Mary Is the Hope of Sinners
In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, we read, that ‘God made two great lights; a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night.’ Cardinal Hugo says, that ‘Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary, the lesser to rule sinners.’ Meaning that the sun is a figure of Jesus Christ, whose light is enjoyed by the just who live in the clear day of divine grace; and that the moon is a figure of Mary, by whose means those who are in the night of sin are enlightened. Since Mary is this auspicious luminary, and is so for the benefit of poor sinners, should any one have been so unfortunate as to fall into the night of sin, what is he to do? Innocent III replies, ‘whoever is in the night of sin let him cast his eyes on the moon, let him implore Mary.’ Since he has lost the light of the sun of justice by losing the grace of God, let him turn to the moon, and beseech Mary, and she will certainly give him light to see the misery of his state, and strength to leave it without delay. St. Methodius says, ‘that by the prayers of Mary, almost innumerable sinners are converted.’
One of the titles which is the most encouraging to poor sinners, and under which the Church teaches us to invoke Mary in the Litany of Loretto, is that of ‘Refuge of sinners.’ In Judea, in ancient times, there were cities of refuge, in which criminals, who fled there for protection, were exempt from the punishments which they had deserved. Nowadays, these cities are not so numerous; there is but one, and that is Mary, of whom the Psalmist says, ‘Glorious things are said of you, O city of God.’ But this city differs from the ancient ones in this respect, that in the latter all kinds of criminals did not find refuge, nor was the protection extended to every class of crime; but under the mantle of Mary, all sinners, without exception, find refuge for every sin that they may have committed, provided only that they go there to seek for this protection. ‘I am the city of refuge,’ says St. John Damascene, in the name of our Queen, ‘to all who fly to me.’
And it is sufficient to have recourse to her, for whoever has the good fortune to enter this city need not speak to be saved. ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the fenced city, and let us be silent there,’ to speak in the words of the Prophet Jeremias. This city, says St. Albert the Great, is the most holy Virgin fenced in with grace and glory. ‘And let us be silent there,’ that is, continues an interpreter, ‘Because we dare not invoke the Lord, whom we have offended, she will invoke and ask.’ For if we do not presume to ask our Lord to forgive us, it will suffice to enter this city and be silent, for Mary will speak and ask all that we require. And for this reason, a devout author exhorts all sinners to take refuge under the mantle of Mary, exclaiming. ‘Fly, O Adam and Eve, and all you their children, who have outraged God; fly, and take refuge in the bosom of this good Mother; know you not that she is our only city of refuge,’ ‘the only hope of sinners,’ as she is also called in a sermon by an ancient writer, found in the works of St. Augustine.
In the revelations of St. Bridget, Mary is called the ‘Star preceding the sun,’ giving us thereby to understand, that when devotion towards the Divine Mother begins to manifest itself in a soul that is in a state of sin, it is a certain mark that before long, God will enrich it with His grace. The glorious St. Bonaventure, in order to revive the confidence of sinners in the protection of Mary, places before them the picture of a tempestuous sea, into which sinners have already fallen from the ship of Divine grace, they are already dashed about on every side, by remorse of conscience and by fear of the judgements of God; they are without light or guide, and are on the point of losing the last breath of hope, and falling into despair; then it is that our Lord, pointing out Mary to them, who is commonly called the ‘Star of the Sea,’ raises His voice, and says, ‘O poor sinners, despair not: raise up your eyes, and cast them on this beautiful star; breathe again with confidence, for it will save your from this tempest, and will guide you into the port of salvation.’
It was, then, not without reason that St. Bernard addressed the Blessed Virgin, saying, ‘Thou, O Lady, dost not reject any sinner who approaches thee, however loathsome and repugnant he may be. If he asks your assistance, you do not disdain to extend your compassionate hand to him, to extricate him from the gulf of despair.’
It is related, in the sacred scriptures, that Boaz allowed Ruth ‘to gather the ears of corn after the reapers.’ St. Bonaventure says, ‘that as Ruth found favor with Boaz, so has Mary found favor with our Lord, and is also allowed to gather the ears of corn after the reapers. The reapers followed by Mary are all the evangelical laborers, missionaries, preachers, and confessors, who are constantly reaping souls for God. But there are some hardened and rebellious souls, which are abandoned even by these. To Mary alone is it granted to save them, by her powerful intercession.’ Truly unfortunate are they, if they do not allow themselves to be gathered, even by this sweet Lady. They will indeed be most certainly lost and accursed. But on the other hand, blessed is he who has recourse to this good Mother. ‘There is not in the world,’ says the devout Blosius, ‘any sinner, however revolting and wicked, who is despised or rejected by Mary; she can, she wills, and she knows, how to reconcile him to her most beloved Son, if only lie will seek her assistance.’
Blessed John Herold, who out of humility called himself the Disciple, relates, that there was a married man, who lived at enmity with God. His wife, who was a virtuous woman, being unable to engage him to give up sin, begged him, in the wretched state in which he was, to practice at least the devotion of saluting our Blessed Lady with a ‘Hail Mary,’ each time that he might pass before her picture. He began to do so. One night this wretched man was on his way to commit a crime, when he perceived a light at a distance: he drew near to see what it was, and found that it was a lamp, burning before a devout picture of Mary, holding the child Jesus in her arms. He at once, according to custom, said the ‘Hail Mary.’ In the same moment, he beheld the Divine Infant covered with wounds, from which fresh blood was streaming. Terrified, and at the same time moved to compassion, at this sight, he reflected that it was he, who, by his sins, had thus wounded his Redeemer. He burst into tears, but the Divine Infant turned His back to him. Filled with shame, he appealed to the most Blessed Virgin, saying: ‘Mother of Mercy, thy Son rejects me: I can find no advocate more compassionate and more powerful than you, for you are His Mother; my Queen, help me, and intercede for me.’ The Divine Mother, speaking from the picture, replied: ‘You sinners call me Mother of Mercy, but, at the same time, you cease not to make me a Mother of Sorrows, by crucifying my Son afresh, and renewing my sorrows.’ But as Mary can never let any one leave her feet disconsolate, she began to implore her Son to pardon this miserable wretch. Jesus continued to show Himself unwilling to do so. The most Blessed Virgin, seeing this, placed Him in the niche, and, prostrating herself before Him, said: ‘My Son, I will not leave Your feet until You have pardoned this sinner.’ ‘My Mother,’ then said Jesus, ‘I can deny you nothing; you will that he should be forgiven; for love of you I pardon him; make him come and kiss My wounds.’ The sinner, sobbing and weeping, did so, and, as he kissed them, the wounds were healed. Jesus then embraced him, as a mark of forgiveness, and he changed his life, which, from that time, was one of holiness; and he always preserved the most tender love and gratitude towards this Blessed Virgin, who had obtained him so great a grace.
O most pure Virgin Mary, I worship thy most holy heart which was the delight and resting-place of God, a heart overflowing with humility, purity, and Divine love. I, an unhappy sinner, approach thee with a heart all loathsome and wounded. O compassionate Mother, disdain me not on this account; let such a sight rather move thee to greater tenderness, and excite thee to help me. Do not stay to seek virtues or merit in me before assisting me. I am lost, and the only thing I merit is hell. See only my confidence in thee and the purpose I have to amend. Consider all that Jesus has done and suffered for me, and then abandon me if thou canst. I offer thee all the pains of His life; the cold that He endured in the stable; His journey into Egypt; the blood which He shed; the poverty, sweats, sorrows, and death that He endured for me; and this in thy presence. For the love of Jesus take charge of my salvation. Ah, my Mother, I will not and cannot fear that thou wilt reject me, now that I have recourse to thee and ask thy help. Did I fear this, I should be offering an outrage to thy mercy, which goes in quest of the wretched, in order to help them. O Lady, deny not thy compassion to one to whom Jesus has not denied His blood . But the merits of this blood will not be applied to me unless thou recommendest me to God. Through thee do I hope for salvation. I ask not for riches, honors, or earthly goods. I seek only the grace of God, love towards thy Son, the accomplishment of His will, and His heavenly kingdom, that I may love Him eternally. Is it possible that thou wilt not hear me? No: for already thou hast granted my prayer, as I hope; already thou prayest for me; already thou obtainest me the graces that I ask; already thou takest me under thy protection: my Mother, abandon me not. Never, never cease to pray for me until thou seest me safe in heaven at thy feet, blessing and thanking thee for ever. Amen.
As did the man in the example, salute our Lady with a ‘Hail Mary’ every time you pass by her statue or picture, wherever you find it.