Love Mary, serve her, and Heaven will be yours.
Jesus has found the secret of dwelling with His children even to the consummation of ages by the most admirable invention of His love. If it has been withheld from Mary to offer us a similar proof of love, does not her Divine Son appear to have indemnified her for it by those wonder-working gifts whereof He has, as it were, deprived Himself in her favour? Yes; Mary, it may be said, by those admirable and miraculous graces which she is pleased to shower down upon all, has rendered herself present to our faith – she really dwells in heart and affection with us. Then let us not seek her in Heaven only – it is too remote. She resides in her sanctuaries, where she so often makes herself felt in our souls; she leads us by the hand; she is near unto us wherever we invoke her – nay, more, she abides with Jesus in the depth of our hearts.
The Church, invariable in faith and doctrine, has nevertheless from age to age sanctioned many new practices, suggested by the Holy Spirit, according to her necessities, as means to lead her children to the haven of a blessed eternity. Mary, ever attentive to cooperate in the great work of the redemption of souls, has been pleased also to reanimate our faith and confidence in her protection, a means so sweet and powerful of salvation. Not a century but can boast some institution of this kind. What might we not say of the holy Scapular, the Rosary, the several pilgrimages to which miraculous events have given rise? How often has not this tender Mother appeared visibly to her servants? . What ingenuities has she not employed to win back her very enemies to her Divine Son? And even in our own days does she not seem to surpass herself, as though she took occasion from our indifference and the weakness of our faith to multiply her prodigies? The Living Rosary, the miraculous medal, the Archconfraternity of Mary – are not these standing memorials of her love and watchful protection?
As to the Devotion of the Month of Mary, of which there is question at present, it was inspired by the Blessed Virgin herself to a fervent Italian Missionary of the last century. He chose the month of May, as being the fairest in the year, and consequently most worthy of being offered to Mary. It was the month when, with the return of spring, disorders became multiplied in Italy, and through this pious practice it became a month of benediction and salvation. From Rome, which had been its cradle, this Devotion spread rapidly through Italy, and thence through entire Europe. It was known in France towards the close of the reign of Louis XV, but remained for a long time confined to private oratories. It is only at present that it has become popular, and we may exult in the thought that there is hardly a parish in our cities, towns, or villages that does not render this tribute of love to Mary. Whole volumes would not suffice to relate the wonders of sanctification effected by this salutary practice.
But it may be asked, what conditions are required in order to participate in the graces so liberally bestowed on the invocation of Mary during these days of salvation? Let us premise that, among those who already know her, Mary seeks children who honour her in spirit and in truth. It will not, therefore, suffice to encircle her altars daily, to listen to her praises, to sing canticles in her honour. This is something; but we must, moreover, accompany these pious practices by the spirit of faith and interior recollection, which are the soul of them; we must propose to ourselves a special end in the devotions of the month – as to obtain a victory over some defect, the acquisition of some virtue, to ask through Mary herself grace to love her constantly, the conversion of some sinner, or any other favour we desire. Without some definite end we feel no ardour; we obtain nothing because we have asked nothing.
Practices for each day of the Month of Mary
1. To recite daily three times the appointed aspiration.
2. To perform two or three acts of mortification, or denial of your own will, in order to obtain the favour you solicit.
3. Every morning to place yourself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, thinking with joy that this is the month to obtain all you ask, resolving to spend each day of this prolonged Feast, during which so many hearts honour her perfectly, under the eyes of Mary.
“This is the day,” this is the month, “that the Lord hath made” to honour His Mother; “let us be glad and rejoice therein”.
“My Mother is the attraction that brings souls to Me,” said our Lord to Saint Bridget. Each day verifies this word of the Divine Master. To the exercises of this month we are indebted for a conversion, which in our own days has proved no less startling to the world than consoling to the Faithful – that of the Carmelite Father, Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament.
The offspring of Jewish parents, Hermann Cohen was born at Hamburg in 1821. He, at an early age, embraced the career of an artist, and, being attracted to Paris in 1834, became ere long one of the most distinguished pupils of Listz. Intoxicated with success, he plunged into the vortex of the world and its amusements. But though in the midst of the enjoyment dreamt of by many an artist, the heart of the young Hermann sought for happiness in vain; an undefinable disquietude and ennui pressed heavily on his life. This situation continued till the month of May, 1847. At that time choirs of amateurs assembled every evening for the Month of Mary in the church of Saint Valère. They solicited Hermann to preside at the organ, and the young artist, solely inspired by love for his art and the desire to oblige, repaired to Saint Val&re, where from the first instant he found his heart moved. “When the moment came for Benediction,” he related subsequently, “though in nowise disposed to kneel with the rest of the congregation, I felt interiorly an indescribable trouble. My soul, stunned and distracted by the tumult of the world, found itself once more, so to speak, and became aware that something took place within her to which she had been hitherto a stranger. Without knowing it, or rather in despite of myself, I bowed down. Assisting there again on the following Friday, I felt exactly the same impressions, and the idea of becoming a Catholic suddenly flashed upon my mind.
“A few days after, I passed one morning by this same church. The bell tolled for Mass. I entered the church and assisted at the Holy Sacrifice immoveable and attentive. I heard one, two, three Masses without thinking of retiring, though what retained me I could not conceive. I returned home, but towards evening was involuntarily brought back to the same place, and again the bell invited me to enter. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed, and at the first glimpse of It I felt drawn to the very communion rails, where I fell on my knees. This time it cost me no effort to bow down at Benediction, and on rising up I felt a delicious calm in my whole being. Sleeping and waking, my thoughts the livelong night were on the Blessed Sacrament. I burned with impatience to assist at more Masses, and, in effect, from that time I heard several at Saint Valére with a joy that absorbed all my faculties. Pressed by divine grace, I called on the Duchess de Ranzan, and begged her to direct me to some clergyman; she sent me to the Abbé Legrand.”
It was at Ems, in Germany, that truth, whose first rays Hermann had hitherto only perceived, finally appeared to him in all its splendour.
“There,” he says, “the ceremonies captivated my attention; but, by degrees, the prayers of the Holy Sacrifice, the singing, the consciousness of the presence of a Power at once superhuman and invisible, began to agitate, disquiet, and make me tremble. In a word, it pleased the divine grace to descend on me in all its force. At the Elevation I suddenly felt a very deluge of tears flow from my eyes, nor did it cease for some time. O blissful moment! O moment ever memorable for my soul’s salvation! . . . Still, still doth my mind dwell on thy remembrance, with the many heavenly sensations thou broughtest me from on high. Even now do I invoke with ardour the omnipotent and merciful God, that the delightful memory of His beauty may remain eternally engraven in my heart. I remember to have wept in childhood, but never, oh, never, had 1 known such tears as these. Whilst they flowed I felt the most cutting remorse for my past life surging up from the depths of a heart lacerated by conscience. At once, and as it were by intuition, I spontaneously began to make an interior and rapid general confession of all my grievous faults to God. I beheld them there, confronting me in thousands- hideous, repulsive, revolting, meriting all the anger of a just Judge. And, nevertheless, a strange calm stole over my soul; I felt that the God of mercies would pardon me, would turn away His face from my iniquities, would compassionate my sincere contrition, my bitter grief, my earnest repentance. . . Yes; I felt that He forgave me, and in expiation accepted my firm purpose of loving Him above all things, and of being henceforth entirely converted. Leaving that church of Ems I was already a Christian.”
Influenced by divine grace, Hermann returned to Paris. He was baptized in the church of our Lady of Sion on the 28th of August, 1847, the Feast of Saint Augustine, whose name he was subsequently to take on assuming the Religious habit. He had prepared himself by serious study and a long retreat for holy Baptism. The Abbd Legrand, who had had the privilege of sowing the first seeds of truth in the soul of the young neophyte, crowned his work by pouring the regenerating waters on his head. Ten days after, on the 8th of September, the new Christian approached the Sacred Banquet for the first time, and received, amid the most unbounded transports of delight, this celestial nourishment, the object of his most ardent desires. The assistants were struck with the marvellous splendour and supernatural expression which were suddenly diffused over the features of the young communicant. He formed on the spot a reso- lution to devote himself to God in the Priesthood, but it was not till 1849 that his Religious vocation manifested itself. During a retreat which he made between the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, an irresistible desire drew him to the Order of the discalced Carmelites. After having conquered many difficulties, and surmounted, with that invincible perseverance which is the sign of strong vocations, all the obstacles which God, in His impenetrable designs, never fails to raise in the way of all holy undertakings, the ardent neophyte could at last bid an everlasting farewell to the world, and change his name of Hermann for that of “Brother Augustine Mary of the Blessed Sacrament.” On the 7th of October, 1850, he pronounced his vows in the convent of Agen, and a few months after was solemnly ordained Priest.
Father Augustine Mary has often exercised the function of preaching, and each time he has appeared in the pulpit has been successful in moving souls. It may be asked what is his secret for producing such results, for the humble Religious appears to ignore the most simple resources of oratory. He relates the history of his soul without order or method; he lets his heart speak – nothing more; and his recital is throughout interwoven with affectionate aspirations to the sacred mystery, which is the special object of his devotion, the Blessed Sacrament. “Long have I sought for happiness,” he says, “and sought it everywhere. I have found it at last, and I come to bring you tidings, that you too may find it in your turn.” And then he goes on to express his astonishment how he, but yesterday a poor Jew, should now be inciting Christians to return to God, forgotten in worldly speculations and their accomplishment.
Let us hear Father Hermann rendering testimony to Mary, and join with him in blessing this Immaculate Mother – “Whatever steps I have happily taken in the way of Christ since my conversion, and they are great if viewed in the retrospect, I am greatly indebted to our common Mother; to this good and holy Virgin do I owe my progress, to this Refuge of Sinners whom I have daily invoked with fervour and confidence.”
Visit to the Blessed Sacrament
Mystery of Faith
I do believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” – Mark 9:23
“O my God,” as the great Bossuet used to say, “that I may have no difficulty in yield ing my understanding to you, I begin by submitting it; not only concerning all the works of nature, but more than all the rest, concerning myself.” All is mystery around me, in me; how much greater reason for mystery in religion! But the mystery of mysteries is Your abasement. Your annihilation, in the Eucharist. My senses, my reason, there lose themselves. My senses behold nothing real; sight, taste, touch, contradict my belief. Visus, gustus, tactus in te fallitur. Faith alone, the word of God, Who said, “This is My Body, this is My Blood,” must be confidently relied on. My blind reason is here still more con founded than my senses. Why, how, for what purpose, thus reverse all the laws of nature? God has spoken, I believe. A God-Man, what a prodigy already! but a God-Man under the appearance of bread! Prostrate and suppliant I adore You, O Divinity doubly concealed! Yes, under those sacred species my faith discovers you. On the Cross your Godhead alone was veiled, here even your Humanity disappears from my eyes. Yet do I confess and believe both; I ask but one grace, with the penitent thief – Lord, my God, remember me, here in this tabernacle, all the days of my life, remember me in Your kingdom, that I may merit there to contemplate, there to love your Divinity and Humanity for ever, after having adored them here in the darkness of faith.
O Mary, blessed because you have believed. I believe, help my unbelief.