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.
"Hail glory of Virgins, mediatrix of men, bearer of our salvation!" (Adam of St. Victor.)
God in governing the world, makes use of superior creatures to lead back those of an inferior order to Himself. In like manner, as regards the dispensation of divine grace, He has disposed that men, whom the sin of Adam had made His enemies, should be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ, the most beautiful and most perfect of all the children of men.
Our blessed Lord is of a truth infinitely superior to all other men in his sacred manhood, on account of the hypostatic union and of the super-eminent sanctity He possesses. He is, then, the perfect Mediator between God and the human race, according to the words of St. Paul: "For there is one God and one Mediator of God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. ii, 15.) Consequently, it is through Jesus Christ that our reconciliation with the Father was accomplished: "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." (2 Cor. v, 19.)
But the Lord, in His infinite bounty, chose to give us, besides this principal Mediator, other secondary mediators, whose office is to dispose us to receive the effects of the mediation of Jesus Christ. Thus are angels and saints, in some manner, secondary mediators for us with God: priests also, by cooperating with Our Saviour in perfecting our reconciliation with the Divine Majesty, become mediators for us, according to the words of St. Paul: "For Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us." (2 Cor. v, 20.)
The mediation of the Blessed Virgin is more excellent than that of any other creature whom God may have destined to cooperate with Jesus Christ in the work of our redemption. Mary is the rainbow, which St. John saw about the throne of God, like unto a most brilliant emerald. (2 Apoc. iv, 3.) If, then, the saints fulfill in our behalf the office of mediators with Jesus Christ, it is in some manner through Mary that they do so; and therefore Mary can be called truly our Mediatrix with the divine Redeemer.
Mary owes this dignity in the first place to the fact of her having been conceived without stain of original sin. By virtue of this stupendous miracle of the Most High, the human race could be presented to God, in the person of the peerless Virgin, in that state of innocence and integrity which Adam possessed before his fall. We may therefore say that Mary's Immaculate Conception was as the dayspring of our reconciliation with God, a work which Jesus Christ was afterward to bring about by His death on the cross.
Furthermore, the answer which Mary gave to the heavenly messenger who asked for her consent with regard to the fulfillment of the Incarnation, marked the beginning of our redemption, in as much as it forestalled the near rise of the Son of Justice.
Finally, as the first condition to be fulfilled as preliminary to the accomplishment of our reconciliation with the Divine Majesty, is a firm and sincere faith in the truths of revelation, we may say that Mary is also our Mediatrix in this respect; for not only did she bring forth, through faith, the Author of our salvation, but furthermore she herself practiced this virtue with a constancy and perfection, which won for her the words of encomium: "Blessed art thou, that hast believed." (Luke, i, 45.)
It is through Mary that we find access to Our Saviour's grace. It is therefore a duty, on our part, to manifest our gratitude to the Heavenly Father for having given us, in the mediation of the divine Mother, so efficacious a means of coming to Jesus. Ah, how truly may we say with St. Paul, that God wills the salvation of all men! (1 Tim. ii, 4.)
A lesson follows upon the truth we are considering. We, too, in imitation of Mary, should seek to fulfill, each according to his power, the office of mediator between God and our fellow-men. We may do this, in the first place, by the holiness of our own lives, that our good example may encourage others to turn back to God. Secondly, we should avail ourselves of the means we have of implanting in the soul of our neighbor the seeds of eternal truth, and withdrawing sinners from the path of perdition.
Example - St. Benedict Joseph Labre
St. Benedict Joseph Labre was born at Amettes, in France, on the twenty-sixth of March, 1748. At an early age he was moved by a heavenly inspiration to dedicate himself to God, and leaving his father's home he visited the more famous shrines of France and Italy. In following this kind of life, he would spare neither hardship nor austerity, his purpose being to obtain from God, through penance, the conversion of sinners, and the help of divine assistance for the Church in her needs.
The goal of his wanderings was Borne, whither he went on foot, begging his bread by the way. When in the Eternal City, he embraced a life so humble and mortified, as entirely to astonish the world. He was content with one garment and his food was very scanty; he did not trouble about seeking shelter for the night, but usually slept in the open or on the steps of some church.
His great devotion to the glorious Mother of God was his principal support in this extraordinary manner of life. It was his custom to visit the most renowned shrines dedicated to this. Holy Virgin which are venerated in the many churches of the Eternal City. He was wont to pass many hours in contemplation before the image of the Madonna dei Monti, which was especially dear to him. In his great devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows he went every morning to the Servite Church of San Marcello to assist at the recitation of the Rosary of Our Lady of Dolors and to assist at the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. He hoped in this way to obtain through the intercession of Our Lady a greater abundance of graces from her Son.
He never left Rome except to visit the most famous sanctuaries of Our Lady, especially that of Loreto, whither he often went as a poor and simple pilgrim. When he got there, it was his custom to spend whole days within the Holy House, absorbed in profound prayer. He was so enraptured, as to feel no desire for food.
Many were the heavenly favors he received there from the Blessed Virgin. Having returned to Rome, he was one morning praying before his favorite shrine of the Madonna dei Monti, when he had a presentiment of his approaching death. He was then carried from the church into a neighboring house where, after a few days, he died the death of the just. This was on the sixteenth of April, 1783. He was canonized by Leo Xlll, on the eighth of December, 1881.
O Mary, Ark of the New Testament, and our Mediatrix with Jesus Christ thy Son, we cast ourselves this day into thy maternal arms. Lead us back to Jesus and reconcile us with Him; and may the fruit of thy mediation be that we may treasure always with jealous care the gift of divine grace, so that we may never more be so unfortunate as to lose Jesus, our sole good and our last end. Amen.