Section II. How much our confidence in Mary should be increased from the fact of her being our Mother.
It is not without a meaning, or by chance, that Mary's clients call her Mother; and indeed they seem unable to invoke her under any other name, and never tire of calling her Mother. Mother, yes! For she is truly our Mother; not indeed carnally, but spiritually; of our souls and of our salvation. Sin, by depriving our souls of divine grace, deprived them also of life. Jesus our Redeemer, with an excess of mercy and love, came to restore this life by His own death on the cross, as He Himself declared: "I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly." (Jn. 10, 10). He says more abundantly; for, according to theologians, the benefit of redemption far exceeded the injury done by Adam's sin. So that by reconciling us with God He made Himself the Father of Souls in the law of grace, as it was foretold by the prophet Isaias: "He shall be called the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace." (Is. 9, 6). But if Jesus is the Father of our souls, Mary is also their Mother; for she, by giving us Jesus, gave us true life; and afterwards, by offering the life of her Son on Mount Calvary for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of grace.
On two occasions, then, according to the holy Fathers, Mary became our spiritual mother. And the first, according to Blessed Albert the Great, was when she merited to conceive in her virginal womb the Son of God. St. Bernardine of Sienna says the same thing more distinctly, for he tells us, 'that when at the Annunciation the most Blessed Virgin gave the consent which was expected by the Eternal Word before becoming her son, she from that moment asked our salvation of God with intense ardor, and took it to heart in such a way, that from that moment, as a most loving mother, she bore us in her womb.' In the second chapter of St. Luke, the Evangelist, speaking of the birth of our Blessed Redeemer, says that Mary "brought for her first-born son." Then, remarks an author, 'since the Evangelist asserts that on this occasion the most Holy Virgin brought forth her first-born, must we suppose that she had afterwards other children?' But then he replied to his own question, saying, 'that as it is of faith that Mary had no other children according to the flesh than Jesus, she must have had other spiritual children, and we are those children.' This was revealed by our Lord to St. Gertrude, who was one day reading the above text, and was perplexed and could not understand how Mary, being only the mother of Jesus, could be said to have brought forth her first-born. God explained it to her, saying, that Jesus was Mary's first-born according to the flesh, but that all mankind were her second-born according to the Spirit.
From what has been said, we can understand that passage of the sacred Canticles: "Thy belly is like a heap of wheat, set about with lilies," (Cant. 7, 2) and which applies to Mary. And it is explained by St. Ambrose, who says: 'That although in the most pure womb of Mary there was but one grain of wheat, which was Jesus Christ, yet it is called a heap of wheat, because all the elect were virtually contained in it;' and as Mary was also to be their Mother, in bringing forth Jesus, He was truly and is called the first-born of many brethren. And the Abbot St. William writes in the same sense, saying, 'that Mary, in bringing forth Jesus, our Savior and our Life, brought forth many unto salvation; and by giving birth to Life itself, she gave life to many.'
The second occasion on which Mary became our spiritual Mother, and brought us forth to the life of grace, was when she offered to the Eternal Father the life of her beloved Son on Mount Calvary, with such bitter sorrow and suffering. So that St. Augustine declares, that 'as she then cooperated by her love in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, she became the spiritual mother of all who are members of the one Head, Christ Jesus.' This we are given to understand by the following verse of the sacred Canticles, and which refers to the most Blessed Virgin: "They have made me the keeper in the vineyards; my vineyard I have not kept." (Cant. 1, 5) St. William says, that 'Mary, in order that she might save many souls, exposed her own to death;' meaning, that to save us, she sacrificed the life of her Son. And who but Jesus was the soul of Mary? He was her life, and all her love. And therefore the prophet Simeon foretold that a sword of sorrow would one day transpierce her own most blessed soul. (Lk. 2, 35) And it was precisely the lance which transpierced the side of Jesus, who was the soul of Mary. Then it was that this most Blessed Virgin brought us forth by her sorrows to eternal life: and thus we can all call ourselves the children of the sorrows of Mary. Our most loving Mother was always, and in all, united to the will of God. 'And therefore,' says St. Bonaventure, 'when she saw the love of the Eternal Father towards men to be so great that, in order to save them, he willed the death of His Son; and, on the other hand, seeing the love of the Son in wishing to die for us: in order to conform herself to this excessive love of both the Father and the Son towards the human race, she also with her entire will offered, and consented to, the death of her Son, in order that we might be saved.'
It is true that, according to the prophecy of Isaias, Jesus, in dying for the redemption of the human race, chose to be alone. "I have trodden the winepress alone;" (Is. 63, 3) but, seeing the ardent desire of Mary to aid in the salvation of man, He disposed it so that she, by the sacrifice and offering of the life of her Jesus, should cooperate in our salvation, and thus become the Mother of our souls. This our Savior signified, when, before expiring, He looked down from the cross on His Mother and on the disciple St. John, who stood at its foot, and, first addressing Mary, he said, "Behold thy Son;" (Jn. 19, 26) as it were saying, Behold, the whole human race, which by the offer thou makest of My life for the salvation of all, is even now being born to the life of grace. Then, turning to the disciple, He said, "Behold thy Mother." (Jn. 19, 27) 'By these words,' says St. Bernardine of Sienna, 'Mary, by reason of the love she bore them, became the mother, not only of St. John, but of all men.' And Silveira remarks, that St. John himself, in stating this fact in his Gospel, says: "Then He said to the disciple, Behold thy mother." Here observe well that Jesus Christ did not address Himself to John, but to the disciple, in order to show that He then gave Mary to all who are His disciples, that is to say, to all Christians, that she might be their Mother. 'John is but the name of one, whereas the word disciple is applicable to all; therefore, our Lord makes use of a name common to all, to show that Mary was given as a Mother to all.'
The Church applies to Mary these words of the sacred Canticles: "I am the mother of fair love;" (Eccles. 24, 24) and a commentator explaining them, says, that the Blessed Virgin's love renders our souls beautiful in the sight of God, and also makes her as a most loving mother receive us as her children, 'she being all love towards those whom she has thus adopted.' And what mother, exclaims St. Bonaventure, loves her children, and attends to their welfare, as thou lovest us and carest for us, O most sweet Queen! 'For dost thou not love us and seek our welfare far more without comparison than any earthly mother?' O, blessed are they who live under the protection of so loving and powerful a mother! The prophet David, although she was not yet born, sought salvation from God by dedicating himself as a son of Mary, and thus prayed: "Save the son of thy handmaid." (Ps. 85, 16) 'Of what handmaid?' asks St. Augustine; and he replies: 'Of her who said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord.' 'And who, says Cardinal Bellarmine, 'would ever dare to snatch these children from the bosom of Mary, when they have taken refuge there? What power of hell, or what temptation, can overcome them, if they place their confidence in the patronage of this great mother, the Mother of God, and of them?' There are some who say that when the whale sees its young in danger, either from tempests or pursuers, it opens its mouth and swallows them. This is precisely what Novarinus asserts of Mary: 'When the storms of temptations rage, the most compassionate Mother of the faithful, with maternal tenderness, protects them as it were in her own bosom, until she has brought them into the harbor of salvation.' O most loving Mother! O most compassionate Mother! Be thou ever blessed, and ever blessed be God, who has given thee to us for our mother, and for a secure refuge in all the dangers of this life. Our Blessed Lady herself, in a vision addressed these words to St. Bridget: 'As a mother on seeing her son in the midst of the swords of his enemies, would use every effort to save him, so do I, and will do for all sinners who seek my mercy.' Thus it is that in every engagement with the infernal powers we shall always certainly conquer, by having recourse to the Mother of God, who is also our mother, saying and repeating again and again: 'We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God: we fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God.' O, how many victories have not the faithful gained over hell, by having recourse to Mary with this short but most powerful prayer! Thus it was that the great servant of God, Sister Mary the Crucified, of the order of St. Benedict, always overcame the devils.
xBe of good heart, then, all you who are children of Mary. Remember that she accepts as her children all those who choose to be so. Rejoice! Why do you fear to be lost, when such a mother defends and protects you? 'Say, then, O my soul, with great confidence: I will rejoice and be glad; for whatever the judgment to be pronounced on me may be, it depends on and must come from my Brother and Mother.' 'Thus,' says St. Bonaventure, 'it is that each one who loves this good mother, and relies on her protection, should animate himself to confidence, remembering that Jesus is our Brother, and Mary our Mother.' The same thought makes St. Anselm cry out with joy, and encourage us, saying: 'O, happy confidence! O, safe refuge! The Mother of God is my Mother. How firm, then, should be our confidence, since our salvation depends on the judgment of a good Brother and a tender Mother!' It is, then, our Mother who calls us, and says, in these words of the Book of Proverbs: "He that is a little one, let him turn to me." (Prov. 9, 4). Children have always on their lips their mother's name, and in every fear, in every danger, they immediately cry out, Mother, mother! Ah, most sweet Mary! Ah, most loving Mother! This is precisely what thou desirest: that we should become children, and call on thee in every danger, and at all times have recourse to thee, because thou desirest to help and save us, as thou hast saved all who have had recourse to thee.
In the history of the foundation of the Society of Jesus in the kingdom of Naples, we read the following account of a young Scotch nobleman, named William Elphinstone. He was related to king James, and lived for some time in the heresy in which he was born. Enlightened by divine grace, he began to perceive his errors, and having gone to France, with the help of a good Jesuit father, who was also a Scotchman, and still more by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, he at length discovered the truth, abjured his heresy, and became a Catholic. From France he went to Rome; and there a friend, finding him one day weeping and in great affliction, inquired the cause of his grief. He replied, that during the night his mother, who was lost, appeared to him, and said: 'It is well for thee, son, that thou hast entered the true Church; for as I died in heresy, I am lost.' From that moment he redoubled his devotion towards Mary, choosing her for his only mother, and by her he was inspired with the thought of embracing the religious state, and he bound himself to do so by vow. Being in delicate health, he went to Naples for change of air, and there it was the will of God that he should die and die as a religious; for shortly after his arrival, finding himself at the last extremity, by his prayers and tears he moved the superiors to accept him, and in presence of the most Blessed Sacrament, when he received it as viaticum, he pronounced his vows, and was declared a member of the Society of Jesus. After this it was most touching to hear with what tenderness he thanked his Mother Mary for having snatched him from heresy, and led him to die in the true Church, and in the house of God, surrounded by his religious brethren. This made him exclaim: 'O, how glorious it is to die in the midst of so many angels!' When exhorted to repose a little, he replied, 'This is no time for repose, now that I am at the close of my life.' Before expiring, he said to those who surrounded him: 'Brothers, do you not see the angels of Heaven here present who assist me?' One of the religious having heard him mutter some words, asking him what he said. He replied, that his guardian angel had revealed to him that he would remain but a very short time in purgatory, and that he would soon go to heaven. He then entered into a colloquy with his sweet Mother Mary and like a child that abandons itself to rest in the arms of its mother, he exclaimed, 'Mother, mother!' and sweetly expired. Shortly afterwards a devout religious learned by revelation that he was already in heaven.
O most holy Mother Mary, how is it possible that I, having so holy a Mother, should be so wicked? A Mother all burning with the love of God, and I loving creatures; a Mother so rich in virtue, and I so poor? Ah, amiable mother, it is true that I do not deserve any longer to be thy son, for by my wicked life I have rendered myself unworthy of so great an honor. I am satisfied that thou shouldst accept me for thy servant; and in order to be admitted among the vilest of them, I am ready to renounce all the kingdoms of the world. Yes, I am satisfied. But still thou must not forbid me to call thee Mother. This name consoles and fills me with tenderness, and reminds me of my obligation to love thee. This name excites me to great confidence in thee. When my sins and the divine justice fill me most with consternation, I am all consoled at the thought that thou art my Mother. Allow me then to call thee Mother, my most amiable Mother. Thus do I call thee, and thus will I always call thee. Thou, after God, must be my hope, my refuge, my love, in this valley of tears. Thus do I hope to die, breathing forth my soul into thy holy hands, and saying, My mother, my mother Mary, help me, have pity on me! Amen.
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