The birth of Our Lady brought to humanity something hitherto unknown: a creature free of any stain, a lily of incomparable beauty that was to gladden the angelic choirs and the whole earth. In the midst of the exile of the corrupt human race, an immaculate being appeared, conceived without original sin.

She brought with Her all the natural riches befitting a woman. God gave her a most precious personality and her presence among men represented, also on this account, a truly incalculable treasure.

Now, if we add to the natural gifts the immeasurable treasures of grace that accompanied Her – the greatest ever granted to anyone by Our Lord God – we can gather the enormous significance of her advent in the world. Sunrise is a pale reality in comparison with the resplendent dawn signified by the appearance of Mary Most Holy on this earth!

The most solemn enthronement of a king or a queen, or the natural phenomena of the greatest magnitude are as nothing compared to the birth of the Virgin. At that blessed moment, certainly hailed by the joy of all the Angels of Heaven, we may speculate that upright souls scattered throughout the world felt an unusual surge of jubilation. And this sentiment could well be expressed by a paraphrase of Job’s words:

“Blessed the day that saw Our Lady’s birth, blessed are the stars that looked upon Her when She was little, blessed is the moment when the virginal creature destined to be the Mother of the Saviour came into the world!”

Her coming into the world was the beginning of our redemption

Anjos venerando a Virgem recém-nascida – Catedral de São Pedro, Condom (França) – Foto: Francisco Lecaros

If it is possible to say that the redemption of humanity began with the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same can be said, respecting due proportions, regarding the Nativity of Our Lady. For everything that the Saviour brought us began with the One who would give Him to the world.

The hopes for salvation, indulgence, reconciliation, pardon and mercy that were opened to humanity on that blessed day when Mary was born in this land of exile are thus understood. A happy and magnificent moment, it marked the beginning of the unfathomably perfect, pure and faithful existence of what was destined to be the greatest glory of all time for the human race, inferior only to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

Many theologians maintain that, having been conceived without original sin, Our Lady was endowed with the use of reason from the very first moment of her being. In the womb of St. Anne, where She lived as in a tabernacle, She would therefore already have had the loftiest and most sublime thoughts.

A parallel can be drawn with what Sacred Scripture tells of St. John the Baptist. He, who had been conceived in original sin, when he heard the voice of Our Lady greeting St. Elizabeth, trembled with joy in his mother’s womb.

Therefore, it is possible that the Blessed Virgin, with the sublime knowledge She received by the grace of God, began at once, in her mother’s womb, to ask for the coming of the Messiah, and that in her soul She formed the lofty intention of one day becoming the servant of the Redeemer’s Mother.

In any case, her mere presence on earth was a source of grace for those who approached Her and St. Anne, and it would be even more so after her birth. If from Our Lord’s tunic, as the Gospel tells us, healing powers radiated to those who touched it, how much more from the Mother of God, Chosen Vessel!

Newly-born, and already victorious over the devil

If the coming of the Saviour defeated evil in mankind, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was accompanied with the light that marked the beginning of the victory of good and the crushing of the devil. Even he realized that something of his sceptre had been irreparably broken. Our Lady was beginning to influence the destiny of humanity.

The world of that time had sunken into the most radical paganism, in a situation very similar to that of our days: vice reigned, the most diverse forms of idolatry dominated the earth, and decadence threatened the Jewish religion itself, a harbinger of Catholicism. Everywhere, error and the devil were victorious.

But at the moment decreed by God in His mercy, He demolished the wall of evil, bringing Our Lady into the world. From the root of Jesse blossomed the divine lily, Our Lord Jesus Christ. With His birth began the irreversible destruction of satan’s reign.

The “birth” of Mary in our spiritual life

Our Lady’s first triumph over evil brings to mind another reflection.

How often in our spiritual life we find ourselves immersed in the struggle against temptations, writhing and reeling in difficulties! And we have no idea when the blessed day will come when a great grace, an outstanding favour, will put an end to our torments and struggles, finally affording us great progress in the  practice of virtue.

At that moment there will be a kind of birth of the Blessed Virgin in our souls. She will arise amid the darkness of the greatest trials, overcoming at the very outset the difficulties that we have been facing. She will rise up like a dawn in our existence, representing in our spiritual life a role hitherto unknown to us.

This thought should fill us with joy and hope, giving us the certainty that Our Lady will never abandon us. In the most difficult hours, She, as it were, bursts into our midst, solving our problems, alleviating our sorrows and giving us the combativeness and courage necessary to fulfil our duty completely, however arduous it may be. The greatest consolation She brings us is precisely this strengthening of our will, which allows us to undertake the fight against the enemies of our salvation.

Dawn in the storyline of history

Our Lady also gives us the strength to become zealous children of the Church and defenders of the Catholic religion. There is historical evidence to affirm that all the great souls who have fought against the various heresies over the centuries were especially raised up by Her. This is what the coat of arms of the Claretians so beautifully suggests. In addition to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it also bears St. Michael the Archangel and the motto: “Her children rose up and called Her Blessed.”

Is not this rising up of the Blessed Virgin’s devotees to glorify Her another a manner of her being born, like a magnificent dawn in the storyline of history?

Thus, the true children of Our Lady must desire and ask of Her the grace to be indomitable and implacable against the devil and his henchmen who, in our days, seek to defile the glory of the immortal Church of Christ. 

Taken, with slight adaptations, from “Dr. Plinio” magazine. São Paulo. Year II. N.18 (Sept., 1999); p.13-15

With two thousand years of Christianity behind us, we have little idea of the innovation that Our Lord Jesus Christ’s teaching represented in His time.

Considering man in his innermost being—that is, his relationship with the Creator—we see that the pagan gods of Antiquity were often portrayed as implacable judges and tormentors of humanity. Such beliefs even held some sway among the Chosen People, the only nation to worship one God—personal, eternal, the origin of all things. Strict justice prevailed in the Old Testament to subdue those people’s harsh nature. The terrifying scene of Yahweh speaking to Moses on Mount Horeb stands in contrast with Jesus’ kindness in pardoning the repentant adulteress.

The Divine Redeemer inaugurated the law of mercy, patience and compassion. He revealed Himself as God, as well as the Friend and Brother of those whose flesh he had assumed and for whose salvation He would die upon the Cross—something unimaginable before. And this plan of love goes even deeper. Jesus could easily have become incarnate as a grown man, ready to embark on His preaching ministry. But He wanted to be born of a Mother; He chose to spend nine months in her womb and to depend on her throughout His infancy like any ordinary child. In so doing, He raised a mere creature to the highest possible plane, making her Mother of God. From the first moment of her existence, she enjoyed a fullness of grace that surpassed the peak attained by the greatest saints and Angels.

In this way, humanity came to know God Who is love, and came to know His Mother and ours—the personification of goodness, kindness and pardon to those who have recourse to her and await her protection, aid and understanding in the difficult perseverance in this valley of tears.

In his famous True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis de Montfort transcribes an inspired expression from St. Antoninus: “God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them the seas [mare ]. He gathered all His graces together and called them Mary” (n.23). Mary is God’s masterpiece, yet she chose to remain completely hidden during her life, so that there is barely a mention of her in the Gospels.

Through this we see a beautiful design in salvation history, where Our Lady was gradually venerated among the first Christians and devotion to her later spread throughout the entire early Church. Her role in the sanctification of souls also grew in a crescendo, in proportion to the growing weakness of successive generations. Who today can imagine a Church without the Blessed Virgin?

As the beloved daughter of the Eternal Father, admirable Mother of God the Son and most faithful spouse of God the Holy Spirit, the best part, so to speak, was reserved for her—that of being the Queen of a historical period in which humanity will correspond to grace in an unprecedented way, resulting in the attainment of the goal for which man was created. Humanity will then give God all the glory that is His due. It will be the Reign of Mary, in which human wickedness will have finally been vanquished, not by the rigour of justice, but by the unsurpassable maternal love of the Virgin Mary!

Dona Lucilia cast a glance filled with sweetness, serenity and kindness over her long past. She had lived, suffered, and struggled with all of life’s adversities, without holding grudges, and without bitterness. Her death marked the end and the summit of a peaceful and unwavering ascension.

Providence reserved the harshest trial of Dona Lucilia’s existence for the final  months  of her  life.Old  age had  perfected her  charity, and the resignation  of her soul had reached a sublime apogee. She was only five months away from her particular judgment.

At this juncture, Dona Lucilia had a clear notion, owing to her sharp maternal intuition, that something very grave was happening to the “very beloved son of her heart,” although fam- ily members   and  friends  sought  to hide from her the diabetic  crisis that befell him towards the end of 1967.

Obliged to spend a long period convalescing  within the confines of his apartment, Dr. Plinio soon began to receive an influx of visits from disciples and friends. The physical blow that Dr. Plinio suffered, then, resulted in Dona Lucilia becoming better known and – why not say it – admired.

   Gentle manners, filled with kindness

   Anyone who had the pleasure of visiting that apartment and spending time in the company of Dona Lucilia during the final months of her earth- ly existence was in a good position to evaluate the high degree of consideration, gentleness and esteem inherent  to her noble manners,  even in their simplest expressions. Endowed with a respectful and affectionate character, she was a master in the difficult art of treating others with af- fable dignity, in a way which always made them feel at home.

   Because of her supernatural sense of compassion, it caused her acute suf- fering to see someone – even a strang- er – saddened or slighted. The skill with which she immediately sought to apply the balm of the right word, the fitting  expression,  a good counsel  in a difficult situation,  solace in sorrow, and alms for those in need, was admirable.

   Dona Lucilia’s own happiness de- pended  on  that  of her  neighbour… Her  soul  was moved  by the  desire to make each person happy, which explains her deep regret when she could not do so. It was the affection of a totally and essentially Catholic heart. Her soul’s joy consisted in loving others  for the love of God,  and being loved by them. However, when her goodwill was not reciprocated, she never succumbed  to sentiments of  bitterness,   for  she  did  not  pur- sue personal benefit or advantage  in these relationships.

   Seen through the “brise-bise” fingering her rosary

Dona Lucilia’s age never  caused her to leave off her habit of praying the Rosary every afternoon. She car- ried out this important activity seat- ed in her wheelchair, in the dining room, as she contemplated the tree- tops of Buenos Aires Square and en- joyed the sun’s last rays which pen- etrated through  the window. Those were wonderful  sunsets, rarely seen in the greyish megalopolis of São Paulo today. Those evenings harmonized admirably with Dona Lucilia’s thoroughly Brazilian soul.

To those  fortunate enough  to ob- serve  her  through   the  folds  of  the brise-bise on the  door  of the  adjoin- ing room,1  she was a true monument! It was impossible to separate the no- bility from the religiosity of this lady of ninety-one  years. To speak of her virtues is to speak of nobility, and vice versa. In fact, there was something more  than  nobility in Dona  Lucilia; she was blessed with an august soul.

 She assumed such an upright and composed posture and prayed with such  piety  and  devotion   that   the sight was stirring.

   In the throes of ill-health, manners imbued with kindness

   As far as her strength  permitted, Dona Lucilia carried out the social duties of a housewife to perfection. We have already observed this in a special way, as she prayed  her  evening prayers.

   Upon   noting  the  presence   of  a friend of Dr. Plinio in the apartment, she took an interest  in learning from her maid who was waiting for her son.

   — Mirene! Who is there?  – she would ask, already entirely disposed to receive the unexpected visitor.

   Regarding   this  exceptional   way of  being,  a  certain  youth  recounted a beautiful episode that serves as proof of this eminent Paulista lady’s elevated virtue:

   “Dona Lucilia bid me enter the dining  room,  as  soon  as  she  fin- ished her pious recitation of the Rosary, and, after having given me the customary  explanations  of the  reason for Dr. Plinio’s delay in receiv- ing me, she had me sit down to after- noon tea in her company.”

   Almost three hours of conversation passed  by as if they were a few minutes. Three decades later, this young man still remembered with emotion the utter gentleness and the enveloping affection of Dona Lucilia towards him on that occasion.

   He related:
   “She endeavoured to entertain me the  entire  time,  discussing the  top- ics most agreeable  to me, within an atmosphere of serenity  and benevo- lence. I remember leaving that  conversation so delighted  that it seemed that  I had  been  in the  company  of an Angel more than a human  being. She communicated such an impression of well-being, that  I even imagined Dona  Lucilia to be a lady who had never suffered the least discomfort in her life, for at no moment  did she show even the slightest degree of malaise  or  fatigue,  disposed  as she was to do good for my soul, as far as the limits of time would allow.”

   He then continued his narration, describing  Dona  Lucilia’s facial ex- pressions, her small and elegant gestures, her voice, her gaze and her hands.

   On that same day, after this conversation, Dr. Plinio called him into his office to arrange a telephone call with Dona  Lucilia’s  doctor.  It  was 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday.

   The youth was astonished  to over-hear Dr. Plinio telling the doctor that Dona  Lucilia  had  spent  the  whole day feeling very indisposed,  and was in such discomfort  that  she certainly would not be able to sleep. After de- scribing all of her symptoms to the physician in detail,  Dr.  Plinio asked his assistant  to take  down the name of the injection prescribed.

   Since the young man  had  some  knowledge  of this  particular medication,   he  real- ized what Dona Lucilia’s real physical state was – she who had so cheerful- ly entertained him at such length. He recalls: “Kindness was second nature in Dona  Lucilia. This episode  made it clearer to me that she had spent her life doing good to others – ‘pertransiit benefaciendo’ (Acts 10:38).”

   Seeing that  there  was no one else to buy the injection, this same young man volunteered to run the errand. Then, owing to the absence of the medical assistant  on duty, he himself was invited by Dr. Plinio to administer it to Dona Lucilia, since he was qual- ified for this. It would be the occasion of another episode which would mark the life of this happy youth. When he was led into Dona  Lucilia’s room, he was filled with admiration and emo- tion to see her lying on her bed with such dignity. He narrates:

   “‘Dona Lucilia, I am here  to apply an injection prescribed  by your doctor,’ I said when I greeted her.

   “Dona Lucilia’s instinctive con- cern  for  others   was  extraordinary, even if she was feeling unwell, as on that occasion. In addition to the tran- sient symptoms she was experiencing, she was just a few months away from her death; nevertheless, her attention was focused on her neighbour.

   “In that atmosphere of composure and respectability, under the soft light of a small lamp, her first reaction was to look at me attentively and say:
    “‘To think that it is on a Saturday night that I am putting you to all this trouble! I beg your pardon for dis- rupting your plans.’

   “Without showing the slightest dis- pleasure  during  the  injection,  which caused some discomfort, Dona Lucil- ia said right afterwards:
   “‘I really regret having put you to all this trouble.’
   “‘Not at all, Dona Lucilia. It is rather  I who am sorry that  you had to undergo this injection.’
   “‘But I thank you very much,’ con- cluded Dona Lucilia, in her manner of unsurpassable sweetness.”
   This episode once more brings back the remembrance of her limpid gaze, and her smile…

The last day of her life, spent in calmness and tranquillity

  Despite her advanced age, her features  and her expression seemed to suggest that  she might live for a long time yet, especially since lon- gevity was a family trait. No one imagined  that,  within a short  time, she would depart from this world for eternity.

   Approximately  one month before her death, she experienced a sudden deterioration  of  health.   Her   final days had arrived. Dr. Plinio recalls:

   “I remember that  on  April  20th, the eve of Mama’s death,  I saw that her heart  was much worse, and I lit- erally spent the entire day in her bedroom.  Whenever  I  had  to  step out,  I  returned promptly.  She  was so oppressed by shortness  of breath that  she  could  not  speak,  and  she felt the agony, the angst which a lack of air naturally causes. But she re- mained calm, tranquil, and serene.”

Entreaties of an anguished son

   Dr. Plinio continues:
   “Not  long  before,   I  had  asked Our Lady to show me the maternal kindness of having Mama’s death occur at a moment that would be the least painful for her and for me. This seemed  to me a reasonable request and one that would be well received by Our Lady.

 “I asked myself what the most fa- vourable conditions would  be for this.  Evidently,  my desire  was that her death would be tranquil,  serene, with that grandeur which, in the midst of so much kindliness, she had never lost for a single moment;  and with proof  that  her death  was unit- ed to the Sacred  Heart  of Jesus, to the Immaculate Heart  of Mary and to the Holy Catholic Church.

   “I also asked that I not be sur- prised   during   the   night  with  the news of her death,  but that  it come during the day, in this way avoiding the  terrible  shock of being awoken in the middle of the night with some- one telling me:

   “‘Dona Lucilia is dying…’

   “That  would be horrible. I want- ed to be spared that.

   “I expressed yet another desire to Our Lady: if Mama were to expire in the morning, I would hope it to be at an hour after which I had read the newspaper,  because  after  her death I would not  have strength  for that, and  I  could  miss  a  piece  of  news that  was important for the Catholic Cause.

   “It was exactly in this manner that everything unfolded. Just as I finished reading the paper, the nurse came into my room and said to me:

   “‘Dona Lucilia is dying, you must come quickly.’

   “Point by point, everything that I had asked for came about, except one detail: I would have liked to have witnessed the final moments of her life. But Our Lady was kind even in that, sparing me something which would have been extremely  painful for me. From Mama, Providence asked one last trial: the absence of her son in that supreme moment of her life.”

Sustained by confidence in God up until the very last moment

   Dr. Plinio concludes: “She conserved, in that extreme of weakness, the surety of an ordered spirit and intelligence, and a good conscience. She walked through the shadows of death with all serenity…

   “Up until her final moments, she was sustained by confidence, which gave her the certainty of attaining that towards which her entire life seemed to be aimed: that people open up to her and let themselves be fully enveloped by her kindness.

   “A part of this light was unveiled to Mama near the end, when she became acquainted with the many youths who would go to my apartment, partly to visit me, but even more to see and talk with her, especially certain ones who had more contact with her. It was also during this time – more than throughout her whole past – that she spread that Christian sweetness and goodness of which her heart was overflowing. This was the apex.

   “During those days, I had a vague notion that she spoke with the people who waited to see me. I could not have imagined, however, that the understanding between them had been so deep. I would see her enter the office or my bedroom, with a vibrant and joyful look, and I asked myself: ‘But, why?’ Only after she died, speaking with one or another, I discovered that
they had talked with her, asked her questions, taken her photograph… 

   “And so I thanked Our Lady, because her final days were filled with marks of kindness, the starting point of a relationship that would continue, later on, at her tomb…”

Glory, light and joy

   Most certainly, on that 21st of April of 1968 – the soft twilight of a long and beautiful life – Dona Lucilia cast a glance filled with sweet- ness, serenity, kindness, a sense of observation, and a touch of sadness over her long past.

   She had confronted everything. She had lived, suffered, and struggled with all of life’s adversities, without holding grudges, without bitterness or recrimination, but also without yielding or giving in. It was the end and the summit of a peaceful and unwavering ascension.

   Those who saw her on her deathbed had the impression – to the degree befitting the housewife that she was – that the light of heavenly glory was already somehow illumining her features, so affable, so amiable and so peaceful up until the very end.

   It was the peacefulness of one who felt protected by Divine Providence, and who knew that the only thing wanting was to render her soul to God, next to whom would be reserved a threefold happiness: glory, light and joy.

  Thus, on the morning of April 21st, with her eyes wide open, fully conscious of the solemn moment that was approaching, she raised herself slightly, made a large Sign of the Cross, and with utter peace of soul and trust in Divine mercy, fell asleep in the Lord… 

   “Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur – Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Rv 14:13).

    Taken, with small adaptations, from “Dona Lucilia”. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, 2013, p.617-654.

   1- During Dr. Plinio’s convalescence, after his severe diabetic crisis in 1967, the Author of these lines took on the role of assistant in his apartment, so as to help him with any problems that might arise. As a result, he had the opportunity
to get to know Dona Lucilia more intimately, as well as her routine.

Having begun with the life of Our Most Holy Redeemer, the combat under the standard of the Cross will only cease at the end of time. Today, more than ever, the strength of the wicked depends on the cowardice of the good, and the power of Satan’s reign lies in the weakness of Christians.

I am grateful that from your generous heart, Venerable Brother (1), you desire to see me work in the vineyard of the Lord always under the light of the sun, without clouds or tempests. However, we must both adore the dispositions of Divine Providence who, after establishing His Church here below, permits that She encounter obstacles of every kind and formidable opposition along her journey.

Harsh trials and continual contradictions

The reason for this is obvious: the Church is militant and, therefore, in constant combat. This combat makes the world a battlefield and every Christian a valiant soldier to fight under the standard of the Cross. 

Having begun with the life of our Most Holy Redeemer, this fight will only cease at the end of time. Therefore, we must proceed every day like the courageous people of Judah returning from captivity: with one hand repelling the enemy and with the other rebuilding the walls of the sacred Temple, that is, working for our sanctification.

The life of the heroes whose decrees we have just published (2) confirm us in this truth. They reached glory not only by means of dark clouds and fleeting storms, but also by constant contradictions and harsh trials, until they gave their blood and life for the Faith.

An age in which many hold God up to public ridicule

Nevertheless, I cannot deny my great joy at this moment, for in glorifying so many Saints, God expresses His mercy in a time of such incredulity and religious indifference. In a time of such weakness of character, generous souls who gave their life to testify to their Faith are put before us as models to imitate. […]

I rejoice because we live in a time in which many feel ashamed to call themselves Catholics, and many others hold God, the Faith, Revelation, worship and its ministers up to public ridicule, filling their speeches with godless sarcasm. They deny everything and turn everything into scorn and derision, without respect even for the sanctuary of conscience.

However, it is not possible that, before these supernatural manifestations, no matter how great their desire to close their eyes to the sun that illuminates them, a divine ray not pierce them and, even though it only be by way of remorse, lead them back to the Faith.

I rejoice because the courage of these heroes must revivify and fortify the faith of timid and languid hearts, fearful at this moment of putting Christian doctrines and beliefs into practice.

There will be courage when there is faith in hearts

In fact, courage is only possible when it is grounded upon a conviction. Without the light of intelligence, the will is a blind power. It is impossible to walk resolutely amid darkness.

If the present generation shows all the vacillation of a man who gropes in the dark, it is a sure sign that it does not take to heart the word of God: Reproduction May 2019 · Heralds of the Gospel 7 “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).

There will be courage when faith is alive in hearts, when all the precepts imposed by it are practised, for faith without works is as impossible as a sun that emanates neither light nor heat.

The martyrs whom we have commemorated witness to this truth. Do not think that martyrdom is an act of simple enthusiasm, consisting in letting oneself be decapitated so as to ascend directly to Paradise. Martyrdom presupposes a long and arduous exercise of all the virtues, an absolute and immaculate purity.

The strength of the wicked lies in the cowardice of the good

Let us speak of her who is the most well known to you, the Maid of Orleans; both in her humble birthplace as amid the licentiousness of the troops, she kept herself as pure as the Angels.

As courageous as a lion amid the dangers of battle, she showed great kindliness toward the poor and unfortunate. Simple as a child in the tranquillity of the meadows and the tumult of war, she was always recollected in God and ardent in her love for the Virgin Mary and the Holy Eucharist – like a Cherub – as you so rightly said, Venerable Brother. Called by the Lord to defend her native land, she responded to her vocation to an undertaking that seemed impossible to all, especially to herself; but what is impossible for men is always possible with God’s assistance.

Therefore, let us not exaggerate the difficulties in putting into practice what the Faith prescribes so as to fulfil our duties and carry out a fruitful apostolate of example, which the Lord awaits from each of us: “And He gave commandment to each of them concerning his neighbour” (Sir 17:14).

Difficulties arise from those who create and exaggerate them, those who confide in themselves and not in heavenly aid, those who succumb to cowardice, intimidated by the world’s mockery. Hence we must conclude that, today more than ever, the strength of the wicked depends on the cowardice of the good, and the power of satan’s reign lies in the weakness of Christians.

“Became accomplices of My adversaries”

Alas, if I were permitted, as the prophet Zechariah did in spirit, to ask the Lord: “What are these wounds on Thy hands?”, the answer would undoubtedly be: “The wounds I received in the house of My friends” (Zec 13:6); in other words, by My friends who did nothing to defend Me and who, on the contrary, became accomplices of My adversaries. And from this reproach, merited by the pusillanimous and fainthearted Christians of every country, many Christians of France are not exempt. […]

Thus, Venerable Brother, upon your return, you must tell your compatriots that, if they love France, they must love God, the Faith and the Church, which is for all of them the kindest Mother, as She was for your forefathers. Tell them that they must have great regard for the witness of St. Remigius, Charlemagne and St. Louis, testimonies that can be summed up in words so often repeated by the heroine of Orleans: “Long live Christ, King of the Francs!”

Only in this way is France great among the nations; under this covenant God will protect and make it free and glorious; under this condition you can apply what is said of Israel in the Sacred Books: “And there was no one that triumphed over this people, but when they departed from the worship of the Lord their God” (Jdt 5:17).

St. Pius X. Excerpts from the address given on the occasion of the reading of the decree of beatification of Venerables Joan of Arc, John Eudes, Francis de Capillas, and Jean-Théophane Vénard and companions, 13/12/1908: AAS 1 (1909), 142-145

1. Most Rev. Stanislas-Arthur-Xavier Touchet, at the time Bishop of Orleans, later created Cardinal. It fell to him to initiate the process of beatification of St. Joan of Arc.

2. On this day were proclaimed the decrees on the heroic virtues of Venerables Joan of Arc, John Eudes, Francis de Capillas, and Jean-Théophane Vénard and companions.

It is easy to note how the daily tasks of modern humanity, such as the upkeep of the home, the education of children, study, work and even the desire to take full advantage of the rare moments available for rest and relaxation, has made life into a veritable marathon. Immersed in these activities, we often end up forgetting the most important things: the interior life, meditation, our relationship with God, with our Guardian Angels and with the supernatural world.

Regardless of the state of life to which we have been called, for both religious and laity, keeping in mind the higher things is a point that will always require vigilant attention.

“Mary has chosen the better part” 

Contemplation, of itself, is more important than action. Our Lord made this very clear in the Gospel, when St. Martha asked Him to order her sister to help her, seeing that, while she toiled with the domestic chores, St. Mary Magdalene did not stir from the feet of the sublime Guest.

Having received the Redeemer into their home, they both had the duty to endeavour to serve Him in the best manner possible. And since Martha was the elder of the two sisters and was extremely accomplished, she personally strove to prepare a banquet worthy of the illustrious Invitee.

Commenting on this passage of the Gospel, Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP explains: “According to prevailing etiquette, a visitor of eminence was served by the hosts.
[…] Yet Mary, enraptured with joy at the presence of the Lord, had completely forgotten her obligations as hostess, leaving the entire task to her sister.”1

Now, by asking Our Lord to send Mary from His presence to help her, Martha was giving more attention to the practical preparations than to the Person of the Redeemer. Thus, probably without realizing it, she was neglecting the First Commandment of the Decalogue, as Msgr. João points out further on:
“Although concerned with serving Our Lord in the best way possible, perhaps Martha’s intention was also to maintain the great prestige of the house. Thus, she was troubled, taken by concerns which were not entirely in harmony with love of God; for the family name was at stake. And when God is not in the centre of our considerations, agitation easily gains entry.”2

In response to the elder sister’s request, esus revealed one of the most beautiful and profound principles that humanity has ever heard: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42).

In admonishing her for her agitation, the Divine Master invites Martha to abandon her pragmatic and naturalistic attitude, in which God did not hold the central place.

Action and contemplation are not mutually exclusive realities

What exactly is this “better part” that Mary had chosen?

There seems to be no doubt as to the response, or at least what is es sential in it: to be as close as possible to Jesus in any and all situations.

However, this does not justify that we abandon our obligations.

Action and contemplation are not mutually exclusive realities. As the main host, Martha was responsible for taking special care of the practical matters, but she needed to do so with her eyes fixed entirely on Jesus. And if Mary had acted under the impulse of perfect love, she would have “yielded to her elder sister’s decisions, fulfilling the obligations that fell to her, without losing her devotion, keeping her heart set on Our Lord.”3

In this sense, Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explains that “man should have the interior life in the first place, and then the other things.” And “when he chooses to be a man of interior life before all else, he establishes the most important condition for being what he should be in other fields.”4

From this attitude follows the perfect union between action and contemplation. If we learn to recognize that the former necessarily flows from the latter, and takes its structure from it, our concrete duties will begin to have a relationship of direct dependence on our practices of piety.

The soul, being immortal, deserves to receive much more attention than material, and therefore, fleeting things.

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”

Knowing the weaknesses and disorders of human nature marked by original sin, Our Lord taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things will be added unto us (cf. Mt 6:33).

This means setting up a throne in our souls for the Creator and yielding entirely to His sovereign dominion. Besides being a duty of every Christian, this conduct will bring us innumerable graces and gifts, for “the Lord will occupy Himself all the more with our interests when we concern ourselves with His interests.”5

“Let us keep all our faculties under the merciful sceptre of the Most High. Let our intelligence ever remember His constant presence; let our will be conformed in all things to His adorable will; let us lift up our hearts frequently to Him by acts of ardent and sincere charity. […] In this way we shall follow to the letter Our Lord’s counsel: we shall seek the Kingdom.”6

This is the counsel that a sagacious spiritual writer, Fr. Thomas de Saint-Laurent, gives us in his famous Book of Confidence. Acting thus, we will fulfil our duties in the most perfect way, while not neglecting to keep our minds raised to the supernatural. 

And there is yet another reason for us to constantly live in the presence of God: the certainty that all our acts, even the simplest, can be transformed into a prayer. For this, we need only to guard against being consumed by them, performing them with the intention of giving gloryto God.

La resurrección de Lázaro, por Giovanni da Milano - Basílica de Santa Cruz, Florencia (Italia)

The interior life increases our apacity to know and love

In speaking about the interior life in one of his conferences, Dr. Plinio highlighted, moreover, that the capacity to know and love of those who abandon themselves to the divine plans is notably increased by the Creator, for He delights in humble souls who recognize their shortcomings.

Dr. Plinio affirmed that “a true and substantial interior life helps man to carry out God’s will with all perfection and gives the soul resources which, in part, are the plenitude of his natural resources and, in part, charisms and gifts that allow him to multiply his potentialities a hundredfold.”7

Before being admonished byOur Lord, St. Martha had obtained an admirable degree of virtue. She loved Jesus, followed Him as a disciple and in everything sought to serve Him. But, from that moment on, her spiritual life was fortified and raised to a higher degree. This is demonstrated by the dialogue overflowing with supernatural spirit that she held with the Master in the moments prior to the resurrection of Lazarus.

It culminated with this resolute profession of faith: “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world” (Jn 11:27).

Furthermore, it seems licit to conjecture that if, prior to the episode narrated by St. Luke, she efficiently managed the abundant goods the family possessed, after it she became an excellent administrator of the house and its patrimony.

Martha grew in love after the correction

In his Gospel commentaries, Msgr. João makes an astute analysis that reinforces the primary importance of contemplation: “It is intriguing to note that, after the Resurrection, when Our Lord addressed Mary Magdalene, He did not repeat her name. He only said: ‘Mary.’ And she immediately exclaimed: ‘Rabboni!’ (Jn 20: 16). It was enough for her to hear her name just once to feel complete consonance with the Master. However, in Bethany, He felt it necessary to repeat: ‘Martha, Martha.’”8

N ow, “man’s life has moments of action and contemplation, and in both it is necessary to be ‘perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48).”9 Therefore, whatever is the life we lead, we must not forget to imitate
the example of these holy sisters. May we instead carry out our everyday activities with the love of St. Mary Magdalene, without neglecting to meticulously fulfil our obligations, like St. Martha after the episode narrated
by St. Luke. 

For those who wish to follow the paths of sanctity, the active life consists in serving Our Lord with whatever we do on a daily basis, offering to Him that vigorous, combative and contemplative state of soul proper to those who desire the highest peaks to which they were called as co-heirs of grace.

To this end, let us implore the omnipotent intercession of the Mother of God. No one better than She can teach us to carry out our daily duties with perfection.

1 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. The Imperfect Love of Mary and the Naturalistic Solicidude of Martha. In: New Insights on the Gospels. Città del Vaticano-Nobleton: LEV; Heralds of the Gospel, 2012, v.VI, p.229-230.
2 Idem, p.232.
3 Idem, p.236.
4 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Refulgente destruidor das heresias [Resplendent Destroyer of Heresies]. In: Dr. Plinio. São Paulo. Year XXI. N.248 (Nov., 2018); p.21.
5 SAINT-LAURENT, Thomas de. The Book of Confidence. Nobleton: Heralds of the Gospel Canada, 2010, p.37.
6 Idem, p.38.
7 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, op. cit., p.21.
8 CLÁ DIAS, op. cit., p.231.
9 Idem, p.237.