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.
BY THE gift of piety, the Holy Ghost inspires us to love God as our Father, to whom we pay that respect, honor and worship, which a dutiful son renders to the author of his days, according to the words of St. Paul: "You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry Abba (Father)." (John, iii, 1.)
The gift of piety acts upon our hearts as fire upon. wax. It softens them, so that they become capable of receiving the impressions of God's fatherly love; it fills them with tender affection, mingled with profound reverence for all that appertains to the divine worship. Under the influence of this impression, we can say with St. John: "Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God." (Rom. viii, 15.)
This spirit prompts us to open our hearts to God, in all confidence and simplicity, to hold sweet converse with Him, characterized by the most ardent love and perfect freedom.
That filial and reverential love, which the gift of piety engenders in our hearts, includes, after God, all those who are more intimately united with Him: angels, saints, priests, and so forth. The word of God also, contained" in Holy Writ, becomes through the gift of piety an object of peculiar love and respect.
O Lord, enrich my soul with this precious gift, for none is so much a father as Thou art, nor is any one so tender and compassionate: Tarn pater nemo, tarn pius nemo. (Tertull, De Poenit., c. viii.)
Were it given us to contemplate the soul of Mary, we should be carried away with admiration for the sentiments of divine love wherewith the gift of piety had inspired her, a spectacle fit to replenish us with holy joy. What sweetness of intercourse with the Spouse of her soul! What confidence in her abandonment to God's providence amid her sorrows! What generosity in her transports of love! What loftiness of aspiration! What conformity to the divine will in the trials of life! What ardor and singleness of purpose in her quest for her Master's glory! What bitter grief at the sight of the outrages heaped upon her Well-Beloved!
It was this same gift of piety which prompted her to devote her energies to the service of the Temple, esteeming this above all the most splendid palaces of kings. It was likewise this gift which inspired her with a holy veneration for the Sacred Scriptures, and above all for the oral utterances of her Son Jesus Christ, for we read that she "kept all these words in her heart." (Luke, ii, 51.) She entertained also for her guardian angel an especial love and reverence. In fine, although she saw the apostles so inferior to herself in grace and virtue, nevertheless she esteemed them as the ministers of her Son, and loved them with a true mother's love.
The gift of piety not only makes us love and Tenerate God as our Father and exhibit the highest reverence for whatsoever is consecrated to Him, it moves us furthermore to minister to the needs of those whom we know to be corporally or spiritually destitute.
The corporal works of mercy are seven in number: to feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty; to harbor the harborless; to clothe the naked; to visit the sick: to comfort prisoners; to redeem captives; to bury the dead.—The spiritual works of mercy are also seven: to instruct the ignorant; to admonish sinners; to counsel the doubting; to console the afflicted; to bear injuries patiently; to forgive offenses; to pray for the living and the dead.
It were hard to tell the perfection with which Mary practiced these different works of mercy. One thing, however, is certain, that the vice of envy, which is opposed to the gift of piety, never entered into her immaculate heart.
Example - Blessed Matthew of Citta Della Pieve
Blessed Matthew Lazzari was born in Cittk della Pieve, in Umbria, toward the end of the thirteenth century. While yet a boy, he resolved to dedicate himself entirely to God, in one of the Religious Orders approved by the Church, in order to render himself more pleasing to the Divine Majesty. Among the different Orders which presented themselves, he chose that of the Servants of Mary, on account of the special devotion which he bore to the Mother of God desiring thus to consecrate himself entirely to her service.
He therefore sought to be admitted into this Order, which possessed a monastery in his native town. He was admitted among the students, and as he was found to possess extraordinary mental ability, he was sent to the celebrated university of Paris to learn the human and divine sciences.
So much did he apply himself to study, that he gained the degree of Doctor of Divinity and returned to his native country with the aureola of theological knowledge, to which was added that of a special sanctity. On this account he was entrusted by his Order with many important offices, all of which he fulfilled to universal satisfaction, until in 1344, the Sovereign Pontiff, Clement VI, placed him at the head of his Order, which he governed till his death.
He was very devout to Our Lady and loved to venerate her in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception. He was most ardent in the defense of this truth. By his preaching and conversation, he used to propose this beautiful devotion to the faithful. In public disputes he always sided with those who held the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. In his position as Superior General of the Order, he found a means of inducing a great number of people to share in these pious sentiments of devotion to Mary, not neglecting to bring them into his public acts and invoking her powerful patronage for the benefit of his own religious brethren. Moreover, he was accustomed to use the following invocation when imparting to them his blessing: "May the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary be your safeguard and protection."
Full of years and merits, he was summoned to the joys of Heaven in the year of Our Lord 1348. Immediately after his death he was invoked by the people as "Blessed" although his cult has not yet been recognized by the Church. (From the Annals of the Order of the Servants of Mary.)
O Mary, whose piety was far more perfect than that of the patriarchs, and whose maternal bosom is open to all, obtain for me, I beseech thee, always to have such love and reverence for God, my Heavenly Father, that I may never cease to labor for His honor and glory, and that I may endeavor also to alleviate, as far as lies in me, the woes and afflictions of my neighbor. Amen.