Every time I read something written by one of the great Doctors of the Church, it’s as if my heart is pierced with the sword of truth, knowledge, and love. There is a reason why the Doctors of the Church have been given this distinguished title. The great saints can say things in one paragraph it takes many of us to say in ten paragraphs. That’s the beauty of the saints – they are so united with Jesus Christ and His Church that they see, even in their human frailty, the mind of God clearly with precision and depth.
As I have done in the past, with other saints and Doctors of the Church, today’s blog post focuses on the writings of St. Alphonsus Ligouri. The Latin Church just celebrated his feast day this past Friday, August 1. He is known as the Patron of Theologians and wrote extensively on prayer, Jesus and the Blessed Sacrament, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today’s excerpt comes from his document, The Glories of Mary, and focuses on Mary as “Our Life.”
Drawing upon the theological prowess of St. Bonaventure and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, fellow Doctors of the Church, St. Alphonsus Ligouri with eloquence, beauty, and love for Jesus Christ and His Mother explains to us the importance of Grace and Mary’s important role as the dispenser of that Grace. For Mary, as Queen Mother and Advocate, her role is to only bring our petitions to the King, but to assist in the dispensation of the Grace Jesus Christ pours down upon us.
The Patron of Theologians writes…
“In order to understand correctly the reason why the Church calls Mary “our life”, we must consider that as the soul gives life to the body, so divine grace gives life to the soul. For a soul without grace, although nominally alive, in truth is dead. As Mary, by her intercession, obtains for sinners the gift of grace, she restores them to life.
Grant mercy to your people, my Son
The Church applies to her the following words of Proverbs: “Those who seek Me find Me” (8:17). They find Me, or, according to the Septuagint, “They find grace.” Thus, to have recourse to Mary is to find the grace of God; for, “He who finds Me finds life, and wins favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35). Listen, as Saint Bonaventure comments on these words; listen, all you who desire the kingdom of God. Honor the Virgin Mary, and you shall have life and eternal salvation.
Saint Bernard exhorts us, if we have been so unfortunate as to lose divine grace, to strive to recover it, but to strive through Mary; for if we have lost it, she has found it. She is, therefore, called by this saint “the finder of grace.” This is what Gabriel meant when he said: “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God.” But if Mary had never been without grace, how could the angel say to her that she had found it? A thing is said to be found when it has been lost. The Virgin was always with God and with grace. She was even full of grace, as the Archangel himself announced when he greeted her: “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you.” If, then, Mary did not find grace for herself, for whom did she find it? She found it for sinners who had lost it. Let sinners, then, who have lost grace flee to Mary. With her they will certainly find it. And let them say: “O Lady, what is lost must be restored to him who has lost it. This grace which you have found is not yours; you have never lost it. It is ours, for we have lost it, and to us you should restore it.” If we desire to find the grace of God, let us go to Mary who has found it. She always has been and always will be dear to God; if we have recourse to her, we shall certainly find it. God has placed her in the world to be our defense, and therefore she is ordained to be the Mediatrix of Peace between the sinner and God.
Saint Bernard gives encouragement to the sinner and says: “Go to this Mother of mercy, and show her the wounds which your sins have inflicted on your soul. Then she will surely beg her Son to pardon you, and the Son Who loves her so much will certainly hear her.” So, too, the Church teaches us to pray to the Lord to grant us Mary’s powerful intercession so that we may rise from our sins: “Grant us, merciful God, strength against all our weakness, that we who celebrate the memory of the holy Mother of God may, by the help of her intercession, arise again from our iniquities.””
This week let us ponder the heart piercing words of St. Alphonsus Ligouri and to remember the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, “Grace is Everything.” Through his holy and immaculate Mother, our Lord Jesus Christ dispenses these graces to us when we are open to receiving them and allowing them to work in our lives. Let us always be mindful of the gratuitous gift of grace and that we can never earn it, only receive it.