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.
FAITH, the root and basis of our justification, is a supernatural gift which God bestows upon the soul, to guide it toward the possession of His love upon earth and of Himself in heaven. By the theological virtue of faith, our intellect believes the truths of revelation, and although it does not comprehend them, it nevertheless assents to them freely, but at the same time most firmly, as though these truths were made evident to it. Faith also keeps us from error, and holds always before our eyes the last end for which we were created, thus guiding our steps in the way of salvation.
Faith is, then, a priceless gift; beyond all comparison more desirable than all the reasoning's of philosophy, or the discoveries of men of science.
What disastrous ruin befalls the soul in which this heavenly light is quenched! If a man by mortal sin loses divine grace, he is not thereby altogether cut off from all means of recovery; his understanding still remains united to God, he still acknowledges God as his last end and the sole good which can fully satisfy the cravings of his soul. .But if unhappily he should lose faith, ah! then indeed, he is removed far from God, and the action of Christ's redemption cannot reach him.
Oh, how pitiful is the condition of the unbeliever, who is "without Christ, alien from the conversation of Israel and stranger to the testament, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world !" (Eph. ii, 12.)
Mary's faith was the most perfect that ever existed: it is consequently worthy to be proposed for our imitation. Jesus Christ by virtue of the hypo-static union, enjoyed continually the beatific vision of the Divine Essence. He could not consequently practice the virtue of faith. Pre-eminence, therefore, in the exercise of this virtue, belongs to Mary, who for this reason is called Queen of Confessors. That is why those whose lives are spent in disseminating in one way or another the Gospel of Jesus Christ, take Mary for their patroness. Mary, whose faith never waned, obtains for them that their preaching may prove fruitful in men's hearts.
However, the faith of no other confessor was ever put to such severe proof as Mary's. On the one hand, the lowly esteem she had of herself might well engender in her, doubts as to the reality of her titles of Mother of God and co-Redemptress of the human race; on the other hand, the self-abasement of Jesus, His labors and opprobrium might have been for her, as they were for so many, an occasion of scandal. Nothing, however, was able to shake her faith in her Son's divine origin and her belief in the office she herself was fulfilling in the work of our redemption. Thus she took her stand by the cross of the dying Jesus, and remained an unshaken witness both to the divinity and to the humanity of Jesus and of the truth of His supernatural mission.
This faith of the Virgin Mother, which shone out with such brightness amid the darkness of an unbelieving world, is indeed worthy of our admiration. Like a brilliant light-house placed upon a firm rock, Mary withstood the fiercest tempests, illuminating the world with the splendor of her faith.
From early childhood, Mary set herself to the practice of the virtue of faith, thus meriting so deep a penetration into the knowledge and love of God, that she came to possess more grace than can be found in the entire host of assembled Seraphim. Moreover, she had the happiness of seeing accomplished in her the promises made by the Angel, promises which she herself, with prophetic insight, celebrated in her triumph-song, the "Magnificat." This faith was, besides, the principle of her exaltation and the source of that singular power of intercession she was to possess forever in heaven.
Let us appeal to Mary, asking her to intercede for us, that the lamp of our faith may never be put out, tout that on the contrary this holy virtue may ever go on growing and increasing in our souls.
Example - St. Dominic
From his earliest years Dominic was much given to prayer, and he was especially devout to our blessed Lady, whom he chose for his Mother and Patroness. He successfully completed his studies at the University of Palenza and, on being raised to the priesthood, devoted himself with great zeal to the salvation of souls.
When his fervor and the purity of his faith became known, he was invited to preach against the Albigenses, a sect of heretics who at that time were infesting the district of Toulouse. He willingly accepted this task, but at first did not see his labors blessed with abundant fruits. He then begged our blessed Lady to inspire him with a more effective way of fulfilling his difficult office. This glorious Virgin appeared to him and told him how easily he could combat the heretics, if he would practice the recital of the Angelical Salutation in the form of the Rosary, according to the method which she herself explained to him. St. Dominic at once began to propagate this great devotion and soon gained a great victory over this heresy.
He was most devout to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. He transcribed the teaching concerning this truth in a book, which was thrice submitted to the trial of fire in the presence of heretics and each time the book remained unharmed in the midst of the flames. He was indefatigable in this crusade and was continually preaching the word of God and bringing sinners to repentance. He obtained most abundant fruits by the propagation of the devotion of the holy Rosary, which was most dear to him.
From Toulouse, the practice of reciting the holy Rosary spread to other regions, producing everywhere the best results. It was approved and richly indulgenced by several Roman Pontiffs. Dominic, in his ardent zeal for God's glory, founded the Order of Friars Preachers, whose end it was to combat heresy and defend the truths of our holy religion with the help of Our Lady. He died peacefully on the sixth of August, 1221.
O Mary, look down on us, poor sinners, with a gaze of pity, and see with how many dangers our faith is encompassed, on the part of the world and of the devil. O Mother of Mercy, present our humble supplication, reinforced by thine intercession, before the throne of the Most High, as we say with the Apostles: "Lord, we believe: do thou increase our faith." (Luke, xvii, 5.) Amen.