Sisters of the Annunciade -- Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary

MEDITATIONS ON THE 10 VIRTUES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

CHASTITY

The virtue of chastity is the first of Mary’s virtues mentioned in the Gospel. For us, chastity is the door through which we are able to gaze into Mary’s soul.

A chaste heart is naturally turned towards the light, towards God, who is the source of all goodness.

In order to love with an undivided heart, the heart must give of itself totally. It looks for ways to please his Beloved the most; it conforms itself to His will. Everything about it is simple: there is no calculation, falsehood, or deception.

We think about chastity as of something unattainable: what a long road lies ahead of us! How helpful it is to turn our gaze to Mary of Nazareth, the Immaculate Virgin!

“Nothing on earth is as pure as the soul of Mary! It is like a crystalline ocean under the midday sun...” Br. David (En Calcat)
Hail, Mary, full of grace.

Mary is completely chaste: being immaculate from her conception, she devoted all of her power for loving towards God. In her virginity, she surrendered her soul, heart, mind, and body to God as His own possession:

“... I know not man” (Lk 1:34). Her chastity is her “yes” given to God; it was a “yes” to everything He may expect from her; and the first “yes” is to her miraculous motherhood: the Child was conceived within her!

She will live out this mystery of virginal motherhood in her marriage to Joseph: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her" (Mt 1:20).

Mary is devoted to God in her entirety, and that makes her open to loving all people.

What about us, then? “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27). If purity of heart is in saying “yes” to God; then we all know that we have to say “no” to sinful inclinations, from which we are not free. Loving with a free heart means fighting selfish pleasures and everything else that can stain or disturb our conscience.

In order to continue our struggle for chastity, the Church recommends us to frequently receive the sacraments and to pray often, especially the Rosary. On our own, we cannot resist the many temptations of the world today. Therefore, we invoke the assistance of Mary and the saints. Each of us is at least partly responsible for the chastity of the environment in which we live!

We must strive to be vigilant so as to avoid occasions of sin: shows that ought not to be watched, conversations that must be avoided, proposals that cannot be accepted if we do not want to trouble our own conscience and that of the others. All this simply we must do because we are Christians.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God! Mary, Virgin most pure, lead us to the Light!

PRUDENCE

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that prudence “enables the practical mind to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.” (CCC, 1806) The virtue of prudence naturally follows the first virtue, because “perfect wisdom and prudence consist in knowing how to please God and guarding against every sin that wounds Him” (The Rule of the Annunciade Sisters, Ch. 2)

Prudence directs all the other virtues. It must also guide our conscience and our actions. It includes foresight and thinks of the future; it also remembers the events of the past and draws conclusions from them. It is realistic, concrete, and uses common sense. All of these qualities are found in the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Consider Mary’s attitude at the Annunciation: “She…pondered, what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). She is not hasty, she wonders, asks questions, and ascertains whether this greeting is not inconsistent with her choice of virginity. Only afterwards does she give her consent: such is Mary’s wisdom! During the shepherds’ visit that followed Jesus’ birth, Mary listens and says nothing, but she retains in her heart all the events and ponders them in silence for a long time.

After the departure of the Magi, having learned that Herod wanted to kill Jesus, His parents fled with the child to Egypt. Why? In order to protect Him. Later – after Herod’s death – they did not return to Bethlehem to avoid other dangers. This is the prudence of Mary, who teaches us that there are inherent dangers in the spiritual life, which are more easily overcome by escaping than fighting, especially if they are the temptations of the flesh and our ambitions.

Mary teaches us silence and meditation, which allow us to discern the good and choose the appropriate means for obtaining it. Imitating Mary, we should be “slow to speak and quick to listen,” knowing how to “discern in our hearts, even before we open our mouth, what we shall say so as to avoid all negative words and all lies” (The Rule, Ch. 2). We will then be able to discover and experience the mysteries of silence, because “God speaks to the heart in silence.” Let us imitate the triple prudence of Mary: in listening, meditating, and discerning. We must listen with love to the Word of God; discern in order to develop wise judgment; finally, ponder at length all the events within the heart, asking God to illuminate them for us with His light.

Mother most prudent, be our teacher!

HUMILITY

The virtue of humility is cheerful and dynamic; it gives you wings! Why? Because it is based on the truth of our human condition and rejoices in it.

We are created by God, who loves us and gives everything in abundance: life, movement, being ... In Him we live and move and have our being, as St. Paul stated. We live by His grace; we are in constant relationship with Him; we cannot be independent from Him. Humility gladly agrees to receive everything like a child who receives everything from his parents. Humility declares itself not to be the owner of the gifts and benefits which one may possess: humility receives them, gives thanks for them, and rejoices in them!

In the Gospel of St. Luke, the first sign of humility is confusion and fear. The angel calls Mary “full of grace,” and she is troubled: such glory belongs to God, not to her! The angel Gabriel reassures her and communicates God’s message. Mary replies: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

All Mary’s life is expressed in these few words. She is at the service of the Lord and agrees to everything that He asks of her. She knows how to love the Lord and trust in Him. Mary’s humility foreshadows the humility of the Son: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).

Pride came into the world through sin and brought along with it in its retinue: ambition, rivalry, and violence.

We recognize that humility is not natural to us. We want to be successful, to be admired, to attract attention. We are concerned about our well-being; we do not dare to reveal our weaknesses and limitations. Since all this gives false impressions, we are not truly happy.

The truth is far more beautiful: God does not forbid our seeking greatness, but shows us a particular way to achieve it: “Whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:26). He Himself illustrates it with His own example.

Mary has always been very humble, and the Lord looked upon her humility. Like a tree whose branches bend to the ground under the weight of fruit, so Mary humbles herself the more, the more she is endowed with graces by the Lord. Indeed, humility gives us wings, and Mary sings in her Magnificat: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Mary, joyful in her humility, lead us along the paths of the Lord!

FAITH

“Mary was strong in her faith.” “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (The Rule, Ch. 4).

What is faith? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that first of all faith is a virtue given by God, by which we believe in God and all that He have said and revealed, because God is truth itself. By faith man entrusts himself to God. We speak about the obedience of faith, because faith is expressed through our actions.

Do we want to be sure that our faith is pleasing to God? Let’s look at Abraham, the father of believers. God puts his faith to the test: He tells him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Abraham obeys. But the moment he picks up the knife, God stops him: “Do not lay your hand on the boy. […] Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son” (Gen 22:12). “Because you acted as you did ... I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars in the sky and as the sand of the seashore” (Gen 22:16.17). God rejoices in the total trust that Abraham displayed toward Him!

The Virgin Mary is often called the “daughter of Abraham.” She fulfills in the most perfect way the obedience of faith, inaugurated by her distant ancestor.

What does the Gospel state? That Mary has accepted with faith the message and promise brought by the angel Gabriel. She believed that “nothing would be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37). Through faith she conceived the Son of God.

Led by faith, she “travelled to the hill country” to see her cousin Elizabeth, who – although advanced in years – also conceived a son. Mary greeted her, and Elizabeth cried out and said: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).

Looking at the Scriptures, one notices that faith is often shown against the background of mountains. Abraham must go to a mount in the land of Moriah to sacrifice his son; Mary goes to the hill country to visit her cousin. The Rule of the Annunciades says that through faith we can climb to the top of the mountain of perfection, which is indeed a challenging mountain! Let us then follow the path of Mary. She precedes us on the pilgrimage of faith, as St. John Paul II said, in faithfulness until the end of our days.

The Gospel account of the Annunciation concludes with these words: “Then the angel departed from her” (Lk 1:38): the light was extinguished. From that moment on, Mary continues along her path through the night ... “Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God’s word” (CCC 149). The next day, after the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb, all hope of the world was focused on the only flame that rose to Heaven: Mary’s faith waiting in silence for the promised resurrection.

Mary, protect us in the midst of our trials and doubts. Share with us your confidence!

DEVOTION

The Magnificat is the first prayer uttered by Mary (according to the Gospel of St. Luke). Mary sings her gratitude in “immense joy and recollection.”

To express her praise, she chooses scriptural passages that she knows by heart. In her song, she interprets her own history and that of her people, recalling the benefits and “promises made to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Lk 1:55). Mary is the pure worship of the God of Israel.

Every year, together with Joseph, Mary participates in the great liturgy at the Temple, fulfills the provisions of the Law, and presents her offerings to the Lord. This is the second manifestation of her prayers.

St. Luke mentions three times that Mary’s “returns” to Nazareth. She does not pray only during major celebrations and holy days. When the celebration ends, everyone returns to their home. Mary finds her everyday life in intimacy to Jesus, whom she contemplates, serves, and loves.

Together with the apostles, Mary is also present in the Upper Room. “All devoted themselves to prayer” in anticipation of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Mary begins her great maternal mission; she remains in prayer with the Church until the end of time. Let us go to her school: she can teach us so much!

It is good to listen to Jesus’ words together with Mary: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? […] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:48.50). To listen to the Lord in silence – that is already prayer. To relish a Gospel passage before going to bed is a prayer pleasing to God!

We sing of God’s glory and thank Him with the words of the Magnificat. We uncover with Mary the wealth of Psalms, which both she and Jesus prayed. Together with Mary, we read anew our own history and find in it the signs of the Father’s love. Perhaps we can compose our own personal Magnificat, starting with verses from the Psalms that speak to us in a special way – this is a prayer pleasing to God!

The sacrifices and offerings made in the Temple find their fulfillment in the one sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.

Mary is united to the sacrifice of the true paschal lamb: Jesus, her Son. Thenceforth, after the resurrection of the Lord, Mary’s praise reaches its summit through her participation in the Eucharistic liturgies. We too, after the example of Mary, dedicate ourselves to Christ in every Eucharist and draw joy from the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as if thus prolonging Mary’s intimacy with Jesus in Nazareth.

“Praying is thinking about Jesus and loving Him,” said Bl. Charles de Foucauld.

Mary, joyful in the praise of God, share with us your joy and perseverance!

OBEDIENCE

Like a nut whose the shell is hard and bitter while the meat is tasty, obedience may not appear very appealing at first glance. Does it not limit our freedom? On the contrary, obedience to God is, in fact, the path to happiness. God our Father shows us where goodness can be found and how to attain it. Obedience should be our response to His love. Jesus says, “I do always what pleases the Father.”

After Adam’s disobedience, our filial relationship with the Father was destroyed: unhappiness descended on the world. Through His obedience “unto death, even death on a cross,” Jesus rebuilt this relationship: obedience to God is no longer a burden, but the path of freedom, the school for learning true happiness!

“Mary has been always very obedient to God and to people for the sake of God” (The Rule, Ch. 6).

Mary’s obedience to God: through obedience, she conceived the Son of God. After the birth of Jesus, she, the purest of all, submitted herself to the rite of purification for young mothers, as required by the Law of Moses. Likewise, she fulfilled the custom of dedicating her firstborn to the Lord. A pair of turtledoves or pigeons was offered to fulfill the requirements of the law that were nevertheless not applicable to the Son of the Most High!

Mary’s obedience to people for the sake of God: Cesar Augustus issued an edict ordering the census; together with Joseph, Mary goes to Bethlehem, Joseph’s hometown. She does this out of obedience, thus acknowledging herself as a subject of the Roman emperor.

These manifestations of obedience are for Mary an opportunity to live totally dependent upon God. In these events and the people whom she met, she perceived the guiding hand of the Father. “Obeying means loving,” wrote St. Bernadette. Obedience is lived out in the relationship of mutual love; if it is lacking, then such obedience would be the submission of a slave! The source of obedience is the mystery of the Three Persons of the Trinity who are totally dependent on each other. Let us re-read the Gospel according to St. John and note that for Jesus the fulfillment of the Father's is true happiness!

Everyday life gives us many opportunities to live in obedience; but do we know how to benefit from them? It may happen in our professional life that we would be called to show obedience to our “difficult” bosses...

We can reflect on Jesus' answer to Pilate: “You would have no power over me, if it were not given you from above.” Perhaps in this light we can begin to look at problems as a call to a life of Christ’s filial obedience, who – just like His mother – wanted to “be obedient to God and people for the sake of God.”

The Fathers of the Church emphasize that the Mary’s obedience wipes out the Eve's disobedience.

We may think of the obedience as a cure for the sin of pride: by submitting to the decisions of others, accepting the decision that we do not like or an opinion different from ours. There are so many opportunities to offer to God our obedience and love.

With you, Mary, who desired to be a “handmaid,” may we learn that “to obey means to love.”

POVERTY

Someone discovered a pearl of great price and then sold all his possessions to buy it.

This pearl is poverty in heart! The first beatitude says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven!” Mary teaches us to guard carefully the evangelical pearl poverty.

It is a choice to be poor, to live in poverty. It means to not be a slave of possessions; to be satisfied with the necessities; to sacrifice the unnecessary, useless the things. Poverty is the good to be protected, while the destitution is an evil to be exterminated. Our Lord is a perfect model of the poor, as St. Paul stated: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

The Virgin Mary lived a life of poverty: we can see that at the birth of Jesus. When God came into the world, He chose poverty ... While they arrived in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth. Yet, they couldn’t find a place to stay. A manger for animals had to suffice for them, where they laid the baby. But Mary was thankful even for this.

Let us not hesitate, but let us open wide our doors to Jesus: He needs to be welcomed by us, even if all we have to offer is a poor stable. Our desire to welcome Jesus will nurture Him. Our efforts to please will keep Him warm.

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21). Where is the treasure of Mary? Her treasure is Jesus, Emmanuel – God with us.

And what about us? Where is our treasure? Is it in financial success, consumerism, or in being a companion of Jesus Christ? The poor in heart do not find happiness in the accumulation of wealth. When we live a life of poverty, we discover other values that give us true joy: trust in Divine providence, generosity, freedom of spirit, openness to others.

It is possible to have wealth and still live a life of poverty as long as one doesn’t become a slave to one’s riches. But this is a dangerous condition. The more we possess, the more we want to possess, and then the heart closes itself off to the one true treasure: the love of God and neighbor. May the Lord heal us from all kinds of greed, gluttony, and covetousness... May He have mercy upon the rich of this world and open their eyes to the needs of their brothers.

O Mary, help us discover the treasure of poverty, chosen and willed out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ!

PATIENCE

The Larousse Dictionary [for French] defines patience as “the ability to persevere in bearing ailments and life’s discomforts (nuisances).” Patience is then a very useful quality especially for us, who consider ourselves to be Christ’s disciples, because all those who want to follow Christ are exposed to injustice or persecution. Such cases occur today in many countries. It is necessary to be patient; to endure everything calmly, not to become discouraged ... This is a difficult path. Fortunately, the Lord helps us in our weakness.

“Mary was always very patient and in order to please God, she endured with patience persecution of Herod” (The Rule, Ch. 8), who gave the order to kill all the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem. Joseph, warned in a dream, took the child and his mother and fled to Egypt. They experienced first-hand the precarious situation of all refugees. Let us think about the ocean of pain that had to pour into their hearts upon learning later about the massacre of the innocents. This is the patience of the persecuted.

The story of Jesus found in the temple allows us learn more about Mary’s patience. Having wistfully looked for her son for three days and finally having found Him, she spoke in tones of true joy, full of maternal concern: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Lk 2:48). To have lost one’s child, to have not known where he was, to have looked for him for three days – Mary experienced that, too. With Joseph she continues without rest her quest for Jesus, placing all her trust in God. Finally they found him in the temple. No bitterness, no remorse, only a quiet complaint, which expresses her maternal tenderness: "My child, why ...?" The answer of Jesus is for them incomprehensible. When they returned to Nazareth, Mary patiently pondered this event in her heart and tried to understand it. Such is the patience of parents.

During the public life of Jesus, Mary saw the Son of aggressiveness Jews terms, heard unjust judgments, saw hateful glances, she felt a growing hatred, and bore it all. Patience despised.

We no doubt will please God when we practice the virtue of patience!

Patience means accepting the small trials of everyday life: the noise from the neighbors, the air conditioning or heat breaking down, the weariness of using public transport, the mood swings of one’s spouse, the cries of the children, all these little “nothings” are precisely the trials that put our patience to the rest. That is patience!

Be patient with yourself: do not become discouraged with prayer in spiritual warfare ... The road is long. Let us not forget that the Lord awaits us in the sacraments, to give strength, patience, perseverance.

Mary, who preserves gentleness and a smile in adversity, help us!

MERCY

Mercy is the “love of God, poured into your hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us.”

It is grafted onto one’s natural goodness and radiates with the love of God. Mary, full of grace, is filled, permeated with this love and radiates it in all of her actions, words, smiles, and tears.

Mary radiates love, compassion, goodness, and mercy for all, beginning with the Infant whom she carries in her womb and nourishes. It is known what a great exchange of love there is between a mother and her child nourished by her breast. When we realize that that mother is the Virgin Mary, and the child is the Son of God – at that moment we stand at the threshold of the mystery and God rejoices in this!

Unfortunately, they must soon flee to Egypt! To defend the Child from Herod’s anger, to protect His life, bearing the discomfort: this is Mary’s love – so full of concern.

Mary concerns herself even with this: “They have no more wine” (Jn 2:3), as she said to her Son. Then to the servants she said, with her calming smile: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).

How can we incarnate the mercy of Mary in our lives?

First, by loving Jesus “with all our heart”; nourishing Jesus by loving Him; thinking about Him, by praying, by living His Word, to permit Him to grow within us and the world.

We must protect the treasure who dwells within us; sometimes we must “flee to Egypt,” in order to avoid enemies lying in wait: to avoid neglecting prayer, the sacraments; to avoid temptations and all false gods, which desire to lead us astray.

Mary, at the wedding in Cana, desires that we be sources of peace.

This is the first thing necessary, if we desire to please the Lord. Then we must have our eyes open to the needs of others, as if they were our own, and to plead for their needs: “They have no more wine.” Do we no longer have the strength to bring solace to the destitute in the world. Let us then go to the Lord:

“Look, Lord…” and this prayer brings fruit – even though it may not be visible to us.

Prayer is needed – but also commitment! To awaken faith in hearts, beginning with acts of charity and service. “Do whatever He tells you,” those are the only words of Mary, which she spoke to people; she does not cease to repeat the same to us 2,000 years later.

Mary, teach us to do all that Jesus asks of us.

SORROW (COMPASSION)

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus responded to His Mother: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

The hour of His perfect self-offering, the hour of the sword piercing her soul, had not yet come. “The Virgin Mary – according to the witness of the Gospel – stood near the cross of Jesus.”

She remains silent, contemplating, filled with compassion. This is the secret of crucified love: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (Jn 10:18).

Mary’s will is united with that of Jesus, nailed to the cross: her compassion and participation in the Passion of her Son, for the salvation of the world. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Mary is perfectly submissive to the will of the Father through obedience; she is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Yes, Mary also so loved the world, that she gave her only begotten Son, so that the world could be saved. In this way, Mary gives birth to us in pain to life eternal.

Through the contemplation of the mystery of the cross, we discover – through tears and pain – that all our human sufferings are fruitful, if we place them at the foot of the cross. It is precisely Mary who teaches this to us.
,br> When we lose someone dear to us, when we remember his last moments, his gaze, his words – we preserve him in our memory as a treasure. Such people are still alive; we think of them, remember those moments anew. Each word and action can still tell us something, and each time our love grows even stronger and awakens gratitude. This is how it was with the Mother of Jesus. After the Resurrection, in the midst of the Apostles and disciples, Mary once again lived through – in silence – the Passion of her Son, walking along in spirit the path along which Jesus walked to Calvary; standing at the foot of the Cross, contemplating the wounds of Jesus, lost in wonder at the power of His love, suffering love, stronger than pain, stronger than death!

On our part, let us cherish this living through the Passion of the Lord along with Mary by taking out the beads of the Rosary, making the Way of the Cross, and in particular, by participating in the Eucharist. Each holy Mass makes the offering of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of the world present once again. From the open side of Christ flow out the streams of blood and water, giving us life. In each Eucahrist, Mary gives us her Son and receives us as her own children.

In this way the compassion of Mary for her crucified Son becomes compassion for all those who suffer: in each one of us Mary finds her own Son, stands by Him, suffers with Him, and gives Him courage. She pours into us her own hope.

“Life has conquered death! The cross has conquered hell!” Alleluia!

Mary, most sorrowful, teach us to have compassion and to feel the sadness of those around us and give them hope!


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