PEOPLE outside the Church cannot endure our calling Mary our hope. They say that God alone is our hope, and that He curses those who put their trust in creatures, according to the prophet Jeremiah: Cursed is the person who trusts in human beings (Jer. 17:5).
Mary, they argue, is a creature, and how can a creature be our hope? But in spite of this the Church recommends that all priests and religious raise their voices every day in the name of all the faithful and call Mary by the sweet name of "Our Hope" --- the hope of all.
St. Thomas says that we can place our hope in a person in two ways --- as a principal cause and as a mediate cause. Thus those who expect something from a king put their trust in him as their sovereign, and in his ministers or his favorite as intercessors.
When the favor is granted, it comes really from the king, though the favorite is the intermediary. Hence the petitioners have a right to call the minister or favorite through whom they received it their "hope."
The King of Heaven, being infinite Goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with His graces. But because confidence is a necessary condition for being heard, and because He wants to increase our confidence, He has given us His own Mother as our Mother and intercessor, and has granted her all power to help us. So it is that He wishes us to place our hope for salvation and every blessing in her.
Those who put their hope in creatures alone, apart from God, as sinners do, and who do not hesitate to outrage the Divine Majesty, just to gain the friendship and patronage of another human being, are certainly cursed by God in the sense intended by Jeremiah.
But those who put their trust in Mary, who (being the Mother of God) is able to secure grace and eternal life for them, are truly blessed and acceptable to the heart of God. Surely He desires to see this greatest of His creatures honored, since she loved and honored Him in this world more than all human beings and angels together .
Therefore it is perfectly reasonable to call the Blessed Virgin our hope. We trust, as St. Robert Bellarmine says, that we shall obtain through her intercession the graces we would not obtain through our own unaided prayers.
We pray to her so that the dignity of the intercessor may make up for our own lack of worthiness. And so our recourse to Mary in such a spirit does not come from any want of confidence in the mercy of God, but rather from fear of our own unworthiness.18
"Hail then, O hope of my soul!" exclaims St. Ephrem; "Hail, O sure salvation of Christians; hail, helper of sinners; hail, fortress of the faithful and salvation of the world!"
St. Ephrem, reflecting on the present arrangement of Providence, by which God wills that all who are saved should be saved by the instrumentality of Mary, addresses her in these words: "O Lady, never cease watching over us. Keep and guard us under your wings of mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in you."
St. Thomas of Villanova calls her our only refuge, help, and asylum.
St. Bernard expounds the reason behind this when he says: "See the designs of God --- designs which make it possible for Him to dispense His mercy more abundantly. For, desiring to save the whole human race, He has laid the full price of redemption in Mary's hands, letting her dispense it at her pleasure."
Hence we need not be surprised if St. Antonine applies to Mary this verse of the Book of Wisdom (8: 11): All good things together came to me in her company. And St. Bonaventure writes: "We ought to keep our eyes fixed on Mary's hands, that through them we may receive the graces we desire."
"Poor children of Adam," says our Lord, addressing the world, "living among so many enemies, so many trials, take care to honor My Mother in a special way. She is also your Mother .
"I have given her to the world to be its pattern, to teach you how to lead good lives, and to be your refuge in all trials and afflictions. I have made My Daughter with such care that no one could be afraid of her or in the least degree repelled.
"So I gave her such a kind and compassionate disposition that she does not know how to despise anyone who runs to her, nor how to refuse her favor to anyone who asks. The mantle of her mercy is spread for all, and she lets no one leave her feet without consolation."19
Praise and benediction to the infinite goodness of God, because He gave us a Mother and advocate so strong, so tender, so loving!
How touching are the sentiments of confidence expressed by the enamored St. Bonaventure toward Jesus our most loving Redeemer and Mary our most loving advocate!
"Whatever lot God foresees for me, I know He can never go against His own nature and refuse Himself to any who love Him and seek for Him with all their heart.
So I will cleave to Him with my love; and if He does not bless me, I will still cling to Him so passionately that He will not be able to move away without me.
"I will hide in the clefts of His wounds, so that if He looks for me it will be within Himself that He must find me. I will stay prostrate before the feet of His Mother that she may implore pardon for me.
"For Mary does not know how to refuse compassion. She has never learned how to let the comfortless go away uncomforted. And so, if not from any sense of justice or obligation, at least from her great sense of compasson she will persuade her Son to pardon me."
GOD made the two great lights: the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to rule the night (Gn. 1: 16). Christ is the greater light to rule the just, and Mary is the lesser light to rule sinners. 20
Since Mary is this auspicious light, created for poor sinners, what should people do if they find themselves in the darkness of sin? Let them cast their eyes on the moon. Let them pray to Mary. 21
One of the most comforting titles of our Lady --- and one which the Church teaches us to use in the Litany of Loretto --- is that of "Refuge of Sinners."
In Judea in ancient times there were cities of refuge where criminals fled to escape punishment. Nowadays such cities do not exist; there is only one, and that is Mary, of whom the Psalmist sings: "Glorious things are said of you, O city of God" (Ps. 87:3).
However, there is one difference. In the old cities of refuge protection was not extended to every class of crime. But under Mary's mantle all sinners without exception find refuge for every sin they have committed, if only they go there to seek this protection.
We may even say with St. Basil that God has given us Mary as a public infirmary to receive the sick, the poor, the destitute. But in hospitals which are erected expressly for the poor, who have the first claim to admission? Surely those who are sicker than others.
Say then, with St. Thomas of Villanova, "O Mary, we poor sinners know no other refuge but you; you are our only patroness, and we all look to you!"
In the revelations of St.
Bridget, Mary is
called the "Star that rises before the Sun."
The glorious St. Bonaventure, to build up the confidence of sinners in our Lady's protection, calls up before them the picture of a storm at sea. Sinners have fallen into it from the ship of God's grace. They are tossed about by remorse and the dread of God's judgments. They have no light, no mark to guide them, and are on the point of despair.
Then our Lord, pointing out Mary to them, the Star of the Sea, raises His voice and says: "Poor lost sinners, do not despair. Lift your eyes to this star of beauty. Breathe freely again, for this Star will save you out of the storm and bring you at last to the harbor of salvation."
In another work the same Saint remarks how Isaiah complained of the times in which he lived: "Behold, You are angry, and we are sinful; there is none who rises up to cling to You" (Is 64:4, 7).
Then he comments: "It is true, O Lord, that in those days there was no one to raise up sinners and hold back Your wrath, for Mary was not born yet . . . But now she restrains her Divine Son, lest He destroy sInners . . .
"There is no one more capable of seizing and holding the sword of God's vengeance than you, Most Beloved of God!"
The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget that there is no sinner in the world, however far from God, who does not come back to Him and recover grace, if such a sinner has recourse to her assistance.
And one day St. Bridget heard Jesus speaking to His Mother in these words: "You would offer mercy even to Lucifer, if he humbled himself to ask for it." That proud spirit will never humble himself to that degree. But, if such a thing were possible, Mary would show instant compassion, and her prayers would have sufficient power to obtain his forgiveness and salvation.
In Sacred Scripture we read
Ruth to gather the ears of grain after the reapers
However, there are some hardened and rebellious souls who are abandoned even by these. Mary alone has the special privilege of saving them by her powerful intercession. 22
It was with good reason therefore, my most sweet Queen, that St. John Damascene saluted you as the "hope of those who have no hope." St. Lawrence Justinian called you "the hope of the condemned," and St. Ephrem called you "the protectress of the damned."
St. Bernard, full of joy and tenderness, exclaimed: "O Lady, who can lack confidence in you, since you help even those who are in despair? And I have not the least doubt that, whenever we run to you, we shall obtain all we desire. Let those then who have no hope, hope in you."
Lady, Ravisher of hearts! ravish my poor heart that really longs to love thee. Mother, thou didst beguile God Himself with thy beauty and drew Him down from Heaven into thy chaste womb; and shall I go on without loving thee?
I will join with one of thine most loving sons, St. John Berchmans; I will say with him: "I will never rest until I am sure I have mastered love for thee --- a constant and tender love for thee, my Mother."
What would I be now, O Mary, if thou hadst not secured so many mercies for me? Since thou didst persist in loving me when I had no love for thee, there is so much I can expect from thee, now that I do love thee.
I love thee, my Mother. And I wish I had a heart to make up for all those unhappy creatures who do not love thee. I wish I could speak with a thousand tongues, so that all the world might learn about thy greatness, and holiness, and mercy, and the love thou hast for all who love thee.
If I were rich, I would use my riches for thy honor. If I had subjects, I would make them all love thee. And, if the occasion ever came, I would lay down my life for thy glory.
And so I love thee, my Mother. But I cannot help feeling that I do not love thee as I should: I hear that love makes a lover resemble the beloved. And if I find myself so different from thee, that means that I do not really love thee.
Thou art pure; I am darkened with sin. Thou art humble; I am proud. Thou art holy, and I am sinful. This then is what thou hast to do, O Mary: since thou doth love me, make me resemble thee.
Thou hast the power to change
hearts; take mine
and change it. Show the world what thou canst do for anyone who loves
Make me holy; make me a child worthy of his Mother. Amen. So I hope. So
may it be.