Taken from "The Glories of Mary", by St. Alphonsus Ligouri
Chapter I, Section IV
The Greatness of the love
which this Mother bears for us
Father Auriemma (Aff. Scamb. p. 2, c. 8) relates that there was a certain poor shepherdess, whose sole delight was to go to a little chapel of our Blessed Lady, situated on a mountain, and there, whilst her flocks were browsing, she conversed with her dear Mother and rendered honor to her. Seeing that the little image of Mary (which was carved in relief) was unadorned, she set to work to make her a mantle. One day, having gathered a few flowers in the fields, she made a garland, and climbing on the altar of the little chapel, placed it on the head of the image, saying, "My Mother, I would place a crown of gold and precious stones on thy brow, but, as I am poor, receive this crown of flowers, and accept it as a mark of the love that I bear thee." With this and other acts of homage, the pious maiden always endeavored to serve and honor our beloved Lady. But let us now see how the good Mother on her part recompensed the visits and the affection of her child. The latter fell ill, and was at the point of death. It so happened that two religious were passing that way, and, fatigued with their journey, sat down under a tree to rest: one fell asleep, and the other remained awake; but both had the same vision. They saw a multitude of most beautiful young women, and amongst these was one who in beauty and majesty far surpassed them all. One of the religious addressed himself to her: "Lady, who art thou, and where art thou going by these rugged ways?" "I am," she replied, "the Mother of God, and am going with these holy virgins to a neighboring cottage to visit a dying shepherdess who has so often visited me." Having said these words, all disappeared. At once these two good servants of God said, "Let us go also to see her." They immediately started, and having found the cottage of the dying virgin, they entered it and found her stretched on a little straw. They saluted her, and she said, "Brothers, ask our Lord to let you see the company that is assisting me." They immediately knelt, and saw Mary by the side of the dying girl, holding a crown in her hand and consoling her. All at once the virgins began to sing, and at the sound of this sweet harmony her blessed soul left her body. Mary placed the crown on her head, and taking her soul, led it with her to Paradise. (This account bears much resemblance to the account of the circumstances of the life and death of St. Germaine Cousin, deceased in 1601 at Pibrac, near Toulouse, aged about twenty two years, beatified May 7, 1854, canonized June 29, 1867.—ED.)
O Lady, O ravished of hearts! ("O Domina, quae rapis corda.") I will exclaim with St. Bonaventure: "Lady, who with the love and favor thou showest thy servants dost ravish their hearts, ravish also my miserable heart, which desires ardently to love thee. Thou, my Mother, hast enamoured a God with thy beauty, and drawn him from heaven into thy chaste womb; and shall I live without loving thee? "No, I will say to thee with one of thy most loving sons, John Berchmans of the Society of Jesus, I will never rest until I am certain of having obtained thy love; but a constant and tender love towards thee, my Mother, who hast loved me with so much tenderness" ("Nunquam quiescam, donec habuero tenerum amorem erga Matrem meam, Mariam"), even when I was ungrateful towards thee. And what should I now be, O Mary, if thou hadst not obtained so many mercies for me? Since, then, thou didst love me so much when I loved thee not, how much more may I not now hope from thee, now that I love thee? I love thee, O my Mother, and I would that I had a heart to love thee in place of all those unfortunate creatures who love thee not. I would that I could speak with a thousand tongues, that all might know thy greatness, thy holiness, thy mercy, and the love with which thou lovest all who love thee. Had I riches, I would employ them all for thy honor. Had I subjects, I would make them all thy lovers. In fine, if the occasion presented itself I would lay down my life for thy glory. I love thee, then, O my Mother; but at the same time I fear that I do not love thee as I ought; for I hear that love makes lovers like the person loved. If, then, I see myself so unlike thee, it is a mark that I do not love thee. Thou art so pure, and I defiled with many sins; thou so humble, and I so proud; thou so holy, and I so wicked. This, then, is what thou hast to do, O Mary; since thou lovest me, make me like thee. Thou hast all power to change hearts; take, then, mine and change it. Show the world what thou canst, do for those who love thee. Make me a saint; make me thy worthy child. This is my hope.