"Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy" - Salve Regina, Mater misericordice
Who shall be able to count the mercies of the Lord, the effusions of His Heart on the miserable? They equal for each of us the moments we have to pass on earth; they extend without interruption from that eternity during which God loved us in His compassion, to that eternity in which He will crown us, as an ultimate pledge of this same mercy. But amongst all the mercies of the Lord, there is one we shall eternally sing, as the source of all the others - Mary, of whom Jesus is born; Mary, the Mother of Mercy.
Saint Bernard asks himself why the Church styles Mary Queen of Mercy? "It is," replies he, "because she opens the abyss of divine mercy at will; so that no sinner, no matter what may be the enormity of his crimes, can perish if protected by Mary. She can do all she wishes in favour of her servants, and never suffers any one to go away from her dissatisfied at heart."
If Jesus is King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, then Mary, of whom He deigned to be born, is our Queen, our Sovereign Lady, for all the subjects of the Son are subjects of the Mother. But for the consolation of Christians be it said, Mary is a Queen full of sweetness and clemency, solely occupied in relieving the miseries of her subjects and the Kingdom of God consisting of these two things, justice and mercy, the Lord has divided it into two parts: He has reserved justice for Himself, and has ceded that of mercy to Mary.* Let us, then, rejoice, since we have in Heaven a Mother so compassionate, so tender, whose function is to withdraw us from the divine justice. Should she ever seem unwilling to beg the Lord to avert from us the chastisement due to our offences, let us say to her boldly - "Think not, powerful Virgin, that it is wholly for your own honour and advantage you have been exalted to the dignity of Queen of the universe; but rather that, placed on the pinnacle of glory, you may intercede for mankind, your children and your brethren."
But is it necessary to address her thus, in order to incline that all-clement Queen to compassion? Long ere we solicited her has Mary prayed for us, has cast herself at the feet of her Son, saying to Him, even as Esther pleading for her nation - "My Lord and my God, if I have found favour in Your sight, if You love me, give me my people, for whom I prostrate myself before you; grant me the life of these sinners, for whom 1 implore You." Could God reject her petition? Every prayer that proceeds from her lips is a law accepted by the Lord, by which He obliges Himself to be merciful to those for whom she intercedes. For, if Mary owes her Son an infinite debt of gratitude for condescending to choose her for His Mother, it may with equal truth be said that Jesus Christ has vouchsafed to contract a kind of obligation towards His Mother in return for the humanity which He holds from her. Mary knows well how to assert her rights. Saint Bridget heard our Lord one day say to His Mother, "Ask whatever you desire." To which Mary replied, "I ask You to show mercy to the miserable."
What should, then, be our confidence in Mary, since we behold at once her power with God and the extent of her compassion. No! there is not in this world a being who has not experienced her pity and partaken of her benefits. "I am," said the Blessed Virgin to Saint Bridget, "the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just, the gate through which sinners go to God. To none on earth is my pity denied, not a soul that has not obtained some grace through my intercession, were it only the being less violently tempted by the demon. No sinner," she adds, "is so rejected in this life by God, that he may not with my aid be restored to grace. Wherefore woe, everlasting woe, to him who, having it in his power to benefit by my commiseration, neglects it, and so is lost through his own fault."
Let us then go, Christians, let us go to this most clement Queen; let us press round her throne, whence salvation shall come to us; let not the view of our sins keep us at a distance; for if Mary has been crowned Queen of Mercy, it is in order that the greatest sinners may be saved through her protection. Let us say with Saint Bernard - "Ah, Mother, have you not been appointed Queen of Mercy? Who are the subjects of mercy, if not the miserable? I, then, the most miserable of sinners, am the first of your subjects, and you ought to be more solicitous for me than for all others."
Recite with increased attention those passages of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and of your prayers, which are addressed to Mary: the words in the Credo , "Who was conceived of the Virgin Mary;" in the Confiteor , "I confess to Blessed Mary ever Virgin;" in the Angelus , etc. This practice will, perhaps, appear trivial; but, poor that we are, what can we do great for such a Queen? Moreover, he who loves finds every expedient good that aids him to testify his affection; and in Mary's eyes, nothing done to please her is unvalued.
O Queen of Mercy! you who will not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live, take pity on me.
A celebrated history is that of Mary of Egypt, which is related in the first volume of Lives of the Fathers of the Desert. At twelve years of age she forsook her paternal home and came to Alexandria, where her licentious life made her the scandal of the inhabitants. Sixteen years had she spent in crime and disorder, when caprice led her to join a band of pilgrims who were embarking for Jerusalem, whither they repaired to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Arrived in that city, and the festival day being come, a feeling of pure curiosity led her to desire to enter the church with the crowd, but she felt herself thrust back by an invisible hand; thrice did she attempt to cross the threshold, but to no purpose. Then this miserable sinner, enlightened by Heaven, understood that it was her crimes closed against her the house of God. There was under the peristyle of the church an image of the Blessed Virgin, painted on the wall. Raising her eyes and perceiving it, she prostrated herself, and, melting into tears, she made interiorly this prayer - "O Mother of my God, have pity on a wretched creature; you are the Refuge of Sinners, refuse me not the consolation to see and adore the sacred wood on which your Son, my Saviour, shed His Blood to redeem me. After this I promise you to go and weep over my sins the remainder of my days, in whatever place you will be pleased to appoint me." Feeling assured that the church would now be open to her, she presented herself, entered unimpeded with the others, and adored the Cross with the most lively sentiments of com- punction. Then, returning to the picture, she thus addressed the Blessed Virgin - "O Mother of God and my protectress, behold me ready, whither will you have me go?" A voice replied, "Cross the Jordan, and you shall find the place of your rest." The sinner made a general confession of her whole life, received Holy Communion, then, having passed the river, she buried herself in the desert, which she understood to be the place of her penance.
During the first seventeen years which the holy penitent spent in solitude, she experienced continual assaults on the part of the enemy; in these violent tempests she did nothing but invoke Mary, and through her aid was always victorious. After these years of trial the struggle ended, and she had passed forty-seven years in the desert, when, by a disposition of His providence, God permitted the Abbot Zozimus to discover this hidden treasure. The holy solitary related her history to him, then prayed him to return the following year and bring her the Holy Eucharist. The Abbot consented, and was faithful to his word. Having received Holy Communion from his hands, Mary made him promise to return the next year on the same day. Zozimus in effect came, but found her dead. Her body was surrounded by a brilliant light, and traced on the sand he beheld these words - "Bury here the body of the poor sinner Mary, and pray for the repose of her soul." Zozimus interred the body, with the aid of a lion, which came to hollow out the grave; and on his return to the monastery, he related the marvels of divine mercy towards this happy penitent.
Visit to the Blessed Sacrament
"We shall see Hm as He is."
My Jesus, how did mankind behold You during the days of Your mortality? They saw You as a simple man, subject to all human miseries, they beheld You as an obscure artizan, receiving from others the price of his work. On the day of Your great sacrifice, they saw not a man, but a worm, without power, without splendour, without beauty; the outcast of the people, covered with wounds from head to foot, expiring on an infamous gibbet, in excessive pain and ignominy. This grand mystery of love - a God suffering and dying for men - confounded them, and in the pride of their hearts they would not recognize in You the Author of life. To the chosen people, who saw Your miracles, who had the glory of reckoning You among their fellow-citizens, the happiness of gazing on Your face, so full of grace and majesty, Your Cross was a scandal - a folly to the nations seated in the shadow of death.
And how do men see You now, O Lord? They behold You in the inexplicable secrets of Your providence, yet dare to call before the erring tribunal of their reason the God Who will be their Judge. They behold You in this Sacrament concealed, humbled under these poor species, yet so much love cannot enter into their limited understanding, their narrow hearts; they deny the blessing, or forget it, in order to dispense themselves from the gratitude due to such bounty. My God, one day all, friends and enemies, shall see You as You are, in the splendour of Your glory and power. O happy day, day of justice for You, above all, Lord, so unworthily treated, more contemned than the least of Your servants. Increase the number of those who know and honour You here below, O You, Who desire not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live for a blessed eternity.
O Mary, one day I, too, shall see You with Jesus, if the mercy of my Saviour follows me during the course of my exile. At last, one day I shall truly love You, O Jesus. O Mary, I who sigh not to be able to do it now as I desire, as I ought, this hope is my joy in affliction.
- taken from The Month of May Consecrated to the Glory of the Mother of God, The Queen of Heaven