Our Lady of St. Bernard’s “Ave,” Brabant, Netherlands
Saint Bernard, the first abbot of Clairvaux, was a great ornament and pillar of the Church in the 12th century. Devotion to Mary was his characteristic virtue. Bernard put himself under her protection from childhood, and the Mother of Mercy showed him on many occasions how acceptable to her was his devotion. When young, he had a vision of the Queen of Heaven, by which he learned much on the Incarnation. This vision enkindled in his heart the strongest love for Jesus and Mary. Among other favors he received from Mary was the instantaneous restoration of his health when he lay dangerously ill and physicians had given up all hope of recovery.
Bernard endeavored to inflame all hearts with devotion to Mary. To excite confidence in her intercession, he would say: “She does not want power to help us, for she is the Mother of God; nor yet good will, for she is the Mother of Mercy, and our Mother also. She is not a Mother merely of the just but of sinners.” His writings would alone suffice to proclaim her praise to the end of the world, and to enkindle the love of her in all hearts.
It was Bernard’s custom whenever he passed an image of Mary to bow his head and salute her with the words, “Ave Maria!” He did this without fail, and Our Lady to show him how much this pleased her, one day bowed low from her image and smilingly and sweetly answered him with the words, “Ave Bernard!”
“Mary,” says Saint Bernard “is the bright Star of Jacob, whose rays enlighten the whole world, whose splendor shines conspicuous in Heaven, and penetrates hell. It pervades the earth and warms not the body, but the soul, banishing vice, and maturing virtue. For she is that bright and splendid star, elevated above this vast and spacious sea, who glitters by her merits, and enlightens by her example. If you find yourself tossed about by the storms and tempests in the current of this world, turn not your eyes away from the brightness of this star, unless you wish to be overwhelmed by its waves. If the winds of temptation arise – if you strike on the rock of tribulation – look up to this star; call on Mary! If you are tossed about by the swellings of pride or ambition, of envy or detraction – look up to the star, call on Mary! If anger or avarice, or concupiscence, agitate the bark of your mind – turn to Mary! When affrighted at the enormity of your crimes and sins, or affrighted at the defilement of your conscience, or terrified with the dread of the future judgment, you feel yourself about to be involved in the whirlpool of despondency, or engulfed in the abyss of despair – think of Mary! In dangers, in difficulties and doubts; think on Mary and invoke her!
Let her name never depart from your mouth or heart; and that you may obtain the benefit of her intercession, forget not to imitate the example of her life. In following her, you cannot go astray; in appealing to her, you cannot despair; and in thinking of her, you cannot wander.
While she supports you, you cannot fall; while she protects you, you cannot fear; while she guides you, you cannot feel fatigue; and if SHE be propitious, you will arrive in safety.”