Neither in heaven nor on earth can I find one who has more compassion for the miserable, or who can aid me more than you.
It happened that a pestilence prevailed in that city and the citizens had recourse to that monastery to ask the prayers of the monks.
The abbot ordered Ernest to go and pray before the altar of Mary, and not to quit it until she had given him an answer. The youth remained there three days, and received from Mary, in answer, some prayers, which were to be said. They were said, and the plague ceased.
It happened afterwards that this youth became less ardent in his devotion to Mary; the devil assailed him with many temptations, especially to impurity, and to a desire to flee from the monastery; and having neglected to recommend himself to Mary, he resolved to take flight by casting himself from the wall of the monastery; but passing before an image of the Virgin which stood in the corridor, the mother of God spoke to him, and said: “My son, why do you leave me?”
Ernest was overwhelmed with surprise, and, filled with compunction, fell on the earth, saying: “My Lady, behold, I have no power to resist, why do you not aid me?” and the Madonna replied: “Why have you not invoked me? If you had sought my protection, you would not have been reduced to this; from this day commend yourself to me, and have confidence.”
Ernest returned to his cell; but the temptations were renewed, yet he neglected to call upon Mary for assistance. He finally fled from the monastery, and leading a bad life, he went on from one sin to another, till he became an assassin. He rented an inn, where in the night he murdered unfortunate travelers and stripped them of all they had.
One night he killed, among others, the cousin of the governor of the place, who, after examination and trial, condemned him to the gallows.
But during the examination [court trial], a young traveler arrived at the inn, and the host, as usual, laid his plans and entered his chamber to assassinate him: but on approaching the bed, he finds the young man gone and a Christ on the cross, covered with wounds, in his place.
Our Lord, looking compassionately at him, said: “Is it not enough that I have died once for thee? Dost thou wish to slay me again? Do it, then; lift thy hand and kill me!” Then the poor Ernest, covered with confusion, began to weep, and exclaimed: “Oh Lord, behold me ready to return to thee, who hast shown me so much mercy.”
He immediately left the inn to go back to the monastery to do penance; but the officers of justice overtook him on the way. He was carried before the judge and in his presence confessed all the murders he had committed.
He was at once condemned to death, without even being allowed time for confession. He commended himself to Mary. He was hung upon the gallows, but the Virgin prevented his death.
She herself released him, and said to him: “Return to the monastery; do penance; and when you shall see in my hand a paper containing the pardon of thy sins, then prepare to die. Ernest returned, and having related all to the abbot, did great penance.
After many years, he saw in the hand of Mary the paper containing his pardon; he then prepared for his last end, and died a holy death.
But I cannot let my miseries deprive me of the consolation and confidence I feel in calling thee mother. I know that I deserve to be rejected by thee, but I pray thee to consider what thy son Jesus has done and suffered for me; and then cast me from thee if thou canst.
I am a poor sinner, who, more than others, has despised the divine Majesty; but the evil is already done.To thee I have recourse: thou canst help me; oh, my mother, help me. Do not say that thou canst not aid me, for I know that thou art omnipotent, and dost obtain whatever thou desireth from thy God.
If then thou sayest that thou canst not help me, at least tell me to whom I must have recourse for succor in my deep distress. With St. Anselra, I will say to thee, and to thy Son: Have pity on me, oh thou, my Redeemer, and pardon me, thou my mother, and recommend me to pardon; or teach me to whom I may have recourse, who is more compassionate than you, and in whom I may have more confidence.
No, neither in heaven nor on earth can I find one who has more compassion for the miserable, or who can aid me more than you.
Thou, oh Jesus, art my father, and thou, oh Mary, art my mother. You love those who are the most wretched, and you seek to save them. I am worthy of hell, and of all beings the most miserable; you need not to seek me, neither do I ask you to seek me; I present myself to you with a sure hope that I shall not be abandoned by you. Behold me at your feet; my Jesus, pardon me; my Mary, help me.
“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy