By St. Alphonsus De Liguori
Oh, what an evident mark of predestination have the servants of Mary! The holy Church, for the consolation of Her clients, puts into Her mouth the words of Ecclesiasticus, In all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord.(1) Cardinal Hugo explains these words, and says, "blessed is he in whose house the most Holy Virgin finds repose."(2) Mary, out of the love She bears to all, endeavours to excite in all devotion towards Herself; many either do not admit it into their souls, or do not preserve it. But blessed is he that receives and preserves it. And I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. "That is," adds the Cardinal, "Blessed is he whose interior offers the Blessed Virgin Mary a place of repose." Devotion towards the Blessed Virgin remains in all who are the inheritance of our Lord; that is to say, in all who will praise Him eternally in Heaven. Mary continues, speaking in the words of Ecclesiasticus: He that made me rested in my tabernacle, and He said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in My elect.(3) That is, my Creator has condescended to come and repose in my bosom, and His will is, that I should dwell in the hearts of all the elect (of whom Jacob was a figure, and who are the inheritance of the Blessed Virgin), and that devotion and confidence in me should take root in all the predestined.
O, how many blessed souls are now in Heaven who would never have been there had not Mary, by Her powerful intercession, led them thither. I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth.(4) Cardinal Hugo, in his commentary on the above text of Ecclesiasticus, says in the name of Mary, "I have caused as many saints in Heaven through Her intercession, who would never have been there but through Her."(5)
St. Bonaventure says, "that the gates of Heaven will open to all who confide in the protection of Mary."(6) Hence, St. Ephrem calls devotion to the divine Mother "the unlocking of the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem."(7) The devout Blosius also, addressing Our Blessed Lady, says, "To Thee, O Lady, are committed the keys and the treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven."(8) And therefore we ought constantly to pray to Her, in the words of St. Ambrose, "Open to us, O Mary, the gates of paradise, since Thou hast its keys."(9) Nay more, the Church says, that "Thou art its gate."(10)
For the same reason, again, is this great Mother called by the Church the Star of the Sea, "Hail, Star of the Sea!" "For," says the angelical St. Thomas, "as sailors are guided by a star to the port, so are Christians guided to Heaven by Mary."(11)
For the same reason, finally, is She called by St. Fulgentius, "the Heavenly ladder." "For," says the saint, "by Mary, God descended from Heaven into the world, that by Her men might ascend from earth to Heaven."(12) "And Thou, O Lady," says St., Athanasius, "wast filled with grace, that Thou might be the way of our salvation, and the means of ascent to the Heavenly Kingdom."(13)
St. Bernard calls Our Blessed Lady "the Heavenly chariot."(14) And St. John Geometra salutes Her, saying, "Hail, resplendent car!"(15) signifying that She is the car in which Her clients mount to Heaven. "Blessed are they who know Thee as the high road to everlasting life, and the publication of Thy virtues is the way of eternal salvation."(16)
Denis the Carthusian asks, "Who is there that is saved/ who is there that reigns in Heaven?" And he answers, "They are certainly saved and reign in Heaven for whom this Queen of Mercy intercedes."(17) And this Mary Herself confirms in the book of Proverbs, "By Me kings reign"(18) through My intercession souls reign, first in this mortal life by ruling their passions, and so come to reign eternally in Heaven, where, says St. Augustine, "all are kings."(19) "Mary, in fine," says Richard of St. Laurence, "is the Mistress of Heaven; for there She commands as She wills and admits whom She wills." And applying to Her the words of Ecclesiasticus, And My power was in Jerusalem,(20) he makes Her say, "I command what I will, and introduce whom I will."(21) Our Blessed Lady, being Mother of the Lord of heaven, it is reasonable that She also should be sovereign Lady of that kingdom, according to Rupert, who says, "that by right She possesses the whole kingdom of Her Son."(22)
St. Antoninus tells us "that this divine Mother has already, by Her assistance and prayers, obtained Heaven for us, provided we put no obstacle in the way."(23) Hence, says Abbot Guerric, "he who serves Mary, and for whom She intercedes, is as certain of Heaven as if he was already there."(24) St. John Damascene also says, "that to serve Mary and be Her courtier is the greatest honour we can possibly possess; for to serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and live under Her commands is more than to govern."(25) On the other hand, he adds, "that those who do not serve Mary will not be saved; for those who are deprived of the help of this great Mother are also deprived of that of Her Son and of the whole court of heaven."(26)
"May the infinite goodness of Our Lord be ever praised," says St. Bernard, "for having been pleased to give us Mary as our advocate in Heaven, that She, being at the same time the Mother of Our Judge and a Mother of mercy, may be able, by Her intercession, to conduct to a prosperous issue the great affair of our eternal salvation."(27) St. James, a Doctor of the Greek Church, says, "that God destined Mary as a Bridge of salvation, by using which we might with safety pass over the stormy sea of this world, and reach the happy haven of paradise."(28) Therefore St. Bonaventure exclaims, "Give ear, O ye nations; and all you who desire Heaven, serve, honour Mary, and certainly you will find eternal life."(29)
Nor should those even who have deserved hell be in the least doubtful as to obtaining Heaven, provided they are faithful in serving this Queen. "O, how many sinners," says St. Germanus, "have found God and have been saved by Thy means, O Mary!"(30) Richard of St. Laurence remarks, that St. John in the Apocalypse says that Mary was crowned with stars: "And on Her head a crown of twelve stars."(31) On the other hand, in the sacred Canticles, She is said to be crowned with wild beasts, lions, and leopards: "Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come; thou shalt be crowned ... from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards."(32) How is this? He answers, that "these wild beasts are sinners, who by the favour and intercession of Mary have become stars of paradise, better adapted to the head of this Queen of mercy than all the material stars of heaven."(33)
We read in the life of the servant of God, Sister Seraphina of Capri, that once during the novena of the Assumption of Mary she asked our Blessed Lady for the conversion of a thousand sinners, but afterwards thought that she had asked too much; and then the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, and corrected her for her ungrounded anxiety, saying, "Why dost thou fear? Is it that I am not sufficiently powerful to obtain from My Son the conversion of a thousand sinners? See, I have already obtained the favour." With these words, She took her in spirit to Heaven, and there showed her innumerable souls which had deserved hell, but had been saved through Her intercession, and were already enjoying eternal happiness.
It is true that in this world no one can be certain of his salvation: Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred, says Ecclesiastes.(34) But St. Bonaventure, on the words of King David, Lord who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle?(35) and on the preceding quotation, answers, "Sinners, let us follow Mary closely, and casting ourselves at Her feet, let us not leave them until She has blessed us; for Her blessing will insure our salvation."(36)
"It suffices, O Lady," says St. Anselm, "that Thou willest it, and our salvation is certain."(37) And St. Antoninus says that "souls protected by Mary, and on which She casts Her eyes, are necessarily justified and saved."(38)
"With reason, therefore," observes St. Ildephonsus, "did the most Holy Virgin predict that all generations would call Her blessed;"(39) "for all the elect obtain eternal salvation through the means of Mary."(40) "And thou, O great Mother" says St. Methodius, "art the beginning, the middle, and the end of our happiness;"(41) -- the beginning, for Mary obtains us the pardon of our sins; the middle, for She obtains us perseverance in divine grace; and the end, for She finally obtains us Heaven. "By Thee, O Mary, was Heaven opened," says St. Bernard; "by Thee was hell emptied; by Thee was paradise restored; and through Thee, in fine, is eternal life given to so many miserable creatures who deserved eternal death."(42)
But that which above all should encourage us to hope with confidence for Heaven, is the beautiful promise made by Mary Herself to all who honour Her, and especially to those who, by word and example, endeavour to make Her known and honoured by others: "They that work by Me shall not sin; they that explain Me shall have life everlasting."(43) "O happy they who obtain the favour of Mary!" exclaims St. Bonaventure; "they will be recognised by the blessed as their companions, and whoever bears the stamp of a servant of Mary is already enrolled in the Book of Life."(44) Why, then, should we trouble ourselves about the opinions of scholastics as to whether predestination to glory precedes or follows the prevision of merits? If we are true servants of Mary, and obtain Her protection, we most certainly shall be inscribed in the Book of Life; "For," says St. John Damascene, "God only grants devotion towards His most Holy Mother to those whom He will save." This is also clearly expressed by our Lord in St. John: "He that shall overcome ... I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God."(45) "And who but Mary is this city of God?" observes St. Gregory on the words of David: "Glorious things are said of Thee, O city of God."(46)
Correctly, then, can we here say with St. Paul, "Having this seal, the Lord knoweth who are His;"(47) that is to say, whoever carries with him the mark of devotion to Mary is recognised by God as His. Hence St. Bernard writes, that "devotion to the Mother of God is a most certain mark of eternal salvation."(48) Blessed Alan, speaking of the "Hail Mary," also says, that "whoever often honours Our Blessed Lady with this angelical salutation has a very great mark of predestination."(49) He says the same thing of perseverance in the daily recital of the Rosary, "that those who do so have a very great assurance of salvation."(50) Father Nieremberg says, in the tenth chapter of his book on Affection for Mary, that "the servants of the Mother of God are not only privileged and favoured in this world, but even in Heaven they are more particularly honoured." He then adds: "that in Heaven they will be recognised as servants of its Queen, and as belonging to Her court, by a distinguishing and richer garment," according to the words of the Proverbs, "All Her domestics are clothed with double garments."(51) St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi saw a vessel in the midst of the sea: in it were all the clients of Mary, and this Blessed Mother Herself steered it safely into the port. By this the saint understood, that those who live under the protection of Mary are secure, in the midst of the dangers of this life, from the shipwreck of sin, and from eternal damnation; for She guides them safely into the haven of salvation. Let us then enter this blessed ship of the mantle of Mary and there we can be certain of the Kingdom of Heaven; for the Church says: "O holy Mother of God, all those who will be partakers of eternal happiness dwell in Thee, living under Thy protection."(52)
The Franciscan Chronicles relate that a certain Brother Leo saw in a vision two ladders, the one red, the other white. On the upper end of the red ladder stood Jesus and on the other stood His holy Mother. The brother saw that some tried to climb the red ladder; but scarcely had they mounted some rungs when they fell back, they tried again but with no better success, then they were advised to try the white ladder and to their surprise they succeeded for the Blessed Virgin stretched out Her hand and with Her aid they reached Heaven.(53)
NOTE: This apparition is by no means incredible; nor is it right to say that it makes the power of Mary superior to that of Christ. The symbolic significance of the vision must be borne in mind. The idea had been expressed repeatedly in the words of St. Bernard, and more recently by Popes Leo XIII and Benedict XV: "As we have no access to the Father except through the Son, so no one can come to the Son except by the Mother. As the Son is all powerful by nature, the Mother is all powerful in so far that by the merciful disposition of God She is our mediatrix of graces with Christ. Therefore says Eadmer: "Frequently our petitions are heeded sooner when we address ourselves to Mary the Queen of Mercy and Compassion than when we go directly to Jesus who as King of Justice is our Judge."(54)
O Queen of Heaven, Mother of holy love! since Thou art the most amiable of creatures, the most beloved of God, and His greatest lover, be pleased to allow the most miserable sinner living in this world, who, having by Thy means been delivered from hell, and without any merit on his part been so benefited by Thee and who is filled with love for Thee, to love Thee. I would desire, were it in my power, to let all men who know Thee not know how worthy Thou art of love, that all might love and honour Thee. I would desire to die for the love of Thee, in defence of Thy virginity, of Thy dignity of Mother of God, of Thy Immaculate Conception, should this be necessary, to uphold these Thy great privileges. Ah! my most beloved Mother accept this my ardent desire, and never allow a servant of Thine, who loves Thee, to become the enemy of Thy God, whom Thou lovest so much. Alas! poor me, I was so for a time, when I offended my Lord. But then, O Mary, I loved Thee but little, and strove but little to be beloved by Thee. But now there is nothing that I so much desire, after the grace of God, as to love and be loved by Thee. I am not discouraged on account of my past sins, for I know that Thou, O most benign and gracious Lady, dost not disdain to love even the most wretched sinners who love Thee; nay more, that Thou never allowest Thyself to be surpassed by any in love. Ah! Queen most worthy of love, I desire to love Thee in Heaven. There, at Thy feet, I shall better know how worthy Thou art of love, how much Thou hast done to save me; and thus I shall love Thee with greater love, and love Thee eternally, without fear of ever ceasing to love Thee. O Mary, I hope most certainly to be saved by Thy means. Pray to Jesus for me. Nothing else is needed; Thou hast to save me; Thou art my hope. I will therefore always sing O Mary, my hope, Thou hast to save me.