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Mary’s Visitation

Whoever desires graces must go to Mary; whoever goes to Mary is sure to obtain what he desires.

by St. Alphonsus de Liguori

A home that has been visited by some well-known personage is considered fortunate, both because of the honor such a visit brings it and because of the advantages that may be expected to follow. But still more fortunate is the soul that is visited by the Queen of the world, the most holy Virgin Mary, for Mary cannot help filling that soul with grace and virtue.

The house of Obededom was blessed when the ark of God visited it; And the Lord blessed his house (1 Par. 13:14). But those persons who receive a loving visit from the living ark of God, Mary, are enriched with much greater blessings. "Happy is the house which the Mother of God visits," says Engelgrave.

Take, for example, the home of St. John the Baptist. As soon as Mary entered it, She heaped graces and blessings on the entire family. That is why the feast of the Visitation is frequently called the feast of "Our Lady of Graces."

We shall endeavor to show that the Mother of God is the treasurer of all graces. The subject will be divided into two parts. In the first we shall show that everyone who desires graces must have recourse to Mary. In the second, that a person who has recourse to Mary should be confident of receiving the graces he asks for.

First Point

When the Blessed Virgin heard from the Archangel Gabriel that Her cousin St. Elizabeth was six months pregnant, She was inwardly enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and understood that the Incarnate Word who had become Her Son wished to manifest the riches of His mercy to the world by imparting the very first graces to all the members of that family. So without any delay, according to St. Luke, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country (Lk. 1:39).

Rising from the quiet of contemplation and leaving the solitude She loved, She immediately set out for the home of St. Elizabeth. And because charity beareth all things (1 Cor. 13:7) and cannot brook any delay, without a thought for the arduousness of the journey, this tender and delicate Virgin set out immediately.

On reaching the house, She greeted Her cousin: And She entered the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth (Lk. 1:40). St. Ambrose notes that it was Mary who greeted Her cousin first. The visit of Mary, however, bore no resemblance to those worldly visits which often are no more than mere show or a display of empty courtesies. Mary’s visit brought the family an increase of graces. As soon as She entered and greeted Her cousin, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and St. John was delivered from original sin and sanctified. As a sign of his joy and an indication of the grace that he had received through the Blessed Virgin, he leaped in his mother’s womb. St. Elizabeth herself attests to this: The moment that the sound of Your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy (Lk. 1:44). Bernardine de Bustis too remarks that it was by Mary’s salutation that John received the grace of the Divine Spirit which sanctified him: "When the Blessed Virgin greeted Elizabeth, the sound of Her words entering Her cousin’s ears descended to the child, and by virtue of them he received the Holy Spirit."

It is clear then that these first fruits of the Redemption all passed through Mary as through a channel, namely, grace to the Baptist, the Holy Spirit to Elizabeth, the gift of prophecy to Zachary, and many other blessings to the whole household. These are the first graces, to our knowledge, that the Eternal Word granted on earth after His Incarnation. It is perfectly reasonable to hold, therefore, that God henceforth made Mary the universal channel, as St. Bernard calls Her, through which all other graces would pass to us. We have already dealt with this point in the fifth chapter of the first part of our work entitled Glories of Mary.

It is quite right therefore to call Mary the treasury, the treasurer, and the dispenser of Divine Graces. That is what the venerable Abbot of Celles calls Her: "The treasury of God, the treasurer of graces." St. Peter Damian calls Her "the treasury of Divine Graces"; St. Albert the Great, "the treasurer of Jesus Christ"; St. Bernardine, "the dispenser of graces"; a learned Greek quoted by Petavius, "the storehouse of all good things." St. Gregory Thaumaturgus observes that Mary is said to be full of grace because "the whole treasury of graces was hidden in Her." Richard of St. Lawrence declares that Mary is a treasury because God has placed all gifts of graces in Her as in a vault from which He dispenses mercies and favors to all His servants.

St. Bonaventure speaks of the field in the Gospel in which a treasure is hidden and which should be purchased no matter how great the price: The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field; he who finds it hides it, and in his joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Mt. 13:44). He says that this field is Mary, in which is hidden Jesus Christ, the treasure of God the Father, and in Him the source and fountain of all graces. St. Bernard declares that the Lord "has deposited the fullness of all graces in Mary so that we may know that if we have any hope, any grace, or anything salutary, we have all this from Her." Mary Herself assures us of this when She says: In Me is all grace of the way and of the truth (Ecclus. 24:25). That is, in Me are to be found all the graces and blessings which you men are capable of desiring in your lives.

Yes, sweet Mother and our hope, we are convinced, says St. Peter Damian, "that all the treasures of Divine Mercy are in Your hands." Before St. Peter Damian, St. Ildephonsus asserted the same thing even more forcefully. Speaking to the Blessed Virgin, he said: "O Mary, all the blessings God has determined to grant to men He has determined to grant through Your hands; that is why He has committed to You all the treasures of grace." St. Germanus also maintains that no grace is dispensed to anyone except through the hands of Mary: "No one is saved, except through You; no one receives a gift from God, except through You."

St. Albert the Great beautifully paraphrases the words of the angel to the Blessed Virgin: Do not be afraid, Mary, for Thou hast found grace with God (Lk. 1:30), by saying: "Do not be afraid, Mary, for You have found, not stolen, grace, as Lucifer tried to do. You have not lost it, as Adam did. You have not bought it, as Simon Magus tried to do. But You have found it, because You desired it and looked for it. You have found uncreated grace" — that is, God Himself Who became Your Son — "and with it You have found every created good." St. Peter Chrysologus confirms this thought when he says: "This great Virgin and Mother found enough grace to restore salvation to all men." Elsewhere he repeats this thought and says that Mary found a grace so plenteous that it was enough to save everybody: "You have found grace, but how much? More than enough for yourself and enough to rain down on every creature like a downpour." Richard of St. Lawrence makes this comparison: "God made the sun so that it might diffuse its light throughout the whole world; He made Mary so that She might dispense all Divine mercies to the world." St. Bernardine adds: "From the time that the Virgin Mother conceived the Divine Word in Her womb, She obtained a kind of jurisdiction, so to speak, over all the temporal manifestations of the Holy Spirit; to this extent, that no creature can obtain any grace from God unless it is dispensed by this tender and compassionate Mother."

We may conclude this point with the words of Richard of St. Lawrence who says: "If we wish to obtain any grace we must have recourse to Mary, the finder of grace. She cannot help obtaining everything that She asks for Her servants." He borrowed this thought from St. Bernard who said: "Let us seek grace and let us seek it through Mary; for whatever She asks for She obtains, and She cannot be thwarted."

It follows that if we desire grace, we must obviously go to this treasurer and dispenser of graces. This is the will of God, the Giver of all good gifts. St. Bernard asserts this categorically when he says: "For this is the will of Him Who is pleased that we should have everything through Mary." Note the word "everything." When we say "everything," we exclude nothing.

But because confidence is necessary to obtain graces, let us now consider how confident we ought to be when we appeal to Mary.

Second Point

Why did Jesus deposit all the riches of His mercy in the hands of His Mother unless it was that She could dispense them to all Her servants who love and honor Her and appeal to Her with confidence? With Me are riches . . . that I may enrich them that love Me (Prov. 8:18, 21). The Church applies this passage to the Blessed Virgin on so many of Her feasts precisely to assure us of this. The riches of eternal life are kept by Mary, as the Abbot Adam says, for no other purpose than to be of use to us. In Her bosom Our Lord deposited a treasury for the poor so that they may be provided for and become rich: "The riches of salvation are in the custody of the Blessed Virgin for our use. Christ has made Mary’s womb the treasury of the poor, from which the poor are enriched." And St. Bernard says in his famous passage: "She was given to the world for this purpose, to be a full aqueduct, so that heavenly gifts may flow from God through Her to all men."

The same lover of Mary goes on to ask: "Why did St. Gabriel, when he found the Blessed Mother already full of grace — Hail, full of grace — afterwards say that the Holy Spirit would come upon Her and fill Her still more with grace? If She was already full of grace, what more could the Holy Spirit do by coming to Her?" His answer is: "Mary was indeed already full of grace, but the Holy Spirit filled Her to overflowing for our benefit, in order that we sinners might be provided for from Her superabundance." And this is why Mary was called the moon. Of the latter it is commonly said: "The moon is full for itself and for others."

He that shall find Me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord (Prov. 8:35). Blessed is he who finds Me by having recourse to Me, the Blessed Mother says. He will find life and will find it easily. Just as it is easy to find and to draw as much water as we wish from a large well, so it is easy to find grace and eternal salvation by appealing to Mary. A holy soul once said: "All we have to do is ask Mary for graces and we receive them."1 St. Bernard explains that "it was because the Blessed Virgin was not yet born that in ancient times the great abundance of grace which we now see flowing in the world was then lacking: for Mary, the desired channel of grace, did not yet exist."

But now that we have this Mother of mercy, there is no grace that we need to be afraid to ask for as we kneel at Her feet. "I am a city of refuge" — St. John Damascene has Her say — "for all those who appeal to Me. Come to Me, all My children, for from Me you will receive more abundant graces than you have ever imagined."

What the Venerable Sister Mary Villani saw in a vision has actually been the experience of many people. The servant of God saw the Blessed Mother as a huge fountain to which many came to draw off the waters of grace. But what happened then? Those who had sound jars preserved these graces. Those who brought broken vessels (that is, those whose souls languished in sin) received graces, to be sure, but did not keep them very long. The point, of course, is that all kinds of people, even ungrateful sinners, daily receive innumerable graces from Mary. St. Augustine, speaking to Mary, says: "Through You the abandoned obtain mercy; the fallen, grace; sinners, pardon; the weak, strength; the worldly, heavenly things; mortals, life; and exiles, a fatherland."

Let us therefore, O devout servants of Mary, have more and more confidence in Her each time that we appeal to Her for graces. Let us always remember Her two great prerogatives: Her desire to do us good, and the power She has with Her Son to obtain whatever She asks for.

To be convinced of Mary’s desire to help everybody, we have only to reflect on the mystery of this feast of the Visitation, that is, Mary’s visit to St. Elizabeth. The journey from Nazareth where the Blessed Virgin lived to the city of Hebron, which St. Luke calls a city of Judea, and in which according to Baronius and other authors St. Elizabeth resided, was sixty-nine miles. This we learn from Brother Joseph of Jesus Mary, the author of the life of the Blessed Virgin; from St. Bede, and Brocardus.2 Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties of such a journey, the Blessed Virgin, delicate as She was, did not hesitate to set out. What made Her do so? She was impelled by that great charity with which Her loving heart was always filled to go and begin at once Her office of Dispenser of Graces.

This is how St. Ambrose puts it: "She did not go as one skeptical about what She had been told, but as one who gladly fulfills a duty. It was joy that caused Her to hasten in fulfillment of Her unique responsibility." The saint meant: She did not go in order to find out if what the angel had told Her about the pregnancy of Elizabeth was true or not. She hastened because She was happy to be able to help Her cousin. She hastened because of the joy She felt in being able to do good to others. Having no thought except for those She loved, Mary arose and went with haste. Note here that when the Evangelist speaks of Mary’s departure for the house of Elizabeth, he says that She went with haste. But when he speaks of Her return, he makes no mention of haste, but simply says: Mary remained with her about three months and returned to Her own house (Lk. 1:56). What else could the Mother of God have had in mind, asks St. Bonaventure, when She hastened to visit the house of St. John the Baptist, except a desire to be of service to the family? "What else impelled Her to hasten in performing that act of charity but the charity which glowed in Her heart?"

Mary certainly did not stop being charitable to men when She went to Heaven. On the contrary, She is more charitable now, for She is in a better position now to know our wants and to compassionate our miseries. Bernardine de Bustis writes: "Mary is more eager to do us good and to grant us graces than we are to receive them." She desires so much to do so, as a matter of fact, that according to St. Bonaventure She considers Herself offended by those who do not ask Her for graces: "It is not only those who injure You who offend You, O Mary, but also those who neglect to ask for favors." It is part of Mary’s nature to desire to enrich everybody with graces, and She does, in fact, superabundantly enrich Her servants, as Blessed Raymond Jordano testifies: "Mary is God’s treasury and the treasurer of His graces. She dispenses these gifts generously to those who serve Her."

The same author also says: "He who finds Mary finds everything that is good." And he adds: "Her kindness is so great that no one need be afraid to approach Her. And Her mercy is so great that no one will be repulsed." Thomas à Kempis has Her say: "I invite everybody to appeal to Me; I await all, I desire all, and I never repel any sinner who comes to seek My help no matter how unworthy he may be." Richard of St. Lawrence says that whoever goes to ask for graces from Mary "finds Her always prepared to help"; that is to say, ready and eager to obtain every grace of eternal salvation by Her powerful prayers.

I say, by Her powerful prayers. This is another reflection that should increase our confidence. We know with certitude that Mary obtains from God everything that She asks for Her servants. St. Bonaventure tells us to observe, especially with regard to this visit of Mary to Elizabeth, the great power of Her words. As the Evangelist says, at the sound of Her voice the grace of the Holy Spirit was conferred on St. Elizabeth and on her son, St. John the Baptist: And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe in her womb leapt. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost (Lk. 1:41). St. Bonaventure adds: "See how great the power of Mary’s words is: She has no sooner uttered them than the Holy Spirit is imparted."

Theophilus of Alexandria tells us that Jesus is very much pleased whenever Mary intercedes with Him for us. "Yielding, as it were, to the prayers of Mary, He considers all the graces which He gives us as granted not so much to us, as to His Blessed Mother." Notice the words "Yielding, as it were, to the prayers of Mary." St. Germanus testifies that Jesus cannot do otherwise than graciously acquiesce to Mary’s wishes, desiring as He does to obey Her as His true Mother. Therefore the saint says: "The prayers of this Mother have a certain authority over Christ because by means of them She obtains pardon for even the most hardened sinners who recommend themselves to Her." And he concludes: "It is not possible for You not to be heard, for in all things God acts toward You as His true and spotless Mother."

This is fully confirmed, observes St. John Chrysostom, by what took place at the marriage feast of Cana when Mary asked Her Son to replenish the wine which had given out: They have no wine. Jesus answered: Woman, what is that to Me and to Thee? My hour has not yet come (Jn. 2:3-4). Both Chrysostom and Theophylact explain that the time for miracles had not yet come. Yet, as the former stresses, "the Savior, in spite of this answer, and in order to obey His Mother, performed the miracle that She asked for by converting the water into wine."

Let us therefore with confidence go to the throne of grace, the Apostle exhorts us, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid (Heb. 4:16). "The throne of grace is the Blessed Virgin," says St. Albert the Great. So if we want graces, let us go to the throne of grace, which is Mary. Let us go with the conviction that we shall be heard. For Mary will intercede for us and She will obtain from Her Son whatever She asks. "Let us ask for grace," I repeat with St. Bernard, "and let us ask for it through Mary," trusting in what the Blessed Virgin Herself told St. Mechtilde, namely, that the Holy Spirit, in filling Her with all His sweetness, has made Her so dear to God that anyone who asks for graces through Her intercession is certain of obtaining them.

And if we place any credit in that celebrated saying of St. Anselm, that "salvation is sometimes more easily obtained by calling on the name of Mary than by invoking that of Jesus," we may safely feel that sometimes we will obtain graces sooner by appealing to Mary than by appealing directly to our Blessed Savior — not because He is not the source and Lord of all graces, but because when we appeal to Mary and She prays for us, Her prayers, being those of a mother, are more efficacious than ours. Let us then never stray away from this treasurer of graces; let us always address Her in the words of St. John Damascene: "O Blessed Mother of God, open the gate of mercy to us, for You are the salvation of the human race." O Mother of God, open the door of Your compassion to us by always praying for us; Your prayers are the salvation of all mankind!

When we appeal to Mary, it would be wise always to ask Her to obtain those graces which She knows we need most. This is what the Dominican, Fra Reginald, did, as the chronicles of his Order tell us. This servant of Mary once became ill and he asked Her to restore his health. Mary appeared to him in the company of St. Cecilia and St. Catherine, and said with great tenderness: "My son, what do you want Me to do?" The good religious was confused by such a gracious offer on the part of Our Lady and did not know what to reply. Then one of the saints gave him this advice: "Reginald, I will tell you what to do. Ask for nothing, but place yourself entirely in Her hands, for Mary is prepared to grant you greater graces than you can ever imagine." The sick man followed this advice and Our Lady secured the restoration of his health."3

If we also desire to receive these happy visits from the Queen of Heaven, we should often visit Her by praying before Her image or in churches dedicated to Her. Read the following example, and see what special favors She gives to those who visit Her devotedly.

Example

The Franciscan Chronicles tell about two friars of the Order who went to visit a shrine of Our Blessed Lady and happened to find themselves in a dense forest when night fell. They were worried and disturbed and did not know what to do. However, they went a little farther until, dark as it was, they thought they saw a house ahead. When they reached the door, they knocked. A voice inside asked them who they were. They replied that they were friars who had lost their way in the woods and were now looking for shelter, at least as protection from the wolves that roamed the forest. The door opened, and they saw before them two extremely courteous servants who welcomed them with great kindness. The friars asked the servants who lived in the house and their answer was that it was a very good and hospitable lady. "We would like to pay her our respects," they said, "and thank her for her charity." "We are taking you to her," they said; "she wants to talk to you."

As they walked up the stairs they noticed some richly decorated rooms and an unusually fragrant odor. Finally they entered the apartment occupied by the lady of the house and saw before them a woman who was both sad and very beautiful. She received them with great kindness and asked them where they were going. The friars replied that they were on their way to visit a certain shrine of the Blessed Virgin. "Since that is the case," said the lady, "I shall give you a letter that will be of great help to you." While the lady was speaking to them, the friars experienced an inexplicable sense of joy and were very grateful to God for His kind protection. They then went to bed.

The next morning they rose and went to bid good-bye to the lady of the house, to thank her for her hospitality and to receive the letter she had promised. On receiving it, they took their departure. Only a short way from the house, however, they noticed that the letter bore no address. Turning this way and that, they tried to find the house, but it was no longer there. Finally, they opened the letter to see to whom it was addressed and what it said. Then they realized that it was from the Blessed Virgin, who was the lady in the house. In return for their devotion, Mary had provided them with shelter and nourishment in the forest, so that they would continue to serve and love Her. And they felt confident She would continue to protect them always.

At the bottom of the letter they saw Her signature in the words: "I, the Blessed Virgin Mary." It is not difficult to imagine how thankful these two friars were to Our Blessed Lady and how much they were inflamed with love for Her and a desire to serve Her the rest of their lives.

PRAYER

O Blessed Immaculate Virgin, since You are the dispenser of all Divine Graces, You are the hope of mankind and my only hope. I will always thank You for having granted me the grace of knowing You, and for having shown me the means by which I can obtain grace and be saved. You are the means, O great Mother of God, for I now realize that it is principally through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then by Your intercession, that my soul must be saved.

O my Queen, You hastened so in paying that visit to sanctify the home of St. Elizabeth. I implore You, therefore, visit me, visit the poor home of my soul. Hurry, for you know very well, much better than I do, how poor it is and how weak from many diseases: from disordered affections, vicious habits, and numberless sins — all of which will lead it to eternal death. You can enrich it, O treasurer of God, and You can heal all those infirmities.

Visit me, therefore, visit me while I live, and especially when I am about to die, for then I shall need Your help more than ever. I do not expect, and in fact I am not worthy, that You should visit me on earth by appearing to me as You have appeared to so many of Your other servants. But they were not unworthy and ungrateful as I am. I shall be satisfied to see You in Your kingdom of Heaven, to be able to love You there, and to thank You for all You have done for me. I shall be happy now if You visit me with Your mercy. Your prayers are all that I ask.

Pray then for me, O Mary, and commend me to Your Son. You know much better than I how miserable I am and what I need most. What more can I say? Have pity on me! I am so wretched and ignorant that I do not know what graces I need most, nor how to ask for them. My sweet Queen and Mother, I beg You to seek and obtain for me from Your Son the graces that You know are the most expedient and necessary for my soul. I abandon myself entirely into Your hands, and only beg the Divine Majesty, that by the merits of my Savior Jesus, He will grant me the graces which You ask Him for me.

Ask, therefore, O most Holy Virgin, ask for what is best for me. Your prayers are never rejected, for they are the prayers of a Mother addressed to Her Son Who loves Her so much that He is pleased to do everything She asks. He does this in order to honor Her all the more, and to prove the great love He has for Her.

Let us make a bargain, O Mary. As long as I live I will have confidence in You, if You will guarantee my eternal salvation. Amen.

FOOTNOTES:

1) This "holy soul" was most likely Msgr. Giovanni de Vita, Bishop of Rieti (1764-1774). Like St. Alphonsus, he had studied law at Naples but left law for the priesthood. Alphonsus and de Vita were good friends.
2) The distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem is about seventy miles; from Jerusalem to Hebron about eighteen and two-thirds miles; from Jerusalem to Ain Karim about four and a half miles. The city of Judea in which Zachary lived is now generally believed to have been Ain Karim.
3) This Reginald was Dean of the Cathedral of Orléans and a famous Doctor of Laws at the University of Paris in the lifetime of St. Dominic. It was through him, according to tradition, that the Dominicans have the habit they now wear. While in Rome on his way to the Holy Land, Reginald became ill and nearly died. Both he and St. Dominic prayed to Our Lady. Mary appeared to Reginald and healed him with some oil carried by St. Cecilia and St. Catherine the Martyr, who were with Her. He was not only healed but given the grace from that moment "of never experiencing any evil sentiment or inclination." Mary showed Reginald the scapular and white habit and told him: "This is the habit of the Order you seek and which has already been promised to you." St. Dominic saw all this while praying in his own house. Reginald asked Dominic to be received into his Order and to wear the habit which had been shown him. St. Dominic ordered all his brethren to adopt this habit, abandoning the rochet of the Canons Regular which they had been wearing. After taking his vows, Reginald made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the command of St. Dominic. Before his death he became one of the leading lights of the newly founded Dominican Order.

This article is taken from The Glories of Mary, available from The Fatima Crusader.

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