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.
AFFLICTION, the inseparable associate of man during his earthly pilgrimage, is the natural consequence of the ills that befall us, either from within or from without. Bereavement, loss of fortune, calumny, malpractices designed against us, are so many causes of exterior affliction. Sickness, temptation, trouble, and, above all, the thought of having offended God by sin, and the danger we run of offending Him again—these and such like things give rise in us to interior sufferings.
Earthly goods are all insufficient to console us in the midst of so many evils. They may assuage our bitterness in part, but when all is said and done, they leave nought but an aching in our hearts, and are powerless to fortify us against fresh miseries.
As an offset against the ills of life, the infinite goodness of God has prepared for us, in the ever-present aid of the most Holy Virgin, a copious source of consolation, for which indeed we ought to be grateful. It is enough to have recourse to this Mother of mercy, to be assured of receiving from her a prompt relief in the pains of life, a balm for the wounded heart, a comfort in the woes and calamities which overwhelm us.
Just as Jesus Christ invited us to seek our consolation in Him, when He said: "Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you," (Matt, xi, 28.) thus also Mary holds out to us, in the midst of the sorrows of this life, the most soothing comfort: "Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits." (Ecclus. xxiv, 26.)
Mary's power to comfort the wretched arises mainly from this, that she above all others has known sorrow. As the inseparable companion of Jesus, during the thirty-three years of His mortal life, Mary partook of all His sufferings. With Him she felt the pinch of poverty, experiencing all manner of privations. The reproaches of them that reproached Jesus fell also upon her; (Ps. lxviii, 10.) and when the disciples forsook their Divine Master one by one, Mary followed Him faithfully even tot Calvary, there to drink with Him to the dregs His bitter chalice. Even after the Saviour had ended His mortal life of labor and toil, Mary continued to live on and suffer, until it pleased God to call her to Himself.
Mary's faith and constancy joined with her inviolable attachment to the teachings of her Son are in themselves a source of consolation to us. For, this divine Mother teaches us, by her example, never to despair of divine assistance. She animates us to persevere in our good undertakings, whatever difficulties may oppose us. By obtaining for us, through her mediation, a large share in the virtue of the cross, she changes our sorrows into liveliest joys, as formerly the wood pointed out by God to Moses changed the bitter waters of the desert into sweet. (Exod. xv, 25.)
If we have recourse to Mary in time of affliction, not only shall we receive from her consolation in our pains, but we shall also learn by her example to value at their proper worth the crosses wherewith Our Lord is pleased to visit us.
The time of suffering is by far the most precious time of this life; for it is then that the opportunity comes of practicing the highest virtues.
These virtues are: faith in the wise ordering of Divine Providence, trust in the assistance of Heaven, and charity, both toward God, who allows us to be afflicted, and toward our neighbor, who may perhaps be the cause of our sufferings. The time of afflictions is then most precious, though we, alas! oftentimes value it at so low a rate. "If thou hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace." (Luke, xix, 42.)
Beware, O my soul, of ever murmuring or losing patience. Bear all things with peace and joy, in company with Jesus Crucified and His sorrowing Mother. Recall to mind these comforting words of Our Saviour: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matt, v, 15.)
Example - Blessed Bionda Foschi
Blessed Bionda Foschi, the owner of the ancient castle of Verrucchio, was a noble and pious gentlewoman adorned with the most precious gifts of mind and heart, and reverenced and loved not only by her dependents, but also by all with whom she came into contact.
Having been, while still young, given in matrimony to Count Foschi, she soon had the misfortune to lose him and this loss was followed by another, for the whole family were thrown into poverty and indigence by a rival faction. One consolation, however, yet remained to Bionda in the person of her little son, whom she loved dearly. She instructed him with great care in piety and the fear of God.
It happened that her enemies, not satisfied with the vengeance they had wrought on the rest of the family, directed their hatred against this innocent child, whom they finally put to death.
What were the anguish and desolation of Bionda to find herself so barbarously treated after so many misfortunes! But what was she now to do? Was she to give way to despair, or take vengeance on her enemies? She did neither. She turned her eyes to Our Lady of Sorrows, to whom she had always shown a tender devotion. By contemplating Mary standing at the foot of the cross and assisting sorrowfully at the death of her Divine Son, Bionda found consolation in her grief. She felt within her soul the calm of heavenly peace and her heart breathed forth a generous pardon for her enemies. Conquering the feelings of nature, she forgave her foes and this pardon proved dearer to her heart than any vengeance.
This heroic sacrifice on the part of Bionda was most pleasing to God who searches the hearts of men. He gave her in return to realize the nothingness of this world, and deigned to call her to a life of perfection among the Servants of His most Holy Mother. In her new state, Bionda devoted herself entirely to the way of perfection and, with the help of divine grace, she attained to so great a degree of sanctity as to merit to work many miracles during her life and also after her death. She was ever invoked as Blessed by the voice of the people. 1
O most Holy Virgin, who art fitly called the Consoler of the Afflicted, obtain for me of Jesus Christ thy Son, the grace never to lose heart in the day of trouble, and to seek no comfort but in Jesus and thyself. Grant that I may ever have confidence in thy maternal heart pierced with the sword of sorrow, and that I may find therein my true and only consolation. Amen.
1 From the Annals of the Order of the Servants of Mary.