The Holy Name of Mary
The Importance of This Name. When a child is born, one of the first things we do, is to give him a name. All of us fondly commemorate our patronal feastday. A family feastday is an occasion for manifesting filial devotion to our parents or to our children. We wish them many happy returns. We send them presents, we pay them visits. All this is part of the ritual of that happy day. Today, we are meditating on the feast of the Name of Mary, a feast which ought to be a great occasion for all her devotees and loving children. The importance of a name depends on its fitness to the person to whom it is applied. The better the person is pictured by a name, the more appropriate that name is. In the world, oftener than not, names are given because of some particular liking for that name by the parents or on account of some family connection implied. We seldom pause to choose a name that suits the person concerned. But it was not so with Mary. It was not right and proper that just any name whatsoever should be given to her. Her name must express all the graces and wonders and marvels with which God had endowed her. Thus God, and God alone, could give Her a fitting and adequate name. And the name chosen was Mary.
The Greatness of This Name. In order to surmise its greatness it is enough to see that God is the Author of this name. God gave this name to Our Lady as a sign of what she was going to be. When God chose anyone for some extraordinary mission, He would first of all change the name of the person so chosen, and the new name would reflect the highest aim to which He was calling that person. So He changed the name of Abraham; He chose the name of Isaac; through an Angel He instructed Zacharias that the Precursor should be called John; and Christ Himself changed Simon's name to Peter when He founded His Church and appointed amongst His apostles the one who was going to be its head and foundation. Now, how compare the dignity and importance of the mission entrusted to Abraham, to Isaac, to the Baptist and to Peter with the dignity and mission of Mary? Who, then, but God Himself could give her a worthy name?
The name we bear was imposed at the choice of our parents, although, of course, a very different one could have been given to us. But with Our Lady it was not so. She was called Mary, nor could she have any other name, because God Himself would find no better. How great and sublime is that most holy and sweet name. That is why the Gospel, which has so little about Our Lady, does not pass over this so important detail, but expressly states: And the Virgin's name was Mary. Thus, St. Peter Damian says that the name of Mary was from eternity drawn from the Divine Treasury when Redemption through the Incarnation of the Word was decreed in Heaven.
Its Usefulness. From all this we can deduce how we should respect this holy name, and how, after the Name of Jesus there is no other so holy, so useful for us as the name of Mary.
If the Name of Jesus sanctifies, provided we utter it with the respect and love that it deserves, so must it be with the name of Mary. That is why, after God and Jesus, Mary is the most popular name of all. Mothers teach it to their children, the sick and those in sorrow invoke it, the dying have it on their lips. How many churches, how many chapels have been raised the world over in honor of the name of Mary! How many sinners have been converted through its invocation. There is nothing sweeter for holy souls and nothing more profitable for the sinner than to put those two blessed Names, Jesus and Mary, together, to utter them often, so as to draw from them the great advantage that their utterance brings to our souls. Do you also do it? Have you ever meditated on the importance of this most holy name and on its divine greatness? Do you utter it with fervor and especially in the temptations, difficulties and sorrows of life? Is it especially engraved on your heart?
That this holy Name may not be indifferent to us but rather induce us to a deeper knowledge and to a more fervent invocation of it, it is imperative that we should meditate on its meaning. As about 300 different interpretations have been given, it is rather difficult to ascertain its true meaning. But it is providential that God should have left it open to so many interpretations, all of them so good and so meaningful, and thus make us understand that all excellences and perfections are contained in Our Blessed Lady. The most probable of all these interpretations are the following:
Beautiful, or rather, the beautiful par excellence, as though to mean that she is Beauty itself. And there is no other way to see her. As beautiful as the moon, sings the Church. Indeed, just as in the darkness of night, when everything is deprived of beauty, the placid and serene light of the moon suddenly shines, greater than the stars, so does Mary with her shining beauty dispel darkness and share her light with all who would partake of it.
Tota Pulchra. She is also called Tota Pulchra, "All Beautiful". All, Tota. In Mary there is nothing that is not extremely beautiful; body, soul, eyes, senses, heart, everything. In her there is nothing unsightly, nothing stained, nothing to mar her beauty. Give a thought to the things that the world calls beautiful, and you will be convinced that the world has no idea of what real beauty is. The world gives the name of beauty only to corporeal beauty, which oftener than not, is artificial and merely outward, external. The world is satisfied with that beauty, because it knows no other. Instead, Mary is always and at every moment most beautiful, Tota Pulchra. How aptly then the name of Mary applies to her as thus interpreted.
Lady and Mistress. How certain it is that she really is Queen and Mistress. She was never a slave to sin, to the Devil, or to the passions. She was, it is true, the Handmaid of the Lord; but it is for that very reason that She is Queen and Mistress. And Christians have always thus understood it. Therefore they call her Our Lady. She is the Queen of the Angels, of those Angels who take legitimate filial pride in serving her. The Angels were very often her servants. In the Annunciation, in the grotto of Bethlehem, in the Flight into Egypt, on Calvary itself, where the Angels of sorrow went to comfort and to weep with her. She is Lady and Mistress over the devils who fear her and are put to flight at the mere mention of her name. On hearing her holy name, Heaven and earth bend the knee. And God has willed that the Devil fears Our Lady even more than he does Jesus; thus his humiliation is the greater and the triumph of Our Lady the more admirable.
Lady and Queen of Mercy. Lastly, she is Lady and Mistress of all men, but she is a Lady and Queen of Mercy. Jesus wanted her to share His kingdom and scepter, thus while He took justice upon Himself as the judge of the living and the dead, to Mary He entrusted the power and administration of mercy. Her majesty and grandeur do not hurt, do not frighten, but rather lovingly urge us through sweet force. See whether you also feel these sentiments when you are at the feet of this great Lady. She is Queen and Lady of our hearts. She alone has the right to command our hearts. Is she truly the absolute Queen of your heart?
The Sea. The sea is a gathering together of the waters of the earth and of the rain from the skies. Genesis says that when God created the earth, He gathered all the waters in one place and called it the sea. So with Our Lady, God gathered in Mary all the graces which He had distributed amongst His creatures, whether Angels or men. And therefore she is a Sea of graces where we can find whatever we want.
From the sea rise the clouds which later on come down upon the earth bringing with them the rain which gives fertility to the fields. In the same manner Our Blessed Lady from the immense ocean of her graces pours all the gifts that bear sanctity and virtue into the souls of men.
Queen of Martyrs. The waters of the sea are bitter, as were also the sorrows of the Heart of Mary, that veritable ocean of bitterness, since she suffered during the passion of her Son more than all other human hearts together. On account of that she is called the Queen of Martyrs, because she suffered more than them all.
The Star of the Sea. Finally, she is the Star of the Sea, because she is the light which guides those who are sailing across the ocean of this earthly life, across the sea of our passions where shipwreck is always possible, across the sea of darkness where we are groping for our bearings, where self-love, blindness, and the violence of our passions carry us away.
She is the Star which shines from on high, so that no matter where we are we can find her. God placed her so high, that she might be seen from everywhere. But for that same reason unless we lift our eyes we cannot see her. The more we lower them towards the things of the earth, the less we see her rays. Hence how fitting is the name of Mary in each and every one of its connotations! Try to imitate Mary, try to keep her always in view by ceaselessly repeating her most sweet Name, just as we never grow tired of repeating the name of those whom we love.
Words of Our Lady to Jacinta
As Our Blessed Mother had promised at Fatima, the two youngest visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta, joined her in Heaven a short time after the apparitions. The little boy died from the influenza in April, 1919 and his sister from pleurisy in February, 1920.
Before she died, little Jacinta revealed some little-known but remarkable statements made by Our Lady of Fatima. Here are some of them:
"More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason."
"Certain fashions are being introduced that offend Our Lord very much."
"Many marriages are not good, they do not please Our Lord and are not of God."
"Priests must be pure, very pure. They should not busy themselves with anything except what concerns the Church and the salvation of souls. The disobedience of priests to their superiors and to the Holy Father is very displeasing to Our Lord."
"Our Blessed Mother can no longer restrain the hand of her Divine Son from striking the world with just punishment for its many crimes."
"If the government of a country leaves the Church in peace and gives liberty to our Holy Religion, it will be blessed by God."
"Tell everyone that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her, and that the Sacred Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to plead for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for Our Lord has confided the peace of the world to her."
PRAYER: THE CHIEF DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN
The Ascetical Doctrine of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori
I have published several other spiritual works: on the Blessed Sacrament, on the Passion of Jesus Christ, on the Glories of Mary, and, besides, a work against the Materialists and Deists, with other little devout treatises. Recently I finished a book on the Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of our Savior, and another entitled Preparation for Death. However, I do not think that I have written a more useful work than this present one, in which I speak of prayer as a necessary and certain means of obtaining salvation, and all the graces that we require for that purpose. If it were in my power, I would distribute a copy of it to every single Catholic in the whole world, in order to show him the absolute necessity of prayer for salvation.
I say this because, on the one hand, I see that the absolute necessity of prayer is taught all throughout the Holy Scriptures and by all the Fathers of the Church; while, on the other hand, I see that Christians are woefully careless in their practice of this critical means of eternal salvation. And, sadder still, I see that many of those who preach do so but little concerning the doctrine of prayer, and confessors often fail to communicate it to their penitents. There are, moreover, many popular spiritual books that do not speak sufficiently of it. But there is hardly anything that preachers and confessors and spiritual books should insist upon with more vigor and energy than prayer.
This is not to belittle the many excellent means of keeping ourselves in the grace of God, such as: avoiding the occasions of sin, frequenting the holy Sacraments, resisting temptations, listening to the Word of God in sermons and spiritual conferences, meditating on the eternal truths, and other means; all of these are not only most useful, but even of practical necessity to salvation. But what profit is there in sermons, meditations, and all of the other means pointed out by masters of the spiritual life,if we forget to pray? Has not Our Lord declared that He will grant His graces only to those who pray for them? "Ask and ye shall receive." (John 16:24)
Without prayer, in the ordinary course of Providence, all the meditations that we make, all our resolutions, all our promises, will be useless. If we fail to pray, we shall always be unfaithful to the inspirations of God, and to the promises we made to Him in holy Baptism. This is because, in order to actually do good, to conquer temptations, to practice virtues, and to observe God's holy law, it is not enough to merely receive illumination from God, and to meditate and make resolutions; we need, further, the actual assistance of God; and as we shall soon see, He does not give this assistance except to those who pray, and who pray with perseverance. The spiritual light we receive, and the considerations and good resolutions that we make, are useful to incite us to the act of prayer when we are in spiritual danger, and are tempted to transgress God's law; for then prayer will obtain for us God's help, and we shall be preserved from sin; but if in such moments we fail to pray, we shall be lost.
My intention in prefacing this work with this sentiment is that my readers may thank God for giving them an opportunity, by means of this little treatise, to receive the grace of reflecting more deeply on the importance of prayer; for all adults who are saved are ordinarily saved by this single means of grace. Therefore, I ask my readers to thank God; for surely it is a great mercy when He gives you the light and the grace to pray. I hope, that you, my dear brothers and sisters, after reading this little volume, will never from this day forward neglect to have continual recourse to God in prayer, whenever you are tempted to offend Him. If in times past you have had your conscience burdened with many sins, realize that the cause of this has been your neglect of prayer and failure to ask God for help to resist the temptations that assaulted you.
I beg you, therefore, to read this work again and again with the greatest attention; not because I have written it, but because it is an important means of grace that God offers you for the good of your eternal salvation, thereby making you to understand that He wishes you to be saved. And after having read it yourself, induce as many of your friends and neighbors as you can to read it also. Now, let us begin in the Name of the Lord.
The Apostle writes to St. Timothy: "I beseech, therefore, that first of all supplications, petitions, and thanksgivings be made." (1 Tim. 2:1) St. Thomas Aquinas explains that prayer is properly "the lifting up of the soul to God." (2.2 q. 83, a. 17) "In a strict sense", says the Angelic Doctor, prayer means recourse to God; but in its general meaning, it includes the followings specific kinds:
The term "prayer" used throughout this work includes all of these aspects of prayer.
In order to attach ourselves to this great means of salvation then, we must first of all consider how necessary it is to us, and how powerful it is to obtain for us all the graces that we can desire from God, if we know how to ask for them as we ought. Thus, in this first part, we will speak of the necessity and power of prayer; and secondly, of the conditions necessary to make it efficacious with God. In the second part, we will show that the grace of prayer is given to all men; and there we will treat of the manner in which grace ordinarily operates.
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