to the Blessed Virgin
The following article is taken from
The Golden Key to Heaven by St. Anthony Mary Claret.
This book is now available in English for the first time
from The Fatima Crusader
Composition of Place — Picture with Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary in Her Chaste Virginal Motherhood. You see Her with Jesus in Bethlehem, in Egypt, at Nazareth, at Jerusalem, at the wedding in Cana, at Calvary and in Heaven.
Prayer of Petition — God bless Thee, O Mary! Thou art full of Grace. The Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among all women, and blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen, O Jesus!
One of the most powerful means which God Our Lord has given us to gain and to increase grace and Divine love is, without doubt, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The reason for this is obvious. By Jesus we have everything, and as Mary is His Mother, She obtains everything She wants.
Jesus is, as it were, the reservoir of all Graces, and Mary is the conduit whereby they are brought to us. This precious conduit is always joined to the reservoir; that is, Mary is always with Jesus — in Bethlehem, in Egypt, at Nazareth, at Jerusalem, at the wedding feast in Cana, on Calvary, and in Heaven at Her Son's right hand, Who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
To make sure that devotion to Mary is true, you need to consider three things; namely: Who is this Lady? What blessings are there that She has received and for which we should look to Her? In what does true devotion to Her consist?
Who is the Blessed Virgin Mary? Ah! A difficult question. Only God knows well Who Mary is, says Saint Bernardine. Yet you ought to know that Mary is a great Lady conceived without stain of original sin, full of grace and virtue, Virgin and Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, and One Who pleads for sinners.
(1) Mary is a great Lady, conceived without stain of original sin — She is a Lady indeed. The very word Mary means lady, and by this name the angel calls Her when he says, "Fear not, Mary, for Thou hast found grace with God." (Lk 1:30)
Thus it seems Her name comes not from a whim of Her parents, but is something decreed by the design of God, as the Holy Trinity, creating Her, imposed the name of Mary with a view of Her being Daughter of the Eternal Father, Mother of the Eternal Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and Queen of all creation.
The dignity of Mother of God is an almost infinite dignity, says Saint Thomas; for this is to be Mother of an Infinite Being, Who is God. This is why, in creating Her, the Lord preserved Her from original sin, adorned Her with all graces possible for a creature to have, enriched Her with virtues and merits, confided to Her the treasury of His mercies and made Her dispenser of them.
(2) Mary is distinguished by God with all privileges and given all prerogatives — She is a Mother without ceasing to be a Virgin, a singular Virgin ... and, as the Gospel says, the Virgin's name is Mary. She is Queen of Heaven and earth, Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Bishops and Confessors, Queen of Virgins and of all the saints.
If someone presented to us here below a lady who was queen of all kingdoms and empires in the world, Ah! how she would be admired and honored! Even more you ought to honor the Most Holy Mary, Who is Queen of Heaven and earth. In Heaven, on earth, and in hell, knees are bent at the sweet name of Mary, inasmuch as She is Mother of Jesus; and what is owed to Jesus by nature and merits, the same is given (as much as any holy creature can receive) to Mary Most Holy by grace.
(3) Mary's role is to be a Mother to sinners and to plead for them — The Eternal Word took on flesh, became Man, became our Brother, and, as Brother, He wants us to have the same Father He has and the same Mother. He had already given us the Father. He had already said to us, "When you pray, you will say: Our Father Who art in Heaven." Later He gave us His Mother to be our Mother: "Behold thy Mother." (Jn. 19:27)
Yes, in Bethlehem Mary gave birth to Her first-born Son, and on Calvary to the second born, which we all of us Jesus Christ's disciples — are, being represented by the disciple whom Jesus loved. He desires that His own Mother be our immediate advocate — be one to whom we entrust our wants, and She shall present them to Jesus, Who is the One Who pleads for us before God the Father. Oh, what great confidence we ought to have!
(1) Thanksgiving — May infinite thanks be given Thee, O Most Blessed Trinity, for having created Blessed Mary without sin, for having honored Her with so many graces and privileges, and for having given Her to be our Mother and advocate. We cannot, my God, give Thee the thanks we owe Thee for this great and wonderful favor, and we beg Thee, O Most Holy Virgin, our Mother and Advocate, to give thanks for us.
(2) Praise and Prayer of Petition — Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Our Life, Our Sweetness and Our Hope. To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To Thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then most gracious Advocate Thine eyes of Mercy towards us and after this our exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Gratitude is, without doubt, one of the virtues most pleasing to God and to the Most Holy Virgin and most useful for men. We see this truth demonstrated in the Old and New Testaments and by nature itself. When God used to deliver the Hebrews from evils and bestow blessings on them, He would demand a tribute of thanksgiving from them; and so that they would not easily forget, He made them keep the twelve stones which they collected in the Jordan (cf. Josue 4:1-7), and a portion of the manna was preserved within the Ark (cf. Ex. 16:34).
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus Christ showed Himself pleased with the foreigner who, finding himself cured of his leprosy, came to Him to thank Him, and He complained of the nine men who were likewise cured but were not grateful. We see that even in nature animals are grateful to one who does good to them. Trees bear fruit to one who plants them, and soil gives a generous response to the one who cultivates it.
Gratitude is so well appreciated that not only does one see a benefactor rewarding one for it, but we also see him feeling moved to grant new favors. Here we present reasons why we should all be very devoted to Mary:
(1) Be thankful and devoted to Mary for the many and great blessings we have received — Saint Bernard says that God has decreed that whatever we have, be through Mary. Saint Germaine adds that no one is saved except through Mary, Who intercedes for us and obtains for us the merits of Jesus Christ Her Son and our Redeemer and Savior. No one is delivered from evil except by Mary and no one obtains favors except through Mary.
Reflect that the lights and inspirations that you so often receive are benefits that come to you by Mary's intercession. If you have not fallen into mortal sin, or have not committed more and greater faults, this grace is from Mary.
If you have not died in sin and are not presently in hell, this grace is from Mary. If God is preserving your health and your life, if in every instant He is giving you new favors, realize that it is by Mary's intercession. There is no mother so watchful and careful about protecting her children as Mary is to protect those devoted to Her from all evil and misfortune.
(2) O my soul, it is not only the many benefits you have received from Mary that should induce you to be thankful and devoted to Her, but also the many favors you ought to look for and which the Virgin Mary will give you if you are faithfully and honestly devoted to Her. You cannot doubt Her power nor Her kindness nor Her willingness.
As Mother of God She is most powerful, and as your Mother, She wants everything good for you. Therefore rightly and truly, is She the Refuge of Sinners, the Consolation of the Afflicted, the Health of the Sick, the Mother of Mercy and of Divine Grace. She prays for you now and always, and She will especially pray for you at the hour of your death, and on every occasion She will obtain for you and grant you whatever you need.
With a special Providence Jesus Christ arranged that the first one whom He sanctified in the Law of Grace, the first one to whom He gave grace in the new order — namely, John the Baptist — as well as the first miracle He worked, was through the intercession of Mary, His Mother. These things happened when She visited Her cousin Saint Elizabeth, and when They assisted at the marriage feast of Cana where Jesus changed water into wine.
This was in order that the disciples and all men might know the compassionate Heart of Mary and might learn how powerful Her intercession is for gaining all graces for the soul, for the body, for time and for eternity. Let us go, then, with confidence, to our Mother Mary, as to a Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy.
(1) Confidence — You have three reasons, my soul, to rely on the Blessed Virgin Mary: First, She is your Mother. The Creator has strongly instilled in every mother's heart the law of loving one's offspring. Now the greater the needs of her children, so much greater, so much more solicitous, is a mother's love and care for them. This we see by experience in all human mothers, and even among brutes.
Therefore what child of Mary, what devotee of Hers, will not trust in his Mother, Mary, inasmuch as She is such a good Mother and we Her children are so much in need, with needs so pressing, of such surpassing importance; for it is a matter of eternal salvation or damnation.
Second, Mary, even if She were not our Mother, possesses a very good compassionate heart, and merely this would be enough for Her to come to our rescue, just as we see certain good ladies relieving everyone by their kind corporal works of mercy. Third, She has a command from Jesus, a solemn charge He gave Her just before dying on the Cross. Even if She were not our Mother, even if She did not possess a heart so kind, it is enough that She have Jesus' command to be our unfailing rescuer and take care of us as very dear children.
(2) Resolution — My Mother, remember that Thou art my Mother, and make me mindful that I am Thy child. Yes, I will be mindful of this and will call upon Thee. I will run to Thee in all my wants and necessities of body and soul, and I put my hope in Thee to assuredly provide for me in all situations. Amen.
True devotion to Blessed Mary is one of the surest signs of predestination. But the devotion must be true; for if it is false, it will serve no purpose. One can compare it with money which, if not genuine, if counterfeit, is worth nothing. To prevent any misunderstanding or deception in an affair of such surpassing importance, you should reflect very carefully to see if your devotion to Mary has all the requirements needed in order for it to be worthy.
Devotion to Mary consists, first, in avoiding all sin — Love either finds or produces a likeness. If you, my soul, love Mary, you ought to make yourself like Mary. She was conceived without sin and never consented to any sin. After your Baptism, in which original sin was removed, in order for you to be like Mary you must have a great horror for personal — or actual — sin; you must never consent to it; and if at any time you have the misfortune — which God forbid — to fall into mortal sin, you must have no rest until you rouse yourself and make a good confession.
You must not do as certain ones do who say they are devotees of Mary, and have settled down in mortal sin. They are not devoted to Mary. They are Her greatest enemies; because, according to Saint Paul, they are crucifying Jesus anew. If they are crucifying Jesus, how can they love Mary His Mother and be Her devoted clients? It is not possible.
True devotion to Mary consists, second, in imitating Her virtues — Saint Bonaventure said, "If we want to have devotion to Mary, let us imitate Her by charity, by modesty, by humility, by purity, by patience, and by love for God."
As a mother desires to have her children dress according to their status, likewise this Mother of ours wants to have Her children dress as She does — clothed in all virtues. And as a mother blushes with shame if her children go about in tattered clothes, dirty, unsightly, and in rags, likewise it shames Mary for Her children to go about soiled with vices, with bad habits and sins.
True devotion to Mary, third, endeavors to pay Her some homage and to receive the Sacraments often — It is impossible to keep free from sin in this life if one does not receive Holy Communion. Jesus Himself assures us of this, saying, "Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, you will not have life in you."
Where there is no life, even less can there be solid virtue. But if we frequent the Sacraments, then, receiving life from the Bread of the strong, our soul has strength and valor to conquer its enemies; we overcome difficulties, rise above self, perform the most heroic acts and even suffer martyrdom if need be.
True devotion to Mary, fourthly, takes care to perform well, with promptness, cheerfulness and perseverance, one's prayers and other duties belonging to Her service — Linger, my soul, on these words to perform well these duties. If, when one does something for a person of high rank, he is careful to do it well; how much more care should one take in what he does in the service of Mary, Who is so holy and is also Queen of Heaven and earth.
Oh, how blameworthy you would be if you did your works and prayers with lukewarmness, laziness, and with little care! You should also do what belongs to Her service with promptness and as soon as you can. Imitate Abel and Abraham, who promptly offered God what they knew to be the Divine Will and good pleasure.
Do not imitate Cain, whose offering was of bad quality and tardy, and therefore God despised it and counted it worthless. Oh my soul, whatever you offer Mary, let it be the best you have to give, the best you can do, and do it promptly. Imitate Abel and Abraham, and carefully beware of imitating Cain and those bad Christians who offer Her what is of bad quality and who make the offering late and poorly.
They hear Mass but as something to do last; they pray the Rosary and other prayers and devotions, but as something put in last place and late at night, and they are performed badly because, having become drowsy, they do them with displeasure — and finally they neglect them altogether.
These are not children of Mary; they are deserters. Alas for them! Do not imitate them. On the contrary, make use of all the means that prudence dictates to you and experience teaches you to be best suited for making your heart zealous and fervent in devotion to Mary.
(1) Means and Resolution — I know that the means I must make use of are:
(a) to keep a picture or image of Mary within sight to always remind me of Her. Likewise, I also propose that all that I shall do I will direct to God through Her most holy hands, and whatever gives me pain, I will suffer, remembering Her sorrows and the Passion of Jesus.
(b) Every day I will pray with attention and devotion at least one part (5 decades) of the Rosary without dozing or being distracted.
(c) I will pray my morning prayers, noon Angelus and night prayers; also every time the clock strikes the hour, I will pray a Hail Mary.
(d) I will enroll in one or other of Her Confraternities (or a pious society approved by the Church and devoted to Her); I will wear the Scapular; I will go to Confession regularly and to Holy Communion frequently, even every day if possible and at least once a month; I will read books that treat of devotion to Her and will get other people to read them too, and will exhort them to have devotion to Mary. Finally, I will do for me and for everyone what I know is more to the liking of my holy and sweet Mother, Mary.
(2) O my Mother, the fact that Thou art my Mother is enough for me. As a good mother, I know Thou wilt look after me. Sometimes a natural mother knows what her child needs and has no way to help him. But Thou art well acquainted with what I need, Thou hast a way to help me, and a good heart as well as a charge from Jesus to take care of me. Therefore I have certainty and confidence that Thou wilt take care of me and give me what I need.
Now pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary.