Mary: Who She Is and Why She Matters

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Part 4: Jesus Christ is a Jealous Lover

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 7, 2016)
The following is part 4 of a special series on the role Mary plays in the life of the Church.

In the previous article of this series, we looked at the meaning of purity of heart. In this article, let's expand on what we said about the great danger to purity of heart that comes from lust and dissolution.

The danger often begins when one is young. In Rule of the 10 Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, written by Bl. Gabriel Maria in 1502, the author shows, in the colorful imagery of the 16th century, how the virtue of purity in the form of chastity was especially under threat in the lives of young adults:

In order to possess the virtue of purity ... avoid idleness, drunkenness, suspicious companionships and dealings with others, vain adornments of face and body, and singing to please men ... Seek to please Christ alone, who is all desirable [cf. Sg 5:16], all lovable, and more beautiful than anyone else. How many have been lost through idleness and drunkenness? How many are those whom worldly companionships, familiarities, letters, and small gifts have brought to damnation?

Today we might be more concerned about young people whose recreation times are filled with sexually explicit films and drugs use, but the basic idea is still the same. Lifestyles like these almost inevitably lead to illicit affairs, pre-marital sex or adultery, and all of the other problems that come in their wake, such as conceiving children out of wedlock, abortion, divorce, and even suicide — the result is spiritual emptiness and social misery. In fact, the most widespread addiction among the youth of the western world today is not substance abuse: it is addiction to Internet pornography.

In all these ways, we can easily stray from purity of heart and wander into a realm of spiritual slavery and darkness, where the human heart is broken and divided, fragmented in a way that makes singleness of heart nearly impossible. Indeed, we can become so driven by our obsessive passions, including our romantic desires, that we are no longer free to give ourselves in authentic love to anyone.

Saint John Paul II taught us that Mary lights the way into an altogether different realm: a realm of forgiveness, spiritual healing, and the recovery of our purity of heart:

Mary is a virgin in body and a virgin in heart, as appears from her intention to live in deep intimacy with the Lord, decisively manifested at the time of the Annunciation. Thus, she who is invoked as "Virgin of virgins" is without doubt for everyone a lofty example of purity and total self-giving to the Lord. But she is a special source of inspiration for those who are radically and exclusively dedicated to the Lord in the various forms of the consecrated life. Thus, after its important role in the work of salvation, Mary's virginity continues to have a beneficial influence on the Church's life.

Let us not forget that Christ is certainly the first and highest example for every chaste life. However, Mary is a special model of chastity lived for love of the Lord Jesus. She encourages all Christians to live chastity with particular commitment according to their own state, and to entrust themselves to the Lord in the different circumstances of life. She who is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit par excellence helps believers rediscover their own body as the temple of God (cf. I Cor 6:19) and to respect its nobility and holiness. (General Audience, Aug. 20, 1997).

Jesus Christ is a jealous lover. He expects our exclusive devotion. Whether we are called to a celibate vocation or to the married state, He wants to be the first love of our hearts. He wants to come first not to take away from us all earthly pleasures and human joys, but because each earthly pleasure and joy (good gifts indeed from God our Creator!) can only find its true place in our lives, and can only be prevented from destroying our purity and peace of heart, when Jesus lives at the center of our hearts as Lord and Savior (see I Cor 12:3 and Phil 2:5-11), and as the soul's true Bridegroom (see Mt 9:15, Mk 2:19).

That is why Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt 7:33). For example, married life is not less joyful, but more joyful when spouses love Jesus Christ above all things — even above their love for each other — and experience His love for them. From this love flow mutual consideration, compassion, and tenderness, which enrich each day of their lives as a married couple and each celebration of their union in conjugal love. Similarly, a life of consecrated virginity is not made more arduous by having Christ at the center of it, but filled with spiritual refreshment. The times of solitude and silence in a celibate vocation can open the soul to the presence of the inner spring of the Holy Spirit, "welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14).

When we stumble and fall on the road to purity of heart, it is Mary, our Mother of tender compassion, who will come to our aid by her prayers. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote:

She understands human frailty, and so is prepared to lift souls out of the mire and into peace, as at the Cross she chose as her companion the converted sinner Magdalen. Through all the centuries, to those who marry to be loved, Mary teaches that they should marry to love. To the unwed, she bids them all keep the secret of purity until an Annunciation, when God will send them a partner; to those who in carnal love allow the body to swallow the soul, she bids that the soul envelop the body.

In short, to souls still struggling to attain or preserve their purity of heart, our Mother of Mercy guards and guides us until our journey's end. The Imitation of Mary expresses this truth beautifully in the form of a dialogue between the Blessed Virgin and the Believer:

The Believer
Fervent Virgin, you consecrated yourself to God during this life, and you did it without reservation or restriction ... The only satisfaction you wanted in this world was that of pleasing Him ... You never broke your promise; you walked the path God showed you and every day made new progress. Your example condemns my fickleness in God's service and my reservations toward Him ...

God alone created your heart, and He created it for Himself alone. He alone should be its Master. He did not say "Lend me your heart" but "Give me your heart" (Prv 23:26) ...

God does not think it too much that he should give Himself entirely to you. Live your life, therefore, entirely for Him. Give Him all and in Him you will find all ...

The Believer
Mother of Mercy, enable me to make my peace with him. May God my Savior, at your prayer, so fill my heart with His grace that in serving so good a master I shall place no limits, know no hesitation, and yearn for Him alone.

Recite the Chaplet of the Ten Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary (for directions on how to say this prayer, go to ).

Questions for Discussion for Parts Three and Four
1. How do we know from the gospels that Mary was pure in heart throughout her whole life?
2. What does the virtue of "purity of heart" really mean? Why is sexual purity so difficult to attain?
3. Why does Jesus Christ want us to have purity of heart?

Suggestions for Further Reading
• Saint Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, part four, section six, on "Mary's chastity," and St. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, part four, chapter three, on "Purity and Sanctity of God Mirrored in the Admirable Heart of Mary."

Access the series to date.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Mary - Who She Is and Why She Matters (Marian Press).

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