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Mary, Gate of Heaven

Mary, Gate of Heaven by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS

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There is great delight in Her friendship.
(Wisdom. 8:18)

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There is in the lives of all of us a moment when we shall above all need Our Lady under this title, "Gate of Heaven." It is the moment of our death. We all know that death will most certainly come for every one of us, but no one knows when. It is not a thing we care to think of; it seems so far off, so uncertain—and yet, however young we may be, it may come to any of us any day, any minute.

It is in our power to secure a good and happy death by daily and earnest prayer.

Let us put meaning into the words we all say so often every day: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." Every time we say these words, Our Lady takes note of it, and if they are well and earnestly said, She lays up for us, as it were, a treasure of grace, to be ready at the moment of our death, when we shall very probably not be able to pray at all. Then it will all have been done beforehand. St. Gertrude once offered to Our Lord the 150 Hail Marys she had said, and begged Mary's help at the hour of her death. She then beheld the prayers under the form of golden coins, which Jesus Christ, the Judge, gave to His Mother to be kept in payment for her debts at the Day of Judgment.

There were once three devout virgins, who recited the Rosary as a preparation for a Feast of Mary. On the vigil of the Feast the Divine Mother appeared to the first of the three sisters with a rich robe embroidered with gold, and thanking her, blessed her. She then appeared to the second with a much less elegant robe, and also thanked her. But the maiden said, "Lady, why didst Thou give my sister so much more lovely a robe?" "Because," said Mary, "she clothed Me with a richer robe than thou didst." She afterwards appeared to the third sister with a robe of common sackcloth, on seeing which the maiden asked Her pardon for the tepidity of her prayers. The next year, however, all three prepared themselves with great devotion for the Feast, by reciting the Rosary with the greatest fervor. On the eve, Mary appeared to them, resplendent with glory, and said: "Prepare yourselves, for tomorrow you will go with me to Paradise." On the following day, after Compline, one after the other peacefully expired. Thus Mary was in very truth to them the Gate of Heaven, as She will also be to us, if we serve Her faithfully.

Observe that the Church teaches us to pray for Our Lady's help at two moments—"now," that is, at the present moment, the only one that is in our power; "and at the hour of our death," because that moment may not be in our power—we may not be able to help ourselves at all by prayer when we lie in our last agony. But if Our Lady, the Gate of Heaven, is praying for us, we have every hope and chance of gaining Heaven through Her.

Mary is also called the "Gate of Heaven," because Our Lord is in Heaven, and She is the way to Him. A holy soul used to say this prayer: O Jesus, in Thy dear Sacrament, Thy Heaven I cannot see. But Heaven is everywhere Thou art, and Thou art Heaven to me.

A gate is the entrance you pass through to get from one place to another. Mary is "the closed gate" of the Prophet Ezechiel, that the prince only could pass through. "This gate shall be closed, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it, because the Lord God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut for the prince." (Ezech. 44: 2-3)

As Our Lord came to us through Mary, so must we go to Him through Her. We must think of Mary as the "Gate of Heaven" not only for us, the Church Militant, but also for the Church Suffering—the poor souls in Purgatory, who cannot help themselves. Through Her prayers many a soul may at this very moment be passing through the Gate of Heaven.

There is nothing Our Lady so much wants as our prayers and acts of virtue to enable Her to be the Gate of Heaven to the poor souls in Purgatory, and help Her to deliver them. So let us daily offer Her many aspirations, indulgenced prayers, and acts of self-denial, that by their aid She may deliver poor suffering souls and bring them to Heaven; and then, when our own turn comes, we shall find the "Gate of Heaven" open and the redeemed souls ready and waiting to do the same good turn to us.