Of the Greatness of the Clemency and Compassion of Mary.
St. Bernard, speaking of the great compassion of Mary towards us poor creatures, says, ‘that she is the land overflowing with milk and honey, promised by God.’ Hence St. Leo observes, ‘that the Blessed Virgin has so merciful a heart, that she deserves not only to be called merciful, but mercy itself.’ St. Bonaventure also, considering that Mary was made Mother of God on account of the miserable, and that to her is committed the charge of dispensing mercy; considering, moreover, the tender care she takes of all, and that her compassion is so great, that she seems to have no other desire than that of relieving the needy; says, that when he looks at her, he seems no longer to see the justice of God, but only the Divine Mercy, of which Mary is full. In fine, the compassion of Mary is so great towards us, that the Abbot Guarric says, ‘that her loving heart can never remain a moment without bringing forth its fruits of tenderness.’ ‘And what,’ exclaims St. Bernard, ‘can ever flow from a source of compassion but compassion itself?’ Mary is also called an olive-tree: ‘As a fair olive-tree on the plains.’ For, as from the olive, oil (a symbol of mercy) alone is extracted, so from the hands of Mary graces and mercy alone proceed. Hence the venerable Father Louis de Ponte says, ‘that Mary may properly be called the Mother of Oil, since she is the Mother of Mercy.’ And thus, when we go to this good Mother for the oil of her mercy, we cannot fear that she will deny it to us, as the wise virgins in the Gospel did to the foolish ones: ‘Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you.’ O no! for she is indeed rich in this oil of mercy, as St. Bonaventure assures us, ‘Mary is filled with the oil of compassion.’ She is called by the Church, not only a prudent Virgin, but most prudent, that we may understand, says Hugo of St. Victor, that she is so full of grace and compassion, that she can supply all, without losing any herself: ‘You, O Blessed Virgin, are full of grace, and indeed so full, that the whole world may draw of this overflowing oil.’ ‘For if the prudent Virgins provided oil in vessels, with their lamps, you, O most prudent Virgin, have borne and overflowing and inexhaustible vessel, from which, the oil of mercy streaming, you replenish the lamps of all.’
But why, I ask, is this beautiful olive-tree said to stand in the midst of the plains; and not rather in the midst of a garden, surrounded by a wall and hedges? The same Hugo of St. Victor tells us, that it is ‘that all may see her, that all may go to her for refuge’—That all may see her easily, and as easily have recourse to her, to obtain remedies for all their ills. This beautiful explanation is confirmed by St. Antoninus, who says, ‘that all can go to, and gather the fruit of an olive-tree, that is exposed in the midst of a plain, and thus all, both just and sinners, can have recourse to Mary, to obtain her mercy.’ He then adds, ‘O how many sentences of condemnation has not this most Blessed Virgin revoked by her compassionate prayers, in favor of sinners who have had recourse to her!’ ‘And what safer refuge,’ says the devout Thomas a Kempis, ‘can we ever find than the compassionate heart of Mary? there the poor find a home, the infirm a remedy, the afflicted relief, the doubtful counsel, and the abandoned succor.’
Wretched, indeed, should we be, had we not this Mother of Mercy always attentive and solicitous to relieve us in our wants! ‘Where there is no woman, he mourns that is in want,’ says the Holy Ghost. ‘This woman,’ says St. John Damascene ‘is precisely the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and wherever this most holy woman is not, the sick man groans.’ And surely it cannot be otherwise, since all graces are dispensed at the prayer of Mary, and where this is wanting, there can be no hope of mercy, as our Lord gave St. Bridget to understand in these words: ‘Unless the prayers of Mary interposed, there could be no hope of mercy.’
But perhaps we fear that Mary does not see, or does not feel for, our necessities? O no, she sees and feels them far better than we do ourselves.
‘This Queen,’ says St. Bernard, ‘is so compassionate and benign, that when a sinner, whoever he may be, recommends himself to her charity, she does not question his merits, or whether he is worthy or unworthy to be attended to, but she hears and succors all.’ ‘O how many,’ exclaims the Abbot of Celles, ‘who deserved to be condemned by the justice of the Son, are saved by the mercy of the Mother! for she is God's treasure, and the treasurer of all graces; and thus our salvation is in her hands, and depends on her.’ Let us then always have recourse to this compassionate Mother, and confidently hope for salvation through her intercession; for she, according to the encouraging assurance of Bernardine de Bustis, ‘is our salvation, our life, our hope, our counsel, our refuge, our help.’
Let us conclude with the beautiful and tender exclamation of St. Bonaventure on these words, ‘O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!’ ‘O Mary, you are clement with the miserable, compassionate towards those who pray to you, sweet towards those who love you: clement with the penitent, compassionate to those who advance, sweet to the perfect. You show yourself clement in delivering us from the chastisement, compassionate in bestowing graces, and sweet in giving yourself to those who seek you.’
Father Charles Bovio relates, that in the principality of Dombes in France, there was a married man whose wife was jealous of another woman, and did nothing but call down, both on her husband and the woman, the judgements of God; and this she did especially one day that she went before an altar of the Blessed Virgin to pray for justice against this woman. The woman, however, was in the habit of going every day to recite a ‘Hail Mary’ before the same image. One night, the Divine Mother appeared in a dream to the wife, who, on seeing her, began as usual to exclaim, ‘Justice, O Mother of God, justice!’ But our Blessed Lady replied, ‘Justice! Chastisements! Do you seek them of me? No, go to others, for I will not grant what you ask; for know,’ she added, ‘that the sinner recites every da a salutation in my honor, and by whomsoever it is recited, it deprives me of the power of allowing him to suffer or to be chastised for his sins.’ In the morning the wife went to hear Mass in the above-named church of our Blessed Lady, and on returning home met this woman, and immediately began to abuse her, and then declared that she was a witch, and that she had succeeded even in enchanting the Blessed Virgin herself. The people who were present told her to hold her tongue. ‘Be silent? Indeed I will not, for what I say is true; for last night our Blessed Lady appeared to me, and when I demanded justice, she told me that she could not grant it on account of a salutation offered her every day by this wretch.’ The woman was then asked what salutation it was that she offered every day to the Mother of God, and she replied that it was the ‘Hail Mary.’ On hearing that for the trifling devotion the Blessed Virgin had shown her such mercy, she went and cast herself before the holy image, and there, in the presence of all, she asked pardon for the scandal she had given, and made a vow of perpetual chastity. She then clothed herself with the habit of a nun, built herself a little room near the church, and there remained until her death, leading a life of continual mortification and penance.
O Mother of Mercy, since thou art so compassionate, and hast so great a desire to render service to us poor creatures, and to grant our requests, behold I, the most miserable of all men, have now recourse to thy compassion, in order that thou mayest grant me that which I ask. Others may ask what they please of thee,—bodily health, and earthly goods and advantages; but I come, O Lady, to ask thee for that which thou desirest of me, and which is most in conformity with, and agreeable to thy most sacred heart. Thou art so humble; obtain for me humility and love of contempt. Thou wast so patient under the sufferings of this life, obtain for me patience in trials. Thou wast all filled with the love of God, obtain for me the gift of His pure and holy love. Thou wast all love towards thy neighbor; obtain for me charity towards all, and particularly towards those who are in any way my enemies. Thou wast entirely united to the Divine will; obtain for me entire conformity with the will of God in whatever way He may be pleased to dispose of me. Thou, in fine, art the most holy of all creatures; O Mary, make me a saint. Love for me is not wanting on thy part; thou canst do all, and thou hast the will to obtain me all. The only thing, then, that can prevent me from receiving thy grace is, either neglect on my part in having recourse to thee, or little confidence in thy intercession; but these two things thou must obtain for me. These two greatest graces I ask from thee; from thee I must obtain them; from thee I hope for them with the greatest confidence, O Mary, my Mother Mary, my hope, my love, my life, my refuge, my help, and my consolation. Amen.
In Mary’s honor, go out of your way to show compassion to someone who has offended or hurt you.