Our Lady Queen of Martyrs:
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Queen of Martyrs:

Mary is not only Queen of Martyrs because her Martyrdom was longer than that of all others, but also because it was the greatest of all Martyrdoms. Who, however, can measure its greatness? Jeremias seems unable to find anyone with whom he can compare this Mother of Sorrows, when he considers her great sufferings at the death of her Son. To what shall I compare thee? or to what shall liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? . . . for great as the sea is thy destruction: who shall heal thee? [Lam. ii. 13] Wherefore Cardinal Hugo, in a commentary on these words, says, "O Blessed Virgin, as the sea in bitterness exceeds all other bitterness, so does thy grief exceed all other grief."  Hence St. Anselm asserts, that "had not God by a special miracle preserved the life of Mary in each moment of her life, her grief was such that it would have caused her death." St. Bernardine of Siena goes so far as to say, "that the grief of Mary was so great that, were it divided amongst all men, it would suffice to cause their immediate death."

But let us consider the reasons for which Mary's Martyrdom was greater than that of all Martyrs.

In the first place, we must remember that the Martyrs endured their torments, which were the effect of fire and other material agencies, in their bodies; Mary suffered hers in her soul, as St. Simeon foretold: And thy own soul a sword shall pierce. [Luke ii. 35] As if the holy old man had said: "O most sacred Virgin, the bodies of other Martyrs will be torn with iron, but thou wilt be transfixed, and Martyred in thy soul by the Passion of thine own Son." Now, as the soul is more noble than the body, so much greater were Mary's sufferings than those of all the Martyrs, as Jesus Christ Himself said to St. Catherine of Siena: "Between the sufferings of the soul and those of the body there is no comparison." Whence the holy Abbot Arnold of Chartres says, "that whoever had been present on Mount Calvary, to witness the great sacrifice of the Immaculate Lamb, would there have beheld two great altars, the one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary; for, on that mount, at the same time that the Son sacrificed His Body by death, Mary sacrificed her soul by  compassion."

Moreover, says St. Antoninus, while other Martyrs suffered by sacrificing their own lives, the Blessed Virgin suffered by sacrificing her Son's life---a life that she loved far more than her own; so that she not only suffered in her soul all that her Son endured in His Body, but moreover the sight of her Son's torments brought more grief to her heart than if she had endured them all in her own person. No one can doubt that Mary suffered in her heart all the outrages that she saw inflicted on her beloved Jesus. Anyone can understand that the sufferings of children are also those of their mothers who witness them. St. Augustine, considering the anguish endured by the mother of the Machabees in witnessing the tortures of her sons, says, "she, seeing their sufferings, suffered in each one; because she loved them all, she endured in her soul what they endured in their flesh."  Thus also did Mary suffer all those torments, scourges, thorns, nails, and the Cross, which tortured the innocent flesh of Jesus; all entered at the same time into the heart of this Blessed Virgin, to complete her Martyrdom. "He suffered in the flesh, and she in the heart," writes the Blessed Amadeus. "So much so," says St. Laurence Justinian, "that the heart of Mary became, as it were, a mirror of the Passion of the Son, in which might be seen, faithfully reflected, the spitting, the blows and wounds, and all that Jesus suffered." 

St. Bonaventure also remarks that "those wounds which were scattered over the Body of our Lord were all united in the single heart of Mary." Thus was our Blessed Lady, through the compassion of her loving heart for her Son, scourged, crowned with thorns, insulted, and nailed to the Cross. Whence the same Saint, considering Mary on Mount Calvary, present at the death of her Son, questions her in these words: "O Lady, tell me where didst thou stand? Was it only at the foot of the Cross? Ah, much more than this, thou wast on the Cross itself, crucified with thy Son."

Richard of St. Laurence, on the words of the Redeemer, spoken by Isaias the prophet, I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me," [Is. lxii. 3] says, "It is true, O Lord, that in the work of human redemption Thou didst suffer alone, and that there was not a man who sufficiently pitied Thee; but there was a woman with Thee, and she was Thine Own Mother; she suffered in her heart all that Thou didst endure in Thy Body."
 
But all this is saying too little of Mary's sorrows since, as I have already observed, she suffered more in witnessing the sufferings of her beloved Jesus than if she had herself endured all the outrages and death of her Son. Erasmus, speaking of parents in general, says, that "they are more cruelly tormented by their children's sufferings than by their own." This is not always true, but in Mary it evidently was so; for it is certain that she loved her Son and His life beyond all comparison more than herself or a thousand lives of her own. Therefore, Blessed Amadeus rightly affirms, that "the afflicted Mother, at the sorrowful sight of the torments of her beloved Jesus, suffered far more than she would have done had she herself endured His whole Passion." The reason is evident, for, as St. Bernard says, "the soul is more where it loves than where it lives." Our Lord Himself had already said the same thing: where our treasure is, there also is our heart. [Luke xii. 34] If Mary, then, by love, lived more in her Son than in herself, she must have endured far greater torments in the sufferings and death of her Son than she would have done, had the most cruel death in the world been inflicted upon her.

Here we must reflect on another circumstance which rendered the Martyrdom of Mary beyond all comparison greater than the torments of all the Martyrs: it is, that in the Passion of Jesus she suffered much, and she suffered, moreover, without the least alleviation.

The Martyrs suffered under the torments inflicted on them by tyrants; but the love of Jesus rendered their pains sweet and agreeable, A St. Vincent was tortured on a rack, torn with pincers, burnt with red-hot iron plates; but, as St. Augustine remarks, "it seemed as if it was one who suffered, and another who spoke." The Saint addressed the tyrant with such energy and contempt for his torments, that it seemed as if one Vincent suffered and another spoke; so greatly did God strengthen him with the sweetness of His love in the midst of all he endured, A St. Boniface had his body torn with iron hooks; sharp-pointed reeds were thrust between his nails and flesh; melted lead was poured into his mouth; and in the midst of all he could not tire saying, "I give Thee thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ."  A St. Mark and a St. Marcellinus were bound to a stake, their feet pierced with nails; and when the tyrant addressed them, saying, "Wretches, see to what a state you are reduced; save yourselves from these torments," they answered: "Of what pains, of what torments dost thou speak? We never enjoyed so luxurious a banquet as in the present moment, in which we joyfully suffer for the love of Jesus Christ." A St. Laurence suffered; but when roasting on the gridiron, "the interior flame of love," says St. Leo, "was more powerful in consoling his soul than the flame without in torturing his body." Hence love rendered him so courageous that he mocked the tyrant, saying, "If thou desirest to feed on my flesh, a part is sufficiently roasted; turn it, and eat." But how, in the midst of so many torments, in that prolonged death, could the Saint thus rejoice? "Ah" replies St. Augustine, "inebriated with the wine of Divine love, he felt neither torments nor death."

So that the more the holy Martyrs loved Jesus, the less did they feel their torments and death; and the sight alone of the sufferings of a crucified God was sufficient to console them. But was our suffering Mother also consoled by love for her Son, and the sight of his torments? Ah, no; for this very Son Who suffered was the whole cause of them, and the love she bore Him was her only and most cruel executioner; for Mary's whole Martyrdom consisted in beholding and pitying her innocent and beloved Son, Who suffered so much. Hence, the greater was her love for Him, the more bitter and inconsolable was her grief. Great as the sea is thy destruction; who shall heal thee? [Lam. ii. 13] Ah, Queen of Heaven, love hath mitigated the sufferings of other Martyrs, and healed their wounds; but who hath ever soothed thy bitter grief? Who hath ever healed the too cruel wounds of thy heart? "Who shall heal thee," since that very Son Who could give thee consolation was, by His sufferings, the only cause of thine, and the love which thou didst bear Him was the whole ingredient of thy Martyrdom. So that, as other Martyrs, as Diez remarks, are all represented with the instruments of their sufferings---a St. Paul with a sword, a St. Andrew with a cross, a St. Laurence with a gridiron---Mary is represented with her dead Son in her arms; for Jesus Himself, and He alone, was the instrument of her Martyrdom, by reason of the love she bore Him. Richard of St. Victor confirms in a few words all that I have now said: "In other Martyrs, the greatness of their love soothed the pains of their Martyrdom; but in the Blessed Virgin, the greater was her love, the greater were her sufferings, the more cruel was her Martyrdom."

It is certain that the more we love a thing, the greater is the pain we feel in losing it. We are more afflicted at the loss of a brother than at the loss of a beast of burden; we are more grieved at the loss of a son than at the loss of a friend. Now, Cornelius Lapide says, "that to understand the greatness of Mary's grief at the death of her Son, we must understand the greatness of the love she bore Him." But who can ever measure that love? Blessed Amadeus says, that "in the heart of Mary were united two kinds of love for her Jesus---supernatural love, by which she loved him as her God, and natural love, by which she loved him as her Son." So that these two loves became one; but so immense a love, that William of Paris even says that the Blessed Virgin "loved Him as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him." Hence Richard of St. Victor affirms that "as there was no love like her love, so there was no sorrow like her sorrow." And if the love of Mary towards her Son was immense, immense also must have been her grief in losing Him by death. "Where there is the greatest love," says Blessed Albert the Great, "there also is the greatest grief."

Let us now imagine to ourselves the Divine Mother standing near her Son expiring on the Cross, and justly applying to herself the words of Jeremias, thus addressing us: O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. [Lam i. 12] O you who spend your lives upon earth, and pity me not, stop a while to look at me, now that I behold this beloved Son dying before my eyes; and then see if, amongst all those who are afflicted and tormented, a sorrow is to be found like unto my sorrow. "No, O most suffering of all mothers," replies St. Bonaventure, "no more bitter grief than thine can be found; for no Son more dear than thine can be found." "Ah," there never was a more amiable Son in the world than Jesus," says Richard of St. Laurence; " nor has there ever been a mother who more tenderly loved her Son than Mary! But since there never has been in the world a love like unto Mary's love, how can any sorrow be found like unto Mary's sorrow?"

Therefore St. Alphonsus did not hesitate to assert, "to say that Mary's sorrows were greater than all the torments of the Martyrs united, was to say too little."

And St. Anselm adds, that "the most cruel tortures inflicted on the holy Martyrs were trifling, or as nothing in comparison with the Martyrdom of Mary." St. Basil of Seleucia also writes, "that as the sun exceeds all the other planets in splendor, so did Mary's sufferings exceed those of all the other Martyrs." A learned author, Father Pinamonti, concludes with a beautiful sentiment. He says that so great was the sorrow of this tender Mother in the Passion of Jesus, that she alone could compassionate adequately the death of a God made man.

But here St. Bonaventure, addressing this Blessed Virgin, says, "And why, O Lady, didst thou also go to sacrifice thyself on Calvary? Was not a crucified God sufficient to redeem us, that thou, His Mother, wouldst also go to be crucified with Him?" Indeed, the death of Jesus was more than enough to save the world, and an infinity of worlds; but this good Mother, for the love she bore us, wished also to help the cause of our salvation with the merits of her sufferings, which she offered for us on Calvary. Therefore, Blessed Albert the Great says, "that as we are under great obligations to Jesus for his Passion endured for our love, so also are we under great obligations to Mary for the Martyrdom which she voluntarily suffered for our salvation in the death of her Son." I say voluntarily, since, as St. Agnes revealed to St. Bridget, "our compassionate and benign Mother was satisfied rather to endure any torment than that our souls should not be redeemed, and be left in their former state of perdition." And, indeed, we may say that Mary's only relief in the midst of her great sorrow in the Passion of her Son, was to see the lost world redeemed by His death, and men who were His enemies reconciled with God. "While grieving she rejoiced," says Simon of Cassia, "that a sacrifice was offered for the redemption of all, by which He Who was angry was appeased."

So great a love on the part of Mary deserves our gratitude, and that gratitude should be shown by at least meditating upon and pitying her in her Sorrows. But she complained to St. Bridget that very few did so, and that the greater part of the world lived in forgetfulness of them: "I look around at all who are on earth; to see if by chance there are any who pity me, and meditate upon my Sorrows; and I find that there are very few. Therefore, my daughter, though I am forgotten by many, at least do thou not forget me; consider my anguish, and imitate, as far as thou canst, my grief."  To understand bow pleasing it is to the Blessed Virgin that we should remember her Dolors, we need only know that, in the year 1239 she appeared to seven devout clients of hers (who were afterwards founders of the religious Order of the Servants of Mary), with a black garment in her hand, and desired them, if they wished to please her, often to meditate on her Sorrows: for this purpose, and to remind them of her Sorrows, she expressed her desire that in future they should wear that mourning dress. Jesus Christ Himself revealed to the Blessed Veronica da Bioasco, that He is, as it were, more pleased in seeing His Mother compassionated than Himself; for thus He addressed her: "My daughter, tears shed for My Passion are dear to me; but as I loved my Mother Mary with an immense love, the meditation of the torments which she endured at My death is even more agreeable to Me."

Wherefore the graces promised by Jesus to those who are devoted to the Dolors of Mary are very great. Pelhart relates that it was revealed to St. Elizabeth, that after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven, St. John the Evangelist desired to see her again. The favor was granted him; his dear Mother appeared to him, and with her Jesus Christ also appeared; the Saint then heard Mary ask her Son to grant some special grace to all those who are devoted to her Dolors. Jesus promised her four principal ones:

 1st, that those who before death invoked the Divine Mother in the name of her Sorrows should obtain true repentance of all their sins; 2d, that He would protect all who have this devotion in their tribulations, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death; 3d, that He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven; 4th, that He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, with the power to dispose of them in whatever manner she might please, and to obtain for them all the graces that she might desire.

In proof of this, let us see, in the following example, how greatly devotion to the dolors of Mary aids in obtaining eternal salvation.

EXAMPLE.

In the revelations of St. Bridget we read that there was a rich man, as noble by birth as he was vile and sinful in his habits. He had given himself, by all express compact, as a slave to the devil; and for sixty successive years had served him, leading such a life as may be imagined, and never approached the Sacraments. Now this prince was dying; and Jesus Christ, to show him mercy, commanded St. Bridget to tell her confessor to go and visit him and exhort him to confess his sins. The confessor went, and the sick man said that he did not require Confession, as he had often approached the Sacrament of Penance. The priest went a second time; but this poor slave of Hell persevered in his obstinate determination not to confess. Jesus again told the Saint to desire the confessor to return. He did so; and on the third occasion told the sick man the revelation made to the Saint, and that he had returned so many times because our Lord, Who wished to show him mercy, had so ordered. On hearing this the dying man was touched, and began to weep: "But how," he exclaimed, "can I be saved; I, who for sixty years have served the devil as his slave, and have my soul burdened with innumerable sins?" "My son," answered the Father, encouraging him, "doubt not; if you repent of them, on the part of God I promise you pardon." Then, gaining confidence, he said to the confessor, "Father, I looked upon myself as lost, and already despaired of salvation; but now I feel a sorrow for my sins, which gives me confidence; and since God has not yet abandoned me, I will make my Confession." In fact, he made his Confession four times on that day, with the greatest marks of sorrow, and on the following morning received Holy Communion. On the sixth day, contrite and resigned, he died. After his death, Jesus Christ again spoke to St. Bridget, and told her that that sinner was saved; that he was then in Purgatory, and that he owed his salvation to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin his Mother; for the deceased, although he had led so wicked a life, had nevertheless always preserved devotion to the Dolors, and whenever he thought of them pitied her.

Prayer

O my afflicted Mother! Queen of Martyrs and of Sorrows, thou didst so bitterly weep over thy Son, Who died for my salvation; but what will thy tears avail me if I am lost? By the merits, then, of thy Sorrows, obtain for me true contrition for my sins, and a real amendment of life, together with constant and tender compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and thy dolors. And if Jesus and thou, being so innocent, have suffered so much for love of me, obtain that at least I, who am deserving of Hell, may suffer something for your love. "O Lady," will I say with St. Bonaventure, "if I have offended thee, in justice wound my heart; if I have served thee, I now ask wounds for my reward. It is shameful to me to see my Lord Jesus wounded, and thee wounded with Him, and myself without a wound." In fine, O my Mother, by the grief that thou didst experience in seeing thy Son bow down His head and expire on the Cross in the midst of so many torments, I beseech thee to obtain me a good death. Ah, cease not, O advocate of sinners, to assist my afflicted soul in the midst of the combat in which it will have to engage on its great passage from time to eternity. And as it is probable that I may then have lost my speech and strength to invoke thy name and that of Jesus, Who are all my hope, I do so now; I invoke thy Son and thee to succor me in that last moment; and I say, Jesus and Mary, to Thee I commend my soul. Amen.

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