The Virtues of the
Blessed Virgin Mary
by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
Augustine says that if we wish to win the favor of the saints with greater
certainty and in greater abundance, we must imitate them. When they see us
imitating their virtues, they are more inclined to pray for us. As soon as the
Queen of saints and our chief advocate, Mary, delivers a soul from the grasp of
Lucifer and unites it to God, She wants it to imitate Her. Otherwise She cannot
enrich the soul with graces. Mary called blessed those who imitate
Her life diligently: Now, therefore, children, hear Me; blessed are they
that keep My ways (Prov. 8:32).
Redeemer chose to be poor on earth, so that we could learn from Him to despise
worldly things. Being rich, says St. Paul, He became poor for your sake, that
through His poverty you might be rich (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus exhorts each one who
wishes to be His disciple: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and
give to the poor ... and come, follow Me (Mt. 19:21). Mary, His most perfect
disciple, imitated His example most perfectly. St. Peter Canisius shows that
Mary could have lived in comfort on the property She inherited from Her
parents, but She preferred to remain poor. Retaining only a small portion for
Herself, She distributed the rest to the Temple and the needy.
authors even believe that Mary made a vow of poverty. Perhaps the basis for
this is what She said to St. Bridget: From the beginning I vowed in My
heart that I would never possess anything on earth. The gifts She
received from the wealthy Magi were surely not of little value. But we are
assured by St. Bernard that She distributed them to the poor through the hands
of St. Joseph.
quite clear that Mary immediately disposed of these gifts from the fact that at
Her purification in the Temple She did not offer a lamb, as was prescribed in
Leviticus for those who could afford it (Lev. 12:6), but two turtle-doves or
two pigeons, which was the offering prescribed for the poor (Lk. 2:24). Mary
told St. Bridget: I gave to the poor all that I could, and only kept a
little food and clothing for Myself. Because of Her love of poverty She
was willing to marry St. Joseph who was only a poor carpenter.
needed to maintain the family by working with Her hands, by spinning or sewing,
as St. Bonaventure assures us. The angel told St. Bridget that worldly
riches were of no more value in Mary's eyes than dirt. She always lived
poor, and She died poor.
and Nicephorus tell us that at Her death She left nothing except two simple
dresses. She left these to the two women who had served Her during the later
years of Her life.
Canisius said that Mary could have lived in
comfort ... but She preferred to
Neri used to say that no one who loves the baubles of the world will ever
become a saint. We may add that St. Teresa said on the same subject:
It follows that anyone who chases after perishable things is in danger of
perishing himself. But, on the other hand, she adds that the virtue of
poverty is a treasure that comprises in itself all other treasures. She says
the virtue of poverty, for as St. Bernard remarks, poverty does not
consist of merely being poor, but in loving poverty. Therefore Jesus Christ
said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
Heaven (Mt. 5:3). Such persons are blessed because they do not desire
anything but God and find everything in God. Poverty for them is paradise on
Let us then, as St. Augustine exhorts us, “love that one good in which all good things are found.” Let us address Our Lord in the words of St. Ignatius: “Give me only Thy love and Thy grace, and I shall be rich enough.” “When we have to suffer from poverty,” says St. Bonaventure, “let us console ourselves with the thought that Jesus and His Mother were also poor like ourselves.” Ah, my most holy Mother, Thou hadst indeed reason to say that in God was Thy joy: and My spirit hath rejoiced in God My Savior; for in this world Thou didst desire and love no other good but God. Draw Me ... after Thee (Cant. 1:3). O Lady, detach me from the world, that I may love Him alone, Who alone deserves to be loved.