The Devil’s Greatest Enemy (Pt. 1): Mary, the New Queen Esther

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Every Kingdom Has Its Queen

Every kingdom has its Queen. The Kingdom of Heaven is no different: Mary, the Mother of God is its Queen, as we shall see. Yes, she is our Queen and Mother. “The Mother of God,” St. Stanislaus Kotska would exclaim, almost ecstatically, “is my Mother!” What joy is ours, what dignity! By baptism, we are of royal birth!

The Woman That Crushes Satan’s Head
Let the praise of Mary be on every tongue, for she is the woman chosen by God to crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gen. 3:15); she is the New Eve, the true ‘Mother of all the living’ (Gen. 3:20), who nourishes us with the blessed Fruit of her virginal womb (Lk. 1:42). ‘She is a tree of Life to them that lay hold on her: and he that shall retain her is blessed’ (Prov. 3:18). God alone can fathom Mary’s greatness: ‘For every tree is known by its fruit’ (Lk. 6:44).

A Remedy to Bad Mariology
If you doubt Mary’s greatness; if you struggle with the thought of invoking her intercession, read the Church Fathers: they will put you on the right path; they will help you to understand the mystical sense of the Scriptures; they will shed much light on the typological reading of the Scriptures (the manna from Heaven, for example, is a type of the Eucharist; King Solomon is a type of Christ, and so on).

Now let us examine some of the Scriptures that speak of Esther, a type of Our Lady. Pay close attention to the clear connections with Mary’s Magnificat (in red).

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THE BOOK OF ESTHER: A FORESHADOWING OF MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS

+ CHAPTER 2

Exceedingly Beautiful
‘… exceeding fair and beautiful.’ (v. 7)
‘With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out: proceed prosperously, and reign.’ (Ps. 44:5)

Finds Favour With God
‘And she pleased Him, and found favour in His sight.’ (v. 9)
St. Gabriel the Archangel: ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.’ (Lk. 1:30)

Amiable to All
‘… her incredible beauty made her appear agreeable and amiable in the eyes of all.’ (v. 15)
‘Wither is thy Beloved gone, O thou most beautiful among women? Wither is thy Beloved turned aside, and we will seek Him with thee?’ (Cant. 5:17)

The King’s Favourite Daughter
‘And the King loved her more than all the women: and she had favour and kindness before Him above all the women.’ (v. 17)
St. Gabriel the Archangel: ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.’ (Lk. 1:28)

Queen of Heaven
‘And He set the royal crown on her head, and made her Queen…’ (v. 17)
‘The Queen stood on Thy right hand, in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.’ (Ps. 44:10; cf. Cant. 3:11)

The Littlest and Therefore the Greatest Saint
‘For whatsoever He commanded, Esther observed: and she did all things in the same manner as she was wont at that time when He brought her up, a little one.’ (v. 20)
Mary: ‘Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid… all generations shall call me blessed.’ (Lk. 1:48)

+ CHAPTER 5

Almoner of Divine Mercy
‘And the King said to her: What wilt thou, Queen Esther? If thou shouldst even ask one half of the Kingdom, it shall be given to thee.’ (v. 3; v. 6; Esth. 7:2)
‘And the King said to her: My Mother, ask: for I must not turn away thy face.’ (3 Kg. 2:20)

+ CHAPTER 10

Brings Forth Christ, the Sun of Justice and Fount of Life
‘The little fountain which grew into a river, and was turned into a light, and into the sun, and abounded into many waters, is Esther, whom the King married, and made Queen.’ (v. 5, 6)
‘And behold my brook became a great river, and my river came near to a sea. For I make doctrine to shine forth to all as to the morning light…’ (Ecclus. 24:43-44)

+ CHAPTER 14

Loves the Church and Her Liturgy
Esther: ‘They design to change Thy promises, and destroy Thy inheritance, and shut the mouths of them that praise Thee, and extinguish the glory of the temple and altar…’ (v. 9)
‘And the third day, there was a marriage… And the Wine failing, the Mother of Jesus saith to Him: They have no Wine.’ (Jn. 2:1, 3)

Rejoices in God Alone
Esther: ‘… Thy handmaid hath never rejoiced, since I was brought hither unto this day, but in Thee, O Lord, the God of Abraham.’ (v. 18)
Mary: ‘And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.’ (Lk. 1:47)

+ CHAPTER 15

Powerful Advocate
‘And do thou call upon the Lord; and speak to the King for us; and deliver us from death.’ (v. 3)
‘Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.’ (Heb. 4:16; cf. Wis. 31:26)

N.B. All Scripture quotations are taken from the Douay Rheims.
Certain words (e.g. personal pronouns) have been capitalized, so as to highlight the spiritual meaning of the text. See Esther 15:3 above, for example.

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7 Years a Slave

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‘The Ascent of the Blessed’ by Hieronymous Bosch (edited)

MAY 14  – Blessed Egidius (or Giles) of Portugal, Confessor (A.D. 1183-1265)

“EGIDIUS (or GILES) RODRIGUEZ was born of noble parents at Vouzella in Portugal about A.D. 1183. His family destined him for the ecclesiastical state and sent him for his education to Coimbra, where he became eminent as a philosopher and devoted himself to the study of medicine. Several rich benefices had been obtained for him; but the young man entirely neglected his sacred obligations and even entered into an unholy compact with Satan, which he signed with his own blood.

For seven years he is said to have studied magic in the caves of Toledo under his infernal master. When he reappeared amongst men, he was found to be endowed with a marvellous power over the elements and able to cure the most inveterate diseases. He took his degree at Paris as doctor in medicine and established his reputation by numerous and striking cures, evidently surpassing human power, whilst his life was one of unbridled iniquity.

But God in His infinite mercy had decreed to change this unhappy slave of the devil into one of His own most faithful and loving servants. One night, as Egidius was pursuing his unholy studies with the doors locked upon him, an armed horseman of gigantic stature suddenly appeared before him, and, shaking his lance, exclaimed in terrific accents, “Change thy life! Change thy life, I tell thee.” The vision disappeared and the trembling Egidius cast a remorseful glance on the miserable past. But his bad habits soon regained the mastery. Then the fearful apparition came a second time, charged full upon the unhappy sinner, and hurled him to the ground, exclaiming thrice, “Change thy life or I will slay thee.” “I will change, Lord, I will change; pardon my delay,” faltered the miserable man. He rose an altered being.

His first act was to consign all his books of magic to the flames. He then set out for Spain, took the habit of a Friar Preacher in the newly founded Convent of Palencia about A.D. 1220, and fervently entered upon a course of penance and devotion.

But for seven years (the same term as that of his unholy apprenticeship to Satan) no comfort came to his anguished soul. Terrifying visions of demons continually assailed him and the thought of the contract signed with his own blood and binding him to the Evil One filled him with fear and remorse. Yet he persevered in prayer and penance, continually commending himself to her who is the Refuge of sinners and who is never invoked in vain. One night, when he was exposed to the most terrible assaults of the demons, the paper of his contract was suddenly and violently thrown on the ground before him, and an infernal voice cried aloud that Mary had conquered. Egidius took the bond, felt himself freed from his sufferings, and for the first time tasted the consolations of a soul perfectly at rest.

From that time, he became as distinguished for his holiness and his seraphic love of God as he had formerly been for his apostasy and rebellion. He bore in particular a most tender devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, the mere casual utterance of which often had the power to cast him into ecstasy. He became one of the most celebrated religious of his time, and was more than once Provincial of the Order in Spain. His miracles were very numerous, and his power over the evil spirits who had so long and so cruelly tyrannised over him was exhibited in many wonderful ways. One of his favourite maxims was that we must forget ourselves in the service of our neighbour, and that the salvation of souls must take precedence of all private devotions.

There is something singularly attractive in the picture which is left us of the life and practices of this wonderful man. He would take advantage of the time when the Brethren were in the schools to clean and tidy their cells for them and would render the lowliest services to the sick. Being naturally of a cheerful and loquacious disposition, he found extreme difficulty in practising the rule of silence; but, understanding this to be a temptation of the devil, he resolved to live in strict retirement in his cell; and so generously did he overcome himself in this matter, that thenceforth he was hardly ever heard to utter a useless word. If anyone needed his help, he would at once lay aside his own occupation and hasten with a joyful countenance to render the desired service. His whole bearing attracted souls to the love of the Order and to the practice of poverty and obedience. He was ever ready to console the tempted and to render the humblest services to the sick Brethren.

When the hour of his death drew nigh, he caused a hair-cloth to be stretched upon the ground, and, extending himself upon it, received the Last Sacraments and spoke words of consolation to his weeping Brethren. Then he raised his hands to heaven, saying, “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit;” after which, stretching forth his arms in the form of a cross, without agony, he happily departed this life on the Feast of the Ascension, A.D. 1265.”*

Benedict XIV. approved the veneration which had always been paid to Blessed Egidius in the Dominican Order and the kingdom of Portugal.

Source: ‘Short Lives of the Dominican Saints,’ Paternoster House, 1901

*Some Dominican historians have cast doubt on certain elements of this story. Are these doubts justified? That question, unfortunately, is beyond my competence. But I can say this much: Bl. Bartolo Longo is surely not the only former slave of Satan who now dwells in the courts of Paradise!

[Update: I don’t always have much time on a Sunday to work on the blog, but I certainly plan to continue with it. There is plenty of material in the pipeline.]

The Eucharist and a Conversation Between Christ and a Demon

In the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden we find many illuminating – and often fascinating – revelations on a range of topics. In Book 4, Chapter 63 of her Revelations, we encounter some words that are particularly pertinent to our times. This chapter details a conversation between Our Lord and a demon who had previously attempted to deceive St. Bridget in order to nullify her faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Below is a sample of this conversation.

A demon with an enormous belly appeared to the bride [St. Bridget] and said: “… Do you not see with your eyes and hear with the ears of your body the sound of the breaking of the material bread of the host? … Even if it is possible for God to be in the mouth of the righteous, how can he stoop to come to the unrighteous whose greed is without limit or measure?”

… The Lord said [to the demon]: “… Did I not say that he who eats My flesh shall have eternal life? And you say that it is a lie and that no one eats My flesh. Hence, my people are [according to the demon] more idolatrous than those who worship stones and trees… Was my body that Thomas touched after my resurrection a spiritual or corporeal body? If it was corporeal, how did it pass through the locked doors? But, if it was spiritual, how was it visible to corporeal eyes?”

The devil answered: “… I state that you were both corporeal and spiritual after rising from the dead. It is because of the eternal power of your Divinity and because of a special privilege of your glorified Flesh that you can enter anywhere and be present everywhere.”

The Lord said further: “Tell Me, when Moses’ staff was turned into a serpent, was it only the image of a serpent or was it completely a serpent both inside and outside? And tell Me again, the leftover bread in those baskets, was it really and wholly bread or just the image of bread?”

The devil answered: “The entire staff became a serpent, what was in the baskets was entirely bread, and it was entirely done by Your power and might.”

The Lord said: “Is it more difficult or more miraculous for Me to perform a similar miracle now than it was then, if I please? Or, if My glorified Flesh could pass through the locked doors then, why can It not be in the hands of the priests now? Does it, perhaps, entail an effort for My Divinity to unite that which is least with that which is heavenly, the earthly with the most sublime? Certainly not. But, father of lies, just as you excel in wickedness, so too my love is and always shall be upon all creatures… I create something out of nothing and a visible thing out of an invisible one. I can reveal something through a visible sign and shape that, however, truly is one thing in what is signified, yet is seen as something else.”

… Then the Son of God spoke once more: “… If you believe that I am in the hands of the priest, even if the priest doubts it, then I am truly in his hands due to the faith of the believers and those present, as well as due to the words that I myself established and uttered. Everyone who receives Me receives both My Divine and Human natures as well as the form [appearance, accidents] of bread.

… What is My humanity if not an active body, the conjunction of God and man, the Head of all Christians?

Therefore, those who believe in God and receive His Body receive the Divine nature as well, for they receive life. They also receive the human nature by which God and man are joined. Again, they receive the form of bread, because the One who is hidden as to his own form is received beneath a different form as a test of faith. Likewise, wicked persons also receive the same divinity but as a stern judge rather than an affectionate friend. They receive his human nature as well, though less easily appeased. They also receive the form of bread, for they receive the truth hidden beneath the visible form, but it is not sweet to them.”

7 Signs of The Holy Spirit: A Revelation to St. Bridget

Docility to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit is the only means to sanctity and salvation. The following words of Our Lady to St. Bridget of Sweden will help us to discern the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, Who always produces peace, clarity and obedience.

“My daughter, you can recognize both the Holy Spirit and the unclean spirit through seven signs:

7 Signs of the Holy Spirit

First, the Spirit of God makes a man deem the world worthless and consider in his heart all worldly honor as mere air.

Second, it endears God to the soul, and all delight in the flesh grows cold.

Third, it inspires him to patience and to glorying only in God.

Fourth, it stimulates the mind to be loving and compassionate with one’s neighbor and even with one’s enemies.

Fifth, it inspires him to all kinds of abstinence, even from licit things.

Sixth, it makes him trust in God in the midst of hardships and even to glory in hardships.

Seventh, it gives him the desire of wanting to depart and to be with Christ, rather than to prosper in the world and become soiled.

7 Signs of the Evil Spirit

The evil spirit has seven effects to the contrary.

First, it makes the world seem sweet, and heaven distasteful.

Second, it makes a man seek honors and forget about the meaning of his life.

Third, it arouses hatred and impatience in the heart.

Fourth, it makes him bold toward God and obstinate in his own plans.

Fifth, it leads him to make light of his sins and to make excuses for them.

Sixth, it inspires in him frivolity of mind and every carnal impurity.

Seventh, it inspires in him the hope of a long life and a feeling a shame about going to confession.

Guard your thoughts carefully, then, so that you do not get deceived by this spirit.”

(Taken from ‘The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden’, Book 4, Ch 23)

A Book Recommendation

Firstly, an exhortation to read (from St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church):

“St. Jerome says that when we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us… In prayer, God hears our petitions, but in reading we listen to his voice… Good books supply the place of sermons. St. Augustine writes that good books are, as it were, so many letters of love the Lord sends us; in them he warns us of our dangers, teaches us the way of salvation, animates us to suffer adversity, enlightens us, and inflames us with divine love. Whoever, then, desires to be saved and to acquire divine love, should often read these letters of paradise.”

The book is, ‘Spiritual Works of Louis of Blois.’ It can be read here (free and legally): https://archive.org/stream/workslouisofbloi00bloiuoft#page/n9/mode/2up

Venerable Louis of Blois (Blosius), a holy and learned Benedictine, was often praised by St. Alphonsus. His writings are among my favourite spiritual works. They are very inspiring, concise, practical and balanced.

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