Mary Our Queen
Our Mother of Mercy
by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Our confidence in Mary should be great because She is the Queen of Mercy.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was chosen to be the Mother of the King of kings. Accordingly, holy Church honors Her, and wants everyone to honor Her, with the glorious title of Queen.
St. Athanasius mentions how proper this is in his sermon on the Annunciation: “If He Who was born of the Virgin is a King, then the one who bore Him is rightly called a Lady and a Queen.” Ever since the moment that Mary gave Her consent to be the Mother of the Eternal Word, adds St. Bernardine of Siena, She deserved to be called the Queen of the whole world and of every creature in it. If Jesus took His flesh from Mary, how can Mary be disjoined from the royal dignity of Her Son? So asks Arnold the Abbot. We must conclude, he infers, that not only the kingdom’s glory, but the very kingdom itself, belongs to both the Son and the Mother.
The Abbot Rupert also says that if Jesus is the King of the universe, then Mary is its Queen. And St. Bernardine of Siena assures us that all creatures who serve God must also serve Mary. All angels, all men, all things in Heaven and on Earth, inasmuch as they are subject to God’s dominion, are also subject to Mary. That is why the Abbot Guerric turns to Mary and says: “Continue, O Mary, to feel that all that Your Son possesses is Yours. Have no hesitation in acting as a Queen, as Mother of the King, and as His Spouse, for both the kingdom and the power over it belong to You.”
There is no doubt then, that Mary is a Queen. But let everyone know, for his own consolation, that She is a most sweet, a most merciful Queen, completely dedicated to the well-being of sinners. That is why the Church wants us to greet Her in this prayer as the Queen of Mercy.
The very name of queen, observes St. Albert the Great, implies kindness to the poor and solicitude for them. It is different from the title of empress, which usually denotes severity and rigor. According to Seneca, the greatness of kings and queens consists in helping the unfortunate. Tyrants have their own good in view; kings should look to the good of their subjects. That is why kings, when they are consecrated, have their heads anointed with oil. Oil is a symbol of mercy and it signifies that when a king governs, he should, before all else, be kind and compassionate to his subjects.
It is obvious therefore, that kings should first and foremost spend themselves in acts of mercy. At the same time, of course, they must not neglect to exercise justice towards the guilty when this is necessary. Mary, however, is different. Though She is Queen, She is not a Queen of justice. That is to say, She is not concerned with punishing. She is a Queen of mercy, committed to pity and pardon.
Holy Church expressly wants us to call Her a “Queen of Mercy.”
The Grand Chancellor of Paris, John Gerson, meditating on these words of David: These two things have I heard, that power belongeth to God, and mercy to Thee, O Lord (Ps. 61:12, 13), reasoned this way — since God’s kingdom consists of two elements, justice and mercy, God decided to divide His kingdom. Justice He reserved to Himself; mercy He transmitted to Mary, ordaining that all mercies which come to man should come through Mary’s hands, and that these mercies should be distributed according to Her choice. St. Thomas, in the preface to his commentary on the Canonical Epistles holds the same opinion. He says that when the Blessed Virgin conceived the Eternal Word in Her womb, She obtained half of His kingdom. Mary became the Queen of Mercy, he says, while the distribution of justice remained in the hands of Her Son.
The Eternal Father appointed Jesus Christ the King of justice and made Him the Judge of the whole world. For this reason the prophet says: O God, with Your judgment endow the King, and with Your justice the King’s Son (Ps. 71:2). Commenting on this, a learned interpreter says: “Lord, You have given justice to Your Son, because You have given mercy to the King’s Mother.”
St. Bonaventure paraphrases this passage of David by saying:
“O God, give judgment to the King and mercy to His Mother.”
Now, if Assuerus spared the Hebrews because he loved Esther, how can God, Who loves Mary immensely, fail to hear Her when She prays for the sinners who recommend themselves to Her? If I have found favor in Thy sight, O king . . . Mary knows very well that She has found favor in God’s sight. She knows very well that She alone, of all creatures, has found the grace lost by men, that She is the favorite of the Lord, loved by Him more than all the angels and saints together. Therefore She can well say:
When Esther appeared before King Assuerus, he said lovingly: What do you ask of me, Esther? The queen answered: If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, ... give me ... my people for whom I pray (Est. 7:2, 3). Assuerus’ heart was touched and he immediately ordered the decree to be revoked.
St. Albert the Great appropriately applies to Mary the history of Queen Esther who was a figure of our Heavenly Queen. In the fourth chapter of the book of Esther we read that during the reign of Assuerus a decree was issued ordering all Hebrews to be killed. At that time Mardochai, one of their number, sought help from Esther, begging her to use her influence with the king and have the decree revoked. At first Esther refused because she was afraid that Assuerus would become even more angry. But Mardochai chided her and told her she should not think of saving merely herself: the Lord had put her on the throne to insure the safety of all the Hebrews: Think not that thou mayest save thy life only, because thou art in the king’s house more than all Hebrews (Est. 4:13). Just as Mardochai spoke to Esther, so we poor sinners can speak to Mary, our Queen, should She ever refuse to plead with God and save us from the punishment we deserve. “Do not think, dear Lady,” we can say, “that the Lord has made You Queen of the universe merely for Your own sake. He gave You the power You have so that You could feel all the more pity for us and help us all the more.”
Ernest, the Archbishop of Prague, also says that the Eternal Father gave to His Son the office of judging and punishing and to His Mother the office of pitying and comforting. Hence we can say that the prophet David foretold that God Himself, as it were, consecrated Mary as the Queen of Mercy, anointing Her with the oil of gladness: God has anointed You . . . with the oil of gladness (Ps. 44:8). God did this, according to St. Bonaventure, so that all the children of Adam might be happy in the thought of having in Heaven so great a Queen, a Queen anointed with the balm of mercy, a Queen all full of kindness.
“Give Me My people, for whom I pray.”
Is it possible for God not to hear Her? Is there anyone who has never heard of the power of Mary’s prayers with God? On Her tongue is kindly counsel (Prov. 31:26). Her every prayer is like a law established by God — a decision, we might say, on God’s part to show mercy towards all for whom Mary intercedes.
St. Bernard asks why the Church calls Mary the “Queen of Mercy.” And he answers that it is because we believe that Mary opens up the vaults of God’s mercy to anyone She likes, when She likes, and as She likes. There is not a sinner, he adds, no matter how wicked, who is lost as long as Mary protects him.
Perhaps there are some who fear that Mary would refuse to pray for this or that sinner, because She sees him hopelessly involved in sin. Or some may feel that we ought to be frightened by the majesty and holiness of the great Queen. St. Gregory puts us at ease. The higher Mary’s position, he says, and the greater Her holiness, the more gentle and compassionate She is with sinners who want to amend and who have recourse to Her. Kings and queens, by the very display of their majesty, inspire awe and their subjects are afraid to come into their presence. But how can sinners, says St. Bernard, be afraid of this Queen of Mercy? Mary is not stern or forbidding.
“Why should weak humanity fear to approach Mary?”
Come then, you and I — if we want to be saved, let us hasten to the feet of this sweetest of Queens. If we are frightened and discouraged at the sight of our sins, we must realize that it was precisely for this that Mary was made the Queen of Mercy, to protect and save the greatest and most abandoned sinners who beg Her for help. These sinners are to be Her crown in Heaven.
“Nobody,” adds Our Lady, “provided he has not been already definitely damned (and this refers to the final irrevocable sentence of damnation), is so cut off from God that he will not return to God and find mercy if he calls on Me. Everybody calls Me the Mother of Mercy, and indeed, it is God’s mercy that has made Me merciful.” She concludes with these words: “He will be very miserable who does not approach Me, merciful as I am, when he can do so.” There is no doubt then that that man will be miserable forever in the life to come who, in this life, can have recourse to Mary (Who is so compassionate and so eager to help everyone), but who refuses to do so and thus damns himself.
“There is no sinner on earth so abandoned that, while he lives, he will be deprived of My mercy. If he receives no other grace, he will receive at least the grace to be less frequently tempted by the devils than he would otherwise be.”
“I am the Queen of the world and the Mother of Mercy. I am the Joy of the Just and the Gate that opens up to sinners the way to God.”
How great then should be our confidence in this Queen, when we know on the one hand how powerful She is with God, and on the other how tremendously rich in mercy She is — so much so that there is not a person on earth who does not share in Mary’s kindness. The Blessed Virgin Herself revealed this to St. Bridget.
O most Holy Virgin, prays St. Gregory of Nicomedia, please do not claim that You are unable to help us because of the number of our sins. Your power and mercy are so great that they can outweigh any number of sins. Nothing can resist Your power, for the Creator Himself considers Your glory as His own. And Your Son, exulting in this glory, fulfills all Your petitions as if He were paying back a debt. St. Gregory is saying, in effect, that even though Mary has an infinite obligation towards Her Son because He chose Her to be His Mother, at the same time we cannot deny that the Son is indebted to His Mother for giving Him His human nature. And that is why, in recompense to Mary Who now enjoys His glory, Jesus especially honors Her by always hearing Her prayers.
How could You, O Mother of Mercy, asked St. Bernard, refuse to help the miserable, since You are the Queen of Mercy? And who are the most likely candidates for mercy, if not unfortunate sinners? “And that is why I,” he adds, “the most wretched of all sinners, am the first of Your subjects. You have to take more care of me than of the rest. Have pity on all of us, therefore, O Queen of Mercy, and do all in Your power to save us.”
Suetonius tells us that the Emperor Titus was so tender-hearted that he could never refuse a favor. At times, in fact, he promised more than he was asked. When this was brought to his attention, he replied that a prince should never send anyone away discontented. But once in a while Titus must have lied or at least was unable to keep his promise. But Mary cannot lie and certainly She has sufficient power to obtain for Her clients every single favor that they ask. Her heart is so kind and compassionate that, if anyone prays to Her, She cannot bear to send him away unsatisfied. “She is so kind,” says Louis Blosius, “that She never lets anyone go away disappointed.”
“There is nothing severe about Her, nothing frightening. She is unspeakably sweet, and offers milk and wool to all.” Mary not only gives, but She goes out of Her way to offer to all, no matter who they are, the milk of mercy to quicken their confidence, and the wool of protection to shelter them from the storms of divine justice.
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