Mary and the Martyrdom of Patience
Jun 29th, 2021 • 5 min
OF THE PATIENCE OF MARY.
Since this earth is a place of merit, it is justly called a valley of tears; for we are all placed here to suffer, and by patience to obtain for our souls eternal life: “In your patience you shall possess your souls,” 1 said our Lord. God gave us the Virgin Mary as an example of all virtues, but especially as an example of patience.
St. Francis of Sales, among other things, remarks, that at the nuptials of Cana Jesus Christ gave an answer to the most holy Virgin, by which he seemed to pay but little regard to her prayers: Woman, what is that to thee and to me? “Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier?” precisely for this reason, that he might give us an example of the patience of his holy mother.
But why seek further? The whole life of Mary was a continual exercise of patience, for, as an angel revealed to St. Bridget, the blessed Virgin lived always in the midst of sufferings. 2
Her compassion alone for the sufferings of the Redeemer was enough to make her a martyr of patience; wherefore St. Bonaventure says: The crucified conceived the crucified: “Crucifixa crucifixum concepit.” When we spoke of her dolors, we considered all she suffered, as well in her journey and life in Egypt, as during the whole time she lived with her Son in the workshop of Nazareth. But the presence of Mary on Calvary, with her dying Jesus, is alone enough to show us how constant and sublime was her patience: There stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother: “Stabat juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus.” Then, by the merit of this her patience, as blessed Albertus Magnus remarks, she became our mother, and brought us forth to the life of grace. 3
If we desire then to be the children of Mary, we must seek to imitate her patience. And what, says St. Cyprian, can enrich us more with merit in this life, and glory in the other, than bearing sufferings with patience? 4
God said by the mouth of the prophet Osee: I will hedge up thy way with thorns: “Sepiam viam tuam spinis.” 5 St. Gregory remarks on this passage, that the ways of the elect are hedged with thorns: “Electorum viae spinis sepiuntur.” For as a hedge of thorns protects the vine, so God encompasses his servants with tribulation, in order that they may not become attached to the earth; therefore St. Cyprian concludes, patience delivers us from sin and from hell: “Patientia nos servat.”
And it is patience that makes the saints: “Patience hath a perfect work,” 6 bearing in peace the crosses that come to us directly from God, as sickness, poverty, &c., as well as those that come to us from men, such as persecutions, injuries, &c.
St. John saw all the saints with palms, the emblem of martyrdom, in their hands. “After this I saw a great multitude … and palms were in their hands;” 7 signifying by this that all men must be martyrs by the sword, or by patience.
Be then joyful, exclaims St. Gregory: We can be martyrs without blood, if we preserve patience.8 If we suffer the afflictions of this life, as St. Bernard says, patiently and joyfully: “Patienter, et gaudenter,” oh, how much every pain endured for God will obtain for us in heaven!
Hence the apostle encourages us in these words: “Our tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us … an eternal weight of glory.” 9
Beautiful are the instructions of St. Theresa on this subject: “He who embraces the cross,” she says, “does not feel it.” And again: “When a person resolves to suffer, the pain is over.”
And if we feel our crosses heavy, let us have recourse to Mary, who is called by the Church: the comforter of the afflicted: “Consolatrix afflictorum;” and by St. John Damascene: The remedy for all sorrows of the heart: “Omnium dolorum cordium medicamentum.”
Ah, my most sweet Lady, thou, though innocent, didst suffer with so much patience, and shall I, who am deserving of hell, refuse to suffer? My mother, to-day I ask of thee the grace not to be exempt from crosses, but to support them with patience. For the love of Jesus I pray thee to obtain for me nothing less than this grace from God; through you I hope for it.
1 In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras. Luc. xxi. 19.
2 Sicut rosa crescere solet inter spinas; ita haec venerabilis Virgo in hoc mundo crevit inter tribulationes. Serm. Ang. c. 10.
3 Maria facta est mater nostra, quos genuit filio compatiendo.
4 Quid utilius ad vitam, vel majus ad gloriam, quam patientis.
5 2, 6.
6 Jac. i. 4.
7 Post haec vidi turbam magnam … et palmae in manibus eorum. Apoc. vii. 8.
8 Nos sine ferro martyres esse possumus, si patientiam en todiamus.
9 Momentaneum, et leve tribulationis nostrae … aeternum gloriae pondus operatur in nobis. 2 Cor. iv. 17.
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