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.
THE sin of our first parents not only deprived man of original justice and of all the gifts consequent thereon; it reduced him furthermore to a state of great weakness, so that it is impossible for us to accomplish works of supernatural value, without a special grace. Fallen man is like one sick, who has no relish for any nourishment whatever. He is deficient in vital energy, and his actions are wanting in that vigor which naturally belongs to a healthy person. He is strongly inclined to vice, and finds the practice of virtue tedious and difficult.
This natural incapacity regarding the performance of good works is further increased by actual sin, whether mortal or venial. The former, by depriving the soul of divine grace, which is the principle of spiritual life, hinders man from doing anything pleasing to God, so as to merit eternal happiness. The latter, by diminishing the fervor of charity, makes the practice of virtue laborious, since charity has for its effect precisely to facilitate the performance of what is good. Sin is therefore a great evil, because, if mortal, it saps altogether the spiritual energy of the soul, and if venial, it notably weakens it.
If from individuals we pass on to nations, we perceive that sin, like a subtle poison, eats into the heart of them, weakening and preparing their ruin.
Divine bounty, which for bodily ailments, has procured us efficacious remedies, is not less industrious in providing the means to heal our spiritual maladies. With the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ to restore our souls to grace or to augment it within us, God has also been pleased to grant us, in Mary's aid, a potent remedy for our spiritual infirmities. In fact, Mary has not only given us Jesus Christ, the Pastor and Physician of our souls, but furthermore, she watches over us as a tender mother does by the cradle of an ailing child.
Besides this, Mary's example encourages us in our conflict with the devil. For she is the Immaculate Virgin, who never was defiled by sin. Her sweet soul was always filled with the perfume of the noblest virtues.
Mary never ceases also to hearken to the voice of our supplications and to present them before the throne of God, often anticipating our requests, and obtaining for us, through her own merits and those of Jesus Christ, all the helps necessary to us in our spiritual needs.
And what Mary does for individuals, she also does for whole nations. As a pitiful Queen, she succors them in their distress; she raises them from their bed of sickness, and is for them a bulwark of defense. (Cant, viii, 10.)
Mary's power and motherly care not only embrace spiritual miseries: they also extend to the ills of the body. How often do we see Mary restoring health to the sick, who have recourse to her with filial confidence!
In Mary's readiness to alleviate bodily ailments, shines forth most splendidly God's love for her. It seems as if the Most High had placed no limit to the efficacy of His Mother's intercession. While other saints are invoked only in particular cases of corporal infirmity, Mary's power, on the other hand, is exercised over every kind of malady. Hence we may say that, at her word, as once at the word of Jesus, the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear. (Matt, xi, 6.) The sole difference is that Jesus Christ, being God, wrought these miracles of his own personal authority, while Mary obtains for us, of the Divine Clemency, the graces she asks, by virtue of the efficacy of heir intercession with God.
However, though Mary is so powerful in healing all bodily ailments, yet she does not always deliver her clients from every such trial, because God sees best to exercise them in patience, that they may thereby win the reward prepared for them in heaven. But when Mary does not restore bodily health, yet, for all that, she never ceases to act the part of a tender Mother toward us, watching over us, and obtaining for us, in place of bodily strength, resignation to the divine will and interior peace: two sovereign means of sanctification and salvation.
Example - The Recovery of Pope Innocent VIII
Among the wonderful pictures through which God has been pleased to show Mary's power in helping the poor children of Adam, must be mentioned that of the Santissima Annunziata at Florence. The marvelous cures and other graces obtained through Our Lady's intercession by means of this picture are numerous enough to fill many volumes. One of the most miraculous and worthy of special mention is the cure of his Holiness Pope Innocent VIII.
This Pope had been lying ill for a long time in great agony and the doctors could not in any way appease his sufferings. Already he had given up all hope and was awaiting death from hour to hour, when there came to visit him the Cardinal Protector of the Servite Order, John Micheli, who began to narrate to him the marvelous favors granted by the Santissima Annunziata at Florence to her devout servants. The Cardinal then encouraged the Pope to trust in Mary, who is truly called the "health of the sick" and to ask her to deliver him from his painful malady. When Innocent heard this, the hope of recovery revived in him and he felt in his heart a lively trust in the protection of our blessed Lady. He vowed to dedicate himself especially to her service, if she should be pleased to free him from his grievous sufferings.
How great was the amazement of the doctors and the joy of Borne when, after a short time, Innocent was found to be perfectly cured. Full of gratitude for this unexpected deliverance he ordered a skilled artist to depict the tragic scene of his mortal illness and he sent this painting to Florence in testimony of the grace granted to him. Moreover, the Pontiff, as a token of his special devotion to this miraculous picture, extended to all the principal churches of the Servite Order the privilege of celebrating with great solemnity a Mass in honor of the Mother of God on the afternoon of Holy Saturday. He also granted to these Religious the celebrated Bull, known as Mare Magnum, by which all the privileges granted previously to the other Mendicant Orders were extended to the Order of the Servants of Mary. 1
O Mary, Immaculate Virgin, our salvation lies in thy hands. Cleanse our souls, we beseech thee, from the leprosy of sin, and assist us in our corporal infirmities. And if it be the will of God that we must be acquainted with sickness and suffering, obtain for us, at least, perfect patience and resignation in whatsoever God may dispose. Amen.
1 From the Annals of the Order of the Servants of Mary.