Various Practices of Devotion
in Honor of the Divine Mother;
of Joining Confraternities
of our Blessed Lady


Madonna di Loreto (aka Madonna dei Pellegrini/Pilgrims) - by CARAVAGGIO - from S. Agostino, Rome

 

The Reason for-which Confraternities do so much Good is,
that in them, the Members 'Acquire' many Weapons of Defense against Hell,
and put in Practice the Requisite means-of Preservation in Divine Grace

 

Various Practices of Devotion
in Honor of the Divine Mother;
of Joining Confraternities
of our Blessed Lady

by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

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Weapons of Defense against Hell -
Means of Preservation in Divine Grace

Some 'Disapprove' of Confraternities, because they sometimes give-rise-to Quarrels, and because many 'Join' them for Temporal Reasons. But, as Churches and the Sacraments are not Condemned because there are many who make a Bad use-of them, neither should Confraternities be Condemned. The Sovereign Pontiffs, so-far-from Condemning them, have 'Approved' and highly 'Commended' them, and also 'Enriched' them with many Indulgences. Saint-Francis-de-Sales, with Great Earnestness, 'Exhorts' all Seculars to 'Join' them. What Pains, moreover, did not Saint-Charles-Borromeo take to 'Establish' and 'Multiply' these Confraternities. In his Synods, he particularly 'Recommends' Confessors to 'Engage' Penitents to 'Join' them. And with Good Reason; for these Sodalities, especially those of our Blessed Lady, are so many Noah's Arks, in which Poor Seculars find a Refuge, from the Deluge-of Temptations and Sins, which 'Inundate' the World. We, from the Experience-of our Missions, well-know the Utility of these Confraternities. As a Rule, a Man who does not 'Attend' the Meetings-of a Confraternity, 'Commits' more Sins than Twenty (20) Men who 'Attend' them. A Confraternity can well be called "a Tower-of-David; a Thousand Bucklers hang-upon it - all the Armor of Valiant Men". The Reason for which Confraternities do so-much Good is, that in them, the Members 'Acquire' many Weapons-of-Defense against Hell, and put-in Practice the Requisite Means of Preservation in Divine Grace, which are seldom made-use-of by Seculars, who are not Members of these Confraternities.

In the First (1st) Place, One (1) Means of Salvation is, to 'Meditate' on the Eternal Truths: "In all thy Works, remember thy Last End, and thou shalt never Sin" - Ecclesiasticus 7:40. How many are 'Lost', because they Neglect to do this! "With Desolation is all the Land made Desolate; because there is none that Considereth-in the Heart" - Jeremiah 12:11. But those who 'Frequent' the Meetings of their Confraternities, are 'Lead' to think-of these Truths by many Meditations, Lectures, and Sermons that they Hear: "My sheep Hear My Voice" - John 10:27.

In the Second (2nd) Place, to 'Save' One's Soul, Prayer is Necessary: "Ask, and you shall Receive" - John 16:24; this, the Brothers of Confraternities, 'Do' constantly. God also 'Hears' their Prayers the more-Readily, for He has Himself said that He 'Grants' Graces more-Willingly, to Prayers 'Offered'-up in Common: "If Two of you shall Consent upon Earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall Ask, it shall be Done-to them by My Father, Who is in Heaven" - Matthew 18:19; on which Saint-Ambrose says, that "Many who are Weak, when United, become Strong; and it is Impossible that the Prayers of Many, should not be Heard".

In the Third (3rd) Place, in Confraternities, the Sacraments are more-Likely to be Frequented, both on-account-of the Rules and Example which is Given-by the other Brothers. And thus Perseverance-in-Grace is more easily 'Obtained', and the Sacred Council-of-Trent, having 'Declared' that the Holy Communion is "an Antidote, whereby we may be Freed from Daily Faults, and be Preserved from Mortal Sins".

In the Fourth (4th) Place, besides the 'Frequentation' of the Sacraments in these Confraternities, many Acts-of Mortification, Humility, and Charity towards the Sick Brethren and the Poor, are 'Performed'. Well would it be if this Holy Custom of 'Assisting' the Sick/Poor of the place, were 'Introduced' into all Confraternities. It would also be of the Greatest Advantage to 'Introduce', in Honor-of the Divine Mother herself, the Secret Congregation, Composed-of more Fervent Brethren. I will give here, in a Few Words, the usual Exercises-of the Secret Congregation:

Half-an-Hour's Spiritual Reading.

Vespers and Complin (Night Prayer) of the Holy Ghost are said.

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin; and then the Brothers, whose turn it is, 'Perform' some Act of Mortification, such as 'Carrying' a Cross on their Shoulders, and the like.

They then 'Make' a Quarter-of-an Hour's 'Meditation' on the Passion of Jesus Christ.

Each One 'Accuses' himself of the Faults he has 'Committed against the Rule, and 'Receives' a Penance for it, from the Father.

A Brother 'Reads' out the Little-Flowers of Mortification, 'Performed' during the Past Week, and then 'Announces' the Novenas which occur, etc. At the End, they take the Discipline during the Space of a Miserere, and a Salve Regina, and then each One goes to 'Kiss' the Feet of a Crucifix, 'Placed' for this purpose, on the Step-of the Altar.

The Rules for each Brother are:

To 'Make' a Mental Prayer every Day.

To Pay-a-Visit to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin.

To 'Make' the 'Examination' of Conscience in the Evening.

Spiritual Reading.

To 'Avoid' Games and Worldly Conversations.

To 'Frequent' the Sacraments, and 'Perform' some little Acts-of Mortification, such as the Little Chain, Discipline, etc.

To 'Recommend' to God every Day, the Souls in Purgatory, and Sinners.

When a Brother is Ill, the others are all to 'Visit' him.

But now, let us Return-to our Point. In the Fifth Place, we have already said how Profitable it is for our Salvation, to 'Serve' the Mother of God; and what else do the Brothers do in the Confraternity, but 'Serve' her? How much is she not Praised there! How many Prayers are not there 'Offered' to her! From the very Beginning, the Brothers are 'Consecrated' to her Service; they 'Choose' her in an Especial Manner, for their Sovereign Lady and Mother; they are 'Inscribed' in the Book-of the Children-of Mary; hence, as they are her Servants and Children, in an Especial Manner, in an Especial Manner are they 'Treated' by her, and she 'Protects' them in-Life and in-Death. So that a Brother-of a Confraternity-of Mary can say, "Now all Good Things came to me, together with it". Each Brother should therefore 'Pay-Attention' to Two (2) Things: First of all, to the Object he should have in-View, which should be no-other than to 'Serve' God and His Mother Mary, and to Save his Soul. Secondly, not to 'Allow' Worldly Affairs to Prevent his 'Attendance' at the Meeting on the Appointed Days; for he has there to-attend-to the most-important Business he has in the World, which is his Eternal Salvation. He should also 'Endeavor' to-Draw as many others as he can, to 'Join' the Confraternity, and especially to Bring-back those Brothers, who have 'Left' it'. O, with what Terrible Chastisements has Our Lord Punished those who have Abandoned the Confraternity of our Blessed Lady! There was a Brother, who did-so in Naples, and when he was 'Exhorted' to Return, he 'Answered', "I will do so when my Legs are Broken, and my Head is Cut-off". He 'Prophesied'! For a short-time afterwards, some Enemies of his, 'Broke' his Legs and 'Cut-off' his Head. On the other-hand, the Brothers who ' Persevere' have both their Temporal and Spiritual Wants 'Provided-for' by Mary. "All her Domestics are clothed-with Double Garments" - Proverbs 31:21. Father-Auriemma 'Relates' how many Special Graces Mary 'Grants' to Brothers of the Confraternity, both in-Life and in-Death, but more particularly in Death. Father-Crasset gives an Account-of a Young Man, who in the Year 1586, was Dying. He 'Fell-asleep', but afterwards 'Waking', he said to his Confessor, "O Father, I have been in Great Danger of Damnation, but our Blessed Lady 'Rescued' me. The Devils 'Presented' my Sins before our Lord's Tribunal, and they were already 'Preparing' to 'Drag' me to Hell; but the Blessed Virgin 'Came' and 'Said' to them, 'Where are you taking this Young Man? What Business have you with a Servant-of-Mine, who has 'Served' me so-long in my Confraternity?' The Devils fled, and thus was I 'Delivered' from their hands". The same Author also 'Relates', that another Brother had also, at the Point-of-Death, a Great Battle with Hell; but at-length, having Conquered, 'Filled-with' Joy, he 'Exclaimed': "O what a Blessing it is to Serve the Holy Mother in her Confraternity!" and thus Filled-with Consolation, he Expired. He then adds, that in Naples, when the Duke-of-Popoli was Dying, he said-to his son: "Son, know that the Little Good I have done in this Life, I 'Attribute'-to my Confraternity. Hence, I have no Greater Treasure to leave thee, than the Confraternity of Mary. I now Value more, having been one of its Members, than being Duke-of-Popoli".