Virtually None Holier

This is the sixth article in a series on the Litany of Loreto. Every month, I will explain this popular prayer, line by line, providing you with spiritual and theological insights.

View the previous article in this series.

Virgin Most Prudent, pray for us.

Now we're switching from Mary as "Mother" to Mary as "Virgin."

In the first section devoted to Mary's perpetual virginity, we come to the word describing her as embodying the virtue of being "prudent." Another word for prudence is foresight or practicality. Being prudent involves making good decisions. She was completely Immaculate, and so possessed the height of every virtue.

What exactly is a virtue? To put it simply, it's a quality or behavior that reflects the goodness of God. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, "in medio stat virtus," or "in the middle stands virtue." There are four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. Saints and theologians have said that of those four, prudence is the key virtue. Any cardinal virtue taken to an extreme leads to disorder. For example, fortitude is a virtue. Taken to one extreme, it becomes recklessness. Taken to the other extreme, it becomes cowardice. We need prudence to make the right decisions - to keep our cardinal virtues in the middle between the extremes.

So as Virgin Most Prudent, Mary always avoids the extremes. With her guidance, she can steer us to the path of virtue.

Now the word "prude" has come to mean someone "holier than thou," or someone who is too good for earthly pleasures. This use of our language just proves how much our world needs the Blessed Mother right now. Of course, Mary did not practice prudence or remain a virgin because she felt she was too good for pleasure. Her call to becoming the Mother of God was a vocation, which happened to involve the sacrifice of perpetual virginity, giving up something, but receiving something far greater in return.

Virgin Most Venerable, pray for us.

We venerate Mary. We don't adore or worship her, of course, because we worship God alone. But because of God's mercy, He gave us Mary, the most perfect creature created by Him. Because of the essential role Mary plays in leading us to Christ, we venerate her. When you venerate someone, it means you hold them up in high esteem. You venerate people you look up to, people you want to imitate. You don't venerate somebody who is not praiseworthy, somebody who's not filled with virtue. Here we're basically saying that Mary, though not God, is far better than we are and worthy of being praised.

View the next article in this series.


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