Of the Poverty of Mary
Jun 27th, 2021 • 5 min
OF THE POVERTY OF MARY.
Our loving Redeemer chose to be poor on this earth in order to teach us to despise the goods of this world: “Being rich,” says St. Paul, “he became poor for your sake, that through his poverty you might be rich.” 1 For this reason Jesus Christ says to each one who wishes to be his disciple: “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give it to the poor, and come follow me.” 2
Behold his most perfect disciple Mary, who indeed imitated his example. Father Canisius proves that the holy Virgin could have lived in comfort on the inheritance left her by her parents, but she was content to remain poor, reserving to herself a small portion, and giving the rest in alms to the temple and to the poor.
Many are of opinion that Mary also made a vow of poverty, 3 and it is known that she herself said to St. Bridget: “From the beginning I vowed in my heart never to possess any thing in the world.” 4 The gifts received from the holy Magi were certainly not of small value, but St. Bernard attests that she distributed them all to the poor. 5
And we learn that the divine mother immediately gave to others the presents above mentioned, from the fact that when she went to the temple she did not offer the lamb, which was the oblation made by those who were able, as we read in Leviticus: “For a son she shall bring a lamb,” 6 but she offered two turtle-doves and two young pigeons, the oblation of 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 had I gave to the poor, and kept nothing for myself but poor food and clothing.”
Through love of poverty she did not disdain to marry a poor carpenter, like St. Joseph, and afterwards, as St. Bonaventure relates, to support herself by the work of her hands, as sewing or spinning. An angel revealed to St. Bridget concerning Mary, that worldly riches were in her eyes vile as dirt: “Mundanae divitae velut lutum sibi vilescebat.” In a word, she always lived in poverty, and she died in poverty; for as Metaphrastes and Nicephorus relate, she left nothing behind her at her death but two poor garments to two women, who had assisted her during life. 7
He who loves riches, said St. Philip Neri, will never become a saint; and St. Theresa also said: It justly follows that he who goes in search of things lost is also lost. On the other hand, the same saint said, that this virtue of poverty is a good that comprises all other goods. I have said the virtue of poverty which, according to St. Bernard, does not consist alone in being poor, but in loving poverty: “Non paupertas, sed amor paupertatis virtus est.”
Therefore Jesus Christ has said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 8 Blessed, because they who wish for nothing but God, in God find every good, and find in poverty their paradise on earth, as St. Francis found it in saying: My God and my all: “Deus meus et omnia.”
Let us, then, according to the exhortation of St. Augustine, love that only good in which is every good: “Ama unum bonum, in quo sunt omnia bona.” And let us pray our Lord with St. Ignatius: Give me only thy love together with thy grace, and I am rich enough. 9 And when poverty afflicts us, let us console ourselves by the thought that Jesus and his mother have also been poor like us. 10
Ah, my most holy mother, thou hadst in truth reason to say, that in God was thy joy: “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,” 11 for in this world thou didst not desire nor love any other good than God. Draw me after thee: “Trahe me post te.” Oh Lady! detach me from the world, and draw me after thee to love that one who alone merits to be loved. Amen.
1 Propter vos egenus factus est, cum esset dives, et illius inopia vos divites essetis. 2 Cor. viii. 9.
2 Si vis perfectus esse, vende quae habes, et da pauperibus … et veni, sequere me. Matth. xix. 21.
3 Ap. Parav. p. c. 2.
4 A principio vovi in corde meo nihil unquam possidere in mundo. L. 1, c. 10.
5 Aurum sibi oblatum a magis non modicum, prout decebat eorum regiam majestatem, non sibi reservavit, sed pauperibus per Joseph distribuit. Ap. Par. loc. cit.
6 Pro filio … deferet agnum. xii. 6.
7 Ap. auct. Vit. Mar. L. 5, c. 13.
8 Beati pauperes spiritu quoniam ipsorum est regnum coelorum. Matth. v. 3.
9 Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis
10 Pauper multum consolari potest de paupertate Mariae, et de paupere Christo.
11 Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
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