|The Hodegetria is an icon illustrating St. Mary holding the Christ child on her side while gesturing to Him as our source of salvation.|
Of all earthly goods, honor is that which is generally the most esteemed. By its nature, honor is the fitting reward of virtue, to the acquisition of which it acts as an incentive. But it becomes a danger, whenever it is sought by unlawful means, or when we attribute it exclusively to ourselves, that is, without reference to God, the source of all true honor. The example of Mary is the shining light which should rule our conduct in this respect.
Chosen amongst all creatures to be Mother of the Word Incarnate, hailed "full of grace" by the Angel Gabriel, proclaimed by St. Elizabeth "blessed among all women" Mary was in no wise puffed up, but she referred to God the praises given to herself. "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour; because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid." (Luke, I, 46-48.)
Jesus came upon this earth not to be honored but to be humbled and despised, so as to seem "a worm and no man: the reproach of men and the outcast of the people." (Ps. xxi. 7.) After the example of Jesus, Mary, during the whole public life of her Son, fled honors, and appeared in His company only to share with Him the cup of bitterness and scorn: "The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." (Ps. lxviii. 10.)
The soul which fears God and is anxious to procure His glory only, does not shun humiliations; on the contrary, it accepts them with resignation and joy. And together with humiliations it embraces also voluntary poverty. It knows that riches are, of their own nature, an impediment to charity, by minstering to sensuality, by keeping the soul back from the service of God, and blunting its sense of dependence upon Him.
Furthermore, riches tend to make the practice of charity very difficult, that divine virtue being incompatible with attachment to worldly goods. For this reason, our divine Saviour has taught us that the renunciation of the goods of this world is the foundation upon which the perfection of charity rests; and, to unite example with precept, He Himself "being rich, became poor for our sakes." (2 Cor. viii, 9.)
Mary, therefore, although born of royal blood, lived with her faithful spouse St. Joseph, in the greatest poverty. She earned her daily bread by the labor of her hands. Nay more, at the time of the birth of Jesus, her poverty was so great, that she and St. Joseph could find no place in the inns of the town. The Creator of the world must be laid in a rough manger. But Mary's burning love is ample compensation for the poverty of the crib.
O holy poverty, so despised, yet withal so dear to the Heart of Jesus, who has said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit!" (Matt. v. 3.) Oh, that I may make thee mine; that treading under foot the goods of this world, I may aspire only to the imperishable goods of eternity!
The soul that would preserve in itself the fear of God, should take heed lest a disordered attachment to honors and riches may estrange it from the path of virtue. When we seriously reflect that earthly glory is a transitory thing, and that the goods of this world are of short duration, we can experience no difficulty in despising what is incapable of procuring us true happiness.
In order that our hearts may be filled with the love of God, they must be emptied of all earthly attachment. But, further, the soul that would be truly pleasing to Jesus will go beyond this: it will renounce with generosity all the goods of this world, and will embrace the humility and poverty of the cross.
Happy the disciple of Christ, who knows how to tread honors and riches beneath his feet! Together with divine charity, the fear of God will dwell in him, as pledge of a blessed eternity.
Blessed Francis Patrizi
Blessed Francis Patrizi of Siena seemed predestined to become one of the greatest Servants of Mary. Even before his birth, his mother Reginalda dreamt that she was begetting a most beautiful lily which would adorn the image of Our Lady. As a child he began the habit of often saying five hundred Hail Marys at a time making as many genuflections before the statue of the Queen of Heaven.
At the age of twenty he had a wonderful vision. Our blessed Lady herself appeared to him surrounded by angels and tenderly invited him to consecrate himself entirely to her service in the Order of her Servants. Having complied with Mary's wish, he began to make extraordinary progress in sanctity under the guidance of St. Philip Benizi. When he became a priest he had nothing more at heart than to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass with living faith and devotion.
Penetrated by the greatness of his vocation as a Servant of Mary, he gave himself up, with all the ardor of his soul, to the service of Our Lady, urging every one, both from the confessional and the pulpit, to love and serve faithfully this celestial Queen. By this means, he succeeded in leading many souls to the highest degree of sanctity. All the time he had left over from his ministry, he spent in increasing his prayers, especially in saying the Hail Mary and in singing the praises of our blessed Lady.
Such piety could not go unrewarded. One day, as Francis was going to preach in a neighboring village, and feeling too tired to reach his destination, he sat by the wayside to take a little rest. The Queen of Heaven then appeared to him in the guise of a noble lady and gave him a bunch of fresh roses, the fragrance of which comforted him. But he felt that his end was drawing near. When about to die, he again had the consolation of seeing our blessed Lady, who appeared to him in all her splendor, summoning him to paradise. Full of virtues and merits, he died on the Feast of the Ascension, 1328, saying the words of Christ on the cross: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
After his death, a beautiful lily sprang from his mouth bearing on its leaves the legend Ave Maria, an evident witness and everlasting sign of the pleasure taken by the Queen of Heaven in the numberless and fervent acts of worship and reverence offered to her by this most faithful of her Servants. (Monuments Ord. Serv. B.M.V.)
O Mary, whose most pure Heart was exempt from all disorderly attachment to honors and wealth, and so burned always with the most lively flame of charity, obtain for us, after thine example, to tread under foot all earthly honor, and so to despise riches, that we may preserve always within us the holy fear of God. Amen.