“O most holy and pure virgin! O my Mother! You who are the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the world, the advocate and refuge of sinners!”
– Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Luigi Crosio’s painting which is featured here is now known as the image of the Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt. Originally, however, it was known by the title given to it by the painter himself – ‘Refuge Of Sinners’.
This is an ancient and very beautiful title for the Mother of God and it springs from those words of the Lord as He was dying upon the Cross – “Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy Mother”. Representing all of humanity, Saint John was the son of that moment. Now if Mary is truly the Mother of all, that means all – both the good and the bad, the holy and the sinful; in other words, every single one of us, without exception. This is an important thing to think about.
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners” (cf.Rom. 5) – He did not wait for us to become holy and pure. Rather, it is through His sacrifice that we now have the potential to become holy, as He is holy. And as the Lord Himself said, He came not for the virtuous but “to call sinners to repentance” (cf. Luke 5). Indeed, the Lord spoke a number of times about the joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner. Considering the Lord’s attitude towards sinners, it should come as no suprise that the Mother of the Lord desires exactly what Her Son desires – the repentance of sinners, their return to the Lord. And so She truly is their – our – refuge.
Sometimes, we can feel overwhelmed by our sins and our sinfulness; even after a good Confession, we retain our concupiscence – the tendency toward sin. This is part of the reason why we sin again even after Confession. We can feel swamped by our particular sins, our returning again and again to sin, the type of sin – and all of this can lead to despair, the sense that we will never get it right, we will never really progress in the spiritual life, that we will never reach perfection.
In those moments, Mary comes to us as the Refuge of Sinners – consoling, reviving, encouraging, and obtaining for us all the graces we need, from the Sacred Heart of Her Son. There, in Her Immaculate Heart, we can stop and rest for a moment along the journey of life, finding there all we need to go just a few steps further along the path, ever closer to the Lord. When we are sheltered by the Blessed Virgin, we are safe; She says again to Her Son, this time on our behalf – “they have no wine”. And He responds to Her maternal pleading now, as He did in Cana, performing miracles of grace and mercy, granting us – through Her motherly intercession – all that we need.
When you feel downtrodden by your human failings and frailty, your sinfulness, your weakness, go immediately to the Blessed Virgin, for She truly is your – our – refuge. Rest there in Her presence and ask Her help. She will not fail us.