The Spirit of Prayer and
Meditation in Mary
TAKEN FROM THE GLORIES OF MARY
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1931
There was never a soul on earth that practised in so perfect a manner
as the Blessed Virgin the great lesson taught by our Saviour, that we ought always to pray, and not to
[Luke 18:1] From no one, says St. Bonaventure, can we better take
example, and learn how necessary is perseverance in prayer, than from
Mary: "Mary gave an example which we must know and not faint;" for
Blessed Albert the Great asserts, that, after Jesus Christ, the Divine
Mother was the most perfect in prayer of all who ever have been, or
ever will be." Her prayer was continual and persevering. In the very
first moment, in which she had the perfect use of reason, which was, as
we have said in the discourse on her nativity, in the first moment of
her existence, she began to pray. That she might be able to devote
herself still more to prayer, when only three years of age she shut
herself up in the retirement of the temple; where, amongst other hours
set aside for this exercise, as she herself told St. Elizabeth of
Hungary, "she always rose at midnight, and went before the altar of the
temple to offer her supplications." For the same purpose, and that she
might constantly meditate on the sufferings of Jesus, Odilo says, "she
very frequently visited the places of our Lord's Nativity, Passion, and
Sepulture." Moreover, she prayed with the greatest recollection of
spirit, free from every distraction and inordinate affection, nor did
any exterior occupation ever obscure the light of her unceasing
contemplation, as we are assured by Denis the Carthusian.
Through love for prayer, the Blessed Virgin was so enamoured of
solitude, that, as she told St. Bridget, when she lived in the temple
she avoided even intercourse with her parents. On the words of the
prophet, Isaias, Behold a Virgin
shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.
[7:14] St. Jerome remarks, that the word virgin, in Hebrew, properly
signifies a retired virgin;
so that even the prophet foretold the affection which Mary would have
for solitude. Richard of St. Laurence says that the Angel addressed her
in these words, The Lord is with
on account of her great love for retirement. For this reason St.
Vincent Ferrer asserts that the Divine Mother "only left her house to
go to the temple, and then her demeanor was all composed, and she kept
her eyes modestly cast down." For the same reason, when she went to
visit St. Elizabeth, she went with
haste. [Luke 1:39] From this, St. Ambrose says, "that virgins
should learn to avoid the world.
St. Bernard affirms that on account of Mary's love for prayer and
solitude, "she was always careful to avoid the society and converse of
men." She was therefore called a turtle-dove by the Holy Ghost: Thy cheeks are beautiful as the
[Cant. 1:9] "The turtle-dove," says Vergello, "is a solitary bird, and
denotes unitive affection in the soul." Hence it was that the Blessed
Virgin always lived solitary in this world as in a desert, and that of
her it was said, Who is she that
goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke? [Cant. 3:6] On these words the Abbot Rupert says,
"Thus didst thou, indeed, loving solitude, ascend by the desert."
Philo assures us that "God only speaks to souls in solitude." God
Himself declares the same thing by the prophet Osee: I will lead her into the wilderness, and I
will speak to her heart.
[2:14] "O happy solitude!" exclaims St. Jerome, "in which God speaks
familiarly and converses with His Own." "Yes," says St. Bernard, "for
solitude, and the silence which is there enjoyed, force the soul to
leave the earth in thought, and meditate on things of Heaven."
Most holy Virgin, do thou obtain us affection for prayer and
retirement, that, detaching ourselves from the love of creatures, we
may aspire only after God and Heaven, where we hope one day to see
thee, to praise thee, and to love thee, together with Jesus, thy Son,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Come over to me, all ye that desire
me, and be filled with my fruits.
[Ecclus. 24:26] Mary's fruits are her virtues. "Thou hast had none like
thee, nor shalt thou have an equal. Thou alone of women hast above all