We ought to have devotion to Our Lady because it is a guarantee of eternal salvation and a sign of predestination to Paradise.
St. Augustine said that all the predestined on earth are enclosed in the womb of Mary.
St. Bonaventure declared, “Whoever is enrolled among Mary’s devotees will be enrolled in the Book of Life.” Or, in clearer language, whoever loves Our Lady, has an assurance of Paradise. St. Alphonsus ventured to say,
“He who loves Our Lady can be as sure of Paradise as if he were already there.”
Devotion to Our Lady, therefore, is the assurance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our Lady is called the “Gate of Heaven” because one does not enter Paradise except through her. Thus St. Bonaventure said in his concise way,
“No one can enter Paradise unless he passes through Mary, who is the gate.” It is a consoling thought that everybody can be devoted to Our Lady and thus keep close to this “Gate of Heaven” — both the saint and the sinner, the believer and the unbeliever.
Our Lady is the Mother of all. She is the
Mediatrix for whoever wants to be saved. She is the Queen of Love over all the world. If God the Father “wants all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4), Our Lady, the Mother of all, likewise desires that everybody gain eternal salvation. And if Jesus says that He gives His sheep “life everlasting, and they shall not perish forever; and no man shall pluck them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28), then Mary, the heavenly
Coredemptrix, will never allow the devil to snatch any of her devoted clients from her hands.
“He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord” (Prov. 8:35): so it is that the Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Liturgy.
Refuge of sinners
It is a consoling thing to know that God has entrusted to the heavenly Mother above all else the salvation of people in sin, of souls led astray, of souls in despair, who turn to her for help.
St. Gertrude saw in a vision the holy Virgin wearing a great mantle, and under it many animals of every kind appeared who sought refuge. Our Lady gave her to understand that all sinners who appeal to her were finding refuge and salvation.
Great Saints and Doctors of the Church assure us of this truth with words that offer great hope to troubled hearts. We present some of their thoughts.
St. Ignatius the Martyr says, “One who is always full of zeal and devotion for the Virgin Mother of God will never come to a bad end. It is impossible, O Virgin, for a sinner to be saved except through your help and protection.”
St. Augustine declares that “Mary is the only hope of sinners.” And St. Hilary, speaking of true devotion to Our Lady, counsels us by saying that
“no matter how sinful one may have been, if he has devotion to Mary it is impossible that he be lost.”
St. Peter Damian states, “O Mary, it is possible for you to bring back the hope of salvation even to the most despairing souls.” And St. Anselm adds,
“O Mary, it is impossible that anyone who has recourse to you should perish.”
St. Bernard uses the beautiful Biblical images of the ark and the ladder: “Mary,” he writes,
“is the ark by means of which one escapes the shipwreck of eternal damnation. My dear sons, Mary ... is the ladder of sinners; she is my great assurance; she is the whole reason for my hope.”
We should also remember that St. Bonaventure, St. Louis Grignon, St. Paul of the Cross, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, the holy Curé of Ars, St. Anthony Claret, and many others confirm this doctrine.
But the whole teaching on this truth seems to be summed up in this clear statement of St. John Damascene:
“God bestows the grace of devotion to Our Lady on those whom He wills to save.”
For this reason St. Alphonsus was unwearying in urging those having a devotion to Our Lady to gratefully preserve this sweet pledge of eternal salvation. When people came to see him or when he met people, he gave them a little image of Our Lady and exhorted them to have devotion for the Mother of all mercies. We who are sinners should never forget St. Camillus de Lellis’ remark:
“Woe to us sinners if we were not to have this great Advocate in Heaven!”
She saves souls from hell
Another consoling assurance that the Saints gave us is Mary’s boundless, merciful charity toward those devoted to her who, according to justice, would deserve hell.
There is a chorus of strong voices from St. John Chrysostom to St. Bernard, from St. Alphonsus to St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, who teach that, while Jesus is King of Mercy and Justice, Our Lady is Queen of Mercy only.
St. John Chrysostom forcefully and clearly declared,
“Mary’s immense mercy saves a great number of unhappy persons who, according to the norms of divine justice, would be damned.”
The mother of St. Teresa of Lisieux reports a charming episode from the life of her holy daughter:
“Little Teresa asked me one day if she would go to Paradise. I answered, ‘Yes, if you are nice and good.’ Then she said, ‘Ah, Mother, then if I am not good, will I go to hell? But I know what I would do then. When you go away to Heaven I will go with you; and you would hold me real tight in your arms. Then that would make the good God take me...’ I read in her expression that she was convinced that the good God could do nothing against her if she stayed in her mother’s arms.”
Perhaps everyone knows the instructive story which Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina used to recount so often: “Our Lord walks through Paradise, and He encounters the faces of many sinners worthy of hell and not of Paradise. He calls St. Peter and warns him to be more attentive not to let anyone into Paradise who is not worthy. St. Peter promises to be more vigilant and attentive.
“The next day, Our Lord takes another walk, and again He encounters many sinners. He calls St. Peter again, and this time severely admonishes him. St. Peter feels humiliated, and promises Him the maximum vigilance.
“But the next day, the same thing happens: Our Lord encounters new sinners in Paradise. This time He calls St. Peter, determined to punish him and snatch the keys of Paradise away from him. But St. Peter knows how to defend himself, because he discovered the way in which sinners are entering Paradise; and he relates to Our Lord that, in the dark of the night, while all are sleeping, Our Blessed Lady opens the doors of Heaven and lets in those sinners.
‘Well,’ St. Peter concludes, ‘with Your Mother, I cannot do
anything”; and Our Lord adds: ‘And neither can I!’”
St. Gregory the Great rightly declared, “Nothing resists your power, O Mary, and your Son appears to be fulfilling a duty when He grants your prayers.” It cannot be that Jesus stands against His Mother.
In the life of St. Gemma we read that one day during an ecstasy the Saint asked Jesus for the conversion of an obstinate sinner who was a high ranking mason. Jesus would not hear of it.
“He has abused grace too much. He is hardened in his evil way. I have abandoned him.”
St. Gemma did not give up. She appealed again, but had no success. Finally, in view of Jesus’ decisive refusal, the Saint exclaimed disappointedly, “Very well. I understand, Jesus. I will speak to Your Mother. And it is up to You to say no to her!” She spoke to His Mother. Our Lady cast a glance at Jesus, and Jesus smiled: the grace was effected. On that very day the sinner went to Confession.
St. Bernard wisely exclaimed, “Mary is the whole reason for our hope!” Let us never grow tired, therefore, of confidently calling on Our Lady, saying with St.
Ephrem, “Hail, O hope for the soul! O secure stronghold of Christians! Hail, O help of sinners! Hail, O Bulwark of the faithful, Refuge of all the world!”