Excerpts of a sermon given by Blessed Father Frederick de Ghyvelde, o.f.m.
Good Father Frederick was a spiritual son of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Troubadour of Our Lady of the Angels. Living in the bosom of the Franciscan Order, which defended and propagated the Immaculate Conception even before the proclamation of the dogma, how could he not exert a Marian influence? He was the author of many writings and sermons exalting the splendors of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a great help to Father Luc Désilets in the realization of his Marian project at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. When the great day of the dedication arrived, he spoke in the pulpit, prophesying a magnificent future for what was then an unknown site. He even made so bold as to tell the pastor that the Virgin would manifest Her approval that very day. And indeed, at seven in the evening, the Madonna in the church opened its eyes in front of three people: the pastor, a paralyzed man and Good Father Frederick. Preaching in the dioceses of Three Rivers, Nicolet, Quebec City and Montreal, Father Frederick spread the word about the new Marian center and even asked families to send delegates to it. That is how the great pilgrimages began; far from being a form of tourism, these were real days of prayer, sacrifice and loving homage to the Queen of Heaven.
Here are a few extracts from a sermon given by Good Father Frederick on the occasion of the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, celebrated on September 8.
Nativity of the most Blessed Virgin Mary
“He who is mighty has done great things to Me.” This is the very expression of Mary in the wonderful canticle of the Magnificat, which could be called the effusion of Her gratitude. A great abundance of graces, blessings, prerogatives and wonders are contained in these brief but energetic words, “He who is mighty has done great things to Me.” O abyss of the riches of the Lord’s mercy and goodness, who could ever comprehend You? How admirable are His designs upon Mary! Yes, let us beware of setting limits to the liberality of God, who wanted to exert all His magnificence upon a creature He had destined to be the Mother of the Word Incarnate and the cooperatrix of the Redemption of the world. Therefore, the Holy Church rightly says: O lovable Child, Your birth brought tidings of joy to the whole world.
What distinguishes this incomparable Infant, whose birth we celebrate with joy, from all others is that She was made a participant, in all the fullness of which a pure creature is capable, in the sanctity of God by Her exemption from sin; in the glory of God by Her title of Mother of God; in the power of God by the extraordinary credit She has with God.
The holiest of virgins
Man, considered in and of himself, is but weakness: his worthwhile actions, so recommendable in the eyes of humans, always bear the character of the nothingness from which he came; they are dispelled like a fleeting cloud. To God alone goes the glory, to Him alone supereminent Sanctity. Yet in His eternal designs, God, Holy as He is, resolved to operate the work of our Redemption by adopting a form similar to our own, and as the Holy Church sings, He did not disdain being born in the womb of a Virgin.
Consider, therefore, the wonders He will perform in favor of Mary. The time when the Sun of Justice was to shine upon the earth was already at hand, the earth was ready to bring forth the long-awaited Messiah. God hastened to sanctify and favor Mary, who was to enter into the execution of that great mystery. He turned Her steps away from the torrent of corruption; He did for Mary what He had done for the Angels in their creation. With one hand He filled Her with the most excellent natural gifts, and with the other He poured forth the richest treasures of His grace upon Her. Let us therefore say that Mary, who was to be the tabernacle of the Lord, was wonderfully sanctified; and it is on this day of sweet rejoicing that Mary begins to appear before the world as the flower of the field and the lily of the valley, with all Her innocent whiteness.
Even so, Mary exempt from sin in Her conception, Mary born in grace, Mary confirmed in grace, persevered in it freely and voluntarily, in order to establish the merit which She steadily increased from the moment of Her conception until the blessed moment when She expired from love on earth and was reborn resplendent in the firmament of heaven. And it is for this reason, declares a pious author, that the fearful young virgin — like a plant one would think was endowed with sentiment and is therefore called sensitive, which rapidly closes its leaves at the slightest touch of the wings of a little insect, but especially from the indiscreet hand that would trifle with it — hastens to close Her ears and Her heart to the seductions of the world and goes to hide the flower of Her tender and precious innocence in the sacred sanctuary of the Temple.
Scripture says that the dove sent out by Noah requested reentry into the Ark because she had not found a place upon which to set her delicate foot; thus the prudent Mary, having scarcely set foot in the world, hastens to leave it; the fearful immaculate dove flies into solitude, resolved to shelter Her virtue in the shadow of the Sanctuary and consecrate Her innocent, virginal heart to the Lord forever.
And it is from Her earliest childhood, according to the testimony of the holy Fathers, that She made the vow of perpetual virginity to God in the Temple of Jerusalem — an example unprecedented before that time, for the daughters of Judah regarded sterility as an opprobrium. But Mary, interiorly instructed by the Holy Spirit, understood the entire worth of that angelic virtue, and She reckoned it so highly that She would have been willing to give up the incomparable title of Mother of God if She would have had to renounce Her vow to obtain it. And that is why She was troubled at the apparition of the Angel: but do not be afraid, Mary, O no! do not be afraid, for You have found favor with God.
But what need do we have of so many words? Let us simply recall that Mary is the holiest of virgins: She was preserved from the original stain at the very moment of Her conception; She remained a virgin before, during and after the Birth of Her divine Son; She never committed the slightest venial sin all Her life.
Therefore, O beloved Christians, where can one find a virgin such as Mary? We hail You, O Mary, the holiest of all virgins, and we invoke You with love and confidence, pray for us.
Mother of God and our Mother
Brothers, in the Angelical Salutation, the true children of the Church always say with pride and joy these sweet but glorious words: Holy Mary, Mother of God.
Mary, Mother of God! The proud, impious Nestorius wanted to rob Her of that title of glory, and the historian declares that the entire Church rose up, hastened to Ephesus and cast a solemn anathema against that heresiarch. The enemy of Christ was defeated…
Mary, Mother of God! With that name, what a myriad of wonders, what a sequence of mysteries is presented to our astonished souls. Saint Augustine states that nothing among pure creatures is equal to Mary. Saint Peter Damian exclaimed: Let every creature be silent at the sight of this immense dignity, which no pure creature could ever comprehend. The learned and pious Chancellor of Paris (Gerson) declared: Do not be afraid to say too much when speaking of the splendors of Mary; rich with the very goods of Her Son, inferior to Her God, She will always be far above the most magnificent praises of Angels and men.
All the Doctors and the Holy Church itself have employed the most magnificent praises to glorify Mary under the title of Mother of God, and let us not be surprised at this; Divine Maternity in and of itself encompasses every praise. It is the source and the primordial title of all the privileges of Mary. From it come the immaculate conception, the unprecedented virginity, the fullness of grace, the universality of virtue; from it come all the comforting titles of Queen of heaven and earth, Mother of Mercy, Help of Christians, etc.
Saint Bernard, writing to the canons of Lyons, declared: Give to Mary the rightful praises which belong to Her. Say that She found the source of grace for Herself and for us. Say that She is the Mediatrix of salvation, the Restorer of the ages; that is what the entire Church proclaims and what it sings every day.
Satan was proud of the grim advantage he had won over our first fathers, and he prided himself on extending his cruel empire upon the rest of their posterity; but his empire was overthrown, his iron scepter broken. The almighty Lord came and encountered him, and He delivered him up to the hands of a woman. A woman brought him to a halt, a woman cast him down, a woman crushed his hideous head beneath her virginal foot, and that woman is Mary. And O Christians, is it not in this Virgin Mother that the promise made to the first man on the very day of his fall is fulfilled to the letter? Is She not this new Eve who repairs what the ancient Eve had destroyed, and who brings justice and life into the world, as the first one brought sin and death? Is She not this Virgin predicted by the prophet Isaiah from whom the hope of Sion, the Redeemer, the Emmanuel, was to be born? Is She not this Woman that Saint John depicts in the Apocalypse, clothed with the sun, crowned with stars, the moon beneath Her feet, ever doing battle with the dragon and ever victorious over his assaults?
The expressions fail us, O Virgin Mary, to describe the titles of glory with which You are decorated and the comforting ministry You have exercised in our regard. Penetrated with profound gratitude, we always believe that it is to Your Son Jesus Christ that we owe the priceless benefit of our redemption; but we will never forget that You are the One who gave us the Redeemer! We bless the fortunate day that He came down upon earth; but we call blessed the womb that bore Him, and we will always joyfully celebrate the day of Your own birth.
The most powerful creature of all
We can initially judge the power of Mary by the power She exercised when She was still on earth: as you know, it is Mary’s prayer that caused Jesus Christ to work His first miracle at Cana. A miracle all the more striking, says one Father of the Church, in that Jesus Himself says His hour has not yet come. It is by means of Mary that the sanctification of John the Baptist was operated: Elizabeth hears the voice of Mary, and at that very instant the child she is bearing leaps with joy and is sanctified. Now, if Jesus Christ did so much for Mary on earth, what will He not do for Her in heaven? The power of the Saints with God is more or less great depending on how their love for Our Lord was more or less great on earth. Now, has there ever been any Saint who loved Jesus Christ more, who did more for His glory, was more obedient to Him, more attached, more faithful, more grateful than Mary? Therefore, no one has more power in heaven than Mary.
We could offer a thousand reasons to prove that if the intercession of the Saints, who are the friends of God, is so powerful with Him, the intercession of Mary, who had the joy of being His Mother, ought to be infinitely more powerful. If God is pleased to accomplish the will of those who fear Him, if in a particular circumstance we have seen Him obey the voice of a man and suspend the course of nature in favor of Joshua; if, resolved to punish Israel for its repeated ingratitude, He let Himself be touched a thousand times by His servant Moses: Is it surprising that He yields to the wishes of a Mother that He has always tenderly loved? Is it surprising that in Her favor He relinquishes something of the rights of His justice and that, ready to strike down sinners, He loves to be disarmed by the hands that are so dear to Him, hands that carried Him in His childhood, hid Him from the fury of Herod, labored to provide for His sustenance?
What a myriad of proofs we could invoke to convince ourselves of the power of Mary’s credit with God. For after all, what shall we think about the unanimous zeal of the Fathers and Doctors of all ages to accredit Her devotion, of the multiplicity of feasts instituted in Her honor, each one having a different mystery as its object and a special grace as its fruit? What shall we think about the almost countless number of temples and altars erected in honor of Her titles? But O souls confident in the maternal power of Mary, what need do we have of extraneous proofs when we have personal ones? I call you to answer for yourselves: have you ever invoked Mary with faith and confidence without experiencing the effects of Her power, in your afflictions and in all of life’s trials?
If, therefore, Mary is so holy, so elevated in glory, so powerful with God, do not doubt that She will also be extremely sensitive to all our needs. No, no, it is not wrongly that the Holy Church invokes Her by the comforting titles of Mother of all grace, Mother of Mercy. It is not wrongly that it calls Her Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, Help of Christians, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
O Lord, I adore You in the birth of this new Creature whom You give to the world on this day, and whom You make to appear among all the children of Adam as a lily among thorns, by the grace and sanctity which distinguish Her birth from the birth of other men. O Lord, You had promised this new Creature in whom the hope of sinners begins to shine. And the enmity You have set between this Woman and the serpent begins to appear from the very time of Her entry into the world as She appears in Her Immaculate Conception. This is therefore the prelude of the victory that Her Son will one day win over the powers of hell. Be praised and blessed, O Lord, for the choice You made of Mary for such a singular prerogative, and may all the graces and all the mercies that You have disposed in Her, praise You and glorify You eternally.
May You be blessed, O Child given by Heaven for the salvation of all the earth, and may all creatures hail You already full of grace at Your birth, without any fear of forestalling the salutation of the Angel. For the heart that has just been born is nevertheless the heart most full of the highest sanctity that was ever given and will ever be given to a pure creature. The Spirit of the Lord, who works to make You the temple of Eternal Wisdom, made You in advance the liveliest image of all the virtues of which Wisdom Incarnate was to be the true model. And till the moment when that adorable Spirit was to form a body for the very Son of God from Your virginal blood, He will not cease day after day to pour forth new graces and a new sanctity in You, to make Your soul and Your body a worthy abode for the Almighty.
Marie magazine (Centre Marial Canadien: Nicolet, Quebec), Sept.-Oct. 1957, pp. 42-45.
Published in the Magnificat Magazine, September 2013, Editions Magnificat, Mont-Tremblant Québec Canada
Representation of the Infant Mary
Over the altar of the Chapel of Jesus Crucified at the Monastery of the Apostles, Mont-Tremblant Québec Canada
At the Chapel of Jesus Crucified at the Monastery of the Apostles, Mont-Tremblant Québec Canada
Representation of the Infant Mary
Statue made by the Sisters at the Monastery of the Apostles, Mont-Tremblant Québec Canada
Bambina Maria (Infant Mary)
Statue reproduced and painted by the Sisters at the Monastery of the Apostles, Mont-Tremblant