Mary Defends Souls Who Invoke Her:
When They Are
Tempted by the Devil
Taken from The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Not only is the most Blessed Virgin Queen of Heaven and of all saints, but She is also Queen of hell and of all evil spirits; for She overcame them valiantly by Her virtues. From the very beginning God foretold the victory and empire that our Queen would one day obtain over the serpent, when He announced that a woman should come into the world to conquer him: I will put enmities between thee and the Woman — She shall crush thy head.
Who could this woman, his enemy, be, but Mary, who by Her fair humility and holy life always conquered him and beat down his strength? The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was promised in the person of that woman, as it is remarked by St. Cyprian, and after him another ancient writer; and therefore God did not say, "I place," but "I will place"; lest He might seem to refer to Eve: meaning that God said, I will place enmities between thee and the Woman, to signify that the serpent’s opponent was not to be Eve, who was then living, but would be another woman descending from her, and who, as St. Vincent Ferrer observes, "would bring our first parents far greater advantages than those which they had lost by their sin." Mary, then, was this great and valiant woman, who conquered the devil and crushed his head by bringing down his pride, as it was foretold by God Himself: She shall crush thy head. Some doubt as to whether these words refer to Mary, or whether they do not rather refer to Jesus Christ; for the Septuagint renders them, He shall crush thy head. But in the Vulgate, which alone was approved of by the sacred Council of Trent, we find She, and not He; and thus it was understood by St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and a great many others. However, be it as it may, it is certain that either the Son by means of the Mother, or the Mother by means of the Son, has overcome Lucifer; so that, as St. Bernard remarks, this proud spirit, in spite of himself, was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. "Beaten down and trampled under the feet of Mary, he endured a wretched slavery." St. Bruno says "that Eve was the cause of death," by allowing herself to be overcome by the serpent, "but that Mary," by conquering the devil, "restored life to us".
And She bound him in such a way that this enemy cannot stir so as to do the least injury to any of Her clients.
Beautiful is the explanation given by Richard of St. Laurence of the following words of the Book of Proverbs: The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. He says, applying them to Jesus and Mary: "The heart of Her Spouse, that is Christ, trusteth in Her, and He shall have no need of spoils; for She endows Him with all those whom by Her prayers, merits, and example, She snatches from the devil." "God has entrusted the Heart of Jesus to the hands of Mary, that She may insure It the love of men," says Cornelius à Lapide; and thus He will not need spoils; that is, He will be abundantly supplied with souls; for She enriches Him with those whom She has snatched from hell, and saved from the devil by Her powerful assistance.
It is well known that the palm is a sign of victory; and therefore our Queen is placed on a high throne, in sight of all the powers, as a palm, for a sign of the certain victory that all may promise themselves who place themselves under Her protection. I was exalted like a palm-tree in Cades, says Ecclesiasticus: "that is, to defend," adds Blessed Albert the Great. "My children," Mary seems to say, "when the enemy assails you, fly to Me; cast your eyes on Me, and be of good heart; For as I am your defender, victory is assured to you." So that recourse to Mary is a most secure means to conquer all the assaults of hell; for She, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, is even the Queen of hell and sovereign mistress of the devils: since She it is who tames and crushes them. He thus expresses his thought: "The Most Blessed Virgin rules over the infernal regions. She is therefore called the ruling mistress of the devils, because She brings them into subjection." For this reason Mary is said in the sacred Canticles to be terrible to the infernal powers as an army in battle array; and She is called thus terrible, because She well knows how to array Her power, Her mercy, and Her prayers, to the discomfiture of Her enemies; and for the benefit of Her servants, who in their temptations have recourse to Her most powerful aid.
As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor. Thus does the Holy Ghost make Mary speak in the book of Ecclesiasticus. "We are told," says St. Bernard on this passage, that "all venomous reptiles fly from flowering vines;" for, as poisonous reptiles fly from flowering vines, so do devils fly from those fortunate souls in whom they perceive the perfume of devotion to Mary. And therefore She also calls Herself, in the same book, a cedar: I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus. Not only because Mary was untainted by sin, as the cedar is incorruptible, but also; as Cardinal Hugo remarks on the foregoing text, because:
"Like the cedar which by its odor keeps off worms, so also does Mary by Her sanctity drive away the devils."
In Judea victories were gained by means of the ark. Thus it was that Moses conquered his enemies, as we learn from the Book of Numbers. And when the ark was lifted up, Moses said: Arise, O Lord and let Thy enemies be scattered. Thus was Jericho conquered; thus also the Philistines; for the Ark of God was there. It is well known that this ark was a figure of Mary. Cornelius à Lapide says, "In time of danger, Christians should fly to the most Blessed Virgin, who contained Christ as manna in the ark of Her womb, and brought Him forth to be the food and salvation of the world." For as manna was in the ark, so is Jesus (of whom manna was a figure) in Mary; and by means of this ark we gain the victory over our earthly and infernal enemies. "And thus," St. Bernardine of Sienna well observes, "that when Mary, the ark of the New Testament, was raised to the dignity of Queen of Heaven, the power of hell over men was weakened and dissolved."
O how the infernal spirits tremble at the very thought of Mary, and of Her august name! says St. Bonaventure. "O, how fearful is Mary to the devils!" The saint compares these enemies to those of whom Job speaks: He diggeth through houses in the dark: if the warning suddenly appear, it is to them the shadow of death. Thieves go and rob houses in the dark; but as soon as morning dawns, they fly, as if they beheld the shadow of death. "Precisely thus," in the words of the same saint, "do the devils enter a soul in the time of darkness"; meaning when the soul is in the obscurity of ignorance. They dig through the house of our mind when it is in the darkness of ignorance. But then, he adds, "if suddenly they are overtaken by the dawn, that is, if the grace and mercy of Mary enters the soul, its brightness instantly dispels the darkness, and puts the infernal enemies to flight, as if they fled from death. O blessed is he who always invokes the beautiful name of Mary in his conflicts with hell!
In confirmation of this, it was revealed to St. Bridget "that God had rendered Mary so powerful over the devils, that as often as they assault a devout client who calls on this Most Blessed Virgin for help, She at a single glance instantly terrifies them, so that they fly far away, preferring to have their pains redoubled rather than see themselves thus subject to the power of Mary."
The divine Bridegroom, when speaking of this His beloved bride, calls Her a lily: As the lily is amongst the thorns, so is My beloved amongst the daughters. On these words Cornelius à Lapide makes the reflection, "that as the lily is a remedy against serpents and venomous things, so is the invocation of Mary a specific by which we may overcome all temptations, and especially those against purity, as all find who put it in practice."
St. John Damascene used to say, "While I keep my hope in Thee unconquerable, O Mother of God, I shall be safe. I will fight and overcome my enemies with no other buckler than Thy protection and Thy all-powerful aid." And all who are so fortunate as to be the servants of this great Queen can say the same thing. O Mother of God, if I hope in Thee, I most certainly shall not be overcome; for, defended by Thee, I will follow up my enemies, and oppose them with the shield of Thy protection and Thy all-powerful help; and then without doubt I shall conquer. For, says St. James the monk (who was a Doctor amongst the Greeks), addressing our Lord on the subject of Mary, "Thou, O Lord, hast given us in Mary arms that no force of war can overcome, and a trophy never to be destroyed."
It is said in the Old Testament, that God guided His people from Egypt to the land of promise, by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire. This stupendous pillar, at times as a cloud, at others as fire, says Richard of St. Laurence, was a figure of Mary fulfilling the double office She constantly exercises for our good: as a cloud She protects us from the ardor of Divine Justice; and as fire She protects us from the devils.
"Behold the twofold object for which Mary is given to us; to shelter us, as a cloud, from the heat of the sun of justice, and, as fire, to protect us all against the devil." She protects us as a burning fire: for, St. Bonaventure remarks: "As wax melts before the fire, so do the devils lose their power against those souls who often remember the name of Mary, and devoutly invoke it; and still more so, if they also endeavor to imitate Her virtues."
The devils tremble even if they only hear the name of Mary. St. Bernard declares that in "the name of Mary every knee bows; and that the devils not only fear but tremble at the very sound of that name." And as men fall prostrate with fear if a thunderbolt falls near them, so do the devils if they hear the name of Mary. Thomas à Kempis thus expresses the same sentiment: "The evil spirits greatly fear the Queen of Heaven, and fly at the sound of Her name; as if from fire. At the very sound of the word Mary, they are prostrated as by thunder."
Oh, how many victories have the clients of Mary gained by only making use of Her most holy name! It was thus that St. Anthony of Padua was always victorious; thus the Blessed Henry Suso; thus so many other lovers of this great Queen conquered. We learn from the history of the missions in Japan, that many devils appeared under the form of fierce animals to a certain Christian, to alarm and threaten him; but he thus addressed them: "I have no arms that you can fear; and if the Most High permits it, do whatever you please with me. In the meantime, however, I take the holy names of Jesus and Mary for my defense." At the very sound of these tremendous names, the earth opened, and the proud spirits cast themselves headlong into it. St. Anselm declares that he himself "knew and had seen and heard many who had invoked the name of Mary in time of danger, and were immediately delivered from it."
"Glorious indeed, and admirable," exclaims St. Bonaventure, "is Thy name, O Mary; for those who pronounce it at death need not fear all the powers of hell"; for the devils on hearing that name instantly fly, and leave the soul in peace. The same saint adds, "that men do not fear a powerful hostile army as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary." "Thou, O Lady," says St. Germanus, "by the simple invocation of Thy most powerful name, givest security to Thy servants against all the assaults of the enemy." Oh, were Christians but careful in their temptations to pronounce the name of Mary with confidence, never would they fall; for, as Blessed Allan remarks:
"At the very sound of these words, Hail, Mary! Satan flies, and hell trembles." Our Blessed Lady Herself revealed to St. Bridget that the enemy flies even from the most abandoned sinners, and who consequently are the farthest from God, and fully possessed by the devil, if they only invoke Her most powerful name with a true purpose of amendment. "All devils on hearing this name of Mary, filled with terror, leave the soul." But at the same time Our Blessed Lady added, "that if the soul does not amend and obliterate its sins by sorrow, the devils almost immediately return and continue to possess it."