This world being a place of merit, it is rightly called a valley of tears; for we are all placed in it to suffer, that we may, by patience, gain our own souls unto life eternal, as our Lord Himself says: ‘In your patience you shall possess your souls.’ God gave us the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model of all virtues, but more especially as an example of patience. St. Francis of Sales, amongst other things, remarks, that it was precisely for this reason that at the marriage feast of Cana, Jesus Christ gave the Blessed Virgin an answer, by which He seemed to value her prayers but little: ‘Woman, what is that to thee and to Me? And He did this, that He might give us the example of the patience of His most holy Mother. But what need have we to seek for instances of this virtue? Mary’s whole life was a continual exercise of her patience; for, as the angel revealed to St. Bridget, ‘as a rose grows up amongst thorns, so did this Blessed Virgin grow up amongst tribulations.’ Compassion alone for the Redeemer’s sufferings sufficed to make her a martyr of patience. Hence St. Bonaventure says, that ‘a crucified Mother conceived a crucified Son. How much did she not suffer, both in her journey to and during her residence in Egypt, as also during the time she lived with her Son in the house at Nazareth! What Mary endured when present at the death of Jesus on Calvary, is alone sufficient to show us how constant and sublime was her patience: There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother.
Therefore St. Ildephonsus did not hesitate to assert that, To say that Mary’s sorrows were greater than all the torments of the martyrs united, was to say too little. And St. Anselm adds, that ‘the most cruel tortures inflicted on the holy martyrs were trifling or as nothing, in comparison with the martyrdom of Mary.’ St. Basil of Seleucia also writes, ‘that as the sun exceeds all the other planets in splendor, so did Mary’s sufferings exceed those of all the other martyrs. ‘A learned author concludes with a beautiful sentiment: he says, that so great was the sorrow of this tender Mother in the Passion of Jesus that she alone compassionated in a degree by any means adequate to its merits the death of a God made man.
If we then wish to be the children of Mary, we must endeavor to imitate her in her patience: ‘For what,’ says St. Cyprian, ‘can enrich us with greater merit in this life, and greater glory in the next, than the patient endurance of sufferings? God said, by the Prophet Osee, ‘I will hedge up thy way with thorns.’ To this St. Gregory adds, that ‘ the way of the elect is hedged with thorns.’ As a hedge of thorns protects a vineyard; so does God protect His servants from the danger of attaching themselves to the earth, by encompassing them with tribulations. Therefore St. Cyprian concludes, that it is patience which delivers us from sin and from hell. It is also patience which makes Saints. St. John saw all the Saints bearing palm branches, the emblem of martyrdom, in their hands: ‘ After this I saw a great multitude, and palms were in their hands;’ all adults who are saved must be martyrs, either by shedding their blood for Christ, or by patience.
Rejoice, then, exclaims St. Gregory: We can be martyrs without the executioner’s sword, if we only preserve patience.’
In the revelations of St. Bridget we read that there was a rich man, as noble by birth and he was vile and sinful in his habits. He had given himself, by an express compact, as a slave to the devil; and for sixty successive years had served him, leading such a life as may be imagined, and never approaching the sacraments. Now this Prince was- dying; and Jesus Christ, to show him mercy, commanded St. Bridget to tell her confessor to go and visit him, and exhort him to confess his sins. The confessor went, and the sick man said that he did not require confession, as he had often approached the sacrament of penance. The priest went a second time; but this poor slave of hell persevered in his obstinate determination not to confess. Jesus again told the Saint to desire the confessor to return. He did so; and on this third occasion told the sick man the revelation made to the Saint, and that he had returned so many times because our Lord, who wished to show him mercy, had so ordered. On hearing this the dying man was touched, and began to weep: But how, he exclaimed, can I be saved; I, who for sixty years have served the devil as his slave, and have my soul burdened with innumerable sins? ‘My son, answered the Father, encouraging him, ‘doubt not; if you repent of them, on the part of God I promise you pardon.’ Then, gaining confidence, he said to the confessor: Father, I looked upon myself as lost, and already despaired of salvation; but now I feel a sorrow for my sins, which gives mo confidence; and since God has not yet abandoned me I will make my confession. In fact, he made his confession four times on that day, with the greatest marks of sorrow, and on the following morning received the Holy Communion. On the sixth day, contrite and resigned, he died. After his death Jesus Christ again spoke to St. Bridget, and told her that that sinner was saved; that he was then in purgatory, and that he owed his salvation to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin His Mother for the deceased, although he had led so wicked a life, had nevertheless always preserved devotion to her dolors, and whenever he thought of them pitied her.
0 my afflicted Mother! Queen of martyrs and of sorrows, thou didst so bitterly weep over thy Son, who died for my salvation; but what will thy tears avail me if I am lost? By the merit, then, of thy sorrows, obtain me true contrition for my sins, and a real amendment of life, together with constant and tender compassion for the sufferings of Jesus, and thy dolors. And if Jesus and thou, being so innocent, have suffered so much for love of me, obtain that at least I, who am deserving of hell, may suffer something for your love. 0 Lady, will I say with St. Bonaventure, if I have offended thee, in justice wound my heart: if I have served thee, I now ask wounds for my reward. It is shameful to me to see my Lord Jesus wounded, and thee wounded with Him, and myself without a wound.
O my Mother, by the grief thou didst experience in seeing thy Son bow down His head and expire on the cross in the midst of so many torments, I beseech thee to obtain me a good death. Ah, cease not, 0 advocate of sinners, to assist my afflicted soul in the midst of the combats in which it will have to engage on its great passage from time to eternity. And as it is probable that I may then have lost my speech, and strength to invoke thy name and that of Jesus, who are all my hope, I do so now; I invoke thy Son and thee to succor me in that last moment, and I say: Jesus and Mary, to you I commend my soul. Amen.