“The Promptitude of Mary in assisting those who invoke Her.”
by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church and Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
Ad te clamamus, exules filii Evæ (To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve).
Truly unfortunate are we poor children of Eve; for, guilty before God of her fault, and condemned to the same penalty, we have to wander about in this valley of tears as exiles from our country, and to weep over our many afflictions of body and soul. But blessed is he who, in the midst of these sorrows, often turns to the Comfortress of the world, to the refuge of the unfortunate, to the great Mother of God, and devoutly calls upon Her and invokes Her! Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates (Prov.8.34). Blessed, says Mary, is he who listens to my counsels, and watches continually at the gate of my mercy, and invokes my intercession and aid.
Ruth of Sacred Scriptures, whose name signifies “seeing and hastening”, was a figure of Mary; for She, seeing our miseries, hastens in Her mercy to succor us. In the greatness of Her desire to help us, She can not admit of delay, for She is in no way an avaricious guardian of the graces She has at Her disposal as Mother of Mercy, and can not do otherwise than immediately shower down the treasures of Her liberality on Her servants.
The Blessed Virgin not only runs but flies to assist him who invokes Her. And there were given to the Woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert (Apoc. 12.14). She has the wings of an eagle, for She flies with the love of God. But more to our purpose, these wings of an eagle signify the velocity, exceeding that of the seraphim, with which Mary always flies to the succor of Her children.
This will explain the passage in the Gospel of St. Luke speaking of Our Blessed Mother’s visit to Her cousin Elizabeth . And Mary, rising up, went into the hill country with haste (Lk. 1.39). And this is not said of Her return. Truly, She has the most ardent desire to console all, and is no sooner invoked than She accepts the prayers, and helps.
Nor should the multitude of our sins diminish our confidence in that Mary will grant our petitions when we cast ourselves at Her feet. As a good mother does not shrink from applying a remedy to her child infected with ulcers, however numerous and revolting they may be, so also is our good Mother unable to abandon us when we have recourse to Her, that She may heal the wounds caused by our sins, however loathsome they may have rendered us.
This good Mother’s compassion is so great that the love She bears us is such, that She does not even wait for our prayers in order to assist us; but, as it is expressed in the Book of Wisdom, she preventeth them that covet her, so that she first showeth herself unto them. St. Anselm applies these words to Mary, and says that She is beforehand with those who desire Her protection. By this we are to understand that She obtains us many favors from God before we have recourse to Her. For this reason, She is called the moon, fair as the moon (Cant. 6.9), meaning, not only that She is swift as the moon in its course, by flying to the aid of those who invoke Her, but that She is still more so, for Her love for us is so tender, that in our wants She anticipates our prayers, and Her mercy is more prompt to help us than we are to ask Her aid.
Our Blessed Mother, even when living in this world, showed at the marriage-feast of Cana the great compassion that she would afterwards exercise towards us in our necessities, and which now, as it were, forces Her to have pity on us and assist us, even before we ask Her to do so. In the second chapter of St. Luke, we read that at this feast the compassionate Mother saw the embarrassment in which the bride and bridegroom were, and that they were quite ashamed on seeing the wine fail; and therefore, without being asked, and listening only to the dictates of Her compassionate heart, which could never behold the afflictions of others without feeling for them, She begged Her Son to console them simply by laying their distresses before Him: they have no wine (2.3). No sooner had She done so, than Our Lord, in order to satisfy all present, and still more to console the compassionate Heart of His Mother, who had asked the favor, worked the well-known miracle by which He changed the water, brought Him in jars, into wine. From this, if Mary, unasked, is thus prompt to succor the needy, how much more so will She be to succor those who invoke Her and ask for Her help?
St. Anselm, to increase our confidence, adds, that “when we have recourse to this divine Mother, not only we may be sure of Her protection, but that often we shall be heard more quickly, and be thus preserved, if we have recourse to Mary and call on Her holy name, than we should be if we called on the name of Jesus our Savior.” And the reason he gives for it is, “that to Jesus, as a judge, it belongs also to punish; but mercy alone belongs to the Blessed Virgin as a Patroness.” Meaning, that we more easily find salvation by having recourse to the Mother of than by going to the Son – not as if Mary was more powerful than Her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Savior, and that He alone by His merits has obtained and obtains salvation for us; but it is for this reason: that when we have recourse to Jesus, we consider him at the same time as our judge, to Whom it belongs also to chastise ungrateful souls, and therefore the confidence necessary to be heard may fail us; but when we go to Mary, who has no other office than to compassionate us as Mother of mercy, and to defend us as our advocate, our confidence is more easily established, and is often greater. “We often obtain more promptly what we ask by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus. Her Son is Lord and Judge of all, and discerns the merits of each one; and therefore if He does not immediately grant the prayers of all, He is just. When, however, the Mother’s name is invoked, though the merits of the suppliant are not such as to deserve that his prayer should be granted, those of the Mother supply that he may receive.”