It is the last day before Lent, and I am posting an excerpt from the beloved St. Alphonsus Liguori, and his book, The Glories of Mary. This particular section of the book details the power that Mary displays when we pray to her during times of temptation. Our Lady always assists those who call upon her; and she is, as St. Alphonsus describes, the Ark of the New Testament. Here is today’s piece from St. Alphonsus Liguori which is taken from Chapter 4, section 2, of The Glories of Mary:
Mary’s Power Is Great in Time of Temptation
The most Blessed Virgin Mary is Queen of more than heaven and all the Saints. She is Queen also over hell and all evil spirits, for she has gloriously routed them with her virtues.
From the very beginning God foretold the victory and empire that our Queen would one day win over the serpent: I will put enmity between you and the woman . . . ; she will crush your head (Gn. 3:15).
Who could this woman be — this enemy of the serpent, but Mary, who beat down his strength by her beautiful humility and holy life? The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was promised in that woman, as St. Cyprian says.
God did not say, I put, but I will put, to signify that the serpent’s opponent was not Eve, who was then living, but some other woman descended from her — One who would bring our first parents (says St. Vincent Ferrer) far greater advantages than they had lost by their sin.
She will crush your head: some question whether this refers to Mary, and not rather to Jesus, since the Septuagint translates it, He shall crush your head. But in the Vulgate, which alone was approved by the Council of Trent, we find She.
Thus too St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and a great many others understood it. Be that as it may, it is certain that either the Son through the Mother, or the Mother through the Son, has conquered Lucifer.
I am raised aloft like a palm tree in Engedi (Sir. 24: 14) . . . to defend, adds St. Albert the Great. Recourse to Mary is a most certain way to overcome all the assaults of Hell, for she is Queen even over hell and all the devils, taming and crushing them.
So Mary is described in the Song of Songs as awe-inspiring as bannered troops (6:4). She knows how to draw up her powers, her mercies, and her prayers, and thus humiliate her enemies and defend her servants.
In Judea victories were won by means of the Ark. Thus it was that Moses conquered his enemies; thus too, Jericho was conquered, and the Philistines were overthrown. It is well known that the Ark was a figure of Mary.
Cornelius a Lapide says, “In time of danger, Christians should turn to the Most Blessed Virgin, who contained Christ in her womb as the Ark contained manna, and who brought Him forth to be the saving food of the world.”
When Mary, the Ark of the New Testament (emphasis added by SCF), was raised to the dignity of Queen of Heaven, Hell’s influence over human beings was weakened and scattered.
It was revealed to St. Bridget that God made Mary so powerful against the devils that, whenever they assail anyone who begs her help, with one glance she terrifies them and they take to instant flight. They would rather have their pains in hell redoubled than fall under her dominion.
St. John Damascene used to say: “As long as I keep alive my hope in thee, O Mother of God, I shall be safe. I will fight and overcome enemies with this one shield —thy protection and thy all-powerful help.”
A young man, who was a slave to habits of vice, went to confession to a certain priest in Rome. The confessor received him with kindness and, filled with compassion for him, assured him that devotion to our Lady could free him from his shameful habits.
Accordingly, he imposed on him as his penance that he say a Hail Mary to the Blessed Virgin every morning and evening, when he got up and when he went to bed, until his next confession; also, that he offer her at the same time his eyes, his hands, and his whole body, asking her to preserve them as if they were her own, and that he kiss the ground three times.
He performed the penance, but at first there was only slight improvement. However, his confessor insisted that he continue with the practice, advising him never to abandon it and encouraging him to trust in the power of Mary .The young man then left Rome with a few companions and spent several years traveling here and there.
When the young man came back to Rome he returned to his confessor, who found, to his great relief and wonder, that he was a changed man, completely free of his sinful habits. “How did you secure so wonderful a change from God?” he asked.
The young man answered, “It was our Blessed Lady who obtained this grace for me, because of those simple acts of devotion you taught me. “
This was not the end of the graces. The priest related the story in one of his sermons. A certain captain in the army, who had been committing sin with a woman for years, heard the sermon and made up his mind to try the same practice.
He determined to break the chains that kept him a slave of the devil (for every sinner must have the purpose of amendment, otherwise the Blessed Virgin is powerless to help him), and he too gave up his habit of sin and changed his life.
But there was still more. After six months, relying too much on his own strength, the captain made the mistake of going back to the woman, to see if she too had changed her ways.
But as he came up to the door of the house, where he was in certain danger of falling again, some unseen power forced him back and he found himself at the other end of the street, standing before his own door. He had no doubt that it was our Lady who had done this for him and saved him from perdition.
This should be enough to show how anxious our good Mother is, not only to lift us out of the state of sin if we pray to — her for deliverance, but also to save us from the danger of falling back.
God guided His chosen people from Egypt to the Promised Land by day in a column of cloud, by night in a column of fire (Ex 13:21).
This stupendous column was a type of Mary fulfilling a double office: as a cloud, she shades us from the heat of the sun of Justice; as fire, she protects us from the devil.
As wax melts before fire, the devils melt away before all who keep our Lady’s name in mind, devoutly invoke her, and work at imitating her.
Full of glory and wonder is your name, O Mary (exclaims St. Bonaventure), and whoever pronounces it at death need fear nothing from all the forces of Hell!
Our Blessed Lady revealed to St. Bridget that the devil flies from even the most abandoned sinners — from those farthest from God and fully possessed by the devil, if only they invoke her most powerful name with a true purpose of amendment. But our Blessed Lady added at the same time that, if such persons do not amend and wash away their sins in sorrow, the devils return and begin again to possess them.
That is quite beautiful.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.
May you have a good day.