A well-known incident is related by Father Paul Segneri in his “Christian Instructed.” A Roman youth, of evil habits and laden with sins, went to confession to Father Niccolas Zucchi. The confessor received him kindly, compassionated his misery, and told him that devotion to the blessed Lady would free him from his accursed vices.
He therefore imposed it upon him as a penance, that until the time of his next confession, every morning and evening, on rising and going to bed, he should recite a “Hail Mary” to the Virgin; making an offering to her of his eyes, hands, and his whole body, praying her to keep him as her own; and that he should kiss the ground three times. The young man practised this penance, and at first with very little improvement; but the father continued to exhort him never to give it up, encouraging him to trust in the patronage of Mary. In the mean time, the penitent left home with some other companions, and travelled over the world. Having returned Home, he went again to seek his confessor, who to his great joy and surprise, found him entirely changed, and free from his former impurities.
“My son,” he said, “how have you obtained from God so happy a change?” “Father,” answered the youth, “the blessed Virgin, for that little devotion which you taught me, has obtained for me this grace.”
But the wonder did not cease here. The same confessor related this fact from the pulpit. An officer, who, for several years, had kept up an illicit intercourse with a certain woman, heard it, and proposed also himself to practise the same devotion, in order to free him self from that horrible tie which held him a slave of the devil (which intention is necessary for all such sinners, that the Virgin may aid them) : and he also quitted his bad practices and changed his life.
But what followed? At the end of six months, foolishly and too confidently trusting in his strength, he wished, one day, to go and find that woman, to see if she had also changed her way of life. But on approaching the door of her house, where he was in manifest danger of falling again into sin, he felt himself thrust back by an invisible force, and soon found himself distant from the house the whole length of the street, and before his own door; he was then enlightened to see clearly that Mary had thus rescued him from his destruction. Thus we perceive how solicitous is our good mother, not only to save us from sin, if we for that end commend ourselves to her, but also to protect us from the danger of falling into it again.