Commentaries on St. Alphonse Liguori’s “The Glories of Mary”

Saint of the Day, December 26, 1969

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

“A Roman and Apostolic Catholic, the author of this text submits himself with filial devotion to the traditional teaching of Holy Church. However, if by an oversight anything is found in it at variance with that teaching, he immediately and categorically rejects it.”

 The words “Revolution” and “Counter-Revolution” are employed here in the sense given to them by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in his book Revolution and Counter-Revolution, the first edition of which was published in the monthly Catolicismo, Nº 100, April 1959.


Young men from the Argentine TFP have asked me to comment on an excerpt from St. Alphonse Liguori’s “The Glories of Mary”:

“The Most Holy Virgin had more faith than all men and angels put together. She saw Her son in the stable of Bethlehem and believed He was the Creator of the world. She saw Him flee Herod and still believed He was the King of kings. She saw Him being born and believed He was eternal. She saw Him poor and in need of food and believed He was the Lord of the universe; lying on hay and believed He was Almighty.

She noticed He would not speak but believed He was Infinite Wisdom. She heard him cry and believed He was the Joy of Paradise. Finally, She saw Him in death, crushed and crucified; and while others might hesitate in their faith, Our Lady remained always firm in Her belief that He was God.

About the words, “and His Mother stood by the Cross of Jesus,” St. Antoninus commented: “Mary remained firm and preserved Her immutable Faith in the divinity of Christ.”

This really is a very beautiful passage from St. Alphonse Liguori, glorifying in Our Lady a virtue that is often passed over. Much is said about Our Lady’s purity and Her other outstanding qualities. Little is said about Our Lady’s Faith. The reason is the ambience of liberalism and relativism that has intoxicated the West, rendering the Faith less and less understood and causing people to lose sight of the fact that Faith is the root from which all other virtues stem, and that the intensity of a person’s spiritual life is proportional to the intensity of his Faith.

Accordingly, since Our Lady had the highest possible degree of all virtues a human creature can have, it was natural for Her to have also Faith in the highest degree, and for her Faith to be downright impossible to imitate.

Here, in a very beautiful way, St. Alphonse picks a number of seeming contradictions, paradoxes that arose in Our Lady’s life. For example, seeing a silent Child that would not utter even a word, She would look at Him and say: “This is God, the King of the Universe.”  She saw him lying on hay and said, “He is the Almighty, the Lord of all things.” Naturally, She could have asked: “If He is the Lord of all wisdom, why does He not speak? If He is omnipotent, why does not change this hay into a sumptuous royal mantle?”

Now, what are these tremendous contradictions between the appearances with which Our Lord presented Himself and the reality that Our Lady had before herself? I understand someone could make this objection: “It was easy for Our Lady to have Faith because she received the revelation from the angels and very luminous interior graces. Seeing all the evidence before her, no doubt was possible. What could be asked is whether she still had Faith, because Faith disappears precisely in the face of evidence.

As a matter of fact, in Heaven we will no longer have Faith because the vision of God face-to-face suppresses the virtue of Faith. One can no longer make an act of confidence in what God tells us because we see directly, that which was announced, to us. So we could ask whether Our Lady had Faith while still on this earth.”

Here is the answer: However enormous that evidence might have been, it is proper for the human mind, when placed before a discrepant sensible appearance, to question it; man is tremendously impressed with sensible things. It would be proper for a person conceived in original sin to have a huge question mark about what he was seeing.

Our Lady was not conceived with original sin but was a human creature and found herself in the middle of this contradiction between the things she saw, on the one hand, and the things that she knew precisely from the Faith, on the other. She had an enormous Faith, believed in everything, doubted nothing and thus gave us the most perfect example of the true Faith.

From this comes our understanding that the true devotee of Mary must be characterized by an intense Faith and that devotion to Our Lady naturally leads to devotion to the Holy Catholic Church, because the Catholic Church is the point of convergence of all the truths of the Faith. He, who believes in the Church, believes in everything; he, who doesn’t believe in the Church, believes in nothing. The Church is like the beam in which all the truths of the Faith are contained.

I have the precise impression that this subject lifts the veil on the very mysterious subject of the Secret of Mary a little bit. I don’t know when I will get to know this matter directly, but I have glimpses of it precisely when I think of the extraordinary grace of Faith that one receives with the grace of ultramontanism; the grace of the vocation when it is being born.

At that point a kind of strength of soul enters the person whereby he doubts nothing and has all the certainties and jubilation that these certainties bring; they present themselves in a morning light, in a splendid clarity. The person has a joy of the Faith that is something monumental.

If and when some blurring begins to happen in the person’s vision of things, it happens exactly because of a decrease in the virtue of Faith. At that point, perplexities and questions begin to mount and darkness comes into the soul and shadows begin to appear. As happens in a room in a house during a sunset, the objects inside take on an eerie look and one begins to have doubts about the identity of those dark figures one sees in the room even though the whole ambience is familiar.

I believe that this vigorous Faith that the ultramontane has, this Faith that doubts nothing, this Faith without shadows of an ultramontane true to his vocation, who believes against all appearances, is a kind of mysterious and super excellent communication which keeps him entirely in the Faith even facing things that seem most obviously opposed to it.

I even think that the virtue of Faith will be extraordinarily necessary for us, under the form of the spirit of Faith. And by that I mean the excellent virtue of Faith whereby we know how to apply Faith-related data to the concrete circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I find it most normal that we will feel lost on many occasions; we will feel there is no way out and it’s all over, and that later on the road opens up again and some unexpected difficulty is removed and we move forward. This is exactly an aspect of the Faith, a reflection of the Faith; it is in fact a brilliance of the Faith.

I even believe that the reason our daily life is so full of rough edges is to reinforce the virtue of Faith in us.  In other words, we are often placed before contradictions that stun us. At times we look at the group and have the impression of a tower of Pisa that is already on a 15-degree angle from the ground. Yet, this tower of Pisa does not fall. Then, all of a sudden we see the tower of Pisa straightening itself up again, and already flabbergasted at the fact it didn’t fall, we become even more startled seeing it return to its previous position.

Conversely, at times we have the impression that it is not a tower of Pisa but – a poor comparison – an Eiffel Tower all made of metal, with its claws sunk into the ground, and we say: “Wow, these are such good people, with such stable psychologies.” But the moment we begin to trust the natural we suddenly see the Eiffel Tower melt like an ice cream under the midday sun and the whole thing crumbles.

In other words, all these things place us in a position of soul that requires a constant faith. The group is continually placed before these improbabilities because it is a kind of rollercoaster. We must always be confident that things will be resolved and will move forward and this is the way things are in the path of Our Lady. It is important for us to bear in mind that this preparation is underway for much more terrible, but also much more admirable days.

Because nothing is more admirable in the life of a man than for him to believe against all reason and hope against all hope and finally see his Faith and hope justified. These are the greatest aspects in a man’s life.

For example, the Jews opening up and crossing the Red Sea is the most beautiful episode there can be in the history of a people. Defeating one hundred million enemies is less than that. The Pharaoh is right behind them, and the sea in front. Well, they say, let us go into the sea! The sea opens up, and when the Jews have passed safely, it swallows the pharaoh with his entire army. The case is solved. Is there anything more beautiful than that?

I say this because modern circumstances very easily lead a person to lean toward a happy ending mentality and have a triumphal view of things like the one Nazi Germans had. The modern mentality leads us to think that our apostolate should develop normally….

… The RCR is written, some people read it and become enthusiastic. These people form a movement; this movement strikes several blows, overthrows the Revolution, and that’s the end of it. We are tempted to think that all of this is happening in a nice, tidy and smooth way in a straight line, without any reversals whatsoever. In the real world, anyone who thought this of RCR would have understood nothing about RCR or our group and a fortiori of the history of the group.

On the contrary, our history is full of sinuosity, suffering and unexpected events; and only after it was left behind we look back and see that it was the most beautiful part of our history. That is how our history is made beautiful. This is how the history of all things supernatural is like. Nothing moves forward otherwise. Nothing.

Take the Spanish Reconquista. It took practically 800 years of fight, during which all kinds of things happened: Catholic kings became indolent, fought among themselves, allied with the Moors, allowed the Moors to advance again because they were at war with the King of France; they did all kinds of things. Peoples failed to follow their good kings, and surprisingly, bishops failed to fulfill their duty and to encourage the people to fight. There were retreats, compromises and connivance. Everything that could have gone wrong did.

The Reconquista gradually took place amid all that and the hope of its first heroes was finally justified. Then when the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabel entered Granada, one had the impression that the angels were singing in heaven. Why? Not because everything went on smoothly, organized and in one fell swoop like clockwork, but because of all the reversals, problems and also miracles that were necessary to move that fight forward.

From hence comes the grandeur of the Spanish Reconquista. This is also why the Spanish nation is the one nation that, having fought for 800 years, became the warrior nation par excellence, the sacrificed nation par excellence and the nation that has the sense of immolation par excellence.

So isn’t it natural that our souls should be molded to be souls filled with suffering? And isn’t having to wait one of the worst sufferings? Isn’t disappointment one of the worst sufferings, in addition to perplexity and confusion; a road that goes nowhere?

Isn’t this precisely Our Lord’s favorite path? Obviously it is. Here we need to practice the Faith that Our Lady had: to believe against all appearances and to hope against all hope because in this way suffering will form our soul properly.

So I ask Our Lady, in view of these opportune words by St. Alphonse Liguori, that she grant us this unbreakable Faith that nothing can overthrow, that believes in everything, retreats before nothing, charges forth against everything and winds up winning all kinds of battles after having sustained all kinds of defeats.