I wish to love Mary. - Blessed Berchmans
Devotion to Mary being so efficacious, so indispensable a means of salvation, it imports us, be our desire of eternal bliss ever so faint, to make sure we are possessed of this treasure, that we are marked with this sign of predestination. Let us examine what are the characteristics of sincere friends, of devoted hearts. He that loves thinks unceasingly on the beloved - not for an instant is she out of his sight. Her name ever hovers on his lips; to converse with her is the charm of his life; he cannot bear her absence; the most painful sacrifices are light to prove his affection. The property of love is communication of goods, and to take upon oneself the sufferings of the beloved. Love finds us like, or assimilates us; it takes the tastes and ideas of the object loved, imitates her, gives her himself, and to the gift of himself would, if possible, add that of the universe.
You love Mary, then, if you think often of her; if you take pleasure in speaking of her, in hearing her praises; if you rejoice at the honour rendered her by others, the prodigies which daily increase her fame. You love Mary if her name, with that of Jesus, is the first that rises to your lips on awaking, the last you utter before retiring to rest, and if it remains in the depth of your heart as a permanent remembrance, an incessant prayer. You love Mary if you celebrate her Feasts with fervour, if you pass no day without visiting, without praying to her; if you inspire your dependents or others with her love, or desire to do so. You love Mary if, not satisfied in sharing in her joys, you enter especially into her sorrows - if you love to meditate on them, contrive to impose some sacrifice on yourself in memory of those she endured for you. Lastly, and above all, you love Mary if you seek to make your life a living and faithful copy of hers; if you love, as she did, prayer, solitude, labour; if you detest what she detested, shun what she shunned; if you practise the virtues that shone in her - humility, purity, abandonment to the divine will.
"Alas!" it will be said, "if such be the true servant of Mary, if such the characteristics by which her lovers are recognized, then must I confess that her love is very faint - hardly exists in my heart." Ah! do not lose courage. Do you not at least wish to have this desire? Do you not long to feel those lively ardours that consume the hearts of her true servants? Are you not grieved at seeing yourself so tepid, so cold in her love? Yes, doubtless. Then already has Mary visited your heart, already you have begun to love her; her love is not extinct in ybur soul, yet a little while and you will love her perfectly.
To attain this desired end you know all that is requisite; only put your hand to the work, try and do what is in your power - Mary will accomplish the rest. You will wonder to see the facility with which obstacles are overcome, and with what goodness and condescension she draws nigh to those who seek her. Oh, how promptly, how wisely, would you be instructed in her school. A glance of hers suffices to change hearts, to attach them irrevocably to her love. She said not a word to that happy Israelite (P&re Ratisbonne), brought back in our own days to the faith of that Messiah expected by his fathers, but at her feet he understood all - all religion, all its mysteries. His heart burned within him like those of the Disciples of Emmaus, and he felt so raised above himself and the world as to find courage to make the most generous sacrifices.
If Mary operates not in our behalf one of those dazzling miracles which illumine souls and transform them in an instant - one of those miracles which we must admire, for which we can never praise her too highly, but which our weakness, and the self-love always alive in us, must not permit us to envy or solicit: she has still in her treasury graces - secret, powerful, and safe - for us, graces which lead the soul step by step to her Son, which confirm it daily more and more in His love. And these graces she dispenses with no niggard hand, but pours them with profusion on her devoted clients. Only try it, and you too shall be able to apprize others, through that conviction of the heart which alone possesses the secret of persuading, what marvels a solid and abiding devotion to Mary effects in the soul. "Come and I will relate to you what she hath done for my soul."
The lover bestows on those dear to the beloved some of the affection which he has given to the cherished object of his heart. Therefore do you love, entertain a special devotion for those Saints most distinguished for love of Mary - Saint John Evangelist, Saint Bernard, Saint Dominic, Saint Ignatius, Saint Ligouri. But above all have Alphonsus' particular devotion to her holy parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, also to her glorious spouse Saint Joseph. "I know not," says Saint Teresa, "how any one can think of the Queen of Angels, and on the care she bestowed on Jesus in His childhood, without thanking Saint Joseph for the assistance he rendered during that period to both Son and Mother." Then she adds - "I never knew any person having a special devotion to him but made sensible progress in virtue, nor do I remember ever having preferred a request to him that was not granted."
Mary my Mother! Would that I could love you as your devoted servants have loved you, as the Angels love, even as your Divine Son Himself loves you.
Saint Bemardine, of the Order of Friars Minor, was born at Massa, of which his father was Governor, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, 1380. This same Festival he subsequently selected to take the habit of Saint Francis, make his profession, preach his first sermon, and say his first Mass. His parents, who had obtained him through the intercession of the Mother of God, were early taken away from him, and the child was received by a relative, who remarked even then, with admiration, indications of uncommon sanctity in him.
She often beheld him prostrate before an image of the Blessed Virgin, melting into tears as he repeated the "Hail Mary" with the fervour of an Angel, for, night and day, all Bernardine's supplications, whatever prayers he poured forth, were addressed to Mary, Mother of Jesus. From his tenderest years he fasted in her honour every Saturday, and during his whole life he never laid this practice aside.
Nevertheless, his pious relative, seeing Bernardine so young and comely, feared the loss of his innocence of soul and body. To preserve this treasure to him, many were the prayers she addressed to God and the Blessed Virgin, nor did she fail to warn him of the dangers of the world. He replied - "I am already smitten with love, and it would be my death were I to pass a day without visiting my beloved." Often he added - "I am going to see my beloved, who is beautiful beyond all the daughters of Sienna." Surmounting the gate of Sienna which leads to Florence, was a statue of the Holy Virgin; twice a day - morning and evening - Bernardine was accustomed to visit it, and there devoutly offer up his prayers. It is of this he spoke when he said- "1 could not sleep at night, if the preceding day I was unable to see the image of my beloved."
In order to relieve her anxiety, his relative watched him for several successive days at the hour he was wont to say - "I am going to visit my beloved." She saw him several time stop before the statue of the Blessed Virgin, place himself on his knees, and pray with the utmost devotion, then rising, return straight home. His pious aunt, seeing all her apprehensions turned to spiritual consolations, wished, however, to sound the disposition of Bernardine. "My dear child," she said, one day, "I pray you keep me no longer in suspense; tell me on whom you have placed your affections, in order that, if she be of suitable rank, we may procure you her hand." Bernardine replied - "Since you enjoin me I will reveal to you the secret of my heart. I love the Holy Virgin, Mother of God, whom I have ever loved, whom I earnestly desire to behold, to whom I am betrothed as to a most chaste spouse, in whom are centered all my hopes. It is she who is the sovereign object of my affections - she alone I seek, she whom I wish to contemplate unceasingly with due respect, but since it is not given me to do so in this life I have resolved daily to visit her statue. You now know the object of my love."*
And amply did Mary reward her faithful servant. She condescended to appear to him one day and to say - "Bernardine, your devotion pleases me. As a pledge of still greater rewards I endow you with the talent of preaching and the power of working miracles. These gifts 1 have obtained for you from my Divine Son, and I promise, in addition, to make you a participator in the eternal bliss I enjoy in Heaven." The event justified this promise. Bernardine, by his sermons, regenerated entire Italy, he illumined the Church by the light of his doctrine as he rejoiced it by the holiness of his life.
Visit to the Blessed Sacrament
"Children have you any meat?" - John 21:5
My God, You ask this question because You desire to fill me. Would a rich man thus interrogate the poor without designing to help him? It would be a cruel irony to the misery of the unfortunate. Would a God ask it of His poor creature, and then leave him in hunger and thirst? You are too good to treat me with so great harshness, too great to insult the poverty of a worm of the earth that implores Your pity. Did I behold an abandoned child whose cries appealed to my assistance, I should be the more compassionate as he knew not the whole extent of his misery. Before You I am as this poor orphan, who knows not his abandonment, understands not Your language, knows You not, is not aware of his wants. Oh, through pity then, look on me, assist me, nourish me. The food necessary for me, the nourishment prepared for the poor by Your kindness is hidden here in the tabernacle; come forth, my Lord, come into my heart! Come, for I am dying of hunger! Come Yourself, for all You give me without Yourself is nothing, cannot satisfy my soul.
O Mary, give me of your Bread, the Bread you destined for me, the Wine that alone can rejoice my heart, "and I have nothing more to ask."
- taken from The Month of May Consecrated to the Glory of the Mother of God, The Queen of Heaven