The Covenant of Peace: Mary's Perennial Intercession

Chapter 15 of Mother of God by Fr. Cyril Bernard Papali O.C.D.

Read the other chapters here.

I will set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be the sign of a covenant between Me and between the earth. (Gen. ix, 13)

The rainbow is at once a thing of the earth and of the skies, a bridge between the two, the most ethereal of material things. And therefore it was set for the sign of the first great Covenant between Heaven and earth, when God was re-making the earth after the great flood which was a symbol of what He was going to do when He would re-make Heaven after the great fall. The sign He then set up has been described as “the brightness of the eternal light, a certain pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty God, the image of His goodness”.[1] And Mary is that Rainbow of peace. For when she was finally set up in heaven, God’s mercy was assured for the sinner. Like the rainbow she belongs at once to heaven and to earth, bridging the chasm between the two and uniting them in one luminous orb. With Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven the last link has been forged binding in one God and creature, angel and man, heaven and earth. The great Fall has been fully repaired, and for the first Adam and Eve who had been expelled from Eden, the second Adam and Eve have entered bodily into Heaven. And they have gone there not so much to enjoy heaven as to make it all the more enjoyable. St. John saw Heaven and made this revelation: “The city hath no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine in it. For the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.”[2] Mary is evidently the moon there, the immaculate mirror diffusing the lustre of that lamp all round, the crystal dome enshrining that divine flame. A body in glory can eclipse even the spirit, and the Sacred Bodies of Jesus and Mary are the brightest gems of Heaven, the wonder of the angels. “There are cold shallow controversies on earth about Our Lady’s greatness,” wrote Fr. Faber, “while at this hour the great St. Michael is gazing on her throne with a rapture of astonishment, a delighted rapture which will grow to all eternity.” St. Bernadette who had the vision of the Queen of Heaven at Lourdes, confessed: “My Lady is beautiful, beautiful beyond compare; so beautiful that when one has seen her once, one would wish to die so as to see her again; so beautiful that when one has seen her, one can no longer love anything earthly.” Mary is the finishing touch of God’s work of restoration. If Christ in Heaven is the assurance of God’s mercy, Mary in Heaven is our surety against our own frailty, the pledge that the deluge of sin shall not drown the world.

“Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people.”[3] So sang the whole Jewish nation when Judith, a type of Mary, returned after beheading Holofernes. It was a distant echo of heaven’s applause of Mary as she returned triumphant after crushing the serpent’s head. That was an unprecedented victory for the angels themselves, for she crushed the head of that serpent whose “tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth,”[4] and who being expelled from heaven was still plotting against it. Mary is therefore by right Queen of the angels. The Israelites ceded to Judith whatever had belonged to Holofernes.[5] God has placed at Mary’s disposal the whole race of men whom the serpent had held in subjection. Mary is by right Queen of all mankind. “So the Church salutes her,” said Pope Pius XII, “Lady and Queen of the Angels and Saints, of Patriarchs and Prophets, of Apostles and Martyrs, of Confessors and Virgins; she acclaims her Queen of Heaven and earth, most glorious, most worthy Queen of the Universe… the light shining in the sky amid the tears of this exile.”[6]

Mary’s place in Heaven is clearly prefigured by her types. At the sight of his mother “the king (Solomon) rose to meet her, he adored her, and sat on his throne; and there was set a throne for the mother of the king, who sat on his right hand.”[7] “With good reason is it believed,” wrote St. Jerome, “that the Saviour Himself came forth with all festivity to meet her and with great joy set her on a throne with Him.”[8] As Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father so is Mary seated at the right hand of the Son. “The Queen stood at Thy right hand in gilded vesture, adorned with variety.”[9] When Esther approached King Assuerus, “he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen,” says the Scripture.[10] “Thou, O Lady, deserves the royal throne,” comments St. Augustine.[11] This singular position of the Mother of God is thus explained by St. Bernardine: “It is to be held as certain that the Blessed Virgin is exalted in glory above all pure creatures, constituting as it were one unique order and state to which another person cannot reasonably be admitted, because the Son of God can have only one natural Mother. Now, right reason tells us that the king’s goodness should so order that his mother be seated on the royal throne above all his ministers.”[12] “Under God, the Virgin constitutes a hierarchy all by herself,” wrote Gerson.[13]

This unique position of Mary is recognised by the Church in her worship. The veneration of the Mother of God is termed hyperdulia by the theologians and it is specifically different from the veneration we show saints. For, Mary is not merely one of the saints or the greatest of them, but their Queen and Mother, the one through whom all the saints are what they are. If they are servants and friends of God, she is His Mother; if they reflect some rays of His glory, she is the “brightness of the everlasting light, the immaculate mirror of the majesty of God, the image of His goodness”; if they obtain some graces for us, it is through Mary that the saints and we obtain all graces. If they are sign-posts to heaven, she is the heavenly chariot that lifts us to it. They are all useful to us, she is absolutely indispensable. As the only creature admitted into the divine order of the Hypostatic Union, she has acquired a certain God-like dignity and excellence, by reason of which she has become an object of veneration for God and creatures alike. Hyperdulia, then, is that superlative love and reverence we owe one whom God Himself has deigned to revere; it is that awe and admiration we owe the masterpiece of God’s hands; it is the confidence and gratitude we owe one through whom all good things come to us and without whom we have no hope of any good. It is not a mere ornament to Christianity or a matter of choice, it is an essential feature of the Christian religion. What else does the Church mean when she repeats daily in her Marian profession of faith the Salve Regina: “Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy, hail our life, our sweetness and our hope!” Audacious words!

Mary’s perennial office in heaven is to intercede for the Church and for every soul. St. Paul tells us that, whenever the faithful pray, “the Holy Ghost prays in them with unutterable sighs”.[14] Mary is His organ in this vital function. She is the heart of the Church throbbing perpetually in heaven for every little member of the mystical body. Her untiring hands lifted in prayer are the hope and strength of the Church Militant. Therefore the Church reminds her unceasingly: “Remember, O Virgin Mother, when thou stand in presence of the Lord, to plead for us and avert His anger from us.”[15] How helpless the Church feels without Mary’s intercession may be gathered from these words of the Salve: “To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, O most gracious advocate, thine eyes of compassion on us.” When the whole race of the Jews was in imminent peril, Mardochai flung this challenge at Queen Esther: “Think not that thou mayest save thy life only, because thou art in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. …..And who knoweth whether thou art not therefore come to the kingdom, that thou mightiest be ready in such a time as this?”[16] And the queen promptly took up the challenge and came to the rescue of her people. “Remember, O Lady,” says St. Anselm in the boldness of his filial confidence, “and consider that it is not to condemn us, but to save us, that our Creator became Man of thee. How canst thou then refuse to help us, when for our sake thou hast been raised to such an exalted dignity that all creatures venerate thee as their mistress? Wilt thou be indifferent about our ruin because whatever happen to us miserable beings, thy glory will not suffer thereby?”[17]

But Mary needs no reminding, for she is more eager to bring us succour than we are to receive. Who of her devotees has not known this by experience? In the words of Segneri, “the life of man is nothing else than a continual liberality of Mary who with the frequency and number of her graces and benefits, spiritual and temporal, and the greater part hidden, makes herself his guide unto salvation. I said the greater part hidden, because in the dark night of this miserable world, we see and know only those benefits which appear to our weak senses, and for the most part such as interest us temporarily; because, as we make small account of the spiritual, and have little light to know and discern our true good, which pertains to the spirit, so we have little knowledge and hold in light esteem those benefits and graces which heaven daily showers upon our soul. But a time will come, the clear day will appear, in which every one, astounded at his past blindness and ignorance, shall exclaim with joy and gratitude, ‘This Wisdom went before me, and I knew not that she was the mother of them all’.”[18] Mary succours even when God seems to abandon. St. Anselm has beautifully expressed this truth in one of his homilies. “There is nothing more useful after God,” he said, “than the thought of His Mother; nothing more salutary than the meditation of that fervent love for her Son with which she was aflame; nothing more delightful than the taste of that exquisite joy she experienced in and through that Son. We often see and hear that many people recollect these in their dangers, and repeat the name of Blessed Mary, and are forthwith delivered from all evil. And we see that the remembrance of her name brings quicker relief than the invocation of the name of Her only Son the Lord Jesus. And this happens not because she is greater and more powerful than He; for He is not powerful through her but she through Him. Why is it, then, that the thought of her often brings prompter salvation than that of her Son? I shall say what I feel. Her Son is the Lord and Judge of all, discerning the merits of each one. When, therefore, He refuses to hear immediately whoever invokes His name, He indeed acts justly. But when His Mother’s name is invoked, even though the one who prays does not deserve to be heard, the merits of the divine Mother intervene that he may be heard… Therefore, if the very thought of the name of the Mother of God is so powerful to save, it is no wonder that the frequent remembrance of her love brings us such salutary fruits.”[19]

Mary is all-powerful in heaven. “My mother, ask,” said Solomon, “for I must not turn away thy face.”[20] And yet, for that once, he did turn away her face. Not so Christ; His Mother’s wishes are commands to Him. He has not changed since His earthly days. “He Who Himself proclaimed to have received all power in Heaven and earth,” said Pope Pius XII, “He, the Son of God, decrees for His Heavenly Mother all glory, power, and majesty of His Kingdom.”[21] “What is thy petition, Esther, that it might be granted thee,” said King Assuerus, “and what wilt thou have done? Although you shouldst ask the half of my kingdom thou shalt have it.”[22] God did not wait for Mary to ask half His kingdom, but gave her the whole of His empire. And Esther answered: “If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please thee, give me my life for which I ask, and my people for which I request. For we are given up, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish.”[23] How typical of Mary’s perennial pleading that keeps the world from perishing! Judas Machabeus saw in a vision the great solicitude of the saints in heaven for the interests of the faithful on earth. “Now, the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been High Priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews. After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age and glory and environed with great beauty and majesty. Then Onias answering said: This is a lover of his brethren and of the people of Israel; this is he that prayeth much for the people and for all the Holy City, Jeremias the prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword, a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel.”[24] Is this not a faithful, though faint, shadow of Mary’s maternal solicitude for the Church and the world? And how often has she not brought spiritual weapons from above to arm her children? The persecuted Church of the early days found consolation in contemplating Mary as the pleading Madonna. She is thus depicted in the so-called orante effigies of the catacombs. They are representations of a dignified female figure standing with hands upraised in prayer. In many of these Mary’s name is expressly mentioned.

Doctors have not agreed about the literal meaning of the name Mary; but the faithful are quite agreed about its figurative meaning. Whether it was the literal meaning, stilla amara (a bitter drop), that was misread by ignorance into stilla maris (a drop of the sea) and finally improved by another ignorance into stella maris (the star of the sea), we cannot tell; but the idea “star of the sea” has so fully captured the imagination of the faithful and so perfectly corresponded to their feelings about their heavenly Mother, that that interpretation has finally prevailed. She is the one brilliant star shedding heavenly light on the dark tempestuous sea of this world, bringing hope and life when everything is lost. She is at once the rainbow enhancing the glory of the day and the star dispelling the darkness of the night. “O you who find yourself not so much on safe ground as on a tempestuous sea, tossed about by its billows,” calls out St. Bernard, “take not your eyes for a moment from this bright Star, if you do not wish to perish in the tempest. When storms of temptation arise, when shoals of tribulation are encountered, look to  this Star, call on Mary. If waves of pride, of ambition, of detraction, or of envy toss you about, look to this Star, call on Mary. If anger or greed or the allurement of the flesh beat against your little bark, look to Mary. If troubled by the immensity of your crimes, confused at the appalling guilt of your conscience, terrified by the thought of the horrible judgement, you begin to sink into the depths of grief and the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in difficulties, in doubts, think of Mary, call on Mary. Let that name be ever on your lips, ever in your heart; and in order to merit the help of her prayers, do not fail to  imitate her life. Following her, you shall not go astray; invoking her, you shall not despair; thinking of her, you shall not err; when she holds you, you shall not fall; when she protects, you shall not fear; when she leads, you shall not grow tired; when she favours, you reach your goal. And thus you shall learn by experience how well it has been said: ‘And the name of the Virgin was Mary’.”[25]

And Our Lady on her part continues to prove that she is not away from the Church for a moment. Manifest apparitions of the Blessed Virgin and special messages from her have multiplied whenever the Church has been particularly in need of them. The memory of a number of them has been perpetuated by the Church through liturgical monuments. The Feasts of the Seven Founders, of Mount Carmel, of the Rosary, of Our Lady of the Snow, of Our Lady of Ransom, all commemorate some remarkable apparition of the Blessed Virgin. But these apparitions are not only things of the distant past. If the spiritual dangers of the times are the special reason for these miraculous interventions, we may expect more of them in these modern times. And Our Lady is not forgetful of her children. The godless nineteenth century recorded quite a number of major apparitions of the Virgin. It was a time she was particularly busy, it would seem. It was the century of the Immaculate Conception, for in 1830 that dogma was told in letters of gold to a humble religious in Paris, in 1854 it was declared by the infallible voice of Pius IX, and in 1858 it was again revealed by the Virgin to the child Bernadette at the grotto of Lourdes. No less than six apparitions of universal importance took place in that century. The first of them was the apparition of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal to Saint Catherine Labore of the community of the Sisters of Charity in Paris. The most unusual thing about the medal was the inscription “Mary conceived without original sin, pray for us” at a time when the dogma had not yet been defined. It took place in 1830 and the supernatural fruits of it were so manifest that in 1894 Pope Leo XIII approved for the Vincentians a feast in honour of the apparition and fixed it for the 27th of November. The decree, after exposing the facts, said “The Holy See has decided that, as in the case of the Rosary and of the Scapular of Mount Carmel, a special feast should be celebrated each year in memory of this Apparition of the Mother of God and of her holy Medal. Also, after a careful examination of all these facts by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and after a favourable conclusion being arrived at respecting them, Leo XIII, Supreme Pontiff, grants to the Society of Priests of St. Vincent of Paul the permission to celebrate a Mass with proper Office in honour of this manifestation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate. The same favour is granted to all Bishops and religious communities that may solicit it.” And the Miraculous Medal has taken its place by the side of the Rosary and the Scapular.

The second remarkable intervention of Our Lady took place on December third, 1836. M. Des Genettes, the saintly curé of the then obscure parish church of Our Lady of Victories in Paris, was praying for the conversion of his godless flock, when he heard twice an unmistakable order from Heaven: “Consecrate thy parish to the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.” That very day he scribbled the statutes of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the conversion of sinners. In a surprisingly short time remarkable cures and conversions began to stream in. In 1838 Pope Gregory XVI raised the association to the rank of an Archconfraternity for the entire world. By the close of that century nearly a score of thousands of associations in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had been aggregated to it. Pope Pius IX used to say: “The Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the work of God. It is of divine inspiration. It will be a resource for the Church.” The illustrious English convert, George Spencer who became a Passionist and took the name of Fr. Ignatius of St. Paul, came to Notre Dame des Victoires in 1837 and initiated a crusade of prayer for the conversion of England. Even the great Anglican, Dr. Pusey, got alarmed. In 1845 Cardinal Wiseman came to the shrine with the same appeal. In less than a year sixty luminaries of Oxford and Cambridge, among whom were Newman, Oakely, Faber and Dalgairns, returned to the Mother Church. Notre Dame des Victoires continues to be a world shrine and a supernatural powerhouse. In 1853 the beautiful statue of Our Lady was adorned with a precious crown studded with diamonds and emeralds, sent by Pope Pius IX in the name of the Vatican Chapter. From this shrine, one of the most privileged in Christendom, Our Lady multiplies her victories all over the world. Fr. Baker’s miracle Institute at Lackawanna, U.S.A., is perhaps the best known of her modern marvels.

The third is the apparition of Our Lady on the Alpine summit of La Salette on September 19, 1846, to two young cowherds. It was a Saturday and the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Dolours. The girl Melanie Calvet the elder of the two, and the boy Maximin Giraud were both poor and ignorant. Our Lady appeared to them full of glory but extremely sad. She complained about the great sins of France, the profanation of Sunday and blasphemy. She foretold the great scourges of disease, famine, revolution and war that were about to be let loose on France if that unhappy country would not repent. She ended by committing two secrets separately to the two children. The dried up bed of a stream where the Lady stood was next found to be a full stream and it has continued to flow uninterruptedly since. So too has the stream of cures and conversions there. The outcome of it all was a storm of opposition from unbelievers and a great revival of Christian spirit among the faithful. The secrets of the children were communicated to Pope Pius IX and they themselves lived in obscurity, much maligned but never flinching to uphold the truth of the apparition. Their task was finished, but the Church took up the great message. A series of Papal Bulls and Rescripts granting privileges and indulgences to the place and to the new devotion proved the favourable view of the Church about the truth of the apparition. A magnificent Church has been built there to Our Lady of La Salette. A Society of missionary Priests and a Congregation of Sisters have grown around it. The Archconfraternity of Notre Dame Auxiliatrice de la Salette has spread its branches all over the world. By an Indult of 1852, the 19th of September was declared the feast of Our Lady of La Salette. On August 20, 1879, the church of Our Lady of La Salette was consecrated, when Pope Leo XIII raised it to the dignity of a Roman Basilica. The next day, before a sea of pilgrims and Prelates from all over Christendom, the Papal Legate crowned the beautiful statue of Our Lady of La Salette. This holy mountain has been called the second Sinai drawing countless multitudes by its undying stream of miracles and graces, and perpetually reminding them of Our Lady’s message of prayer and penance.

Lourdes is too well known to need special mention. Its message came scarcely four years after the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as Heaven’s echo of the infallible voice of the Church. The Virgin declared her identity in these words” “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The burden of Our Lady’s message was, as at La Salette, a call to prayer and penance, but unlike that of La Salette it was addressed not to one country in particular, but to all mankind. The apparition left behind a fountain of healing waters which in its turn invited an ever increasing stream of pilgrims. All the world rushed to that obscure village lost in the Pyrenees. The magnificent Basilica, set like a pearl on emerald mountain side, is proof of the faith of Christendom in Lourdes. The forest of crutches left behind by cripples who no longer needed them, the innumerable banners and jewels covering the extensive walls of the huge Basilica, represent not one in a thousand of the miracles that are continually taking place at Lourdes. It has become an unending mystery to the unbelieving world, a place where miracles are the order of the day. Unbelieving doctors go to disprove the cures, gaze stupefied at broken bones joining up and cancerous growth shrivelling up before their eyes, and come away converted. The privileges that succeeding Pontiffs have heaped upon that sanctuary are past enumeration. The magnificence of the jubilee celebration of 1938 where Pope Pius XI sent his special Legate, and Mass was celebrated uninterruptedly for three days and nights on end, was something unparalleled in the history of the Church. The establishment of the universal feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the canonisation of Bernadette Soubirous have put the official seals of the Church on Lourdes. As years roll on, the conviction grows on the world that Lourdes is Mary’s own home and a little heaven on earth for all ailing souls and bodies.

But Lourdes is not the last word, as we shall presently see. Our Lady knows how to multiply Lourdes, and the twentieth century bids fair to appropriate the title of the Age of Mary, if only in the sense of causing Our Lady the most concern.


[1] Wis. vii, 25, 26.

[2] Apoc. xxi, 23.

[3] Judith, xv, 10.

[4] Apoc. xii, 4.

[5] Judith, xv, 14.

[6] Broadcast to Fatima, May 13, 1946.

[7] III Kings, ii, 19.

[8] Epist. ad Eustoch.

[9] Ps. 44.

[10] Esther, ii. 17.

[11] Serm. de Assumpt.

[12] Serm. de Gloria Nom. Mariae.

[13] Tract. 4 sup. Magnif.

[14] Rom. vii, 26.

[15] Offert. Fest. B.M.V. de Mont. Carm. et Omn. Gratiarum.

[16] Esther, iv, 13, 14.

[17] De Excell. B.M.V., cap. 6.

[18] Devotus Mariae, P. I, c. 3.

[19] Op. cit.

[20] III Kings, ii, 20.

[21] Broadcast to Fatima.

[22] Esther vii, 2.

[23] Ibid, 3, 4.

[24] II Mach., 12-16.

[25] Hom. 2 super Missus est circa finem.