Saturday, 6 March 2010


O! how can we poor sinners do aught but weep with thee, when in thy train we follow our God to Calvary?

Forgive, I beseech Thee, the sins of this people, according to the greatness of Thy mercy....And the Lord said; I have forgiven according to thy word (Num 14: 19, 20), for I must not turn away thy face. 
(3 Kings 2:20)
My fugitives shall dwell with thou a covert to them from the face of the destroyer; for the dust is at an end, the wretch is consumed, he hath failed that trod the earth under foot. (Isa 16:4)
make thy shadow as the night in the midday; hide them that flee, and betray not them that wander about. (Isa 16:3)
Be of good comfort, my children...for my hope is in the Eternal that he will save you: and joy is come upon me from the Holy One, because of the mercy that shall come to you from our everlasting Saviour.
Because you have provoked God to wrath, you are delivered to your adversaries. For you have provoked Him who made you, the eternal God...You have forgotten God brought you up...Be of good comfort, my children, and cry to the Lord; for you shall be remembered by Him...for as it was your mind to go astray from God: so when you return again, you shall seek Him ten times as much. (Bar 4)

"Refuge of Sinners" - Ah, here is a title that has probably drawn more to the feet of Mary than any other. For we are all sinners and therefore all, at times, in our flight from the grasp of the destroyer, feel the need of a city of refuge where we may rest awhile, and recover from the wounds we have receives; where also we trust to find one who will plead our cause with God, whose grace we have abused and whose just anger we have incurred. And He of whom Holy Church says, in the collect of Ash Wednesday, that "He winketh at the sins of men, for the sake of repentance," lovingly encourages His blessed Mother in this work of mercy. We can imagine Him saying: "My fugitives shall dwell with thee; be thou a covert to them from the face of the destroyer: for the dust is at an end, the wretch is consumed; he hath failed that trod the earth under foot (Isa 14:4). The means taken by Satan, that proud spirit, the prince of this world, to bind his poor victims, have not altogether succeeded, else they would not now be pleading for help from thee, My Mother. Make thy shadow as the night in the midday; hide them that flee, lest death should overtake them before they make their peace with Me. And betray not them that wander about." Ah! dearest Lord, there is little need for that last injunctions. Thy Mother is the work of Thy hands, and Thou hast put too much of Thy own spirit and of Thy magnanimous generosity into her heart to make us ever fear her betraying any one who casts himself upon her mercy. No, rather may we not say, "She was to them for a covert by day, and for the light of stars by night." "She kept him safe from his enemies." "In the deceit of them that overreached him she stood by him and made him honourable" (Wis 10). Yes, she obtained for him the grace of contrition, so that he was again enabled to wear the wedding garment, and take his place amongst the guests of the King. O Mary, how many hast thou thus restored to grace, how many have come to thee weeping, and casting themselves at thy feet have cried out, "I am he that has sinned, I have done wickedly (2 Kings 24), oh, do not thou utterly forsake me"? (Ps 67). And thou hast opened thy heart to them, and whispered in their ear kind, comforting words, saying: "My son, give glory to the Lord...and confess, and tell me what thou hast done; hide it not." (Jos 7). And the poor repentant one has answered with humility: "Indeed I have sinned against the Lord...and thus and thus I have done" (Jos 7). And then thou hast poured out on him all the tenderness of thy maternal affection, and hast given him good counsel, encouraging him to hope in the mercy of God and turn to better things. "Fear not," thou hast said; "you have done all this evil, but yet depart not from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all thy heart (1 Kings 12). If thou wilt return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, and shalt put away iniquity...And the Almighty shall be against thy enemies, and silver shall be heaped together on thee. Then shalt thou abound in delights in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face to God. Thou shalt pray to Him, and He shall hear thee...and light shall shine in thy ways. For he that hath been humbled shall be in glory (Job 22). But yet acknowledge thy iniquity, that thou hast sinned against the Lord." (Jer 3). Thus does Mary console the sinner, and while insisting on the necessity of confession, hold out the hope of being restored to God's favour, of yet heaping up spiritual riches and of enjoying eternal glory. But how many are there who will not fly to her, and to seek whom she has to go out of her way. Nor even then will they always acknowledge they are sinners, so she has to win them by milder terms. therefore she calls them "unwise," and to these she says:  "Come." By degrees, if only she can by any means keep them near her, she shows them that sin is the greatest folly, the most egregious breach of wisdom of which we can be capable.
 Surrounded as we are by many dangers in this world of ours, let us have frequent recourse to Mary. Nor need we fear to approach her. St Bernard sets forth in beautiful words her sweetness and gentleness to us sinning mortals, and tells us the frailest need have no fear in approaching her, as there is nothing about her to frighten us. She is all sweetness; and in the following extract from his sermons he calls her the "sinners' ladder to heaven": "My little children, this is the sinners' ladder to heaven, this is my chiefest trust, this is the whole reason of the hope that is in me. For why? Can her Son thrust her away, or endure that she should be thrust away? Can He either not hear or not Himself be heard? Plainly He cannot. The angel giveth her this joyful assurance: 'Thou hast found grace with God.' She will always find grace with Him, and grace is all that we need since by grace we are saved. What else do we want, my brethren? Let us seek grace, and let us seek it through Mary, for he that seeketh findeth, and cannot be disappointed of his hope. Let us seek grace, but let it be grace with God, for among men 'favour is deceitful' (Prov 31). Let others seek for merits, but let us seek to find grace. For why? is it not the work of grace that we are here? Of a truth, 'it is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed' (Lam 3)".

Refuge of Sinners, pray for us.
There are several pictures of Our Lady under the title of "Refuge of Sinners" that are obviously venerated with great devotion. The vintage prayer card companion to the Loreto Litany is one of the picture adorned in symbols to increase and sustain devotion and confidence in Mary:

Description and explanation of the picture can be found HERE


Another picture of Mary venerated under the title of the Refuge of Sinners has an interesting story to tell us. The picture represents the image of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners venerated in the Jesuit Church of Frascati in Italy where the image was solemny crowned on July 4th 1717. The image was brought to Mexico by Jesuit missionary, Fr Juan Jose Guica in 1720. The Virgin appeared to him in a dream and told Fr Guica to ask the Franciscans of Zacatecas to use and promote the image; they made and distributed over 150 copies of the original image of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, which became one of the most widespread Marian devotions in Mexico. In 1793 Franciscan friars founded a new settlement under the name of Matamoros (marshes) and subsequently renamed the area as Our Lady of the Refuge of the Lovely Marshes. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Refuge, was built in 1832 and displays the painting of her, commissioned in 1886. Her feast, celebrated in many places in Mexico on July 4th, commemorates the coronation of the original "Refugium Peccatori" image in the Jesuit church of Frascati.

Above we can see the vintage image of a marble statue representing Our Lady, Refuge of Sinner, displayed in Venice. The story has it, the statue was once displayed on the grand staircase of the old municipal palace and the convicts were allowed to stop in front of the statue on their way to the scaffold and pray for their soul.

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