In Dante’s Inferno, the devil informs Jesus that a certain soul is his, a soul that is destined for eternal damnation. Jesus responds by denying the devil’s assertion. The devil insists, claiming that this soul, due to his many serious sins, is his property. Jesus then says with utter clarity and simplicity, “That soul is not yours because he invoked the holy name of my mother Mary!”
This literary masterpiece does not deny the serious quality of sin, especially mortal sin. However, it does highlight a hallmark and indispensable help on the highway to salvation: the presence of Mary, the power of Mary, the importance of invoking the holy name of Mary!
If Mary is our Mother whom we love, and our Queen whom we serve, we should ask what her greatest desires are. Do we not want to please our Mother and our Queen?
Our Lady has two constant and ardent desires. The first is to praise and glorify God. Any praise we give to her she passes on to the Blessed Trinity, and in doing so, she teaches us how to properly praise and worship God. All the Marian prayers and feasts and devotional practices we will explore in this text bear this same goal—to glorify God.
The Virgin Mary’s second desire is the perseverance, sanctification, and salvation of immortal souls. All her prayers and hopes and efforts of intercession are directed to this second desire so that her first desire of glorifying God can be fulfilled.
And how do we fulfill these desires? How does she help us fulfill them?
In many of her apparitions, including both Lourdes (1858) and Fatima (1917), which we will talk about in more detail in later chapters, Our Lady expressed the clear call to conversion from sin and to pray for the conversion of poor sinners. Our Lady’s message could be summed up in three words: sin, prayer, sacrifice. Let us explain these words.
Our Lady pointed out very clearly, especially in Fatima, the evil of sin. She prophesied to the three shepherd children to whom she appeared (Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco) that as a result of sin, wars had broken out, and if people kept sinning, a worse war would explode. Twenty-two years after Fatima, the worst war in the history of the world crashed into human history—World War II—killing millions upon millions, estimated between fifty and fifty-eight million. Our Lady also pointed out that souls are lost to the eternal fires of hell due especially to the sins against the very demanding virtue of purity. The words of Jesus resound clear and with conviction: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God” (Mt. 5:8). Even the Immaculate Heart of Mary surrounded with sharp and penetrating thorns manifests sin in a very personal way—sin pierces the Immaculate Heart of our Heavenly Mother. Our Lady challenges each of us to look into our life, examine our conscience, and make a firm purpose of amendment once and for all to strive with all our energy to renounce sin in all shapes, colors, sizes, and forms! And that includes avoiding near occasions of sin— those persons, places, things, circumstances, or times of the day that draw us into sin!
In all six of Our Lady’s appearances to the three children of Fatima, she exhorts them to pray the Rosary daily. Truly, the Rosary is our ladder to heaven! The Rosary, another topic we will discuss in more detail soon enough, is biblical—following the lives of Jesus and Mary in Sacred Scripture. Pope Saint John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, tells us that through the Rosary, we “contemplate the face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, his Most Holy Mother.” He goes on to say, “We are remembering Christ with Mary, we are learning Christ from Mary, we are being conformed to Christ with Mary, we are praying to Christ with Mary, and we are proclaiming Christ with Mary!”
In both Lourdes and Fatima, the Blessed Mother, concerned about the conversion and salvation of sinners, asked for frequent and fervent prayers to be offered. However, in addition to prayers, she noted that sacrifice was also required if souls were to be saved! Jesus reiterates the same message: “Unless a man deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). If this is the case, that Jesus and Mary want us to offer sacrifices for the salvation of souls, then what can we do? Lucia de Los Santos once asked Our Lady of Fatima what she, Francisco, and Jacinta should do with respect to sacrifices. Our Lady responded by telling her to offer up all to God as a sacrifice. As a guide or help, we would like to suggest ten distinct areas that you can offer to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary as forms of sacrifice and, as such, collaborate with them in the salvation of many souls. Indeed, the harvest is rich, but the laborers are few. May you be among the harvesters with Jesus and Mary in the harvest of immortal souls for all eternity!