Titles of Our Lady from the Litany of Loreto

Queen of Virgins

Queen of Virgins

Mary is the Queen of Virgins, the Virgin of Virgins, because She is the greatest of Virgins.

There is a strong statement from the Council of Trent: "If anyone assert that man, after he is once justified, is able to avoid throughout his lifetime all sin, even venial, except by a special divine privilege, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin, let him be anathema!" It is the statement of Her supremacy of sanctity. St. John Damascene called Her, "a holy book, impervious to evil thoughts." Nothing is more eloquent than the panegyric of St. Ephrem: "All pure, all immaculate, all stainless, all undefiled, all blameless, all worthy of praise, all incorrupt—after the Trinity, Mistress of all; after the Paraclete, another counselor; and after the Mediator, the whole world's Mediatrix; higher beyond compare than the Cherubim and Seraphim, fullness of the graces of the Trinity, holding the second place after the Godhead."

When the fittings of the altar for the Old Testament tabernacle were being made, it was ordered that everything in connection with the service should be most pure for the most pure God. "Behold," says Job (25, 5), "even the moon doth not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight." The candlestick and all the vessels were to be made of the finest gold. The olive oil was to be of the purest; pure incense; pure myrrh; and the altar was to be pure. These were but types. And Mary, who was to give Her flesh for the Incarnation of the Son of God, was to be the most pure Virgin, before His birth, in His birth, and after His birth. "No defiled thing cometh into Her," says the Church in the Gradual of the Mass for the Most Pure Heart of Mary, "for She is the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted Mirror of God's majesty, and the image of His goodness" (Wisdom 7).

Presentation of MaryWe have already discussed under the title, "Virgin of Virgins," the virginity of Mary. There is nothing to be added there. But Mary is called "Queen of Virgins" not only because She is the greatest of all Virgins, but because She is the exemplar of virginity, and the Queen of all who have vowed themselves to the virgin life for the love of God. She is their Queen. In an apocryphal writing we are told that when Our Lady lived in the temple, the maidens called Her "Queen of Virgins." It may be noted that the same source says, "A Virgin has conceived, a Virgin has brought forth, and a Virgin She remains."

Christianity has glorified virginity. There were virgins under the Old Law, but as an institution it is peculiarly Christian, in imitation of Christ and His Virgin Mother. Virginity, for man or woman, is the keeping—and in vowed virginity, the determination to keep—physical integrity, from a spiritual motive, and not only a material integrity of the body but the integrity of a virgin soul, free from all lust. It is evident that no one is bound to take this vow, apart from its being a concomitant of Sacred Orders. It is a counsel of perfection. "All men take not this word," said Our Lord, "but they to whom it is given—he that can take, let him take it" (Matt. 19: 11-12). St. Paul also counsels it—"Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful" (1 Cor. 7: 25). And he puts the reason in a nutshell, that the married person "is divided," and so he counsels virginity, "which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment" (Ibid. 35).

Therefore the Church has always esteemed virginity as, in itself, preferable to the married state, since it constitutes a victory over the lower appetites, and also leaves a man freer to attend to spiritual things. The virgin life is closer to the life of the Virgin Christ, and will receive in Heaven a special glory or crown. St. John, in the Apocalypse, glorifies the one hundred and forty-four thousand virgins. "These follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth—for they are without spot before the throne of God" (Apoc. 14: 4-5).

The glorious canonization of Mary's faith in those first days of the Incarnation came with Her confession of faith in the outbursts of the Magnificat. "He has regarded the humility of His Handmaid... He Who is mighty has done great things to Me and Holy is His Name... His mercy is from generation unto generation to those who fear Him... He has given help to Israel, His servant." Every word of that inspired poem seals Mary as Queen of Confessors.

The consecrated virgins have always been one of the glories of the Church. This consecration is evident from the beginning. Tertullian exclaims—"How many virgins of both sexes!" It was a noble profession. In Syria the virgins were called "Daughters of the Covenant." Even girls of the tender age of ten and twelve vowed their virginity to God, though later on the age of consecration was set at twenty-five years. It was such a solemn ceremony that the Bishop presided at the clothing. The ceremony as given in the Roman Pontifical is very solemn and reserved to the Bishop during Mass. He blesses the veil, the ring, and the crown. In the early ages the consecrated virgins remained at home, engaged in prayer and labor, but after the eighth century as the convents increased, and cloister became the rule, the ceremonies of the various Orders began to replace the Pontifical ceremony. But what a tremendous ceremony it was—with prayer after prayer. How important it was, and how the Church regarded the consecrated virgin, is evident from the anathema which the Bishop pronounces against anyone who would presume to take her away from the service of God, to which she is vowed, or to rob her of her goods. "If anyone dares to attempt this, may he be cursed in his house and out of it; may he be cursed in the city and in the country; cursed awake, cursed asleep; cursed eating, cursed drinking; cursed walking, cursed sitting; cursed be his flesh, his bones, and from the sole of his foot to the top of his head may he have no health. May there come upon him the malediction which God permitted through Moses in the Law to the sons of iniquity. May his name be wiped out from the book of life, and not written with the just; may his position and inheritance be with the fratricide Cain, with Dathin and Abiron, with Ananias and Sapphira, with Simon Magus, and Judas the Betrayer, and with those who have said to God—Depart from us, we do not choose the path of Thy ways. May he perish on the day of judgment; may perpetual fire devour him with the devil and his angels, unless he restore and return to an amendment of his life. Amen, amen. Fiat, fiat."

Such an anathema might seem exaggerated, until you remember that the vowed virgin was helpless in a warring, lustful world, often compelled to oppose the ambition of her parents, who could see only an advantageous marriage as the purpose in life of their daughter. Oftentimes it was otherwise good Catholics who would bitterly oppose their child entering a convent. One need only recall the family opposition to St. Clare and her sister St. Agnes, and to St. Catherine of Siena, when they sought to consecrate themselves to God. They needed all the protection of the Church.

St. Catherine of SienaBut in spite of opposition, in spite of the allurements of the world, the virgins went on consecrating themselves to God. There can be no other explanation of it but the wish to follow the example of the true model of all womanhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has been one of the marvels of the world, that in every age such a multitude of girls have espoused themselves—virgin brides to the Virgin Christ. St. Brigid of Ireland was called "the Mary of the Gael." So may every nun be called another Mary, as every priest is called another Christ. It is Mary who places the ring upon their finger, espousing them to the King, as she did in the mystical nuptials of St. Catherine of Siena. Thus the Church applies to Our Lady, in the Introit of the Mass of the Annunciation, the words of the Psalmist, "All the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance; after her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbors shall be brought to Thee in gladness and rejoicing" (Ps. 44).

Mary is regarded by all virgins as their Queen, because it is Her special province to guard them. St. Ambrose says, "In Heaven She leads the choirs of virgin souls: with Her the consecrated virgins will one day be numbered." In the Matins Hymn for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception She is called Praeclara custos virginum, "the illustrious guardian of virgins." It is reminiscent of St. Gertrude who made this prayer—"And now, O my Jesus, Thou one desire of my heart, I beseech Thee to commend and consign me to Thy Mother, the virginal and sovereign Rose. May She ever be, for love of Thee, the guide and the keeper of my virginity." And in one of her litanies she prays, "O holy Mary, Thou Paradise of sanctity and lily of purity, be thou my guide and the shelter and defense of my chastity."

St. Ildephonsus, Bishop of Toledo, went to the church one night, and found Our Lady seated in the apse in his own episcopal throne, while a crowd of virgins were gathered about Her, singing Her praises. This was a significant vision. Throughout the ages, in cloisters, in hospitals, in schools, on the battlefield, at the missions, our Catholic sisters have crowded at the feet of the Queen of Virgins, praying, working, suffering, in order to make themselves dearer to Her and Her Divine Son. It is a glorious vocation, a hard life, but a blessed life. And when you think about it at the feet of Mary, the marvel is that not that so many, like Her, have chosen the better part, but rather that thousands upon thousands more of our Catholic girls have not chosen to follow in the pathway where She first walked. We need many religious vocations, not only to do the work of the Kingdom of God in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, but by their personal sanctity to increase the practice of holiness on the earth, and help to save the souls of the rest of mankind—including lukewarm Christians. And what prayer can we make to the Queen of Virgins but this, that She raise up countless maidens for Christ, that "after Her shall virgins be brought to the King."

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