Stories of Mary 19:
She Was the Scandal of Alexandria
Oh, if all men loved this most kind and loving Lady,
and in temptations always and immediately
had recourse to her, who would fall?
Who would be lost?
Nothing remains to be done, says St. Thomas of Villanova, when the devil comes to tempt us, but, like the chickens when the kite appears, to run quickly under the shelter of the wings of our Mother.
Let us then, at the approach of the temptations which assail us, without stopping to parley with them, place ourselves at once under the protection of Mary. And then, the saint goes on to say, Our Lady and Mother must defend us; for, after God, we have no refuge but thee, who art our only hope, and the only Protectress in whom we may confide.
Let us then conclude with the words of St. Bernard; Oh man, whoever thou art, thou knowest that in this miserable life thou art rather tossing on the tempestuous waves, among dangers and tempests, than walking upon the earth; if thou wouldst not sink, keep thy eye fixed on this star, namely, Mary.
Look at the star, invoke Mary. When in danger of sinning, when tormented by temptations, when doubts disturb thee, remember that Mary can aid thee, and instantly call upon her. May her powerful name never depart from the confidence of thy heart, nor from the invocation of thy lips.
If thou wilt follow Mary, thou shalt never wander from the path of safety. Commend thyself always to her, and thou shalt not despair. If she upholds thee, thou shalt not fall. If she protects thee, thou need not fear ruin. If she guides thee, thou shalt be saved without difficulty. In a word, if Mary undertakes to defend thee, thou shalt certainly arrive at the kingdom of the blessed.
Thus do, and thou shalt live.
In the celebrated history of St. Mary of Egypt, which we find in the first volume of the Lives of the Fathers, we read that at twelve years of age she fled from her parents and went to Alexandria, where she led an infamous life, and became the scandal of the city. After sixteen years spent in sin, she wandered off to Jerusalem; when, on the festival of the Holy Cross she was led to enter the church, more from curiosity than devotion. On the threshold she was thrust back, as if by some invisible power; she attempted a second time to enter and again was repelled, and a third and a fourth time the same thing happened.
The wretched creature withdrew then into a corner of the portico, and there she was interiorly enlightened, and saw that God had refused her entrance into the church on account of her wicked life.
By chance she raised her eyes, and saw a picture of Mary which was painted in the vestibule. She turned to it, weeping, and said: “Oh Mother of God, have pity on this poor sinner! I know that, on account of my sins, I do not deserve that thou shouldst regard me; but thou art the refuge of sinners: for the love of Jesus, thy Son, help me. Obtain for me that I may enter the church, for I desire to change my life, and go and do penance wherever thou shalt direct.”
Then she heard an interior voice, as if the blessed Virgin answered her: “Come, since thou hast invoked me, and wishest to change thy life, enter the church, for the door will no longer be closed against thee.”
The sinner entered, adored the cross, and wept. She returned to the picture: “Oh Lady,” she said, “I am ready; where shall I retire to do penance?” “Go,” said the Virgin, “beyond the Jordan, and thou wilt find the place of thy repose.”
She made her confession, received Holy Communion, passed the river, reached the desert, and understood that there was her place of penance.
During the first seventeen years that she lived in the desert, the evil spirits fiercely assailed her, to make her fall again. What did she then do? She recommended herself to Mary, and Mary obtained for her strength to resist for seventeen years, after which the conflict ceased.
Finally, after fifty-seven years spent in the desert, in the eighty-seventh of her age, through Divine Providence, she was found by the abbot St. Zosimus. To him she related the story of her whole life, and begged him to return there the following year, and bring her holy communion.
The holy abbot returned, and gave her communion. Then she implored him again to do the same thing. He returned the second time, and found her dead, her body surrounded with light, and at her head these words written in the sand: “Bury in this place the body of me, a miserable sinner, and pray God for me.”
A lion came and dug her grave, the abbot buried her, and, returning to the monastery, he related the wonders of divine mercy towards this happy penitent.
Oh Mother of Mercy! Holy Virgin! behold at thy feet the traitor who, returning ingratitude for the favours received through thee from God, has betrayed thee and God. But, oh my Lady, know that my misery does not destroy, but rather increases my confidence in thee, because I see that my misery increases thy compassion for me.
Show, oh Mary, that thou art the same to me as thou art to all those who invoke thee, full of grace and mercy. It is enough for me that thou regardest me with compassion. If in thy heart thou hast pity for me, thou wilt not cease to protect me; and if thou dost protect me, what should I fear?
No, I fear nothing; I fear not my sins, for thou canst remedy their evil consequences; nor the demons, for thou art more powerful than hell; nor thy Son who is justly angry with me, for at one word of thine He will be appeased.
I only fear that through negligence I may fail to implore thy protection in my temptations, and that this may cause my ruin. But I promise thee today; I will have recourse to thee always. Help me to keep this resolution. Behold the opportunity thou hast of satisfying thy desire to relieve so miserable a creature as I.
Oh Mother of God, I have great confidence in thee. From thee I expect the grace to do just penance for my sins, and from thee I hope the strength never more to fall back into them. If I am sick, thou canst heal me, oh Heavenly Physician. If my sins have made me weak, thy help can make me strong. Oh Mary, I hope everything from thee, for thou hast all power with God.
“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy