O Maryl "thy bands are healthful binding" (Eccles. 6:31)
Only "he that shall persevere to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22) Unerring oracle pronounced by the lips of God Himself, a dread oracle, because of its uncertainty as regards us. How many souls, striving to lift the veil that shrouds futurity, are disquieted and troubled at the bare idea - "Who knows if I shall persevere to the end? who knows if I shall be saved, if my name be written in the book of life?" O the depth of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! Terrible mystery, which has caused even the Saints to tremble, warned of their frailty by the startling downfall of those stars that fell from Heaven like lightning, of those men whose conversation had been in Heaven, and who were afterwards satisfied with husks of swine. Would you, Christian soul, convert this uncertainty of salvation into a sweet and consoling certainty; do you wish to render your vocation, your predestination, assured? Love Mary, persevere to the end in the service of Mary.
If an Angel descending from Heaven came amongst us to proclaim solemnly the names of those thousand-fold happy individuals who shall either persevere to the end, or repair by a holy and salutary penance the faults of their youth, what would our trembling and expectation be! What the transport of joy in those whose names had been pronounced - what the terror and despair of those whom the celestial messenger had not specified! Now, such an apparition might be delusive. Do you wish a more certain, an infallible revelation? Love Mary, implore her love till your last sigh. "My children," Saint Philip Neri was accustomed to say to his penitents, "do you desire the gift of perseverance, be devoted to Mary." In effect, it is from neglecting to implore her aid so many fall and are lost. Blessed Alan, being one day assailed by violent temptations, was on the point of yielding and being lost, from neglecting to recommend himself to Mary; but in this imminent peril our Lady appeared to him, and striking him on the cheek, said - "Had you invoked me, you should not have been in this danger." Saint Germain was, then, right in styling Mary "the respiration of Christians;" for as the body cannot exist without breathing, so the soul cannot live without recurring to Mary, through whom it obtains and preserves grace. "Blessed is the man that heareth me," says the Queen of Heaven, "that watches daily at my gates, and waits at the door" of my mercy. (Proverbs 8:34) Yes, for such, Mary will obtain light and strength to forsake sin, to advance in the path of perfection; this is why, according to the beautiful expression of Innocent III, she is called moon during the night, aurora at daybreak, sun during the day - moon for him that is in the night of sin, to enlighten him on his pitiable state; aurora, that is to say, harbinger of the sun, for him who, already enlightened, needs strength to attain grace; sun, in fine, for him who is already in a state of grace, that he may persevere therein.
O Mary, your devotion takes root only in the hearts of those who will persevere. "I took root in an honourable people." (Ecclus 24:16) In other souls it is but transient. "Woe to whoever contemns this sun!" says Saint Ambrose, meaning who neglects Mary. Saint Francis Borgia justly questioned the perseverance of those who had not a special devotion to the Mother of God. Interrogating his Novices one day as to what Saint each particularly honoured, he perceived there were some among them wanting in devotion to the holy Virgin. He immediately warned the Master of Novices, charging him to keep an eye on those youths. The event justified the Saint's fears: every one of these Novices lost the grace of vocation. "Happy they who love you," said Blessed John Berchmans; "if I love Mary, I am sure to perse- vere, and I shall obtain of God all that I ask:" for which reason the holy youth was ever repeating, "I wish to love Mary." Let us conclude with the words of Saint Bernard - "Christian man, whoever you may be, your life on earth is less a journey than a perilous voyage. Would you avoid shipwreck, fix your eyes constantly on this brilliant star, invoke Mary; in occasions of sin, amid the anguish of temptation, in doubt, in danger, call on Mary; let her name be ever in your heart to inspire confi- dence, ever on your lips to invoke it. Follow Mary, and you shall not stray; confide in her, and you shall not despair; upheld by her hand, you shall never fall; under her protection, you have nothing to fear; let her be your guide, you shall surely be saved; in fine, let but Maiy take on her your defence, and you shall infallibly attain beatitude. Do this, and you shall live."
Perseverance; this grace which gives worth and merit to all others, this gratuitous grace which we can never deserve, is granted to those who ask it, says Saint Augustine. Wherefore let no day pass without beseeching Mary to obtain it for you, and be assured you shall be heard.
O Mary, perseverance of the just, forsake me not a moment, and I shall be saved!
That the Blessed Virgin would specially assist him had been the life-long petition of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri. The following is the prayer he composed on this subject in his Visits to the Blessed Sacrament - "O Comfortress of the Afflicted, forsake me not at the moment of death! Obtain for me the grace to invoke you at that time more frequently, and let your sweet name and that of your Divine Son hover on my lips till my last sigh. Pardon, O my Queen, pardon my boldness, come yourself before I expire; come and console me with your holy presence. This grace you have bestowed on many of your servants; I also desire and hope for it. True, I am a sinner, I am unworthy of it; but I am your servant; I love you, and place unbounded confidence in you. O Mary! I expect you; refuse me not this consolation." Alphonsus was not mis- taken in his expectation. The 31st of July, 1787, his illness momentarily increased, but his peace and serenity were unalterable. About two o'clock in the morning, whilst two of the Fathers assisted him, and he held in his hand a picture of the Blessed Virgin, they perceived his countenance suddenly become radiant, and a sweet smile played about his mouth. Some minutes before seven, the same occurrence was repeated. One of his Religious bringing him a statue of our Lady, piously invited him to invoke her for a happy death. No sooner did he hear the sweet name of Mary, than the dying Prelate opened his eyes, and, gazing at the image, appeared again to hold mysterious converse with the Queen of Heaven.
The morrow was his last day on earth. Surrounded by his numerous children, his joy and his crown, he entered into his agony. He appeared less to struggle against death than to converse with God in a prolonged ecstasy. His person underwent no alteration, no contraction of the chest, no painful sigh; thus, his hands clasping a statue of Mary, he calmly expired precisely as the Angelus bell was rung, ist August, 1787.
Visit to the Blessed Sacrament
Mystery of Union
O God! You like everything that exists, and You dislike none of your works, for it is not in hatred You have established and created all things. You are merciful to all, because all are Yours, O God, the lover of souls! These are the terms, full of condescension and love, by which You desired to inspire your creatures with confidence; these the prayers You dictated to the Prophets under the law of fear. What, therefore, shall we not be permitted to say under the law of love? If you love souls with so singular affection, how should they not love one another! Thus, my Lord, to effect this admirable union of hearts, You invite them to the same table, feed them with the same Bread, present them with the same Drink; behold You give them Yourself, and thus enable them to love one another with the very Heart that commands this reciprocal affection, with the Heart that loves all in general and each in particular. And after this donation of Yourself, the authority of Your word confirms the admirable end of your gifts; You have given them a new commandment, the commandment of love. They must love one another as You, their God, have loved them. They must be one family, completely united, not like human families or the unions of the world, but like the union of God Himself. This You ask the F ather, You, Who cannot meet a refusal, by these wonderful words - "That they may be one, as We also are." Woe to you, O Christians! if you love not each other, if you annul by your divisions the last prayer of your God, about to die for you!
Mary, O you who have given, delivered up this well-beloved Son of the Eternal Father and your own to death, unite in your Heart, pierced with the sword of grief for us, unite friend and enemy believer and unbeliever, Catholic and heretic, that there may be but one fold and one Shepherd.
- taken from The Month of May Consecrated to the Glory of the Mother of God, The Queen of Heaven