ON DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
My beloved reader and brother in Mary: Since the devotion that led me to write, and moves you to read what I write, makes us happy children of the same good Mother, should you hear it remarked that I might have spared myself the labour, as there are already so many celebrated and learned books on the same subject, I beg that you will reply that “the praise of Mary is an inexhaustible fount. The more it is enlarged the fuller it gets, and the more you fill it so much the more is it enlarged.” In short, the Blessed Virgin is so great and so sublime, that the more she is praised the more there remains to praise; so much so, says an ancient writer, “that if all the tongues of men were put together, and even if each of their members were changed into a tongue, they would not suffice to praise her as much as she deserves.”
Worldly lovers often speak of those whom they love, and praise them in order that the object of their affections may be praised and extolled by others. There are some who pretend to be lovers of Mary, and yet seldom either speak of her or endeavour to excite others to love her; their love cannot be great. It is not thus that true lovers of this amiable Lady act; they desire to praise her on all occasions, and to see her loved by the whole world, and never lose an opportunity, either in public or in private, of enkindling in the hearts of others those blessed flames of love with which they themselves burn towards their beloved Queen.
That every one may be persuaded how important it is, both for his own good and that of others, to promote devotion towards Mary, it is useful to know what Theologians say on the subject.
St. Bonaventure says that those who make a point of announcing to others the glories of Mary, are certain of Heaven; and this opinion is confirmed by Richard of St. Laurence, who declares, “that to honour this Queen of Angels is to gain eternal life”; and he adds, “that this most gracious Lady will honour in the next world those who honour her in this.” And who is ignorant of the promise made by Mary herself, in the words of Ecclesiasticus, to those who endeavour to make her known and loved here below: they that explain me shall have life-everlasting; for this passage is applied to her by the Church, in the Office of the Immaculate Conception. “Rejoice, then,” exclaims St. Bonaventure (who did so much to make the glories of Mary known), “rejoice, my soul, and be glad in her; for many good things are prepared for those who praise her.” And he says that the whole of the Sacred Scriptures speak in praise of Mary: let us therefore always with our hearts and tongues honour this divine Mother, in order that we may be conducted by her into the kingdom of the Blessed.
We learn from the Revelations of St. Bridget, that the Blessed Bishop Emingo was in the habit of always beginning his sermons with the praises of Mary. One day the Blessed Virgin herself appeared to the Saint, and desired her to tell him that in consequence of his pious practice, “she would be his Mother, that he would die a holy death, and that she would herself present his soul to God.” He died like a Saint in the act of praying, and in the most heavenly peace. Mary also appeared to a Dominican friar, who always concluded his sermons by speaking of her; when on his death bed, the Blessed Virgin defended him from devils, consoled him, and then she herself carried off his happy soul. The devout Thomas a Kempis, represents to us Mary recommending a soul who had honoured her to her Son, saying: “My most loving Son, have mercy on the soul of this servant of Thine, who loved and extolled me.”
Next, as to the advantage of this devotion for all, St. Anselm says, that as the most sacred womb of Mary was the means of salvation for sinners, the hearing of her praises must necessarily convert them, and thus be also a means of their salvation. “How can it be otherwise than that the salvation of sinners should come from the remembrance of her praises, whose womb was made the way through which the Saviour came to save sinners?” And if the opinion is true, and I consider it as indubitably so, that all graces are dispensed by Mary, and that all who are saved are saved only by means of this divine Mother, it is a necessary consequence that the salvation of all depends upon preaching Mary, and exciting all to confidence in her intercession.*
I find that Father Paul Segneri, the Younger, who was a very celebrated missioner, in every Mission preached a sermon on devotion to Mary, and always called it his beloved sermon. And in our own Missions, in which it is an inviolable rule to do the same, we can attest, with all truth, that in most cases no sermon is more profitable, or produces so much compunction in the hearts of the people, as the one on the Mercy of Mary. I say, on her Mercy, for, in the words of St. Bernard: “we praise her Virginity, we admire her Humility; but because we are poor sinners, Mercy attracts us more and tastes sweeter; we embrace it more lovingly; we remember it oftener, and invoke it more earnestly.” Devout reader, should what I write on the Blessed Virgin prove acceptable to you, as I trust it will, I beg that you will recommend me to Mary, that she may give me great confidence in her protection. Ask this grace for me; and I promise you, whoever you may be, that I will ask the same for you who do me this charity. O, blessed are they who bind themselves with love and confidence to those two anchors of salvation, Jesus and Mary. Certainly they will not be lost. Let us then say with the pious Alphonsus Rodriguez: “Jesus and Mary, my sweetest Loves, for You may I suffer, for You may I die; grant that I may be in all things Yours and in nothing mine own.” Let us love Jesus and Mary and become Saints; we can neither expect nor hope anything better.
*There has recently been granted by the Holy Church a Feast under the title of “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces.” — EDITOR.