The Growth of Charity in Mary
Presence of God – O Mary, Mother of fair love, teach me the secret of steady growth in charity.
We must not think that the Blessed Virgin Mary was excused from all personal activity and progress because she had been established from the beginning in a higher degree of sanctity than that which even the greatest saint could ever hope to attain. Quite the contrary! For her, as for us, life on earth was a “way” where progress in charity was always necessary; where personal correspondence with grace was expected. The excellence of our Lady’s merit consisted in her heroic fidelity to the immense gifts she had received. The privileges of her Immaculate Conception, of the state of sanctity in which she was born, and of her divine maternity were, unquestionably, pure gifts from God; still, far from accepting them passively, as a coffer receives the precious things put into it, she received them freely, as one capable of willingly adhering to the divine favors by means of a complete correspondence with grace. St. Thomas teaches that although Mary could not merit the Incarnation of the Word, by the grace she received she did merit that degree of sanctity which made her the worthy Mother of God (cf. Summa Theologica IIIa, q. 2, a. 11, ad. 3), and she merited this precisely because of her correspondence with grace. Hence, even in Mary, we can consider progress in sanctity, a progress which did not depend solely on the new abundance of graces which God gave her at certain special times in her life—at the moment of the Incarnation for example—but also on her personal activity, wholly informed by grace and charity, by means of which she brought to fruition the treasure entrusted to her by God. Mary, in the truest sense of the word, is the “faithful Virgin,” who knew how to increase a hundredfold the talents she received from God. Yes, the greatest amount of grace ever given to a creature was freely bestowed on her by the divine liberality, in view of the sublime mission for which she was destined, but she corresponded to it with the greatest fidelity possible to a creature. Thus, there was plenitude of grace on God’s part, and complete fidelity on Mary’s, so that, as St. Alphonsus says, “Without ever stopping, her beautiful soul soared toward God, continually growing in love of Him.”
“O Mary, you understood the gift of God; you never lost a particle of it. You were so pure, so luminous, that you seemed to be light itself: Speculum justitiae, mirror of justice. Your life was so simple, so lost in God, that there is scarcely anything to say about it. Virgo fidelis: the faithful Virgin, ‘who kept all things in her heart’” (Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity First Retreat (Heaven in Faith) 10).
O Mary, how marvelous to see your soul continually growing in love, to watch it scale the heights of sanctity without ever halting! Nothing retarded the divine action in you; no obstacle hindered the growth of charity. “Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her Beloved?” (Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs] 8:5). It is you, O Mother, you who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and sustained by Him, ever rose from grace to grace, from virtue to virtue. O Mother of fair love, full of grace, O faithful Virgin, help me to correspond with fidelity to the gifts of God! Do not permit that my misery render sterile the grace within me. Help me, O Mother, to overcome the innumerable resistances of my weak, cowardly nature; draw me by the sweet charm of your example, so that I may follow you with ardor in the way of perfect charity.
“O my Mother, you who were ever on fire with love for God, give me at least a spark of that love. You appealed to your Son on behalf of the bride and bridegroom whose wine gave out, saying: ‘vinum non habent,’ they have no wine; and will you not pray for me, lacking as I am in love for God, and yet owing Him so much? Say to Him: ‘amorem non habet,’ he has no love. And ask this love for me. No other grace do I ask of you but this one. O Mother, by your love for Jesus, hear me. Show me what great favor you have with Him by obtaining for me a divine light and a divine flame so powerful that it will transform me from a sinner into a saint, and, detaching me from every earthly affection, will inflame me wholly with divine love. O Mary, you have the power to do this. Do it for love of the God who made you so great, so powerful, and so merciful” (St. Alphonsus).
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Art: Refugium peccatorum (Refuge of Sinners), Luigi Croscio, 1898, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.