Mary Ward

Mary Ward (1585-1645)

‘…a singular freedom from all that could make one adhere to earthly things, with an entire application and apt disposition to all good works. Something happened also discovering the freedom that such a soul should have to refer all to God… That word Justice, and those in former times that were called just persons, works of justice, done in innocency and that we be such as we appear, and appear such as we are – these things often since occurred to my mind with a liking of them.’

This letter, written by Mary Ward to her spiritual director in November 1615, is the heart of her spirituality. The vision of the Just Soul sums up Mary Ward’s ‘pathway to God’.

  • It is a vision of holiness in the ordinary: ‘not like the state of the saints, whose holiness chiefly appears in that union with God which maketh them out of themselves.’ Rather, it is a mysticism in action which allows us, even as we are immersed in the world, to ‘refer all to God.’
  • It is a vision of freedom in God, for God. Rooting ourselves deeply in God, as Mary Ward did, allows us to be free for God’s work, and free in the face of difficulty and success alike.
  • It is a vision of justice, ‘done in innocency’. Mary Ward’s vision is not just one of people doing good, but being good: becoming the kind of people from whom justice and truth naturally flow.
  • It is a vision of integrity, ‘that we be such as we appear, and appear such as we are.’ What Mary Ward envisions is a new openness before God and others, an innocence and honesty towards which we can grow.

O Parent of parents, and Friend of all friends, without entreaty you took me into your care and by degrees led me from all else that at length I might see and settle my love in You.

What had I ever done to please You? Or what was there in me wherewith to serve You? Much less could I ever deserve to be chosen by You. O happy begun freedom, the beginning of all my good, and more worth to me than the whole world besides.

Had I never hindered Your will and working in me, what degrees of grace should I now have. Yet where as yet am I?

My Jesus, forgive me, remembering what You have done for me and whither You have brought me, and for this excess of goodness and love let me no more hinder Your will in me.

Mary Ward 1619