The Divine Will Part II: The Obedience of Mary

I want to continue the Divine Will Series by focusing on the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is honored in a special way during the month of May.

Mary was perfectly obedient to God.

Obedience is misunderstood in our modern culture. It is often looked down upon and seen as a sign of weakness.

Obedience, however, is a virtue.

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.

(Catechism 1803)

By practicing obedience, a person can grow in holiness and become a saint.

Because of her constant and complete surrender to God’s Will, Mary has been given the greatest glory. She is the holiest of God’s creatures, exalted above every angel and saint!

Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, commonly known as Saint Alphonsus Liguori, had a deep devotion to Our Lady.

He was a prominent moral theologian of the eighteenth century and is a Doctor of the Church.

St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote The Glories of Mary — which is now one of the most widely used manuals of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I want to share an excerpt from this book because it explains Mary’s virtue of obedience, which teaches us how to live in the Divine Will.

“Pietà“ by Michelangelo. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Photo from my parents

Of the Obedience of Mary

It was through the affection which Mary bore to the virtue of obedience, that when the annunciation was made to her by St. Gabriel, she did not wish to call herself by any other name than that of handmaid: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: “Ecce ancilla Domini.” Indeed, says St. Thomas of Villanova, this faithful handmaid neither in act, word, nor thought, ever disobeyed the Lord, but divested of all self-will, she always, and in all things, lived obedient to the divine will. She herself declared that God was pleased with her obedience when she said: He regarded the humility of his handmaid: “Respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;” for this is the humility of a servant, to be always prompt to obey. St. Augustine says, that the divine mother remedied by her obedience the evil that Eve had caused by her disobedience. The obedience of Mary was far more perfect than that of all the other saints, for all men being inclined to evil through original sin, they all feel difficulty in doing right; but not so the blessed Virgin; for as St. Bernardine says: Because she was free from original sin, there was in her no hindrance in obeying God, but she was like a wheel readily moved at every divine breath; hence her only occupation on this earth, as the same saint expresses it, was to discover and do what was pleasing to God. Of her it was said: My soul melted when he spoke: “Anima mea liquefacta est, ut locutus est.” Commenting on this passage, Richard says that the soul of Mary was like metal in a state of fusion, ready to take any form that was pleasing to God.

Mary proved indeed the readiness of her obedience, in the first place, when, in order to please God, she was willing even to obey the Roman emperor, and made the journey, fifty miles, to Bethlehem, in winter, being pregnant, and so poor that she was obliged to bring forth her Son in a stable. She was also ready at the notice of St. Joseph, to set out immediately on that very night upon the longer and more difficult journey into Egypt. And Silveira asks why the command to fly into Egypt, was given to St. Joseph and not to the blessed Virgin, who was to suffer the most from the journey? And he answers: Lest the Virgin should be deprived of an opportunity for performing an act of obedience for which she was most ready. But above all, she showed her heroic obedience, when, in order to obey the divine will, she offered her Son to death with so much firmness that, as St. Ildephonsus says, she would have been ready to crucify him, if executioners had been wanting. Hence the venerable Bede, commenting on those words of the Redeemer to that woman in the Gospel who exclaimed: “Blessed is the womb that bore thee:” “Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it,” says, that Mary was more happy through obedience to the divine will, than in being the mother of God himself.

For this reason it is, that those who love obedience are very pleasing to the Virgin. She appeared once to a religious, a Franciscan, named Accorso, in his cell, who being called by obedience to go and hear the confession of a sick person, went out, but when he returned he found Mary waiting for him, and she greatly praised his obedience. As, on the other hand, she greatly blamed another religious, who, when the bell had summoned him to the refectory, delayed in order to finish certain devotions. The Virgin, speaking to St. Bridget of the security found in obeying a spiritual father, said: Obedience has brought all the saints to glory: “Obedientia omnes introducit ad gloriam.” St. Philip Neri also says, that God requires no account of things done in obedience, having himself declared: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.” The mother of God herself revealed to St. Bridget, that through the merit of her obedience she had obtained from the Lord that all penitent sinners who have recourse to her, should be pardoned [emphasis added]. Ah, our queen and mother, pray Jesus for us, obtain for us through the merit of thy obedience that we may be faithful in obeying his will, and the commands of our spiritual fathers. Amen.

Fiat Voluntas Tua + Thy Will Be Done

2 thoughts on “The Divine Will Part II: The Obedience of Mary

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