By Fr. Peter Hannah, O.P.
Consider for a moment the broad array of characters in the early church: Peter; Paul; James; Stephen; Silas; Priscilla; Aquila; John Mark; Lydia; Cornelius; Timothy… Men and women of all ages and ranks. Now consider that the human being closest to Our Lord in his earthly life, she who was the human vessel chosen by God to bring him into the world, appears only once in the entire tale of the early church. Where is she? She appears in the “first chapter” of the Church at its foundation: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1.14). This seems to me important. Presumably Mary went on living for some time. But she is not visible as others are. What was she doing? Can there be any doubt that she continued to do what she is pictured doing at the beginning? Our Lady witnesses to the power of prayer in silence; a power which, one intuitively grasps, became a kind of anchor of support for the early church. One is reminded today of the legions of contemplatives who, following the example of Our Lady, sustain the Church by their lives of prayer also.
In considering what Our Lady would say about chastity, she perhaps would say many things. But I wonder if the first thing would be that chastity is a virtue which takes root and grows and blossoms in the power and presence of God. Our Lady is honored as “most chaste” in many prayers, and to be sure of all human beings she was. But I believe she would be the first to say that her chastity, her purity of heart and mind, came from Another. In today’s noisy world, filled with so many clamorous and disturbing voices, Our Lady might simply counsel those who seek chastity to, above all things, dwell with God. Through a life of prayer-lived in whatever state of life-the good seeds planted by God in us by baptism, are given room to grow and flourish. The Lord can prune them too-this is what confession is for. But above all to make a person chaste, the Lord needs a humble and docile heart, as Our Lady’s, offered to Him in faith and prayer.