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.
|Madonna del Pozzo, Our Lady of the Well|
IF THERE is in a man's life one moment of supreme importance, that is without doubt the moment of death, for on this moment depends eternity. It would be of little avail for us to have passed a long life in the exercise of prayer and penance, or that we should have achieved a high degree of sanctity, if at the last we were to offend God even by one single mortal sin. We stand then especially in need of the divine assistance at that solemn moment, in order that our previous merits may be crowned with final perseverance. On the other hand, one act of sincere repentance at the hour of death, suffices to blot out all the sins of a lifetime and to merit for the sinner eternal happiness.
It is for this reason that our sworn enemy, who seeks only the loss of our souls, redoubles his efforts at that critical moment, to cause us to fall into sin. The infernal device he then makes use of, is to set before our eyes the heinousness of the sins he may have induced us to commit during life, and so to cast us into despair and cause our ruin.
Blessed, then, be the infinite goodness of God, who has reserved for us, for the hour of death, the powerful succor of the Church's sacraments, and the maternal protection of Mary.
The Blessed Virgin, by assisting us in the hour of our death, helps us on to overcome the enemy of our salvation and to persevere to the end in the friendship of God. The zeal she puts forth in saving us from eternal ruin, makes her indeed be for us a heavenly Gate, Janua Caeli.
Now, in what way does the Mother of God assist us in this solemn moment? In the first place, by interceding for us with her Son, that He may grant us the priceless gift of final perseverance, as the holy Council of Trent styles it. (Sess. xi, Can. xvi.) Mary's intercession at the moment of death is peculiarly efficacious, because she can easily obtain of God the salvation of the dying for whom she intercedes, having assisted at her Son's agony with an unequaled faith and charity.
Mary also helps us, at that moment, by the power she exercises over the infernal spirits, putting to flight the demons who would molest us on our deathbed, and inspiring us with holy thoughts and chaste desires; nay, at times, she extends her bounty so far as to appear visibly to her servants in their last moments.
O my soul, do not forget to often invoke the patronage of Mary for thy last moments, saying to her with faith: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death."
Mary's aid at the hour of our death will be for us an earnest of salvation, all the surer in proportion as we have sought through life to conform ourselves to the model she has set us. A firm resolve to imitate, as long as we live, Mary's virtues, will assure for us, upon our death-bed, those dispositions which we would wish to have, when we come to stand before the judgment-seat of God.
And what are these dispositions? In the first place, a lively abhorrence of sin, not only mortal, but also venial; and secondly, a perfect conformity to God's holy will. Such, in truth, was Mary's life. Her soul was never sullied by the slightest fault, nor had she ever any desire but that of conforming herself to the will of God.
Let us, then, be equally careful to avoid the least fault in this life, and let us form the habit of making frequent acts of conformity to the holy will of God. We may, then, be sure of Mary's protection at the hour of death, and we "may confidently hope that the end of this uncertain and sorrow-laden life will be for us the -commencement of an everlasting joy.
It would be a gross presumption to expect a happy death at the close of a life marked by a series of voluntary transgressions. To reckon on the extraordinary grace of ultimate conversion, without making use of the means of sanctification offered us by God, would be a rashness likely to be followed by the most fatal consequences.
O my soul, flee from sin as the one obstacle to grace, and endeavor to correspond with the Divine inspirations.
Example - The Miraculous Picture of Our Lady of the Well
Among the most ancient pictures of Our Lady which are venerated in Borne, must be mentioned that of Our Lady of the Well, painted on a stone tablet and preserved with great care in the church of Santa Maria in Via. The origin of the devotion in honor of this picture is extraordinary indeed.
On the night between the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh of September, 1256, the water of a well situated in a stable underneath the apartments of Cardinal Peter Capocci, suddenly rose so high as to completely flood the basement. This greatly disturbed and frightened the horses, which began to jump about and so awakened the grooms. These men went down at once with torches and were much astonished to find this extraordinary flood; but their wonder increased when they saw a picture of Our Lady floating on top of the water. Their astonishment knew no bounds when they perceived that this picture, which they were trying to grasp, always escaped their hands, as if moved by an inward impulse. In despair, they went to tell their master the Cardinal what had happened. The Prelate hastened down with all his Court. After a short prayer he easily obtained possession of the picture and carried it to his private oratory. The water meanwhile returned to its ordinary level.
After an official inquiry, Alexander IV, who at that time governed the Church, gave permission for a chapel to be built on that spot in honor of Our Lady. He also ordered that the picture should be carried in solemn procession, at which he himself and the clergy of Rome were to take part, and that the picture should be placed in the chapel.
The faithful soon began to experience the protection of Our Lady, and she never ceased to work many wonderful cures in favor of her devout children who would pray before this picture, or drink of the miraculous water. In course of time, this chapel was enlarged and by the Pope's order, became one of the Cardinals' titular churches. It was entrusted to the care of the Servite Fathers and in 1646, with great demonstration of reverence and honor, the wonderful picture was solemnly crowned by decree of the Vatican Chapter. (From the History of the Shrine.)
O Mary, by thy constancy at the foot of the cross, thou didst merit to become the help of the dying. Do not abandon me, I implore thee, in my last agony; and in order that I may then be worthy to experience thy maternal protection, grant me, in this life, always to cherish in my heart a profound hatred of sin, and to be perfectly conformed to the will of God. Amen.