Twelve years ago, in 1939, Father Leonard Feeney wrote, in his book, You’d Better Come Quietly, the following words:
Our minds, weary of climbing without pictures to assist us, through the tenuous droves of spirits that lie above us in the nine worlds of angel, are refreshed once more with an imaginative picture of something we know, love and have seen, before we step across the threshold of creation into the Ecstatic Essence of God. We find a girl again; with hands and eyes and hair, and a heart; airing her maiden-mother manners at the summit of all creation, constituted Queen of the Universe, with dominion over all angels and all men, more beautiful in her single reality, more pleasing to God, more full of Grace, than all the rest of creation put together. She is “beautiful as the moon, chosen as the sun, mighty as an army set in array.” She is the Queen of Angels. She is the Mother and the Queen of Men. She originated on this little planet of ours, pertains to our race, our kind, is related to us not by the angelic ties of love and thought, but by the very fibres of flesh and blood.
Her alliance to God is threefold. She is the Daughter of the Father, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of the Son. She presents all creation with a baby, whose name in Eternity is God, and whose name in time is Jesus.
She is the Mother of Divine Grace, powerful in her intercession. She is not God, she is the Gate to God, the Gate of Heaven. There is no passing to Eternal Life except through her. She is understanding, innocent, marvelously simple and unsuspicious, tender towards sinners. She takes us each by the hand and leads us to the Beatific Vision, and shares the radiant beauty of Christ’s human nature begotten in her womb.
One cannot escape her. One cannot get into Heaven except through the Gate!
“You’d better come through the Gate!” God says to each of us. “Hesitations, incertitudes, nervousness, suspicions, doubts, what good do these do either a man or an angel?
“You’d better come through the Gate. . . !
“And. . . You’d Better Come Quietly!”
So wrote Father Feeney, years ago. And so wrote and preached the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, long before Father Feeney. St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who was canonized by our present Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, wrote in his book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin:
It is an infallible mark of eternal condemnation to have no esteem and love for the holy Virgin; while on the other hand, it is an infallible mark of predestination to be entirely and truly devoted to her.
The figures and words of the Old and New Testaments prove this. The sentiments and the examples of the saints confirm it. Reason and experience teach and demonstrate it. Even the devil and his crew, constrained by the force of truth, have often been obliged to avow it in spite of themselves. Among all the passages of the holy Fathers and Doctors, of which I have made an ample collection in order to prove this truth, I shall for brevity’s sake quote but one: “To be devout to you, O Holy Virgin,” says St. John Damascene, “is an arm of salvation which God gives to those whom He wishes to save.”
Mary is the Gate of Heaven. The elect are the children of Mary. So believed St. Augustine, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ephrem, St. Germanus, St. John Damascene, St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine of Sienna, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure. St. Alphonsus de Liguori has written, in his book The Glories of Mary, a chapter on “Mary, Our Salvation,” in which he gives the testimony of the saints “in order to show how unanimous the various writers have been on the subject.” He quotes St. Anselm: “that as it is impossible for one who is not devout to Mary, and consequently not protected by her, to be saved, so is it impossible for one who recommends himself to her, and consequently is beloved by her, to be lost.”
St. Antoninus, says St. Alphonsus, repeats the same thing and almost in the same words: “As it is impossible for those from whom Mary turns her eyes of mercy to be saved, so also are those towards whom she turns these eyes, and for whom she prays, necessarily saved and glorified.” St. Bonaventure writes:
He who neglects the service of the Blessed Virgin will die in his sins . . . He who does not invoke thee, O Lady, will never get to heaven . . . Not only will those from whom Mary turns her face not be saved, but there will be no hope of their salvation.
St. Alphonsus quotes St. Hilary: “However great a sinner he may have been, if a person shows himself devout to Mary, he will never perish.” St. Alphonsus then goes on to say:
For this reason the devil does his utmost with sinners in order that, after they have lost the grace of God, they may also lose devotion to Mary. When Sara saw Isaac in company with Ismael, who was teaching him evil habits, she desired that Abraham would drive away both Ismael and his mother Agar: Cast out this bond-woman and her son. She was not satisfied with the son being turned out of the house, but insisted on the mother going also, thinking that otherwise the son, coming to see his mother, would continue to frequent the house. The devil, also, is not satisfied with a soul turning out Jesus Christ, unless it also turns out his Mother: Cast out this bond-woman and her son. Otherwise he fears that the Mother will again, by her intercession, bring back her Son. “And his fears are well grounded,” says the learned Paciucchelli; “for he who is faithful in serving the Mother of God will soon receive God Himself by the means of Mary.”
This, may I say, explains as nothing else the tragedy of the absence of real devotion to Mary, God’s Mother, in Protestant communities. Mary does not dwell in Protestant Churches. No Protestant would claim that she does. Mary is ever to be found with her Son, and Jesus is not present on the altars of the Protestant Churches. He is not tabernacled there, in the Holy Eucharist. The Reformation rejected the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharistic Presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ for purposes of Sacrifice, Sacrament and Communion.
The Protestant people are perpetually disturbed by what they term the Catholics’ “excessive devotion to Mary.” Whole chapters and sections of Protestant writings are given over to discussion of Catholic devotion to Mary — under the heading “Mariolatry,” worship of Mary. All of the Protestant feeling of centuries, all of the Protestant errors with regard to Mary, broke out afresh a year ago, when Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven. In Boston, a Protestant minister bought large space in the daily newspapers in order to decry the Pope’s definition of the Assumption; and in order to tell the Boston people that Our Lady was not a virgin, that Jesus was but one of many children, and that Mary was the mother of Christ but not the mother of God; that she was not immaculately conceived, and neither was she assumed into heaven. The only serious challenge this blasphemous utterance received was from the little Catholic group at St. Benedict Center.
Perhaps I had better pause, in my portrayal of Our Lady as the Gate of Heaven, to speak of her as the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God.
In the St. Andrew Daily Missal, under the date of September 8th and the caption, “The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” there is the following notation:
Mary is inseparable from Jesus in the divine plan, wherefore the Liturgy applies to her what Holy Scripture says of the eternal Wisdom which is the Word “by whom all was made.” Like Christ, the Virgin presides over the whole work of creation, for having been chosen from all eternity to give us the Saviour, it is she, with her Son, whom God had chiefly in view when He created the world.
It is she, with her Son, whom God had chiefly in view when He created the world! Mary, of Nazareth!
She is foretold in the beginning of the Holy Scriptures, in the Book of Genesis. She it is who will crush the head of Satan, and do battle for the souls of men.
Gen. 3;15: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
She is the prophecy of the Prophets. She is the song of David. David danced in the street before the Ark of the Covenant, when foreknowledge was given him that from Mary, the grace-filled daughter of his house, would come the Saviour of the world.
She is the weeping of Sara, and Rebecca, and Rachel; of Jephte’s daughter, and all the daughters of Israel. She is the answer to their cry. In her are their hopes fulfilled; in her their longing allayed. From her, the Redeemer of men was born.
“Hail, full of grace,” the Angel Gabriel greeted her. “The Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
“Blessed art thou among women,” cried her cousin Elizabeth, whose own child as yet unborn, was filled with the Holy Ghost at the approach and salutation of Mary. “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me.?”
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” prayed the Church at the Council of Ephesus, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
From the salutation of Gabriel, the cry of Elizabeth, the petition of Ephesus, there was made the prayer which has ever been upon the lips of Catholic people, in the tender outpourings of their hearts to their Mother, in the time of their every need — the Hai1 Mary.
God will be worshipped, and the Mother of His Son venerated, whether men will it or men rue it. In the days preceding the preaching of Jesus, His precursor, St. John the Baptist, cried out to his people:
Luke 3;8: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance; and do not begin to say, We have Abraham for our father. For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Just as God is able of stones to raise up children to Abraham, so is He able to wring from the earth, no matter how hard the hearts of men, adoration and praise worthy of Him in the Godhead, and praise and petition worthy of Mary in her divine motherhood. Perfect love and adoration are given to Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and perfect praise and reverence are given to her in the Hai1 Mary.
It is as impossible to count the Hai1 Marys which have passed from the lips of men to the throne of the Queen of Heaven, as it is to number the grains of sand on the seashore. They are countless and ceaseless, these prayers which rise to Mary, not from the worldly powerful — who are as passing clouds, but from the spiritually powerful; from the least who shall be first, from the meek who shall possess the land, from the clean of heart who shall see God.
Mary’s labor was not in the bearing of her Divine Son. He came through her body as light through a window. Mary’s pain was in the bearing of us — her other Christs — on that awful day when the sun was darkened, the earth trembled, and the graves gave up their dead. Mary became our Mother in that hour on Calvary when Jesus thought it not enough to die for our salvation, but must add to the gift of eternal life the treasure of all His treasures — His Immaculate Mother, for our Mother.
In that hour in which Mary watched her Divine Son die, and in which she consented to become the Mother of all those who, through the Blessed Eucharist, would be incorporated into the Body of her Divine Son, there was added to Mary’s titles still another. She — our House of Gold, our Morning Star, our Tower of Ivory — became, to angels and to men, the Mother of Sorrows.
Lam. 1;12: O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. . . .
Almost two thousand years have passed since the dark hours of Calvary and the dripping of the last drops of the Precious Blood of Jesus upon the earth. Two thousand years since the death of the God of Love!
Dying by the hand of His own people, Jesus still left to them, and to us, two Gifts beyond recounting. Both these Gifts, His people, the Jews, have rejected. Their refusal of Him in the Blessed Sacrament is tragically consistent with their refusal of Him as the Son of God. Their refusal of Mary, the daughter of David, is tragically consistent with their refusal of Him as their King.
Almost two thousand years later, the Jews are in Jerusalem again. They are still without a King; still without a Messiah; still without the Son of God. Should they attempt again to rebuild the Temple — watch out for what is in store for the world! Mary has stayed the hand of God. She may not desire to stay it longer. The outraged Mother of a divine and doubly crucified Son is truly “terrible as an army set in array.”
The Faith passed from the Jews to the Gentiles. It passed from the East to the West. It built the civilization in which we live. The East became atrophied by schism; the West sundered by sects. Nations grew selfish; men cold, then selfish. Fear entered the world – with the revolt of Luther — craven, cowardly fear, removed from the holy, sanity-insuring fear of the Lord.
Fear bred compromise. “Live and let live; we have to get along; never discuss religion; never tell the whole truth; let people alone,” were the pass-words of compromise. No matter that God be not glorified, nor Christ blazingly preached. Man must get along.
God was given a place and a time. The place was a parish church; the time was an hour, on a day — Sunday. The Blessed Sacrament became less and less the Bread of Life for all men, and Mary less and less the Queen-Mother of men’s hearts. A new heresy was slipping in through the fog in men’s minds.
And so, almost two thousand years after the death of Jesus, but one-sixth of the world is Catholic; but one-sixth confesses to the true Faith of Christ. And of that one-sixth, only a very, very small portion believe that either the death of Jesus, the Church He established, the Mother He gave us, or His own Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament of His Love, are necessary for salvation.
Queen of Angels, Gate of Heaven, Little Mother beneath the Cross, we know your heartbreak.