Gaudete Sunday and Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Third Sunday of Advent this year coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn. As such, though the Sunday takes precedence over the Marian feast, it seems fitting to briefly continue the Marian centred theme, particularly as the saints propose such a devotion as a fitting way to prepare for Christmas.Indeed, given that the virgin of Guadalupe is the patron of the unborn and pro-life causes, along with the preparation to the birth of Christ of that same virgin, it seems apt to turn to St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s exposition of Mary as mother, who “our life.” In his treatise on the passages of the Salve Regina, contained in The Glories of Mary, – particularly the line ‘hail our life, our sweetness’ – Ligouri expands on the intimate relation which Mary has with her children in the Church, and that just as she brings forth Life Himself, she is our life also. She it is who obtains graces for her children, since she is the mediatrix of graces, and thus gives to them that which restores them to life.
“In this sense it is that the holy Church, in her almost daily prayer, calls upon us to beg our Lord to grant us the powerful help of the intercession of Mary to rise from our sins: ‘Grant Thy help to our weakness, O most merciful God; and that we, who are mindful of the holy Mother of God, may by the help of her intercession rise from our iniquities’….
No sinner, having recourse to the compassion of Mary, should fear being rejected; for she is the Mother of Mercy, and as such desires to save the most miserable. Mary is that happy ark, says St. Bernard, ‘in which those who take refuge will never suffer the shipwreck of eternal perdition’.”
But St. Alphonsus notes also that Mary is our life because she obtains perseverance for us.
“All the graces that God dispenses to men pass through the hands of Mary…it will be equally true that it is only through Mary that we can hope for this greatest of all graces, perseverance. And we shall obtain it most certainly, if we always seek it with confidence through Mary. This grace she herself promises to all who serve her faithfully during life, in the following words of Ecclesiasticus; and which are applied to her by the Church on the Feast of her Immaculate Conception; ‘They that work by me shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting’.”
“In order that we may be preserved in the life of grace, we require spiritual fortitude to resist the many enemies of our salvation. Now this fortitude can be obtained only by the means of Mary,” writes St. Alphonsus.
A notable aspect of The Glories of Mary is St. Alphonsus’ constant recourse to the writings and teachings of other saints, demonstrating the true wealth of Marian devotion in the entire Church. This passage is no exception, for he turns to the great St. Philip Neri and the pure St. John Berchmans to support his argument.
“Therefore St. Philip Neri, in his exhortations to his penitents, used always to say: ‘My children, if you desire perseverance, be devout to our Blessed Lady.’ The Venerable John Berchmans, of the Society of Jesus, used also to say: ‘Whoever loves Mary will have perseverance’….If Mary undertakes our defence, we are certain of gaining the kingdom of heaven. This do, and thou shalt live.”
Finally, St. Alphonsus describes how the tender Virgin Mother not only is the channel of Life, but also makes sweet the death of her children, as the Church recalls in every Ave Maria which is uttered.
“In their afflictions, and more particularly in the sorrows of death, the greatest that can be endured in this world, this good Lady and Mother not only does not abandon her faithful servants, but as, during our exile, she is our life, so also is she, at our last hour, our sweetness, by obtaining for us a calm and happy death. For from the day on which Mary had the privilege and sorrow of being present at the death of Jesus her Son, who was the head of all the predestined, it became her privilege to assist also at their deaths. And for this reason the holy Church teaches us to beg this most Blessed Virgin to assist us, especially at the moment of death: Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!”
The time of death is also that of the final battle, in which satan makes his final bid for each and every soul. But the saint encourages his readers that the humble Mother is also at hand to provide assistance to her children.
“Ah, how quickly do the rebellious spirits fly from the presence of this queen! If at the hour of death we have only the protection of Mary, what need we fear from all our infernal enemies? David, fearing the horrors of death, encouraged himself by placing his reliance on the death of the coming Redeemer and on the intercession of the Virgin Mother…St. Bonaventure tells us that Mary sends without delay the prince of the heavenly court, St. Michael, with all the angels, to defend her dying servants against the temptations of the devils, and to receive the souls of all who in a special manner, and perseveringly have recommended themselves to her. The saint, addressing our Blessed Lady, says, ‘Michael, the leader and prince of the heavenly army, with all the administering spirits, obeys thy commands, O Virgin, and defends and receives the souls of the faithful who have particularly recommended themselves to thee, O Lady, day and night’.”