Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Tis the Month of Our Mother

Tomorrow we begin the glorious month of May, the Month of Mary. Every day you will find on this blog a reflection, example, and prayer taken from Saint Alphonsus' masterpiece, The Glories of Mary.

In addition to meditating on these reflections, we ought each day to practice some special devotion in honor of our Lady in addition to our usual devotions. If the daily Rosary is not part of your regular devotions May is the perfect time to begin. Other devotions include reciting three Hail Marys each morning and evening in Mary's honor, reciting all or part of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or saying or singing Mary's antiphon together with it's versicle and prayer. Many people set up a May Altar in their homes with a statue or picture of Mary surrounded with candles and flowers. Others visit Mary's shrines, whether they be the Lady Altar in their parish church or one of the great places of pilgrimage. Another custom is to choose one of Mary's virtues and practice it in a special way each day. There are numerous possibilities open to us to show our dear Mother how much we love her and honor her. It matters not what we choose, as long as we choose something and do it every day. Of course the greatest gift anyone could give to our Lady during her month is to go to daily Mass in her honor. And of course we will want to assist at the May Devotions in our parish churches.

Whatever we do, let us join our voices together in praise of Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, the "Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May."

Introduction for the Thirtieth of April

Of the Necessity of the Intercession of Mary for Our Salvation.

It is an article of faith, not only that it is lawful, but also that it is useful, to invoke and pray to the Saints, and especially to the Queen of Saints, the most holy and ever Blessed Virgin Mary, in order that they may obtain for us the Divine grace. This truth has been defined by the General Councils against heretics who condemned it as being injurious to Jesus Christ, who is our only Mediator. But if Jeremias, after his death, prayed for Jerusalem; if the ancients of the Apocalypse presented the prayers of the Saints to God; if St. Peter promises his disciples that after his death he will be mindful of them; if St. Stephen prays for his persecutors; if St Paul prays for his companions; if in fine, the Saints can pray for us, why cannot we beseech them to intercede for us? St Paul recommends himself to the Thessalonians: "Bretheran, pray for us" (v. 25). St. James exhorts us to pray for one another: "Pray one for another, that you may be saved" (v. 16). Then we can do the same.

No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only mediator of justice, and that He by His merits has obtained our reconciliation with God. But, on the other hand, it is impious to assert that God is not pleased to grant graces at the intercession of His Saints, and more especially of Mary, His Mother, whom Jesus desires so much to see loved and honored by all. Hence the learned Suarez justly remarks that, if we implore our Blessed Lady to obtain us a favor, it is not because we distrust the Divine mercy, but rather that we fear our own unworthiness and the absence of proper dispositions. Thus, we recommend ourselves to Mary that her dignity may supply for our lowliness. That it is most useful to have recourse to the intercession of Mary can only be doubted by those who have no faith. But that which we intend to prove here is, that the intercession of Mary is even necessary to salvation; we say necessary, not absolutely, but morally. This necessity, as St. Bernard points out, proceeds from the divine will of God: that all graces that He dispenses should pass by the hands of Mary, according to the opinion of St. Bernard, and which we may now with safety call the general opinion of theologians and learned men.

But let us examine what the Saints say on the subject. St. Bernard says, ‘That God has filled Mary with all graces, so that men may receive by her means, as by a channel, every good thing that comes to them.’ He says, ‘that she is a full aqueduct, that others may receive of her plenitude.’ On this the Saint makes the following significant remark: ‘Before the birth of the Blessed Virgin, a constant flow of graces was wanting, because this aqueduct did not exist.’ But now that Mary has been given to the world, heavenly graces constantly flow through her on all. And on this account she is called the Moon, according to the following remark of St. Bonaventure: ‘As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever she receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that she receives from the Divine Sun of justice.’ Again, the holy Church calls her ‘the happy gate of heaven;’ for as the same St. Bernard remarks, ‘As every mandate of grace that is sent by a king passes by the palace gates, so does every grace that comes from heaven to the world pass through the hands of Mary.’ St. Bonaventure says that Mary is called ‘the gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing by her.’

And thus Father Suarez concludes that it is the sentiment of the universal Church ‘that the intercession and prayers of Mary are, above those of all others, not only useful, but necessary.’ Necessary, in accordance with what we have already said, not with an absolute necessity; for the mediation of Jesus Christ alone is absolutely necessary; but with a moral necessity; for the Church believes with St. Bernard, that God has determined that no grace shall be granted otherwise than by the hands of Mary. ‘God wills,’ says the Saint, ‘that we should have nothing that has not passed by the hands of Mary;’ and before St. Bernard, St. Ildephonsus asserted the same thing, addressing the Blessed Virgin in the following terms: ‘O Mary, God has decided on committing all good gifts, that He has provided for men, to thy hands; and, therefore, He has intrusted all treasures and riches of grace to thee.’ And hence St. Peter Damian remarks, ‘That God would not become man without the consent of Mary; in the first place, that we might feel ourselves under great obligations to her; and in the second, that we might understand that the salvation of all is left to the care of this Blessed Virgin.’

St. Bonaventure, on the words of the Prophet Isaias, ‘And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,’ makes a beautiful remark, saying: ‘Whoever desires the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit, let him seek for the flower of the Holy Ghost in the rod,’—that is, for Jesus in Mary; ‘For by the rod we find the flower, and by the flower, God.’ And he adds: ‘If you desire to possess this flower, bend down the rod, which bears the flower, by prayer; and so you will obtain it. Otherwise in vain shall we seek Jesus unless we endeavor to find Him with Mary.’ St. Ildephonsus also says: ‘I desire to be the servant of the Son; but because no one will ever be so without serving the Mother, I desire to be the servant of Mary.’

In Germany a man fell into a grievous sin; through shame he was unwilling to confess it, but, on the other hand, unable to endure the remorse of his conscience, he went to throw himself into a river. On the point of doing so he hesitated, and, weeping, he begged that God would forgive him his sin without his confessing it. One night in his sleep he felt some one shake his arm, and heard a voice which said, Go to confession. He went to the church, but yet did not confess. On another night he again heard the same voice. He returned to the church; but when he got there, he declared that he would rather die than confess that sin. But before returning home, he went to recommend himself to the most Blessed Virgin, whose image was in that church. He had no sooner knelt down than he found himself quite changed. He immediately got up, called a confessor, and, weeping bitterly through the grace which he had received from Mary, made an entire confession of his sins; and he afterwards declared that he experienced greater satisfaction than had he obtained all the treasures of the world.

O my soul, see what a sure hope of salvation and eternal life our Lord has given thee, by having in His mercy inspired thee with confidence in the patronage of His Mother; and this, notwithstanding that so many times, by thy sins, thou hast merited His displeasure and hell. Thank thy God, and thank thy protectress, Mary, who has condescended to take thee under her mantle; for of this thou mayest be well convinced, after the many graces that thou hast received by her means. O yes, I do thank thee, my most loving Mother, for all thou hast done for me, who am deserving of hell. And from how many dangers hast thou not delivered me, O Queen! How many inspirations and mercies hast thou not obtained for me from God? What service, what honor, have I ever rendered thee, that thou shouldst do so much for me?

I know that it is thy sole goodness that has impelled thee. Ah. too little would it be, in comparison with all that I owe thee, did I shed my blood and give my life for thee! for thou hast delivered me from eternal death; thou hast enabled me, as I hope, to recover Divine grace; to thee, in fine, I owe all I have. My most amiable Lady, I, poor wretch that I am, can make thee no return, but that of always loving and praising thee. Ah, disdain not to accept the tender affection of a poor sinner, who is inflamed with love for thy goodness. If my heart is unworthy to love thee, because it is impure and filled with earthly affections, it is thou who must change it. Ah, change it, then! Bind me to my God, and bind me so that I may never more have it in my power to separate myself from His love. Thou askest of me that I should love thy God, and I ask of thee that thou shouldst obtain this love for me, to love Him always; this is all that I desire. Amen.