"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

 The Archangel Gabriel, while announcing to the Blessed Virgin Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, informed her also of the fact that her cousin Elizabeth, who, advanced in years, had long been barren, was about to be blessed with a son. Mary rejoiced greatly at this news, and having given thanks to the Almighty for the priceless grace of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, she hastened to visit her cousin. This, however, was not done, as some heretics maintain, because she doubted the words of the Angel; for, Elizabeth herself, when already filled with the Holy Ghost, proved the contrary by the words with which she received the Virgin: "Blessed art thou that hast believed."
Quite different were the reasons which led Mary to make this visit. I shall here give two of them, taken from the holy Fathers of the Church. The first is from St. Chrysostom, who says: "The Son of God, who came into the world to save mankind, desired, immediately on His entering the world, to prove His love for man, and fulfil the divine office of Redeemer. Hence He moved the heart of His holy mother, in whose virginal womb He was concealed, to visit her cousin Elizabeth, in order that by His presence He might cleanse His fore-runner, John, whom his mother still carried in her bosom, from original sin. He could have done this while absent, but He intended to give us a glorious example of humility, in visiting one who was so infinitely below Him. "The greater," says St Ambrose, "went to the lesser: Jesus to John."

The second reason is from St. Jerome, who thus writes: "As the Virgin greatly rejoiced at the favor the Almighty had bestowed on her pious cousin Elizabeth, she desired to manifest her joy to the latter, to congratulate her, and to give thanks and praise with her to the divine Mercy which had bestowed upon both of them such great benefits. Besides this it was her intention--which she also carried into effect--to wait on her cousin, who was already in the decline of life. Perhaps also, the great favor which our Lord would bestow upon Elizabeth and the yet unborn John by this visit, was revealed to her. Certain it is that her object was most holy, and that she left us a splendid example of humility and kindness, showing us that we must not only love our neighbors, but also assist and visit them, and, according to circumstances, serve them, regardless of their being much lower than we; as she, the Blessed Virgin, although raised to the highest dignity as the mother of the Lord, hesitated not to visit and assist her cousin, who was so much below her. Actuated by these motives, Mary set out, and went from Nazareth to the city of Hebron, which belongs to the tribe of Juda. According to some authors, this city is 38 or 40 miles from Nazareth, and could be reached only by travelling over a hilly country; hence this journey was very fatiguing for so delicate a maiden as Mary. But she undertook it rejoicingly.

The Gospel says: "She went into the hill country with haste." Why with haste? Not only to show her joy and willingness, but also, as Origen writes: " Because the Saviour, concealed in her bosom, desired to cleanse His precursor and to sanctify him; "or, as St. Ambrose says, "because Mary was filled with the Holy Ghost, who is never satisfied with hesitating and tarrying." The love within her, the grace of the Holy Ghost, persuaded Mary to hasten. Mary went hastily over the mountains that she might the sooner return to her beloved solitude. She did not wish to be for a long time out of her house. This additional reason is given by the above cited St. Ambrose, who adds: "Learn from it, maidens, not to wander about in strange houses, nor to remain in the streets, nor to hold long conversations in public places." Having arrived at Hebron and entered her cousin's house, she joyfully greeted Elizabeth, and at the same moment a twofold miracle happened. John, still in his mother's womb, leaped with joy, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. This leaping is regarded by the Holy Fathers as a more than natural movement of the child, and at the same time as a sign that John, endowed, by especial grace of God, with the light of reason, recognized by revelation, in the virginal womb of Mary, the presence of his Saviour, and, full of joy, worshipped Him. "He recognized the Lord in the mother's womb, and greeted Him with exultation," says St. Irenaeus. It is the opinion of the Holy Fathers that John was at that time cleansed from original sin and filled with the Holy Ghost. For, the Angel who had announced his birth, had, at the same time, foretold that he should be filled with the Holy Ghost while still in his mother's womb.

Elizabeth was also filled with the Holy Ghost when she heard Mary's greeting, and recognized by divine revelation that Mary would become the mother of the Incarnate Word. Hence she cried: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." With these words Elizabeth proclaimed that Mary was raised by God above all other women, and was more than all others blessed, because she had become the mother of Him who is the source of all graces and blessings. On account of the blessed, and more than blessed fruit of her womb, namely, on account of the only-begotten Son of God, whom she was carrying in her virginal womb, is she blessed, blessed far above all human kind. Thus spoke Elizabeth, full of the Holy Ghost; and it is to be remarked that those who deny this, like the heretics, do not speak filled with the Holy Ghost, with the Spirit of Truth, but prompted by the spirit of falsehood. Wherever the Holy Ghost has spoken out of the mouth of man, He has praised the Virgin. Whoever, therefore, speaks of her disparagingly, does not speak the words of the Holy Ghost, but those of the spirit of error.

After Elizabeth had thus praised Mary and exalted her above all women, she said, full of deep surprise: "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" She esteemed herself not worthy to be visited by the mother of her Lord, as in later years, her son esteemed himself not worthy to loose the latchets of His shoes. Hereupon, she related what had happened to her child, how it had leaped for joy and added: "Blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord." This proves that she knew by revelation what had taken place in the Blessed Virgin and what the Angel had further prophesied. Mary, the Divine Mother, heard all this, but her deep humility allowed her not to elevate herself in the least on account of it. She recognized that all that was done to her was done by the grace of the Almighty, to whom she therefore owed praise and thanks. Hence she sang a hymn of praise which far surpassed all those sung by Moses and his sister, by Anna and Deborah, Ezechias and the three companions of Daniel. In this hymn of praise, she first exalts the Lord for the graces which He had bestowed upon her; secondly, for the favors which He had bestowed on His people before the arrival of Christ; and finally, for the fulfilment of the promises in regard to the Incarnation of His only-begotten Son. The beginning of this hymn is as follows: "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." Volumes are filled with commentaries on this mysterious hymn of praise, and the Christian Church uses it daily in the office, to thank and praise the Almighty for the immeasurable grace of the Incarnation.

This is what we know from Holy Writ of the history of today's festival; and it is only to be added that the visitation of Mary conferred great blessings to the house of Elizabeth. These were without doubt augmented by the prolonged sojourn of Mary, who, as the Gospel relates, remained with her cousin almost three months. If the Almighty richly blessed the house of Obededom, because, as Holy Writ tells us, the Ark of the Covenant was kept there during three months, how great must have been the blessings He bestowed upon the house of Zacharias and Elizabeth, whilst the living Ark of the New Testament, the Blessed Virgin, remained there. St. Ambrose entertains no doubt that the purity and innocence of St. John's life was the result of the grace which Mary's presence poured into his soul. We must also consider how willing Mary is to come to our assistance. No sooner had she become Mother of the Lord, than she desired to show that she had become also the loving mother of mankind. She was not called, she was not entreated to come, but went to Elizabeth, prompted by her own kindness. She proved herself gracious to the sinner as well as to the just. Through her Son she purified St. John, stained with original sin, and bestowed on the pious Elizabeth many precious graces. What confidence towards the Blessed Virgin should this awaken in us, whether we be counted among the sinners or the just!

Finally, let us consider in what manner the Lord, having become man, bestowed His grace. He desired to purify His forerunner from original sin, and sanctify him even before his birth. This first spiritual gift He imparted through Mary; for, no sooner had she greeted her cousin, than John leaped for joy and was then cleansed from original sin. When, many years afterwards, at Cana in Galilee, He bestowed His first grace on man in temporal need, Mary was the mediator. The sanctification of John was the first miracle He wrought before His birth; the changing of water into wine, the first that He publicly wrought when He walked upon earth. Both were done through the intercession of Mary. The object of this was to teach us, as St. Bernard says, "that it is the will of God that we shall receive everything through Mary," that is, through her intercession. Who, therefore, would hesitate to fly to her confidently for refuge in all temporal and spiritual troubles?


Besides the instructions you have already received above, consider the kindness of the divine Mother, not only towards Elizabeth, but also towards the unborn John, and renew your confidence in her compassion and mercy. Further, renew your devotion to her, and let her, the loving and mighty Mother, be your guide in all your spiritual and temporal cares. If you are a sinner, she will obtain for you pardon for your iniquities, through true repentance; but if you belong to the righteous, she is ready to ask of God new grace for you, that you may continue on the path leading to life everlasting. "She opens for every one the bosom of mercy," writes St. Bernard, " that all may receive of her plenty; the prisoner, liberty; the sick, health; the sorrowful, comfort; the sinner, pardon; the righteous, grace." You need only take refuge with her, and invoke her with filial confidence. Today's festival tells you that she, with loving kindness, visited and filled with graces her who had not even invited or asked her to come. What then will she not do for you, if you request and call to her? She has shown herself so kind when she was still upon earth, what will she not do now, being glorified in heaven?" Great was the mercy of Mary when she was still living upon earth," writes St. Bonaventure, "much greater is it now that she reigns in Heaven. She bestows now on mankind countless benefits and greater mercies, because she now recognizes our misery much better." Hence, make the resolution, always to give her due honor, and to invoke her with filial confidence in every distress. "Call on Mary, in every event of your life," says St. Basil, "for, God has ordained that she shall come to our assistance in all our cares and sorrows."

The divine Mother did not visit her cousin Elizabeth through love of idleness, or because she was weary of solitude or work: her end and aim was holy, while she remained, she spoke only of God, the benefits He bestows upon us, and gave due praise to Him. Are the visits you make of a like nature? Examine your conscience carefully, and in future be very solicitous that the cause, end and aim of your visits are not vain or sinful, that you make not a habit of them, or neglect the duties of your station in life by prolonging them without sufficient cause. Be careful what you say or do while they last; for, you may be sure that you may commit great sin and render yourself liable to everlasting punishment, by visits during which you make use of indecent language, or slander your neighbors, or occupy yourself in dangerous games, in which people sometimes seek amusement. And even though nothing were lost but the priceless time, this alone should be enough to prevent you from unnecesary visits. St. Bonaventure says rightly: "No loss is greater than that of time; for, it was given to us by Divine Goodness to work out our salvation, and, once lost, it can never be recalled."


Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
by St. Alphonsus M. De Liguori

Most holy and immaculate Virgin! O my mother! thou who art the mother of my Lord, the queen of the world, the advocate, hope, and refuge of sinners! I, the most wretched among them, now come to thee. I worship thee, great queen, and give thee thanks for the many favors thou hast bestowed on me in the past; most of all, do I thank thee for having saved me from hell, which I had so often deserved. I love thee, lady most worthy of all love, and, by the love which I bear thee, I promise ever in the future to serve thee, and to do what in me lies to win others to thy love. In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation. Receive me as thy servant, and cover me with the mantle of thy protection, thou who art the mother of mercy! And since thou hast so much power with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the grace ever to overcome them. From thee I ask a true love of Jesus Christ, and the grace of a happy death. O my mother! by thy love for God, I beseech thee to be at all times my helper, but, above all, at the last moment of my life. Leave me not until you see me safe in heaven, there for endless ages to bless thee, and sing thy praises. Amen.

His Holiness, Pope Pius IX., by an autograph rescript, Sept. 7, 1854, granted to all the faithful, every time that, with at least contrite heart and devotion, they shall say this prayer before an image or picture of the blessed Virgin: An Indulgence Of Three Hundred Days)



To thee, O Virgin mother, never touched by stain of sin, actual or venial, I recommend and confide the purity of my heart.
(An Indulgence of One Hundred Days, once a day, to all the faithful
who, devoutly and with contrite heart, recite this ejaculation. Pius IX)

My queen! my mother! remember I am thine own. Keep me, guard me, as thy property and possession.

(An Indulgence of forty days, every time that, when tempted, they shall say, with at least
contrite heart and devotion, this ejaculation. Pius IX 1851)

The faithful who devoutly offer some prayers in honor of the Nativity, Presentation, Annunciation, Visitation, Expectation, Purification or Assumption of the B.V.M. at any season of the year, with the intention of continuing these prayers for nine days (novea) without interruption, are granted: An Indulgence of 5 years once on each day. Pius IX.


Litany of the Seven Earthly and Seven Heavenly Joys
of the Holy Mother of God.

Antiphon: From the beginning and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before Him. Then the Creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and He that made me rested in my tabernacle.

V. In the multitude of the elect she shall have praise, and among the blessed she shall be Blessed.

R. My soul doth magnify the Lord. My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. All generations shall call me Blessed.

Mary, Mother of God, tell us of thy joy.
Mary Immaculate, teach us perfect joy.
Through thy joyous conception of Jesus by the Holy Ghost at the Incarnation,
Teach us perfect joy. *

Through thy joyous carrying of Jesus in the Visitation to Elizabeth, *
Through thy joyous bringing forth into the world of Jesus, God and Man, *
Through thy joyous Epiphany of Jesus at the adoration of the Magi, *
Through thy joyous finding of Jesus preaching in the temple, *
Through thy joyous beholding of Jesus after His Resurrection, *
Through thy joyous Assumption by Jesus into Heaven, and thy Coronation as Queen of the Universe, *

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive.
R. O Queen of Heaven, rejoice. Alleluia.

Because in Heaven the Most Holy Trinity honors thee above all other creatures,
Pray that we may rejoice in God our Saviour. **

Because thy virginity has placed thee above all angels and saints, **
Because the light of thy glory illuminates the heavens, **
Because the blessed in Heaven worship thee as truly the Mother of God, **
Because thy Son grants thee whatever thou as our mediatrix dost ask of Him. **
Because of the joyous honors prepared in Heaven for thy servants, **
Because thy glory goes on increasing to the end of time, **

Pray for us, O joyous Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

St. Francis our Seraphic Father, who didst so wondrously interpret PERFECT JOY, permit us to say thy prayer to our Blessed Mother: Holy Virgin Mary, there is none like unto thee among women. Thou art the daughter and handmaid of the most high King, the Heavenly Father; thou art the Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ; thou art the spouse of the Holy Ghost. Pray for us in union with St. Michael and all the Angels of heaven and all the Saints to thy most holy, beloved Son, our Lord and Master. Amen.


Discourse V. of the Visitation of Mary
by St. Alphonsus De Liguori

Mary is the Treasurer of all Divine Graces; therefore, whoever desires Graces must have recourse to Mary; and he who has recourse to Mary may be certain of obtaining the Graces he desires.

Fortunate does that family consider itself which is visited by a royal personage, both on account of the honour that redounds from such a visit, and the advantages that may be hoped to accrue from it. But still more fortunate should that soul consider itself which is visited by the Queen of the world, the most holy Virgin Mary, who cannot but fill with riches and graces those blessed souls whom she deigns to visit by her favours. The house of Obededom was blessed when visited by the ark of God: "And the Lord blessed his house." But with how much greater blessings are those persons enriched who receive a loving visit from this living ark of God, for such was the Divine Mother! 'Happy is that house which the Mother of God visits,' says Engelgrave. This was abundantly experienced by the house of Saint John the Baptist; for Mary had scarcely entered it when she heaped graces and heavenly benedictions on the whole family; and for this reason the present feast of the visitation is commonly called that of 'our Blessed Lady of Graces.' Hence we shall see in the present discourse that the Divine Mother is the treasurer of all graces. We shall divide it into two parts. In the first we shall see that whoever desires graces must have recourse to Mary. In the second, that he who has recourse to Mary should be confident of receiving the graces he desires.

First Point

After the Blessed Virgin had heard from the archangel Gabriel that her cousin Saint Elizabeth had been six months pregnant, she was internally enlightened by the Holy Ghost to know that the Incarnate Word, Who had become her Son, was pleased then to manifest to the world the riches of His mercy in the first graces that He desired to impart to all that family. Therefore, without interposing any delay, according to Saint Luke, "Mary, rising up,. . . went into the hill-country with haste (Luc. i. 39)." Rising from the quiet of contemplation to which she was always devoted, and quitting her beloved solitude, she immediately set out for the dwelling of Saint Elizabeth; and because "charity beareth all things (1 Cor. xiii. 7)," and cannot support delay, as Saint Ambrose remarks on this Gospel, 'the Holy Ghost knows not slow undertakings;' without even reflecting on the arduousness of the journey, this tender Virgin, I say, immediately undertook it. On reaching the house, she salutes her cousin: "And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth (Luc. i. 40)." Saint Ambrose here remarks that Mary was 'the first to salute' Elizabeth. The visit of Mary, however, had no resemblance with those of worldlings, which, for the greater part, consist in ceremony and outward demonstrations, devoid of all sincerity; for it brought with it an accumulation of graces. The moment she entered that dwelling, on her first salutation, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and Saint John was cleansed from original sin, and sanctified; and therefore gave that mark of joy by leaping in his mother's womb, wishing thereby to manifest the grace that he had received by the means of the Blessed Virgin, as Saint Elizabeth herself declared: "As soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy (Luc. i. 44)." Thus, as Bernardine de Bustis remarks, in virtue of Mary's salutation Saint John received the grace of the Divine Spirit which sanctified him: 'When the Blessed Virgin saluted Elizabeth, the voice of the salutation, entering her ears, descended to the child, and by its virtue he received the Holy Ghost.'

And now, if all these first-fruits of Redemption passed by Mary as the channel through which grace was communicated to the Baptist, the Holy Ghost to Elizabeth, the gift of prophecy to Zachary and so many other blessings to the whole house, the first graces which to our knowledge the Eternal Word had granted on earth after His Incarnation, it is quite correct to believe that from thenceforward God made Mary the universal channel, as she is called by Saint Bernard, through which all the other graces which our Lord is pleased to dispense to us should pass, as we have already declared in the fifth chapter of the first part of this work.

With reason, then, is this Divine Mother called the treasure, the treasurer, and the dispenser of Divine graces. She is thus called by the venerable Abbot of Celles, 'the Treasure of God, and the Treasurer of graces; by Saint Peter Damian, 'the Treasure of Divine graces;' by Blessed Albert the Great, 'the Treasurer of Jesus Christ;' by Saint Bernardine, 'the Dispenser of graces' by a learned Greek, quoted by Petavius, 'the Storehouse of all good things.' So also by Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus, who observes that 'Mary is said to be thus full of grace, for in her all the treasures of graces were hidden.' Richard of St. Lawrence also says that 'Mary is a treasure, because God has placed all gifts of graces in her as in a treasury; and from thence He bestows great stipends on His soldiers and labourers.' She is a treasury of mercies, whence our Lord enriches His servants.

Saint Bonaventure, speaking of the field in the gospel, in which a treasure is hidden, and which should be purchased at however great a price, "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field, which a man having found hid it, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field (Matt. xiii. 44)," says that 'our Queen Mary is this field, in which Jesus Christ, the treasure of God the Father, is hid,' and with Jesus Christ the source and flowing fountain of all graces. Saint Bernard affirms that our Lord 'has deposited the plenitude of every grace in Mary, that we may thus know that if we possess hope, grace, or anything salutary, that it is from her that it came' Of this we are also assured by Mary herself, saying, "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth;" in me are all the graces of real blessings that you men can desire in life. Yes, sweet Mother and our Hope, we know full well, says Saint Peter Damian, 'that all the treasures of Divine mercies are in thy hands. Before Saint Peter Damian, Saint Ildephonsus asserted the same thing in even stronger terms, when, speaking to the Blessed Virgin, he said, 'O Lady, all the graces that God has decreed for men He has determined to grant through thy hands; and therefore to thee has He committed all the treasures and ornaments of grace; so that, O Mary, concludes Saint Germanus, no grace is dispensed to any one otherwise than through thy hands; 'there is no one saved but by thee; no one who receives a gift of God but through thee." Blessed Albert the Great makes a beautiful paraphrase of the words of the angel addressed to the most Blessed Virgin, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God (Luc. i. 30)." 'Fear not, O Mary, for thou hast found, not taken grace, as Lucifer tried to take it; thou hast not lost it as Adam lost it; thou hast not bought it as Simon Magus would have bought it; but thou hast found it because thou hast desired and sought it.' Thou hast found increated grace; that is, God Himself become thy Son; and with that grace thou hast found and obtained every created good. Saint Peter Chrysologus confirms this thought, saying, 'This great Virgin and Mother found grace to restore thereby salvation to all men.' And elsewhere he says that Mary found a grace so full that it sufficed to save all: 'Thou hast found grace, but how great a grace! It was such that it filled thee; and so great was its plenitude, that it could be poured down as a torrent on every creature' So much so indeed, says Richard of Saint Lawrence, that as God made the sun, that by its means light might be diffused on the whole earth, so as He made Mary, that by her all Divine mercies may be dispensed to the world.' Saint Bernardino adds, that 'from the time that the Virgin Mother conceived the Divine Word in her womb, she obtained a kind of jurisdiction, so to say, over all the temporal manifestations of the Holy Ghost; so that no creature can obtain any grace from God that is not dispensed by this tender and compassionate mother.'

Hence let us conclude this point in the words of Richard of Saint Lawrence, who says, 'that if we wish to obtain any grace, we must have recourse to Mary, the finder of grace, who cannot but obtain all that she asks for her servants; for she has recovered the Divine grace which was lost, and always finds it.' This thought he borrowed from Saint Bernard, who says, 'Let us seek for grace, and seek it by Mary; for that which she seeks she finds, and cannot be frustrated.' If we, then, desire graces, we must go to this treasurer and dispenser of graces; for it is the sovereign will of the Giver of every good thing; and we are assured of it by the same Saint Bernard, that all graces should be dispensed by the hands of Mary: 'for such is His will, Who is pleased that we should have all by Mary.' All, all; and he who says all excludes nothing. But because confidence is necessary to obtain graces, we will now consider how certain we ought to feel of obtaining them when we have recourse to Mary.

Second Point

Why did Jesus Christ deposit all the riches of mercy which He intends for us in the hands of His Mother, unless it was that she might therewith enrich all her clients who love her, who honour her, and who have recourse to her with confidence?" With me are riches . . . that I may enrich them that love me (Prov. viii. 18, 21)." Thus the Blessed Virgin herself assures us that it is so in this passage, which the Holy Church applies to her on so many of her festivals. Therefore for no other purpose than to serve us, says the Abbot Adam, are those riches of eternal life kept by Mary, in whose breast our Lord has deposited the treasure of the miserable, and that the poor being supplied from it may become rich: 'The riches of salvation are in custody of the Blessed Virgin for our use. Christ has made Mary's womb the treasury of the poor; thence the poor are enriched.' And Saint Bernard says, 'that she is a full aqueduct, that others may receive of her plenitude.' Mary was therefore given to the world that her graces might continually descend from heaven upon men.

Hence the same holy father goes on to ask, 'But why did Saint Gabriel, having found the Divine Mother already full of grace, according to his salutation, " Hail, full of grace!" afterwards say, that the Holy Ghost would come upon her to fill her still more with grace? If she was already full of grace, what more could the coming of the Divine Spirit effect? The Saint answers, 'Mary was already full of grace; but the Holy Ghost filled her to overflowing, for our good, that from her superabundance we miserable creatures might be provided.' For this same reason Mary was called the moon of which it is said, 'She is full for herself and others.'

"He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord (Prov. viii. 35)." Blessed is he who finds me by having recourse to me, says our Mother. He will find life, and will find it easily; for as it is easy to find and draw as much water as we please from a great fountain, so it is easy to find graces and eternal salvation by having recourse to Mary. A holy soul once said, 'We have only to seek graces from our Blessed Lady to receive them.' Saint Bernard also says, 'That it was because the Blessed Virgin was not yet born that in ancient times the great abundance of grace which we now see flow on the world was wanting; for Mary, this desirable channel, did not exist.' But now that we have this Mother of mercy, what graces are there that we need fear not to obtain when we cast ourselves at her feet? 'I am the city of refuge' (thus Saint John Damascen makes her speak) 'for all those who have recourse to me.' 'Come, then, to me, my children; for from me you will obtain graces, and these in greater abundance than you can possibly imagine.' It is true that that which the Venerable Sister Mary Villani saw in a celestial vision is experienced by many. This servant of God once saw the Divine Mother as a great fountain, to which many went, and from it they carried off the waters of grace in great abundance. But what then happened? Those who had sound jars preserved the graces they received; but those who brought broken vessels, that is to say, those whose souls were burdened with sin, received graces, but did not long preserve them. It is, however, certain that men, even those who are ungrateful sinners and the most miserable, daily obtain innumerable graces from Mary. Saint Augustine, addressing the Blessed Virgin, says, 'Through thee do the miserable obtain mercy, the ungracious grace, sinners pardon, the weak strength, the worldly heavenly things, mortals life, and pilgrims their country.'

Let us, then, O devout clients of Mary, rouse ourselves to greater and greater confidence each time that we have recourse to her for graces. That we may do so, let us always remember two great prerogatives of this good Mother; her great desire to do us good, and the power she has with her Son to obtain whatever she asks. To be convinced of the desire that Mary has to be of service to all, we need only consider the mystery of the present festival, that is, Mary's visit to Saint Elizabeth. The journey from Nazareth, where the most Blessed Virgin lived, to the city of Judea, in which Saint Elizabeth resided, was one of at least sixty-nine miles, as we learn from Brother Joseph of Jesus Mary, the author of a life of the Blessed Virgin, Bede, and Brocardus; but, notwithstanding the arduousness of the undertaking, the Blessed Virgin, tender and delicate as she then was, and unaccustomed to such fatigue, did not delay her departure. And what was it that impelled her? It was that great charity with which her most tender heart was ever filled that drove her, so to say, to go and at once commence her great office of dispenser of graces. Precisely thus does Saint Ambrose speak of her journey: 'She did not go in incredulity of the prophecy, but glad to do what she had undertaken; it was joy that hastened her steps, in the fulfillment of a religious office the Saint thereby meaning, that she did not undertake the journey to inquire into the truth of what the angel had pronounced to her of the pregnancy of St. Elizabeth, but exulting in the greatness of her desire to be of service to that family, and hastening for the joy she felt in doing good to others, and wholly intent on that work of charity: "Rising, she went with haste." Here, let it he observed, the Evangelist, in speaking of Mary's departure for the house of Elizabeth, says, that she went with haste, but when he speaks of her return, he no longer says anything of haste, but simply that "Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house." What other object, then, asks Saint Bonaventure, could the Mother of God have had in view, when she hastened to visit the house of Saint John the Baptist, if it was not the desire to render service to that family? 'What caused her to hasten in the performance of that act of charity but the charity which burnt in her heart? This charity of Mary towards men certainly did not cease when she went to heaven; nay more, it greatly increased there, for there she better knows our wants, and has still greater compassion for our miseries. Bernardino de Bustis writes, 'that Mary desires more earnestly to do us good and grant us graces than we desire to receive them.' So much so, that Saint Bonaventure says, that she considers herself offended by those who do not ask her for graces: 'Not only those, O Lady, offend thee who outrage thee, but thou art also offended by those who neglect to ask thy favours.' For Mary's desire to enrich all with graces is, so to say, a part of her nature, and she superabundantly enriches her servants, as blessed Raymond Jordano affirms: 'Mary is God's treasure, and the treasurer of His graces: she plentifully endows her servants with choice gifts."

Hence the same author says, that 'he who finds Mary finds every good.' And he adds, that everyone can find her, even the most miserable sinner in the world; for she is so benign that she rejects none who have recourse to her: 'Her benignity is such, that no one need fear to approach her. And her mercy is so great, that no one meets with a repulse.' Thomas a Kempis makes her say: 'I invite all to have recourse to me; I expect all, I desire all, and I never despise any sinner, however unworthy he may be, who comes to seek my aid.' Richard of St. Lawrence says, that whoever goes to ask graces from Mary 'finds her always prepared to help; that is, she is always ready and inclined to help us, and to obtain us every grace of eternal salvation by her powerful prayers.

I say, by her powerful prayers; for another reflection, which should increase our confidence, is, that we know and are certain that she obtains of God all that she asks for her clients. Observe especially, says Saint Bonaventure, in this visit of Mary to Saint Elizabeth, the great power of her words. According to the Evangelist, at the sound of her voice the grace of the Holy Ghost was conferred on Saint Elizabeth, as well as on her son Saint John the Baptist: " And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost (Luc. i. 41)." On this text Saint Bonaventure says, 'See how great is the power of the words of our Lady; for no sooner has she pronounced them, than the Holy Ghost is given.' Theophilus of Alexandria says, that Jesus is greatly pleased when Mary intercedes with Him for us; for all the graces which He is, so to say, forced to grant through her prayers, He considers as granted not so much to us as to herself.' And remark the words, 'forced by the prayers of His Mother.' Yes, for, as Saint Germanus attests, Jesus cannot do otherwise than graciously accede to all that Mary asks; wishing, as it were, in this to obey her as His true Mother. Hence the Saint says, that 'the prayers of this Mother have a certain maternal authority with Jesus Christ; so that she obtains the grace of pardon even for those who have been guilty of grievous crimes, and commend themselves to her;' and then he concludes: 'for it is not possible that thou shouldst not be graciously heard; for God in all things acts towards thee as His true and spotless Mother.' This is fully confirmed, as Saint John Chrysostom observes, by what took place at the marriage-feast of Cana, when Mary asked her Son for wine, which had failed: "They have no wine." Jesus answered "Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come." But though the time for miracles was not yet come, as Saint Chrysostom and Theophylact explain it; yet, says Saint Chrysostom, 'the Saviour, notwithstanding His answer, and to obey His Mother, worked the miracle she asked for,' and converted the water into wine.

"Let us go, therefore, with confidence to the throne of grace," says the Apostle, exhorting us, "that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid."' The throne of grace is the Blessed Virgin Mary,' says blessed Albert the Great. If, then, we wish for graces, let us go to the Throne of Grace, which is Mary; and let us go with the certain hope of being heard; for we have Mary's intercession, and she obtains from her Son all whatever she asks. 'Let us seek for grace,' I repeat with Saint Bernard, 'and let us seek it through Mary, trusting to what the Blessed Virgin Mother herself said to Saint Matilda, that the Holy Ghost, filling her with all His sweetness, has rendered her so dear to God, that whoever seeks graces through her intercession is certain to obtain them.'

And if we credit that celebrated saying of Saint Anselm,'that salvation is occasionally more easily obtained by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus;' we shall sometimes sooner obtain graces by having recourse to Mary than by having directly recourse to our Saviour Jesus Himself; not that He is not the source and Lord of all graces, but because, when we have recourse to the Mother, and she prays for us, her prayers have greater efficacy than ours, as being those of a mother. Let us then never leave the feet of this treasurer of graces; but ever address her in the words of Saint John Damascen: 'O Blessed Mother of God, open to us the gate of Mercy; for thou art the salvation of the human race.' O Mother of God, open to us the door of thy compassion, by always praying for us; for thy prayers are the salvation of all men. When we have recourse to Mary, it would be advisable to entreat her to ask and obtain us the graces which she knows to be the most expedient for our salvation; this is precisely what the Dominican Brother Reginald did, as it is related in the chronicles of the order. This servant of Mary was ill, and he asked her to obtain him the recovery of his health. His sovereign Lady appeared to him, accompanied by Saint Cecily and Saint Catherine, and said with the greatest sweetness, ' My son, what dost thou desire of me? The religious was confused at so gracious an offer on the part of Mary, and knew not what to answer. Then one of the saints gave him this advice: Reginald, I will tell thee what to do; ask for nothing, but place thyself entirely in her hands, for Mary will know how to grant thee a greater grace than thou canst possibly ask. The sick man followed this advice, and the Divine Mother obtained the reestablishment of his health.

But if we also desire the happiness of receiving the visits of this Queen of Heaven, we should often visit her by going before her image, or praying to her in churches dedicated in her honour. Read the following example, in which you will see with what special favours she rewards the devout visits of her clients.


In the Franciscan chronicles it is related, that two religious of that order, who were going to visit a sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin, were overtaken by night in a great forest, where they became so bewildered and troubled, that they knew not what to do. But, advancing a little further, dark as it was, they thought they discovered a house. They went towards it, and felt the wall with their hands; they sought the door, knocked, and immediately heard someone within asking who they were. They replied that they were two poor religious, who had lost their way in the forest, and that they begged at least for shelter, that they might not be devoured by the wolves. In an instant the doors were thrown open, and two pages richly dressed stood before them, and received them with the greatest courtesy. The religious asked them who resided in that place. The pages replied that it was a most compassionate Lady. We should be glad to present her our respects, and thank her for her charity. She also, the pages answered, 'wishes to see you; and we are now going to conduct you into her presence.' They ascended the staircase, and found all the apartments Illuminated, richly furnished, and scented with an odour of Paradise. Finally, they entered the apartment of the Lady, who was majestic and most beautiful in her appearance. She received them with the greatest affability, and then asked them where they were going. They answered, that they were going to visit a certain church of the Blessed Virgin. O, since that is the case,' she replied, 'I will give you before you go a letter, which will be of great service to you.' Whilst the Lady Was addressing them, they felt their hearts inflamed With the love of God, and an internal joy which they had never before experienced. They then retired to sleep, if, indeed, they could do so, overcome as they were by the happiness they experienced; and in the morning they again went to take leave of the Lady and thank her, and also to receive the letter, which she gave them, and they then departed. But when they got a short distance from the house, they perceived that the letter had no direction; they turned about, and sought first on one side, then on the other, but in vain; they could no longer find the house. Finally, they opened the letter to see for whom it was meant, and what it contained; and they found that it was from the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and addressed to themselves. In it she told them that she was the Lady whom they had seen the night before, and that on account of their devotion for her she had provided a lodging and refreshment for them in that wood. She exhorted them to continue to serve and love her, for she always would amply reward their devotion, and would succor them in life and at death. At the foot of the page they read her signature: 'I, Mary the Virgin.' Let each one here imagine the gratitude of these good religious, and how they thanked the Divine Mother, and how greatly they were inflamed with the desire to love and serve her for their whole lives.


Immaculate and Blessed Virgin, since thou art the universal dispenser of all divine graces, thou art the hope of all, and my hope. I will ever thank my Lord for having granted me the grace to know thee, and for having shown me the means by which I may obtain graces and be saved. Thou art this means, O great Mother of God; for I now understand that it is principally through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, that my soul must be saved. Ah! my Queen, thou didst hasten so greatly to visit, and by that means didst sanctify the dwelling of Saint Elizabeth; deign, then, to visit, and visit quickly, the poor house of my soul. Ah! hasten, then; for thou well knowest, and far better than I do, how poor it is, and with how many maladies it is afflicted; with disordered affections, evil habits, and sins committed, all of which are pestiferous diseases, which would lead it to eternal death. Thou canst enrich it, O Treasurer of God; and thou canst heal all its infirmities. Visit me, then, in life, and visit me especially at the moment of death, for then I shall more than ever require thy aid. I do not indeed expect, neither am I worthy, that thou shouldst visit me on this earth with thy visible presence, as thou hast visited so many of thy servants; but they were not unworthy and ungrateful as I am. I am satisfied to see thee in thy kingdom of heaven, there to be able to love thee more, and thank thee for all that thou hast done for me. At present I am satisfied that thou shouldst visit me with thy mercy; thy prayers are all that I desire.

Pray, then, O Mary, for me, and commend me to thy Son. Thou, far better than I do, knowest my miseries and my wants. What more can I say? Pity me; I am so miserable and ignorant, that I neither know nor can I seek for, the graces that I stand the most in need of. My most sweet Queen and Mother, do thou seek and obtain for me from thy Son those graces which thou knowest to be the most expedient and necessary for my soul. I abandon myself entirely into thy hands, and only beg the Divine Majesty, that by the merits of my Saviour Jesus He will grant me the graces which thou askest Him for me. Ask, ask, then, O most Holy Virgin, that which thou seest best for me; thy prayers are never rejected; they are the prayers of a Mother addressed to a Son, Who loves thee, His Mother; so much, and rejoices in doing all that thou desirest, that He may honour thee more, and at the same time show thee the great love He bears thee. Let us make an agreement, O Lady, that while I live confiding in thee, thou on thy part wilt charge thyself with my salvation. Amen