Mary's Virtues, Spirit of Prayer

The Virgin Mary in Prayer - by DÜRER, Albrecht - from Staatliche Museen, Berlin


No other soul on earth ever practiced so perfectly as the Blessed Virgin
the great lesson taught by Our Savior that we must always pray, and not lose heart


Note Bene: Bible verses quoted in this Book are from the English Douay-Rheims translation commissioned by the Catholic Church. 


Mary Virtues, Spirit of Prayer

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

No other soul on earth ever practiced so perfectly as the Blessed Virgin the great lesson taught by Our Savior that we must always pray, and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). No one can give us a better example, says Saint Bonaventure, of how necessary it is to persevere in prayer. Saint Albert the Great asserts that, after Jesus Christ, our Blessed Lady excelled all souls who ever existed or ever will exist in her spirit of prayer. Her prayer was continual and persevering. From the very first moment that she had the use of reason (which was, as we have said in the discourse on her Nativity, the first moment of her existence) she began to pray. So that she could devote herself still more to this pious practice, she retired into the solitude of the Temple when she was only three years old. There, as she revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, in addition to the other hours set aside for prayer she always rose at midnight and went before the altar to offer her petitions to God. Later in life (as we learn from Odilo), so as to meditate more fervently on the sufferings of Jesus, she frequently visited the places of Our Lord's nativity, passion, and burial. Moreover, she prayed with the most complete recollection of spirit, free from every distraction and inordinate affection. Nor did any exterior occupation ever interfere with the light of her unceasing contemplation, as Denis the Carthusian assures us.

Because of her love of prayer, Mary was so enamored of solitude that, as she told Saint Bridget, when she lived in the Temple she avoided association even with her own parents. Saint Jerome comments on the words of the prophet Isaiah: "The virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son, and shall name Him Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). He says that in Hebrew the word "virgin" properly means a "retired virgin". So we see that the prophet even foretold the love Mary would have for solitude. Richard of Saint Lawrence says that the angel addressed her in these words: "The Lord is with you", because of her great love for seclusion. That is why Saint Vincent Ferrer maintains that Mary "left her house only to go to the Temple, and that when she did so her demeanor was modest and she kept her eyes cast down". For the same reason, when she went to visit Saint Elizabeth she went with haste.

This prompted Saint Ambrose to admonish virgins to avoid the world and public appearances as much as possible. Saint Bernard claims that it was Mary's love of prayer and solitude that prompted her "to avoid the society of men and useless conversation with them". The Holy Spirit called her a turtledove: "Your cheeks are as beautiful as the turtledove's" (Canticles 1:9). According to Vergello, this is a reference to Mary's love of seclusion and her spirit of recollection. Turtledoves were known to seek solitude and to flee from association with other birds. Mary lived such a retired life in the world that the words of Canticles apply to her: "Who is she that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke?" (Canticles 3:6). Commenting on these words, the Abbot Rupert says: "You came up as from a desert, because you had a soul that loved solitude".

Philo assures us that "God only speaks to souls in solitude". Holy Writ says the same thing in the prophecy of Osee: "I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart" (Osee 2:14). "Happy solitude!" exclaims Saint Jerome, "where God converses familiarly with His own". "Yes", says Saint Bernard, "solitude and silence force the soul to leave the thought of earth behind and to meditate on heavenly things".



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Most holy Virgin, help us to love prayer and retirement, so that we may detach ourselves from the love of creatures and may aspire only to God and Heaven where we hope one day to see you, to praise you, and to love you, together with Jesus, your Son, for ever and ever.



"Come over to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my fruits" (Ecclesiasticus 24:26). Mary's fruits are her virtues. "There has never been anyone like you, nor shall there ever be. You alone of all women, without any rival, have pleased the Lord".