“One can never say enough of Mary”, as St. Bernard of Clairvaux famously stated (De Maria numquam satis). She is the pinnacle of creation, overflowing with grace like no other creature in whom the triune God has found His home. Her heart and that of her divine Son are one. Mary always leads us to Jesus and vice versa Christ wants His mother to be loved.
His saints therefore deeply cherish and venerate the Mother of God. They pray to her, glorify her in their writings and inspire others to turn to her motherly heart. Her love surpasses that of the best earthly mothers; she heals our wounds, flies to our protection and gives us the love we have been lacking. Even if we had committed the worst crimes, she would help us if we asked her, and protect us from the eternal separation from God that is hell.
Already the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers were reflecting on Mary’s role at the center of salvation and she was recognized dogmatically as the Mother of God in 431 A.D. There were shrines as early as the 4th and 5th centuries (the “Star of the Sea” in Maastricht, Chartres and Puy en Velay). In the 12th century, St. Simon Stock received the gift of the scapular in an apparition of Our Lady of Carmel while St. Dominic soon thereafter was given the rosary as a powerful spiritual weapon. And the great scholastics discussed her with verve; Duns Scotus even defended her Immaculate Conception already in the 13th century.
Over the span of centuries, the Blessed Mother stood at the center of saints’ lives. To mention just a few: St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort who wrote the True Devotion to Mary and whose love for her fueled his apostolate that evangelized the Vendée and Brittany in the 17th century despite many difficulties; St. John Vianney in the 19th century to whom she appeared at least twice according to witnesses and who converted so many; St. Maximilian Kolbe who chose both the crowns of celibacy and martyrdom from her arms and St. John Paul II who was deeply devoted to her - the list is endless.
While God allowed Mary to lead a hidden life and to be little mentioned in the Gospels, He has given her an important and more visible part to play in history since then. Through her appearance to Juan Diego and the miraculous image on the tilma in Guadalupe in 1531, nine million Indians converted who might otherwise have found it difficult to turn to the religion of their conquerors. Through the prayer of the rosary, she helped the Christian sailors vanquish the stronger fleet of the Turks at the battle of Lepanto in 1571. At Jasna Gora in Poland, she made the Protestant Swedish conquerors leave in 1655 and later protected the Polish against the Soviet army in 1920, when it was preparing to attack Warsaw. She gave the world the Miraculous Medal through St. Catherine Labouré to whom she appeared in the convent chapel at the rue du Bac in 1830. Then she manifested herself to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes in 1858 during a time of secularism and anti-clericalism, confirming the dogma of her Immaculate Conception. In Fatima in 1917, she warned the world of the dangers of Communism and of a second World War that would happen if people didn’t convert. Through her (as yet unrecognized) apparitions at l’Île Bouchard in 1947, she prevented France from turning Communist after World War II. Because of a seven-year Rosary campaign by 10% of the Austrian population, the Russians inexplicably left occupied Austria in 1955. She protected John Paul II from being assassinated in 1981 and brought down Communism in the USSR in 1989. If anybody deserves the Nobel Prize for peace, it is the Virgin Mary. Not surprisingly she is called the Queen of Peace, for she gives us peace in our hearts which alone can lead to understanding between nations.
In this section we will look at the role she played in the lives of saints and the ways in which she manifested herself to the world through apparitions and miracles. Though she is only a creature, we will never be able to plumb her depths. There is always more to learn and love about Mary.