Sacred theology distinguishes in God three kinds of goodness, which are fundamentally one and the same: natural goodness, moral goodness and goodness of benevolence or bounty, which is sometimes called benignity. Natural goodness is none other than the perfection and beauty of divine nature, containing the infinite excellences of the Godhead. Moral goodness comprises all the moral virtues that God possesses so eminently and in so high a degree that they are infinitely beyond what a created spirit can think or express.
The goodness of benevolence or bounty is God’s infinite inclination to communicate himself and it proceeds from his natural goodness. As a vessel brimming with a precious liquor tends to overflow, so a being filled with perfection has a natural inclination to communicate its fullness. God is an immense ocean, filled to overflowing with infinite good and divine perfections, and he possesses an unutterable and incomprehensible propensity to communicate them.
This he does in two ways, with an outpouring of liberality worthy of his divine magnificence, within and outside himself. Within himself his perfections flow in a natural and necessary communication of the divine nature and all its inherent marvels from the Father of his Beloved Son, and from both to the Holy Spirit. Outside himself this benevolence is a free communication, whereby God confers, not indeed his nature and his essence, but his image, semblance, shadow, or mere reflection of his being on all creatures in the order of nature, of grace and of glory.
In the order of nature God communicates his being to all existing things, his life to all living things, whether their life be rational or merely sensitive and vegetative. His power is communicated to all things possessed of power, his wisdom to all intellectual beings, his goodness to all things good and kind. The beauty of God is transfused to things that are beautiful, his light to luminous bodies, his firmness and stability to things firm and stable, his immortality to immortal souls, God also imparts his happiness and felicity to such as possess not only being, but well-being, which consists in a measure of natural enjoyment or satisfaction. God communicates himself and his divine perfections in general to all things pertaining to the natural order, through his creation, preservation and government of all beings according to their nature.
In the order of grace Almighty God communicates himself much more abundantly to rational and intellectual creatures, through the adorable mystery of the Incarnation and all the other mysteries of his Divine Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Through the Sacraments he has instituted in his Church, especially the Holy Eucharist, and all the other spiritual channels, he pours grace into our souls, provided there be no obstacle on our part.
In the order of glory God communicates himself most fully and perfectly to all the souls in heavenly bliss, clothing them in his radiant glory, surrounding them with his felicity, enrapturing them with his holy joys, and making them partakers of all the goodness he himself possesses.
Finally, as the Sun, to quote St. Dionysius, (1) enlightens everything that can participate in its light, which is marvelously diffused, unfolding throughout the world the glittering of its rays, in the highest as well as in the humblest spheres, so that nothing visible can escape the sovereign grandeur of its brightness, so too does the divine Essence extend Its beauty to all beings, as their principle, preserver and end, as the universal cause, the common and infinite good, whence all things derive their being and well-being, wherein they are established, enclosed and preserved.
The superlative Goodness communicates Its adorable perfections to the holy Heart of Mary with much greater abundance and plenitude than to all other creatures put together. Next to the Heart of God, there never was and never shall be a heart so good, liberal, benevolent, magnificent and so replete with kindness as the most admirable Heart of Mary.
The Heart of Mary is so full of goodness that St. Bernard thus speaks of her: “Why does a human weakness fear to come unto Mary? Nothing in her is austere, nothing frightful, for she is filled with sweetness. Go over the Gospel story with the greatest attention; if you find therein the least mark of harshness or severity on Mary’s part, the least sign of indignation, you may well fear to appear before her. But if, on the contrary, you find (as you surely will) her virginal Heart full of love, piety, sweetness and goodness, then give thanks to him who in his infinite mercy has provided such a mediatrix for us.” (2)
“Her Heart is so alive with pity that she never rejects any suppliant coming to her with humility and confidence,” says Raymund Jourdain. (3) It is this loving confidence that we express as often as we recite that beautiful prayer, attributed by many annotators to St. Bernard, and by others to St. Augustine: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help and sought thine intercession, was left unaided.” (4)
Her Heart is so filled with bounty that she readily grants whatever we ask of her. St. Bernard says: “O blessed Mary, whoever loves thee r honors God; who serves thee pleases God; who invokes thy holy name with a pure heart, will infallibly receive the object of his petition.” (5) ”Who has ever invoked Mary without being heard?” says Pope Innocent III. (6) The venerable Abbot Blosius adds: “She rejects no one but lends a i favorable ear to the petitions of all.” (7) “Heaven and earth would sooner perish, than Mary refuse her help to such as invoke her seriously and with affection,” reiterates St. Bernard, adding: “Let him be silent in praise of thy mercy, O most Blessed Virgin, who having invoked thee in his necessities, should remember not having received thy help.” (8)
Her Heart is so good and merciful that she extends her kindness not only to the good but also to the wicked, not only to the faithful but to sinners as well. “In this life, thou art a help to the just and unjust,” says Raymund Jourdain. “Thou dost aid the just man and the sinner; the former by keeping him in the state of grace, wherefore the Church calls thee the Mother of Grace; the latter by bringing them back to divine Mercy, for which thou art named the Mother of Mercy.” (9)
Our Lady’s Heart is so kind and gentle that she helps not only those who implore her aid, but even the careless souls who neglect to invoke her. Listen again to St. Bernard: “Why should we marvel to see her stretch a helping hand to such as beseech her, if she assist even them who do not pray to her?” (10)
The holy Abbot Blosius has written: “Mary spurns no one; to nobody does she refuse her aid. She comforts and relieves all who seek her assistance; she opens her bountiful Heart to all who implore her intercession; she readily succors all who have recourse to her charity and, by an excess of goodness, she often shows her kindness to persons who do not think of her and have no devotion, gently and effectively drawing them to God by means of the graces she obtains on their behalf. Thus did Divine Bounty constitute Our Lady as a supreme gift to mankind, that all might have recourse without fear and with complete confidence.” (11)
Her Heart is so merciful that she loves even those who hate her. Mary always renders good for evil because she willingly sacrificed her own beloved Son to save the reprobates who crucified him.
Other Fathers of the Church express the same thoughts and assure us that the almost boundless charity of the Heart of Mary extends to all places, times and things in general, through a most abundant communication and eminent participation of God’s infinite goodness and likewise of his divine providence.
As this adorable providence governs and regulates all things created, from the greatest to the least, both in general and in particular, so also does God’s most powerful and merciful Mother, Queen of the Universe, bestow the affections and care of her royal Heart on all things within her realm and subject to her rule. She leads all created things to the last end for which God made them, namely the glory of his Divine Majesty. But her special care is the guidance of rational beings, above all, of Christians, and most particularly of her own devout children, who strive faithfully to honor, serve and imitate her.
Her maternal Heart protects and cherishes her devotees in a unique manner, having her eyes ever intently fixed upon them. She preserves and guards them as the apple of her eye, and assumes the guidance and conduct of their entire life and actions. She leads them by the hand in all their ways, removing from their path the obstacles and hindrances which might make them stumble, or retard their progress. She obtains the assistance and the means whereby they will receive strength and advance more rapidly. She bears their soul in her arms and on her virginal breast through the dangerous crises where their peril is greatest. She assists them most lovingly in the dark passage from this life into the next world, protecting them valiantly from the efforts and snares of the enemies of salvation. She receives their souls in her sweet and gentle hands at the moment of death, and lovingly folds them in her most charitable Heart. She finally bears them upward to Heaven with unutterable joy and presents them with all-surpassing kindness to her beloved Son.
If such is the miraculous goodness of Mary to those who love and venerate her, how can there possibly be any Christians who hold back from devotion to the center and principle of her benignity, her Admirable Heart?
Praise, honour and glory be forever to the Most High, who has thus caused the Heart of this incomparable Mother to reflect to mankind the perfect image of his goodness and all-merciful providence!
This article was excerpted from St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, Part Four, Chapter V, and edited by the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, at www.heartsofjesusandmary.org. The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary is a contemplative community of lay and religious dedicated to serving the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through Eucharistic Adoration, contemplation, and corporal works of mercy.
(1) De divinis Nominib. Cap. 4, sect. 4.
(2) Serm. de verbis Apoc. Signum Magnum.
(3) Raymund Jourdain was provost of Uzes in 1381 and later Abbot of Celles in the diocese of Bourges. This passage is taken from his Contemplations on the Blessed Virgin.
(4) The Memorare is usually attributed to St. Bernard.
(5) St. Bernard quoted by Pelberto, lib. 4, part 1, art. 2.
(6) Serm. de Assumpt.
(7) In Specula Spirit. cap. 12.
(8) Serm. 4 de Assumpt.
(9) Contempl. B.M., Part 5. cont. 2.
(10) Serm. 4 de Assumpt.
(11) In Paradiso animae, cap. 18.