Priestly Union with the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today’s feast of the Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph compels me to reflect on the grace of mystical espousal with Our Lady, something to which every monk and priest should aspire, for God Himself has said, that “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Essentially, a man to whom the Holy Ghost vouchsafes this grace shares his entire life with Mary. Like Saint Joseph, he lives for her; he lives with her; he lives by her. Like Saint Joseph, he has no secrets from her; owns nothing that is not hers as well; and is of one mind and heart with her in all things. The Blessed Virgin Mary completes the man espoused to her.
Among the saints marked by this grace are Saint Robert of Molesme (1028-1111), Saint Hermann Joseph (1150-1241), Saint Edmund of Canterbury (1175-1240), Blessed Alain de la Roche (1428-1475), and Saint John Eudes (1601-1670).
Saint John Eudes
Already as a young man, John Eudes placed a wedding band on the finger of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was a portent of things to come. As a priest, a reformer of the clergy, and an outstanding preacher, he experienced the fruitfulness that results from a spousal intimacy with the Mother of God.
Something to Which All Priests Should Aspire
Saint John Eudes, a friend of Mother Mectilde de Bar, and one of the stars shining in the constellation of holy priests in 17th century France, presents this grace as something to which all priests should aspire. To describe it he uses the French word alliance: covenant, bond, or union. Significantly, the same word is used to designate a wedding ring. I decided to translate the following passage from his Memorial on the Life of Ecclesiastics:
The Eternal Father
Consider that priests have a special alliance with the most holy Mother of God. This because, just as the Eternal Father made her participate in His divine paternity, and gave her the power to form in her womb the same Son whom He begets in His bosom, so too does He communicate to priests that same paternity, giving them power to form this same Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and in the hearts of the faithful.
As the Son made her [the Virgin Mary] His cooperator and coadjutrix (helpmate) in the work of the redemption of the world, so too does He make priests His cooperators and coadjutors in the work of saving souls.
The Holy Ghost
As the Holy Ghost, in an ineffable manner, associated her [the Virgin Mary] with Himself in the most divine of His operations, and in the masterpiece of His that is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, so too does He associate priests with Himself to bring about an extension and a continuation of this mystery in each Christian, in whom the Son of God, in some manner, incarnates Himself by means of Baptism and by the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Mediatrix of All Graces
Just as the Eternal Father gave us His Son through her [the Virgin Mary], so too does He give Him to us through His priests. Even as all the graces that come forth to us from the Heart of God pass through the hands of Mary, so too are they given us by the ministry of priests. This in such wise that, just as Mary is the treasurer of the Most Holy Trinity, priests too bear this title.
The Sacrifice of Christ
Finally, it is through her that Jesus was offered to His Father at the first and last moment of His life, when she received Him in her sacred womb, and when she accompanied Him to the sacrifice that He made of Himself on the cross; and it is by means of priests that He is immolated daily upon our altars.
Mother of the Sovereign Priest
This is why priests, being bound by so intimate an alliance and so marvelous a conformity to the Mother of the Sovereign Priest, have very particular obligations to love her, to honour her, and to clothe themselves in her virtues, in her spirit, and in her dispositions. Humble yourselves that you should find yourselves so far removed from this. Enter into the desire to tend thereto with all your heart. Offer yourselves to her, and pray her to help you mightily.