Love towards God and love towards our neighbor are commanded by the same precept: ‘And this commandment we have from God, that he who loves God , love also his brother.’ St. Thomas says that the reason for this is, that he who loves God loves all that God loves. St. Catherine of Genoa one day said, ‘Lord, You will that I should love my neighbor, and I can love none but You.’ God answered her in these words: ‘All who love Me love what I love.’ But as there never was, and never will be, any one who loved God as much as Mary loved Him, so there never was, and never will be, any one who loved her neighbor as much as she did. Father Cornelius a Lapide, on these words of the Canticles, ‘King Solomon hath made him a litter of the wood of Libanus, . . . the midst he covered with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem,’ says that ‘this litter was Mary’s womb, in which the Incarnate Word dwelt, filling it with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem; for Christ, who is love itself, inspired the Blessed Virgin with charity in its highest degree, that she might succor all who had recourse to her.’ So great was Mary’s charity when on earth, that she succored the needy without even being asked, as was the case at the marriage-feast of Cana, when she told her Son of the family’s distress, ‘They have no wine,’ and asked Him to work a miracle. O, with what speed did she fly when there was a question of relieving her neighbor! When she went to the house of Elizabeth to fulfil an office of charity, ‘she went into the hill country with haste.’ She could not, however, more fully display the greatness of her charity than she did in the offering which she made of her Son to death for our salvation. On this subject St. Bonaventure says, ‘Mary so loved the world as to give her only-begotten Son.’ Hence, St. Anselm exclaims: ‘O blessed amongst women, your purity surpasses that of the angels, and thy compassion that of the Saints!’ ‘Nor has this love of Mary for us,’ says St. Bonaventure, ‘diminished now that she is in heaven, but it has increased;’ for ‘now she better sees the miseries of men.’ And therefore the Saint goes on to say: ‘Great was the mercy of Mary towards the wretched when she was still in exile on earth; but far greater is it now that she reigns in heaven.’ St. Agnes assured St. Bridget, that ‘there was no one who prayed without receiving graces through the charity of the Blessed Virgin.’ Unfortunate indeed should we be, did not Mary intercede for us! Jesus Himself, addressing the same Saint, said, ‘Were it not for the prayers of My Mother, there would be no hope of mercy.’
Blessed is he, says the Divine Mother, who listens to my instructions, pays attention to my charity, and in imitation of me, exercises it himself towards others. ‘Blessed is the man that hears me, and that watches daily at my gates, and waits at the posts of my doors.’ St. Gregory Nazianzen assures us that ‘there is nothing by which we can with greater certainty gain the affection of Mary than by charity towards our neighbor.’ Therefore as God exhorts us, saying, ‘Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful,’ so also does Mary seem to say to all her children, ‘Be ye merciful, as your Mother also is merciful.’ It is certain that our charity towards our neighbor will be the measure of that which God and Mary will show us: ‘Give, and it shall be given to you. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.’ St. Methodius used to say, ‘Give to the poor, and receive paradise.’ For the Apostle writes, that charity towards our neighbor renders us happy both in this world and in the next: ‘But piety is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’ St. John Chrysostom, on the words of Proverbs, ‘He that hath mercy on the poor lends to the Lord,’ makes a remark to the same effect, saying: ‘He who assists the needy, makes God his debtor.’
We read, in the life of Sister Domenica del Paradiso, written by the Dominican Father Ignatius del Niente, that she was born of poor parents, in the village of Paradiso, near Florence. From her very infancy she began to serve the Divine Mother. She fasted every day in her honor, and on Saturdays gave her food, of which she deprived herself, to the poor. Every Saturday she went into the garden, and into the neighboring fields, and gathered all the flowers that she could find, and presented them before an image of the Blessed Virgin, with the Child in her arms, which she kept in the house. But let us now see with how many favors this most gracious Lady recompensed the homage of her servant. One day, when Domenica was ten years of age, standing at the window, she saw in the street a lady of noble mien, accompanied by a little child, and they both extended their hands, asking for alms. She went to get some bread, when in a moment, without the door being opened, she saw them by her side, and perceived that the child’s hands and feet and side were wounded. She therefore asked the lady who had wounded the child. The mother answered, ‘It was love.’ Domenica, inflamed with love at the sight of the beauty and modesty of the child, asked him if the wounds pained him. His only answer was a smile. But as they were standing near the statue of Jesus and Mary, the lady said to Domenica, ‘Tell me, my child, what is it that makes thee crown these images with flowers?’ She replied: ‘It is the love that I bear to Jesus and Mary.’ ‘And how much dost thou love them?’ ‘I love them as much as I can.’ ‘And how much can you love them?’ ‘As much as they enable me.’ ‘Continue, then,’ added the lady—‘continue to love them; for they will amply repay your love in heaven.’
The little girl then, perceiving that a heavenly odor came forth from those wounds, asked the mother with what ointment she anointed them, and if it could be bought. The lady answered, ‘It is bought with faith and good works.’ Domenica then offered the bread. The mother said: ‘Love is the food of my son; tell him that you love Jesus, and he will be satisfied.’ The child at the word love seemed filled with joy, and turning towards the little girl, asked her how much she loved Jesus. She answered that she loved Him so much, that night and day she always thought of Him, and sought for nothing else but to give Him as much pleasure as she possibly could. ‘It’s well,’ he replied; ‘love Him, for love will teach you what to do to please Him.’ The sweet odor which exhaled from those wounds then increasing, Domenica cried out, ‘O God, this odor makes me die of love! If the odor of a child is so sweet, what must that of heaven be!’ But behold, the scene now changed; the Mother appeared clothed as a Queen, and the Child resplendent with beauty like the sun. He took the flowers and scattered them on the head of Domenica, who, recognizing Jesus and Mary in those personages, was already prostrate adoring them. Thus the vision ended. Domenica afterwards took the habit of a Dominicaness, and died in the odor of sanctity, in the year 1553.
O beloved Mather of God, most amiable Mary! O, that as you consecrated yourself to the glory and love of God, with promptitude and without reserve, I could offer you, this day, the first years of my life, to devote myself without reserve to your service, my holy and most sweet Lady! But it is now too late to do this; for, unfortunate creature that I am, I have lost so many years in the service of the world and my own caprices, and have lived in almost entire forgetfulness of you and of God. But it is better to begin late than not at all. Behold, O Mary, I this day present myself to you, and I offer myself without reserve to your service for the long or short time that I still have to live in this world; and in union with you I renounce all creatures, and devote myself entirely to the love of my Creator. I consecrate my mind to you, O Queen, that it may always think of the love that you deserve; my tongue to praise you, my heart to love you. Accept O most holy Virgin, the offering which this miserable sinner now makes to you. But since I enter your service late, it is reasonable that I should redouble my acts of homage and love, thereby to compensate for lost time. Help my weakness with your powerful intercession, O Mother of Mercy, by obtaining for me perseverance from Jesus, and strength to be always faithful to you until death; that thus always serving you in life, I may praise you in paradise for all eternity. Amen.
Offer alms for the relief of the poor in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.