THE SWEETNESS OF THE NAME OF MARY AT THE HOUR OF DEATH
‘He that is a friend, loveth at all times; and a brother is proved in distress,’ says the Book of Proverbs. We can never know our friends and relations in the time of prosperity; it is only in the time of adversity that we see them in their true colors. People of the world never abandon a friend as long as he is in prosperity; but should misfortunes overtake him, and more particularly should he be at the point of death, they immediately forsake him. Mary does not act thus with her clients. In their afflictions, and more particularly in the sorrows of death — the greatest that can be endured in this world — this good Lady and Mother not only does not abandon her faithful servants, but as, during our exile, she is our life, so also is she, at our last hour, our sweetness, by obtaining us a calm and happy death. For from the day on which Mary had the privilege and sorrow of being present at the death of Jesus her Son, who was the head of all the predestined, it became her privilege to assist also at their deaths. And for this reason the holy Church teaches us to beg this most Blessed Virgin to assist us, especially at the moment of death: ‘Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!’ The most holy name of Mary is sweet in deed to her clients during life, on account of the very great graces she obtains for them. But sweeter still will it be to them in death, on account of the tranquil and holy end that it will insure them. Father Sertorius Caputo exhorted all who assist the dying, frequently to pronounce the name of Mary; for this name of life and hope, when repeated at the hour of death, suffices to put the devils to flight, and to comfort such persons in their sufferings. St. Camillus of Lellis also recommended his religious, in the strongest terms, to remind the dying frequently to invoke the names of Jesus and Mary. This was his own custom when attending others; but 0, how sweetly did he practice it himself on his death-bed, for then he pronounced the beloved names of Jesus and Mary with such tenderness, that he inflamed even those who heard him with love. 0 how great are the sufferings of the dying! They suffer from remorse of conscience on account of past sins, from fear of the approaching judgment, and from the uncertainty of their eternal salvation. Then it is that hell arms itself, and spares no efforts to gain the soul which is on the point of entering eternity; for it knows that only a short time remains in which to gain it, and that if it then loses it, it has lost it forever. ‘The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.’ And for this reason the enemy of our salvation, whose charge it was to tempt the soul during life, does not choose at death to be alone, but calls others to his assistance, according to the prophet Isaias : ‘ Their houses shall be filled with serpents.’ But how quickly do the rebellious spirits fly from the presence of the Queen of Heaven! If at the hour of death we have only the protection of Mary, what need we fear from the whole of our infernal enemies? David, fearing the horrors of death, encouraged himself by placing his reliance in the death of the coming Redeemer, and in the intercession of the Virgin Mother. Thomas a Kempis affirms, ‘ that the devils fear the Queen of Heaven to such a degree, that on only hearing her great name pronounced, they fly from him who does so as from a burning fire.’ Our Blessed Lady also told St. Bridget, ‘ that in the same way as the rebel angels fly from sinners who invoke the name of Mary,’ so also do ‘ the good angels approach nearer to just souls who pronounce her name with devotion.’ ‘Yes, truly blessed is he who loves thy sweet name, 0 Mother of God!’ exclaims St. Bonaventure, for ‘thy name is so glorious and admirable, that no one who remembers it has any fears at the hour of death.’ Such is its power, that none of those who invoke it at the hour of death fear the assaults of their enemies. 0, that we may end our lives as did the Capuchin father, Fulgentius of Ascoli, who expired singing, ‘ 0 Mary, 0 Mary, the most beautiful of creatures! let us depart together;’ or like blessed Henry the Cistercian, who expired in the very moment that he was pronouncing the most sweet name of Mary. Let us then, 0 devout reader, beg God to grant us, that at death the name of Mary may be the last word on our lips. This was the prayer of St. Germanus: ‘ May the last movement of my tongue be to pronounce the name of the Mother of God!’ 0 sweet, O safe is that death which is accompanied and protected by such a saving name; for God only grants the grace of invoking it to those whom He is about to save.
In Germany, there was a criminal who had been condemned to death, but he was obstinate, and refused to make his confession. A Jesuit Father did all that he could to convert him; this good Father entreated him, wept, cast himself at his feet; but seeing that all was time lost, he at length said: ‘Now, let us recite a ” Hail Mary” together.’ The criminal did so, and in an instant began to weep bitterly, confessed his sins with great compunction, and desired to die clasping an image of Mary in his arms.
0 my sweet Lady and Mother, I love thee much, and because I love thee I also love thy holy name. I purpose and hope, with thy assistance, always to invoke it during life and at death. And to conclude with the tender prayer of St. Bernard: ‘ I ask thee, 0 Mary, for the glory of thy name, to come and meet my soul when it is departing from this world, and to take it in thine arms.’ ‘Disdain not, 0 Mary,’ the Saint continues, ‘to come then and comfort me with thy presence. Be thyself my soul’s ladder and way to heaven. Do thou thyself obtain for it the grace of forgiveness and eternal repose.’ My own dear Mary, 0 my beloved Jesus, may your most sweet names reign in my heart, and in all hearts. Grant that I may forget all others, to remember, and always invoke, your adorable names alone. Ah! Jesus my Redeemer, and my Mother Mary, when the moment of death comes, in which I must breathe forth my soul and leave this world, deign, through your merits, to grant that I may then pronounce my last words, and that they may be, ‘ Hove Thee, 0 Jesus, I love thee, 0 Mary; to you do I give my heart and my soul.’