There never was a soul on earth who practiced, 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 faint.’ 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 follow, 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. In the first place, because 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. Through love for prayer, the Blessed Virgin was so enamored 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 Emanuel,’ 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. Lawrence says that the angel addressed her in these words: ‘ The Lord is with thee,’ on account of her great love for retirement. For this reason St. Vin cent 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.’ 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 turtle-dove’s.’ ‘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? 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.’ ‘0 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 the things of heaven.’
Three devout Virgins, by the advice of their confessor, one year recited, for forty days, the entire rosary as a preparation for the Feast of the Purification of Mary. On the vigil, the Di vine Mother appeared to the first of the three sisters, with a rich robe embroidered with gold, and thanking her, blessed her. She then appeared to the second, with a simple robe, and also thanked her, but she said, ‘Lady, why didst thou go to my sister with so much richer a robe?’ ‘Because,’ Mary replied, ‘she clothed me with a richer one than thou didst. ‘She afterwards appeared to the third, with a robe of common sacking; on seeing which, the sister asked her pardon for the tepidity with which she honored her. The following year all prepared themselves well for the same festival, reciting the rosary with great devotion. On the night preceding the feast, Mary appeared to them, resplendent with glory, and said, ‘ Prepare yourselves: for to-morrow you will go with me to Paradise;’ and in fact they told their confessor what had happened, received the holy communion in the church, and towards the hour of Compline, they again saw the most Blessed Virgin, who came to take them, and amid the songs of angels, one after the other sweetly expired.
PRAYER OF WILLIAM OF PARIS
O Mother of God, I have recourse to thee, and I call upon thee not to reject me; for the whole congregation of the faithful, calls and proclaims thee the Mother of Mercy. Thou art that one who, from being so dear to God, art always graciously heard; thy clemency was never wanting to any one; thy most benign affability never despised any sinner who had recourse to thee, however enormous his crimes. Can it be falsely, or in vain that the Church calls thee her advocate, and the refuge of sinners? Never let it be said that my sins could prevent thee from fulfilling the great office of mercy, which is peculiarly thine own, by which thou art the advocate and mediatrix of peace, the only hope, and most secure refuge of the miserable. Never shall it be said that the Mother of God, who for the benefit of the world brought forth the Fountain of Mercy, denied her mercy to any sinner who had recourse to her. Thine office is that of peacemaker between God and men: let, then, the greatness of thy compassion, and which far exceeds my sins, move thee to help me.