Lesson #34 Afterword on the Spiritual Exercises

Philosophy Notes

Mary’s School of Sanctity

A Reflection on Mary and the Principle and Foundation

Having finished the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, let us take this lesson to reflect on how Our Dear Mother Mary lived the Principle and Foundation to perfection. 

First we will need to recall the actual text that St. Ignatius gives us for the Principle and Foundation:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.  All other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him fulfill the end for which he is created.  From this it follows that man is to use these things to the extent that they will help him to attain his end.  Likewise, he must rid himself of them insofar as they prevent him from attaining it.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, insofar as it is left to the choice of our free will and is not forbidden.  Acting accordingly, for our part, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short one, and so in all things we should desire and choose only those things which will best help us attain the end for which we are created.

Our Catechism teaches us that the chief creatures of God are angels and men.  We say “chief creatures” because both angels and men were created with an intellectual power.  Angels and men are the type of creatures that can know God, not as He comprehends Himself, but understanding God is the Supreme Being with His infinite perfections.  When we humans ponder our ability to know God, we can see that it is astounding that God gave us such a wonderful capacity.

Man’s highest faculties are his intellect and his will.  He must use these powers to praise, revere, and serve God his Creator.  The more a man uses his will and intellect properly, the better he serves God.  In fact, God wants man to perfect his intellect.

But how does man perfect his intellect?  He pursues truth and studies it.  He is able to look at and study divinely revealed truths.  He also needs to look at the world around him in order to examine it through his senses and discover reality on many levels. [Romans 1:20][1]

In addition to learning through observation and study, man can learn by God infusing truth in him.[2]  God has done this wonderful thing to His saints.  He did this on the highest level for Mary.

Now let us consider some additional facts in order to better see God’s magnificent plan for Mary and for us.  The angels also were created with the moral obligation to praise, revere, and serve God.  There intellects are far superior to ours.  

Lucifer was the highest angel and had the strongest intellect of all the angels.  Yet, in his pride and abusing his free-will, he failed the test that God put forth to the angels.  We are not sure of the exact nature of the test, but one could think that Lucifer and one-third[3] of the total number of angels refused to accept the fact that God would become incarnate as Man.  Not only this, but also the angels would have to serve God made man and His Holy Mother who was merely a human – a woman at that.[4]  Therefore, Lucifer failed to fulfill the purpose for which he was created.

Let us contrast his failure with Mary.  Mary is God’s masterpiece and she fulfills His Plan the best.  We must remember that God gave her all of her prerogatives because God chose her to be His Mother.  God loves Mary more than He loves all the angels and saints put together.  God gave her more knowledge and virtue than all the angels and saints put together.  She took Lucifer’s place, as it were.  Thus, it is not surprising that Satan hates her and her humility, her exact obedience, and the fact that God has given such power and majesty to her.  Satan hates the fact, too, that God made her our Mother, our model and our protectress. 

Let us reflect how she followed the Principle and Foundation perfectly.  She praised God from the moment of her Immaculate Conception.  She had perfect use of her reason from that moment.  She spent her earthly life always in the deepest contemplation of God and His truths.

Her love for God exceeds the love for Him of all of the angels and the other saints combined.  As a result, she revered God the most during her earthly sojourn.  She was presented in the temple when she was a tender three-year-old and learned the Scriptures.  She prayed for the redemption of Israel.  

When the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she humbly wondered what his greeting meant.  She was well-aware how to discern the spirits and how to protect herself from pride.  She tested Gabriel’s message by referring to her vow of chastity and then she was satisfied by the way Gabriel expressed God’s holy plan.  She had no doubt that God would preserve her virginity.  She revered His Divine Plan for the Incarnation.  She most willingly gave her “fiat”.  She understood she would have a life of suffering because the Son of God was to be born as an oblation to God for the salvation of mankind.

St. Joseph, too, had taken a vow of perpetual chastity.  Both Our Lady and St. Joseph understood the chastity that would be sacred in their marriage.  Both were committed to serving God with their whole hearts.  They would serve God together in monastic married life.  In their midst God-made-Man would grow to manhood.

Think of their anguish when Our Lord stayed behind in Jerusalem at age twelve.   God kept His intention hidden from them in order to increase their merit.  Their suffering was in reparation for the sins of men and they were setting examples for parents for all the generations to come.

Mary as a wife is such a resplendent model for all wives.  She was subservient to St. Joseph, as this was part of her service to God.  Wives should obey their husbands and follow Mary’s example.  She loved God so much and was devoted to her duty because she loved God.

Mary was also a perfect example for all mothers.  She was ever ready to sacrifice all for her family.  Of course, Our Lord was her Son and her God.  Hence, her role of Mother was a unique one.  Nevertheless, Our Lord was subservient to His parents. 

All through Our Lord’s Public Life, Our Lady served Him in countless ways.  We know, too, of her ultimate gift of herself at the Foot of the Cross where she endured a bloodless martyrdom.  Her anguish was like that of no other earthly mother because hers was the most that any human person could possibly suffer.  Yes, she earned the martyr’s palm, Our dear Mother of Sorrows.

The remainder of her days on earth was spent in the service of God as she ministered to the needs of the Apostles and the nascent Church.  Our Lord gave her to us to be Our Mother while He hung on the Cross.  She was faithful in serving her Son by giving her services to the Church which He founded.  Of course, she is ever Our faithful Mother, even as Queen of Heaven and all Creation.  She is our Protectress too.

With these reflections in mind, we see that we could never find a better model (besides Our Lord Himself) of someone who kept the Principle and Foundation perfectly.  Mary is a model not only for women, but for men, too.  We, like Mary, were created to praise, revere, and serve God.  Our mission in life is not as sublime as Mary’s was, but nevertheless, we must be always ready to do whatever He may ask of us.  Let us go to Our Mother, Our Model, and Our Protectress and beg her for guidance on how to make the best effort we can to seek God’s plan and to fulfill His Will for us.

Queen of Angels, pray for us.   Help us to faithfully praise, revere, and serve God so that by this means, we can save our souls.

[1]           Romans 1:20 “For the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: His eternal power also, and divinity: so that they [viz., men who pervert the truth ] are inexcusable.”   To put this quote in context, St. Paul had been speaking of those who “detain the truth of God in injustice: because that which is known of God is manifest in them.  For God had manifested it unto them”, and St. Paul was here showing how it was manifested to them.


[2]           Angels have only infused knowledge because they do not have bodies and therefore do not have bodily senses.


[3]           Apocalypse 12:3-4 “And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns and on his heads seven diadems: and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth:”

[4]           The proud angels of the lower choirs might have also rebelled because of the thought that God would assign some of them to be the guardians, helpers, and companions to humans – who were so low compared to their angelic selves!