Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, Imprimi Potest, 1948

To understand Mary's fullness of grace, especially towards the end of her life on earth, it is necessary to examine the perfection of her intellect. We must consider her faith, enlightened by the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge. It will be necessary then to pass on to a consideration of some of her principal virtues, which, through their connection with her charity, were in her soul in a degree proportionate to her fullness of grace. To conclude this section we shall glance briefly at the gratuitous gifts of intellect which she received, particularly those of prophecy and the discernment of spirits.

Mary's Faith Enlightened by the Gifts

The natural perfection of Mary's soul resulted in very great powers of penetration in her intellect, as well as moral rectitude in her will and her lower faculties. These natural endowments continued to develop throughout the course of her life.

As regards her faith, it perceived its object in an exceptionally penetrating manner because of the revelation made to her at the Annunciation concerning the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption, and because also of her daily intercourse with the Word made Flesh. Subjectively also her faith was remarkable, being strong, certain and prompt in its assent. In fact, Mary received the virtue of faith in the highest degree in which it was infused into any soul on earth, and the same must be said of her hope also. Jesus, having the Beatific Vision from the first instant of His conception, had neither faith nor hope: to Him belonged the full light of vision and full undelayed possession.

Hence, the sublimity of Mary's faith surpasses our understanding. She did not hesitate at the Annunciation but believed at once the very moment the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation was sufficiently proposed to her, so that St. Elisabeth can say soon after: 'And blessed art thou that hast believed, because these things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.' In Bethlehem she sees her Son born in a stable and believes that He is the Creator of the world; she sees all the weakness of His infant body and believes in His omnipotence; when He commences to essay His first words she believes His infinite wisdom; when the Holy Family takes flight from Herod's anger she believes that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as St John would later say. At the Circumcision and the Presentation in the Temple her faith in the mystery of the Redemption expands. Her whole life on earth was passed in a dark brightness, the darkness arising not from human error and ignorance but from the very transcendence of the light itself - a darkness which was, in consequence, revealing of the heights of the mysteries contemplated by the blessed in Heaven.

She is at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, though all the Apostles, St. John only excepted, have fled; she stands erect there, firm in her faith that her Son is the Son of God, that He is the Lamb of God Who is even then taking away the sins of the world, that though apparently defeated, He is Victor over Satan and sin, and that in three days He will conquer death by His Resurrection. Mary's act of faith on Calvary was the greatest ever elicited on earth, for the hour was unspeakably dark and its object was the most difficult of all - that Jesus had won the greatest of victories by making the most complete of immolations.

Her faith was aided then by the gifts of the Holy Ghost. By the gift of Understanding she read far into the revealed mysteries, far into their inner meaning, their harmony, their appropriateness, their consequences. She was particularly favoured in her understanding of the mysteries in which she herself had a part to play, such as the virginal conception of Christ, His Incarnation, and the whole economy of the Redemption. Brought as she had been into close contact with the Three Divine Persons, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity revealed more of its depths to her than to any other mere human being.
By the gift of Wisdom the Holy Ghost enabled her to judge the things of God through a certain connaturality or sympathy which is based on charity. 1 She knew therefore in an experimental manner how truly the great mysteries answer to our highest aspirations, and how grace continually awakens new desires in us so as to prepare the way for clearer light and more burning love. She relished the mysteries in the measure of her ever-growing charity, her humility, and her purity. In her were verified most strikingly the words 'God gives His grace to the humble. .. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.' Even on earth the pure have some vision of their Father in Heaven.

By the gift of Knowledge the Holy Ghost taught her to judge temporal things, at times as symbols of eternal and Divine things (as, for example, to see the heavens telling the glory of God) or again in their nothingness and frailty so as to appreciate eternal life all the more by contrast.

Special Privileges of Her Intellect

Besides faith and the gifts of the Holy Ghost which all the faithful have as part of their spiritual organism, Mary, like many of the Saints, had the gratiae gratis datae, or charismata which are given principally for the benefit of others rather than for the benefit of the person who receives them. These charismata are exterior signs having as purpose to confirm revelation or holiness, rather than fresh forms of sanctity. That is why they are distinct from grace, the infused virtues, and the gifts, all of which belong to a higher order. 2

Regarding the charismata, theologians usually admit the principle: Mary received all privileges which it was becoming for her to receive, and which were not incompatible with her state, in a higher degree than the Saints did. In other words, we cannot conceive of her as being inferior to the Saints in the matter of charismata, seeing how much she surpassed them in the matter of holiness.

The principle is not, however, to be taken in a material sense. If, for example, certain Saints have lived long months without food, if they have walked on the waters to come to another's aid, it does not follow that Mary did the same; it is enough if she received grace of a higher order in which such lower graces were contained and surpassed. 3 At the same time, in virtue of the principle just now enunciated, we must assert that she had certain charismata, either certainly or very probably.

First of all, she had by a special privilege a knowledge of the Scriptures greater than that of any of the Saints, particularly in what concerned the Messiah, the redemptive Incarnation, the Blessed Trinity, the life of grace and of the virtues, and the life of eternity. And even though Mary did not receive the commission to share in the official ministry of the Church, she must have enlightened St John and St Luke concerning the infancy and the hidden life of Jesus. 4

She must have known in a clear and penetrating manner all that was useful about objects of the natural order. Though she need not have known the chemical formula of such things as salt or water, It would stlll be possible for her to know their natural properties, and still more their higher symbolism. For Mary's knowledge of natural objects was of the kind which throws light upon the great religious and moral truths, such as the existence of God, His universal Providence extending to the minutest details, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, free will and moral responsibility, the principles and conclusions of the moral law, the relation between nature and grace. she saw clearly the finality of nature, the order of creation, and the subordination of every created cause to the First Cause. She saw that every good thing comes from God, even the free determination of our salutary and meritorious acts; she saw too that no one person would be better than another were he not more loved by God - a principle which is at the root of all humility and thanksgiving.

The knowledge which Mary had while still on earth had limits, especially at the beginning. She did not, for example, understand the full import of what Jesus said about His Father's business when she found Him in the Temple. But, as has been often said, the limits were limits, not gaps. Hence she was in no sense ignorant, [emphasis in bold added] for the limits did not deprive her of the knowledge of anything she should have known at the time. God's Mother knew at every stage of her life all that it was becoming for her to know.

Nor was she subject to error. She was never precipitate in judging; if she had not sufficient light she suspended her judgment; if she was not sure about a thing she was satisfied to affirm that it was likely or probable. For example, when she thought it likely that Jesus was not in the company of her friends and relatives on the occasion when she lost Him, her belief was a very likely one indeed - though in point of fact it was not true - and in looking on it as likely Mary did not err.

We have seen earlier (Chapter II, art. 5) that it is very probable that she had infused knowledge from the time she was in her mother's womb. We have seen too that it is equally probable that she was never deprived of it in the course of her life, and that many theologians hold that she had the use of it even during her sleeping hours.

Among Mary's gratuitous gifts we must include that of prophecy. An example of its exercise can be found in the Magnificat: 'For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.' The realization of this prophecy in the course of ages is as evident as is the meaning of the words themselves. It is more than likely that this was not the only occasion on which Mary used her prophetic gift since prophecy is so common among the Saints, as for example St. John Bosco and the Curé of Ars. 5

Finally, she had, like so many Saints, the gift of discernment of spirits, by which to recognize the spirit of God and to distinguish it from diabolical illusion and natural exaltation. It enabled her also to read the secrets of hearts, especially when someone came to ask counsel of her. Thus her advice was always sound, opportune and practical.

Many theologians hold that Mary had the gift of tongues when she traveled in foreign countries - in Egypt, for example, and also in Ephesus. 6 There is still greater reason for believing that she had this gift after the Assumption, for in her apparitions at Lourdes and La Salette and elsewhere she spoke the dialect of the district - the only one understood by those to whom she appeared.

The question has been asked if Mary enjoyed on earth - even for a few instants -the face to face vision of the Divine essence as the blessed in Heaven do. On one point theologians are unanimous against. Vega and Franciscus Verra: unlike her Divine Son, she had not that vision in a permanent way on earth, for if she had it permanently she would not have had the virtue of faith. But it is more difficult to say whether or not she enjoyed the Beatific Vision from time to time. It is true that she must have had an intellectual vision of the Trinity higher than that described by St. Teresa in the Seventh Mansion. But the vision of which St. Teresa speaks does not transcend faith, and is therefore immeasurably inferior to that of the blessed.

Some light is thrown on the problem by what we know of St. Paul. St. Augustine and St.  Thomas 7 teach that it is probable that St. Paul enjoyed the Beatific Vision momentarily when, in his own words, he was 'caught up to the third heaven ... and heard secret words which it is not given to man to utter' (2 Cor. xii, 2). The two great doctors both mention that according to the Jews the third heaven was not merely the higher air, but the spiritual Heaven inhabited by God, where He is seen face to face by the Angels - Paradise, as St. Paul says in the same context. Hence they conclude that St. Paul, having been called to be the Doctor of the Gentiles and of grace, was probably favoured by a brief moment of the Beatific vVsion, since grace cannot be understood fully without having seen the glory of which it is the beginning. The authority of two such doctors, themselves favoured with mystical graces and thus especially competent to speak of such matters, is sufficient to constitute serious probability. It must, however, be admitted that neither Estius nor Cornelius a Lapide accepts such an exegesis of St. Paul's text. Modern commentators tend to be non-committal.

To return to Our Lady, we agree entirely with Fr. Hugon when he states that if it is probable that St. Paul enjoyed the Beatific Vision momentarily, it is difficult to see why the same should not be said of Our Blessed Lady, 8 for her Divine maternity, her fullness of grace, and her freedom from every stain disposed her more perfectly than any Saint for the beatitude of eternity. Hence, even if it is not certain that she had moments of the Beatific Vision, it remains very probable. 9

This brief survey will suffice to give some idea of the rich intellectual gifts which Mary enjoyed on earth.

Mary's Principal Virtues

We have spoken already of her faith. A few words may now be said of her hope and her charity, as well as of the cardinal virtues and the virtues of humility and meekness.

Her hope, by which she tended to the possession of God Whom she did not as yet fully possess, was a perfect confidence and trust which relied not on self but on the Divine mercy and omnipotence. It was therefore sure. 10 And its sureness was increased by the gift of Piety. For Piety awakens in us a filial attitude to God, and by it the Holy Ghost 'giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God' (Rom. viii, 16) and assures us that we can count on His assistance. It was increased also by the fact that Mary was confirmed in grace and preserved free from every shortcoming - lack of confidence as well as presumption.

Some of the occasions for the exercise of hope in Mary's life spring at once to the mind. She exercised it when, yet a child, she awaited the coming of the Messiah and the salvation of all peoples; again, when she awaited the time that the secret of the virginal conception would be revealed to St. Joseph; again, when she fled into Egypt; again - and most of all - when on Calvary all seemed lost, but she awaited the victory which her Son had foretold He would win over death. Finally, her confidence, her unshaken hope, sustained the Apostles in their ceaseless labours for the spread of the Gospel and the conversion of the pagan world.

Her charity - her love of God in Himself and of souls for His sake - surpassed even in its beginnings the charity of all the Saints combined, for it was of the same degree as her fullness of grace. Mary was always most intimately united to the Father as His best-beloved daughter, to the Son as His Virgin Mother, and to the Holy Ghost in a mystic marriage more perfect than the world had ever known. She was, in a way beyond all power of understanding, a living temple of the Trinity, loved by God more than all creatures, and corresponding perfectly with that love by consecrating herself fully to Him in the instant of her conception, and by living thenceforth in the most complete conformity to His Will.

No disordered passion, no vain fear, no distraction, checked the surge of her love for God. Her love for souls was of the same intensity, she offered her Son and herself unceasingly for souls.

The pages of the Gospel call many occasions to mind when her charity must have burned with a special flame - the Annunciation, the finding of Jesus after the three days' loss, Calvary. ... Well may the Church apply to Mary the words of Ecclesiasticus (Eccl. xxiv, 24): 'I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.'

The moral infused virtues are in all souls in the state of grace in the degree of their charity: prudence in the intellect, to make their judgment right in accordance with God's law; justice in their will to prompt them to give every one his due; fortitude and temperance in their sensitive nature to bring it into conformity with reason and faith. The acquired virtues - which bear the same names - facilitate the exercise of the corresponding infused virtues.

Mary's prudence directed all her actions undeviatingly towards her supernatural destiny. All her actions were deliberate and meritorious. Thus the Church calls her the Virgin most prudent. Aided by the gift of Counsel she exercised prudence in a notable manner at the Annunciation when, troubled at the Angel's word, she wondered what his salutation could mean, and again when she asked 'How shall this be done, because I know not man?' Nor was her prudence less when, the Angel having explained his mission, she accepted God's will: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.'

She practised justice in its highest form - that is to say, justice in regard to God, which is the virtue of religion aided by the gift of Piety - when she consecrated herself to God in the first instant of her being. She practised it also by her vow of virginity, her presentation of Jesus to His Father in the Temple, and her final offering of Him on the Cross. On Calvary she offered the greatest act of the virtue of religion in union with Jesus, the perfect sacrifice and the holocaust of infinite value.

Justice was always wedded to mercy in Mary. As did her Son, she forgave all the wrongs done to her and showed the greatest compassion for sinners. Then, as now, she was the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. The words of the psalmist find in her their realization: 'The earth is full of the mercy of God.'

Fortitude, that firmness of soul which can withstand the greatest dangers, the most difficult tasks, and the cruelest afflictions, was found in Mary in a no less eminent degree than the other virtues. At the foot of the Cross she did not flinch nor weaken, but stood courageously, as St. John tells us. Cajetan wrote a special tract, De spasmo Virginis, refuting the idea that Mary fainted on the road to Calvary. In this he was at one with Medina, Toletus, Suarez and with theologians generally, who all agree that Mary did not collapse under her grief. By her courageous bearing of trials Mary merited to be called Queen of Martyrs. She shared more intimately in Jesus' suffering by her inner union with Him than did all the martyrs by their exterior afflictions. This thought is called to mind by the Church on the Feast of the Compassion of Our Lady and the Feast of the Seven Dolours, particularly in the Stabat Mater:

Fac ut portem Christi

Passion is lac consortem
Et plagas recolere.

 Fac me plagis vulnerari,
Fac me cruce inebriari,
Et cruore Filii

 Let me to my latest breath, 
In my body bear the death

Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
 Steep my soul till it hath  swoon'd
In His very blood away.

- Fr Caswall.

Temperance in its different forms, especially in that of perfect virginity, appeared in her angelic purity. In Mary the soul reigned over the body, the higher faculties over the senses. The image of God was reflected in her as in a mirror.

Her humility never had to struggle against the slightest movement of pride or vanity. She recognized that of herself she was nothing and could do nothing in the supernatural order. Therefore she bowed down before the Divine Majesty and before all that there was of God in creation. She placed all her greatness in God alone, realizing thus the words of the Missal: Deus humilium celsitudo.

At the Annunciation she speaks of herself as the handmaid of the Lord, and in the Magnificat she thanks the Most High for having regarded her lowliness. On the day of the Purification she submits to a law which did not bind her. Her whole life long, humility was manifested in her bearing, her modesty, her voluntary poverty, in the lowly tasks she performed - and all that, even though she had received graces as no other mere human ever did.

The Liturgy reminds us too of her meekness: Virgo singularis, inter omnes mitis. She uttered no word of reproach against those who crucified Jesus, but in union with Him she forgave them and prayed for them. Here we have meekness at its highest united to consummate fortitude.

Such are, then, the intellectual endowments and the principal virtues with which Mary was adorned. They made her a model of the contemplative life, one characterized by devotion to the Incarnate Word, and, through participation in His redemptive work, one in whom we find the most universal of all hidden apostolates. 11

What we have said in this chapter about Mary's principal virtues and her intellectual endowments shows in a concrete way the general plan of her spiritual progress. It remains to speak in the next chapter [not online as yet] of her final fulness of grace at the moment of her death and of her entry into Heaven. We shall, then, have followed the stages of her spiritual life from her Immaculate Conception to her final glorification, a life which in its progress resembles a river rising at a great height and causing the fertility of the regions through which it passes, before it plunges at length into the mighty ocean.

  1 Cf. [Aquinas] IIa IIae, q. 45, a. 2.
2 Cf. Ia IIae, q. III, a. 5.
3 Cf. E. Dublanchy, Dict. de Theol. Gath., article Marie, cols. 2367- 2368; 2409-2413.
4 Cajetan remarks in his commentary on the IIIa, q. 27, a. 5: 'Posset tamen dici quod non publica doctrina, sed familiari instructione, quam constat mulieribus non esse prohibitam, B. Virgo aliqua particularia facta explicavit Apostolis.' This she did better and more frequently than Mary Magdalen, who obtained the title Apostolorum apostola through having announced the Resurrection to the Apostles.
5 For this same reason many theologians teach that Mary had, particularly after the Ascension, the gift of miraculous healing and that she used it to lighten the sorrows of the afflicted and to help the unfortunate who had recourse to her or whom she met. She was on earth the consoler of the afflicted in such a manner as to manifest her great sanctity. This was the opinion of St. Albert the Great, St. Antoninus, and Suarez, and is common in most of the present-day manuals of Mariology.
6 Such was the teaching of St. Albert the Great, St. Antoninus, Gerson, Suarez, Cornelius a Lapide. Many modern theologians are of the same opinion.
7 IIa IIae, q. 175, a. 3.
8 Marie, pleine de grace, 5th edit., 1926, pp. 106 sqq.
9 Cf. E. Dublanchy, Dict. Thlol. Gath., article Marie, col. 2410: 'Probably conferred on Moses and St. Paul, the favour should be attributed to Mary also on the principle which allows us to attribute to her as Mother of God and Co-Redemptrix or universal Mediatrix every grace conferred on the other Saints and in keeping with her dignity.'
10 Cf. IIa, IIae, q. 18, a. 4.
11 For a treatment of Mary's virtues cf. Justin de Miechow, O.P.; R. Bernard, O.P., Le Mystere de Marie, Paris, 1933; Rambaud, O.P., Douce Vierge Marie, Lyons, 1939; Journet in Notre dame des Sept Douleurs; Lallement and Sertillanges in Mater Misericordiae.




  HOME--------------------MARY'S INDEX----------------------LAGRANGE DIRECTORY