When we reflect on the multitude of trials and miseries incident to man during this life, we cannot refrain from a feeling of deepest sadness. Our first parents having lost, by original sin, the grace of God, and with it that state of justice in which they had been created, fell into a state of misery, in which manifold ills became their portion. These evils, which were to extend to their posterity, originate in four deep wounds inflicted on our nature by original sin. These are, in the understanding, darkness as to the truths of faith; in the will, a perverse inclination; in our lower faculties, an inordinate proneness toward the pleasures of sense, and an extreme difficulty in resisting evil. Moreover, man, who would have been impassible and immortal had he remained faithful to God, lost by his first sin all these privileges, and consequently became subject to misery, disease and death.
Oh, how deep is the stain of sin, and how pitiable is the lot of man, thus deprived of original righteousness! Let us give thanks to God, who being “rich in mercy,” [Eph 2:4] has had compassion upon us. Not merely content to succor us Himself, He has given us in Mary a Mother sensible of our unhappy state, and all solicitous to relieve us: “Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae.”
We are indebted to God’s infinite bounty for having given us, in Jesus and Mary, two persons animated with the tenderest sentiments of mercy and compassion. St Paul says of Jesus Christ that He willed to be like unto us, and that like us He chose to know sorrow, in order that we might find in Him a Father “full of mercy.” [Heb 2:17]
Mary, too, had to suffer bitter torments, especially at the foot of her Son’s cross, in order that she might become the tender, clement and loving Mother of mankind. And so, like Jesus, she is full of the most compassionate mercy toward us, poor sinners. This mercy makes her prompt to succor our miseries. Like a powerful advocate, she never ceases to intercede for us, in order that God may give us the light needful to guide our steps, inspire us with a right intention in all our actions, hinder our will from declining toward evil, strengthen us against the assaults of the enemy, and ever preserve in our souls that heavenly grace which allays in us the fever of concupiscence.
Mary’s bountiful mercy does not extend merely to our spiritual wants: it embraces also our bodily needs. This tender Mother has known poverty, fatigue and hunger. No wonder, then, if she is intent on relieving us even in our temporal miseries. She delights in sending to our assistance the holy angels, whose Queen she is and over whom she commands. She even sometimes deigns to appear in person to her devoted servants, especially at the hour of death, in order to comfort them in that dread and decisive moment.
In imitation of Jesus and Mary, a Christian should exercise, toward, his neighbor, spiritual and corporal works of mercy, endeavoring to relieve, as far as possible, his miseries and wants. Since, however, the greatest evil which man may encounter is to fall into sin, the sole obstacle to divine mercy, therefore the most excellent of all works is to prevent men from offending God. “My brethren, if any of you err from the truth, and one convert him, he must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.” [Jas 5:19-20]
Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).