MOTHER OF MERCY


I am the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just, and the door through which sinners are brought to God.
- Mary to St. Brigid of Sweden (Rev. 1.6, c.10) 

Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanks for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent! Receive our gratitude, and by your prayers obtain the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to make our peace with God. 

Holy Mary, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you feel now your help and protection. Be ready to help us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it your continual concern to pray for the people of God, foryou were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, who lives and reigns forever. Amen. 

-Saint Augustine of Hippo

* Turn then, Most Gracious Advocate, Thine Eyes of Mercy Toward Us
Mary’s role as our Advocate before God has been supported by countless saints, but perhaps nowhere has the legal connotation of the title (our advocate = our lawyer) been so wonderfully illustrated as in the Revelations of St. Birgitta (Bridget) of Sweden. In a vision, St. Birgitta witnessed the judgment of a lukewarm man (one of whom Jesus himself said in the Gospel that he would prefer to spit from his mouth) who was brought before the court of the particular judgment at his death. The devil demanded the right to drag the man’s soul to hell, taunting God on account of his justice, which the devil said God could not deny on behalf of his mercy, when the Mother of Mercy intervened dramatically: 

After this {the demons’ taunts} a trumpet-like sound was heard at which those who heard it fell silent, and immediately a voice spoke and said: “Be silent, all of you angels and souls and demons, and hear what God’s Mother has to say!” Then the Virgin herself appeared before the judgment seat, and it looked as though she were hiding some large objects beneath her mantle. She said: “You enemies! You attack mercy, and you love justice but without charity. Though these good works of this soul may be deficient and, for that reason, he should not enter heaven, yet look what I have beneath my mantle!” Then the Virgin opened the folds of her mantle on either side. On one side could be seen a little church, as it were, with monks in it. On the other side appeared men and women, God’s friends, both religious and others, all of them crying out with one voice and saying: “Have mercy, merciful Lord!”14 

The man’s soul was spared, on account of his incomparable defense attorney! In this vision, we see not only how our Advocate-Mother comes to the aid of those whose souls are in peril, but also how she makes use of the good works of those who are consecrated to her, and who offer their service to her, on behalf of others. In another vision, the devil attempted to lay his hands on a woman who was formerly a prostitute, and who, after she had entered a church but subsequently despaired of God’s mercy, was about to return to her former way of life. The Mother of Mercy stopped the devil, and commanded him to answer the following question: “Tell me, devil, what intention did this woman have before entering the church?” The devil reluctantly replied that the woman had intended to leave her sinful way of life. The Virgin then asked the devil: “Tell me, if a robber lay in wait outside the doors of the bride and wanted to rape her, what would the bridegroom do?” The devil admitted that the bridegroom would defend his bride. Then the Virgin-Advocate of sinners said: 

You are the wicked robber. This soul is the bride of the bridegroom, my Son, who redeemed her with his own blood. You corrupted and seized her by force. Therefore, since my Son is the bridegroom of her soul, and Lord over you, then it is your role to flee before him.15 

In a third vision, Birgitta saw the judgment of the soul of her own son. Karl was a knight who had lived a rather immoral life, which immediately before his death included the intention of abandoning his wife in Sweden, and becoming romantically involved with the queen of Naples, whom he met while accompanying his mother Birgitta on a pilgrimage. Birgitta knew of his intention, and she prayed that Karl would die before he could consummate his wish. Her prayer was answered. 

At that very moment, Lady Birgitta saw herself removed to a great and beautiful palace, and the Lord Jesus Christ seated there like a crowned emperor with the tribunal in front of him, and an infinite host of angels and saints in attendance. She saw his most worthy mother standing beside him, and following the proceedings closely. A soul, too, was seen to stand before the judge in great fear and trembling, naked like a newborn babe, as though completely blind, and unable to see, but understanding in its conscience what was being said and done in the palace. An angel stood to the right of the judge, next to the soul, and a devil to his left, but neither of them touched the soul or laid hands on it. Then the devil cried out, saying: 

Hear me, almighty Judge! I lodge a complaint before you that a woman, who is both my Lady and your mother, whom you love so much that you have given her power over heaven and earth, and over all us demons in hell, has indeed done me an injustice in regard to this soul that now stands here. After this soul left the body, by right I should have immediately received it, and presented it in my company to your court of judgment. Behold, O just judge: this woman, your mother, almost before this soul left the man’s mouth, laid hold of it with her hands and brought it to your court under her powerful protection. 

Then Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, replied: 

Hear, devil, my reply. When you were created, you understood the justice which was in God from eternity without beginning. You also had the free choice to do what pleased you most and, although you chose to hate God rather than to love him, you still understand what justice demands. Therefore, I say to you that it was my right rather than yours to bring this soul before God, the true Judge. While his soul was in the body, this man had great love for me, and often pondered in his heart how God had deigned to make me his mother, and willed to raise me up above all created beings. And so he began to love God so much that he said in his heart: ‘I rejoice so much that God so dearly cherishes the Virgin Mary, his mother, that there is no created thing or bodily delight in the world that I would accept in exchange for this joy {of seeing her in her place of honor next to God}.’ Accordingly, devil, look at the disposition of his will when he departed. What seems more right to you now: that his soul should come under my protection before the judgment seat of God, or that it should come into your hands to be cruelly tortured?…
The devil replied:
I shall now enumerate his sins.
He wanted to start at once, but at that very moment began to cry and wail and frenetically search inside himself, in his head and in all the limbs he seemed to have. He seemed to tremble all over and cried out in great consternation:
Woe and misery to me! I have lost the work that took me so long! Not only is the text erased and destroyed, but all the material in which everything was written has been consumed! The material stands for the time in which he sinned, and I cannot remember it any more than the sins written in it. …
The angel replied:
Open the sack and request judgment on the sins for which you are supposed to chastise him.
At these words, the devil cried out as though out of his mind, saying:
I have been robbed of my rights! Not only has my sack been taken away, but even the sins that it was full of. … I must still punish him for all those venial sins he committed; they have not at all been deleted by the indulgences. There are thousands of thousands, all written on my tongue.
The angel replied:
Stick out your tongue and show us what is written there!
The devil answered with a great wail and clamor like a madman and said:
Woe is me, I do not have even a single word to say! My tongue has been cut off at the root along with all its force. …
Then Christ the Judge spoke saying:
Withdraw, enemy devil!
To the knight {Karl} he then said:
Come, you my chosen one!
And immediately the devil fled.16

photo: Matki Boskiej Ostrobramskiej

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