AND AFTER THIS OUR EXILE SHOW UNTO US THE BLESSED FRUIT OF THY WOMB, JESUS
In the year 1604, in a city of Belgium, there were two young men, students, but who, instead of attending to their studies, gave themselves up to a life of debauchery. One night they were both in the house with an evil companion, when one of them, named Richard, returned home, leaving his companion there. After he had reached home, and had begun to undress, he remembered he had not that day said some “Hail Marys,” that he was in the habit of reciting. Feeling very sleepy he was loath to say them; he did himself violence, and repeated them, though without devotion, and half asleep. He then lay down, and had fallen into a sound slumber, when he was suddenly roused by a violent knocking at the door, and without its opening he saw his companion, deformed and hideous, standing before him. “Who are you?” he cried out. “What! Do you not know me?” “Ah, yes! But how you are changed; you seem to me a devil.” “Truly,” he exclaimed, “poor unfortunate creature that I am, I am damned; and how? When I was leaving that wicked house, a devil came and strangled me; my body is in the street, and my soul in hell; and you must know,” added he, “that the same fate awaited you, had not the Blessed Virgin preserved you in consideration of that little act of homage of the ‘Hail Mary.’ Fortunate are you if only you know how to take advantage of this warning sent you by the Mother of God.” With these words he opened his mantle, and, showing the flames and serpents by which he was tormented, he disappeared. Richard immediately burst into sobs and tears, and, casting himself prostrate on the ground, he returned thanks to Mary, his protectress; and, while thinking how to change his life, he heard the bell of the Franciscan monastery ringing for matins. “Ah! It is there,” says he, “that God calls me to do penance.” He went immediately to the convent, and implored the Fathers to admit him. But they were hardly willing to do so, knowing his wicked life; but he, sobbing bitterly, told all that had taken place; and two Fathers being sent to the street, and having found the strangled body, which was as black as a coal, they admitted him. From that time forward Richard led a most exemplary life, and at last went to preach the Gospel in the Indies, and then to Japan, where he had the happiness of giving his life for Jesus Christ, being burnt alive for the faith.
O Mary, my most dear Mother, in what an abyss of evils should I not now be, if you had not so many times delivered me with your compassionate hand! How many years ago should I not have been in hell, had you not saved me by your powerful prayers! My grievous sins already drove me there; divine justice had already condemned me; the devils already longed to execute the sentence; and you did fly to my aid, and save me without being even called or asked. And what return can I make to you, O my beloved protectress, for so many favors and for such love? You also did overcome the hardness of my heart, and did draw me to your love and to confidence in you. And into how many other evils should I not have fallen, if with your compassionate hand you had not so often helped me in the dangers into which I was on the point of falling! Continue, O my hope, to preserve me from hell, and from the sins into which I may still fall. Never allow me to have this misfortune – to curse you in hell. My beloved Lady, I love you. Can your goodness ever endure to see a servant of yours that loves you lost? Ah! then, obtain that I may never more be ungrateful to you and to my God, who for the love of you has granted me so many graces. O Mary, tell me, shall I be lost? Yes, if I abandon you. But is this possible? Can I ever forget the love you have borne me? You, after God, are the love of my soul. I can no longer trust myself to live without loving you. O most beautiful, most holy, most amiable, sweetest creature in the world, I rejoice in you happiness, I love you, and I hope always to love you both in time and in eternity. Amen.