He was going through a terrible interior storm. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed hopeless; no way out! Loss of appetite, loss of sleep, loss of desire for anyone and anything. Life seemed to be insupportable. As if he was hanging from a steep precipice, his life seemed precarious to say the least!
This was the interior state of one of the most known, most loved, and most admired saints in the Catholic Church. Yes! This was the interior state of a near-despair experienced by the great Saint Francis de Sales!
A Helping Hand
When all seemed bleak, dark, obscure, almost beyond hope, the young man, Francis de Sales, entered a Church. One of his prayers was: “Lord, even if my destiny is hell, at least grant me the grace to love you even there!” Such was his interior condition!
However, neither God nor the Blessed Virgin Mary ever abandon their children, especially in the most dark and bleak of conditions. Dawn swells and the sun breaks through in souls that entrust themselves to Jesus through Mary.
Although he had entered a Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Notre Dame de la Victoire—Our Lady of Victory, it all seemed lost on the young Francis. However, there in this beautiful Church that was dedicated to Our Lady who won victories, especially in the souls of her beloved children, there was a statue of Mary and a prayer dedicated to her.
The prayer dedicated to Mary was titled the Memorare. According to tradition, it is attributed to Saint Bernard. Kneeling down in front of the statue of Mary and the prayer of Saint Bernard, young Francis opened up his mind and heart and prayed with all the fervor of his soul the Memorare. “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary…”
Freedom: Liberation Through the Blessed Virgin Mary
After reciting this Marian prayer attributed to Saint Bernard, Francis experienced what seemed to be a miracle in his life. That dense, impervious, gloomy and dark cloud that totally enveloped him, immersed him, and submerged him in hopelessness, suddenly dissipated. The sun broke through the clouds; light beamed at the end of the tunnel; his gloom and depression were transformed into peace and joy. He could hear the chirping of the birds and smell the fragrant scent of the flowers. God had finally lifted Francis out of what seemed to be a sinking quicksand of hopelessness!
But how? Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
God’s plans are not our plans, and God’s designs are very mysterious. The Lord willed to rescue the young Francis through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the prayer of the Memorare—the Marian prayer attributed to Saint Bernard.
Trials Come Before Victory
God was preparing young Francis for an extremely important role in the Church, as well as the world at large. Priest, Bishop, Founder, writer and author, missionary, Spiritual Director, admired by all—these were the roles that Saint Francis de Sales would assume and occupy in the Heart of the Catholic Church. However, first he had to conquer the powerful enemy that tempted him to discouragement and almost despair.
A Tool to Conquer Desolation
Therefore, when tempted to discouragement, Francis de Sales would pray the Memorare. The devil, the enemy of our salvation, cannot conquer the power, the presence, and the prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Even the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary causes the enemy mortal fear and panic, and he takes to flight.
“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection was left unaided…”
Having reflected briefly upon an episode in the life of one great saint, Saint Francis de Sales, who was truly rescued through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Victory, and the praying of the Memorare, let us strive to walk in the footsteps of the saints, the true friends of Jesus and Mary.
What to Do in Desolation
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his Rules for Discernment of Spirits, mentions the state of desolation, what we should do in desolation, as well as what we should avoid. Francis de Sales went through a very powerful state of desolation. What is desolation? It is when we have a lack of faith, lack of hope, lack of love—we feel this! It is when we feel sad, depressed, discouraged, drawn to lowly things and sensuality.
In other words, we want to simply throw in the towel and give up! We want to proclaim, “Life is useless! What is the meaning and purpose of it all!”
Also, having learned in one short lesson the reality and meaning of desolation, we must counter it and conquer it through fervent prayer. We suggest and encourage praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We recommend the prayer of Saint Bernard that pulled Saint Francis de Sales out of the near pit of despair—the Memorare
Desolation Can Come to Anyone
Therefore, prepare yourself for spiritual battle. We are all called to be soldiers of both Jesus and Mary in this very short life that God has given to us, so as to attain eternal happiness in heaven.
When all seems gray, dark, bleak, obscure, and meaningless, without any real hope, then lift up your mind, heart, and soul to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she will never fail you! She will stretch out her gentle but firm hand and pull you out of the quicksand of your own helplessness!
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided…
Like Francis de Sales, God is calling you out of darkness into His wonderful light through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Entrust your whole being to her; she will never fail you in life or in death!