(Counsels for those striving to live a life pleasing to God)
A little child, sitting on its mother's lap, was being taught to say her prayers. Having repeated after her mother the words: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," the child suddenly interrupted her by asking, "Mother, it says the Father in Heaven, and the Son in Heaven. Why is there not a Mother in Heaven?" That inquiry comes from the depths of the human heart. The heart of man feels the need of a Mother to plead for him before the throne of God; and He Who created that heart, and knows its needs, has given us a Mother in the person of Mary, the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God.
If you, dear soul, desire to be truly pious, begin by taking this Mother as your pattern; earnestly seek to imitate her, and to be her faithful child.
We salute Mary with the Latin word Ave. If we reverse this word, we have the Latin name of the first woman -- our first mother, Eva. What misery and misfortune did not the sin of this first woman bring upon the world! She is no longer the mother of the living, as her name denotes, but of the dead, of those who are spiritually dead. But it is right that we should salute Mary with the word Ave, for she is in truth the opposite to Eva. By becoming the Mother of the Redeemer she won salvation, deliverance, and true spiritual life for the whole human race. As far as her example goes, she is also a direct contrast to Eve. We have been warned by the saints to beware of imitating Eve; I now desire earnestly to entreat you to endeavor to imitate the virtues of Mary. Behold her at the hallowed moment when the Angel brought to her the message from on High, and the mystery of inexpressible magnitude, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, was accomplished. What cannot we all learn form this "Virgin of virgins!"
Scripture tells us in the first place: "The angel being come in said unto her." Mary was not found out of doors, amid the tumult of the world, but in the sacred seclusion of her own room; she loved retirement.
Christian soul, love retirement and recollection. Of course, I do not mean that you ought to always remain at home, in your own room, or that you ought always to remain aloof from other persons. This is certainly not my meaning, unless, indeed, God were to call you to embrace a life of cloister and contemplation as a Religious.
Yet it still holds true, that if you wish to persevere in the path of piety, to be happy both in this world and also in the next, you must imitate Mary; you must love retirement; and though you live amid the bustle and turmoil of the world, you must not be of the world.
Especially you must endeavor to suppress the restless craving for the approbation of your fellow men. A desire to please, to attract the notice of others is often evident in most people to a greater or lesser degree. But this desire, so seldom resisted, so freely indulged, has effected the temporal and eternal ruin of many young people and of many older persons also. Struggle with all your might against this inordinate desire to please; like Mary, cultivate a love of seclusion. Remember the violet. Everyone loves and values this modest little flower, which thrives and blossoms most beautifully in the shade.
Prove your love of retirement by avoiding dangerous occasions and amusements as far as you possibly can. Such are unsupervised meetings with those of the opposite sex and modern amusements of an immoral tendency. Young persons who desire to preserve their innocence and virtue must exercise the greatest caution and prudence in regard to these and similar matters.
Give further proof of your love for retirement by remembering the presence of God at all times, and in all places, and by keeping Him before your eyes whatever you may be doing; whether you are at work or at school, partaking of your meals, or conversing pleasantly with those around you.
In the second place, Holy Scripture says concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary: "Who having heard, wondered at his saying, and thought within herself what manner of salutation this might be." She shrank from the praise which was bestowed upon her. Far from giving her pleasure, it caused her to fear because of her deep sense of unworthiness and humility. Again I repeat, do you, my dear soul, act in like spirit? Do you fear, when men approach you with flattering words, when they extol, in honeyed accents, your physical attributes, mental gifts, or talents, when they assure you that your company or conversation is gratifying to them? Trust them not too readily! How many souls have paid for their foolish conversation and vanity, their love of praise and flattery, with the loss of their innocence! Wherefore, be warned to avoid the company of men and spend more time in conversation with God.
In the third place, to the proposal which would confer on her the highest possible honor -- that of becoming the Mother of God -- Mary replied with childlike humility: "How shall this be done?" She did not question the Holy Will of God nor the power of God to bring about this great honor, but she desired from the Archangel Gabriel an assurance that she would be able to preserve her virginity, which she had consecrated to God.
If Mary exercised such extreme caution in regard to the proposal made to her by a heavenly messenger, how careful and conscientious ought you to be in regard to the temptations of the world and of the enemy of souls! When some tempter approaches you, and tries to induce you to join in some dangerous amusement, to remain alone with a person of the opposite sex, then answer with Mary that as the handmaid or the servant of the Lord, you must avoid the corrupting spirit of the world and those who are imbued with it. Act in accordance with your words; you must fly from the worldly tempter and the gossip -- fly without delay from the spirit of the world!
If a non-Catholic should make your acquaintance and wish to marry you, you must imitate Mary by asking: "How can this be done? How can I consent to a mixed marriage, since my Mother, the Holy Catholic Church, disapproves of such unions, and since they so seldom turn out happy?"
Finally, in the fourth place, when Mary had perceived what the Holy Will of God was, she replied in a spirit of totally humble submission: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word." If you desire to be truly pious, you must be perfectly resigned to the Will of God. In this respect also, you must imitate Mary. This remark especially applies to the choice of a state of life. When once you perceive what is the Will of God, when you have heard His voice speaking to you in clear and definite accents -- then obey that voice, however great a sacrifice it may cost you to do so. Pray earnestly for grace to follow His call, and to say from your heart as well as with your lips, in imitation of Mary: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to Thy word."
In the manner described, take Mary for your model, and beseech her to always intercede on your behalf.
Hail Blessed Mother, Virgin pure! From every stain of sin secure;
Hail morning star that gilds the sky! Hail daughter of the Lord most high!
Fairer than aught on earth beside, my joy and hope, my path's sure guide!
Visit also: www.marienfried.com