Virgin and Child with Souls in Purgatory, GIORDANO, Luca
MARY DELIVERS HER CLIENTS FROM HELL
It is impossible for a client of Mary, who is faithful in honoring and recommending himself to her, to be lost. When we say that it is impossible for a client of Mary to be lost, we must not be understood as speaking of those clients who take advantage of this devotion, that they may sin more freely. And, therefore, those who disapprove of the great praises bestowed on the clemency of this most Blessed Virgin, because it causes the wicked to take advantage of it, to sin with greater freedom, do so without foundation, for such presumptive people deserve chastisement, and not mercy, for their rash confidence. It is, therefore, to be understood of those clients who, with a sincere desire to amend, are faithful in honoring and recommending themselves to the Mother of God. It is, I say, morally impossible that such as these should be lost. St. Anselm says, ‘that as it is impossible for one who is not devout to Mary, and consequently not protected by her, to be saved, so is it impossible for one who recommends himself to her, and consequently is be loved by her, to be lost.’ Many others declare the same thing, such as blessed Albert, who says, that ‘All those who are not thy servants, O Mary, will perish’ And St. Bonaventure: ‘He who neglects the service of the Blessed Virgin will die in his sins.’ Again, ‘He who does not invoke thee, O Lady, will never get to Heaven.’ And, on the 99th psalm, the Saint even says, ‘that not only those from whom Mary turns her face will not be saved, but that there will be no hope of their salvation.’ Before him, St. Ignatius the martyr said, ‘that it was impossible for any sinner to be saved without the help and favor of the most Blessed Virgin; because those who are not saved by the justice of God are, with in finite mercy, saved by the intercession of Mary.’ Some doubt as to whether this passage is truly of St. Ignatius; but, at all events, as Father Crasset remarks, it was adopted by St. John Chrysostom. It is also repeated by the venerable Raymond Jordano. And in the same sense does the Church apply to Mary the words of Proverbs: ‘All that hate me, love death:’ that is, all who do not love me, love eternal death. For, as Richard of St. Lawrence says — on the words of the same book, ‘ She is like the merchant’s ship’ — ‘ All those who are out of this ship will be lost in the sea of the world.’ Even the heretical (Ecolampadius) looked upon little devotion to the Mother of God as a certain mark of reprobation: and therefore he said, ‘ Far be it from me ever to turn from Mary.’ But, on the other hand, Mary says in the words applied to her by the Church, ‘He that hearkeneth to me shall not be confounded;’ that is to say, he who listeneth to what I say shall not be lost. On which St. Bonaventure says, ‘ 0 Lady, he who honours thee will be far from damnation.’ And this will still be the case, St. Hilary observes, even should the person, during the past time, have greatly offended God. ‘However great a sinner he may have been,’ says the saint, ‘ if he shows himself devout to Mary he will never perish.’
For this reason the devil does his utmost with sinners, in order that after they have lost the grace of God, they may also lose devotion to Mary. The devil, also, is not satisfied with a soul turning out Jesus Christ unless it also turns out His Mother. Otherwise he fears that the Mother will again, by her intercession, bring back her Son. ‘And his fears are well grounded,’ says the learned Paciucchelli; ‘for he who is faithful in serving the Mother of God will soon receive God Himself by the means of Mary.’ St. Ephrem then was right in calling devotion to our Blessed Lady ‘a Divine charter,’ our safe guard from hell. The same saint also calls the Divine Mother ‘the only hope of those who are in despair.’ That which St. Bernard says is certainly true, ‘that neither the power nor the will to save us can be wanting to Mary:’ the power cannot be wanting, for it is impossible that her prayers should not be heard, as St. Antoninus says, ‘It is impossible that a Mother of God should pray in vain;’ and St. Bernard says the same thing; ‘that her requests can never be refused, but that she obtains whatever she wills:’ the will to save us cannot be wanting, for Mary is our Mother, and desires our salvation more than we can desire it ourselves. Since then this is the case, how can it be possible for a client of Mary to be lost? He may be a sinner, but if he recommends himself to this good Mother, with perseverance and purpose of amendment, she will undertake to obtain him light to abandon his wicked state, sorrow for his sins, perseverance in virtue, and, finally, a good death. And what mother would not deliver her son from death if it only depended on her asking the favour to obtain it from the judge? And can we think that Mary, who loves her clients with a Mother’s most tender love, will not deliver her child from eternal death when she can do it so easily? ‘O, how many would have remained obstinate in sin, and have been eternally lost,’ says Thomas a Kempis, ‘ if Mary had not interposed with her Son, that He might show them mercy!’ ‘What, then, will be our lot, 0 tender Mother,’ let us ask with St. Germanus, ‘ who are sinners, but desire to change, and have recourse to thee, who art the life of Christians?’ St. Anselm says, ‘that he will not be lost for whom thou once prayest.’ O, pray then for us, and we shall be preserved from hell.
In the year 1604, in a city of Flanders, there were two young men, students; but who, instead of attending to their studies, gave themselves up to a life of debauchery. One night they were both in a house with an evil companion, when one of them, named Richard, returned home, leaving his companion there. After he got home, and had begun to undress, he remembered he had not that day said some ‘Hail Marys’ that he was in the habit of reciting. Feeling very sleepy he was loth to say them; he did himself violence, and repeated them, though without devotion, and half asleep. He then laid down, and had fallen into a sound slumber, when he was suddenly roused by a violent knocking at the door, and without its opening he saw his companion, deformed and hideous, standing before him. ‘Who art thou? he cried out. ‘What! dost thou not know me? ‘Ah! yes, but how thou art changed; thou seemest to me a devil.’ ‘Truly,’ he exclaimed, ‘poor unfortunate creature that I am, I am damned, and how! When I was leaving that wicked house a devil came and strangled me: my body is in the street, and my soul in hell; and thou must know,’ added he, ‘that the same fate awaited thee had not the Blessed Virgin, preserved thee in consideration of that little act of homage of the “Hail Mary.” Fortunate art thou if only thou knowest how to take advantage of this warning sent thee by the Mother of God!’ With these words he opened his mantle, and showing the flames and serpents by which he was tormented, he disappeared. Richard immediately burst into sobs and tears, and casting himself prostrate on the ground, he returned thanks to Mary, his protectress; and, whilst thinking how to change his life, he heard the bell of the Franciscan monastery ringing for matins. ‘Ah! It is there,’ says he, ‘that God calls me to do penance.’ He went straight off to the convent, and implored the fathers to admit him. But they were hardly willing to do so, knowing his wicked life; but he, sobbing bitterly, told all that had taken place; and two fathers being sent to the street, and having found the strangled body, which was as black as a coal, they admitted him. From that time forward Richard led a most exemplary life, and, at length, went to preach the gospel in the Indies; and thence to Japan, where he had the happiness of giving his life for Jesus Christ, being burnt alive for the Faith.
O Mary, my most dear Mother, in what an abyss of evils should I not now be, if thou hadst not so many times delivered me with thy compassionate hand! How many years ago should I not have been in hell, hadst thou not saved me by thy powerful prayers! My grievous sins already drove me there; Divine justice had already condemned me; the devils already longed to execute the sentence; and thou didst fly to my aid, and save me without being even called or asked. And what return can I make to thee, 0 my beloved protectress, for so many favors, and for such love! Thou also didst overcome the hardness of my heart, and didst draw me to thy love, and to confidence in thee. And into how many other evils should I not have fallen, if with thy compassionate hand thou hadst not so often helped me in the dangers into which I was on the point of falling! Continue, O my hope, to preserve me from hell, and from the sins into which I may still fall. Never allow me to have this misfortune — to curse thee in hell. My beloved Lady, I love thee. Can thy goodness ever endure to see a servant of thine that loves thee lost? Ah, then, obtain that I may never more be ungrateful to thee and to my God, who, for the love of thee, has granted me so many graces. 0 Mary, tell me, shall I be lost! Yes, if I abandon thee. But is this possible? Can I ever forget the love thou hast borne me? Thou, after God, art the love of my soul. I can no longer trust myself to live without loving thee. O most beautiful, most holy, most amiable, sweetest creature in the world, I rejoice in thy happiness, I love thee, and I hope always to love thee both in time and in eternity. Amen.
Twenty-Ninth Day – Month of Our Lady