A Man’s Relationship with the Girl Who Ravished the Eyes of God Himself

Introduction

During Advent of 2018 I wrote an article for Homiletic and Pastoral Review called “Mary Is Made for You.”1 That article is primarily for men; this one is of the same mold, and while not necessary for the reading of this article, “Mary Is Made for You” would be an excellent primer. So, why another such article? For three reasons: Firstly, because de Maria numquam satis!: “of Mary there is never enough!” Secondly, because there is little research specifically concerning a man and his relationship with Mary. Thirdly, because we don’t often hear about the dreadful plight that men are suffering in our times — priests, husbands and fathers, single men, brothers — it’s like all men have a red laser-dot on them as demonic snipers try to pick men off and render them powerless. The devil’s techniques never change, this is the same thing he did at the dawn of history, intimidating Adam such that the first man remained silent and effectively out of the picture while his wife, and with her all mankind, was attacked. Stemming from the serpent’s attack on Adam, the most lethal weapon the demons use against men involve what we could call a “sniper trifecta”: get the man to be overly concerned and interested in worldly things, then diminish prayer and the Sacraments along with interest in heavenly things, and finally create an addiction to lust. And yes, I am considering addiction to lust a demonic attack that results in a sort of demonic possession of the will — while this addiction can include an obsessive-compulsive diagnosis and brain chemistry changes (which can be healed with better habits), behind all this is a demonic will pushing on wounds and compelling a man to sin.

Men are fighting an angelic enemy that cannot be defeated by a merely human means, so what is the way out for a man, and how does one evade such a trap in the first place? A man needs the Immaculate Virgin.

Mary Is the First Woman in Everyone’s Life

Once in a while some fellow who has a deep love of Mary will say that Mary is “the other woman” in his life, such as in the excellent article by Sam Guzman called, yes, “The Other Woman in My Life.”2 But this is backwards. Mary is not the “other woman,” she is the Woman, the original woman, the first woman in a man’s (and everyone’s) life. Even before one’s biological mother? Yes! She knew and loved each of us over 2000 years ago from the moment her Immaculate Conception, a girl so passionately in love with each soul and longing for the redemption of each that she would do anything God would let her do in order to save them: “Yes . . . in the first instant of her most pure and Immaculate Conception, Mary had the most perfect use of reason . . . yes, Parthenius, she saw and knew you and me, and even then she loved us, and desired and obtained for us all that as good.”3 Suarez too writes of this: “it was fitting that she possess at all moments of her life the knowledge of all things to be known in the context of her state in life,” which was to be the Mother of the Redeemer, even though she did not know this until the Annunciation; this would include knowing each soul. From the “first moment of the exercise of her innocent human reason [her Immaculate Conception], she loved God and all the members of the human family in a most perfect and ever more intense way.”4 Since love cannot be general, but rather is always specific — “I love you” — anything less than this specific love would not be “most perfect.” At this point in her life she had only a “generic vision of the sins and merits of mankind,”5 but this “sisterly vision prepared her for the specific and motherly vision of individual sins and merits”6 that she would see in each person, by infused knowledge, at the Cross: She offered her Son for the salvation of each soul in particular and fully knowing each.7 Our sister, “Mary suffering willingly from the sins of her brethren she merited to become their Mother as she saw their individual sins and good works.”8

Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote of this, too: “She is the one whom every man loves when he loves a woman, whether he knows it or not . . . she is the woman whom every man marries in ideal when he takes a spouse.”9 “. . . this Dream Woman before women were, is the one of whom every heart can say in its depth of depths: ‘She is the Woman I love!’”10 This is why Monsignor Ronald Knox could say that “to each of us, she is a personal romance.”11

This is also part of the answer as to why the devil targets men the way he does, to lust — he does it in order to destroy or render man incapable of a relationship with Mary. It is a principle of spiritual warfare that when the devil tempts, he leads someone to the opposite of the virtue or gift that God especially wants for that person. St. Francis de Sales, for instance, was well-known to have had an anger problem in the first part of his life, and we would rightly conclude that this would mean God wanted the virtue of meekness to be particularly strong in this man, who is now known as the “gentle Saint.” Since the devil so vehemently tempts men to lust after all manner of women in thought, looks, and actions, it stands to reason that the devil is fighting against a specific plan that God has for men in particular: A deep, intense, passionate and virginal relationship with the Immaculate Girl after the example of St. Joseph:

. . . men so often objectify women, and women often objectify themselves, reducing themselves to totalities to be used and adored in their own right – yet all of this, among other things, is simply a misguided expression of a desire to reverence and devote oneself to the Blessed Virgin.12

The Amazing Things a Girl Can Do

So, our manly hearts are made to long for the Immaculate Girl, something most men don’t realize and most men seek in all the wrong ways, goaded by our wounded human nature and also by the devil. All our lives we have had some notion of the ideal girl in our minds — as Venerable Fulton Sheen said, this mysterious ideal girl is Mary. Given this, we should consider some of the amazing things we love about women and see how they apply to Mary; this will help us to see that Mary is not some unreal girl we just hear about at Mass or in books, but rather someone who is eminently relatable. Some aspects of girls that intrigue we men:

• Their stunning beauty.

• They can give their flesh and blood such that God uses it to fashion the human body of a new human person — from a woman’s body comes another human body, life. She envelops in her womb a little person who God made in His image and to be one with Him in total joy.

• They are soft and yet strong.

• In their softness and strength, they both nurture and guard life, allowing it to flourish — not just for a baby, but for a brother, a husband, a friend. Gertrude von le Fort, speaking of a man’s wife, puts it this way:

People know why the man calls his wife ‘Mother’. In doing so he does not address only the mother of his children, but the mother of everyone, which means, above all, the mother of her own husband. It is the mother who prepares his meals, sets his table, mends his clothes, bears his inadequacies, his anxieties, his difficult hours. ‘The heart of her husband trusteth in her and he shall have no need of spoils’ [Prov 31:11], says the Bible in praise of the valiant woman. . . . The mother of the man is mother of all his household. . . . The man who in the intellectual field exerts himself to overcome materialistic influences can succeed only when the maternal woman actually clears them away.13

• They have not only a wonderful, charming intelligence, they have tremendous insight (true, not all do, but in general this is proper to women; after 20 years of marriage I have realized something: My wife has about a 95% success rate of correct advice; I think this is one reason women can become proud — they are so often right that they think they are always right; but they are right so often it is not hard to see that God truly made woman to be a man’s “helpmate”).

• They are “other,” there is a mystery about them that intrigues us.

Now, let’s apply the above facets to Mary:

• Mary is the most beautiful woman, body and soul, and indeed the most beautiful creature human or angelic, that God made or could make. A book could be written, filled with quotes of the Saints about his very topic. Here is one, from St. Alphonsus Liguori:

In fine, O sovereign Princess, from the immense ocean of thy beauty the beauty and grace of all creatures flowed forth as rivers. The sea learnt to curls its waves, and to wave its crystal waters from the golden hair which gracefully floated over they shoulders. . . . The morning star itself, and the sweet stars at night, are sparks from thy beautiful eyes. . . . The white lilies and ruby roses stole their colors from thy lovely cheeks. Envious purple and coral sigh for the color of thy lips.”14And, as St. John Eudes writes, “She has the moon under her feet to show that the entire world is beneath her. None is above her, save only God, and she holds absolute sway over all created things.15

Raïssa Maritain said it like this:

The Blessed Virgin is the spoiled child of the Blessed Trinity. . . . She knows no law. Everything yields to her in heaven and on earth. The whole of heaven gazes on her with delight. She plays before the ravished eyes of God himself.16

She echoes God’s lavishing praise of Mary in the Song of Songs: “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace” (4:9).

• Mary gives her flesh and blood to form the body of the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. She envelops in her womb not a human person but a Divine Person — the incarnate God.

• Mary is the softest of the soft, yet she crushes dragons (cf. Gen 3:15).

• Mary nurtures and guards the life of God Incarnate and of every human person (even for those who reject her Mary is working to save them), something she began to do at her Immaculate Conception when she first loved and prayed for each of us, and which took on a much more intimate form the moment she said “Yes” at the Annunciation. Pope St. Pius X wrote in Ad Diem Illum:

Therefore all we who are united to Christ, and as the Apostle says are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Ephes. v., 30), have issued from the womb of Mary like a body united to its head. Hence, though in a spiritual and mystical fashion, we are all children of Mary, and she is Mother of us all. Mother, spiritually indeed, but truly Mother of the members of Christ, who are we (S. Aug. L. de S. Virginitate, c. 6).17

• Mary is not only pretty darn intelligent or incredibly insightful, she is Lady Wisdom, as taught by the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori (a Doctor of the Church) and many others. She is the most intelligent human person every created and her insights are 100% accurate and far more insightful than any other person . . . all while maintaining 100% humility (cf. Lk 1:46-55).

• More than any girl, Mary is “other,” both since she is the pinnacle of girlhood and also exists in such a union with God, who is the ultimate Other, that to see her is to see God, and to love her is to love God. She is so one with God that she is a theophany (a visible appearance of God), in particular a visible appearance of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit perfectly shining through every bit of Mary’s being:

She is bathed, plunged into the Spirit of the Father and the Son to such an extent that when she says, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’ she means ‘I am the manifestation, the epiphany, of the Holy Spirit.’ Beyond this we could even say that Mary is a true theophany, a visible manifestation of the Father’s infinite love for men, that love which, through the Holy Spirit, accomplishes in the Church the work of redemption, the mission of the Son, who is also the Son of Mary.18

Mary, then, is doubly “other” to a man.

Closer to You than You Realize

So far, a fellow might read all this yet still feel a distance from Mary. “This is spectacularly wonderful,” he might be thinking, “but what of closeness . . . is she with me, or just in Heaven, far away?” I can answer that question — and it is a good question — this way: The reality is more spectacularly wonderful than you have imagined, and in two ways . . .

Directly. Mary is physically present to us in a direct way, generally speaking. That means if you are at Mass, praying, or even drinking coffee or watching a tennis match. Fr. Emile Neubert writes:

Probably Mary is present to us in still another way by a direct physical presence. The opinion of most theologians, Thomas in particular, is that the glorified humanity of Jesus exercises a physical action upon us. . . . We may expect, then, that the glorified humanity of Mary exercises an analogous physical action upon us. Moreover, the reason for this action is the same in both cases: Jesus acts upon us to apply the grace which He has merited for us by the Redemption; Mary co-operated with Jesus, and in dependence upon Him, in the acquisition of this same grace. Since, by reason of this co-operation of Christ the Redeemer, she has become the Distributrix of all graces, it is quite natural that she, like Him, exercises upon us a physical action as well as the moral action of impetration.19

We can easily add to Neubert’s statement that Mary’s direct physical presence in the life of each one of us must absolutely be the case. We are human, we have bodies; Mary is human and has a glorified body that is not bound by space or time, and we belong to Mary in the most definitive manner. As I wrote in “Mary is Made for You,” Mary is one’s Mother, but also sister and, for a man — not in a carnal or earthly manner (which is why in the Song of Songs God speaks of the bride, primarily meant to signify Mary, as “my sister, my spouse) but in a real sense — a man’s beloved, in a spiritual sense even a spouse; as I quoted from a friend of mine, an excellent theologian, in that article:

St. Theresa [of Avila]’s words describing the soul’s mystical experience of an overwhelmingly painfully, yet indescribably sweet longing for an ever-more-perfect transforming union with Christ can and should . . . apply to Mary. . . . It is only appropriate that a lover’s longing be experienced, by women, for Christ; and by men, for Mary. Hence, Mary’s role in the economy of salvation must incorporate her gender, for, as a Woman — as The “Woman,” she necessarily relates to human persons as Mother, Sister & Bride. The first two of these roles apply equally to both men & women; but Her role as Spouse can only apply to men, just as Christ can only be a Bridegroom to female religious and other women to whom this grace has been given.25

Since Mary is truly Mother and Sister to all, and for a man close in the sense of complementarity as well, would she be physically distant? This would be an imperfection—the very nature of motherhood necessitates a physical presence, even at a spiritual level since in the glorified state human persons remain creatures of body and soul, and thus a physical presence one to the other is proper.

The second way is more specific and more spectacular, and includes a physical union, though not in an earthly manner via corruptible human flesh. To some this might be, initially, a surprise: Holy Communion. What does this Immaculate Girl have to do with the Eucharist and the worthy reception of the Eucharist in Holy Communion? The answer requires a preface: What is the fundamental consequence of the Eucharist worthily received? St. John Vianney explains:

When one has received Communion, the soul revels in the embraces of love as a bee in the flowers. He who communicates loses himself in God as a drop of water in the ocean. They cannot be separated. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, said Jesus Christ, abides in Me and I in him. My Flesh is meat indeed and My Blood is drink indeed; so that by Holy Communion, the adorable Blood of Jesus Christ flows in our veins, His Flesh is truly mingled with ours. We are united to His Person as food is to our flesh.20

The precious Blood of Jesus Christ . . . flows in our veins, and His adorable Body . . . is blended with ours.21

St. Cyril of Jerusalem taught that in the Eucharist we become “one body and blood with him,” St. John Chrysostom that “He mixed Himself with us, and confused His Body with us, so that we might become one, like a head connected with the body,” and St. Cyril of Alexandria that in Holy Communion Christ and the communicant are as “two candles melted into one.” Such a person becomes “not simply alter Christus, another Christ, but ipse Christus, Christ himself” via participation.22

Your body and soul, your heart and mind, become one with Jesus’s body and soul, heart and mind in Holy Communion. Now, Jesus’s body and soul, heart and mind are utterly, completely, totally one with Mary’s body and soul, heart and mind. He is bone and flesh of her bone and flesh! Their souls and Hearts are totally united! If your body and soul, heart and mind are but one with Jesus, then you have become bone and flesh of Mary’s bone and flesh, your soul and hers too are one, your heart and hers are blissfully, intimately united: Yes, your heart and the Heart of the Princess-Queen of Heaven and Earth are one. You are even — it bears repeating — one with her in terms of bone and flesh and blood. When Jesus gave us Himself, He gave His whole life — this includes His physical and spiritual union with Mary. The communicant has melted into her, so to speak, since in Jesus he is but one with her; earthly lovers long to melt into each other but cannot achieve it, but this is what really happens in Holy Communion — the person is first melted into one with Christ and then, as a necessary result, the communicant is melted into Mary in a way that is virginal and spiritual yet truer and more complete than anything that could possibly exist in this world, far beyond even earthly marriage. In fact, union with Mary in Holy Communion is a far greater thing than if Mary appeared before one’s waking eyes.

Thus men experience the ultimate male-female complementarity with the perfect Woman as a consequence of their Eucharistic union with Christ (women experience the ultimate male-female complementarity with Christ, the perfect Man). No lovelier union with the feminine is possible.

Conclusion

Mary is the absolute apex of feminine loveliness and union with her the absolute pinnacle of female love, the most beautiful and mysterious Girl in the world, the Girl who loves each person, male and female, with a love so passionate that it has been termed “violent” by Fr. J. Concilio, who wrote:

Her love, always so tender, so energetic, so violent, intensified yet more by the spectacle of such tenderness and such compassion [Jesus on the Cross], becomes yet more tender, more powerful, more violent, and was raised, so to speak, to its highest power.23

My brothers, we men will only be happy and successful, good priests, husbands, fathers, brothers and friends to the extent we are one with Mary. With her we will conquer dragons, those in our own unique lives and in the lives of those we love . . . and I mean literal dragons. Such a man becomes a conquering king with his conquering Queen. Let me end with a painting and an excerpt from Dom Kirby’s article “I Love Them that Love Me”:

Painting by Giovanni Odazzi: Mystic Marriage of St. Robert to Our Lady

The Mystic Marriage of St. Robert to Our Lady, by Giovanni Odazzi (1663–1731).

In the painting I am describing it is clear that the initiative is Our Lady’s. She appears to have drawn Saint Robert upward to herself to receive this ineffable grace binding him to her. Now, the most extraordinary detail, to my mind is this: just above Saint Robert and a little to his right, none other than Saint Joseph is looking on! He is pointing to his staff, the top of which has flowered into a pure white lily. What does this mean? Saint Joseph is saying that intimacy with the Virgin Mary is the secret of holy purity. He is pointing to his flowering staff to say that one bound to Mary, as if by a marriage bond, will be pure. She is the Virginizing Bride. One who obeys the injunction of the angel to Joseph — “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost” (Mt 1:15) — will find that she communicates the grace of a fruitful purity to those who bind themselves to her in a permanent and exclusive way.

Not Good for Man to Be Alone

Already in the second chapter of Genesis, God said to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help like unto himself” (Gen 2:18). The complement to this word of God to Adam is the word of Jesus Crucified to John: “After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own” (Jn 19:27). Every union of a man with a woman, even, and I would say especially, the union of hearts and souls, is ordered to a spiritual fecundity. “Whoso findeth me, findeth life,” says Our Lady, “and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov 8:35).24

  1. Keith Berube, “Mary Is Made for You,” at Homiletic and Pastoral Review (Dec. 20, 2018), hprweb.com/2018/12/mary-is-made-for-you/.
  2. Sam Guzman, “The Other Woman in My Life,” The Catholic Gentleman website (March 2014), catholicgentleman.net/2014/03/the-other-woman-in-my-life/.
  3. D. Roberto, The Love of Mary (Rockford, IL: TAN, 1984), 63-65.
  4. Bertrand de Margerie, “The Knowledge of Mary and the Sacrifice of Jesus,” Mary at the Foot of the Cross (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2001), 34.
  5. Margerie, “Knowledge of Mary,” 34.
  6. Margerie, “Knowledge of Mary,” 34.
  7. Margerie, “Knowledge of Mary,” 33.
  8. Margerie, “Knowledge of Mary,” 34.
  9. Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010), 24.
  10. Sheen, World’s First Love, 24.
  11. Ronald Knox, “The Priestly Life,” EWTN (1958), chapter 13, ewtn.com/library/PRIESTS/PRIESTLY.TXT.
  12. John Joseph, “Snow White: An Allegory of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Ten-Stringed Lyre of the New Israel (Aug. 22, 2016), tenstringedlyreofthenewisrael.blogspot.com/2016/08/snow-white-allegory-of-blessed-virgin.html.
  13. Gertrud von le Fort, The Eternal Woman (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010), 79-80.
  14. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary (Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931), 676.
  15. John Eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary (New York: P.J. Kenedy, 1948), 4.
  16. Mark Kirby, “Maria Bambina,” Vultus Christi (Sep. 8, 2016), vultuschristi.org/index.php/2016/09/maria-bambina/.
  17. Pope Pius X, Encyclical on the Immaculate Conception Ad Diem Illum Laetisiumum (Feb. 2, 1904), §10.
  18. H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown, 1977), 31.
  19. Emile Neubert, Life of Union with Mary (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2014), 51-52.
  20. John Vianney, “Meditation 9: The Eucharist Unites Us to Jesus Christ,” in “Eucharistic Meditations of the Curé d’Ars,” Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary website (1971), piercedhearts.org/eucharistic_heart/meditations_cure_ars.htm.
  21. John Vianney, “Meditation 11: The Blessed Eucharist Lessens in Us Our Tendency to Evil,” in “Eucharistic Meditations of the Curé d’Ars.”
  22. F. Ocariz, The Mystery of Jesus Christ (Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 2011), 149.
  23. J. Concilio, The Knowledge of Mary (New York: H.J. Hewitt, 1878), 238.
  24. Mark Kirby, “I Love Them that Love Me,” Vultus Christi (Jan. 26, 2009), vultuschristi.org/index.php/2009/01/i-love-them-that-love-me-1/.
Keith Berube About Keith Berube

Keith Berube, MA, is a mariologist and the author of the books Mary, the Beloved and Mary: The Rosary, the Relationship, and Dragons (to hit bookshelves in summer 2019), published by Enroute Books and Media. He has been a guest on EWTN with Jim and Joy Pinto and interviewed by WCAT Radio, St. Gabriel Radio, and Tumblar House. Mr. Berube is currently working toward a PhD in systematic theology, specializing in mariology, and teaches at Queen of Heaven Academy.