join the Confraternity, and especially to bring back those members who have left it.
Oh, with what terrible chastisements has our Lord punished those who have abandoned the Confraternity of our Blessed Lady! There was a brother who did so in Naples; and when he was exhorted to return, he answered: “I will do so when my legs are broken and my head is cut off.” He prophesied; for, a short time afterwards, some enemies of his broke his legs and cut off his head.
On the other hand, the members who persevere have both their temporal and spiritual wants provided for by Mary. All her domestics are clothed with double garments (Prov. xxxi. 21). Father Auriemma relates how many special graces Mary grants to members of the Confraternity, both in life and in death, but more particularly in death. Father Crasset gives an account of a young man, who, in the year 1586, was dying. He fell asleep; but afterwards waking he said to his confessor: O Father, I have been in great danger of damnation, but our Blessed Lady rescued me. The devils presented my sins before our Lord’s tribunal, and they were already preparing to drag me to hell; but the Blessed Virgin came and said to them: “Whither are you taking this young man? What business have you with a servant of mine, who has served me so long in my Confraternity? The devils fled and thus was I delivered from their hands.” The same author also relates that another brother had also, at the point of death, a great battle with hell; but at length, having conquered, filled with joy, he exclaimed: “Oh, what a blessing it is to serve the Holy Mother in her Confraternity!” and thus filled with consolation he expired. He then adds that in Naples, when the Duke of Popoli was dying, he said to his son: “Son, know that the little good that I have done in this life I attribute to my Confraternity. Hence I have no greater treasure to leave thee than the Confraternity of Mary. I now value more having been one of its members, than being Duke of Popoli.”