Mary's Virtues, Love for Her Neighbor

Madonna and Child - by BELLINI, Giovanni - from Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Mary did not repeat acts of love as other saints do;
her whole life was one continual act of love


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


Mary's Virtues, Love for Her Neighbor
(Love = Charity)

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Love of God and love of neighbor are commanded by God in the same precept: "And this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also" (1John 4:21). Saint Thomas says that the reason for this is that the person who loves God loves all that God loves. One day, Saint Catherine of Genoa said: "Lord, you say that I should love my neighbor, but I can love no one but you". God replied to her in these words: "Everybody who loves Me loves what I love". But since there never was and never will be anyone who loved God as much as Mary did, so there never was and never will be anyone who loves her neighbor as much as she did. Father Cornelius Lapide commenting on this passage from the Canticles: "King Solomon has made him a litter of the wood of Libanus...the midst he covered with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem" (Canticles 3:9,10), says that "this litter was Mary's womb in which the Incarnate Word dwelt, filling it with charity for the daughters of Jerusalem. Christ, Who is love itself, infused into the Blessed Virgin the greatest possible amount of charity, so that she could be helpful to all who appeal to her".

While Mary was on earth, her charity was so great that she was on the alert to help the needy even without being asked. We see this clearly in the case of the marriage feast at Cana when she reminded Jesus of the family's distress: "They have no wine" (John 2:3). She asked Him to perform a miracle. How quickly she always acted when there was need to relieve her neighbor! When she went to the house of Elizabeth to fulfill a duty of charity, she went into the hill country with haste (Luke 1:39). But she could not display her overflowing charity more fully than she did when she offered the death of her Son for our salvation. With regard to this, Saint Bonaventure says: "Mary so loved the world as to give her only-begotten Son". This also inspired Saint Anselm to exclaim: "O blessed among women, your purity surpasses that of the angels, and your charity that of the saints". "And this love of Mary for us", says Saint Bonaventure, "has not diminished now that she is in heaven. On the contrary, it has rather increased, for she is now in a better position to see the miseries of men". And therefore, the saint goes on to say, the mercy of Mary toward those in distress when she was still on earth was prodigious, but it is far greater now that she reigns in Heaven. Saint Agnes assured Saint Bridget that there was no one who ever prayed for grace who did not receive it through the charity of the Blessed Virgin. We would be extremely unfortunate if we did not have Mary to intercede for us! Jesus Himself, speaking to Saint Bridget, said: "Were it not for the prayers of My Mother, there would be no hope of mercy".

Blessed is he that listens to my instructions, who imitates my charity, and practices that charity toward his neighbor, says Mary: "Happy the man who obeys me...happy the man watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts" (Proverbs 8:32,34). Saint Gregory Nazianzen assures us that there is no better way to make Mary love us than by practicing charity toward our neighbor. Just as Jesus exhorts us with the words: Be merciful, therefore, even as your Father is merciful, so Mary seems to say to us: "Be merciful, even as your Mother is merciful". We may take it for granted that our charity toward our neighbor will be the measure by which God and Mary will show charity toward us: "Give, and it shall be given to you....For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you" (Luke 6:38). Saint Methodius used to say: "Give to the poor and get paradise in return". Saint Paul maintains that charity toward our neighbor makes us happy both in this world and in the next. "Godliness is profitable in all respects, since it has the promise of the present life as well as of that which is to come" (1Timothy 4:8). Saint John Chrysostom commenting on these words of Proverbs: "He that has mercy on the poor lends to the Lord" (Proverbs 19:17), says: "Whoever helps the needy makes God his debtor".



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O Mother of Mercy, you have everybody's welfare at heart. Be mindful of my troubles. You know them very well. Recommend me to God, Who will give you everything. Ask Him to let me imitate you in holy love, love for God and for my neighbor.