MONTH OF OUR BLESSED LADY
THE GREATNESS OF THE LOVE WHICH THIS MOTHER BEARS US
Mary is our mother, not according to the flesh, but by love, ‘ I am the Mother of fair love;’ hence it is the love only that she bears us that makes her our Mother, and therefore someone remarks ‘ that she glories in being a Mother of love, because she is all love towards us whom she has adopted for her children.’ And who can ever tell the love that Mary bears us miserable creatures? Arnold of Chartres tells us that ‘at the death of Jesus Christ, she de sired with immense ardor to die with her Son, for love of us;’ so much so, adds St. Ambrose, that whilst ‘ her Son hung on the cross, Mary offered herself to the executioners’ to give her life for us. But let us consider the reasons of this love, for then we shall be better able to understand how much this good Mother loves us. The first reason for the great love that Mary bears to men, is the great love that she bears to God; love towards God and love towards our neighbor belong to the same commandment, as ex pressed by St. John, ‘this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God, love also his brother;’ so that as the one becomes greater the other also increases. What have not the saints done for their neighbor in consequence of their love towards God? Read only the account of the labors of St. Francis Xavier, in the Indies, where, in order to aid the souls of these poor barbarians, and bring them to God, he exposed himself to a thousand dangers, clambering amongst the mountains, and seeking out these poor creatures in the caves in which they dwelt like wild beasts; St. Francis of Sales, who, in order to convert the heretics of the province of Chablais, risked his life every morning, for a whole year, crawling on his hands and feet over a frozen beam, in order that he might preach to them on the opposite side of a river; a St. Paulinus, who delivered himself up as a slave, in order that he might obtain liberty for the son of a poor widow; and St. Fidelis, who, in order to draw the heretics of a certain place to God, persisted in going to preach to them, though he knew it would cost him his life. The saints then, because they loved God much, did much for their neighbor; but whoever loved God as much as Mary 1 She loved Him more in the first moment of her existence, than all the saints and angels ever loved Him, or will love Him. Our Blessed Lady herself revealed to sister Mary the Crucified, that the fire of love with which she was inflamed towards God, was such that if the heavens and earth were placed in it they would be instantly consumed; so that the ardors of the seraphim, in comparison with it, were but as fresh breezes. And as, amongst all the blessed spirits, there is not one that loves God more than Mary, so we neither have nor can have any one who, after God, loves us as much as this most loving Mother; and if we concentrate all the love that mothers bear their children, husbands and wives one another, all the love of angels and saints for their clients; it does not equal the love of Mary towards a single soul. Father Nierembergh says that the love that all mothers have ever had for their children is but a shadow, in comparison with the love that Mary bears to each one of us; and he adds, that she alone loves us more than all the angels and saints put together. Moreover, our Mother loves us much, because we were recommended to her by her beloved Jesus, when before expiring He said to her, ‘Woman, behold thy son,’ for we were all represented in the person of St. John, as we have already observed: these were His last words. And the last recommendations left before death by persons we love, are always treasured and never forgotten ; but, again, we are exceedingly dear to Mary on account of the sufferings we cost her ; mothers generally love those children most, the preservation of whose lives has cost them the most suffering and anxiety; we are those children for whom Mary, in order to obtain for us the life of grace, was obliged to endure the bitter agony of offering her beloved Jesus to die an ignominious death, and had also to see Him expire before her own eyes in the midst of the most cruel and unheard of torments. It was then by this great offering of Mary that we were born to the life of grace; we are therefore her very dear children, since we cost her so great suffering. And because all men have been redeemed by Jesus, therefore Mary loves and protects them all. And now, if Mary is so good to all, even to the ungrateful and negligent, who love her but little, and seldom have recourse to her, how much more loving will she be to those who love her, and often call upon her. ‘She is easily found by them that seek her. ‘0, how easy,’ adds Blessed Albert, ‘is it for those who love Mary to find her, and to find her full of compassion and love.’ In the words of the Book of Proverbs, ‘I love them that love me,’ she protests that she cannot do otherwise than love those who love her. And although this most loving Lady loves all men as her children, yet says St. Bernard, ‘ she recognizes and loves,’ that is, she loves in a more special manner those who love her more tenderly. Blessed Raymond Jordano asserts that these happy lovers of Mary are not only loved but even served by her, for he says that those who find the most Blessed Virgin Mary, find all; for she loves those who love her, nay more, she serves those who serve her.
Father Auriemma relates that there was a certain poor shepherdess, whose sole delight was to go to a little chapel of our Blessed Lady, situated on a mountain, and there, whilst her flocks browsed, converse with and honor her dear mother. Seeing that the little image of Mary (which was carved in relief) was unadorned, she set to work to make her a mantle ; and one day, having gathered a few flowers in the fields, she made a garland, and climbing on the altar of the little chapel, placed it on the head of the image, saying: ‘My Mother, I would place a crown of gold and precious stones on thy brow, but, as I am poor, receive this crown of flowers, and accept it as a mark of the love that I bear thee.’ “With this and other acts of homage, the pious maiden always endeavored to serve and honor her beloved Lady. But let us now see how the good Mother on her part recompensed the visits and the affection of her child. She fell ill, and was brought to the point of death. It so happened that two religious were passing that way, and, fatigued with their journey, sat down under a tree to rest ; one fell asleep, and the other remained awake ; but both had the same vision. They saw a troop of most beautiful ladies, and amongst these was one who in beauty and majesty far surpassed them all. One of the religious addressed himself to her: ‘ Lady, who art thou, and where art thou going by these rugged ways?’ ‘I am,’ she replied, ‘ the Mother of God, and am going with these holy virgins to a neighboring cottage to visit a dying shepherdess who has so often visited me.’ Having said these words, all disappeared. At once these two good servants of God said, ‘ Let us go also to see her.’ They immediately started, and having found the cottage of the dying virgin, they entered it, and found her stretched on a little straw. They saluted her, and she said, ‘ Brothers, ask our Lord to let you see the company that is assisting me.’ They immediately knelt, and saw Mary by the side of the dying girl, holding a crown in her hand, and con soling her. All at once the virgins began to sing, and at the sound of this sweet harmony her Blessed soul left her body. Mary placed the crown on her head, and taking her soul, led it with her to Paradise.
0 Lady, 0 ravisher of hearts, will I exclaim with St. Bonaventure: 0 Lady, who with the love and favor thou showest thy servants dost ravish their hearts, ravish also my miserable heart, which desires ardently to love thee! Thou, my Mother, hast enamored a God with thy beauty, and drawn Him from heaven into thy chaste womb, and shall I live without loving thee? No; I will never rest until I am certain of having obtained thy love; but a constant and tender love towards thee, my Mother, who hast loved me with so much tenderness, even when I was ungrateful towards thee. And what should I now be, 0 Mary, if thou hadst not obtained so many mercies for me Since, then, thou didst love me so much when I loved thee not, how much more may I not now hope from thee, now that I love thee 1 I love thee, O my Mother, and I would that I had a heart to love thee in place of all those unfortunate creatures who love thee not. I would that I could speak with a thousand tongues, that all might know thy greatness, thy holiness, thy mercy, and the love with which thou lovest all who love thee. Had I riches, I would employ them all for thy honor. Had I subjects, I would make them all thy lovers. In fine, if the occasion presented itself, I would lay down my life for thy glory. I love thee then, 0 my Mother; but at the same time I fear that I do not love thee as I ought; for I hear that love makes lovers like the person loved. If then I see myself so unlike thee, it is a mark that I do not love thee. Thou art so pure, and I defiled with many sins! Thou so humble, and I so proud! Thou so holy, and I so wicked! This, then, is what thou hast to do, 0 Mary; since thou lovest me, make me like thee. Thou hast all power to change hearts; take then mine and change it. Show the world what thou canst do for those who love thee. Make me a Saint; make me thy worthy child. This is my hope.