Mary, Our Queen, Our Mother
Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae!
St. Alphonsus Di Liguori
from The Glories of Mary
How great should be our Confidence in Mary, who is the Queen of Mercy. As the glorious Virgin Mary has been raised to the dignity of Mother of the King of kings, it is not without reason that the Church honors her, and wishes her to be honored by all, with the glorious title of Queen.
“If the Son is a king,” says St. Athanasius, “the Mother who begot him is rightly and truly considered a Queen and Sovereign” (“Si ipse Rex est, qui natus est de Virgine, Mater quae eum genuit, Regina et Domina proprie ac vere censetur.”–Serm. de Deip). “No sooner had Mary,” says St. Bernardine of Sienna, “consented to be Mother of the Eternal Word, than she merited by this consent to be made Queen of the world and of all creatures.” (“Haec autem Virgo, in illo consensus, meruit primatum orbis dominium mundi, sceptrum regni super omnes creaturas.”–Pro fest. V.M. s. 5 c. 3.) “Since the flesh of Mary,” remarks the Abbot Arnold of Chartres, “was not different from that of Jesus, how can the royal dignity of the Son be denied to the Mother?” (Nec a dominatione et potestate filii Mater potest esse sejuncta: una est Mariae et Christi caro.”–De Laud. B. Virg.) “Hence we must consider the glory of the Son, not only as being common to his Mother, but as one with her” (Filii gloriam cum Matre non tam communem judico, quam eamdem.”–Ibid.).
And if Jesus is the King of the universe, Mary is also its Queen. “And as Queen,” says the Abbot Rupert, “she possesses, by right, the whole kingdom of her Son” (“Regina coelorum, totum jure possidens Filii regnum.”–In Cant. l. 3). Hence St. Bernardine of Sienna concludes that “as many creatures as there are who serve God, so many they are who serve Mary: for as angels and men, and all things that are in heaven and on earth, are subject to the empire of God, so are they also under the dominion of Mary!” (Tot creaturae serviunt gloriosae Virgini, quot serviunt Trinitati; omnes nempe creaturae, sive angeli sive hominess, et omnia quae sunt in coelo et in terra, quia omnia sunt divino imperio subjugate, gloriosae Virgini sunt subjectae.”–Pro Fest. V.M. s. 5, c. 6.) The Abbot Guerricus, addressing himself to the divine Mother on this subject, says: “Continue, Mary, continue to dispose with confidence of the riches of thy Son; act as Queen, Mother and Spouse of the King: for to thee belongs dominion and power over all creatures!” (Perge, Mari! perge secura in bonis filii tui; fiducialiter age tamquam Regina, Mater regis et spons; tibi debetur regnum et potestas.”–In Ass. B.M. s. 3.)
Mary, then, is a Queen: but, for our common consolation, be it known that she is a Queen so sweet, clement, and so ready to help us in our miseries, that the holy Church wills that we should salute her in this prayer under the title of Queen of Mercy.
“The title of Queen,” remarks Blessed Albert the Great (Super Miss. q. 162), “differs from that of Empress, which implies severity and rigor, in signifying compassion and charity towards the poor.” “The greatness of kings and queens,” says Seneca, “consists in relieving the wretched” (“Hoc reges habent magnificum, prodesse miseris”–Medea, act. 2), and whereas tyrants, when they reign, have their own good in view, kings should have that of their subjects at heart. For this reason it is that, at their consecration, kings have their heads anointed with oil, which is the symbol of mercy, to denote that, as kings, they should, above all things, nourish in their hearts feelings of compassion and benevolence towards their subjects.
Kings should, then, occupy themselves principally in works of mercy, but not so as to forget the just punishments that are to be inflicted on the guilty. It is, however, not thus with Mary, who, although a Queen, is not a queen of justice, intent on the punishment of the wicked, but a queen of mercy, intent only on commiserating and pardoning sinners. And this is the reason for which the Church requires that we should expressly call her “the Queen of Mercy.” The great Chancellor of Paris, John Gerson, in his commentary on the words of David, These two things have I heard, that power belongeth to God, and mercy to thee, O Lord (“Duo haec audivi; quia potestas Dei est, et tibi, Domine, misericordia.”–Ps. lxi. 12), says that the kingdom of God, consisting in justice and mercy, was divided by our Lord: the kingdom of justice he reserved for himself, and that of mercy he yielded to Mary, ordaining at the same time that all mercies that are dispensed to men should pass through the hands of Mary, and be disposed of by her at will. These are Gerson’s own words: “The kingdom of God consists in power and mercy; reserving power to himself, he, in some way, yielded the empire of mercy to his Mother” (“Regnum Dei consistit in potestate et misericordia: potestate Domino remanente, cessit quodammodo misericordiae pars Christi Matri regnanti”–Super Magn. tr. 4). This is confirmed by St. Thomas, in his preface to the Canonical Epistles, saying, “that when the Blessed Virgin conceived the Eternal Word in her womb, and brought him forth, she obtained half the kingdom of God; so that she is Queen of Mercy, as Jesus is King of Justice”–(“Quando filium Dei in utero concepit, et postmodum peperit, sic dimidiam partem regni Dei impetravit, ut ipsa sit Regina mesericordiae, cujus Filius est Rex justitiae”).
The Eternal Father made Jesus Christ the King of justice, and consequently universal Judge of the world: and therefore the royal prophet signs: Give to the King Thy judgment, O God, and to the King’s Son Thy justice (“Deus, judicium tuum Regi da, et justitiam tuam filio Regis.”–Ps. lxxi. 2). Here a learned interpreter takes up the sentence, and says: “O Lord, Thou has given justice to Thy Son, because Thou has given mercy to the King’s Mother” (“Quia misericordiam tuam dedisti Matri Regis”). And, on this subject, St. Bonaventure, paraphrasing the words of David, thus interprets them: “Give to the King Thy judgment, O God, and Thy mercy to the Queen his Mother” (“Deus judicium tuum Regi da, et misericordiam tuam Reginae, Matri ejus”). Ernest, Archbishop of Prague, also remarks, “that the Eternal Father gave the office of judge and avenger to the Son, and that of showing mercy and relieving the necessitous to the Mother” (Pater omne judicium dedit Filio, misericordiae vero officium dedit Matri.”–Marial. c. 127). This was foretold by the prophet David himself; for he says that God (so to speak) consecrated Mary Queen of mercy, anointing her with the oil of gladness: God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness (“Unxit te Deus . . . oleo laetitiae.”–Ps. xliv.. In order that we miserable children of Adam might rejoice, remembering that in heaven we have this great Queen, overflowing with the unction of mercy and compassion towards us; and thus we can say with St. Bonaventure, “O Mary, thou art full of the unction of mercy and of the oil of compassion” (“Maria plena unctione misericordiae, plena oleo pietatis.”–Spec. B.M.V. lect. 7); therefore God has anointed thee with the oil of gladness.
And how beautifully does not Blessed Albert the Great apply to this subject the history of Queen Esther, who was herself a great type of our Queen Mary!
We read, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Esther, that is the reign of Assuerus, a decree was issued, by which all Jews were condemned to death. Mardochai, who was one of the condemned, addressed himself to Esther, in order that she might interpose with Assuerus, and obtain the revocation of the decree, and thus be the salvation of all. At first Ester declined the office, fearing that such a request might irritate the king still more; but Mardochai reproved her, sending her word that she was not to think only of saving herself, for God had placed her on the throne to obtain the salvation of all the Jews: Think not that thou mayest save thy life only, because thou art in the king’s house, more than all the Jews (“Ne putes, quod animam tuam tantum liberes, quia in domo Regis es prae cunctis Judaeis.”–Esth. iv. 13). Thus did Mardochai address Queen Ester. And so can we poor sinners address our Queen Mary, should she show any repugnance to obtain of God our delivery from the chastisement we have justly deserved: “Think not, O Lady, that God has raised thee to the dignity of Queen of the world, only to provide for thy good; but in order that, being so great, thou mightest be better able to compassionate and assist us miserable creatures.”
As soon as Assuerus saw Esther standing before him, he asked her, with love, what she came to seek. What is thy request! The Queen replied, If I have found favor in thy sight, O King, give me my people, for which I request (“Quae est petition tua? . . . Si inveni gratiam in oculis tuis, o rex! Dona mihi . . . populum meum pro quo obsecro.”–Est. vii. 2, 3). Assuerus granted her request, and immediately ordered the revocation of the decree. And now, if Assuerus, through love for Esther, granted, at her request, salvation to the Jews, how can God refuse the prayers of Mary, loving her immensely as he does, when she prays for poor miserable sinners, who recommend themselves to her, and says to him, “My King and my God, if ever I have found favor in Thy sight” (though the divine Mother well knows that she was the blessed, the holy one, the only one of the human race who found the grace lost by all mankind; well does she know that she is the beloved one of her Lord, loved more than all the saints and angels together), give me my people for which I ask. If thou lovest me, she says, “give me, O Lord, these sinners, for whom I entreat Thee.” Is it possible that God should refuse her? And who is ignorant of the power of the prayers of Mary with God? The law of clemency is on her tongue (“Lex clementiae in lingua ejus.”–Prov. Xxxi. 26). Each of her prayers is, as it were, an established law for our Lord, that he should show mercy to all for whom she intercedes. St. Bernard asks why the Church calls Mary “the Queen of Mercy”? And he replies, that “it is because we believe that she opens the abyss of the mercy of God to whomsoever she wills, when she wills, and as she wills; so that there is no sinner, however great, who is lost if Mary protects him” (Quod divinae pietatis abyssum, cui vult, quando vult, et quomodo vult, creditor aperire; ut quivis enormis peccator non pereat, cui Sancta Sanctorum patrocinii sui suffragia praestat.”–In Salve Reg. s. 1).
But perhaps we may fear that Mary would not deign to interpose for some sinners, because they are so overloaded with crimes? Or perhaps we ought to be overawed at the majesty and holiness of this great Queen? “No,” says St. Gregory VII.; “for the higher and more holy she is, the greater is her sweetness and compassion towards sinners, who have recourse to her with the desire to amend their lives” (“Maria, quanto altior et sanctior, tanto clementior et dulcior circa converses peccatores.”–Lib. i. Ep. 47). Kings and queens, with their ostentation of majesty, inspire terror, and cause their subjects to fear to approach them: but what fear, says St. Bernard, can the miserable have to approach this Queen of Mercy, for she inspires no terror, and shows no severity, to those who come to her, but is all sweetness and gentleness. “Why should human frailty fear to go to Mary? In her there is no austerity, nothing terrible: she is all sweetness, offering milk and wool to all” (“Quid ad Mariam accedere trepidet humana fragilitas? Nihil austerum in ea, nihil terribile; tota suavis est, omnibus offerens lac et lanam.”–In Sign. Magn.). Mary is not only willing to give, but she herself offers milk and wool to all: the milk of mercy to animate our confidence, and the wool of her protection against the thunderbolts of divine justice.
Suetonius (Tit. c. 8.) relates of the Emperor Titus that he could never refuse a favor, so much so that he sometimes promised more than he could grant, and when admonished of this he replied, that a prince should never send away any person whom he admitted to his audience dissatisfied. Titus spoke thus, but in reality he must often have deceived or failed in his promises. Our Queen cannot deceive, and can obtain all that she wills for her clients. Moreover, “our Lord has given her so benign and compassionate a heart,” says Lanspergius, “that she cannot send away any one dissatisfied who prays to her” (“Ita benigna est, ut neminem a se redire tristem sinat.”–Alloq. l. 1, p. 4. can. 12). But how, to use the words of St. Bonaventure, canst thou, O Mary, who art the Queen of Mercy, refuse to succor the miserable? And “who,” asks the saint, “are the subjects for mercy, if not the miserable? And since thou art the Queen of Mercy,” he continues, “and I am the most miserable of sinners, it follows that I am the first of thy subjects. How, then, O Lady, canst thou do otherwise than exercise thy mercy on me?” (Tue es Regina misericordiae, et qui misericordiae subditi nisi miseri? Tu Regina misericordiae es, et ego miserrimus peccatorum, subditorum maximum; rege nos ergo, o Regina misericordiae!”–Paciucch. In Salve Reg. exc. 2.) Have pity on us, then, O Queen of Mercy, and take charge of our salvation.
“Say not, O holy Virgin,” exclaims St. George of Nicomedia, “that thou canst not assist us on account of the number of our sins, for thy power and thy compassion are such, that no number of sins, however great, can outweigh them. Nothing resists thy power, for our common Creator, honoring thee as his Mother, considering thy glory as his own:” and the Son, “exulting in it, fulfils thy petitions as if he were paying a debt” (“Habes vires insuperabiles, ne clementiam tuam superset multitude peccatorum. Nihil tuae resistit potentiae; tuam enim gloriam Creator existimat esse propriam. Et Filius in ea exsultans, quasi exsolvens debitum, implet petitiones tuas.”–Or. de Ingr. B.V.); meaning thereby, that although Mary is under an infinite obligation to her for having given him his humanity; and therefore Jesus, to pay as it were what he owes to Mary, and glorying in her glory, honors her in a special manner by listening to and granting all her petitions.
How great, then, should be our confidence in this Queen, knowing her great power with God, and that she is so rich and full of mercy, that there is no one living on the earth who does not partake of her compassion and favor. This was revealed by our Blessed Lady herself to St. Bridget, saying, “I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just, and the door through which sinners are brought to God. There is no sinner on earth so accursed as to be deprived of my mercy; for all, if they receive nothing else through my intercession, receive the grace of being less tempted by the devils than they would otherwise have been” (“Ego sum Regina coeli, ego mater misericordiae: ego justorum gaudium, et aditus peccatorum ad Deum. Nullus est adeo maledictus, qui, quamdiu vivit, careat misericordia mea; quia propter me levius tentatur a daemonibus quam aliter tentaretur”). “No one,” she adds, “unless the irrevocable sentence has been pronounced” (that is, the one pronounced on the damned), “is so cast off by God that he will not return to him, and enjoy his mercy, if he invokes my aid” (“Nullus ita alienatus est a Deo, nisi omnino fuerit maledictus, qui, si me invocaverit, non revertatur ad Deum; et habebit misericordiam.”–Rev. l. 6, c. 10). “I am called by all the Mother of Mercy, and truly the mercy of my Son towards men has made me thus merciful towards them” (“Ego vocar ab omnibus mater misericordiae; vere, misercordia Filii mei misericordem me fecit.”–Ibid. l. 2, c. 23); and she concludes by saying, “and therefore miserable will he be, and miserable will he be to all eternity, who, in this life, having it in his power to invoke me, who am so compassionate to all, and so desirous to assist sinners, is miserable enough not to invoke me, and so is damned” (“Ideo miser erit, qui ad misericordiam, cum posit, non accedit.”–Ibid.).
Let us, then, have recourse, and always have recourse, to this most sweet Queen, if we would be certain of salvation; and if we are alarmed and disheartened at the sight of our sins, let us remember that it is in order to save the greatest and most abandoned sinners, who recommend themselves to her, that Mary is made the Queen of Mercy. Such have to be her crown in heaven; according to the words addressed to her by her Divine Spouse: Come from Libanus, my spouse; come from Libanus, come: thou shalt be crowned; . . . from the dens of the lions from the mountains of the leopards (“Veni de Libano, Sponsa mea, veni de Libano, veni, coronaberis . . . de cubilibus leonum, de montibus pardorum.”–Cant. Iv.. And what are these dens of beasts, but miserable sinners, whose souls have become the home of sin, the most frightful monster that can be found. “With such souls,” says the Abbot Rupert, addressing our Blessed Lady, “saved by thy means, O great Queen Mary, wilt thou be crowned in heaven; for their salvation will form a diadem worthy of, and well-becoming, a Queen of Mercy” (“De talium leonum cubilibus tu coronaberis; . . . eorum salus corona tua erit.”–In Cant. 1, iii). On this subject read the following.
We read, in the life of Sister Catharine of St. Augustine, that in the place where she resided, there was a woman, of the name of Mary, who in her youth was a sinner, and in her old age continued so obstinate in wickedness, that she was driven out of the city, and reduced to live in a secluded cave; there she died, half consumed by disease, without the sacraments, and was consequently interred in a field like a beast. Sister Catharine, who always recommended the souls of those who departed from this world, with great fervor to God, on hearing the unfortunate end of this poor, poor old woman, never thought of praying for her, and she looked upon her (as did every one else) as irrevocably lost. One day, four years afterwards, a suffering soul appeared to her, and exclaimed: “How unfortunate is my lot, Sister Catharine! Thou recommendest the souls of all those that die to God; on my soul alone thou has not compassion.” “And who art thou!” asked the servant of God. “I am,” she replied, “that poor Mary who died in the cave.” “And art thou saved?” said Catharine. “Yes,” she answered, “by the mercy of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” “And how?” “When I saw myself at the point of death, loaded with sins, and abandoned by all, I had recourse to the Mother of God, saying, ‘Lady, thou art the refuge of abandoned creatures; behold me, at this moment, abandoned by all; thou art my only hope; thou alone canst help me: have pity on me.’ The Blessed Virgin obtained, for me the grace to make an act of contrition. I died, and am saved; and besides this, she my Queen obtained for me another favor, that my purgatory should be shortened, by enduring, in intensity, that which otherwise would have lasted for many years: I now want only a few masses to be entirely delivered; I beg thee to have them said; and on my part, I promise always to pray for thee to God and to Mary.” Sister Catharine immediately had the masses said; and after a few days that soul again appeared to her, shining like the sun, and said: “I thank thee, Catharine: behold, I go to Paradise, to sing the mercies of my God, and to pray for thee.”
O, Mother of my God, and my Lady Mary; as a beggar, all wounded and sore, presents himself before a great queen, so do I present myself before thee, who art the Queen of heaven and earth. From the lofty throne on which thou sittest, disdain not, I implore thee, to cast thine eyes on me, a poor sinner. God has made thee so rich that thou mightest assist the poor, and has constituted thee Queen of Mercy in order that thou mightest relieve the miserable. Behold me then, and pity me: behold me and abandon me not, until thou seest me changed from a sinner into a saint. I know well that I merit nothing; nay more, that I deserve, on account of my ingratitude, to be deprived of the graces that, through thy means, I have already received from God. But thou, who art the Queen of Mercy, seekest not merits, but miseries, in order to help the needy. But who is more needy than I?
O, exalted Virgin, well do I know that thou, who art Queen of the universe, art already my queen; yet am I determined to dedicate myself more especially to thy service, in order that thou mayest dispose of me as thou pleasest. Therefore do I address thee in the words of St. Bonaventur: “Do thou govern me, O my Queen, and leave me not to myself” (“Domina, me tuae dominationi committo, ut me plenarie regas et gubernes; no mihi me relinquas.”–Stim. Div. Am. p. 3, c. 19). Command me; employ me as thou wilt, and chastise me when I do not obey; for the chastisements that come from thy hands will be to me pledges of salvation. I would rather be thy servant than the ruler of the earth. I am thine; save me (“Tuus sum ego, salvum me fac.”–Ps. cxviii. 94). Accept me, O Mary, for thine own, and as thine, take charge of my salvation. I will no longer be mine; to thee do I give myself. If, during the time past I have served thee ill, and lost so many occasions of honoring thee, for the future I will be one of thy most loving and faithful servants. I am determined that from this day forward no one shall surpass me in honoring and loving thee, my most amiable Queen. This I promise; and this, with thy help, I hope to execute. Amen.