Feast of Pope St. Pius X
"Restore Everything Through Mary" - Pope St. Pius X
(from the Encyclical 'Ad diem illum laetissimum', Feb.2, 1904)
True devotion: conversion of heart
No homage is more agreeable to her, none is sweeter to her than that we should know and really love Jesus Christ. Let then crowds fill the churches—let solemn feasts be celebrated and public rejoicings be made. Such manifestations are eminently suited for enlivening our faith. But unless heart and will be added, they will all be empty forms, mere appearances of piety. At such a spectacle the Virgin, borrowing the words of Christ, would address us with the just reproach: "This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matt. 15.8).
For to be genuine, our piety to the Mother of God must spring from the heart. Exterior acts have neither utility nor value if the acts of the soul have no part in them. Now these latter can only have one object, which is that we should fully carry out what the Divine Son of Mary commands. For if true love alone has the power to unite the wills of men, it is of prime necessity that we should have one will with Mary to serve Jesus our Lord. What this most prudent Virgin said to the servants at the marriage feast of Cana she addresses also to us: Whatever He shall say to you, do ye (Jn. 2.5 ). Now here is the word of Jesus Christ: If you would enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt. 19.17).
Let then each one fully convince himself of this, that if his piety toward the Blessed Virgin does not hinder him from sinning, or does not move his will to amend an evil life, it is a deceptive and lying piety, wanting, as it is, in proper effect, and in his natural fruit.
God's sanctity demanded the Immaculate Conception
If anyone desires a confirmation of this, it may easily be found in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. For prescinding from Tradition which, as well as Scripture, is a source of truth, whence has this conviction of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin shown itself in every age to be so much in keeping with the Christian mind as to appear fixed and innate in the hearts of the faithful. We shrink with horror from saying, as Denis the Carthusian so well expresses it, that "this Woman who was to crush the head of the serpent should have been crushed by him, and that the Daughter of God should have ever been the daughter of the evil one." No, to the Christian intelligence the idea is unthinkable that the flesh of Christ, holy, stainless, innocent, was formed in the womb of Mary of a flesh which had ever, if only for the briefest moment, contracted any stain. Is there not an infinite opposition between God and sin? There certainly we have the origin of the conviction common to all Christians that, before Jesus Christ, clothed in human nature, cleansed us from our sins in His blood (cf. Apoc. 7.14), He accorded Mary the grace and special privilege of being preserved and exempted from the first moment of Her conception, from all stain of original sin.
Devotion leads to imitation
Whoever, then, wishes—and no one ought not so to wish—that his devotion should be perfect and worthy of her, should go further, and strive to his utmost to imitate her example. It is a divine law that those only attain everlasting happiness who have by such faithful imitation reproduced in themselves the form of the patience and sanctity of Jesus Christ: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8.29).
But so deplorable is our weakness that we are sometimes discouraged by the greatness of such an example. By the providence of God, however, another example is proposed to us, which is both as near to Christ as human nature allows, and more nearly accords with the weakness of our nature. And this is no other than that of the Mother of God: "Such was Mary," very pertinently points out St. Ambrose, "that Her life is an example for all."
And therefore he rightly concludes: "Have then before your eyes the virginity and life of Mary from whom as from a mirror shines forth the brightness of chastity and the form of virtue."
Now if it becomes children not to omit to imitate any of the virtues of this most blessed Mother, we yet wish that the faithful apply themselves by preference to the principal virtues which are, as it were, the nerves and fibers of the Christian life—we mean faith, hope and charity toward God and our neighbor.
Although no part of the life of Mary fails to show the brilliant character of these virtues, yet they attained their highest degree of splendor at the time when She stood by Her dying Son. Jesus is nailed to the Cross, and He is reproached with maledictions, for having made Himself the Son of God (Jn. 19.7). But She unceasingly recognized and adored the divinity in Him. She bore His dead body to the tomb, but never for a moment doubted that He would rise again. Then the love of God with which She burned made Her a partaker in the sufferings of Christ and the associate in His Passion; with Him, moreover, as if forgetful of Her own sorrow, She prayed for the pardon of the executioners although they in their hate cried out: His blood be upon us and upon our children (Matt. 27.25).