MARY IS THE MOTHER OF GOD. She is the virginal mother of only one Child. If we are to become Mary’s child, we must become the Child Who is her only one. And He is Jesus Christ. We must become divine with the divinity of Jesus, and human with the flesh and blood of Jesus. We must be able to say, “And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me.” Unless we are other Christs, we are not Christians. Saint John Chrysostom says we are to be formed of His flesh and bones.
Mary is full of grace, and has become by grace, what God is by nature. God is divine by nature. Mary is divine by grace. Just as it is blasphemy to belittle what God is by nature, so it is blasphemy to belittle what God does by grace. Mary is the fullness of grace. She has not only all the grace needed for her own sanctification, she has all the grace needed for the sanctification and salvation of the entire world.
God is infinitely perfect. Mary is perfect in the finite order. Mary has nothing of her own, but all that God has, He has given her. God’s divinity flows into Mary by sanctifying grace, which is a participation in the divine nature, and leaves her human, and makes her divine. From Mary, all grace overflows into us. She is the Mediatrix of All Graces. Nothing comes from God to us except through Mary. Nothing goes from us to God except through her. Saint Bernardine of Siena says, “All the gifts and graces that we receive from God are given by Mary, to whom, when, and as she pleases.” Saint Louis Marie de Montfort says that no one gets into Heaven without venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.
No woman in the world ever wept as much as Mary, the Mother of God. No woman ever had such reason for weeping. Her sorrows are commemorated on two feast days every year: in spring, on the Friday of Passion Week; and in the fall, on the fifteenth of September. As the year begins, and as the year ends, Mary’s heart is full of woe, knowing how much she has to give for the asking, and how few there are who will take the gifts she has to offer. Saint John Marie Vianney, the Curé de Ars, said that the number of the saved is as few as “the number of grapes left after the vineyard pickers have passed by.”
And yet, though her flock of loving children is a little one – a pusillus grex – and although the majority of men neither acknowledge nor love nor praise nor petition her, Mary’s heritage in absolute numbers is a mighty legion. Grateful human hearts in countless multitudes have given her their all, in the simplicity it takes to know her and in the trust it takes to love her.
Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Simon, among the Apostles, were crucified for the cause of their Queen. Matthew was stabbed to death at the altar. Bartholomew was skinned alive and beheaded. James the Greater was beheaded, and James the Less beaten to death in the streets, after having been thrown from the summit of the Temple. Jude was clubbed to death. Thomas was stabbed, and Matthias beheaded. John died a natural death, but before it, he went through all the horrors of martyrdom by being thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, from which he was miraculously delivered.
Every known form of torture and punishment that can be inflicted upon a human body, Catholic martyrs have suffered for the love of Jesus and Mary. Eyes have been plucked out, hands severed, feet chopped away, bones broken, teeth extracted, tongues torn from mouths, ears and breasts cut off, heads clubbed, bodies thrown from heights – into wells and lakes and rivers and seas – human flesh has been roasted on gridirons, men and women burned alive, and hundreds upon hundreds of human bodies have been hurled before wild beasts in arenas and public places. The first thirty-one Popes were martyred.
Girls have abounded among the martyrs. Agnes and Cecilia, Anastasia and Lucy and Catherine, Felicitas and Perpetua and Agatha, are some of their names. Mothers and their children have gone to death in groups, in testimony to the fact that God is Mary’s Son, including Felicitas and her seven sons, Symphorosa and her seven sons, Thecla, her husband and their twelve boys.
Children have been killed in abundance for the love of God and Mary. Saint Pancratius was beheaded at the age of fourteen. Saint Agnes was only twelve when she was cruelly martyred. Saint Eulalia was only twelve. Saint Philomena was martyred at thirteen, Saint Basilissa at nine, Saint Neophytus at fourteen, Saint Aquilina at twelve, Saint Eutropia at twelve. And Saint Cyriacus was put to death when a little child of three.
More than 2,760 of these martyred Christian saints are mentioned by name, and more than 83,305 by number, in our Martyrologies. Notable numbers of the martyrs include: 40 at Sebaste, 200 at Nicomedia, 300 at Carthage under Valerian, 300 at Cologne under Maximian, 500 at Carthage under Huneric, 900 at Rome, on the Appian Way, 5000 in Egypt, 9000 in Persia, 10,000 on Mount Ararat, 10,000 in Nicomedia, 17,000 at Rome under Maximian. One of the most beautiful and unforgettable groups of those who shed their blood for the Catholic Faith was Saint Ursula with her 11,010 companions, all of whom were girls. Fleeing before the Saxons, they were slaughtered by the Huns, in Cologne, in the year of Our Lord 383.
Day after day, month after month, season after season, Catholic priests go to their altars in red vestments to commemorate the torrents of blood that have flown on this earth in testimony to the divinity of Jesus and to the dignity of the Mother of God. Saint Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, said to the Church and the Catholic people under his care: “Brethren, look out over the whole world; it is full of martyrs. For the number of us who consider them is hardly as great as that of these witnesses of the truth. By God, indeed, they are numbered, but in our eyes they are multiplied above the sands of the sea; for we cannot comprehend how many there be of them.”
Another great heritage of Mary, the Mother of God, is her legion of virgins. These are Christian maidens who have dedicated themselves singly to God to thank Him for what were the fruits of Mary’s virginity. If the number of martyrs cannot be known, imagine anyone trying to calculate the multitude of virgins.
Beautiful mothers, beautiful widows, abound among the saints. Queens are there in scores, and princesses. And so are simple working girls, and slaves. Supernatural sanctity takes no account of social status. It builds royally wherever there is body and blood to beatify and bless.
And yet in all this vanguard of martyrs – of virgins and matrons and widows and children and soldiers and princes and kings and popes and bishops and priests and acolytes and lay brothers and dowagers and domestics – our Catholic Faith always lets special saints shine with singularity and grace, like stars in the heavens, blotted out, it may be, by the light of the sun, but not by the light of the moon. Our Lady’s special clients are numerous to mention. But their names are now as immortal as hers.
Every saint and martyr is “a voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Every message that is basic and fundamental about the Catholic Faith is such a voice. There is nothing else like Christianity that ever was or ever will be. It is a clear message from God. It is a simple overture from sheer divinity to sheer man. It needs none of the environment that goes with other learning, other prestige, other erudition. In order to tell the world who Mary was, there is no need to know what Plato taught, or Aristotle said, or Socrates proposed, or Confucius uttered, or Lao-tse mouthed, or Cicero orated, or Shakespeare wrote, or Lincoln declared, or Einstein surmised, or Darwin predicted, or Freud affirmed, or Edison invented. “Hail Mary, full of grace,” is all one needs to say in order to be heard in Heaven, and listened to on earth.
Clients of Mary are from all countries, communities, climates and corners of the world. But there will be no harm in saying the names of those whom we think were the very special ones. Saint John, of course. was notable and foundational in love for Mary. Saint Paul was her greatest news-bearing apostle. Saint Denis the Areopagite, who was converted by Saint Paul and who went at once to Jerusalem to see Mary, said that if he had not been kept by faith from doing so, he should have dropped to his knees and adored her as God, so radiant and beautiful was she to behold.
Saint Bernard, the greatest monk in the twelfth century, wrote the Memorare – “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary” -which all who love her still say. Blessed Herman the Cripple, in the eleventh century, wrote the Hail, Holy Queen. Saint Louis of France, a king, gave us the habit of genuflecting during the Mass whenever it is said that the Word became flesh, either in the Nicene Creed or in the Gospel of Saint John.
To Saint Dominic, in the year 1214, Our Lady gave the rosary. To Saint Simon Stock, in the year 1251, she gave the scapular. To Saint Catherine Labouré, in 1830, she gave the inspiration for the miraculous medal. Saint John Eudes was the great apostle of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Saint Anselm wrote the Omni die dic Mariae (Daily, daily sing to Mary). And Saint Casimir of Poland, who refused the kingship of Hungary, recited Saint Anselm’s prayer every day on his knees, before he died of consumption at the age of twenty-five.
Almost every Catholic girl takes Mary’s name as one of her own. Seven men saints well known to us have Mary in their names. They are: Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint John Marie Vianney, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer, Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria, and Saint Joseph Mary Pignatelli. Soon there will be another added to the list of Mary’s male namesakes. He will be John Mary Mastai-Ferretti, who, in official title, was Pope Pius IX, and who reigned from 1846 to 1878. Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Another Pope recently beatified, Pope Innocent XI, is part of Mary’s heritage. It was during his pontificate that, on September 12, 1683, the Turkish siege of Vienna – which threatened to overthrow the whole of Christian Europe – was ended, under the valiant soldiership of John Sobieski, King of Poland, and under the protection of the Holy Name of Mary. And no one can ever forget the great love of Mary shown by our glorious Saint Pius V, under whose patronage Don John of Austria and his gallant fleet, in the year 1571, put to rout the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. Pope Pius V. in gratitude to the Mother of God for this victory, instituted the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
Loving hearts are most especially anxious to offer Mary in heritage our own country, the United States of America. There have been no lands more discovered for, and originally dedicated to, Mary the Mother of God, than the Americas, North and South. Columbus, who came to the New World on a ship named the “Santa Maria” – the Saint Mary – called the island on which he landed “San Salvador” – Holy Savior – and everywhere he went, named new places with such titles as “Star of the Sea,” “Our Lady of the Sea,” “Port Conception,” “Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception.”
The ship on which Columbus made his second voyage was put under the protection of Mary Immaculate, and the ship itself was named “Gracious Mary.” As a result of his initial and Mary-guarded discoveries, everyone knows that the whole of South America was in due time settled and established by Mary-loving Spaniards. They built their churches and shrines to her honor almost as the first project of their pioneering. The same fact is true of Mexico, and of Florida, and of California.
To the north, discovery was effected by French Catholic explorers, many of them priests. Everyone who goes to Canada today immediately senses the great devotion there to Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and to Saint Anne, the mother of the Mother of God. These devotions flourish now as freshly as they did in the earliest days of settlement in America.
In our United States, most of the main rivers and lakes were first sailed on by priests. The Mississippi River was originally called the River of the Immaculate Conception. Chesapeake Bay was first named the Bay of the Mother of God. The blood of eight beautiful Jesuit martyrs was shed in upper New York State and Lower Canada by way of sowing the seed that would convert Indians and Americans to a love of Mary.
Thirty-nine years after the discovery of America, the Mother of God appeared at the dead center of the Americas, in a little village
three miles north of Mexico City. This was an apparition never to be forgotten in its simplicty, its innocence, and its challenge to all who live in the New World. Mary called herself “Lady of Guadalupe.”
The one to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared was a simple Aztec Indian, converted to the Catholic Faith. He had been duly baptized, and had received his first Holy Communion six years before this event. By way of letting him know how much the Americas were meant to be hers, the Mother of God, in this apparition, took on the color and expression, and shade of eyes and skin, and tone of voice of an American Indian Princess. She left her image irrevocably printed on the mantle, or tilma, in which Juan Diego -for that was the Indian’s name – was carrying roses. And this was her message to him:
I am Holy Mary, Ever Virgin, Mother of the true God for Whom we live: the Creator of all the world, the Maker of Heaven and earth. I desire that a church be built to me here, to bear witness to my love, my compassion, my support and protection. I am a merciful Mother to you, and to all your fellow-people on this earth who love me and trust me and invoke my help.
Our Lady also went out of her way to tell Juan Diego how much she wanted to be part of his country, part of his New World. She told him that the beautiful image of her, which she had imprinted on his tilma, was to be named “Holy Mary Ever Virgin of Guadalupe.” Pope Benedict XIV established a feast of the Most Holy Mary of Guadalupe, in 1754. It is celebrated on every December 12. In the states of California, Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana, there are more than fifty-four churches named in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
At present writing, there are more than thirty-two million Catholics in the United States who every day call Mary the Mother of God. There are more than forty-seven thousand priests who kneel and say the Hail Mary to her three times at the end of Mass every morning. There are more than one hundred and fifty thousand nuns who wear her rosary beads on their cinctures, and veil themselves in honor of her virginity.
In the year 1846, the United States of America was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception at the Sixth Provincial Council at Baltimore. This was eight years before the dogma was defined by the Roman Pontiff, Pope Pius IX. As a beautiful aftermath of this dedication, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is being built in the City of Washington, in the District of Columbia. It will stand there as a beacon light and a challenge, both by its beautiful structure and by its name, to all the legislators in the Capitol of our nation who wish to know to whom our country supernaturally belongs.
George Washington was born in the State of Virginia in the year 1732. He died at Mount Vernon, in Virginia, on December 14, 1799, on the eve of the octave of the Immaculate Conception. His mother’s name was Mary. George Washington was noticeably unhappy in the heretical beliefs in which he was brought up. The Masons, in league with the Jews, who were in his day starting to control Europe, tried hard to involve Washington. They invited him to enlist in their ranks. He consented and became a Mason. When he fully discovered their purposes, he avoided them. On September 25, 1798, speaking of the Masonic lodges, he wrote: “The fact is, I presided over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice within the last thirty years.”
George Washington had a devoted and repeatedly uttered reverence for the Holy Name of Jesus. He went out of his way, in the year 1776, to issue to the Colonial troops a warning and a threat of what would happen to them – both from God and from him – if they dared to violate in their conversation the Holy Name of Jesus.
George Washington always said grace before meals, blessing himself, when he did so, with the Sign of the Cross.
George Washington, first President of the United States, in the later years of his life kept on the wall of his banquet room a beautiful picture of Mary, the Mother of God. Every heretic, schismatic, Jew and anti-Catholic who dined with Washington noticed this picture, and remarked about it with quiet and troubled voices when they left. Washington would never take it down. It is still somewhere in his home in Mount Vernon, where he spent the last few years of his life.
And then came the time for Washington to die. It was a sudden death. Not long before he breathed his last, he sent for a Catholic priest, indeed, a Jesuit, who stood at his bedside and fulfilled the purpose for which he was called. The simple Jesuit priests who used to live in Lower Maryland in days gone by well knew this fact.
George Washington was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. We hope he was, at long last, safe in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We hope he was part of her heritage.
“In the heavens,” Saint Louis Marie de Montfort tells us, “Mary commands the angels and the blessed. As a recompense for her profound humility, God has empowered her and commissioned her to fill with saints the empty thrones from which the apostate angels fell by pride.”
Saint Louis Marie de Montfort assures us that these latter times will be the times of Mary. He promises that her mercy will bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who will be converted and return to the Catholic Faith.
Penitent sinners are not the enemies of the Mother of God. Her enemies are, as Saint Louis Marie tells us, “idolaters, schismatics, Mohammedans, Jews and souls hardened in impiety.”
Saint John Marie Vianney, the holy parish priest of Ars, in France- the land that once so deeply loved Our Lady and called her Notre Dame – says that “if we wish to fragrance our prayers, we should offer them to God through the hands of the Mother of God.”
Cardinal Merry del Val was the noble and well-loved Secretary of State to Saint Pius X, the Pope who gave Holy Communion back to our children. This Cardinal, whose first name was Raphael, died in Rome on February 26, 1930. Before he died he wrote his own prayer to Our Lady: “O Mary, my Mother, how greatly I love thee, and yet how little is my love. You teach me all that is necessary for me to know because you teach me what Jesus is to me, and what I ought to be to Jesus.”
This was how a Cardinal of the Catholic Church in the present day became part of the eternal heritage of Mary, the Mother of God.
(Adapted from the book by the same title.)
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
From the Bull “Ineffabilis Deus,” December 8, 1854
Decree of Pope Pius IX
Since We have never ceased in humility and fasting to offer up Our prayers and those of the Church of God the Father through His Son, that He might deign to direct and confirm Our mind by the power of the Holy Ghost, after imploring the protection of the whole celestial court, and after Invoking on Our knees the Holy Ghost the Paraclete, under His inspiration We pronounce, declare and define, unto the glory of the holy and Indivisible Trinity, the honour and ornament of the holy virgin, the Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian religion by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and in Our own authority, that the doctrine which holds the Blessed Virgin Mary to have been, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, In view of the merits of Christ Jesus the Savior of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was revealed by God, and is, therefore, to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful. Therefore, if some should presume to think In their hearts otherwise than We have defined (which God forbid), they shall know and thoroughly understand that they are by their own judgment condemned; have suffered shipwreck concerning the Faith; and fallen away from the unity of the Church; and, moreover, that they by this very act subject themselves to the penalties ordained by law if, by word, or writing, or any other external means, they dare to signify what they think in their hearts.