The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary

Fourth Virtue: Faith

A Willingness to Trust in God

by Felix Carroll

When the Archangel Gabriel tells Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth, will bear him a son (the future John the Baptist), he doubts and asks for proof, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years" (Lk 1:18). Yet, as a devout priest serving in his temple, he knows this is not impossible since God has blessed the Patriarch Abraham and his wife with a child in their old age.

Mary's response when Gabriel visits her is altogether different. When the archangel tells her that she is to bear the Son of God and name Him Jesus, she only asks for clarification, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" What is being asked of Mary is without precedent — the conception of a child without a human husband.

Once Gabriel clarifies that this conception will be accomplished by the "power of the Most High," Mary surrenders herself completely to the Divine plan: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

She says yes, despite the implications for her future — her life's plans would be shattered. Yes, despite the danger to her — a Jewish woman pregnant out of wedlock could be stoned to death. Yes, despite the awesome responsibility — the call to be the Mother of the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

It is through Mary cooperating with the Holy Spirit that we can learn much about the virtue of faith.

Trust in God

Faith means belief in God and complete trust in Him. But faith, as in Mary's case, often requires a willingness to accept the unexpected paths God has planned for us. Mary, a lowly and humble handmaiden, could have never dreamed of God's plans for her. Yet she surrenders in faith to God's will.

It's interesting to compare Mary's response at the Annunciation with the response earlier of Zechariah. Where he wants further proof, she is firm in her faith.

This woman of faith exhibits the depth of her faith at the wedding feast at Cana. Faced with a shortage of wine, Mary asks Jesus for a miracle. It's a bold request considering that until that moment Jesus hadn't yet performed any miracles. At Cana, Mary already embodies the attitude that was to be praised by Jesus for true believers: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (Jn 20:29).

Even when surrounded by the doubting, Mary remained steadfast in her faith — including at the most critical moment, on Calvary, when promises made at the Annunciation didn't seem to be coming true.

Was such acceptance of God's will easy? Upon the calling of God, Mary's life was suddenly and radically redirected. But, importantly, Mary surrendered to God even without knowing all the details.

Therefore faith — which many of us view as a distinguishing part of our lives — became for Mary life itself. This is why she merits the name of "first and most perfect disciple of Christ" (Marialis Cultus 35).

In regards to Mary's faith, The Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues states: "According to this example, and in the imitation of the Virgin, devoted souls, in order to please God, must be firm in faith, because without faith it is impossible to please God. Through faith they must also conceive Jesus and climb the mount of perfection, so as to be able to do some good ... in the Church or in [the] religious institute."

The question then becomes, How can we show our belief in God and our trust in Him like Mary? It may seem a daunting task, particularly if we are hardwired to put up our defenses — where, if to avoid being duped, we fall into the habit of disputing all manner of authority and, like Zechariah, demand proof.

The only solution is to open up to God's call. He wants us to make Jesus the center of our lives. We can do so through personal prayer, meditation, and studying Scripture. By opening the line of communication, we can create space in our lives for His presence. While we may not experience visions or voices such as Mary experienced, that doesn't mean God doesn't speak to us.

We can hear God speaking in the laughter of a child; when we see a person in need; when we learn of a local non-profit short of volunteers; when we see an act of kindness; and when we visit a nursing home and listen to the stories of the elderly.

We say "yes" to God by setting aside time in the day for prayer. We say yes by giving ourselves to others and by accepting events whose meaning may not be readily apparent.

At the Annunciation, Mary is told, "nothing will be impossible for God" (Lk 1:37). Those are the words that allow us to set forth in faith.

Indeed, just as a lowly servant became the Mother of God, a receptive soul in a troubled world can discover how, through faith, a "mount of perfection" becomes a hilltop of hope in God and His promises.