Another of the Virgin Mary’s titles is The Most Prudent Virgin. When commenting on this title given to Mary, Blessed John Henry Newman focuses on that fact her life was both contemplative and practical. “Now Mary was as full of external work and hard service as any Sister of Charity at this day.”
Newman reflects on how the duties of Mary’s life varied according to the seasons of her life. For instance, after the death of Jesus, “she had her duties towards the Apostles, and especially towards the Evangelists. She had duties towards the Martyrs, and to the Confessors in prison; to the sick, to the ignorant, and to the poor.” She always acted in “the best possible way, in the varying circumstances of each day,” thus exercising prudence or an “untiring mindfulness” which is right reason concerning actions to be taken.
Holy Mary, Most Prudent Virgin, we wish to imitate you prudence in fulfilling our everyday duties out of love for God.
Mary is the “Virgo Prudentissima,” the Most Prudent Virgin
IT may not appear at first sight how the virtue of prudence is connected with the trials and sorrows of our Lady’s life; yet there is a point of view from which we are reminded of her prudence by those trials. It must be recollected that she is not only the great instance of the contemplative life, but also of the practical; and the practical life is at once a life of penance and of prudence, if it is to be well discharged. Now Mary was as full of external work and hard service as any Sister of Charity at this day. Of course her duties varied according to the seasons of her life, as a young maiden, as a wife, as a mother, and as a widow; but still her life was full of duties day by day and hour by hour. As a stranger in Egypt, she had duties towards the poor heathen among whom she was thrown. As a dweller in Nazareth, she had her duties towards her kinsfolk and neighbours. She had her duties, though unrecorded, during those years in which our Lord was preaching and proclaiming His Kingdom. After He had left this earth, she had her duties towards the Apostles, and especially towards the Evangelists. She had duties towards the Martyrs, and to the Confessors in prison; to the sick, to the ignorant, and to the poor.
Afterwards, she had to seek with St. John another and a heathen country, where her happy death took place. But before that death, how much must she have suffered in her life amid an idolatrous population! Doubtless the Angels screened her eyes from the worst crimes there committed. Still, she was full of duties there—and in consequence she was full of merit. All her acts were perfect, all were the best that could be done. Now, always to be awake, guarded, fervent, so as to be able to act not only without sin, but in the best possible way, in the varying circumstances of each day, denotes a life of untiring mindfulness. But of such a life, Prudence is the presiding virtue. It is, then, through the pains and sorrows of her earthly pilgrimage that we are able to invoke her as the Virgo prudentissima.
Meditations and Devotions, see www.newmanreader.org