MARY, MOTHER OF MERCY: Refuge For Even The Hardest, Most Despairing Sinners! (part 3)

To love and venerate Mary means to honor her in God and God in her, so that He is the goal and object of all such love and veneration.

– St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

(Words taken from ‘The Glories of Mary’ by St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church):

+ 12. In one of our missions, after the sermon on Mary which it is our custom to preach, a very old man came to one of the Fathers of our congregation, to make his confession. He was full of consolation, and said: “Our Lady has done me a favor.” “And what favor has she done you?” asked the confessor. “For thirty-five years, Father, I have made sacrilegious confessions, because I was ashamed of one sin, and yet I have passed through many dangers, and have been several times at the point of death, and if I had died then I certainly should have been lost; and now our Lady has done me the favor to touch my heart;” and when he said this he wept so bitterly, that he seemed to be all tenderness. After the Father had heard his confession, he asked him what devotion he had practised, and he answered that he had never failed on Saturday to keep a strict fast in honor of Mary, and therefore the Virgin had taken pity on him, and he gave the Father permission to publish the fact in his sermons.

+ 13. In the country of Normandy a certain robber was beheaded, and his head was thrown into a trench; but afterwards it was heard crying: “Mary, give me confession.” A priest went to him and heard his confession; and questioning him as to his practices of devotion, the robber answered that he had no other except that of fasting one day of the week in honor of the holy Virgin, and that for this our Lady had obtained for him the grace to be delivered from hell by that confession.

+ 15. There was once in Germany a certain criminal condemned to death; but he was obstinate and refused to make his confession, though a Jesuit father did his utmost to convert him. He entreated him, he wept, he cast himself at his feet; but seeing that all was in vain, he finally said: “Let us recite a Hail Mary.” No sooner had the criminal recited it than he began to cry bitterly, made his confession with much compunction, and wished to die clasping the image of Mary.

+ 16. In a city of Spain there lived a sinful man who had given himself to the devil, and had never been to confession. He did nothing good but say a “Hail Mary” every day. Father Eusebius Nierembergh relates, that when this man was at the point of death the most holy Virgin appeared to him in a dream and looked on him; her kind eyes so changed him that he immediately sent for a confessor, made his confession with a voice broken by sobs, made a vow to become a religious if he should live, and then died.

+ 25. A noble youth, named Eschylus, being bent by the prince his Father to Hildesheim, a city of Saxony, to study, abandoned himself to a dissolute life. He fell ill, and was near dying, and while in that state he had a vision. He saw himself shut up in a furnace of fire, and believed himself to be already in hell; and then he escaped from it through a hole and took refuge in a great place, where he found the most holy Mary in the hall, and she said to him: “Rash man, dost thou dare to appear before me? Depart from here and go to the flames which thou dost merit.” The young man besought the Virgin to have mercy on him, and then turned to some persons who were near, and implored them to recommend him to Mary. They did so, and the divine mother answered: “You do not know the sinful life he has led, and that he had not even thought of saying a Hail Mary in my honor.” But his advocates answered: “Oh Lady, he will change his life;” and the youth added: “Yes, I promise really to amend, and I will be thy servant.” Then the Virgin’s anger was appeased, and she said to him: “Well, I accept your promise; be faithful to me, and meanwhile, with my blessing, be delivered from hell and death.” When she had said this, the Virgin disappeared. Eschylus came to himself, and blessing Mary, related to others the grace he had received. He led ever after a holy life, always preserving a great affection towards the blessed Virgin, and was made Archbishop of the Church of Lude, in Denmark, where he converted many to the faith. Towards the close of his life, being old, he resigned the archbishopric and became a monk of Clairvaux, where he lived four years, and died a holy death. Hence he has been numbered by some writers among the saints of the Cistercian order.

+ 31. In Braganza there lived another youth who left the confraternity and abandoned himself to such vicious courses, that one day in despair, he was going to throw himself into a river. But first he turned to our Lady and said: “Oh Mary, I have served thee in the confraternity, wilt thou help me?” The most holy Virgin appeared to him and said: “What art thou doing? Dost thou wish to destroy both soul and body? Go, make thy confession, and return to the confraternity.” The youth, encouraged by this, thanked the Virgin, and amended his life.  

+ 35. In the year 1610, there lived in Turin an obstinate heretic, who even on his death-bed would not be converted by all that was said to him by the various priests who were with him for eight successive days. At length one of them, almost by force, brought him to have recourse to Mary, with these words: Mother of Jesus, help me: “Mater Jesu, assiste mihi.” And the heretic, as if awakened from sleep, exclaimed, “I will die a Catholic;” and indeed he became reconciled to the Church, and died in two hours.

+ 51. A certain canon, while he was repeating some devotions in honor of the divine mother, fell into the river Seine and was drowned, and being in mortal sin, the devils came to take him to hell. But Mary appeared at the same time, and said to them: “How have you dared to take possession of one who died praising me?” Then turning to the sinner, she said: “Repent, and be particularly devout to my Conception.” He was restored to life, became a religious, and never ceased to thank his deliverer, and everywhere to propagate the devotion to her Immaculate Conception.

+ 72. A person of impure life who had not the courage to quit his sins, began to say the Rosary, and was delivered from his vices.

+ 73. Another person who maintained a sinful friendship was seized with abhorrence of his sin by saying the Rosary. He yielded again to temptation, but by means of the Rosary finally freed himself from it.

+ 78. In the city of Cesena there lived two very bad men who were friends. One of them, named Bartholomew, in the midst of all his vices practised the devotion of reciting every day the “Stabat Mater” in honor of the sorrowful Mary. Once when he was repeating this hymn, Bartholomew had a vision, in which he seemed to stand with his sinful companion in a lake of fire, and saw the most holy Virgin, moved to pity, offer her hand and take him from the flames. She directed him to seek pardon from Jesus Christ, who showed himself willing to pardon him through the prayers of his mother. The vision ended, and Bartholomew at the moment heard the intelligence that his friend had been mortally wounded and was dead. Then he knew the truth of the vision, and quitting the world, entered the order of Capuchins, where he led a most austere life, and died in the fame of sanctity.