THE FAIREST FLOWER OF PARADISE - CONSIDERATIONS ON THE LITANY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, ENRICHED WITH EXAMPLES DRAWN FROM THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS BY Very Rev. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O. S. M.
|Raphael - Madonna and child|
"Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her." (Prov. xxxi, 10, 11.)
WHITHERSOEVER we turn our gaze, we behold around us dangers, difficulties, and calamities of all kinds. The virtue of fortitude is therefore of supreme necessity for the Christian. By strengthening the soul, this cardinal virtue puts it in the way of avoiding dangers, surmounting difficulties, and conquering or, at least, bearing patiently the ills of life.
The supernatural virtue of fortitude helps us, on the one hand, to get the better of that childish fear which habitually oppresses us at the sight of the evils wherewith we are threatened; on the other hand, it tones down and corrects that arrogant self-conceit which, under a show of valor, is in reality, but weakness and cowardice.
It was owing to the virtue of fortitude that the apostles were able to go forth from the presence of the Council, "rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus." (Acts. v, 41.) It is thanks to this same virtue that Confessors fought courageously the good fight and that Virgins triumphed over the frailty of their sex, scoring a complete victory against the flesh, the world and the devil. It was through this virtue that the Martyrs had the courage to despise death rather than deny their Faith.
Oh, how valuable is the virtue of fortitude, and of how great necessity to the Christian, who would fight the good fight of the Lord!
If we wish to know the eminent degree in which Mary possessed the virtue of fortitude, it will suffice us to recall her unshaken patience in bearing the evils of this life. Recrimination or murmur never proceeded from her mouth. Those words which she addressed to Jesus when she found Him again at Jerusalem: "Son, why hast Thou done so to us?" were not the complaint of an impatient soul, but a respectful expression of profound sorrow.
It was especially at the foot of the cross that Mary's fortitude was seen in striking relief. Urged on by the immense love which burned in her heart, the Immaculate Virgin was enabled to assist at the consummation of the awful Sacrifice, and to remain to the end a witness to the mystery of our Redemption.
In truth, no one better than the Holy Virgin could render testimony both to the divinity and humanity of Jesus, as He hung upon the cross, dying for the world's salvation. Was she not the true Mother of the Saviour? Had not the mystery of the Incarnation been accomplished in her chaste womb? Mary, therefore, did not hesitate to expose herself to peril of death, in order to confess Jesus Christ. For we may be sure that it was no wish of the deicide Jews to spare the Mother of their Victim: if danger was averted, it was by the omnipotence of the God-Man, who would not permit that any of His relatives or friends should then undergo a violent death on His account. Had it not been so, we may well believe that Mary would have been the first to be put to death in hatred of Christ. Is it not just, then, that we should proclaim her the most valiant of women?
Since Mary did not shed her blood for the Faith, we cannot call her a Martyr in the strict sense of the word. None the less this title, if taken in a spiritual and mystical sense, belongs eminently to her, by reason of the excellence of the virtue of fortitude which urged her on to suffer, of the ardent charity wherewith she accepted suffering, and of the splendor of her testimony to the faith of Christ. We may, then, salute her in the Church's words: "Hail, O noble-minded Princess: thou art the first rose in the garden of martyrs: to thee belongs the lily of virginity." (8th Resp, in the Office of the Seven Dolors of Mary.)
Endeavor, O my soul, to imitate an example so noble and generous, in bearing with patience the evils, the woes and the persecutions of this present life. Be mindful to confess Jesus even at pain of death, that He in return may bear thee favorable witness before His Heavenly Father: "Every one that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven." (Matt, x, 32.)
Example - St. Joan Of Arc
St. Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domremy in Lorraine. From her parents, who were good and honest peasants, she inherited not material riches, but a tender devotion and sincere faith, to which were united a lively trust in the patronage of Mary. She passed her early years in a life of simple retirement, occupying her time in tending the sheep and in prayer.
She found all her delights at the altar of Our Lady.
At the same time this powerful Queen of Heaven was preparing this second Judith to fight under her protection the battles of her Lord. By many visions God commanded her to go to the aid of the King of France, who was reduced to the last extremity, in order to raise up from the depth of its ruin the Kingdom of France, which was known as the Kingdom of Mary. "Regnum Galliae regnum Mariae."
Joan generously obeyed the divine command, although the hardships of leaving home and leading a military life were very great indeed. Before setting out, she prostrated herself before the statue of Our Lady at Vaucouleurs. When the King set her at the head of the army, she caused three banners to be made: the first, which was carried before the troops, bore the words "Jesus, Mary"; on the second was depicted the Crucifixion with Mary at the foot of the cross; the third, which she bore in her hand, represented the Annunciation of Our Lady.
Admirable was the courage she displayed in the heart of the conflict, reassuring the soldiers that success would be theirs in the end. Before every engagement she would order them to gather together under the banner of Mary, to sing her praises and invoke her help.
After having saved France and restored the King to his throne, Joan was abandoned by the very people for whom she had done so much and given over into the hands of her enemies who, out of extreme hatred, condemned her to be burnt at the state as a heretic and apostate. But the saintly heroine gave abundant testimony of her faith, protesting that she had only been obedient to the command of God. When she arrived at the place of execution she wished that a cross should be held before her eyes, to strengthen her at the hour of death. When the flames were gathering round her, she pronounced the most holy name of Jesus and then bowing her head, she finished her usual ejaculation, by reciting in heaven that other name so dear to her, the name of Mary.
Most Holy Virgin Mary, O thou the most valiant of women, who with such constancy and generosity didst confess Jesus Christ at the foot of the cross, sustain me in the trials of life, and do not permit that I should ever be ashamed of the Christian name, but grant that I may show myself worthy of it to the day of my death. Amen.