THE MESSAGE OF MONTFORT
A modern commentary on the
Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
PATRICK FANNON, S.M.M., D.D., L.S.S.
The Montfort Press,
Cum permlssu superiorum
This booklet is reproduced with the kind permission of Montfort Press
A Book for our Time
Happy to be Alone?
The Hidden Treasure
No Wind of Change
The Queen and I ...
Joint Ownership ...
No more than Human
True or False ?
But the best is yet
The Reason why
Parable for Moderns
Practice makes Perfect
The Supreme Moment
There is another difficulty evoked by the present liturgical revival in the Church, which stresses
the Liturgy as the centre of all our prayers and devotions. Now while this is so, we have to remember the words
of Pius XII (who himself did so much to bring the Liturgy into the lives of the faithful) to the Liturgical Congress
held in Assisi: " The Liturgy is not everything." And in fact there is a need in our lives for such devotioas
that would prepare us for our meeting with Christ in the Mass and Sacraments, devotions
There is one final point. After the heights reached under Pius XII, has not Mariology suffered a recession—and consequently is the influence of Montfort what it used to be ? It can be at once admitted that the intensive Marian studies which marked the last decades are being presently eclipsed by biblical, liturgical and ecumenical interests. But each period of the Church has been devoted to a particular aspect of her mystery. now one aspect being developed, now another. Yet the stable gains achieved in one period remain and add their contribution to the understanding of the riches of revelation. Allowance being made for the poor quality of certain writings in the period which ended with the death of Pius XII, we may define that period as one of immense importance for the study of our Lady. We have learned a great deal more about her role in the redemption and this gain is ever with us. As to the True Devotion we have to note that such powerful Marian spirituality naturally fitted into the background of those years; it had its contribution to make and in turn received a new dynamism. Its influence grew and reached many more than outside this period of Marian development in the Church. And just as Lourdes or Fatima still stake a claim on Catholic interest and piety even if the former intensive investigation of Mary's function has lessened before newer demands in the Church, so too the True Devotion continues to maintain its influence in life of the faithful.
A BOOK FOR OUR TIME
The influence of reading matter cannot be underestimated; a man acts as he thinks, and his thinking, for the most part, is directed by what he reads. We have often heard of the power of mind over matter. What we do not always appreciate is the power of matter over mind especially when it is reading matter.
It is an unquestionable fact that the smallest books may have the greatest influence, just like those pocket books which are sold in their thousands at newspaper kiosks and railway stations. Immorality can be very cheap at two shillings and sixpence a lesson.
On the credit side, the influence of a good book can bring about equally startling results, and that despite its size. The Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is a pocket book of teaching on our Lady and devotion to her. It is a book of spirituality which presents the ordinary reader with the cream of the Church's teaching on the spiritual life, a boon to those who have neither the time nor the inclination to wade through massive works stamped with the word "Ascetics". This little book can give you it all in more digestible form. It is a book for our time.
But it has always been a book to be read since the early eighteenth century. Composed in 1712 by St Louis Marie de Montfort, it has had an interesting history.
On his death, four years later, the manuscript was taken care of by the first Superior General of the Montfort Fathers. We hear of it in 1722 at Saint Laurent-sur-Sèvre in the West of France, where the Mother House of the Congregation was established, near the tomb of St Louis Marie.
Owing to attempts by some ill-disposed persons to have the new Congregation suppressed by Royal Decree, it was considered inopportune and even impossible to seek the privilège du Roi, the permission of the State, necessary at that time for the publication of the Treatise. Consequently it remained in manuscript form.
During the troubles of the French Revolution, St Laurent became the centre of much unwelcome attention and the manuscript was hidden and became, finally, untraceable. Many have seen a forecast of these difficulties in No. 114 of the Treatise, "I clearly foresee that raging beasts will come in fury to tear to pieces this little book . . . or at least to bury it in the darkness and silence of a coffer, that it might not appear."
Some fifty years after these events, quite by accident, the manuscript was discovered in 1842 by one of the Montfort Fathers among some old books in the library of the Mother House. Published in 1843, a second edition was necessary the following year. By 1900 the appeal of the work of St Louis Marie had become apparent; there were no less than 16 French editions, four English, four Italian three Polish, two Canadian. one German and one Spanish. In the last half-century this diffusion has been more than tripled.
As to the actual state of the manuscript, it would seem that both a first part as also a final part of the text are missing, since references are made to these sections in Nos. 227, 228 and 236 of the Treatise.
I have referred to paragraphs by number, but it must be noted that in the manuscript itself, although various indications are given as the divisions existing in the work, St Louis Marie has not enumerated his paragraphs.
The first attempt made at division seems to have been made in 1906. Succeeding editors elaborated this division by the addition of marginal numbers. Finally a critical edition was published in 1934, and on the occasion of the centenary of the discovery of the manuscript in 1942, a photostat copy of the manuscript was published in Rome.
How are we to account for such an important reception of such an insignificant book? In the first place it had an interest value for Catholics of no matter what race or period—it spoke of the Mother of God.
The conventional pattern of day-to-day life is given a new content and meaning by the introduction of what we may call a Marian outlook. At all important points our behaviour is directly related to Mary. It is then eminently practical, no mere manual for mystics, even though these are catered for, but a plain man's guide to holiness.
And to the Catholic faithful who have always been wistfully interested in the things that are Mary's, it offered to tell how best they might achieve sanctity in her service. Perhaps the most striking result achieved in this context is the phenomenon of the Legion of Mary. This potent power of Catholic Action was inspired by the Treatise, and the secret of its strength lies in dedication to Mary.
A second reason for the world-wide diffusion of this book is the recommendations it received from those who knew their way around the halls of learning.
Scholars of note have read it, digested it and practised and published their findings. They found that it extended their knowledge of Mary while intensifying their devotion to her.
Spiritual writers have sounded new depths through it. Father Faber, more than any other single person in the English-speaking world, is responsible today for the copies that are found in houses, colleges and religious communities. His words of a century ago are still relevant,
Such is the Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Have you ever thought of reading up on our Lady, of catching up with the spiritual life, of being a better Catholic? There are many ways of doing these things, but here is a very good one— risk your best friend's annoyance and borrow his copy. or dare I mention it, follow the easy way and buy a copy. You may be one copy less of your favourite author, but you will find something of much greater value.
HAPPY TO BE ALONE?
"1 can manage quite nicely, thank you," is not always the polite answer to an offer of help. A refusal of charity, like charity itself, can cover a multitude of faults, one in particular, an exaggerated independence. The fact is, people don't like being dependent. It restricts their liberty, injures their pride.
But a complete hermit's life is these days no longer a live option. Centuries ago it was popular, but the world was young then. Anchored as we are to even the trivialities of everyday life, we need our neighbour. Society exists precisely to both give and receive help: the doctor, the dentist, the tradesmen.
Mutual loans are continually being drafted on whatever service each of us has to offer. And it does not hurt. Rather it makes for growth, for maturity, each one developing these powers which otherwise might lie, hidden and unknown, in the backwaters of our personality.
Dependent in everyday life, we are even more so in the spiritual life. With God's grace so much is possible; independently. we can do nothing. In dependent association with God, we achieve our salvation.
And the wonder of it all is that God has chosen to give his graces, through Mary. Few will cavil at the idea of being dependent on God; but it is part of the story of God's dealings with humans that he has made them dependent on a human being.
God chose to use Mary in the incarnation which was directed to save mankind. Consequently God wished to use Mary for our salvation. But it would be unthinkable that we who owe her so much should default in acknowledging our debt to her. Common courtesy alone would oblige us to show her devotion. And even if devotion were shown to her, we might still fall short of giving her her due.
Not any sort of devotion suffices. We have to have a devotion that helps us view our Lady as God viewed her. And that is the burden of St Louis Marie de Montfort's Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. His theme is that we can only fully recognise her role if we are fully dependent on her.
Hence it is that he demands a total dependence, body, soul and possessions. To many this has appeared startling, exaggerated, the whim of an ecstatic. In point of fact, it is nothing more than a means of achieving something we promised so long ago when the waters of baptism flowed over our brows.
We dedicated ourselves to Jesus Christ wholly. Henceforward we belonged to him. But truant memory and carelessness and lack of fervour have all played their parts in separating us from that early ideal. Yet we are still Christ's and Mary will bring us back to a recognition of what he means to us and of what we should mean to him.
But why not bypass Mary and go straight to Christ? Why use the Mother to approach the Son? For the simple reason that God wants us to use Mary as he did. He could have effected the incarnation without the help of any creature, but he did not. With humans, God acts in a human fashion.
Again, Mary is always an encouragement to us; she sums up in herself what a creature can do, can be, and is in fact the image of what the Church will be in heaven. She is God's blue-print of what he hopes from humanity, but which was realised only in her. Finally, her very personality is a perpetual reminder of God's love for creatures.
Most important of all, Mary does not overshadow Christ, separating him from us, directing attention from him to herself. Rather she it is who leads us to Christ, without whom she is nothing. It is part of her greatness that she is always united to her Son.
The human mind cannot fully appreciate all the riches of Christ's being; they are too vast, too infinite for us. They need to be considered separately, and even then we fail to exhaust their depth. But in Mary we see deflected towards us some of those riches in a fashion we can grasp. The divine is expressed in purely human terms. The finite perfection of the Mother gives us some glimpse of the infinite perfections of the Son.
How then are we to make due acknowledgment of this role of Mary unless we give ourselves wholly to her, so that she may the more easily bring us to Christ?
Complete love entails complete dedication. and this is practically realised by consecrating ourselves to her and that totally, with everything that we are and have. Consecration is not, however, just an act, done and finished with the moment the words are uttered.
This would be as absurd as saying that a marriage is just words said before the priest at the wedding ceremony. No, there is a state of consecration. just as there is a state of matrimony.
This state of consecration is lived, according to St Louis Marie de Montfort, by recognizing that we are dependent on Mary. In practice this amounts to offering her all that we have to do, our prayers, devotions, good works. We offer them to her that she may. in her turn, present them to her Son for us. He is offering, through her, the mediatrix of all graces, all the favours we receive; in return, we offer, by her hands, the good use we have made of those graces.
To describe in detail this dependence on Mary, four ways are suggested in the True Devotion. We do everything through, i.e., in the spirit of Mary, as a small girl will imitate her mother "doing housework"; or,
with Mary, that is with the presence of Mary ever before our
minds; or in (union with) Mary; lastly, for Mary,
This outline of the bases, nature and practices of the True Devotion may serve as an introduction to those who begin to read St Louis Marie's famous work. Here is his message in brief. The book which he wrote will show how well these ideas are developed and with what beauty the details of daily life are dovetailed into a pattern of dependence on Mary, and with what remarkable results for our souls.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
From Here to Eternity might well have been the sub-title to those first six pages of St Louis Marie do Montfort's Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin which serve as an introduction to his work. For in them we are offered an overall view of Mary as she was outlined in the mind of God and in the devotion of men. You will read there of how God made her his own, bestowing gifts on her not since repeated; of how this new paradise ushered in the new Adam; of how all creatures from lisping infants to supremely intelligent angels acknowledge the glory that is hers.
And yet this panorama is presented simply to underline one point: Mary is still not sufficiently
well known. Even if we can never hope to appreciate fully her greatness, the secret of which is with God, yet our
task it must be to map out as well as we may that voyage which leads towards this hidden treasure. The True Devotion is going to be a supremely handy guide-book for this purpose.
It should be pointed out. in the first place, that Montfort wants to show that the glory of Mary is one which primarily belongs to the supernatural order and which centres around her divine motherhood, either as a preparation for or a consequence of it. Mary's immaculate conception, her sinlessncss, her high degree of virtue— in a word, her state of soul—are all hidden things which could not be fully appreciated or known by the common run of humanity. (The saint remarks that all her glory is within).
Even the angels, who depend for their knowledge on what God permits them to know, may not have been fully aware of the extent of Mary's union and relationship with God, a closer union than that effected by grace, which was the result of her divine motherhood. This underlies what our author means when he says that God concealed Mary: her greatness cannot be understood by finite minds. Hence, he is expressing in a popular fashion a depth of theology.
This popular style, too, explains the accommodation of Scripture texts to Mary (something the Church herself makes use of) in much the same way as we will cap a description by a quotation from a book, without claiming that the author had our present circumstances in mind.
Perhaps, more insistently, one may demand why should knowledge of Mary be a requisite for knowledge of Christ. But just on a practical plane, one has only to point out what the Legion of Mary has done, consequent on its appreciation of Mary, to extend the knowledge of Christ. More profoundly, however, knowledge of Mary implies a knowledge of Christ's work applied to creatures. Mary sums up in herself all that Christ has done for each and every one of us. She is a picture of the redeemed Church. Hence, knowledge of her greatness directly leads to knowldege and recognition of all that Christ effected by his redemptive work, and this because of what he was. Further, all the truths of Christianity are in some way resumed in Mary. She is, as it were, the knowledge and love of Christ— which is nothing more than Christianity, the consciousness of Christ—presented in a way most likely to engage our attention and affection. Finally, the riches of his coming cannot be fully absorbed by our weakened minds; they have to be fed to us. as it were, piecemeal, in a fashion we can more easily grasp, in a human way—in Mary.
Christians of all ages have striven after ever greater knowledge of Mary. have shown her their deepest devotion. It has been pointed out by one author that, should our civilisation fail and our cities crumble, excavators among the ruins would find such remains in churches and images testifying to man's devotion to Mary that they might easily presume she had been our one devotion. Yet St Louis Marie demands even greater devotion, greater service, greater knowledge; not, in the last analysis, for Mary's sake, but for her Son's: "She who has brought him into the world will make him known to the world."
NO WIND OF CHANGE
But in our modern world, with its quicksilver-like changes, each day bringing news of something fresh replacing something old, confusion has too often been the penalty of change; and this, in its turn, has resulted in instability and insecurity for some, and in a complete indifference and lack of a sense of values in others.
And so, the old, letting the winds of change blow harmlessly over their heads, experience perhaps more security than anybody.
Yet, in such a changing world, it is some consolation to realise that there is one who does not change, one whose stability is always assured, one sheet anchor remaining unmoved amid the tossing turbulence of the times.
God does not change; he is eternally the same, in himself and in his plans. And it is because of this fact that St Louis Marie de Montfort has been able to show how God, having made use of our Lady to begin the central work of our salvation, will continue to use her to make that salvation even more generously available to mankind. The plan chosen by God for the incarnation of Christ will be continued in the mystical incarnation of each one of us into the mystical body, the Church.
Blessed Trinity in our souls
First of all, as to the coining of Christ on earth, the saint tells us that although God did not need to use Mary, he chose to do so.
In specifying the activities of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, we have to see, in the first place, the work of the Trinity as a whole.
But that is not all. Even if, for example, in the sanctification of our souls, all three persons are equally responsible for the production of grace in of our souls, yet when they come to dwell within us we receive a union with God by which we reach the three persons as distinct. We are joined to each of the divine persons by a real link, and each of them has a distinct rôle in our Christian life, not by causing something in us not effected also by the other two persons, but by being present to us in a way proper to himself.
Hence, the Father is our Father; through the Son, we become God's sons; and we are united to the Father and the Son by that love between them which is the Holy Ghost.
Hence, although St Louis Marie shows the Trinity as working, if we may so express it, in a combined effort to produce an effect outside themselves, he also underlines how, in consequence, a personal relationship is set up with each of them as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is in this background that we must read those numbers of the True Devotion which deal with the work of the three divine persons. Father, Son and Holy Ghost concurred in producing God made man as they do in bestowing all the gifts of grace to each of us; the effects in both cases are the associated work of all three together. And from this we have a personal link with Father. Son and Holy Ghost individually.
But within this larger framework of nos. 16-22 of the True Devotion, there are a host of small points which engage the attention of the careful reader and which call for some clarification.
What is all this about our Lord finding liberty in being imprisoned in Mary's womb—his life of dependence on her giving greater glory to God than if he had converted the whole world?
We must bear in mind that St Louis Marie is concerned to teach a devotion of dependence and to do that he has seized on the relationship of our Lord to his Mother during his earthly life. But how far is that valid? Can we say that our Lord was dependent on her?
It is obvious that in becoming man, the second person of the Trinity freely accepted the limitations of human nature and the common lot of mankind in being conceived, born, nourished. suffering our wants and even undergoing death. Christ was fully man in all that was not sin or connected with it. Hence, he freely chose to be dependent on Mary, his mother, as any other child is dependent on its mother. And our Lord, in perfectly fulfilling all that God had decreed he should do, exhibited such complete conformity with the will of God that in him God was given his greatest glory.
God's will demanded that Christ should live thirty years in filial attachment to his mother—and then only move on to preach to men. The incarnate Word exercised his liberty by freely accepting at the beginning, the limitations of a child in the womb at his conception, and at his death Mary was present to share in his sacrifice by surrendering her maternal rights over her Son to God.
Now in heaven, Mary still has an influence with her Son—as Catholic piety has always been aware—in our favour. Our prayers and supplications receive an added impetus in that she too joins her petition to ours. For Mary's role did not end with her stay on this earth. Just as she was associated with the Trinity to bring forth the physical body of Christ, so now she is associated with the three divine persons in working for man's salvation, in bringing them forth to the life of grace, in a word, in giving to God the mystical body of Christ. Mother of Christ in the order of nature that the world might be made over to God, the same Mary is mother of the mystical Christ in the order of grace, and for the same end. Mother of the head, she is mother, too, of the members, of us.
Spouse of the Holy Spirit
Although all the Trinity combined, we might say, to produce the incarnation, we have the practice of attributing this to the Holy Ghost. Mary is called by the Father, the "Spouse" of the Holy Ghost. We must realise that this title means nothing more than the underlining of the fact that Mary co-operated intimately with God in the production of God made man.
We speak, in the Apostles' Creed, of our Lord as "conceived of the Holy Ghost" and we speak also of the same Spirit as the "Sanctifier" of our souls. In both instances, we have attributed to the Holy Ghost the conjoined work of the blessed Trinity. And so it is that St Louis Marie shows the Holy Ghost with our Lady as working for our salvation: as souls devoted to our Lady cannot but receive great graces from God—the Holy Ghost "flies there" where Mary is, to use the saint's striking expression.
The Trinity, then, and Mary in the incarnation and in man's sanctification follow a similar pattern. God has not changed his strategy: his divine tactics remain the same. Hence the importance of appreciating St Louis Marie de Montfort's emphasis on Mary's role in our lives. It was through her that he first came to men, it is through her that he is still coming to men: it is through her that we are helped to reach God.
THE QUEEN AND I
The crowned heads of Europe—and indeed of the world—have been diminishing. Ancient memories of royal wrongs when dominion degenerated into despotism, and a conqueror became a king only to revert overnight to an oppressor have all played their part. Yet, in spite of it all, hidden in the heart of even the most rabid republican lies a sneaking regard for royalty, and despite the empty thrones and the requisitioned palaces, the infrequent manifestations of royal pageantry are greeted with an absorbing interest, and avid curiosity—and perhaps a tenuous hope?
The spiritual order has not suffered the same disappointments, the same uncertain tenure in its royal family. Mary is still queen after a rule of some two thousand years and this, as St Louis Marie shows in his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as a consequence of the permanent crown-rights conferred on her by the blessed Trinity.
If she has to play a dominant role in the lives of men, in accordance with her part in the incarnation of Jesus, she must have power, dominion; that is, she must be their queen in the order of grace as her Son is their king by nature—the queen, not with that temporal power which is concerned with the bodies and fortunes of men, but rather with their souls, their primary asset.
This queenly rule runs parallel with another consequence of God's action on Mary at the incarnation of Christ. He chose to make her necessary to himself in the salvation of men, and, in so doing, assured her an important place, a necessary rôle in man's working out of that salvation held out by God.
St Louis Marie shows how this fact has been etuerly grasped by the saints to underline her cooperation in the salvation of all men, but particularly with those who seek a special perfection and for whom the great graces and high virtues of Mary have a special meaning as well as with those whose lot it is to live in the "latter times".
Such are the two ideas in this chapter of the True Devotion: Mary is queen of all men and she is necessary to all men for salvation.
Really a Queen?
Now let us examine more closely some of the ideas contained in those numbers 37-59 of the Treatise.
In the first place, how real is the royalty of Mary? Is it not perhaps a pious fiction designed to attribute to her the greatness of a title? This question may best be answered by simply pointing to the recent feast instituted for May 31st, "Mary, Queen of All Creation". In his encyclical the Pope recalled the reasons for this royalty. She is queen because Mother of God, because she was associated with her Son in conquering sin, because of her perfection, and lastly, because of her power. And so she shares. even if in a much inferior way, in the royal dignity of her Son. The thought of St Louis Marie is echoed by the late Holy Father when he says that
And this "well-nigh measureless power in the bestowal of grace" indicates also why Mary is, as our saint emphasizes, necessary to all men to achieve their salvation.
But let us beware of thinking that men cannot be saved unless they know our Lady. If Mary's intercession on our behalf were limited to those who acknowledge her and pray to her, we should indeed be very poorly off. Rather, whether we want it or not, whether we know it or not. Mary is there as the one who God has decreed should distribute his graces.
Moreover, if she is necessary to all to gain those graces required for salvation, she is even more needed by those who seek to be perfect, who strive after a higher life.
Here, special graces are required—but they are there for the asking. Mary is fully qualified to make this special petition since, if we may so put it, her own stock is so high with God. Every grace that will be accorded to creatures Mary already possesses in an eminent degree, and she is only too willing that her perfection be shared by us.
Why does Montfort emphasize so much her rôle in the latter times? What are the "latter times"?
In order to understand the saint's thought in Nos. 49-59 of the True Devotion, it may be of some use to trace the background on which his ideas are sketched.
In Chapter 3 of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we are shown God describing a struggle which is to haunt the human race until the world comes to an end, a struggle between man and evil; I will place enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed. And the race of the woman—mankind—will be victorious. With the coming of Christ, it was seen that underlying this ancient oracle of God was the promise that Jesus Christ, a member of the human race, was to effect that victory, and associated with him was his Mother.
The New Testament clearly shows that the "latter times" have come, and that the Church with redeemed mankind stands opposed to Satan and his powers of evil. Although victory for the Church is assured, her mission is still impeded by sin, and this hindrance will continue and reach its maximum strength as time draws to a close, before the second coming of our Lord.
Now it is in these latter times, which stretch from our Lord's first coming to the end of the world, that Mary's rôle in the history of mankind has been felt. Like Eve, Mary stands with her children opposed to the powers of evil. And although at Christ's first coming her part in man's struggle was recorded with discretion that attention might not be distracted from her Son, now it is time to make known to man the powerful force on his side against Satan.
In the most bitter days, she will exercise her invincible might. This new Eve won her strength by obedience and faithfulness to God, as that earlier one lost hers by disobedience and infidelity; and if Satan won his first proud victory through a woman's weakness, he will taste the sour dregs of humiliation through a woman's strength.
Such is the reason for Montfort's insistence on the latter times and Mary's part in them. Now one final question: Who are the "apostles of the latter times" Montfort speaks about?
They are all those who, zealous for the glory of God, have dedicated themselves to his service against evil. But just as the saint has underlined the more determined attacks which the Church will have to undergo before Christ makes his second appearance in glory, so too he describes in picturesque phrases those souls who will be particularly engaged in this final struggle.
Later on. he speaks of "a mighty legion of brave and valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary. of both sexes, to fight the devil, the world and corrupt nature in those more than ever perilous times that are to come." His fervent hope, as he has shown elsewhere, was that his own missioners might be worthy to be included among them.
The first chapter of the True Devotion, then. has shown us why devotion to Mary is necessary. God willed to make use of her in the incarnation of Christ and after that in the sanctifying of each individual soul; and for that purpose he has given her royal power in the realm of grace.
She is necessary to man to reach his eternal goal and in his struggle with his enemies, sin and Satan. It will be an exceptional ingrate who will neglect his duty towards such a queen. It has been called treason.
Our modern delight in foreign travel has familiarised most of us with certain procedures to be followed if we hope to arrive safely at, for example, Rome. There are passport formalities, visit to a travel agent, tickets, foreign currency (with that all-important card which tells us how to convert shillings into lire).
The exhilaration of our departure owes something to the sense of security we have achieved by checking up on all these details before we arrived on the railway platform or at the air terminal. We know we are not taking off blindly; a "mystery tour" will do for another, a more domestic occasion.
Now to those who may feel qualms at undertaking the special quest of an all-embracing devotion to our Lady, those who wonder if such devotion may not detract something from the service they feel should be given to God. St Louis Marie de Montfort has offered a list of basic facts ("truths" he calls them) which should give them all the security they need in their adventure for a perfect devotion to Mary.
After examining them, we cannot but feel a deep security that we are embarking on a sale journey.
Mary No Obstacle
In chapter 2 of his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin the saint shows clearly that "Jesus Christ, our Saviour, true God and true man, must be the ultimate end of all our devotions; otherwise they would be false and misleading."
Hence, if devotion to our Lady were to draw us away from him, we should have to reject it as a delusion of the devil. But the age-long practice of the Church, the countless acts of devotion offered to the Mother of God throughout the world, whither they be amid the ceremonies of Lourdes or secretly in the silence of a humble chapel, all testify to the Catholic consciousness that Mary does not come between us and Christ.
And why not? Because, as Montfort says, he is always with Mary and Mary with him; without her Son, the Mother means nothing. Hence, all devotion to Mary redounds, and must redound, to Jesus.
And this is why the saint inserts a complaint, lodges a protest against those who would exclude all devotion to our Lady : they do not realise that to impede due honour to her is to lack appreciation of our Lord.
But that is not all. She who brought him into the world, who nourished and reared him, was associated with him in his work of redemption. And God has seen fit to grant her a part in the power that was Christ's through his atonement.
We belong entirely to him who snatched us from the rule of sin, and he has made over some of that rule to Mary. We belong wholly, whether we realise it or not, to Jesus and Mary. Christ is king, but Mary is queen; and we are their subjects.
There is yet another rôle which Mary plays between us and Christ: she is our mediatrix. Joining her intercession to our prayers (and how often have we called upon her to support our request before God?). our distracted attempts to beg God's favour receive a lift (there is no other word for it) towards the throne of God. She works with God, not against him, for our salvation.
Such are the headings of the travel vouchers St Louis Marie offers us for our flight to Mary. But if we peep inside at the contents, are there not a few details to be checked over, a few further enquiries to be made? We just want to be sure.
In the first place, how is our Lady closely linked to our Lord?
The explanation is simply that when she became Mother of God, Mary entered into such an intimate relationship with him that not only is she high above the rest of mankind in grace but she touches on the very confines of the divinity.
Such a union was not for the brief while she walked the dusty paths of Palestine; it set a seal on her for eternity. Her divine motherhood made her everything she is. Without it, separated from her Son, she would be just another creature like ourselves.
Hence, the simplest prayer to her is an acknowledgement of what God has done to her, an acknowledgement of his own greatness. And the remarkable thing is that the customary prayers of the Church to her are within the reach of all.
Take, for instance, the Rosary. While it praises Mary. even more so it praises God whose mighty works for man's salvation are recorded in the spinning decades that tie together heaven and earth. The superior type of person who would relegate the Rosary to uneducated and simple souls is superior only in his ignorance.
Subjects of Mary
Another item in the voucher: the total and absolute power Christ has over the souls of those committed to him by baptism. How does Mary share in this?
Although this power is not despotic—as we know well, Christ's yoke is sweet and his burden light—yet there exists a real power, a real dominion over us; we belong entirely from the moment of baptism. Grace is made available to us only through our Lord; we are completely dependent on him.
Yet is it not true that God grants his graces also through Mary? We are dependent on her. subject to her. She shares in her Son's royal dominion. Queen of all creation. Pius XII has called her; we owe her allegiance.
Our status as subjects still stands whether we recognise it or not. Yet it is not a willing slave better suited to her purpose, indeed better suited to himself, than one who would escape from such a sovereign? Rebellion against God's majesty, even against that power which God has entrusted to Mary, can end only in disaster. No, belonging to Mary, we belong more securely to her Son because that is all she exercises her dominion for.
Only One Mediator
Lastly, you may say, just one more query. Is there not only one mediator between God and man—Jesus Christ? Why make Mary a mediatrix?
We must answer at once that there has been only one, Jesus Christ, who has effected the reunion of the human race with God. Without his good offices our race (including our Lady) would not have been reunited with the Father.
Yet once this has been realised, is it not also true that the better among us are required to lead others towards God, to share in the atoning work of the Saviour. to help us make use of the benefits offered to us?
We think immediately of the work of the saints. Cannot we also think of her who, from the first, was associated with the mediator in his work; she who, more than any other human creature, is capable of joining us to him as he to God?
Her capacity to help, shot through with all the comforting tenderness of a devoted mother, is something we cannot expect to find in any other of the saints; in fact, in all the saints taken together.
Once we have grasped firmly that Mary cannot but lead us to Jesus, that the more we give ourselves to her the more surely we reach him, we appreciate the security of our devotion to her. It will not lead us astray since we belong to her only to be more certainly the property of Christ.
We have sat in judgment on devotion to her. It remains for us to sit in judgment on ourselves, to see if we qualify to obtain from her all she has to give us.