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The Story of Two Students

Elaine Marie Jordan

The clemency and compassion of Mary are unfathomable. The simplest Catholic peasant in times past knew about them. Even if he was a miserable sinner, even if he strayed far from Sacraments and broke all the Commandments, if he persisted in some small devotion to Mary, he retained a trickle of hope. It is a way she works in souls who hold in their hearts even a tiny bit of some love and respect for her. This attitude has a special salvific action.

In his book The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus of Liguouri dedicates a chapter to Our Lady’s clemency and compassion. He quotes the Saints who tell us that every saving grace comes through the hands of Our Lady. And he reminds us how poorly off indeed we would be if we did not have recourse to our Mother of Mercy in our needs. At the end of the chapter he tells this story of two students to show us how we should never abandon devotion to Mary.
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In the year 1604, in a city in Belgium, there were two young students who gave themselves up to a life of debauchery instead of following their studies.

One night they were at the house of an evil woman; but one of the two, who was named Richard, stayed only a short time and then returned home. While he was preparing to go to bed, he remembered that he had not yet said the few Hail Marys that were his daily practice.

He was very tired and half inclined to omit them; nevertheless, he forced himself through the routine, saying the words half asleep and with no particular devotion. Then he laid down and fell asleep.

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Our Lady, clement and merciful to all who have recourse to her
Suddenly he was wakened by a violent knocking at the door. The door was closed, but the figure of a young man, hideously deformed, passed through it and stood before him.

"Who are you?" Richard cried.
"You do not know me?" asked the other.
"Ah yes, now I do," said Richard; "but how changed, with all the appearance of a devil!"

"Alas, unhappy creature that I am," said his companion, "I am damned! When I was leaving that house of sin, a devil came and strangled me. My body lies in the street; my soul is in Hell.

"And know this --- the same fate awaited you, except that the Blessed Virgin spared you for that little act of homage of the Hail Marys. If you are not a fool, profit by this warning which the Mother of God has sent." He then opened his mantle, showing the flames and serpents by which he was tormented, and disappeared.

Breaking into a flood of sobs and tears, Richard went down on his knees to give thanks to Mary his protector. Then as he pondered how to change his life he heard the bell of the Franciscan monastery ringing for matins. "It is there," he said, "that God calls me to do penance."

He went immediately to the monastery and asked the Fathers to admit him. Since they knew his wicked life, they were hardly willing to do so. But sobbing bitterly, he told them all that had happened. And when two Fathers had been sent to the street and had found the strangled body, which was charred and blackened, they admitted him.

From that time on he led an exemplary life and at length went to preach the Gospel in India, and thence to Japan. There he had the happiness of giving his life for Jesus Christ, being burnt alive for the faith at Nagasaki on September 10, 1622.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Excerpt from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Redemptorist Fathers, 1931 , Chapter 9
Posted on November 17, 2007

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