Indeed, The Revelations of St. Bridget reveals that Our Lord “preferred” his “Mother Mary above all others and loved her above every creature”, which shows us that after God, the most blessed and highly exalted creature of all in creation, is the Blessed Virgin Mary:
“[I saw a throne in Heaven on which sat the Lord Jesus Christ as Judge. At his feet sat the Virgin Mary. Surrounding the throne was a host of angels and a countless multitude of saints. A certain monk, a great scholar of theology, stood high up on a rung of a ladder that was fixed in the earth and whose top reached up to Heaven. With an impatient and agitated bearing, as though full of wickedness and guile, he put questions to the Judge:] First question. After this was said, the monk appeared on his rung as before saying: “O Judge, I ask you: Why do you seem unfair in your gifts and graces in that you gave preference to Mary your Mother before every creature and exalted her above the angels?”
Answer to the first question. The Judge answered: “Friend, in my deity are contained all future things and everything that will be done as well as everything that has been done, all of them being foreseen and foreknown from the start. Just as the fall of humankind was something foreknown and permitted by God’s justice but not accomplished through God nor something that had to happen due to God’s foreknowledge, so too it was foreknown from eternity that the liberation of humankind would be accomplished through God’s mercy.
“You ask why I preferred my mother Mary above all others and loved her above every creature. This is because a special mark of virtue was found in her. As when several logs are piled up and a fire is kindled, that log which is most capable and fit for burning is more quickly set aflame and starts burning. It was the same with Mary. When the fire of divine love, which in itself is immutable and eternal, began to kindle and be seen, and the deity wished to become incarnate, there was no creature more capable and fitter to receive this fire of love than the Virgin Mary, for no creature burned with such divine charity as she. And although her love has been shown and revealed in the last age, yet it was foreseen before the beginning of the world. Thus it was predetermined in the deity from all eternity that just as no one was found like her in charity, so too no one would be equal to her in grace and blessing.” (Book 5, Interrogation 9)
In another revelation the Son of God spoke to her Mother and said:
“My most dear Mother, your words are sweet to me, for they come from your soul. You are like the dawn that breaks forth with clarity. You outshine all the heavens and your light and your clarity surpass all the angels. By your clarity, you drew to yourself the true sun, that is, my Divinity, so much so that the sun of my Divinity came to you and settled on you. By his warmth you are warmed in my love over all others and by his splendor you are enlightened in my wisdom more than all others. The darkness of the earth was chased away and all the heavens were enlightened through you. I say in my truth that your purity pleased me more than all the angels, and it drew my Divinity to you so that you were enkindled by the warmth of my Spirit; and through it you enclosed the true God and Man in your womb whereby mankind has been enlightened and the angels made joyful. Therefore, may you be blessed by your blessed Son! And for this reason, no prayer of yours will ever come to me without being heard, and through you, anyone who prays for mercy with the intention of mending their sinful ways will receive grace for your sake. For just as heat comes from the sun, so too all mercy is given through you. You are like a filled and flowing spring from which mercy flows to the help of the wretched.”
“The Mother answered the Son: “All virtue and glory be yours, my Son! You are my God and my mercy; all good that I have comes from you. You are like the seed that was never sown but still grew and gave fruit a hundredfold and a thousandfold. For all mercy comes from you and since it is innumerable and ineffable, it can indeed be signified by the number one hundred, which signifies perfection, for all perfection comes from you and everyone is perfected in virtue by you.”
“The Son answered the Mother: “Indeed, my Mother, you likened me rightly to the seed that was never sown but still grew, since I came with my Divinity to you, and my Manhood was not sown by intercourse but still grew in you, and from it mercy flowed out from you to all. Therefore, you have spoken rightly. Since you now draw mercy out of me with the most sweet words of your mouth, ask me what you want, and it shall be given to you.”
“The Mother answered: “My Son, since I have won mercy from you, I beg for mercy and help for the wretched. For there are namely four places: The first is Heaven, where the angels and the souls of the saints need nothing but you whom they have – for in you they have every good. The second place is hell, and those who stay there are filled with malice and excluded from all mercy. Therefore, nothing good can enter into them any more. The third is the place of those being purged in purgatory, and those who stay there need a threefold mercy since they are tormented in a threefold way. They suffer through their hearing, for they hear nothing but pain, sorrow, and misery. They suffer through their sight, for they see nothing but their own misery. They are tormented through their touch, for they feel the heat of the unbearable fire and of the harsh torment. My Lord and my Son, give them your mercy for the sake of my prayers!”
“The Son answered: “I will gladly give them a threefold mercy for your sake. First, their hearing shall be relieved, their sight will be eased, and their torment will be reduced and relieved. And all those who are in the greatest and most severe torment of the fires of purgatory shall from this moment come to the middle torment; those who are in the middle torment shall come to the lightest; and those who are in the lightest torment shall come home to rest.”
“The Mother answered: “Praise and honor to you, my Lord!” And she immediately said to her Son: “My beloved Son, the fourth place is the world, and its inhabitants are in need of three things: First, repentance for their sins. Second, penance and atonement. Third, the strength to do good deeds.”
“The Son answered: “Everyone who calls on your name and has hope in you along with a purpose of amendment for his sins shall be given these three things as well as the kingdom of Heaven. Your words are so sweet to me that I cannot deny you anything you plead for, for you want nothing other than what I want. You are indeed like a shining and burning flame by which the extinguished lights are enkindled and the burning lights are strengthened, for by your love which arose in my heart and drew me to you, those who are dead in sin will come to life again and those who are tepid and black like smoke will become strong in my love.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 1, Chapter 50)
In an additional revelation the Mother of God spoke to her Son and said:
“Blessed be your name, my Son Jesus Christ, and all honor to your Manhood above all that is created! Glory to your Divinity above all good things, which are one God with your Manhood!”
“The Son answered: “My Mother, you are like a flower that grew in a valley. Around the valley there were five high mountains, and the flower grew out of three roots with a straight stem without any knots. This flower had five leaves that were filled with all sweetness. The valley with its flower grew above these five mountains, and the leaves of the flower spread themselves above every height of heaven and above all the choirs of angels. My beloved Mother, you are this valley for the sake of the great humility you had in comparison with all others. Your humility grew higher than five mountains.
“The first mountain was Moses because of his power. For he had power over my people through the Law, as if it were enclosed in his hand. But you enclosed the Lord of all law in your womb and, therefore, you are higher than this mountain. The second mountain was Elijah, who was so holy that he with soul and body was assumed into my holy place. But your soul, my most dear Mother, was assumed above all the choirs of angels to the throne of God along with your most pure body. You are therefore higher than Elijah. The third mountain was the strength of Samson that surpassed all other men. Yet the devil defeated him with his treachery. But you defeated the devil with your strength and power. You are therefore stronger than Samson. The fourth mountain was David, who was a man according to my heart and will, but yet fell into sin. But you, my beloved Mother, followed my will in all and never sinned. The fifth mountain was Solomon, who was full of wisdom but nevertheless was fooled. But you, my Mother, were full of all wisdom and were never fooled or deceived. You are therefore higher than Solomon.
“The flower grew from three roots, because of the three things you had from your youth: obedience, charity, and divine understanding. Out of these three roots grew the most straight stem without any knots, which means that your will was never bent to anything but my will. This flower also had five leaves that grew above all the choirs of angels. My dear Mother, you are indeed the flower with these five leaves.
“The first leaf is your nobleness, which is so great that my angels, who are noble before me, when seeing and considering your nobleness, saw that it was above them and more eminent than their holiness and nobleness. You are therefore higher than the angels. The second leaf is your mercy, which was so great that you, when you saw the misery of all the souls, had compassion over them and suffered the greatest torment at my death. The angels are full of mercy, and yet they never endure sorrow or pain, but you, my loving Mother, were merciful to the wretched when you felt all the sorrow and torment of my death, and you wanted to suffer torment for the sake of mercy rather than being separated from it. Therefore, your mercy surpassed the mercy of all the angels. The third leaf is your loving kindness. The angels are loving and kind and want good for everyone, but you, my dearest Mother, had before your death a will like an angel in your soul and body and did good to everyone. And still you do not refuse anyone who reasonably prays for his own good. Therefore, your kindness is higher and greater than the angels. The fourth leaf is your beauty. The angels behold the beauty of each other and wonder over the beauty of all souls and all bodies, but they see that the beauty of your soul is above all that is created and that the nobleness of your body surpasses all created beings. And so, your beauty surpassed all the angels and everything created. The fifth leaf was your divine joy, for nothing pleased you but God, just as nothing but God delights the angels. Each and every one of them knows and knew his own joy in himself, but when they saw the joy in you to God, they beheld in their conscience how their joy flamed up in them like a light in the love of God. They saw that your joy was like a flaming bonfire, burning with the hottest fire, with flames so high that it came near to my Divinity. And for this reason, my most sweet Mother, your divine joy burned well above all the choirs of angels. Since this flower had these five leaves, namely, nobleness, mercy, loving kindness, beauty, and the highest joy in God, it was full of all sweetness.
“But the one who wants to taste of its sweetness should approach the sweetness and assume it into himself. This is also what you did, my most sweet Mother. You were so sweet to my Father that he assumed all of you into his Spirit, and your sweetness delighted him above all other things. The flower also bears a seed by the heat and power of the sun and from it grows a fruit. In this way the blessed sun, my Divinity, assumed Manhood from your virginal womb. For just as the seed makes and grows flowers of the same kind as the seed wherever it is sown, so my limbs were like yours in shape and appearance, even though I was a man and you a woman and a virgin. This valley was uplifted with its flower above all mountains when your body together with your most holy soul was lifted up above all the choirs of angels.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 1, Chapter 51)
It should thus be clear to all of good will that “The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God; therefore she is far more excellent than all the Angels, even the Seraphim and Cherubim. She is the Mother of God; therefore she is most pure and most holy, so that under God no greater purity can be imagined.” (Pope Pius XI, Lux Veritatis #42, A.D. 1931)
“Let us contemplate the sentiments of profound respect and maternal tenderness, which fill the soul of our blessed Lady, now that she has conceived Jesus in her chaste womb: He is her God, and yet He is her Son. Let us think upon this wonderful dignity bestowed upon a creature; and let us honour the Mother of our God. It is by this mystery that the prophecy of Isaias was fulfilled: “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son;” and that of Jeremias: “The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth; a woman shall compass a Man.”
“… But what human language could express the dignity of our Lady, who carries within her chaste womb Him that is the world’s salvation! If Moses, after a mere colloquy with God, returned to the Israelites with the rays of the majesty of Jehovah circling his head, what an aureola of glory is due to Mary, who has within her, as in a living heaven, that very God Himself! The divine Wisdom tempers the effulgence of her glory that it be not visible to men; and this in order that the state of humility, which the Son of God has chosen as the one in which He would manifest Himself to the world, should not be removed at the very outset by the dazzling glory which would, otherwise, have been seen gleaming from His Mother.
“… What so lovely in creation as this Virgin, who loves the Lord with such matchless love and is so exceedingly loved by this her Lord? It is she of whom the Scripture speaks, when it calls the bride the dearest hind. What, too, so lovely as that well-beloved Son of God, born of His beloved Father from all eternity, and now, at the end of time, as the apostle speaks, formed in the womb of His dearest Mother, and become to her, in the words of the same divine proverb, the sweetest fawn? Let us, therefore, cull our flowers, and offer them to both Child and Mother. But let me briefly tell you what are the flowers you must offer to our Lady. Christ says, speaking of His Humanity, ‘I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys.’ By Him, therefore, let us purify our souls and bodies, and so be able to approach our God in chastity. Next, preserve this flower of purity from all that would injure it; for flowers are tender things, and soon droop and fade. Let us wash our hands among the innocent, and, with a pure heart, and pure body, and cleansed lips, and chaste soul, let us gather in the paradise of our heavenly Father our fresh flowers for the new Nativity of our new King. With these flowers let us stay up this most saintly Mother, this Virgin of virgins, this Queen of queens, this Lady of ladies; that so we may deserve to receive the blessing of the Mother and of the divine Babe.” (The Liturgical Year by Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.)
The best way to honor Our Lady and ask Her for spiritual graces is undoubtedly to pray the Rosary daily, which countless of Popes and Saints have revealed is especially effective in helping to conquer our sins and everyday failings. St. Louis De Montfort writes: “I could tell you at great length of the grace God gave me to know by experience the effectiveness of the preaching of the Holy Rosary and of how I have seen, with my own eyes, the most wonderful conversions it has brought about.” (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 10) St. Louis De Montfort: “Our Lady revealed to Blessed Alan De la Roche that no sooner had St. Dominic begun preaching the Rosary than hardened sinners were touched and wept bitterly over their grievous sins… everywhere that he preached the Holy Rosary such fervor arose that sinners changed their lives and edified everyone by their penances and change of heart.” (The Secret of the Rosary, p. 66)
In truth, Our Lord Himself directs us and tells us to take Our Lady as our Mother at the foot of the cross in the Holy Gospel when He gives Her over to John the Apostle (St. John being a type of the whole of humanity in the same way that many things in the Old Law prefigured things of the New Law). “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’ s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.” (John 19:25-27) Though other women were at the foot of the cross, Jesus singles out His mother. Jesus calls her “woman” because she is the woman of Genesis 3:15 – the one in complete opposition to the serpent. To see the overwhelming biblical evidence that Mary is the new Eve and the true Arc of the Covenant, as well as proof for other Catholic doctrines concerning Mary, please read the section about Her in the book “The Bible Proves the Teachings of the Catholic Church”, which proves without a doubt that Our Lady have been given an amazing and special intercessory power by Our Lord to help mankind gain victory over sin and the Devil.
The Life of St. Gemma Gelgani (1878-1903): “The reader already knows something of the way in which she strove all her life to keep this beautiful virtue [of chastity] unsullied in her heart. She cultivated a special devotion to St. Agnes, and to the other saints who were particularly remarkable for their purity. But it was above all to the Blessed Virgin that she entrusted the protection of her treasure, and for this purpose all her life long she never omitted to say three Hail Mary’s every day with her hands under her knees. She was once surprised in this position by her Aunt Elisa and upon her asking for an explanation she replied: ‘Grandmother taught me to do it. She said that if I said three Hail Mary’s in that way, the Blessed Virgin would never allow me to commit a sin against purity.’”
The Gospel of Luke describes the angelic salutation that the Angel Gabriel gave to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Luke 1:26-35 “And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
Haydock Commentary explains Luke 1:26-35: “Ver. 34.How shall this be done? She only asks about the manner. --- Because I know not man. This answer, as St. Augustine takes notice, would have been to no purpose, had she not made a vow to God to live always a virgin. (Witham) --- Listen to the words of this pure Virgin. The angel tells her she shall conceive; but she insists upon her virginity, holding her purity in higher estimation than the promised dignity. (St. Gregory of Nyssa.) --- She did not doubt the truth of what the angel said, (as Calvin impiously maintained) but she wished it might not happen to the prejudice of her vowed virginity. (St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Ven. Bede, Theophylactus, &c. &c.) --- You ask, how shall this be done, since you know not man? This, your ignorance of man, is the very reason why this will take place within you. For had you not been pure, you never would have been deemed worthy of so great a mystery. Not because marriage is bad, but because virginity is far more excellent. The common Lord of all ought in his birth to have something common with all mankind, and still something different. He was conceived and born in the womb like the rest of mankind, but he differed from them in being born of a virgin. (St. Chrysostom, xlix. in Genes.)”
It is of course not a coincidence that God chose a Virgin to bear and give birth to Himself. Mary’s love of chastity and purity was so pleasing to Our Lord that He was drawn to her womb and consented to become man. It was not suitable for God to become a man through the normal way of sexual copulation since, after the fall of Adam and Eve, the sexual act had become intoxicating, shameful and defective in its essence. Our Lord, being the source of all purity and virtue, chose a most holy vessel of chastity and purity ever created – The Blessed Virgin Mary – since the justice and greatness of His Majesty required this.
In St. Bridget’s Revelations, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself revealed that “I preferred to be born of a virgin rather than of a woman who was not a virgin, because that which is purest befits me who am God most pure. While it remained in the order of its creation, human nature had no deformity. But once the commandment was transgressed, there immediately arose a sense of shame, just as happens to people who sin against their temporal lord, who are even ashamed of the very limbs with which they have sinned. Along with shame over the transgression, there also sprang up a disordered impulse, especially in the reproductive organs. Yet, in order that this impulse might not be unproductive, it was by God’s goodness turned to good, and the act of carnal union was established by divine commandment in order that nature might bear its fruits. However, since it brings greater glory to act above and beyond the commandment, adding whatever good one is led by love to make, it pleased God to choose for his work the institution tending to greater purity and love, and that is virginity. For it is more virtuous and generous to be in the fire of tribulation and not to burn than to be without fire and still want to be crowned. Now, since virginity is like the fairest path to heaven while marriage is more like a road, it befitted me, God most pure, to rest in a virgin most pure. Just as the first man was created from the virgin earth, not yet polluted by blood, and because Adam and Eve committed their sin while they were still in a sound state of nature, so too I, God, wished to be received in the purest vessel so as to transform everything by my goodness.” (The Revelations of Saint Bridget, Book 5, Interrogation 12)
In the same Revelations of St. Bridget, The Blessed Virgin Mary also describes how she had promised chastity to Our Lord long before she was told that she was going to conceive and give birth to God Himself: “I am the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God... I will now show you more fully how, from the beginning, when I first heard and understood that God existed, I always, and with fear, was concerned about my salvation and my observance of His Commandments. But when I learned more about God—that he was my Creator and the judge of all my actions—I loved him more dearly, and I was constantly fearful and watchful so as to not offend him by word or deed.
“Later, when I heard that he had given the Law and the Commandments to the people and worked such great miracles through them, I made a firm decision in my soul to never love anything but him, and all worldly things became most bitter to me. When still later I heard that God himself would redeem the world and be born of a Virgin, I was seized by such great love for him that I thought of nothing but God and desired nothing but him. I withdrew myself, as much as I was able, from the conversation and presence of parents and friends, and I gave away all my possessions to the poor, and kept nothing for myself but meager food and clothing.
“Nothing was pleasing to me but God! I always wished in my heart to live until the time of his birth, and perhaps, deserve to become the unworthy handmaid of the Mother of God. I also promised in my heart to keep my virginity, if this was acceptable to him, and to have no possessions in the world. However, if God wanted otherwise, my will was that his will, not mine, be done; for I believed that he could do all things and wanted nothing but what was beneficial and best for me. Therefore, I entrusted all my will to him.
“When the time approached for the virgins to be presented in the temple of the Lord, I was also among them due to the devout compliance of my parents to the Law. I thought to myself that nothing was impossible for God, and since he knew that I wanted and desired nothing but him, I knew that he could protect my virginity, if it pleased him. However, if not, I wanted his will to be done. After I had heard all the commandments in the temple, I returned home, burning even more now than ever before with the love of God, being inflamed daily with new fires and desires of love.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 1 Chapter 10)
In another revelation, Jesus Christ praises His mother’s most pure Virginity and other virtues and explains why He loves Her so much:
“The Son speaks: ‘I am crowned king in my divinity without beginning and without end. A crown has neither beginning nor end; thus it is a symbol of my power, which had no beginning and will have no end. I had another crown, too, in my keeping: I myself, God, am that crown. It was prepared for the person who had the greatest love for me. And you, my most sweet Mother, won this crown and drew it to yourself through righteousness and love. The angels and other saints bear witness that your love for me was more ardent and your chastity more pure than that of any other, and that it was more pleasing to me than all else. Your head was like gleaming gold and your hair like sunbeams, because your most pure virginity, which is like the head of all your virtues, as well as your control over every illicit desire pleased me and shone in my sight with all humility. You are rightly called the crowned queen over all creation - “queen” for the sake of your purity, “crowned” for your excellent worth.” (The Revelations of Saint Bridget, Book 5, Revelation 4)
Venerable Maria de Agreda in her marvelous work “The Mystical City of God:The Divine History and Life of The Virgin Mother of God,” also explains that Our Lady and Queen was totally different than all of the other humans:
“The Blessed Birth Of Mary Immaculate. She was born pure and stainless, beautiful and full of grace, thereby demonstrating, that She was free from the law and the tribute of sin. Although She was born substantially like other daughters of Adam, yet her birth was accompanied by such circumstances and conditions of grace, that it was the most wonderful and miraculous birth in all creation [at that time since Our Lord had not been born yet] and will eternally redound to the praise of her Maker. At twelve o’clock in the night this divine Luminary issued forth, dividing the night of the ancient Law and its pristine darknesses from the new day of grace, which now was about to break into dawn. She was clothed, handled and dressed like other infants, though her soul dwelt in the Divinity; and She was treated as an infant, though She excelled all mortals and even all the angels in wisdom. Her mother did not allow Her to be touched by other hands than her own, but she herself wrapped Her in swaddling clothes: and in this Saint Anne was not hindered by her present state of childbirth; for she was free from the toils and labors, which other mothers usually endure in such circumstances.” (The Mystical City of God, Book 1, Chapter 7)
“Her Childhood Years. [Words of the Queen – The Virgin Mary speaks to Sister Mary of Agreda, Spain:] My dearest daughter, keep in mind, that all the living are born destined for death, but ignorant of the time allowed them; this they know for certain however, that the term of life is short, that eternity is without end, and that in this life only they can harvest what will yield life or death eternal. In this dangerous pilgrimage of life God has ordained, that no one shall know for certain, whether he is worthy (Eccles. 9, 1) of his love or hate; for if he uses his reason rightly, this uncertainty will urge him to seek with all his powers the friendship of that same Lord. God justifies his cause as soon as the soul acquires the use of reason; for from that time onward He enlightens and urges and guides man toward virtue and draws him away from sin, teaching him to distinguish between water and fire, to approve of the good and reject evil, to choose virtue and repel vice. Moreover, God calls and rouses the soul by his holy inspirations and continual promptings, provides the help of the sacraments, doctrines and commandments, urges man onward through his angels, preachers, confessors, ministers and teachers, by special tribulations and favors, by the example of strangers, by trials, death and other happenings and dispositions of his Providence; He disposes the things of life so as to draw toward Him all men, for He wishes all to be saved. Thus he places at the disposal of the creature a vast field of benevolent help and assistance, which it can and should use for its own advancement. Opposing all this are the tendencies of the inferior and sensitive nature, infected with the fomes peccati, the foment of sin, tending toward sensible objects and by the lower appetites and repugnances, disturbing the reason and enthralling the will in the false liberty of ungoverned desires. The demon also, by his fascinations and his deceitful and iniquitous suggestions obscures the interior light, and hides the deadly poison beneath the pleasant exterior. But the Most High does not immediately forsake his creatures; He renews his mercy and his assistance, recalling them again and again, and if they respond to his first call, He adds others according to his equity, increasing and multiplying them in proportion as the soul corresponds. As a reward of the victory, which the soul wins over itself, the force of his passions and concupiscences is diminished, the spirit is made free to soar higher and rise above its own inclinations and above the demons.
“But if man neglects to rise above his low desires and his forgetfulness, he yields to the enemy of God and man. The more he alienates himself from the goodness of God, so much the more unworthy does he become of the secret callings of the Most High, and so much less does he appreciate his assistance, though it be great. For the demon and the passions have obtained a greater dominion and power over his intellect and have made him more unfit and more incapable of the grace of the Almighty. Thereon, my dear daughter, rests the whole salvation or condemnation of souls, that is, in commencing to admit or resist the advances of the Lord. I desire thee not to forget this doctrine, so that thou mayest respond to the many calls which thou receivest of the Most High. See thou be strong in resisting his enemies and punctually solicitous in fulfilling the pleasure of thy Lord, for thereby thou wilt gratify Him and attend to the commands made known to thee by divine light. I loved my parents dearly, and the tender words of my mother wounded my heart; but as I knew it to be the will of the Lord to leave them, I forgot her house and my people in order to follow my Spouse. The proper education and instruction of children will do much toward making them more free and habituated to the practice of virtue, since thus they will be accustomed to follow the sure and safe guiding star of reason from its first dawn.” (The Mystical City of God, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Bad Company is the root of many evils
It is a little discussed topic nowadays, but the Holy Scripture and the Saints teach that there is a great necessity to have a detachment from all relatives and friends in order to be saved. St. Alphonsus, (c. 1755) when speaking on the necessity to be detached from relatives, explains, saying: “How many monks, says St. Jerome, ‘by compassion towards their father and mother have lost their own souls?’ How many religious by compassion for their relatives have been lost? In another place the saint says, that the more tender the affection of a religious for her kindred, the greater her impiety towards God… St. Ignatius of Loyola refused to interfere in the marriage of one of his nieces, though she was heiress of the family. St. Francis Borgia would not ask the Pope for a dispensation (which he would have easily obtained) to have his son married to a relative, although the acquisition of a large estate depended upon the marriage… When, then, relatives seek to implicate you in worldly affairs, withdraw at once from them.” In truth, “If attachment to relatives were not productive of great mischief Jesus Christ would not have so strenuously exhorted us to estrangement from them… a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household (Mt. 10:36)… Relatives are the worst enemies of the sanctification of Christians...”
An example in the lives of the seers of Fatima illustrates how there is also a necessity for all to be detached from friends, and especially those who are worldly or ungodly. It is related that “One afternoon Lucia brought some other girls, schoolmates. When they had gone, Francisco looked seriously at her and said: ‘Don’t walk with them, because you can learn to commit sins.’ ‘But they leave school when I do’ (Lucia replied). ‘When you leave, spend a little while at the feet of the hidden Jesus, and then come home alone.’” (William Thomas Walsh, Our Lady of Fatima, p. 164)
Our speech effects our purity
In The First Letter of Saint Peter, St. Peter tells us that we need to carefully consider how we speak and act. Sins against chastity are almost always begun by a lustful look or move, and shameful talk. That is why modesty in dress, speech and behavior is very important in the Christian life.
1 Peter 3:1-6 “In like manner also let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives. Considering your chaste conversation with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: As Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, doing well, and not fearing any disturbance.”
Haydock Commentary adds: “Ver. 1.Let wives, &c. In the first six verses he gives instructions to married women. 1. By their modest and submissive dispositions to endeavor to gain and convert their husbands, shewing them such a respect as Sara did, (whose daughters they ought to esteem themselves) who called Abraham her lord, or master; (Genesis xviii. 12.) 2. To be modest in their dress, without vanity; 3. That women take the greatest care of the hidden man, i.e. of the interior disposition of their heart, which he calls the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit;4. Not fearing any trouble, when God’s service or the duty to their husbands require it. (Witham)”
The sinful and fleshly man and woman know not the humility of “the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:4) All their actions are rather based on vanity and a most disgusting desire to get others or their spouse to sensually desire them, and that is also why (being spurred by the devil) they dress sensually, use makeup and unbecoming and disgraceful language. But those who have left the empty life of vanity and sensuality behind, and who refuses to dress like whores, using makeup and walk in “lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings” – have risen with Christ.
1 Peter 4:1-5 “Christ therefore having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the same thought: for he that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sins: That now he may live the rest of his time in the flesh, not after the desires of men, but according to the will of God. For the time past is sufficient to have fulfilled the will of the Gentiles, for them who have walked in riotousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and unlawful worshipping of idols. Wherein they think it strange, that you run not with them into the same confusion of riotousness, speaking evil of you. Who shall render account to him, who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
Haydock Commentary adds: “Ver. 1.He that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sins. Some expound these words of Christ; but he never had committed the least sin. The true sense is, that every one who suffers by Christ’s example, leaves off a sinful life, so as not to fall into great sins. (Witham) --- Ver. 3.For the time past is sufficient, &c. As if he said, you who were Gentiles, have already lived too long in vices before your conversion; so that they who are not yet converted, admire at the change they see in you, make a jest of you, talk against you for your not running on with them in the same wicked and shameful disorders: but they shall render an exact account of all to the just Judge of the living and the dead… who judgeth and condemneth those who had lived according to the flesh, but gave life to those who had lived well, or done penance according to the spirit of God. (Witham)”
The evil of lust makes man blind to spiritual things “while dulness of sense arises from gluttony”
Most men and women of the world do not recognize or know about the fact that sensual lusts (both for the married and the unmarried) actually blinds people from understanding or perceiving spiritual things/truths. This fact also requires married people from not indulging too often in the marital act. For all who overindulge in the marital act will always experience a “blindness of mind” of spiritual things. Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica explains that:
“Different causes produce different effects. Now Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45) that dulness of sense arises from gluttony, and that blindness of mind arises from lust… The perfect intellectual operation in man consists in an abstraction from sensible phantasms, wherefore the more a man’s intellect is freed from those phantasms, the more thoroughly will it be able to consider things intelligible, and to set in order all things sensible. Thus Anaxagoras stated that the intellect requires to be “detached” in order to command, and that the agent must have power over matter, in order to be able to move it. Now it is evident that pleasure fixes a man’s attention on that which he takes pleasure in: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 4,5) that we all do best that which we take pleasure in doing, while as to other things, we do them either not at all, or in a faint-hearted fashion. Now carnal vices, namely gluttony and lust, are concerned with pleasures of touch in matters of food and sex; and these are the most impetuous of all pleasures of the body. For this reason these vices cause man’s attention to be very firmly fixed on corporeal things, so that in consequence man’s operation in regard to intelligible things is weakened, more, however, by lust than by gluttony, forasmuch as sexual pleasures are more vehement than those of the table. Wherefore lust gives rise to blindness of mind, which excludes almost entirely the knowledge of spiritual things, while dulness of sense arises from gluttony, which makes a man weak in regard to the same [spiritual] intelligible things.” (Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 15, Art. 3, Second and Third Articles)
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, in The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, On The Necessity and Power of Prayer, talks about how the impure temptations of the flesh affects us and that through them (if we yield to them) the Devil takes away all spiritual lights and makes us forget all our meditations and good resolutions, and even makes us disregard the truths of faith, and even almost lose the fear of the divine punishments. He writes that “it is especially to be remarked that no one can resist the impure temptations of the flesh without recommending himself to God when he is tempted. This foe is so terrible that, when he fights with us, he, as it were, takes away all light; he makes us forget all our meditations, all our good resolutions; he makes us also disregard the truths of faith, and even almost lose the fear of the divine punishments… He who in such a moment does not have recourse to God is lost… Chastity is a virtue which we have no strength to practice, unless God gives us; and God does not give this strength except to him who asks for it. But whoever prays for it will certainly obtain it.”
How to conquer temptations
There are many things that are necessary for us to do if we want to be able to conquer our temptations and sensual-fleshly desires. Sloth in performing acts of virtue is a sin, and therefore, it is necessary to know about and perform those acts which God requires from us. “If you desire to possess the purity which becomes the Spouse of Jesus, you must cut off all dangerous occasions: you must cherish a holy ignorance of all that is opposed to chastity, and abstain from reading whatever has the slightest tendency to sully the soul.” (St. Alphonsus, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, p. 32) In truth, “The principal means of acquiring an ardent love of Christ are mental prayer, Communion, mortification, retirement.” (The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, p. 28) And so, “If thou wouldst be certain of being in the number of the elect, strive to be one of the few, not of the many. And if thou wouldst be quite sure of thy salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few; that is to say: Do not follow the great majority of mankind, but follow those who enter upon the narrow way, who renounce the world, who give themselves to prayer, and who never relax their efforts by day or by night, that they may attain everlasting blessedness.” (Fr. Martin Von Cochem, The Four Last Things, p. 221, quoting from St. Anselm, Archbishop and Doctor of the Church)
The consent to bad thoughts is the beginning of all evil
St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), Bishop and Doctor of the Church, writes concerning the absolute necessity of always resisting bad thoughts and temptations and that we must never in the least degree yield to them, as is shown by the following tragic example of a damned, christian soul:
“My dear Christians, be careful to banish these bad thoughts, by instantly turning for help to Jesus and Mary. He who contracts the habit of consenting to bad thoughts exposes himself to great danger of dying in sin, for the reason that it is very easy to commit sins of thought. In a quarter of an hour a person may entertain a thousand wicked desires, and for every evil desire to which he consents he deserves hell. At the hour of death the dying cannot commit sins of action, because they are unable to move; but they can easily indulge sins of thought, and the devil suggests every kind of wicked thought and desire to them when they are in that state. St. Eleazar, as Surius relates, was so violently and frequently tempted by bad thoughts at the hour of death, that he exclaimed: "Oh, how great is the power of the devils at the hour of death!" The saint, however, conquered his enemies, because he was in the habit of rejecting bad thoughts; but woe to those who have acquired a habit of consenting to them! Father Segneri tells us of a man who during his life had often consented to bad thoughts. At the hour of death he confessed his sins with great compunction, so that every one regarded him as a saint; but after death he appeared and said that he was damned; he stated that he made a good confession, and that God had pardoned all his sins; but before death the devil represented to him that, should he recover, it would be ingratitude to forsake the woman who loved him so much. He banished the first temptation: a second came; he then delayed for a little, but in the end he rejected it: he was assailed by a third temptation, and consented to it. Thus, he said, he had died in sin, and was damned. My brother, do not say, as many do, that sins against chastity are light sins, and that God bears with them.” (St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, THE ASCETICAL WORKS VOLUME XV, Preaching: Letter to a Religious, Letter to a Bishop, the Exercises of the Missions, Instructions on the Commandments and the Sacraments, pp. 469-470)
The above shows that we must hate sinful desires with a passion and fervor in order to overcome them, rather than fall into evil lusts, gloomy enjoyment, or the sin itself. Indeed, “To abstain from sinful actions is not sufficient for the fulfillment of God’s law. The very desire of what is forbidden is evil.” (St. John Baptist de la Salle, A.D. 1651-1719)
Exhortations to chastity
St. Alphonsus, Discourse to Maidens: “St. Ignatius, Martyr, writing to his disciples, exhorted them carefully to watch over the virgins, so that they might be constant in the promise that they had made to Jesus Christ of their virginity, which is so precious a gift before God. Virgins consecrated to the love of the divine Spouse are called by St. Cyprian the most noble part of the Church. Therefore, besides St. Cyprian, several among the holy Fathers, as St. Ephrem, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, and others, have composed works that treat entirely of the praises of virginity.
The glorious Apostle St. Matthew, as Denis the Carthusian relates, did not wish to allow the virgin St. Iphigenia, who was consecrated to Jesus Christ, to marry a monarch, although he promised to embrace the faith with all his people. Thomas Cantipratensis relates that at Rome the sister of the Count of Puglia, promised in marriage by his brother to a lord, fled in the disguise of a man so as not to be forced to marry; but she was pursued by her brother, and overtaken near a rock that projected into the sea. Putting her confidence in God, she threw herself into the abyss, and afterwards walked upon the water as far as a desert in Greece, where she remained safe. I wished to quote these examples to show that it is not a useless work, but a work that is very agreeable to God, when priests take care to exhort young persons to consecrate to Jesus Christ the lily of their virginity. This is the reason why in our missions it is customary, on the morning of one of the last days, that a missionary, assisted by another priest advanced in years, addresses in a retired place an instruction on this point to all the young women.
“Example of a Discourse to Young Women.
“My dear sisters, I do not pretend to explain to you in this discourse all the merits and all the advantages obtained by young maidens in consecrating their virginity to Jesus Christ. I will confine myself to pointing them out briefly.
“First, they become in the eyes of God beautiful as the angels of heaven: They shall be as the angels of God in heaven (Matt. xxii. 30). Baronius relates that at the death of a pious virgin, named Georgia, a great number of doves were seen flying about her; and when her body was carried to the church, these doves placed themselves on the part of the roof which corresponded to the place where the coffin was put, and flew away only after the burial of the deceased. Every one believed that these doves were angels, who thus honored her virginal body.
“Moreover, when a young person renounces the world and devotes herself to the love of Jesus Christ, she becomes the spouse of the Son of God. In the Gospel our Saviour is called now Father, now Mother, now Shepherd of Souls; but in regard to virgins he calls himself their Bridegroom or Spouse: They went out to meet their bridegroom (Matt. xxv. 1).
“A young person who wishes to establish herself in the world, if she is prudent, makes careful inquiries about those that aspire to her hand, and tries to know which among them is the noblest and richest. Let us, then, address ourselves to the Spouse of the Canticles, who knows very well the prerogatives of the divine Spouse, and let us ask him what he is. Tell me, O divine Spouse! what is he who loves thee and renders thee the most happy among all women? My beloved is white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands (Cant. v. 10). My beloved, she says, is all white by his purity, and is ruddy by the love with which he is inflamed; he is, in a word, so beautiful, so noble, so affable, that one finds him to be the most amiable among all spouses.
“When to St. Agnes was offered as her spouse the son of the Prefect of Rome, this glorious virgin was right when she answered, as St. Ambrose tells us, that she had found a far better match.
“Such was also the answer of St. Domitilla, niece of the Emperor Domitian, which she gave to persons who tried to persuade her that she could be married to Count Aurelian, since he consented that she should remain a Christian: "But, tell me," she answered them, "if to a young woman there was presented, on the one hand, a great monarch, and on the other, a poor plebeian, which of the two would she choose for a husband? To accept Aurelian, I should have to renounce the King of heaven; this would be folly, and I do not wish to be guilty of it." Hence in order to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, to whom she had consecrated her virginity, she gave herself up to be burnt alive a punishment to which her barbarous lover had condemned her.
“Generous souls who renounce the world for the love of Jesus Christ, become the cherished spouses of the Son of God. They are called First-fruits of the Lamb: First-fruits to God and to the Lamb (Apoc. xiv. 4). Why the First-fruits? Because, says Cardinal Hugo, as the first-fruits are more agreeable than others, so virgins are objects of the Lord’s predilection. The divine Spouse is nourished among the lilies: Who feedeth among the lilies. And what are these lilies, if not fervent souls who consecrate their virginity to Jesus Christ? Venerable Bede assures us that the chant of the virgins, that is, the honor which the virgins render to God by preserving to him intact the lily of their purity, is more agreeable to the Lord than the chant of all the other saints. In fact, the Holy Ghost declares that no good can compensate for the merit of virginity. No price is worthy of a continent soul. For this reason, according to Cardinal Hugo, one can obtain a dispensation from all other vows, but not from the vow of virginity. It is also on this account that theologians believe that the Blessed Virgin would have been disposed to renounce the sublime dignity of the Mother of God rather than lose the treasure of her virginity.
“Who then here below can ever comprehend the glory that God reserves in paradise for his chaste spouses? Doctors teach that in heaven virgins have their own glory, which is a certain crown or a special joy, of which other holy souls are deprived.
“But let us pass to what directly refers to the subject that we actually have in view.
“A young person will say: "If I marry can I not also sanctify myself?" I wish you to hear the answer to this, not from my mouth, but from that of St. Paul; you will also see at the same time the difference between virgins and married persons. The following are the words of the Apostle: The unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord: that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband (I Cor. vii. 34). Then he adds: This I speak for your profit: . . . for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord without impediment (I Cor. Vii. 35).
“Let us ponder well this advice of the Apostle. In the first place, I must remark that married women can, it is true, be holy in spirit but not in body, while a virgin that sanctifies herself is holy in spirit and in body, having consecrated to Jesus Christ her virginity: Holy both in body and in spirit. Note, moreover, these words: Which may give you power to attend upon the Lord without impediment.—Ah! how many obstacles have not married women in order to sanctify themselves! the higher their rank the greater obstacles do they encounter. In order to sanctify oneself one must use the means, especially apply oneself much to mental prayer, frequent often the sacraments, and think without ceasing of God. But how can a married woman find time to occupy herself with the things of God? She that is married thinks on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. She must, says St. Paul, occupy herself with the things of the world; she has to provide for the wants of her family, for food, for clothing; she has to watch over the education of her children, to please her husband and the relatives of her husband; and this will be the cause, adds the Apostle, why her heart will be divided, as she is obliged to divide her affections between her husband, her children, and God. How can a married woman devote herself much to mental prayer and go frequently to Holy Communion if she does not find enough at home to provide for the wants of her family? The husband-wishes to be served; the children cry, scream, or ask for a thousand things; how can she go to make meditation amidst so many occupations and embarrassments? It will hardly be permitted her to go to church to recollect herself and to receive Communion on Sundays. She will still have a good will; but it will be very difficult for her to attend to the things of God as she should. It is true that by this very privation she may gain merit by resigning herself to the will of God, who in this state requires of her only a continual sacrifice of resignation and of patience. …
“Ah, would to God that married women would have nothing else to deplore than to be deprived of the time necessary to attend to their devotions! The greatest evil is the danger in which these unfortunate persons continually find themselves of losing the grace of God, being obliged to see frequently their brothers-in-law or other relatives, or friends of their husband, either at home or elsewhere. Of this young persons are ignorant; but this is well known by married women, who are every day exposed to all these dangers, and is also well known by the confessors who hear them. We do not speak of the sad days which all married women must spend. The bad conduct of the husband, the disagreeable things caused by the children, the necessities of housekeeping, dependence on a mother-in-law or sisters-in-law, the pains of child-birth that is always accompanied by danger of death, suspicions, troubles of conscience in regard to the education of the children—all this forms a chain of tribulations in which married women can only lament, happy indeed if they do not lose their soul, and if God gives them the grace not to pass from the hell of this life to an eternal hell in the next. Such is the lot that awaits young women who give themselves up to the world.
“But you will say, Among all the married women are there none that have sanctified themselves? I beg your pardon, there are some; but who are they? Those that sanctify themselves by martyrdom, those that know how to suffer everything for God, with a patience that nothing can overcome. How many are there that rise to such perfection? They are as rare as white flies. And if you meet with any one of these, you will learn that she is always weeping for regret of having entered the world, while she could have consecrated herself to Jesus Christ. For myself, I do not remember to have ever found among married women a single pious person who was content with her state of life.
“True happiness is therefore the inheritance of virgins consecrated to Jesus Christ. They are free from the dangers to which married persons are necessarily exposed. Their affections are not fixed on children, nor on men of the world, nor on perishable goods, nor on vain ornaments, nor on any kind of dependence. While married women are obliged to adorn themselves with care, and at great expense, to appear in the world according to their rank and to please their husbands, a virgin consecrated to Jesus Christ needs to cover herself only with a garment, however common it may be; she would even create scandal if she dressed herself with elegance. Moreover, virgins are not troubled with the care of a house, a family, a husband; their sole concern, the only desire of their hearts, is to please Jesus Christ, to whom they have dedicated their souls, their bodies, and all their affections. Thus they have more liberty of spirit to think of God, and more time to give themselves up to prayer and the frequentation of the sacraments. ...
“I shall put this question to you: Do you wish to leave the world to lead a comfortable life or to sanctify yourself; to do your will or that of Jesus Christ? And if you wish to leave the world, to sanctify yourself, and to please Jesus Christ, I ask you a second question: Tell me: in what does sanctity consist? Sanctity does not consist in remaining in the convent, nor in spending the entire day in the church, but it consists, on the one hand, in practising mental prayer and going to communion when one can, and on the other, in obeying, in rendering one’s self useful to the house, in living in retirement, and in suffering pain and contempt for God. …
At least, when you have given yourselves to God, if you have to suffer at home, you bear all for the love of Jesus Christ, and the Lord well knows how to make your cross light and sweet; but what a pain to have to suffer, and to suffer for the world, without consolation and without merit! Believe me, if Jesus calls you to his love, if he wishes you for his spouses, listen without fear to his voice; you will not fail to be consoled and even to rejoice in the midst of sufferings. This will, however, only be the case as long as you love him and conduct yourselves as his true spouses.
“Learn, then, what are the means that you should use so as to live as true spouses of Jesus Christ, and to attain sanctity.
“In order that a virgin may be holy, it is not sufficient that she should preserve her virginity and that she be called a spouse of Jesus Christ: it will be necessary that she should practise the virtues that are proper to a spouse of Jesus Christ. We read in the Gospel that heaven is like virgins; but what virgins?—no doubt wise, but not foolish, virgins. Wise virgins were led to the nuptials; but the foolish found the doors shut, and the Bridegroom said to them: I know you not: You are virgins, but I do not recognize you as my spouses. The true spouses of Jesus Christ follow their divine Spouse wherever he goes: These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth (Apoc. xiv. 4). What is it to follow the spouse? St. Augustine explains this to us: It is to imitate him by walking in his footsteps in body and in soul. After having consecrated to him your body, you must give him your whole heart, so that your heart may be entirely occupied in loving him.
“1. The first means is mental prayer, to which you should particularly apply yourselves. But do not believe that in order to make mental prayer it is necessary to be in the convent or to spend the entire day in the church. It is true that at home there is often noise, and there is much disturbance caused by persons who come and go; however, if one wishes one can always find a place and a time for devoting oneself to prayer, as when the house is more quiet, either in the morning before others rise, or in the evening after they have retired. Nor is it necessary, in order to pray, that one should always be on one’s knees: one may meditate even while working or while walking, when there is no other more suitable time; it is sufficient if one occupies one's self with God, as when one reflects on the Passion of Jesus Christ or on some other pious subject.
“2. The second means is the frequentation of the sacraments of confession and Communion. For confession we should choose a Director to whom we should be entirely submissive; without doing so we should not walk on the right road. As for Communion, it must depend entirely on obedience; but we must desire it and ask for it. This divine bread needs a soul that hungers after it; Jesus Christ wishes us to have a longing for him. It is frequent Communion that makes the spouses of Jesus Christ faithful to this heavenly Spouse, particularly in keeping them in holy purity. The Blessed Sacrament preserves in the soul all the virtues; but it is especially effective in preserving intact the lily of virginity, according to the words of the Prophet, who calls it: The corn of the chosen ones, and wine which maketh virgins to spring forth (Zach. ix. 17).
“3. The third means is retirement and vigilance. The divine Spouse compares his well-beloved to a lily surrounded by thorns: As the lily among thorns, so is My love among daughters (Cant. ii. 2). If a virgin wishes to live in the midst of society, of amusements, and other worldly frivolities, it will be impossible for her to remain faithful to Jesus Christ; she must, therefore, keep herself constantly among the thorns of obedience and of mortification, and should behave, especially towards men, not only with the greatest reserve and the greatest modesty in her looks and her words, but also when necessary with a rigid austerity, and even with rudeness. Such are the thorns that preserve lilies, that is, virgins; without these precautions they would soon go astray. The Lord also compares the beauty of his spouse to that of the turtle dove: Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle-dove’s (Cant. i. 9). Why? Because the turtle-dove is naturally inclined to flee the company of other birds, and loves to be always alone. A virgin, therefore, appears beautiful in the eyes of Jesus Christ when she leads a retired life, and does all she can to keep herself retired and hidden from the eyes of others. St. Jerome says that this Spouse of souls is jealous. Hence it is very displeasing to him to see a virgin, after having consecrated herself to his love, seeking to appear in the world and to please men. Those persons that are truly virtuous prefer to disfigure themselves rather than be the object of a bad desire. The venerable Sister Catharine of Jesus, before becoming a religious of St. Teresa, washed herself with dirty water, and then exposed herself to the sun so as to spoil her complexion. Bollandus relates that St. Andregesina, having been promised in marriage, begged the Lord to make her quite deformed, and her prayer was immediately heard. She at once appeared covered with leprosy so that every one fled from her; but after the espousals had been dissolved, she recovered her former beauty. We read in the Mirror of Examples, that there was in a convent a young virgin who had consecrated herself to God, and whose eyes had charmed a prince. The latter having threatened to set fire to the convent if she did not yield to his desires, what did she do? She tore out her eyes, and sent them to him in a basin with this message: "Here are the darts that have wounded your heart; take them, and leave me untouched." The same author also quotes the example of St. Euphemia, whom her father had promised in marriage to a count. Seeing that this suitor neglected no means to make her his wife, she one day took a knife and cut off her nose and her lips, saying: "Vain beauty, thou shalt not be to me any longer an occasion of sin!" Baronius also relates that St. Ebba, abbess of the monastery of Coldingham, fearing an invasion of the barbarians, cut off her nose and her upper lip as far as the teeth, and that after her example all the other religious, to the number of thirty, did the same thing. The barbarians actually came, and seeing them thus disfigured, they became furious, set fire to the monastery, and made all perish in the flames. The Church honors them as martyrs. They were incited to this heroic act by an impulse of the Holy Ghost; it is not permitted to others to act in this way. You see, moreover, in these examples what virgins who love Jesus Christ have done in order to escape the lust of men. Every fervent young maiden should at least endeavor to conduct herself with modesty, and expose herself as little as possible to the gaze of the world. If it should unfortunately happen that a virgin should be the victim of any violence, without her fault, let her be assured that her purity has not been tarnished. Hence St. Lucia answered the tyrant, who threatened to have her dishonored: "If I am outraged against my will, I shall obtain a double crown." We know the adage: "Not the feeling, but the consent, wounds the soul." Besides, you must be convinced that a young maiden who conducts herself with modesty and reserve will not fail to make herself respected.
“4. The fourth means in order to preserve purity is the mortification of the senses. St. Basil says: "It is altogether improper for a virgin to violate chastity, with the tongue, with the ears, with the touch, much less with the heart." A virgin, in order to remain pure, should be chaste with her tongue, by always speaking modestly, and only through necessity with men, and in this case in a few words; chaste with her ears, by avoiding to listen to discourses about the things of the world; chaste with her eyes, by keeping them shut or lowered to the ground in the presence of men; chaste with regard to the touch, by using the greatest precaution both in regard to others and in regard to herself; but she should be especially chaste in her heart by trying to resist every immodest thought by promptly having recourse to Jesus and Mary. For this purpose it will also be necessary for her to mortify her body by fasts, by abstinence, by disciplines, by ciliciums; but in order to practise these mortifications permission from the confessor must be asked: without this they would be rather hurtful to the soul, as they might inspire one with pride. No one should therefore practise such penances without having obtained permission from one’s Director; but one should desire the permission and ask it, for Directors do not grant it as long as we do not show them a desire to obtain it. Jesus is a Spouse of blood; he has espoused our souls on the cross, on which he has shed the last drop of his blood: A bloody spouse thou art to me (Exod. iv. 25). This is the reason why spouses that love him love to suffer tribulations, diseases, pains, ill-treatment, injuries, and they receive them not only with patience, but with joy. In this sense the passage of Scripture is understood, namely: These follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (Apoc. xiv. 4). They follow Jesus their divine Spouse by singing his praises with joy, even in the midst of reproaches and pains, after the example of so many holy martyrs who expressed their happiness amid tortures, or while they were on their way to the place of execution.
“5. Finally, in order to obtain the grace of perseverance in a holy life, you should take care often to recommend yourselves to the Queen of heaven, the most pure Mother of God. She is the mediatress who prepares and who concludes the union of souls with her divine Son; it is she that introduces and presents them to him as his spouses: After her shall virgins be brought to the King (Ps. xliv. 15). It is she, finally, that obtains for these chosen spouses the virtue of perseverance; without the help of Mary they would become so many faithless spouses.
“Prayer yo Jesus Christ.
“(The preacher, after having made all his hearers go down on their knees at the foot of the crucifix, or a statue of the Infant Jesus, which would suit better under the circumstances, thus continues:)
“You, then, who are listening to me I am addressing myself to young maidens who feel themselves called by the divine Spouse to renounce the world for the love of him—you who have conceived the pious design of not belonging to the world, but to Jesus Christ… I wish only that by a simple act, without contracting any obligation, you should render thanks to Jesus Christ for the favor that he has done you of having called you to his love, and that you should offer yourselves to belong entirely to him during your whole life. Speak to him in the following manner:
“Ah! my Jesus, my God and my Redeemer, who didst die for me; pardon me if I also call Thee my Spouse: I am bold enough to do so, because I see that Thou deignest to invite me to this honor; it is a favor for which I know not how to thank Thee. At present I deserve to be in hell, and instead of punishing me Thou wishest me to become Thy spouse. Yes, my divine Spouse, I renounce the world, I renounce everything for love of Thee, and I give myself entirely to Thee. What is the world to me? My Jesus, Thou shalt hence forth be my only good, my only love. I see that Thou wishest to possess my whole heart; I wish to give it to Thee entirely: please accept my offering; do not repel me as I deserve to be repelled. Forget all the displeasure that I have given Thee in the past; I repent of it with my whole soul; ah! would that I had died before offending Thee! Pardon me, inflame me with Thy holy love, and grant me the grace to be faithful to Thee, and never more to turn my back on Thee. Thou, my Spouse, hast given Thyself entirely to me; here I am, I give myself entirely to Thee.
“O Mary, my Queen and my Mother! bind, chain my heart to Jesus Christ, and attach it in such a manner that it may never be separated from him.
“(At the end, the preacher gives them the blessing with the crucifix, saying:)
“Now I am going to bless you, and by this blessing I wish to unite you to Jesus Christ in order that you may never more leave him; and while I am blessing you, you should give him your heart, saying:
“My Jesus, my divine Spouse, in future I will love Thee, Thee alone, and nothing more.” (The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, pp. 261-276)
Objection: You are not right in teaching that Mary was completely chaste during her whole life since the Bible teaches that Jesus had brothers during his life.
Matthew 13:55 “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?”