Truly unfortunate are we poor children of Eve; for, guilty before God of her fault, and condemned to the same penalty, we have to wander about in this valley of tears as exiles from our country, and to weep over our many afflictions of body and soul. But blessed is he who, in the midst of these sorrows, often turns to the comforter of the world, to the refuge of the unfortunate, to the great Mother of God, and devoutly calls upon her and invokes her! ‘Blessed is the man that hears me, and that watches daily at my gates.’ Blessed, says Mary, is he who listens to my counsels, and watches continually at the gate of my mercy, and invokes my intercession and aid. The holy Church carefully teaches us her children with what attention and confidence we should unceasingly have recourse to this loving protectress.
Nor should the multitude of our sins diminish our confidence, that Mary will grant our petitions, when we cast ourselves at her feet. She is the Mother of Mercy, but mercy would not be needed did none exist who require it. On this subject, Richard of St. Lawrence remarks, ‘That as a good mother does not shrink from applying a remedy to her child, infected with ulcers, however nauseous and revolting they may be, so also is our good Mother unable to abandon us, when we have recourse to her, that she may heal the wounds caused by our sins, however loathsome they may have rendered us.’ This good Mother’s compassion is so great, and the love she bears us is such, that she does not even wait for our prayers in order to assist us; but, as it is expressed in the Book of Wisdom, ‘she hastens to make herself known to them that desire her, in that she first shows herself unto them.’ St. Anselm applies these words to Mary, and says that she is beforehand with those who desire her protection. By this we are to understand, that she obtains us many favors from God before we have recourse to her. From this Novarino argues, that ‘If Mary, unasked, is thus prompt to succor the needy, how much more so will she be to succor those who invoke her and ask for her help?’
Should there be any one who doubts as to whether Mary will aid him if he has recourse to her, Innocent III. thus reproves him: ‘Who is there that ever, when in the night of sin, had recourse to this sweet Lady without being relieved?’ ‘And who ever,’ exclaims the blessed Eutichian, ‘faithfully implored your all-powerful aid and was abandoned by you?’ Indeed no one; for you can relieve the most wretched, and save the most abandoned. Such a case certainly never did, and never will occur. ‘I am satisfied,’ says St. Bernard, ‘that whoever has had recourse to thee, O Blessed Virgin, in his wants, and can remember that he did so in vain, should no more speak of or praise your mercy.’
‘Sooner,’ says the devout Blosius, ‘would heaven and earth be destroyed, than would Mary fail to assist any one who asks for her help, provided he does so with a good intention, and with confidence in her.’ St. Anselm, to increase our confidence, adds, that ‘when we have recourse to this Divine Mother, not only we may be sure of her protection, but that often we shall be heard more quickly, and be thus preserved, if we have recourse to Mary and call on her holy name, than we should be if we called on the name of Jesus our Savior;’ and the reason he gives for it is, ‘that to Jesus as a Judge, it belongs also to punish, but mercy alone belongs to the Blessed Virgin as a patroness.’ Meaning, that we more easily find salvation by having recourse to the Mother, than by going to the Son — not as if Mary was more powerful than her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Savior, and that He alone, by His merits, has obtained, and obtains salvation for us; but it is for this reason: that when we have recourse to Jesus, we consider Him at the same time as our Judge, to whom it belongs also to chastise ungrateful souls, and therefore the confidence necessary to be heard may fail us; but when we go to Mary, who has no other office than to compassionate us, as Mother of Mercy, and to defend us as our advocate, our confidence is more easily established, and is often greater.
St. Bridget heard our Lord make a most sweet and consoling promise; for in the 50th chapter of the First Book of her Revelations, we read, that Jesus addressed His Mother in the following words: ‘You shalt present Me with no petition that shall be refused. My Mother, ask what you will, for never will I refuse you anything; and know,’ He added, ‘that I promise graciously to hear all those who ask any favor of Me in your name, though they may bo sinners, if only they have the will to amend their lives.’ The same thing was revealed to St. Gertrude, when she heard our Divine Redeemer assure His Mother, ‘that in His omnipotence He granted her power to show mercy to sinners who invoke her in whatever manner she might please.’
Let all, then, say, with full confidence in the words of that beautiful prayer addressed to the Mother of mercy, and commonly attributed to St. Bernard: ‘Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that it never was heard of in any age that anyone having recourse to your protection was abandoned.’ Therefore forgive me, O Mary, If I say that I will not be the first unfortunate creature who has ever had recourse to thee, and was abandoned.
We read in his Life, that St. Francis of Sales experienced the efficacy of this prayer. When he was about seventeen years of age he was residing in Paris, where he was pursuing his studies. At the same time he devoted himself to exercises of piety and to the holy love of God, in which he found the joys of paradise. Our Lord in order to try him and to strengthen the bands which united him to Himself, allowed the evil spirit to persuade him that all he did was in vain, as he was already condemned in the eternal decrees of God. The darkness and spiritual dryness in which God was pleased at the same tome to leave him (for he was then insensible to all the sweeter thoughts of the goodness of God), caused the temptation to have greater power over the heart of the holy youth; and, indeed, it reached such a pitch that his fears and interior desolation took away his appetite, deprived him of sleep, made him pale and melancholy; so much so, that he excited the compassion of all who saw him.
As long as this terrible storm lasted the Saint could only conceive thoughts and utter words of despondency and bitter grief. ‘Then,’ said he, ‘I am to be deprived of the grace of my God, who hitherto has shown Himself so lovely and sweet to me. O Love, O Beauty, to which I have consecrated all my affections, I am no longer to enjoy thy consolation! O Virgin, Mother of God, the fairest amongst all the daughters of Jerusalem, then I am never to see you in heaven! Ah! Lady, if I am not to behold your beautiful countenance in paradise, at least permit me not to blaspheme you in hell!’ Such were the tender sentiments of that afflicted, but, at the same time, loving heart. The temptation had lasted a month, when it pleased our Lord to deliver him by the means of that comforter of the world, the most Blessed Mary, to whom the Saint had some time before consecrated his virginity, and in whom, as he declared, he had placed all his hopes. One evening, on returning home, he entered a church, and saw a tablet hanging on the wall: he read it, and found the following well-known prayer, commonly called ‘of St. Bernard,’—‘Remember, O most pious Virgin Mary, that it never has been heard of in any age, that any one having recourse to your protection was abandoned.’ Falling on his knees before the altar of the Divine Mother, he recited this prayer with tender fervor, renewed his vow of chastity, promised to say the Rosary every day, and then added: ‘ My Queen, be my advocate with your Son, whom I dare not approach. My Mother, if I am so unfortunate as not to be able to love my Lord in the next world, and whom I know to be so worthy of love, at least obtain that I may love Him in this world as much as possible. This is the grace that I ask and hope for from you.’ Having thus addressed the Blessed Virgin, he cast himself into the arms of Divine mercy, and resigned himself entirely to the will of God. Scarcely had he finished his prayer, when, in an instant, he was delivered from his temptation by his most sweet Mother; he immediately regained the peace of his soul, and with it his bodily health; and from that time forward lived most devout to Mary, whose praises and mercy he constantly extolled, both in his sermons and writings, during the remainder of his life.
O Mother of God, Queen of Angels and Hope of men, give ear to one who calls upon thee, and has recourse to thy protection. Behold me this day prostrate at thy feet; I, a miserable slave of hell, devote myself entirely to thee: I desire to be forever thy servant. I offer myself to serve and honor thee to the utmost of my power during the whole of my life. I know that the service of one so vile and miserable can be no honor to thee, since I have so grievously offended Jesus, thy Son and my Redeemer. But if thou wilt accept one so unworthy for thy servant, and by thy intercession change, and thus make me worthy, this very mercy will give thee that honor which so miserable a wretch as I can never give thee. Receive me, then, and reject me not, O my Mother. The Eternal Word came from heaven on earth to seek for lost sheep; and to save them He became thy Son. And when one of them goes to thee to find Jesus, wilt thou despise it? The price of my salvation is already paid; my Savior has already shed his blood, which suffices to save an infinity of worlds. This blood has only to be applied, even to such a one as I am. And that is thy office, O Blessed Virgin; to thee does it belong, as I am told by St. Bernard, to dispense the merits of this blood to whom thou pleasest. To the does it belong, says St. Bonaventure, to save whomsoever thou willest. O, then, help me, my Queen; my Queen save me! To thee do I this day consecrate my whole soul; do thou save it. O Salvation of those who invoke thee, I conclude in the words of the same Saint, "O Salvation of those who call upon thee, do thou save me!’
When you feel as though all hope is lost, whatever the situation or no matter how desperate, turn to the Blessed Virgin with trust and confidence.