THE IMITATION OF MARY
Now, therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways … Blessed is the man that watcheth daily at my gates (Prov. viii. 32, 34).
Blessed is he who, like the poor who stand before the gates of the rich, is careful to seek for the alms of graces before the doors of the mercy of Mary! And thrice blessed is he who moreover seeks to imitate the virtues which he remarks in Mary, and more especially her purity and humility.
St. Augustine says that to obtain with more certainty and in greater abundance the favour of the Saints, we must imitate them; for when they see us practising their virtues, they are moved all the more to pray for us. The Queen of Saints and our principal Advocate, Mary, has no sooner delivered a soul from Lucifer’s grasp and united it to God, than she desires that it should begin to imitate her virtues, otherwise she cannot enrich it with the graces that she would wish, seeing it so opposed to her in conduct. Therefore Mary calls those blessed who with diligence imitate her life: Now, therefore, ye children, hear me; blessed are they that keep my ways
Whosoever loves, resembles the person loved, or endeavours to become like that person, according to the well-known proverb: Love either finds or makes it like. Hence St. Sophronius exhorts us, if we love Mary, to endeavour to imitate her, because this is the greatest act of homage we can offer her. “Let the child, then,” says St. Bernard, “endeavour to imitate his Mother, if he desires her favour; for Mary seeing herself treated as a Mother will treat him as her child.”
O my Mother, I love thee, but I fear I do not love thee as I ought. I know that love makes lovers like to the person loved. If, then, I see myself so unlike thee, it is a mark that I do not love thee. Thou art so pure, and I, defiled with many sins! Thou so humble, and I so proud! Thou so holy and I so wicked. This, then, is what thou hast to do, O Mary, since thou lovest me! Make me like thyself. Thou hast all power to change hearts; take mine and change it. Show the world thou canst do it for those that love thee. Make me thy worthy child.
As the devotion most dear to Mary is to endeavour to imitate her virtues, it would be well, therefore, to propose to ourselves the imitation of some virtue that corresponds to her Festivals. As, for example, on the Feast of her Immaculate Conception, purity of intention; on her Nativity, renewal of spirit and to throw off tepidity; on her Presentation, detachment from something to which we are most attached; on her Annunciation, humility in supporting contempt; on her Visitation, charity towards our neighbour, in giving alms, or at least in praying for sinners; on her Purification, obedience to Superiors. And finally, on the Feast of her Assumption, let us endeavour to detach ourselves from this world, to do all we can to prepare ourselves for death, and regulate each day of our lives as if it were our last.
“Mary was such,” says St. Ambrose, “that her life alone was a model for all … Let the virginity and life of Mary be to you as a faithful image in which the form of virtue is resplendent. Thence learn how to live, what to avoid, what to retain.”
O Mother of mercy, behold I, the most miserable of all men, have now recourse to Thy compassion in order that thou mayest grant me what I ask. Others may ask bodily health, worldly goods and advantages, but I come, O Lady, to ask thee for that which thou desirest of me and which is most agreeable to thy most holy heart. Thou who wast so humble, obtain for me humility and love of contempt. Thou who wast so patient under the sufferings of this life, obtain for me patience in trials. Thou who wast all filled with the love of God, obtain for me His pure and holy love. Thou who wast all love towards thy neighbour, obtain for me charity towards my neighbour. Thou, in fine, art the most holy of all creatures, O Mary, make me a Saint. Thou canst do all things, O my Mother, my hope, my love, my refuge, my help and my consolation. Amen.