THE FAIREST FLOWER OF PARADISE - CONSIDERATIONS ON THE LITANY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, ENRICHED WITH EXAMPLES DRAWN FROM THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS BY Very Rev. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O. S. M.
SCARCELY had the most Holy Virgin learned from the mouth of the Angel Gabriel that her cousin Elizabeth was already for six months with child, than, prompted by the Holy Spirit, she started on her journey to go and see her, in order to assist and alleviate her by her presence.
We may suppose that Mary was accompanied in this journey by St. Joseph, to whom she had truly been united by the bonds of matrimony before the Annunciation. This holy pair, recking of nought but the impulse of their charitable hearts, left their own home and hastened whither the Spirit of God summoned them. Thus did Mary begin her mission of Mediatrix between Jesus Christ and mankind, by bearing to Elizabeth and John the Forerunner, the graces which the Saviour held in reserve for these two saintly personages.
Admire, O my soul, the promptitude of Mary's correspondence with the motion of the Holy Spirit. Consider her eagerness in following the inspirations from on High, despite the fatigues and inconveniences of a long journey. Oh, how Elizabeth, seized with amazement at the sight of such charity, had reason to cry out: '^Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my God should come to me?" (Luke, i, 43.)
The joy of Elizabeth and the exultation of John are a striking proof of the copious blessings which Mary's visit brought to the soul of the Precursor and that of his mother. The Holy Virgin showed herself, on this occasion, to be that which in truth she is end always will be to the end of time, the treasure-house, and dispenser of heavenly graces.
Holy Scripture teaches us that when the Ark of the Covenant entered into the house of Obededom, God blessed that house and all that was therein. (l Par. xiii, 14.) In like manner scarcely had the Immaculate Virgin entered into the house of Elizabeth, than the Holy Ghost began to diffuse His choicest graces upon the members of that privileged family: St. John was cleansed of original sin, his mother received an increase of grace, and Zachary was enriched, though somewhat later, with the gift of prophecy.
We may with reason then liken Mary to a field, wherein a costly treasure lies hid. (Matt, xiii, 44.) This treasure is none other than Jesus Christ, the Author of all good, who became incarnate in the most pure womb of the Virgin, and who never ceases tor dwell in her by the plenitude of His grace. Therefore, it is true to say that "all grace of the way and of the truth" (Ecclus. xxiv, 25.) is found in Mary.
If, then, we would possess divine grace, if we would surely find Jesus, it is through Mary that we must seek Him, for it is written of the Wise Kings that they found the Messias promised by the prophets, nowhere else than in the arms of His Blessed Mother: "They found the Child with Mary, His Mother." (Matt, ii, 11.)
The Angel had saluted Mary as full of grace; now it is St. Elizabeth who sounds the praises of the Mother of God: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." (Luke, i, 42.) Earth and heaven unite their voices to proclaim Mary blessed, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men, for it is through her that all grace and blessing come to us.
It was at this moment that Mary sung her beautiful canticle, the "Magnificat," the first recorded in the pages of the New Testament. The Virgin-prophetess gave free vent to her sentiments of gratitude and love toward the Lord God Almighty, who had been pleased to accomplish in and by her such marvelous works.,
Contemplate, O my soul, the admirable sentiments which breathe through this sublime canticle; see how Mary abandoned herself without reserve to the will of the Most High, humbly acknowledging her own nothingness. Thus, she became more and more dear to the heart of God, whose predilection is for the humble and lowly.
Example - St. Frances Fremiot De Chantal
St. Frances Fremiot de Chantal, being a widow consecrated her time to works of piety and mercy, in all things seeking only the glory of God. When her spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales, told her that it was the will of God that, leaving the world, she should consecrate herself to Him, she received this command as coming from God Himself. So great was her fortitude in carrying out this design, that she did not hesitate, in leaving her home, to pass over the body of her son, who failing in his entreaty to her to change her resolution, had flung himself across the threshold.
Ketiring from the world with some of her companions, she placed herself under the direction of St. Francis de Sales and founded a new Congregation, to which that holy Bishop gave the name of the "Visitation." The beginning of this new foundation was very difficult, because the Sisters were extremely poor and sometimes even in heed of their daily bread.
Moreover, outward enemies continually threatened the existence of the convent. But, trusting in God and encouraged by the charity of St. Francis, the Sisters bore all this cheerfully, serving their heavenly Spouse with great devotion. To the cultivation of such beautiful Christian virtues as charity, humility, simplicity and patience, they united a tender devotion to Our Lady, in order to arrive at a more perfect union with God, who is the end of all things.
Great was the profit that the Religious derived from this last practice. St. Frances herself reached such a stage of perfection, that she wished to make a vow of doing in everything that which was most perfect. So holy a life could not but draw down on the new Congregation the blessing of Heaven. Indeed, the number of Sisters became so great, that the Saint was invited to found another convent. The holy Foundress zealously applied herself to this work and notwithstanding many obstacles, she saw her efforts crowned with success.
She died a holy death at Moulins on the thirteenth of December, 1641. Under the guidance of Mary, the Congregation of the Visitation soon flourished in the Church, and sent forth to heaven many holy souls, among whom must be mentioned St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Our Lord deigned to reveal how pleasing to Him is the devotion to His most Sacred Heart.
O Mary, chosen vessel of honor, treasuress of heavenly graces, deign to visit my soul, bringing with thee Jesus, thy only and true Son, Grant that by His help, I may calm the tumult of my passions, and that all the powers of my soul may breathe forth the fragrance of the most excellent virtues. Amen.