Necessity Fundamental Truths Choice of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
PRELIMINARY REMARKS By St. Louis de Montfort
§1. It was through the most holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that He has to reign in the world.
§2. Mary was singularly hidden during her life. It is on this account that the Holy Ghost and the Church call her Alma Mater—“Mother secret and hidden.” Her humility was so profound that she had no inclination on earth more powerful or more constant than that of hiding herself, from herself as well as from every other creature, so as to be known to God only.
§3. He heard her prayers when she begged to be hidden, to be humbled and to be treated as in all respects poor and of no account. He took pleasure in hiding her from all human creatures, in her conception, in her birth, in her life, in her mysteries, and in her resurrection and Assumption. Even her parents did not know her, and the angels often asked one another: “Who is that?” (Cant. 3:6; 8:5) because the Most High either had hidden her from them, or if He did reveal anything, it was nothing compared to what He kept undisclosed.
§4. God the Father consented that she should work no miracle, at least no public one, during her life, although He had given her the power to do so. God the Son consented that she should hardly ever speak, though He had communicated His wisdom to her. God the Holy Ghost, though she was His faithful spouse, consented that His Apostles and Evangelists should speak very little of her, and no more than was necessary to make Jesus Christ known.
§5. Mary is the excellent masterpiece of the Most High, the knowledge and possession of which He has reserved to Himself. Mary is the admirable Mother of the Son, who took pleasure in humbling and concealing her during her life in order to favor her humility, calling her by the name of “woman” (Jn. 2:4; 19:26), as if she were a stranger, although in His heart He esteemed and loved her above all angels and all men. Mary is the “sealed fountain” (Cant. 4:12), the faithful spouse of the Holy Ghost, to whom He alone has entrance. Mary is the sanctuary and the repose of the Holy Trinity, where God dwells more magnificently and more divinely than in any other place in the universe, not excepting His dwelling between the Cherubim and Seraphim. Nor is any creature, no matter how pure, allowed to enter into that sanctuary except by a great and special privilege.
§6. I say with the saints, the divine 2 Mary is the terrestrial paradise of the New Adam, where He was made flesh by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in order to work there incomprehensible marvels. She is the grand and divine world of God, where there are beauties and treasures unspeakable. She is the magnificence of the Most High, where He hid, as in her bosom, His only Son, and in Him all that is most excellent and most precious. Oh, what grand and hidden things that mighty God has wrought in this admirable creature, as she herself had to acknowledge, in spite of her profound humility: “He that is mighty hath done great things to me.” (Lk. 1:49). The world knows them not, because it is both incapable and unworthy of such knowledge.
§7. The saints have said admirable things of this holy city of God; and, as they themselves avow, they were never more eloquent and more content than when they spoke of her. Yet, after all they have said, they cry out that the height of her merits, which she has raised up to the throne of the Divinity, cannot be fully seen; that the breadth of her charity, which is broader than the earth, is in truth immeasurable; that the length of her power, which she exercises even over God Himself, is incomprehensible; and finally, that the depth of her humility, and of all her virtues and graces, is an abyss which never can be sounded. O height incomprehensible! O breadth unspeakable! O length immeasurable! O abyss impenetrable!
§8. Every day, from one end of the earth to the other, in the highest heights of the heavens and in the profoundest depths of the abysses, everything preaches, everything publishes, the admirable Mary! The nine choirs of angels, men of all ages, sexes, conditions and religions, the good and the bad, nay, even the devils themselves, willingly or unwillingly, are compelled by the force of truth to call her “Blessed.” St. Bonaventure tells us that all the angels in Heaven cry out incessantly to her: “Holy, holy, holy Mary, Mother of God and Virgin” 3 and that they offer to her, millions and millions of times a day, the Angelical Salutation, Ave Maria, prostrating themselves before her, and begging of her in her graciousness to honor them with some of her commands. Even St. Michael, as St. Augustine says, although the prince of the heavenly court, is the most zealous in honoring her and causing her to be honored, and is always anxiously awaiting the honor of going at her bidding to render service to some one of her servants4.
§9. The whole earth is full of her glory, especially among Christians, by whom she is taken as the protectress of many kingdoms, provinces, dioceses and cities. Many cathedrals are consecrated to God under her name. There is not a church without an altar in her honor, not a country nor a canton where there are not some miraculous images where all sorts of evils are cured and all sorts of good gifts obtained. Who can count the confraternities and congregations in her honor? How many religious orders have been founded in her name and under her protection? How many members in these confraternities, and how many religious men and women in all these orders, who publish her praises and confess her mercies! There is not a little child who, as it lisps the Hail Mary, does not praise her. There is scarcely a sinner who, even in his obduracy, has not some spark of confidence in her. Nay, the very devils in Hell respect her while they fear her.
§10. After that, we must cry out with the saints: “De Maria numquam satis”—“Of Mary there is never enough.” We have not yet praised, exalted, honored, loved and served Mary as we ought. She deserves still more praise, still more respect, still more love, and still more service.
§11. After that, we must say with the Holy Ghost: “All the glory of the King’s daughter is within.” (Ps. 44:14). The outward glory which Heaven and earth rival each other in laying at her feet is as nothing in comparison with that which she receives within from the Creator and which is not known by creatures, who in their littleness are unable to penetrate the secret of secrets of the King.
§12. After that, we must cry out with the Apostle, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor man’s heart comprehended” (I Cor. 2:9) the beauties, the grandeurs, the excellences of Mary—the miracle of the miracles5 of grace, of nature and of glory. “If you wish to comprehend the Mother,” says a saint6, “comprehend the Son; for she is the worthy Mother of God.” “Here let every tongue be mute.”
§13. It is with a particular joy that my heart has dictated what I have just written, in order to show that the divine Mary has been up to this time unknown7, and that this is one of the reasons that Jesus Christ is not known as He ought to be. If then, as is certain, the knowledge and the kingdom of Jesus Christ are to come into the world, they will be but a necessary consequence of the knowledge and the kingdom of the most holy Virgin Mary, who brought Him into the world for the first time, and will make His second Advent full of splendor.
1. Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin for Advent; also the hymn, Ave Maris Stella.
2. “the word ‘divine’ may be used without attributing the nature of divinity to the person or thing thus qualified. We speak of our own prayers, whether addressed to God or to His saints, as a ‘divine service.’ The Psalmist speaks of us all as being gods and sons of the Most High; and yet no one takes offense, because the sense given to the words uttered is understood. Mary may be called ‘divine’ because divinely chosen for the divine office of Mother” of a divine Person, Jesus Christ. (Cardinal Vaughan, Preface to the English edition of True Devotion).
3. St. Bonaventure, Psalm. majus B.V. Hymn. instar Ambrosiani.
4. Quoted by St. Bonaventure, Speculum B.V. lect. III, no. 5.
5. St. John Damascene, Oratio Ia de Nativ. B.V.M.
6. St . Eucherius .
7. Meaning insufficiently known, as the immediate context shows: “Jesus Christ is not known as He ought to be.”
CHAPTER 1 NECESSITY OF THE BELSSED VIRGIN AND OF DEVOTION TO HER
§14. I avow, with all the Church, that Mary, being a mere creature that has come from the hands of the Most High, is in comparison with His Infinite Majesty less than an atom; or rather, she is nothing at all, because only He is “He who is” (Exod. 3:14); consequently that grand Lord, always independent and sufficient to Himself, never had, and has not now, any absolute need of the holy Virgin for the accomplishment of His will and for the manifestation of His glory. He has but to will in order to do everything.
§15. Nevertheless, I say that, things being as they are nowCthat is, God having willed to commence and to complete His greatest works by the most holy Virgin ever since He created her—we may well think He will not change His conduct in the eternal ages; for He is God, and He changes not, either in His sentiments or in His conduct.
— Article One -- MARY WAS NECESSARY TO GOD IN THE INCARNATION OF THE WORD
§16. It was only through Mary that God the Father gave His Only begotten to the world. Whatever sighs the patriarchs may have sent forth, whatever prayers the prophets and the saints of the Old Law may have offered up to obtain this treasure for full four thousand years, it was only Mary who merited it and found grace before God (Lk. 1:30) by the force of her prayers and the eminence of her virtues. The world was unworthy, says St. Augustine, to receive the Son of God directly from the Father’s hands. He gave Him to Mary in order that the world might receive Him through her.
The Son of God became man for our salvation; but it was in Mary and by Mary. God the Holy Ghost formed Jesus Christ in Mary; but it was only after having asked her consent by one of the first ministers of His court.
§17. God the Father communicated to Mary His fruitfulness, inasmuch as a mere creature was capable of it, in order that He might give her the power to produce His Son and all the members of His Mystical Body.
§18. God the Son descended into her virginal womb as the New Adam into His terrestrial paradise, to take His pleasure there, and to work in secret marvels of grace. God made Man found His liberty in seeing Himself imprisoned in her womb. He made His omnipotence shine forth in letting Himself be carried by that humble maiden. He found His glory and His Father’s in hiding His splendors from all creatures here below, and revealing them to Mary only. He glorified His independence and His majesty in depending on that sweet Virgin in His conception, in His birth, in His presentation in the temple, in His hidden life of thirty years, and even in His death, where she was to be present in order that He might make with her but one same sacrifice and be immolated to the Eternal Father by her consent, just as Isaac of old was offered by Abraham’s consent to the will of God. It is she who nourished Him, supported Him, brought Him up and then sacrificed Him for us.
Oh, admirable and incomprehensible dependence of God, which the Holy Ghost could not pass over in silence in the Gospel, although He has hidden from us nearly all the admirable things which the Incarnate Wisdom did in His hidden life—as if He would enable us, by His revelation of that at least, to understand something of its excellence and infinite glory! Jesus Christ gave more glory to God the Father by submission to His Mother during those thirty years than He would have given Him in converting the whole world by the working of the most stupendous miracles. Oh, how highly we glorify God when, to please Him, we submit ourselves to Mary, after the example of Jesus Christ, our sole Exemplar!
§19. If we examine closely the rest of our Blessed Lord’s life, we shall see that it was His will to begin His miracles by Mary. He sanctified St. John in the womb of his mother, St. Elizabeth, but it was by Mary’s word. No sooner had she spoken than John was sanctified; and this was His first miracle of grace.
At the marriage of Cana He changed the water into wine, but it was at Mary’s humble prayer; and this was His first miracle of nature. He began and continued His miracles by Mary, and He will continue them to the end of ages by Mary.
§20. God the Holy Ghost, being barren in God—that is to say, not producing another Divine PersonCis become fruitful by Mary, whom He has espoused. It was with her, in her, and of her that He produced His Masterpiece, which is God made Man, and that He goes on producing daily, to the end of the world, the predestinate and the members of the Body of that adorable Head. This is the reason why He, the Holy Ghost, the more He finds Mary, His dear and inseparable spouse,1 in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ.
§21. It is not that we mean that our Blessed Lady gives the Holy Ghost His fruitfulness, as if He had it not Himself. For inasmuch as He is God, He has the same fruitfulness or capacity of producing as the Father and the Son; only He does not bring it into action, as He does not produce another Divine Person. But what we mean is that the Holy Ghost chose to make use of our Blessed Lady, though He had no absolute need of her, to bring His fruitfulness into action, by producing in her and by her Jesus Christ and His members—a mystery of grace unknown to even the wisest and most spiritual among Christians.
— Article Two -- MARY IS NECESSARY TO GOD IN THE SANCTIFICATION OF SOULS
§22. The conduct which the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity have deigned to pursue in the Incarnation and the first coming of Jesus Christ, They still pursue daily, in an invisible manner, throughout the whole Church; and They will still pursue it even to the consummation of ages in the last coming of Jesus Christ.
§23. God the Father made an assemblage of all the waters and He named it the sea (mare). He made an assemblage of all His graces and he called it Mary (Latin: Maria).2This great God has a most rich treasury in which He has laid up all that He has of beauty and splendor, of rarity and preciousness, including even His own Son: and this immense treasury is none other than Mary, whom the saints have named the Treasure of the Lord,3 out of whose plenitude all men are made rich .
§24. God the Son has communicated to His Mother all that He acquired by His life and His death, His infinite merits and His admirable virtues; and He has made her the treasurer of all that His Father gave Him for His inheritance. It is by her that He applies His merits to His members, and that He communicates His virtues, and distributes His graces. She is His mysterious canal; she is His aqueduct, through which He makes His mercies flow gently and abundantly.
§25. To Mary, His faithful spouse, God the Holy Ghost has communicated His unspeakable gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispenser of all He possesses, in such wise that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills and when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Ghost gives no heavenly gift to men which He does not have pass through her virginal hands. Such has been the will of God, who has willed that we should have everything through Mary; so that she who, impoverished, humbled, and who hid herself even unto the abyss of nothingness by her profound humility her whole life long, should now be enriched and exalted and honored by the Most High. Such are the sentiments of the Church and the holy Fathers.4
§26. If I were speaking to the freethinkers of these times, I would prove what I have said so simply here, drawing it out more at length, and confirming it by the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, quoting the original passages, and adducing various solid reasons, which may be seen at length in the book of Father Poire, La Triple Couronne de la Sainte Vierge. But as I speak particularly to the poor and simple, who being of good will, and having more faith than the common run of scholars, believe more simply and more meritoriously, I content myself with stating the truth quite plainly, without stopping to quote the Latin passages, which they would not understand. Nevertheless, without making much research, I shall not fail to bring forward some of them from time to time. But now let us go on with our subject.
§27. Inasmuch as grace perfects nature, and glory perfects grace, it is certain that Our Lord is still, in Heaven, as much the Son of Mary as He was on earth; and that, consequently, He has retained the obedience and submission of the most perfect Child toward the best of all mothers. But we must take great pains not to conceive this dependence as any abasement or imperfection in Jesus Christ. For Mary is infinitely below her Son, who is God, and therefore she does not command Him as a mother here below would command her child who is below her. Mary, being altogether transformed into God by grace and by the glory which transforms all the saints into Him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing contrary to the eternal and immutable will of God. When we read then in the writings of Saints Bernard, Bernardine, Bonaventure and others that in Heaven and on earth everything, even God Himself, is subject to the Blessed Virgin,5 they mean that the authority which God has been well pleased to give her is so great that it seems as if she had the same power as God; and that her prayers and petitions are so powerful with God that they always pass for commandments with His Majesty, who never resists the prayer of His dear Mother, because she is always humble and conformed to His will.
If Moses, by the force of his prayer, stayed the anger of God against the Israelites in a manner so powerful that the most high and infinitely merciful Lord, being unable to resist him, told him to let Him alone that He might be angry with and punish that rebellious people, what must we not, with much greater reason, think of the prayer of the humble Mary, that worthy Mother of God, which is more powerful with His Majesty than the prayers and intercessions of all the angels and saints both in Heaven and on earth? 6
§28. In the Heavens Mary commands the angels and the blessed. As a recompense for her profound humility, God has empowered her and commissioned her to fill with saints the empty thrones from which the apostate angels fell by pride.7 The will of the Most High, who exalts the humble (Lk. 1:52), is that Heaven, earth and Hell bend, with good will or bad will, to the commandments of the humble Mary,8 whom He has made sovereign of Heaven and earth, general of His armies, treasurer of His treasures, dispenser of His graces, worker of His greatest marvels, restorer of the human race, Mediatrix of men, the exterminator of the enemies of God, and the faithful companion of His grandeurs and triumphs.
§29. God the Father wishes to have children by Mary till the consummation of the world; and He speaks to her these words: “Dwell in Jacob” (Ecclus. 24:13); that is to say: Make your dwelling and residence in My predestined children, prefigured by Jacob, and not in the reprobate children of the devil, prefigured by Esau.
§30. Just as in the natural and corporal generation of children there are a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there are a Father, who is God, and a Mother, who is Mary. All the true children of God, the predestinate, have God for their Father and Mary for their Mother. He who has not Mary for his Mother has not God for his Father. This is the reason why the reprobate, such as heretics, schismatics and others, who hate our Blessed Lady or regard her with contempt and indifference, have not God for their Father, however much they boast of it, simply because they have not Mary for their Mother. For if they had her for their Mother, they would love and honor her as a true child naturally loves and honors the mother who has given him life.
The most infallible and indubitable sign by which we may distinguish a heretic, a man of bad doctrine, a reprobate, from one of the predestinate, is that the heretic and the reprobate have nothing but contempt and indifference for Our Lady, endeavoring by their words and examples to diminish the worship and love of her, openly or hiddenly, and sometimes by misrepresentation. Alas! God the Father has not told Mary to dwell in them, for they are Esaus.
§31. God the Son wishes to form Himself, and, so to speak, to incarnate Himself in His members every day, by His dear Mother, and He says to her: “Take Israel for your inheritance.” (Ecclus. 24:13). It is as if He had said: God the Father has given Me for an inheritance all the nations of the earth, all men, good and bad, predestinate and reprobate. The ones I will lead with a rod of gold, and the others with a rod of iron. Of the ones, I will be the Father and the Advocate; of the others, the Just Punisher; and of all, the Judge. But as for you, My dear Mother, you shall have for your heritage and possession only the predestinate, prefigured by Israel; and as their Mother, you shall bring them forth and take care of them; and as their sovereign, you shall conduct them, govern them and defend them.
§32. “This man and that man is born in her” (Ps. 86:5), says the Holy Ghost through the Royal Psalmist. According to the explanation of some of the Fathers,9 the first man that is born in Mary is the Man-God, Jesus Christ; the second is a mere man, the child of God and Mary by adoption. If Jesus Christ, the Head of men, is born in her, then the predestinate, who are the members of that Head, ought also to be born in her, by a necessary consequence. One and the same mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the members, or the members without the head; for this would be a monster of nature. So in like manner, in the order of grace, the head and the members are born of one and the same Mother; and if a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ—that is to say, one of the predestinate—were born of any other mother than Mary, who has produced the Head, he would not be one of the predestinate, nor a member of Jesus Christ, but simply a monster in the order of grace.
§33. Besides this, Jesus being at present as much as ever the fruit of MaryCas Heaven and earth repeat thousands and thousands of times a day, “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”—it is certain that Jesus Christ is, for each man in particular who possesses Him, as truly the fruit and the work of Mary as He is for the whole world in general; so that if any one of the faithful has Jesus Christ formed in his heart, he can say boldly, “All thanks be to Mary! What I possess is her effect and her fruit, and without her I should never have had it.” We can apply to her more than St. Paul applied to himself the words: “I am in labor again with all the children of God, until Jesus Christ my Son be formed in them in the fullness of His age.” (Cf. Gal. 4:19).
St. Augustine, surpassing himself, and going beyond all I have yet said, affirms that all the predestinate, in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, are in this world hidden in the womb of the most holy Virgin, where they are guarded, nourished, brought up and made to grow by that good Mother until she has brought them forth to glory after death, which is properly the day of their birth, as the Church calls the death of the just. O mystery of grace, unknown to the reprobate, and but little known even to the predestinate!
§34. God the Holy Ghost wishes to form elect for Himself in her and by her, and He says to her: “Strike the roots,” My Well beloved and My Spouse, “of all your virtues in My elect” (Ecclus. 24:13), in order that they may grow from virtue to virtue and from grace to grace. I took so much complacence in you when you lived on earth in the practice of the most sublime virtues, that I desire still to find you on earth, without your ceasing to be in Heaven. For this end, reproduce yourself in My elect, that I may behold in them with complacence the roots of your invincible faith, of your profound humility, of your universal mortification, of your sublime prayer, of your ardent charity, of your firm hope and of all your virtues. You are always My spouse, as faithful, as pure and as fruitful as ever. Let your faith give Me My faithful, your purity, My virgins, and your fertility, My temples and My elect.
§35. When Mary has struck her roots in a soul, she produces there marvels of grace, which she alone can produce, because she alone is the fruitful Virgin who never has had, and never will have, her equal in purity and in fruitfulness.
Mary has produced, together with the Holy Ghost, the greatest thing which has been or ever will be—a God Man; and she will consequently produce the greatest saints that there will be in the end of time. The formation and the education of the great saints who shall come at the end of the world are reserved for her. For it is only that singular and miraculous Virgin who can produce, in union with the Holy Ghost, singular and extraordinary things.
§36. When the Holy Ghost, her Spouse, has found Mary in a soul, He flies there. He enters there in His fullness; He communicates Himself to that soul abundantly, and to the full extent to which it makes room for His spouse. Nay, one of the greatest reasons why the Holy Ghost does not now do startling wonders in our souls is because He does not find there a sufficiently great union with His faithful and inseparable spouse. I say “inseparable” spouse, because since that Substantial Love of the Father and the Son has espoused Mary, in order to produce Jesus Christ, the Head of the elect, and Jesus Christ in the elect, He has never repudiated her, because she has always been fruitful and faithful.
I. Mary Is Queen of All Hearts
§37. We may evidently conclude, then, from what I have said, first of all, that Mary has received from God a great domination over the souls of the elect; for she cannot make her residence in them as God the Father ordered her to do, and, as their mother, form, nourish and bring them forth to eternal life, and have them as her inheritance and portion, and form them in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in them, and strike the roots of her virtues in their hearts and be the inseparable companion of the Holy Ghost in all His works of grace—she cannot, I say, do all these things unless she has a right and a domination over their souls by a singular grace of the Most High, who, having given her power over His only and natural Son, has given it also to her over His adopted children, not only as to their bodies, which would be but a small matter, but also as to their souls.
§38. Mary is the Queen of Heaven and earth by grace, as Jesus is the King of them by nature and by conquest. Now, as the kingdom of Jesus Christ consists principally in the heart or the interior of man—according to the words, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:21)—in like manner the kingdom of our Blessed Lady is principally in the interior of man; that is to say, his soul. And it is principally in souls that she is more glorified with her Son than in all visible creatures, and so we can call her, as the saints do, the Queen of All Hearts.
II. Mary Is Necessary to Men
§39. In the second place we must conclude that, the most holy Virgin being necessary to God by a necessity which we call “hypothetical,” in consequence of His will, she is far more necessary to men, in order that they may attain their last end. We must not confuse devotion to the Blessed Virgin with devotions to the other saints, as if devotion to her were not far more necessary than devotion to them, and as if devotion to her were a matter of supererogation.
1. Necessary to all men to attain salvation.
§40. The learned and pious Jesuit, Suarez, the erudite and devout Justus Lipsius, doctor of Louvain, and many others have proved invincibly, from the sentiments of the Fathers (among others, St. Augustine, St. Ephrem, deacon of Edessa, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. John Damascene, St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure), that devotion to our Blessed Lady is necessary to salvation, and that (even in the opinion of Oecolampadius and some other heretics) it is an infallible mark of reprobation to have no esteem and love for the holy Virgin; while on the other hand, it is an infallible mark of predestination to be entirely and truly devoted to her.10
§41. The figures and words of the Old and New Testaments prove this. The sentiments and the examples of the saints confirm it. Reason and experience teach and demonstrate it. Even the devil and his crew, constrained by the force of truth, have often been obliged to avow it in spite of themselves. Among all the passages of the holy Fathers and Doctors, of which I have made an ample collection in order to prove this truth, I shall for brevity’s sake quote but one: “To be devout to you, O holy Virgin,” says St. John Damascene, “is an arm of salvation which God gives to those whom He wishes to save.”
§42. I could bring forward here many anecdotes which prove the same thing, and among others one which is related in the chronicles of St. Francis. This same saint saw in ecstasy a great ladder ascending into Heaven, at the top of which stood the Blessed Virgin and by which it was shown him he must ascend to reach Heaven. There is another related in the chronicles of St. Dominic. There was an unfortunate heretic near Carcassonne, where St. Dominic was preaching the Rosary, who was possessed by a legion of fifteen thousand devils. These evil spirits were compelled, to their confusion, by the command of our Blessed Lady, to avow many great and consoling truths touching devotion to the Blessed Virgin; and they did this with so much force and so much clearness that it is impossible to read this authentic account and the eulogy which the devil made, in spite of himself, of devotion to the most holy Virgin Mary, without shedding tears of joy, however lukewarm we may be in our devotion to her.
2. Still more necessary to those called to a special perfection.
§43. If devotion to the most holy Virgin Mary is necessary to all men simply for working out their salvation, it is still more so for those who are called to any special perfection; and I do not think anyone can acquire an intimate union with Our Lord and a perfect fidelity to the Holy Ghost without a very great union with the most holy Virgin, and a great dependence on her assistance.
§44. It is Mary alone who has found grace before God (Lk. 1:30) without the aid of any other mere creature; it is only through her that all those who have since found grace before God have found it at all; and it is only through her that all those who shall come afterward shall find it. She was full of grace when she was greeted by the Archangel Gabriel (Lk. 1:28), and she was superabundantly filled with grace by the Holy Ghost when He covered her with His unspeakable shadow (Lk. 1:35); and she has so augmented this double plenitude from day to day and from moment to moment that she has reached a point of grace immense and inconceivable—in such wise that the Most High has made her the sole treasurer of His treasures and the sole dispenser of His graces to ennoble, to exalt and to enrich whom she wishes; to give entry to whom she wills into the narrow way of Heaven; to bring whom she wills, and in spite of all obstacles, through the narrow gate of life; and to give the throne, the scepter and the crown of king to whom she wills. Jesus is everywhere and always the Fruit and the Son of Mary; and Mary is everywhere the veritable tree who bears the Fruit of life, and the true Mother who produces it.10
§45. It is Mary alone to whom God has given the keys of the cellars (Cant. 1:3) of divine love and the power to enter into the most sublime and secret ways of perfection, and the power likewise to make others enter in there also. It is Mary alone who has given to the miserable children of Eve, the faithless, entry into the terrestrial paradise; that they may walk there agreeably with God, hide there securely against their enemies, feed themselves there deliciously, without further fear of death, on the fruit of the trees of life and of the knowledge of good and evil, and drink in long draughts the heavenly waters of that fair fountain which gushes forth there with abundance; or rather, since she is herself that terrestrial paradise, that virgin and blessed earth from which Adam and Eve, the sinners, have been driven, she gives no entry there except to those whom it is her pleasure to make saints.
§46. All the rich among the people, to make use of an expression of the Holy Ghost (Ps. 44:13) according to the explanation of St. Bernard—all the rich among the people shall supplicate her face from age to age, and particularly at the end of the world; that is to say, the greatest saints, the souls richest in graces and virtues, shall be the most assiduous in praying to our Blessed Lady, and in having her always present as their perfect model for imitation and their powerful aid for help.
3. Especially necessary to the great saints of the latter times.
§47. I have said that this would come to pass, particularly at the end of the world and indeed presently,12 because the Most High with His holy Mother has to form for Himself great saints who shall surpass most of the other saints in sanctity as much as the cedars of Lebanon outgrow the little shrubs, as has been revealed to a holy soul whose life has been written by M. de Renty.
§48. These great souls, full of grace and zeal, shall be chosen to match themselves against the enemies of God, who shall rage on all sides; and they shall be singularly devout to our Blessed Lady, illuminated by her light, strengthened with her nourishment, led by her spirit, supported by her arm and sheltered under her protection, so that they shall fight with one hand and build with the other. With the one hand they shall fight, overthrow and crush the heretics with their heresies, the schismatics with their schisms, the idolaters with their idolatries and the sinners with their impieties. With the other hand they shall build (Esd. 4:7) the temple of the true Solomon13 and the mystical city of God,14 that is to say, the most holy Virgin, called by the Fathers the “Temple of Solomon” and the “City of God.” By their words and their examples they shall draw the whole world to true devotion to Mary. This shall bring upon them many enemies, but shall also bring many victories and much glory for God alone. This is what God revealed to St. Vincent Ferrer, the great apostle of his age, as he has sufficiently noted in one of his works.
This is what the Holy Ghost seems to have prophesied in Psalm 58: “And they shall know that God will rule Jacob and all the ends of the earth; they shall return at evening and shall suffer hunger like dogs and shall go round about the city.”(Ps. 58:14-15). This city which men shall find at the end of the world to convert themselves in, and to satisfy the hunger they have for justice, is the most holy Virgin, who is called by the Holy Ghost the “City of God.” (Ps. 86:3).
— Article Three -- PROVIDENTIAL FUNCTION OF MARY IN THE LATTER TIMES
§49. It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun, and it is through Mary that it must be consummated. Mary hardly appeared at all in the first coming of Jesus Christ, in order that men, as yet but little instructed and enlightened on the Person of her Son, should not remove themselves from Him in attaching themselves too strongly and too grossly to her. This would have apparently taken place if she had been known, because of the admirable charms which the Most High had bestowed even upon her exterior. This is so true that St. Denis the Areopagite tells us in his writings that when he saw our Blessed Lady he would have taken her for a divinity, because of her secret charms and incomparable beauty, had not the faith in which he was well established taught him the contrary.15 But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary has to be made known and revealed by the Holy Ghost in order that, through her, Jesus Christ may be known, loved and served. The reasons which moved the Holy Ghost to hide His spouse during her life, and to reveal her but very little since the preaching of the Gospel, subsist no longer.
I. Existence of This Function and Reasons for It
§50. God, then, wishes to reveal and make known Mary, the masterpiece of His hands, in these latter times:
1. Because she hid herself in this world and put herself lower than the dust by her profound humility, having obtained from God and from His Apostles and Evangelists that she should not be made manifest.
2. Because, as she is the masterpiece of the hands of God, as well here below by grace as in Heaven by glory, He wishes to be glorified and praised in her by those who are living upon the earth.
3. As she is the dawn which precedes and reveals the Sun of Justice, who is Jesus Christ, she must be seen and recognized in order that Jesus Christ may also be.
4. Being the way by which Jesus came to us the first time, she will also be the way by which He will come the second time, though not in the same manner.
5. Being the sure means and the straight and immaculate way to go to Jesus Christ and to find Him perfectly, it is by her that the souls who are to shine forth especially in sanctity have to find Our Lord. He who shall find Mary shall find life (Prov. 8:35), that is, Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (Jn. 14:6). But no one can find Mary who does not seek her; and no one can seek her who does not know her; for we cannot seek or desire an unknown object. It is necessary, then, for the greater knowledge and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, that Mary should be more than ever known.
6. Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might and in grace, in these latter times: in mercy, to bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who shall be converted and shall return to the Catholic Church; in might, against the enemies of God, idolaters, schismatics, Mahometans, Jews and souls hardened in impiety, who shall rise in terrible revolt against God to seduce all those who shall oppose them and to make them fall by promises and threats; and finally, she must shine forth in grace, in order to animate and sustain the valiant soldiers and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who shall battle for His interests.
7. And lastly, Mary must be terrible to the devil and his crew, as an army ranged in battle, principally in these latter times,16 because the devil, knowing that he has but little time, and now less than ever, to destroy souls, will every day redouble his efforts and his combats. He will presently raise up cruel persecutions and will put terrible snares before the faithful servants and true children of Mary, whom it gives him more trouble to conquer than it does to conquer others.
II. Exercise of This Function
1. In the struggle against Satan.
§51. It is principally of these last and cruel persecutions of the devil, which shall go on increasing daily till the reign of Antichrist, that we ought to understand that first and celebrated prediction and curse of God pronounced in the terrestrial paradise against the serpent. It is to our purpose to explain this here for the glory of the most holy Virgin, for the salvation of her children and for the confusion of the devil: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” (Gen. 3:15).
§52. God has never made and formed but one enmity; but it is an irreconcilable one, which shall endure and grow even to the end. It is between Mary, His worthy Mother, and the devil—between the children and the servants of the Blessed Virgin, and the children and tools of Lucifer. The most terrible of all the enemies which God has set up against the devil is His holy Mother Mary. He has inspired her, even since the days of the earthly paradise—though she existed then only in His idea—with so much hatred against that cursed enemy of God, with so much ingenuity in unveiling the malice of that ancient serpent, with so much power to conquer, to overthrow and to crush that proud, impious rebel, that he fears her not only more than all angels and men, but in a sense more than God Himself. Not that the anger, the hatred and the power of God are not infinitely greater than those of the Blessed Virgin, for the perfections of Mary are limited; but first, because Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of God, and her humility humbles him more than the divine power; and secondly, because God has given Mary such great power against the devils that—as they have often been obliged to confess, in spite of themselves, by the mouths of the possessed—they fear one of her sighs for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats against them more than all other torments.
§53. What Lucifer has lost by pride, Mary has gained by humility. What Eve has damned and lost by disobedience, Mary has saved by obedience. Eve, in obeying the serpent, has destroyed all her children together with herself, and has delivered them to him; Mary, in being perfectly faithful to God, has saved all her children and servants together with herself, and has consecrated them to His Majesty.
§54. God has not only set an enmity, but enmities, not simply between Mary and the devil, but between the race of the holy Virgin and the race of the devil; that is to say, God has set enmities, antipathies and secret hatreds between the true children and servants of Mary and the children and slaves of the devil. They have no love for each other. They have no sympathy for each other. The children of Belial, the slaves of Satan, the friends of the world (for it is the same thing) have always up to this time persecuted those who belong to our Blessed Lady, and will in the future persecute them more than ever; just as Cain, of old, persecuted his brother Abel, and Esau his brother Jacob, who are the figures of the reprobate and the predestinate. But the humble Mary will always have the victory over that proud spirit, and so great a victory that she will go so far as to crush his head, where his pride dwells. She will always discover the malice of the serpent. She will always lay bare his infernal plots and dissipate his diabolical councils, and even to the end of time will guard her faithful servants from his cruel claw.
But the power of Mary over all the devils will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lay his snares against her heel: that is to say, her humble slaves and her poor children, whom she will raise up to make war against him. They shall be little and poor in the world’s esteem, and abased before all like the heel, trodden underfoot and persecuted as the heel is by the other members of the body. But in return for this they shall be rich in the grace of God, which Mary shall distribute to them abundantly. They shall be great and exalted before God in sanctity, superior to all other creatures by their lively zeal, and so well sustained with God’s assistance that, with the humility of their heel, in union with Mary, they shall crush the head of the devil and cause Jesus Christ to triumph.
2. In the formation of the apostles of the latter times.
§55. In a word, God wishes that His holy Mother should be at present more known, more loved, more honored than she has ever been. This, no doubt, will take place if the predestinate enter, with the grace and light of the Holy Ghost, into the interior and perfect practice which I will disclose to them shortly. Then they will see clearly, as far as faith allows, that beautiful Star of the Sea. They will arrive happily in harbor, following its guidance, in spite of the tempests and the pirates. They will know the grandeurs of that Queen, and will consecrate themselves entirely to her service as subjects and slaves of love. They will experience her sweetness and her maternal goodness, and they will love her tenderly like well beloved children. They will know the mercies of which she is full, and the need they have of her help; and they will have recourse to her in all things, as to their dear advocate and Mediatrix with Jesus Christ. They will know what is the surest, the easiest, the shortest and the most perfect means of going to Jesus Christ; and they will give themselves to Mary, body and soul, without reserve, that they may thus belong entirely to Jesus Christ.
§56. But who shall those servants, slaves and children of Mary be? They shall be the ministers of the Lord who, like a burning fire, shall kindle the fire of divine love everywhere. They shall be “like sharp arrows in the hand of the powerful” Mary to pierce her enemies. (Ps. 126:4). They shall be the sons of Levi, well purified by the fire of great tribulation, and closely adhering to God (I Cor. 6:17), who shall carry the gold of love in their heart, the incense of prayer in their spirit, and the myrrh of mortification in their body. They shall be everywhere the good odor of Jesus Christ to the poor and to the little, while at the same time, they shall be an odor of death to the great, to the rich and to the proud worldlings.
§57. They shall be clouds thundering and flying through the air at the least breath of the Holy Ghost; who, detaching themselves from everything and troubling themselves about nothing, shall shower forth the rain of the Word of God and of life eternal. They shall thunder against sin; they shall storm against the world; they shall strike the devil and his crew; and they shall pierce through and through, for life or for death, with their two-edged sword of the Word of God (Eph. 6:17), all those to whom they shall be sent on the part of the Most High.
§58. They shall be the true apostles of the latter times, to whom the Lord of Hosts shall give the word and the might to work marvels and to carry off with glory the spoils of His enemies. They shall sleep without gold or silver, and, what is more, without care, in the midst of the other priests, ecclesiastics, and clerics (Ps. 67:14); and yet they shall have the silvered wings of the dove to go, with the pure intention of the glory of God and the salvation of souls, wheresoever the Holy Ghost shall call them. Nor shall they leave behind them, in the places where they have preached, anything but the gold of charity, which is the fulfillment of the whole law. (Rom. 13:10).
§59. In a word, we know that they shall be true disciples of Jesus Christ, walking in the footsteps of His poverty, humility, contempt of the world, charity; teaching the narrow way of God in pure truth, according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world; troubling themselves about nothing; not accepting persons; sparing, fearing and listening to no mortal, however influential he may be. They shall have in their mouths the two-edged sword of the Word of God. They shall carry on their shoulders the bloody standard of the Cross, the Crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, the sacred Names of Jesus and Mary in their hearts, and the modesty and mortification of Jesus Christ in their own behavior.17
These are the great men who are to come; but Mary is the one who, by order of the Most High, shall fashion them for the purpose of extending His empire over that of the impious, the idolaters and the Mahometans. But when and how shall this be? God alone knows.18 As for us, we have but to hold our tongues, to pray, to sigh and to wait: “With expectation I have waited.” (Ps. 39:2).
1.”Sponsa Spiritus Sancti” (St. Ildephonsus, Liber de Corona Virginis, caput III); “Sponsus ejus Spiritus veritatis” (Bellarmin., Concio 2 super Missus est).
2. St. Antoninus, Summa, p. IV, Tit. 15, cap. 4, no. 5
3. Idiota (In contemplatione B. M. V.)
4. Cf., among others, St. Bernard and St. Bernardine of Sienna, whom St. Louis De Montfort quotes further on. (No. 141 and 142).
5. For their exact words cf. no. 76.
6. St. Augustine, Sermo 208, in Assumptione, no. 12 (inter opera Sanct. Augustin.)
7. St. Bonaventure, Speculum B. V., lect. XI, no. 6.
8. St. Bonaventure, Psalt. majus B. V., Cant. instar, can. Trium puerorum .
9. For instance, Origen and St. Bonaventure; cf. no. 141.
10. In his classic work entitled The Glories of Mary, the great Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) states that “the intercession of Mary is even necessary to salvation; we say necessary lot absolutely, but morally. This necessity proceeds from the will itself of God, that all graces that He dispenses should pass by the hands of Mary, according to the opinion of St. Bernard, and which we may now with safety call the general opinion of theologians and learned men.” (p.129, TAN edition). St. Alphonsus quotes St. Bernardine of Sienna’s words to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “O Lady, since thou art the dispenser of all graces, and since the grace of salvation can only come through thy hands, our salvation depends on thee.” (p. 144).
11. Cf. no. 33.
12. St. Louis De Montfort may have believed, as many people of his time did, that the end of the world was at hand; perhaps, however, all he meant was that this would take place particularly at the end of the world, but would begin soon or presently. As a matter of fact, the century following the one in which he lived was one of increased Marian study and devotion.
13. Idiota, De B.V, pars XVI, contempl. 7. (S.A., X, 367). (The abbreviation S.A. refers to the Summa Area).
14. St. Augustine, Enarratio in Ps. 142, no. 3 (S.A., IX, 1012).
15. S.A., 842 (Epistola ad Paulum). Unauthentic.
16. It is worthy of note that today the increased efforts of the forces of evil are being countered by a corresponding increase of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as evidenced by the remarkable growth of the Legion of Mary and the renewed interest in the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin.
17. Cf. prayer of St. Louis De Montfort asking God for missionaries for his Company of Mary (Montfort Fathers).
18. These words show that St. Louis De Montfort himself did not know all the circumstances of his own prophecy concerning the latter times.
CHAPTER 2 FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
§60. Having spoken thus far of the necessity of devotion to the most holy Virgin, I must now show in what this devotion consists. This I will do, with God’s help, after I shall have first laid down some fundamental truths which shall throw light on that grand and solid devotion which I desire to disclose.
— First Truth -- JESUS CHRIST IS THE LAST END OF DEVOTION TO MARY
§61. Jesus Christ our Savior, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, else they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega,1 the beginning and the end, of all things. We labor not, as the Apostle says, except to render every man perfect in Jesus Christ; because it is in Him alone that the whole plenitude of the Divinity dwells together with all the other plenitudes of graces, virtues and perfections. It is in Him alone that we have been blessed with all spiritual benediction; and He is our only Master, who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepherd who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us. There has been no other name given under Heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection or our glory, than Jesus Christ. Every building which is not built on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or latter infallibly will fall. Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him, as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither, and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire. Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation. But if we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is in us, we have no condemnation to fear. Neither the angels of Heaven nor the men of earth nor the devils of Hell nor any other creature can injure us; because they cannot separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things; we can render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost;2 we can become perfect ourselves, and be to our neighbor a good odor of eternal life. (II Cor. 2:15-16).
§62. If, then, we establish solid devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ, and to provide an easy and secure means for finding Jesus Christ. If devotion to Our Lady removed us from Jesus Christ, we should have to reject it as an illusion of the devil; but so far from this being the case, devotion to Our Lady is, on the contrary, necessary for us—as I have already shown, and will show still further hereafter—as a means of finding Jesus Christ perfectly, of loving Him tenderly, of serving Him faithfully.
§63. I here turn for one moment to Thee, O sweet Jesus, to complain lovingly to Thy Divine Majesty that the greater part of Christians, even the most learned, do not know the necessary union there is between Thee and Thy holy Mother. Thou, Lord, art always with Mary, and Mary is always with Thee, and she cannot be without Thee, else she would cease to be what she is. She is so transformed into Thee by grace that she lives no more, she is as though she were not. It is Thou only, my Jesus, who livest and reignest in her more perfectly than in all the angels and the blessed. Ah! If we knew the glory and the love which Thou receivest in this admirable creature, we should have very different thoughts both of Thee and her from what we have now. She is so intimately united with Thee that it were easier to separate the light from the sun, the heat from the fire; nay, it were easier to separate from Thee all the angels and the saints than the divine Mary, because she loves Thee more ardently and glorifies Thee more perfectly than all the other creatures put together.
§64. After that, my sweet Master, is it not an astonishingly pitiable thing to see the ignorance and the darkness of all men here below in regard to Thy holy Mother? I speak not so much of idolaters and pagans, who, knowing Thee not, care not to know her. I speak not even of heretics and schismatics, who care not to be devout to Thy holy Mother, being separated as they are from Thee and Thy holy Church; but I speak of Catholic Christians, and even of doctors among Catholics,3 who make profession of teaching truths to others, and yet know not Thee nor Thy holy Mother, except in a speculative, dry, barren and indifferent manner. These gentlemen speak but rarely of Thy holy Mother and of the devotion we ought to have to her, because they fear, so they say, lest we should abuse it, and do some injury to Thee in honoring Thy holy Mother too much. If they hear or see anyone devout to our Blessed Lady, speaking often of his devotion to that good Mother in a tender, strong and persuasive way, and as a secure means without delusion, as a short road without danger, as an immaculate way without imperfection, and as a wonderful secret for finding and loving Thee perfectly, they cry out against him, and give him a thousand false reasons by way of proving to him that he ought not to talk so much of our Blessed Lady; that there are great abuses in that devotion; and that we must direct our energies to destroy these abuses, and to speak of Thee, rather than to incline the people to devotion to our Blessed Lady, whom they already love sufficiently.
We hear them sometimes speak of devotion to our Blessed Lady, not for the purpose of establishing it and persuading men to embrace it, but to destroy the abuses which are made of it; and all the while these teachers are without piety or tender devotion toward Thyself, simply because they have none for Mary. They regard the Rosary and the Scapular as devotions proper for weak and ignorant minds, without which men can save themselves; and if there falls into their hands any poor client of Our Lady who says his Rosary, or has any other practice of devotion toward her, they soon change his spirit and his heart. Instead of the Rosary, they counsel him the seven Penitential Psalms. Instead of devotion to the holy Virgin, they counsel him devotion to Jesus Christ.
O my sweet Jesus, do these people have Thy spirit? Do they please Thee in acting thus? Does it please Thee when, for fear of displeasing Thee, we neglect doing our utmost to please Thy Mother? Does devotion to Thy holy Mother hinder devotion to Thyself? Does she attribute to herself the honor we pay her? Does she head a faction of her own? Is she a stranger who has no connection with Thee? Does it displease Thee that we should try to please her? Do we separate or alienate ourselves from Thy love by giving ourselves to her and honoring her?
§65. Yet, my sweet Master, the greater part of the learned could not discourage devotion to Thy holy Mother more, and could not show more indifference to it, even if all that I have just said were true. Thus have they been punished for their pride! Keep me, Lord, keep me from their sentiments and their practices, and give me some share of the sentiments of gratitude, esteem, respect and love which Thou hast in regard to Thy holy Mother, so that the more I imitate and follow her, the more I may love and glorify Thee.
§66. So, as if up to this point I had still said nothing in honor of Thy holy Mother, “give me now the grace to praise Thee worthily,” in spite of all her enemies, who are Thine as well; and grant me to say loudly with the saints, “Let not that man presume to look for the mercy of God who offends His holy Mother.”
§67. Make me love Thee ardently, so that I may obtain of Thy mercy a true devotion to Thy holy Mother, and inspire the whole earth with it; and for that end, receive the burning prayer which I offer to Thee with St. Augustine4 and Thy other true friends: “Thou art Christ, my holy Father, my tender God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my one Master, my best Helper, my most Beautiful and my Beloved, my living Bread, my Priest forever, my Leader to my country, my true Light, my holy Sweetness, my straight Way, my excellent Wisdom, my pure Simplicity, my pacific Harmony, my whole Guard, my good Portion, my everlasting Salvation.
“Christ Jesus, my sweet Lord, why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired anything except Thee, Jesus my God? Where was I when I was not in Thy mind with Thee? Now, from this time forth, do ye, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus; run, ye have been tardy thus far; hasten whither ye are going; seek whom ye are seeking. O Jesus, may he who loves Thee not, be anathema; may he who loves Thee not, be filled with bitterness!
“O sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Thy praise, love Thee, delight in Thee, admire Thee. God of my heart and my Portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit and mayest Thou be my life within me! May the live coal of Thy love grow hot within my spirit, and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the day of my consummation, may I be found consummated with Thee. Amen.”
— Second Truth -- WE BELONG TO JESUS AND MARY AS THEIR SLAVES
§68. We must conclude, from what Jesus Christ is with regard to us, that, as the Apostle says (I Cor. 6:1920), we do not belong to ourselves but are entirely His, as His members and His slaves, whom He has bought at an infinitely dear price, the price of all His Blood. Before Baptism we belonged to the devil, as his slaves; but Baptism has made us true slaves of Jesus Christ, who have no right to live, to work or to die, except to bring forth fruit for that God-Man (Rom. 7:4); to glorify Him in our bodies and to let Him reign in our souls, because we are His conquest, His acquired people and His inheritance. It is for the same reason that the Holy Ghost compares us: (1) to trees planted along the waters of grace, in the field of the Church, who ought to bring forth their fruit in their seasons; (2) to the branches of a vine of which Jesus Christ is the stock, and which must yield good grapes; (3) to a flock of which Jesus Christ is the Shepherd, and which is to multiply and give milk; (4) to a good land of which God is the Husbandman, in which the seed multiplies itself and brings forth thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold. (Ps. 1:3; Jn. 15:2; 10:11; Matt. 13:8). Jesus Christ cursed the unfruitful fig tree (Matt. 21 :19), and pronounced sentence against the useless servant who had not made any profit on his talent. (Matt. 25:24-30). All this proves to us that Jesus Christ wishes to receive some fruits from our wretched selves, namely our good works, because those works belong to Him alone: “Created in good works, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10)—which words of the Holy Ghost show that Jesus Christ is the sole beginning, and ought to be the sole end, of all our good works, and also that we ought to serve Him, not as servants for wages, but as slaves of love. I will explain what I mean.
§69. Here on earth there are two ways of belonging to another and of depending on his authority: namely, simple service and slavery, whence we derive the words “servant” and “slave.”
By common service among Christians a man engages himself to serve another during a certain time, at a certain rate of wages or of recompense.
By slavery a man is entirely dependent on another during his whole life, and must serve his master without claiming any wages or reward, just as one of his beasts, over which he has the right of life and death.
§70. There are three sorts of slavery:5 a slavery of nature, a slavery of constraint and a slavery of will. All creatures are slaves of God in the first sense: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 23:1); the demons and the damned are slaves in the second sense; the just and the saints in the third. Because by slavery of the will we make choice of God and His service above all things, even though nature did not oblige us to do so, slavery of the will is the most perfect and most glorious to God, who beholds the heart (1 Kg. 16:7), claims the heart (Prov. 23:26), and calls Himself the God of the heart (Ps. 72:26), that is, of the loving will.
§71. There is an entire difference between a servant and a slave:
1. A servant does not give all he is, all he has and all he can acquire, by himself or by another, to his master; but the slave gives himself whole and entire to his master, all he has and all he can acquire, without any exception.
2. The servant demands wages for the services which he performs for his master; but the slave can demand nothing, whatever assiduity, whatever industry, whatever energy he may have at his work.
3. The servant can leave his master when he pleases, or at least when the time of his service expires; but the slave has no right to quit his master at will.
4. The master of the servant has no right of life and death over him, so that if he should kill him like one of his beasts of burden, he would commit an unjust homicide; but the master of the slave has by law a right of life and death over him,6 so that he may sell him to anybody he likes, or kill him as if he stood on the same level as one of his horses.
5. Lastly, the servant is only for a time in his master’s service; the slave, always.
§72. There is nothing among men which makes us belong to another more than slavery. There is nothing among Christians which makes us more absolutely belong to Jesus Christ and His holy Mother than the slavery of the will, according to the example of Jesus Christ Himself, who took on Himself the form of a slave for love of us (Phil. 2:7); and also according to the example of the holy Virgin, who called herself the servant and slave of the Lord. (Lk. 1:38). The Apostle calls himself, as by a title of honor, “the slave of Christ.”7 Christians are often so called in the Holy Scriptures; and the word for the designation, “servus,” as a great man has truly remarked,8 signified in olden times a slave in the completest sense, because there were no servants then like those of the present day. Masters were served only by slaves or freedmen. This is what the Catechism of the holy Council of Trent, in order to leave no doubt about our being slaves of Jesus Christ, expresses by an unequivocal term, in calling us mancipia Christi, “slaves of Jesus Christ.”9
§73. Now that I have given these explanations, I say that we ought to belong to Jesus Christ, and to serve Him not only as mercenary servants, but as loving slaves who, as a result of their great love, give themselves up to serve Him in the quality of slaves simply for the honor of belonging to Him. Before Baptism we were the slaves of the devil. Baptism has made us the slaves of Jesus Christ: Christians must needs be either the slaves of the devil or the slaves of Jesus Christ.
§74. What I say absolutely of Jesus Christ, I say relatively of Our Lady. Since Jesus Christ chose her for the inseparable companion of His life, of His death, of His glory and of His power in Heaven and upon earth, He gave her by grace, relatively to His Majesty, all the same rights and privileges which He possesses by nature. “All that is fitting to God by nature is fitting to Mary by grace,” say the saints; so that, according to them, Mary and Jesus, having but the same will and the same power, have also the same subjects, servants and slaves.10
§75. We may, therefore, following the sentiments of the saints and of many great men, call ourselves and make ourselves the loving slaves of the most holy Virgin, in order to be, by that very means, the more perfectly the slaves of Jesus Christ. Our Blessed Lady is the means Our Lord made use of to come to us. She is also the means which we must make use of to go to Him.11 For she is not like all other creatures who, if we should attach ourselves to them, might rather draw us away from God than draw us near Him. The strongest inclination of Mary is to unite us to Jesus Christ, her Son; and the strongest inclination of the Son is that we should come to Him through His holy Mother. It is to honor and to please Him, just as it would be to do honor and pleasure to a king to become more perfectly his subject and his slave by making ourselves the slaves of the queen. It is on this account that the holy Fathers, and St. Bonaventure after them, say that Our Lady is the way to go to Our Lord: “The way of coming to Christ is to draw near to her.”12
§76. Moreover, if, as I have said,13 the holy Virgin is the Queen and Sovereign of Heaven and earth, has she not then as many subjects and slaves as there are creatures?14 St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Bonaventure say: “All things, the Virgin included, are subject to the empire of God: Behold, all things, and God included, are subject to the empire of the Virgin.” Is it not reasonable that among so many slaves of constraint there should be some of love, who of their own good will, in the quality of slaves, should choose Mary for their Mistress? What! Are men and devils to have their voluntary slaves, and Mary to have none? What! Shall a king hold it to be for his honor that the queen, his companion, should have slaves over whom she has the right of life and death,15 because the honor and power of the one is the honor and power of the other; and yet are we to think that Our Lord, who as the best of all sons has divided His entire power with His holy Mother, shall take it ill that she too has her slaves? Has He less respect and love for His Mother than Ahasuerus had for Esther, or than Solomon had for Bethsebee? Who shall dare say so, or even think so?
§77. But whither is my pen hurrying me? Why am I stopping here to prove a thing so plain? If we do not wish to call ourselves slaves of the Blessed Virgin, what matter? Let us make ourselves, and call ourselves, slaves of Jesus Christ; for that is being the slave of the holy Virgin, inasmuch as Jesus is the fruit and the glory of Mary; and it is this very thing which we do perfectly by the devotion of which we are hereafter to speak.16
— Third Truth -- WE NEED MARY IN ORDER TO DIE TO OURSELVES
§78. Our best actions are ordinarily stained and corrupted by our corrupt nature. When we put clean, clear water into a vessel which has a foul and evil smell, or wine into a cask the inside of which has been tainted by another wine which has been in it, the clear water and the good wine are spoilt, and readily take on the bad odor. In like manner, when God puts into the vessel of our soul, spoilt by original and actual sin, His graces and heavenly dew, or the delicious wine of His love, His gifts are ordinarily spoilt and corrupted by the bad leaven and the evil which sin has left within us. Our actions, even the most sublime and virtuous, feel the effects of it. It is therefore of great importance in the acquiring of perfection--which, it must be remembered, is only acquired by union with Jesus Christ--to rid ourselves of everything that is bad within us; otherwise Our Lord, who is infinitely pure and hates infinitely the least stain upon our souls, will not unite Himself to us, and will cast us out from His presence.
§79. To rid ourselves of self we must:
1. Thoroughly recognize, by the light of the Holy Ghost, our inward corruption, our incapacity for every good thing useful for salvation, our weakness in all things, our inconstancy at all times, our unworthiness of every grace, and our iniquity in every position. The sin of our first father has spoilt us all, soured us, puffed us up and corrupted us, as the leaven sours, puffs up and corrupts the dough into which it is put. The actual sins which we have committed, whether mortal or venial, pardoned though they may be, have nevertheless increased our concupiscence, our weakness, our inconstancy and our corruption, and have left evil remains in our souls.
Our bodies are so corrupted that they are called by the Holy Ghost bodies of sin (Rom. 6:6), conceived in sin (Ps. 50:7), nourished in sin, and capable of all sin--bodies subject to thousands of maladies, which go on corrupting from day to day, and which engender nothing but disease, vermin and corruption.
Our soul, united to our body, has become so carnal that it is called flesh: “All flesh having corrupted its way.” (Gen. 6:12). We have nothing for our portion but pride and blindness of spirit, hardness of heart, weakness and inconstancy of soul, concupiscence, revolted passions, and sicknesses in the body. We are naturally prouder than peacocks, more groveling than toads, more vile than unclean animals, more envious than serpents, more gluttonous than hogs, more furious than tigers, lazier than tortoises, weaker than reeds, and more capricious than weathercocks. We have within ourselves nothing but nothingness and sin, and we deserve nothing but the anger of God and everlasting Hell.17
§80. After this, ought we to be astonished if Our Lord has said that whoever wishes to follow Him must renounce himself and hate his own life, and that whosoever shall love his own life shall lose it, and whosoever shall hate it, shall save it? (Jn. 12:25). He who is infinite Wisdom does not give commandments without reason, and He has commanded us to hate ourselves only because we so richly deserve to be hated. Nothing is worthier of love than God, and nothing is worthier of hatred than ourselves.
§81. 2. In order to rid ourselves of self, we must die to ourselves daily. That is to say, we must renounce the operations of the powers of our soul and of the senses of our body. We must see as if we saw not, understand as if we understood not, and make use of the things of this world as if we made no use of them at all. (I Cor. 7:29-31). This is what St. Paul calls dying daily. (I Cor. 15:31). “Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone,” and bringeth forth no good fruit. (Jn. 12:24-25). If we do not die to ourselves, and if our holiest devotions do not incline us to this necessary and useful death, we shall bring forth no fruit worth anything, and our devotions will become useless. All our good works will be stained by self-love and our own will; and this will cause God to hold in abomination the greatest sacrifices we can make and the best actions we can do; so that at our death we shall find our hands empty of virtues and of merits and we shall not have one spark of pure love, which is only communicated to souls dead to themselves, souls whose life is hidden with Jesus Christ in God. (Col. 3:3).
— Fourth Truth -- WE NEED MARY AS OUR MEDIATRIX WITH OUR MEDIATOR, JESUS CHRIST
§82. It is more perfect, because it is more humble, not to approach God of ourselves without taking a mediator. Our nature, as I have just shown, is so corrupted that if we rely on our own works, efforts and preparations in order to reach God and please Him, it is certain that our good works will be defiled or be of little weight before God in inducing Him to unite Himself to us and to hear us. It is not without reason that God has given us mediators with His Majesty. He has seen our unworthiness and our incapacity; He has had pity on us; and in order to give us access to His mercies, He has provided us with powerful intercessors with His Grandeur, so that to neglect these mediators, and to draw near to His Holiness directly, and without any recommendation, is to fail in humility. It is to fail in respect toward God, so high and so holy. It is to make less account of that King of Kings than we should make of a king or prince of this earth, whom we would not willingly approach without some friend to speak for us.
§83. 3. We must choose, therefore, among all the devotions to the Blessed Virgin, the one which draws us most toward this death to ourselves, inasmuch as it will be the best and the most sanctifying. For we must not think that all that shines is gold, that all that tastes sweet is honey, or that all that is easy to do and is done by the greatest number is the most sanctifying. As there are secrets of nature by which natural operations are performed more easily, in a short time and at little cost, so also are there secrets in the order of grace by which supernatural operations, such as ridding ourselves of self, filling ourselves with God, and becoming perfect, are performed more easily.
The practice which I am about to disclose is one of these secrets of grace, unknown to the greater number of Christians, known even to few of the devout, and practiced and relished by a lesser number still. But by way of beginning the explanation of this practice, let us consider a fourth truth which is a consequence of the third.
§84. Our Lord is our advocate and Mediator of redemption with God the Father. It is through Him that we ought to pray, in union with the whole Church, Triumphant and Militant. It is through Him that we have access to the Majesty of the Father, before whom we ought never to appear except sustained and clothed with the merits of His Son, just as the young Jacob came before his father Isaac in the skins of the kids to receive his blessing.
§85. But have we not need of a mediator with the Mediator Himself? Is our purity great enough to unite us directly to Him, and by ourselves? Is He not God, in all things equal to His Father, and consequently the Holy of Holies, as worthy of respect as His Father? If through His infinite charity He has made Himself our bail and our Mediator with God His Father, in order to appease Him and to pay Him what we owed Him, are we, on that account, to have less respect and less fear for His Majesty and His Sanctity?
Let us say boldly with St. Bernard18 that we have need of a mediator with the Mediator Himself, and that it is the divine Mary who is the most capable of filling that charitable office. It was through her that Jesus Christ came to us, and it is through her that we must go to Him. If we fear to go directly to Jesus Christ, our God, whether because of His infinite greatness or because of our vileness or because of our sins, let us boldly implore the aid and intercession of Mary, our Mother. She is good, she is tender, she has nothing in her austere and forbidding, nothing too sublime and too brilliant. In seeing her, we see our pure nature. She is not the sun, which by the brightness of its rays blinds us because of our weakness; but she is fair and gentle as the moon (Cant. 6:9), which receives the light of the sun, and tempers it to make it more suitable to our capacity. She is so charitable that she repels none of those who ask her intercession, no matter how great sinners they have been; for, as the saints say, never has it been heard since the world was the world that anyone has confidently and perseveringly had recourse to our Blessed Lady and yet has been repelled.19 She is so powerful that none of her petitions has ever been refused. She has but to show herself before her Son to pray to Him, and straightaway He grants her desires, straightaway He receives her prayers. He is always lovingly vanquished by the prayers of His dearest Mother, who bore Him and nourished Him.20
§86. All this is taken from St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure, so that according to them, we have three steps to mount to go to God: the first, which is nearest to us and the most suited to our capacity, is Mary; the second is Jesus Christ; and the third is God the Father. To go to Jesus, we must go to Mary; she is our mediatrix of intercession. To go to God the Father, we must go to Jesus; for He is our Mediator of redemption. Now the devotion that I am about to bring forward observes this order perfectly.
— Fifth Truth — WE NEED MARY IN ORDER TO PRESERVE THE GRACES AND TREASURES WE HAVE RECEIVED FROM GOD
§87. It is very difficult, considering our weakness and frailty, to preserve in ourselves the graces and treasures which we have received from God:
1. Because we have this treasure, which is worth more than Heaven and earth put together, in frail vessels, i.e., in a corruptible body and in a weak and inconstant soul, which a mere nothing disturbs and dejects: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2 Cor. 4:7).
§88. 2. Because the devils, who are skillful thieves, wish to surprise us unawares, and to strip us. They watch day and night for the favorable moment. For that end they go round about us incessantly to devour us and to snatch from us in one moment, by a sin, all the graces and merits we have gained for many years. Their malice, their experience, their stratagems and their number ought to make us fear this misfortune immensely, especially when we see how many persons fuller of grace than we are, richer in virtues, better founded in experience and far higher exalted in sanctity, have been surprised, robbed and unhappily pillaged. Ah ! How many cedars of Lebanon, how many stars of the firmament, have we not seen fall miserably, and in the twinkling of an eye lose all their height and their brightness! Whence comes that sad and curious change? It was not for want of grace, which is wanting to no man; but it was for want of humility. They thought themselves capable of guarding their own treasures. They trusted in themselves, relied upon themselves. They thought their house secure enough, and their coffers strong enough, to keep the precious treasure of grace. It is because of that scarcely perceptible reliance upon themselves, though all the while it seemed to them that they were relying only on the grace of God, that the most just Lord permitted them to be robbed by leaving them to themselves. Alas! If they had but known the admirable devotion which I will unfold presently, they would have confided their treasure to a Virgin powerful and faithful, who would have kept it for them as if it had been her own possession; nay, who would have even taken it as an obligation of justice on herself to preserve it for them.
§89. 3. It is difficult to persevere in justice because of the strange corruption of the world. The world is now so corrupt it seems inevitable that religious hearts should be soiled, if not by its mud, at least by its dust; so that it has become a kind of miracle for anyone to remain in the midst of that impetuous torrent without being drawn in by it, in the midst of that stormy sea without being drowned in it or stripped by the pirates and the corsairs, in the midst of that pestilent air without being infected by it. It is the Virgin, alone faithful, in whom the serpent has never had part, who works this miracle for those who serve her in that sweet way which I have shortly to unfold.
1. The following is taken almost entirely from Holy Scripture; cf. Apoc. 1:8; Eph. 4:13; Col. 2:9; Matt. 23:8-lO; Jn. 13:13; I Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:18; Jn. 13:15; 10:16; Acts 4:12; I Cor. 3:11, etc.
2. Canon of the Mass.
3. We should remember that St. Louis de Montfort wrote this at a time when Jansenism, which opposed devotion to the Blessed Virgin, was flourishing throughout Europe. Even eminent authors were deceived by this heretical sect.
4. Meditationum lib. 1, cap. XVIII, no. 2 (inter opera Sancti Augustini ).
5. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., III, Q. 48, a. 4., corp. et ad I .
6. By law, i.e., by the ancient civil law of some of those countries where slavery existed; not by the law of God, nor the law of Moses, nor our modern civil codes, which all condemn such an action. St. Louis de Montfort merely states a fact as it once existed. He prescinds entirely from the question of morality and wishes only to give an example of the complete dependence of which he is speaking.
7 Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:1; also cf. I Cor. 7:22; 2 Tim. 2:24. The insistence of Saints Paul, Peter, James and Jude on calling themselves slaves of Jesus Christ, shows that there is no opposition between this appellation and the words of Jesus: “I will not call you now servants [slaves] . . but I have called you friends.”
8. Henri Marie Boudon, Archdeacon of Evreux, in his book, Le Saint Esclavage de l’admirable Mere de Dieu, chapter 2.
9. Catechismus Roman., Pars 1a, Caput 111, De Secundo Symboli articulo in fine.
10. St. John Damascene, Sermo 2 in Dormitione B. Mariae.
11. St. Augustine, Sermo 113 in Nativit. Domini (inter opera Sancti Augustini).
12. Psalt . majus B.V. Ps. 117.
13. Cf. no. 38.
14. Speculum B.M.V., lect. III, no. 5.
15. Cf. no. 71, note 6.
16. For a further explanation of this second truth, cf. La Vie Spirituelle a l’ecole de St. Louis Marie de Montfort, by A. Lhoumeau, S.M.M., I Partie, ch. IV.
17. St. Louis De Montfort speaks here of our nothingness and impotence in the supernatural order, without the help of grace. Thus he says further on, in no. 83: “Our nature is so corrupted that if we rely on our own works ... to reach God....”
18. Sermo in Dom. infra octav. Assumptionis, no. 2.
19. St. Bernard, Sermo in Dom. infra. oct. Assumptionis no. 2.
20. St. Bonaventure. Speculum B.M.V. Lectio XI.
CHAPTER 3 CHOICE OF TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
§90. Having laid down these five truths, let us continue. Today, more than ever, we must take pains in choosing true devotion to our Blessed Lady, because, more than ever before, there are false devotions to our Blessed Lady which are easily mistaken for true ones. The devil, like a false coiner and a subtle and experienced sharper, has already deceived and destroyed so many souls by a false devotion to the Blessed Virgin that he makes a daily use of his diabolical experience to plunge many others by this same way into everlasting perdition; amusing them, lulling them to sleep in sin, under the pretext of some prayers badly said or of some outward practices which he inspires. As a false coiner does not ordinarily counterfeit anything but gold or silver, and very rarely other metals, because they are not worth the trouble, so the evil spirit does not for the most part counterfeit other devotions, but only those to Jesus and MaryCdevotion to Holy Communion and to our Blessed LadyCbecause they are among other devotions what gold and silver are among other metals.
§91. It is then very important to recognize, first of all, false devotions to our Blessed Lady, in order to avoid them, and true devotion, in order to embrace it; secondly, which of the many practices of true devotion to our Blessed Lady is the most perfect, the most agreeable to her, the most glorious to God, and the most sanctifying for ourselves, so that we may adopt that one.
— Article One -- FALSE DEVOTIONS TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN AND FALSE DEVOTEES
§92. I find seven kinds of false devotees and false devotions to Our Lady, namely: 1. the critical devotees; 2. the scrupulous devotees; 3. the external devotees; 4. the presumptuous devotees; 5. the inconstant devotees; 6. the hypocritical devotees; 7. the interested devotees.
I. Critical Devotees §93. The critical devotees are, for the most part, proud scholars, rash and self-sufficient spirits, who have at heart some devotion to the holy Virgin, but who criticize nearly all the practices of devotion which simple people pay simply and holily to their good Mother, because these practices do not fall in with their own humor and fancy. They call in doubt all the miracles and pious stories recorded by authors worthy of faith, or drawn from the chronicles of religious orders: narratives which testify to us the mercies and the power of the most holy Virgin. They cannot see, without uneasiness, simple and humble people on their knees before an altar or an image of Our Lady, sometimes at the corner of a street, in order to pray to God there; and they even accuse them of idolatry, as if they adored the wood or the stone. They say that, for their part, they are not fond of these external devotions, and that they are not so credulous as to believe so many tales and stories that are told about Our Lady. When they are told how admirably the Fathers of the Church praised the Blessed Virgin, they either reply that the Fathers spoke as professional orators, with exaggeration; or they misinterpret their words.1
These kinds of false devotees and of proud and worldly people are greatly to be feared. They do an infinite wrong to devotion to Our Lady; and they are but too successful in alienating people from it, under the pretext of destroying its abuses.
II. Scrupulous Devotees §94. The scrupulous devotees are those who fear to dishonor the Son by honoring the Mother, to abase the one in elevating the other. They cannot bear that we should attribute to Our Lady the most just praise which the holy Fathers have given her. It is all they can do to endure that there should be more people before the altar of the Blessed Virgin than before the Blessed Sacrament—as if the one were contrary to the other, as if those who prayed to our Blessed Lady did not pray to Jesus Christ through her. They are unwilling that we should speak so often of Our Lady and address her so frequently.
Here are some of their favorite sayings: “Why so many Rosaries, so many confraternities and so many external devotions to the Blessed Virgin? There is much ignorance in all this. It makes a mummery of our religion. Speak to us of those who are devout to Jesus Christ.” (Yet they often name Him without raising their hats—I say this by way of parenthesis.) “We must have recourse to Jesus Christ; He is our only Mediator. We must preach Jesus Christ; this is the solid devotion.” What they say is in a certain sense true, but in the application they make of it, namely, to hinder devotion to our Blessed Lady, very dangerous; and it is, under pretext of a greater good, a subtle snare of the evil one. For the more we honor the Blessed Virgin, the more we honor Jesus Christ, because we honor Mary only that we may the more perfectly honor Jesus, since we go to her only as the way by which we are to find the end we are seeking, which is Jesus.
§95. The Church, with the Holy Ghost, blesses Our Lady first, and Our Lord second: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” It is not that Mary is more than Jesus or even equal to Him—that would be intolerable heresy; but it is that, in order to bless Jesus more perfectly, we must begin by blessing Mary. Let us then say, with all the true clients of Our Lady, in opposition to these false scrupulous devotees, “O Mary, thou art blessed among all women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”
III. External Devotees §96. External devotees are persons who make all devotion to our Blessed Lady consist in outward practices. They have no taste except for the exterior of this devotion, because they have no interior spirit of their own. They will say quantities of Rosaries with the greatest precipitation; they will hear many Masses distractedly; they will go, without devotion, to processions; they will enroll themselves in all her confraternities—without amending their lives, without doing any violence to their passions, or without imitating the virtues of that most holy Virgin. They have no love but for the sensible2 part of devotion, without having any relish for its solidity. If they have not sensible sweetness in their practices, they think they are doing nothing; they get all out of joint, throw everything up, or do everything at random. The world is full of these exterior devotees, and there are no people who are more critical than they of men of prayer, who foster an interior spirit as the essential thing, without, however, disregarding that outward modesty which always accompanies true devotion.
IV. Presumptuous Devotees §97. Presumptuous devotees are sinners abandoned to their passions, or lovers of the world, who under the fair name of Christians and clients of our Blessed Lady conceal pride, avarice, impurity, drunkenness, anger, swearing, detraction, injustice or some other sin. They sleep in peace in the midst of their bad habits, without doing any violence to themselves to correct their faults, under the pretext that they are devout to the Blessed Virgin. They promise themselves that God will pardon them; that they will not be allowed to die without confession; and that they will not be lost eternally because they say the Rosary, because they fast on Saturdays, because they belong to the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, or wear the Scapular, or are enrolled in other congregations, or they wear the little habit or little chain of Our Lady.
They will not believe us when we tell them that their devotion is only an illusion of the devil and a pernicious presumption likely to destroy their souls. They say that God is good and merciful; that He has not made us to condemn us everlastingly; that no man is without sin; that they shall not die without confession; that one good act of contrition at the hour of death is enough; that they are devout to Our Lady, wear the Scapular, say daily, without fail and without vanity, seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Mary’s in her honor; and that they sometimes say the Rosary and the Office of Our Lady, besides fasting and other things. To give authority to all this, and to blind themselves still further, they quote certain stories which they have heard or read—it does not matter to them whether they be true or false—relating how people have died in mortal sin without confession, and then, because in their lifetime they sometimes said some prayers or went through some practices of devotion to Our Lady, how they have been raised to life again in order to go to confession; or their soul has been miraculously retained in their bodies till confession; or through the clemency of the Blessed Virgin they have obtained from God, at the moment of death, contrition and pardon of their sins, and so have been saved; and that they themselves expect similar favors.
§98. Nothing in Christianity is more detestable than this diabolical presumption. For how can we truly say that we love and honor our Blessed Lady when by our sins we are pitilessly piercing, wounding, crucifying and outraging Jesus Christ, her Son? If Mary laid down a law to herself, to save by her mercy this sort of people, she would be authorizing crime and helping crucify and outrage her Son. Who would ever dare think of such a thing?
§99. I say that thus to abuse devotion to Our Lady, which, after devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, is the holiest and solidest of all devotions, is to be guilty of a horrible sacrilege, which, after the sacrilege of an unworthy Communion, is the greatest and least pardonable of all sacrileges.
I confess that, in order to be truly devout to our Blessed Lady, it is not absolutely necessary to be so holy as to avoid every sin, though this were desirable; but this much at least is necessary, and I beg you to lay it well to heart: (1) to have a sincere resolution to avoid at least all mortal sin, which outrages the Mother as well as the Son; (2) to do violence to ourselves to avoid sin; (3) to enroll ourselves in confraternities, to say the Rosary or other prayers, to fast on Saturdays and the like.
§100. These good works are likewise wonderfully useful for the conversion of a sinner, however hardened he may be. If my reader be such a one, even though he have one foot in the abyss, I would advise him to practice them, but only on condition that he do so with the intention of obtaining from God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the grace of contrition and pardon of his sins and the grace to conquer his evil habits, and not to remain quietly in the state of sin, contrary to his remorse of conscience, the example of Jesus Christ and the saints and the maxims of the holy Gospel.
V. Inconstant Devotees §101. The inconstant devotees are those who are devout to our Blessed Lady by fits and starts. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes lukewarm. Sometimes they seem ready to do anything for her, and then a little afterward, they are not like the same people. They begin by taking up all the devotions to her, and enrolling themselves in the confraternities; and then they do not practice the rules with fidelity. They change like the moon;3 and Mary puts them under her feet with the crescent, because they are changeable and unworthy to be reckoned among the servants of that faithful Virgin who have for their special graces fidelity and constancy. It were better for such persons not to burden themselves with so many prayers and practices but to choose a few and fulfill them with faithfulness and love, in spite of the world, the devil and the flesh.
VI. Hypocritical Devotees §102. We have still to mention the false devotees to our Blessed Lady who are the hypocritical devotees, who cloak their sins and sinful habits with her mantle, in order to be taken by men for what they are not.
VII. Interested Devotees §103. There are also the interested devotees, who have recourse to Our Lady only to gain some lawsuit, or to avoid some danger, or to be cured of some illness, or for some other similar necessity, without which they would forget her altogether. All these are false devotees, pleasing neither to God nor to His holy Mother.
§104. Let us then take great care not to be of the number of the critical devotees, who believe nothing and criticize everything; nor of the scrupulous devotees. who are afraid of being too devout to Our Lady, out of respect to Our Lord; nor of the exterior devotees, who make all their devotion consist in outward practices; nor of the presumptuous devotees, who, under the pretext of their false devotion to the Blessed Virgin, wallow in their sins; nor of the inconstant devotees, who from levity change their practices of devotion, or give them up altogether, at the least temptation; nor of the hypocritical devotees, who join confraternities and wear the liveries of the Blessed Virgin in order to pass for good people; nor, finally, of the interested devotees, who have recourse to Our Lady only to be delivered from bodily evils, or to obtain temporal goods.
— Article Two-- TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
§105. After having laid bare and condemned the false devotions to the most holy Virgin, we must, in a few words, give the characteristics of true devotion. It must be: 1. interior, 2. tender, 3. holy, 4. constant, and 5. disinterested.
1. Interior §106. True devotion to Our Lady is interior; that is, it comes from the mind and the heart. It flows from the esteem we have for her, the high idea we have formed of her greatness, and the love which we have for her.
2. Tender §107. It is tender; that is, full of confidence in her, like a child’s confidence in his loving mother. This confidence makes the soul have recourse to her in all its bodily and mental necessities, with much simplicity, trust and tenderness. It implores the aid of its good Mother at all times, in all places and above all things: in its doubts, that it may be enlightened; in its wanderings, that it may be brought into the right path; in its temptations, that it may be supported; in its weaknesses, that it may be strengthened; in its falls, that it may be lifted up; in its discouragements, that it may be cheered; in its scruples, that they may be taken away; in the crosses, toils and disappointments of life, that it may be consoled under them. In a word, in all the evils of body and mind, the soul ordinarily has recourse to Mary, without fear of annoying her or displeasing Jesus Christ.
3. Holy §108. True devotion to Our Lady is holy; that is to say, it leads the soul to avoid sin and to imitate the virtues of the Blessed Virgin, particularly her profound humility, her lively faith, her blind obedience, her continual prayer, her universal mortification, her divine purity, her ardent charity, her heroic patience, her angelic sweetness and her divine wisdom. These are the ten principal virtues of the most holy Virgin.
4. Constant §109. True devotion to Our Lady is constant. It confirms the soul in good, and does not let it easily abandon its spiritual exercises. It makes it courageous in opposing the world in its fashions and maxims, the flesh in its weariness and passions, and the devil in his temptations; so that a person truly devout to our Blessed Lady is neither changeable, irritable, scrupulous nor timid. It is not that such a person does not fall, or change sometimes in the sensible feeling of devotion. But when he falls, he rises again by stretching out his hand to his good Mother. When he loses the taste and relish of devotion, he does not become disturbed because of that; for the just and faithful client of Mary lives by the faith (Heb. 10:38) of Jesus and Mary, and not by natural sentiment.
5. Disinterested §110. Lastly , true devotion to Our Lady is disinterested; that is to say, it inspires the soul not to seek itself but only God, and God in His holy Mother. A true client of Mary does not serve that august Queen from a spirit of lucre and interest, nor for his own good, whether temporal or eternal, corporal or spiritual, but exclusively because she deserves to be served, and God alone in her. He does not love Mary just because she obtains favors for him, or because he hopes she will, but solely because she is so worthy of love. It is on this account that he loves and serves her as faithfully in his disgusts and dryness as in his sweetness and sensible fervor. He loves her as much on Calvary as at the marriage of Cana.
Oh, how agreeable and precious in the eyes of God and of His holy Mother is such a client of our Blessed Lady, who has no self-seeking in his service of her! But in these days how rare is such a sight! It is that it may be less rare that I have taken my pen in hand to put on paper what I have taught with good results, in public and in private, during my missions for many years.
§111. I have now said many things about the most holy Virgin; but I have many more to say, and there are infinitely more which I shall omit, either from ignorance, inability or want of time, in unfolding the plan for forming a true client of Mary and a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
§112. Oh, but my labor will have been well expended if this little writing, falling into the hands of a soul of good dispositions—a soul well-born of God and of Mary, and not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man (Jn. 1:13)—should unfold to him, and should by the grace of the Holy Ghost inspire him with the excellence and the value of that true and solid devotion to our Blessed Lady which I am going presently to describe. If I knew that my guilty blood could serve in engraving upon anyone’s heart the truths which I am writing in honor of my true Mother and Sovereign Mistress, of whose children and slaves I am the least, I would use my blood instead of ink to form the letters, in the hope of finding some good souls who, by their fidelity to the practice which I teach, should compensate my dear Mother and Mistress for the losses which she has suffered through my ingratitude and infidelities.
§113. I feel myself more than ever encouraged to believe and to hope for the fulfillment of all that I have deeply engraven upon my heart and have asked of God these many years, namely, that sooner or later the Blessed Virgin shall have more children, servants and slaves of love than ever;4 and that by this means, Jesus Christ, my dear Master, shall reign in hearts more than ever.
§114. I clearly foresee that raging beasts shall come in fury to tear with their diabolical teeth this little writing and him whom the Holy Ghost has made use of to write it—or at least to smother it in the darkness and silence of a coffer, that it may not appear. They shall even attack and persecute those who shall read it and carry it out in practice.5 But what matter? On the contrary, so much the better! This very foresight encourages me, and makes me hope for great success, that is to say, for a great squadron of brave and valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, of both sexes, to combat the world, the devil and corrupted nature, in those more than ever perilous times which are about to come. “He who reads, let him understand.” (Matt. 24:15). “He who can receive it, let him receive it.” (Matt. 19:12).
1. Common practices, both interior and exterior
§115. There are several interior practices of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Here are the principal ones, stated compendiously:
(1) to honor her as the worthy Mother of God, with the worship of hyperdulia; that is to say, to esteem her and honor her above all the other saints, as the masterpiece of grace, and the first after Jesus Christ, true God and true Man;
(2) to meditate on her virtues, her privileges and her actions;
(3) to contemplate her grandeurs;
(4) to make acts of love, of praise, of gratitude to her;
(5) to invoke her cordially;
(6) to offer ourselves to her and unite ourselves with her;
(7) to do all our actions with the view of pleasing her;
(8) to begin, to continue and to finish all our actions by her, in her, with her and for her, in order that we may do them by Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ, our Last End. We will presently explain this last practice.6
§116. True devotion to Our Lady also has several exterior practices, of which the following are the principal ones:
(1) to enroll ourselves in her confraternities and enter her congregations;
(2) to join the religious orders instituted in her honor;
(3) to proclaim her praises;
(4) to give alms, to fast and to undergo outward and inward mortifications in her honor;
(5) to wear her liveries, such as the Rosary, the Scapular or the little chain;
(6) to recite with attention, devotion and modesty the holy Rosary, composed of fifteen decades of Hail Mary’s in honor of the fifteen principal mysteries of Jesus Christ; or five decades, which is one third of the Rosary, either in honor of the five Joyful Mysteries, which are the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the Purification, and the Finding of Our Lord in the Temple; or in honor of the five Sorrowful Mysteries, which are the Agony of Our Lord in the Garden of Olives, His Scourging, His Crowning with Thorns, His Carrying of the Cross, and His Crucifixion; or in honor of the five Glorious Mysteries, which are the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, body and soul, into Heaven, and her Coronation by the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. We may also say a chaplet of six or seven decades in honor of the years which we believe Our Lady lived on earth; or the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, composed of three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Mary’s, in honor of her crown of twelve stars or privileges; or the Office of Our Lady, so universally received and recited in the Church; or the little Psalter of the holy Virgin, which St. Bonaventure composed in her honor, and which is so tender and so devout that one cannot say it without being moved by it; or fourteen Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s in honor of her fourteen joys; or some other prayers, hymns and canticles of the Church, such as the Salve Regina, the Alma, the Ave Regina Coelorum, or the Regina Coeli, according to the different seasons; or the Ave Maris Stella, the O Gloriosa Domina, the Magnificat, or some other practices of devotion, of which books are full;
(7) to sing, or have sung, spiritual canticles in her honor;
(8) to make a number of genuflections or reverences, while saying, for example, every morning, sixty or a hundred times, Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis (“Hail Mary, Faithful Virgin”), to obtain from God through her the grace to be faithful to the graces of God during the day; and then again in the evening, Ave Maria, Mater Misericordiae (“Hail Mary, Mother of Mercy”) to ask pardon of God through her for the sins that we have committed during the day;
(9) to take care of her confraternities, to adorn her altars, to crown and ornament her images;
(10) to carry her images, or to have them carried, in procession, and to carry a picture or an image of her about our own persons, as a mighty arm against the evil spirit;
(11) to have copies of her name or picture made and placed in churches, or in houses, or on the gates and entrances into cities, churches and houses;
(12) to special and solemn consecrate ourselves to her in manner .
§117. There are numerous other practices of true devotion toward the Blessed Virgin which the Holy Ghost has inspired in saintly souls and which are very sanctifying; they can be read at length in the Paradise Opened to Philagius of Father Barry, the Jesuit, in which he has collected a great number of devotions which the saints have practiced in honor of Our Lady—devotions which serve marvelously to sanctify our souls, provided they are performed as they ought to be, that is to say,
(1) with a good and pure intention to please God only, to unite ourselves to Jesus Christ as to our Last End, and to edify our neighbor;
(2) with attention and without voluntary distraction;
(3) with devotion, equally avoiding precipitation and negligence;
(4) with modesty, and a respectful and edifying posture of the body.
2. Its perfect practice
§118. But after all, I loudly protest that, having read nearly all the books which profess to treat of devotion to Our Lady, and having conversed familiarly with the best and wisest of men of these latter times, I have never known nor heard of any practice of devotion toward her at all equal to the one which I now wish to unfold; demanding from the soul, as it does, more sacrifices for God, ridding the soul more of itself and of its self-love, keeping it more faithfully in grace and grace more faithfully in it, uniting it more perfectly and more easily to Jesus Christ; and finally, being more glorious to God, more sanctifying to the soul and more useful to our neighbor than any other of the devotions to her.
§119. As the essential of this devotion consists in the interior which it ought to form, it will not be equally understood by everybody. Some will stop at what is exterior in it, and will go no further, and these will be the greatest number. Some, in small number, will enter into its inward spirit; but they will only mount one step. Who will mount to the second step? Who will get as far as the third? Lastly, who will so advance as to make this devotion his habitual state? He alone to whom the spirit of Jesus Christ shall have revealed this secret, the faultlessly faithful soul whom He shall conduct there Himself, to advance from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, from light to light, until he arrives at the transformation of himself into Jesus Christ, and to the plenitude of His age on earth and of His glory in Heaven.