To the Brethren of a Confraternity.
In the great deluge, in the days of Noah, nearly all mankind perished, eight persons only being saved in the ark. In our days a deluge, not of water, but of sins, continually inundates the earth, and from this deluge very few escape ; speaking more especially of lay persons, amongst whom scarcely any one is saved, with the exception of those who take refuge in some ark of salvation, in some confraternity of our Lady. You see innumerable laymen in a country amongst them how many are to be found in the state of grace? Scarcely shall you find stay unless belonging to a confraternity. My brethren, you have already been at the exercises of the mission, and I hope that while there God has enlightened your minds, so as that you know there is no other fortune or advantage to be sought for in this life, except the salvation of one’s soul. The world calls him happy who is rich and honoured, and him unhappy who is poor and despised ; but the truth is, that he only who lives in the grace of God, and is attaining to salvation, is happy, and that he who lives at a distance from God, and damns himself, is miserable and unhappy. In a few days death shall come upon him, and all will be over with him. And what will it avail a man in death to have gained the whole world, if he lose his own soul, and has to deplore its loss for ever in hell. Now, my brethren, I wish to show you how much hope of salvation there is for him who belongs to the confraternity of our blessed Lady.
When a lay person enquires of me, what he has to do in order to be saved, I do not recommend to him any more efficient or safer means than to join the confraternity. The confraternity is a means which embraces all that is most conducive to salvation ; whence a member of the confraternity may, with reason, say, ” Now all good things come to me together with her.” First, the frequent hearing of the word of God contributes most powerfully to the salvation of a lay person. On the other hand, the holy fathers look upon him as already lost, who despises the word of God,, because the sheep of Jesus Christ willingly hear his word announced to them by his priests: “My sheep hear my word.” — John x. 27.
The reason is, because those lay persons who are entirely occupied about earthly concerns, and do not hear the word of God, easily forget the good and evil things of the world to come, and thus abandon themselves to the pleasures of this life, and live and die in sin. But he who attends to the exercises of the confraternity, hearing frequently of death, judgment, hell, and eternity, easily resists the temptations by which he may be assailed, for which reason the Holy Ghost says, ” remember -thy last things, and thou shalt never sin.” — Eccl. vii. 40.
Secondly, in order that a lay person should preserve himself in the grace of God, it is necessary for him to frequent the sacraments. These are the food of the soul, keeping it alive, more especially the holy communion, which is called bread ; because, as the earthly bread sustains our bodily life, so this heavenly bread preserves the life of the soul. This the holy Council of Trent teaches, when it says that the Blessed Eucharist frees us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sin.
Thirdly, he who frequents the sodality is enriched with graces by Mary, through whom her Son wishes every grace to flow. “With me are riches,” she says, ” that I may enrich those who love me.” St. Bonaventure writes, that he who has acquired favour with Mary, is acknowledged by the citizens of Heaven, and that whoever bear her badges, will be written in the book of life. That is to be understood more particularly of the brethren of her confraternity, whose name, when written in the book of the confraternity, they may look upon as written in the book of life, provided they persevere in attending the exercises of the confraternity, and observing all its rules, for of what use is it to a man to have his name enrolled amongst the brethren, if he do not attend the confraternity, ox if he attend it without frequenting the sacraments, the performance of which latter duty is the most important of all its rules? Some attend the confraternity not with a view to the honour of Mary, or the salvation of their own souls, but through a desire to rule there, and control all things ; for which reason, they often dispute and brawl at the meetings of the confraternity, as if they were in some place of amusement. He who does this, had better stay away.
Beyond all things, I recommend every one to attend the confraternity, and not to leave it on trifling occasions, as some do, who in order to amuse themselves, for some pleasure, or some little business, drop off, and when asked why ? Father, they will say, business obliged me to leave the confraternity. But, my child, would I say to them, you know you have no business on this earth so important as that of saving your soul. Tell me, would you forfeit the sum of a thousand pounds for sake of a few pence ? When Sunday comes, my brethren, leave everything else, and attend the confraternity. Know that our Lady will not suffer you to be at a loss by it : ” for all her domestics are clothed with double garments.” — Prov. xxxi. 21. It is said that the servants of Mary are clothed with double garments, because they are enriched with both spiritual and temporal blessings. I once again recommend to you, when attending the devotions of the confraternity, not to abstain from confession and communion, which the rule prescribes ; for if you attend the devotions in sin, and go out from them in sin, of what use shall the confraternity be to you ? In the last place, I recommend to you to attend the meetings of the confraternity, solely with a view to the performance of the devotions it prescribes. Each one will take his own place, be obedient, perform whatever duty is assigned him, and have no other view in attending the exercises than the salvation of his own soul. Act thus, and you shall see how the Mother of God will protect you in matters both spiritual and temporal. And she will be a mother to you, more especially at the hour of death. 0 what a consolation on the death-bed, to have served Mary ! Father Binetti relates, (Perfez. di N. 5, cap. 31.) that being present at the death of a client of Mary, he, before dying, addressed to him these words, ” 0 father, if you but knew how delighted I am at having served Mary — I could not make you conceive the joy which I feel upon this point and thus he died in a heavenly peace. And I think that those brethren who belong to the confraternity of Mary, shall die a consoling death. The Duke of Papuli, who said that he attributed whatever graces he had received, to the circumstance of his having attended the meetings of the confraternity of Mary, when on the point of death, called his son to him, and said : ” My son, attend the devotions of the confraternity of our Lady ; that is the greatest inheritance I can bequeath to you ; I leave it to you.
Let us all, my brethren, throw ourselves at the feet of our Lady, and promise her never to leave her congregation more. Let every one say with me, Ah, my Queen, and my Mother ! I should be now in hell if you had not preserved me from it. I thank you this morning, and ask pardon of you for having so often left your confraternity without cause. How many sins should I not have avoided by going thither ? Pardon me, 0 Mother ! and pray your Son to pardon all the offences which I have committed against him. Yes, my Jesus, by the blood which you have shed for me, and by the love you bear to Mary, pardon me my sins, because I repent of them. But let us now make promise, and say, 0 Mother of God, I promise you never more to leave your confraternity without particular necessity ; I make this promise, punish me if I fail in it. And you, 0 Queen ! assist me in all my occasions, but especially when I am in danger of offending God. Call upon her then, my brethren, and she will most assuredly assist you. And at the hour of my death, 0 Mother, do not abandon me ; assist me then, and make me die under your mantle. Courage, my brethren, let us be faithful to the promises which we have made to Mary this morning. You come to honour her in this chapel, but she shall one day bring you to reign with her for ever in the kingdom of Paradise. And I shall now bless you on her part, that you may be able to keep the promises you have made her.