MARY, MOTHER OF MERCY: Refuge For Even The Hardest, Most Despairing Sinners! (part 2)

Following from the last post, which contained many quotes/revelations about the mercy of Mary (which we must never forget is a manifestation of the mercy of God), this post will share several stories about the mercy of Mary and God.

Again, all words are taken from ‘The Glories of Mary’ by St. Alphonsus Liguori:

+ This example is not recorded in any book, but a priest, a companion of mine, related it to me, as having happened to himself. Whilst this priest was hearing confessions in a certain church (for sufficient reasons he did not mention the place where this occurred, although the penitent gave him leave to publish the fact), a youth stood before him, who appeared to wish and not to wish to come to confession. The Father, after looking at him several times, at length called him, and asked him if he wished to make his confession. He answered, yes; but as he required a long time for it, the confessor took him into a retired room. There the penitent began by telling him that he was a foreigner, and of noble birth, but he could not believe that it was possible for God to pardon him after the life he had led. Besides innumerable other sins he had committed of impurity, homicide, etc., he said, that being entirely in despair of salvation, he had set about committing sins, not so much for his own gratification, as to defy God, and manifest the hatred he bore him. He said, that among other things, he had with him a crucifix, which he had beaten out of contempt. He said that just before, on that very morning, he had made a sacrilegious communion, and for what object? That he might put under his feet the consecrated wafer. And that, in fact, he had actually received, and was about to put in execution this horrible intention, but was prevented by the people who observed him. He then consigned to the confess or the consecrated host, wrapped in a paper, and told him that as he was passing by that church he had a great desire to enter. He could not resist this desire, and had entered. That then he felt great remorse of conscience, together with a certain confused and irresolute desire to make his confession. For this reason he had placed himself before the confessional, but while standing there he felt so confused and timid, that he wished to go away, but it seemed as if someone had retained him by force: “Until,” he said, “you, Father, called me; and now I find myself here; I find myself making my confession; but I know not how to do it.” The Father then asked him if he had practised any act of devotion during that time; meaning towards the most holy Mary; for such sudden conversions only come through the powerful hands of the Virgin. “None, Father; what devotion could I offer,” answered the youth, when I believed myself lost?” “But try to remember more carefully,” replied the Father. “Father, nothing.” But accidentally putting his hand to his breast, he remembered that he wore the Scapular of the Seven Dolors of Mary: “Maria addolorata.” “Ah, my son,” said the confessor to him, “do you not see that our blessed Lady has bestowed this grace upon you? And know,” he added, “that this church is a church of our blessed Lady.” Hearing this, the youth was moved to contrition, and began to weep. He confessed his sins, and his compunction increased to such a degree that, bursting into tears, he fell, overcome with grief, as it seemed, at the feet of the Father, who, having restored him by a cordial, finally finished hearing his confession, and absolved him with the greatest consolation, as he was entirely contrite and resolved to amend his life. The Father sent him back to his own country after having obtained from him full liberty to preach and publish everywhere the great mercy exercised by Mary towards him.

+ Father Engelgrave relates, that a certain religious was so tormented by scruples, that sometimes he was almost driven to despair, but having great devotion to Mary, the mother of sorrows, he had recourse to her in the agony of his spirit, and was much comforted by contemplating her dolors. Death came, and the devil tormented him more than ever with scruples, and tempted him to despair. When, behold our merciful mother, seeing her poor son so afflicted, appeared to him, and said to him: “And why, oh my son, art thou so overcome with sorrow, thou who hast so often consoled me by thy compassion for my sorrows? Be comforted”, she said to him; “Jesus sends me to thee to console thee; be comforted, rejoice, and come with me to paradise.” And at these words the devout religious tranquilly expired, full of consolation and confidence.

+ When St. Francis Borgia was in Rome, an ecclesiastic came to speak with him; but the saint being much occupied, sent Father Acosta to him. The ecclesiastic said to him: “Father, I am a priest and a preacher, but I live in sin, and distrust the divine mercy. After preaching a sermon one day against the obstinate, who afterwards despair of pardon, a person came to me to make his confession, who narrated to me all my sins, and at length told me that he despaired of the divine mercy. In order to do my duty, I told him that he must change his life, and trust in God; then that penitent rose to his feet and reproached me, saying: And you, who preach thus to others, why do you not amend, and why do you distrust ? Know, said he, that I am an angel come to your aid; amend and you will be pardoned. And when he had said this he disappeared. I abstained for several days from my sinful practices, but when temptation came I again returned to my sins. On another day, as I was celebrating Mass, Jesus Christ sensibly spoke to me from the host, and said: Why dost thou thus maltreat me, when I treat thee so well? After this I resolved to amend, but at the next temptation fell again into sin. A few hours ago, a youth came to me in my apartment, and drew from under his mantle a chalice, and from this a consecrated host, saying: Do you know this Lord whom I hold in my hand? Do you remember how many favours he has done you? Now behold the punishment of your ingratitude, and saying this he drew a sword to kill me. I then cried: For the love of Mary do not kill me, for I will indeed amend. And then he said: This was the only thing that could save you: make a good use of this grace, for this is the last mercy for you. When he had said this he left me, and I came immediately here, praying you to receive me among you.” Father Acosta consoled him, and the priest, by the advice also of St. Francis, entered another order of strict observance, where he persevered in holiness till his death. (Perhaps this is the story related by St. John Vianney in his ‘Catechism on Hope’? A section from this catechism can be found on this website)

+ The devout author of the book in honour of the most holy Rosary, entitled, The Secret of every Grace, relates that St. Vincent Ferrer once said to a man dying in despair: “Why will you ruin yourself when Jesus Christ wishes to save you?” And he answered, that in spite of Christ he would be damned. The saint replied: “And you, in spite of yourself, shall be saved.” He began to recite the Rosary with the persons of the house, and behold, the sick man asked to make his confession, made it weeping, and then died.

+ A certain nobleman who was despairing of his eternal salvation on account of his sins, was encouraged by a religious to have recourse to the most holy Virgin, by visiting her sacred image which was in a certain church. The nobleman went to the church, and on seeing the figure of Mary he felt himself, as it were, invited by her to cast himself at her feet and trust. He hastens to do so, kisses her feet, and Mary, from the statue, extended her hand for him to kiss, and on it he saw these words written: “I will deliver thee from them that afflict thee.” As if she had said to him: My son, do not despair, for 1 will deliver thee from thy sins, and from the fears that oppress thee. It is related that on reading these sweet words, that sinner felt such sorrow for his sins, and conceived such a love for God, and for his sweet mother that he died there at the feet of Mary. Oh, how many obstinate sinners does this magnet of hearts draw daily to God, as she herself said to St. Bridget: “As the magnet attracts to itself iron, thus I draw to myself the most obdurate hearts, that I may reconcile them to God.” and this prodigy is not rarely, but daily experienced. I could myself testify to many cases that have occurred in our missions alone, where sinners who have remained harder than iron during all other sermons, while hearing that on the mercy of Mary, were touched with compunction, and turned to God. St Gregory relates that the unicorn is so ferocious a wildbeast, that no hunter can succeed in taking it; but at the voice of a maiden who calls upon him to surrender, he draws near, and without resistance allows himself to be bound by her. Oh, how many sinners, more fierce than wild beasts, who flee from God, at the sound of the voice of this great Virgin Mary, advance and allow themselves to be gently bound by her to God!

There are many other stories like these (e.g. in the lives of the saints), but these few should suffice to enkindle our hope in and love for God, and Our Mother, Mary. St. Alphonsus tells a powerful story involving a penitent of St. Dominic. This sinful woman had led many others to be lost (perhaps through scandal), but Our Lady obtained mercy for this poor sinner. Mary instilled a holy fear of God in to this soul, as well as a profound gratitude. Like this blessed soul, we should bear in mind the great mercy that Mary and God have shown us, lest we fall back into our sinful habits. Let us cultivate profound humility and love of God for having been favoured above so many others, for whom we must pray! Thanks be to God!