Mary is Everybody’s Hope
by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Some people outside the Church cannot bear to hear us call Mary “Our Hope.” They say that God is our only hope and that He curses anyone who puts his trust in creatures: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” (Jer. 17:5)
Mary is a creature, they argue, and how can a creature be “Our Hope”? That is what many non-Catholics say. Nevertheless, Holy Church obliges all priests and religious to raise their voices every day (with the prayer “Hail Holy Queen”) in the name of the faithful and invoke Mary by the sweet name of “Our Hope,” the hope of all: Hail, Our Hope!
The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas, says that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause and as a mediate cause. Those who expect something from a king put their trust in him as their sovereign. They put their trust in his ministers or courtiers as intercessors. When the favor is granted, it comes really from the king, though the minister or courtier is the intermediary.
In this case, the one who seeks the favor is right in calling the intercessor or intermediary his hope.
Because His goodness is infinite, the King of Heaven is most eager to enrich us with His graces. On our part, we must have confidence. To increase this confidence, God has given us His own Mother as our Mother and advocate and has supplied Her with the power to help us. Therefore, He wants us to place our hope of salvation and of every blessing in Her.
To fix one’s hope on creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners are wont to do, and to outrage God in seeking the friendship and favor of men, is to bring down the curse of Heaven, says the prophet Jeremias.
But to hope in Mary, the Mother of God, Who can really obtain grace and eternal life for men, is to do something very pleasing to the heart of God. For God desires to see Mary honored in this way, that same Mary Whom, in this world, He loved and Who loved and honored Him more than all angels and men together.
That is why we justly and reasonably call Mary “Our Hope”, trusting, as St. Robert Bellarmine says, to obtain through Her intercession what we cannot obtain by our prayers alone. St. Anselm says that we pray to Her so that Her dignity as intercessor may supply for our unworthiness. And he adds that when we invoke the Blessed Virgin with this kind of hope, it does not mean that we lack hope in God’s mercy, but rather, that we fear our own lack of the proper dispositions.
Consequently, the Church is right when She applies these words of Ecclesiasticus to Mary: “I am the mother of holy hope,” (Ecclus. 24:24). She is the Mother Who gives birth to holy hope in our hearts. Not the hope of the transitory goods of this life, but the hope of boundless joys and the eternal goods of Heaven. St. Ephrem greets Mary by saying: “Hail, hope of my soul! Hail, sure salvation of Christians! Hail, helper of sinners! Hail, defense of the faithful and salvation of the world.” St. Basil, too, is right in reminding us that after God, we have no other hope than Mary.
Reflecting on the present arrangement of Providence by which, as St. Bernard says, God has disposed that all who are to be saved must be saved through Mary; St. Ephrem says to Her: “Lady, never stop guarding and protecting us, because, next to God, we have no other hope but You.”
St. Thomas of Villanova says the same thing: “You are our only refuge, our only hope.” St. Bernard gives the reason for this when he says: “Behold, O man, God’s merciful plan. About to redeem the human race, He places the price in Mary’s hands.” He places the price in Mary’s hands, so that She can dispense it at will.