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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
In 1604, in a town in Flanders, there were two young students who, instead of studying literature, were occupied only with pleasure. One evening they had gone together to a den of all Jes crimes, one of them, named Richard, full of wine and disgust, invited his companion to retire. On his refusal, he leaves him, and returns alone to the house. He was about to go to bed, when he remembered that he had not yet said a few Hail Marys, which he was accustomed to say every day, without ever failing to do so. As he was weighed down by sleep and by the excesses to which he had given himself up, it was with great difficulty that he managed to recite these few prayers. It is easy to understand, in the state in which he was, with what attention they were said. However, half yawning, half sleeping, he managed to finish them. Immediately he lay down and fell asleep. No sooner was he in the first sleep, than he was awakened with a start. He listens, and the door opens of its own accord, and he sees his messy companion enter; but what a look he has! how frightening! He is all pale, all disfigured. Richard cannot look at him without shuddering. “Richard, happy Richard,” said his friend, “don’t you recognize me? – Why,” answered Richard, “it’s you! But what’s the matter with you? you look frightening! Is this a joke you want to play on me again? – Woe is me!” exclaims this unfortunate man with an accent of despair. The time of the jokes is finished; I am damned, and it is for ever. While leaving the place where we spent the evening together, I was struck by death. My body lies in the middle of the street, and my soul is buried in hell. Know, he added, that the same punishment awaited you. We were both wrapped up in the same sentence. But Mary has taken you under her protection because of that small tribute of prayers you paid her before going to bed. Happy, if you know how to take advantage of the warning that She obliges me to give you!” As he said these words, the reprobate let the flames that were devouring him be seen and disappeared. Richard, half-dead with fright, sprang from his bed, and threw himself face down to thank his Liberator. While he was thinking about what he should do to change his life, he heard matins ringing in the Capuchin monastery. Immediately his mind was made up: “It is there, he said, that God is calling me. He got up immediately, and went to knock on the door of the monastery, where he asked to be received. The Fathers, who knew of his scandalous life, could not at first bring themselves to receive him; but when he had given an account of what had just happened to him, and when two religious, sent to the place he had indicated to them, had found the corpse of Richard’s compagoon, the door of the monastery was opened to this protégé of Mary. He became a model of all virtues in the convent. Later he went to India to spread the faith of Jesus Christ, and from there to Japan. It was in Japan that he had the good fortune to shed his blood for the name of Jesus and to end his life with a glorious martyrdom.
(Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary).