Our most loving Redeemer, that we might learn from Him to despise the things of the world, was pleased to be poor on earth: Being rich, says St. Paul, He became poor for your sake, that through His poverty you might be rich. Therefore does Jesus Christ exhort each one who desires to be His disciple: If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor and come follow Me. Behold Mary, His most perfect disciple, who indeed imitated His example. Father Canisius proves that Mary could have lived in comfort, on the property she inherited from her parents, but she preferred to remain poor, and reserving only a small portion for herself, distributed the rest in alms to the temple, and the poor. Many authors are of opinion that Mary even made a vow of poverty; and we know that she herself said to St. Bridget, From the beginning I vowed in my own heart that I would never possess anything on earth. The gifts received from the holy Magi cannot certainly have been of small value, but we are assured by St. Bernard that she distributed them to the poor through the hands of St. Joseph. That the Divine Mother immediately disposed of these gifts is also evident from the fact that at her purification in the temple she did not offer a lamb, which was the offering prescribed in Leviticus for those who could afford it: For a son she shall bring a lamb ; but she offered two turtle doves, or two pigeons, which was the oblation prescribed for the poor: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons. Mary herself said to St. Bridget, All that I could get I gave to the poor, and only reserved a little food and clothing for myself.
Out of love for poverty she did not disdain to marry St. Joseph, who was only a poor carpenter, and afterwards to maintain herself by the work of her hands, by spinning or sewing, as we are assured by St. Bonaventure. The angel, speaking of Mary, told St. Bridget, that worldly riches were of no more value in her eyes than dirt.’ In a word, she always lived poor, and she died poor; for at her death we do not know that she left anything but two poor gowns to two women who had served her during her life, as it is recorded by Metaphrastes and Nicephorus. St. Philip Neri used to say that ‘ He who loves the things of the world will never become a Saint. We may add what St. Teresa said on the same subject, that it justly follows that he who runs after perishable things should also himself be lost. But, on the other hand, she adds, that the virtue of poverty is a treasure, which comprises in itself all other treasures. She says the ‘ virtue of poverty; for, as St. Bernard remarks, this virtue does not consist in only being poor, but in loving poverty. Therefore did Jesus Christ say, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They are blessed because they desire nothing but God, and in God they find every good; in poverty they find their paradise on earth, as St. Francis did when he exclaimed: My God and my all. Let us then, as St. Augustine exhorts us, love that one good in which all good things are found;’ and address our Lord in the words of St. Ignatius Give me only Thy love, with Thy grace, and I am rich enough. When we have to suffer from poverty let us console ourselves, says St. Bonaventure, ‘with the thought that Jesus and His Mother were also poor like ourselves.
The parish priest of a country place was assisting a certain rich man, who was dying, in a magnificent house, and attended upon by servants, relatives, and friends; but the good priest saw also devils in the shape of dogs, who were waiting to carry off his soul, as they in fact did; for he died in sin. In the meantime, a poor woman was also ill, and, desiring to receive the Holy Sacraments, sent for the parish priest; but he, being unable to leave the rich man, whose soul stood in such need of assistance, sent her another priest, who immediately went, carrying the pix which contained the most Blessed Sacrament.
On his arrival he saw neither servants nor attendants, nor fine furniture; for the sick woman was poor, and perhaps only lying on a little straw. But he saw a great light in the room; and near the bed of the dying person was the Mother of God, Mary, consoling her, and, with a cloth in her hand, wiping off the sweat of death. The priest, seeing Mary, feared to enter; but the Blessed Virgin made him a sign to come in. The priest entered, and Mary showed him a stool, that he might be seated, and hear the confession of her servant. This he did; and after she had communicated, with great devotion, she happily breathed forth her soul in the arms of Mary.
O, my most sweet Mother, how shall I die, poor sinner that I am? Even now the thought of that important moment when I must expire, and appear before the judgment-seat of God, and the remembrance that I have myself so often written my condemnation by consenting to sins, makes me tremble. I am confounded, and fear much for my eternal salvation. 0 Mary, in the blood of Jesus, and in thy intercession, is all my hope. Thou art the Queen of Heaven, the mistress of the universe; in short, thou art the Mother of God. Thou art great, but thy greatness does not prevent, nay, even it inclines thee to greater compassion towards us in our miseries. 0 comfortress of the afflicted, console a poor creature who recommends himself to thee. The remorse of a conscience overburdened with sins fills me with affliction. I am in doubt as to whether I have sufficiently grieved for them. I see that all my actions are soiled and defective; hell awaits my death in order to accuse me; the outraged justice of God demands satisfaction. My Mother, what will become of me? If thou dost not help me I am lost. What sayest thou, wilt thou assist me? 0 compassionate Virgin, console me; obtain me true sorrow for my sins; obtain me strength to amend, and to be faithful to God during the rest of my life. And finally, when I am in the last agonies of death, O Mary, my hope, abandon me not; then, more than ever, help and encourage me, that I may not despair at the sight of my sins, which the evil one will then place before me. My Lady, forgive my temerity; come thyself to comfort me with thy presence, in that last straggle. This favor thou hast granted to many, grant it also to me. If my boldness is great, thy goodness is greater, for it goes in search of the most miserable, to console them.