Mary and the Monastic Life

The whole monastic life is lived in and with Mary the Virgin Mother who has given us the Word Incarnate.  She is the model and the summary of all monastic spirituality, and the fathers could call her the “rule of monks” – Maria regula monachorum….In such a life, we are completely conformed to the Virgin Mother of God, who by the perfect simplicity of her faith received into her Immaculate Heart the full light of the Word.

…Hence to live “in the spirit” is in effect to live in and by Mary, the Bride of the Holy Spirit.  Life in the Spirit is a life which she herself has obtained for us and given to us as Mediatrix of all grace.  The movements of our life in the Spirit are directed by her motherly heart.  To acknowledge Mary perfectly as our Queen is then to abandon ourselves entirely to the action of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us through her.  If Mary becomes our Queen and our “Rule”, the inspirations of the Holy Spirit will tend more and more to reproduce in our lives the virginal detachment and the pure love of God which led Mary to submit her whole being entirely to the will of God…we will give ourselves as she did.

[Excerpt from: “Merton. A Biography”, by Monica Furlong, pg. 231; original quote found in Thomas Merton’s “Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality” , 1957]

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14 Responses

  1. This is nice. My reading of him hasn’t been wide anyway, but I’d never before read of his love for Mary.

  2. “… by the perfect simplicity of her faith…”

    It is good to be reminded of the simplicity of faith. Sometimes we (and I) can make it so very complicated. Mary’s example is one of simple surrender to the will of God.

  3. I ditto Carol. I seldom have read of his love for the Blessed Mother. I also like the way we are taken back to the concept of simplicity every once in a while via the blogs.
    Whenever I read a post containing the reminder of simplicity in those Divine and Holy examples, I try to put them back in my life. I can make my life so involved and complicated at times.
    The simplicity of Our Lady’s faith…I like that.

  4. Wow.. I guess that is the most key word, simplicity — indeed, God had not sought a complicated daughter, spouse, and mother; He has never sought the unduly complicated, rather quite the opposite, and Mary herself seeks either children or the otherwise willingly simple of heart. When I think back to our childhoods when all was Mom, God and apple pie (and lilacs) and the simple holiness of giving and sharing was so natural and easy, I can’t help but think that “as a hart pants for water” we many pant for simplicity in love of God and man in this day.

  5. Somewhere on a site yesterday – I think it was a monastic site I came across a description of Mary as the ‘ Lady of the House.’ I think that sums up very well what Merton and many others would say of her., especially those in monastic environments.

  6. Perfect!

  7. Monica Furlong is also the authoress of a very substantial book on the houses of prayer established by St. Teresa of Avila, and on her times and friends–her research seems very in-depth. I had trouble putting that book down; I cannot imagine her writing of Fr. Louis–it must be marvelous!

  8. Thank you all so much for visiting and leaving these wonderful comments. I knew of Merton’s Marian poetry and have posted a bit of it at the Haven (last year, I think) and have run across other entries with reference to Mary in his journals, etc., but I will be on the lookout now for more.

    I see that the theme of simplicity of faith really resonates with all of you. What struck me particularly in this passage was the highlighting of Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces, having read this excerpt so soon after discussing Her role as Mediatrix in my post on the Visitation.

    I am more and more mindful, and quite frankly overwhelmed now, by the knowledge that every grace I have received throughout my life has been through Mary, and I did not realize it or thank her for it (yet she did not stop). As Merton says, every movement of our lives in the Spirit is directed by her Motherly Heart; if we have the life of the Holy Spirit within us, it is because Mary obtained it for us. I really am overwhelmed when I think back over my life and realize what this means; there is so much time to make up for now…

  9. Hmm.. did Merton replace the Holy Spirit with Mary? “if we have the life of the Holy Spirit within us, it is because Mary obtained it for us.” I mean, it was Christ Who sent us the Holy Spirit, right? Maybe I’m just reading his phrasing wrong?

  10. Merton’s quote is beautiful but I had the same thought as Carol when I read his comment about Mary obtaining the Holy Spirit for us – Jesus said He would send us another – the Paraclete. I read a quote from St. Louis de Montfort that expresses it differently – “…the more the Holy Spirit finds Mary, his beloved and inseparable spouse, in a soul, the more he becomes active and powerful to form Jesus Christ in this soul and this soul in Jesus Christ.”

  11. Hi Carol. Hello Kathy, and welcome. When I first read your question, Carol, I would have responded with exactly the same Montfortian quote as did Kathy (I’m pretty sure I used this passage somewhere here during the 33-day consecration period, but I can’t remember which day) – the idea being that the more closely we are united to Mary through her Immaculate Heart, the more the Holy Spirit will be living within us, because she is His beloved spouse.

    But getting back to that word “obtains”, I think we can actually think about it another way too. Yes, Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit, but prior to Jesus being Incarnated, at the Annunciation, Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit, and truly, did she not “obtain” the Holy Spirit for us by her fiat to be the Mother of God? If not for her fiat, Jesus would not have become Incarnate, and we would not have the Holy Spirit with us as we do. (Is this theologically sound?)

    Also, I think we have to remember Merton is emphasizing here Mary’s role as Mediatrix of all Graces. Jesus, through his passion and death is the one Who merits all grace, is the One Who is the Source, but He was pleased to bestow upon His Mother the role of dispenser of all grace. So if we have “life in the Spirit”, it is through Mary, because Jesus has deemed that it be so.

  12. Yes, I understand that Mary, tho’ creature, is inseparable from her Spouse the Holy Spirit (as best a mortal can understand) but I don’t think Mary obtained the Holy Spirit but rather was open to Him, for God and not she arranged for her to be conceived without stain of original sin; and Jesus did not say, “I will not leave you orphans — I will ask the Father, and He will send you my Mother.” And please pardon what may seem further ignorance, for that is likely what it is (for as is said and I take it to include me, “Cheer up, no one is actually useless–you can always serve as a warning to others”), but who said Mary is dispenser of all grace? Is that what Mediatrix means? I’ve always thought it meant no one more closely interceded for us than does Mary. For although She may ever be implicit by virtue of being the Holy Spirit’s spouse — hence, mother of all peoples — we are not baptized in her name, we don’t receive any other sacraments in her name. Maybe it’s just a leap of faith I’m looking at, but just as we cannot say Jesus without understanding that Mary’s fiat brought on His incarnation in our midst, we cannot say Mary without saying that her entire reason for being is to point to, to lead to Christ our Saviour.

    It seems awful to me to be asking such things, but surely these questions go through others’ minds, too. However, if it’s better for me to put such into a private email, take this down, and let me know. I don’t want to cause any trouble.

  13. It’s not awful at all to be asking these kinds of questions, Carol. After all, that’s one of the main reasons for this blog, to try to gain a deeper understanding of Mary and of all aspects of Marian doctrine and dogma, as best we can.

    If you don’t mind waiting until next week, I will post some things to try to help answer the points you’re raising, re Mediatrix, “dispenser of all graces”, and for instance, what this means in terms of the sacraments.

  14. The only thing I can’t wait for anymore is a whale (or dolphin or puffin or lighthouse) watch, so I hope you really won’t hurry to respond. (And– thank you.)

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