True Devotion To Mary - Saint Louis DeMontfort
The Secret of Mary
The Way to Divine Union
By Saint Louis DeMontfort
- Here is a great secret chosen soul, which the most High God taught me himself. I have not found it in any book, ancient or modern. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I am confiding it to you with this condition:
What I am about to reveal may, at first, not seem fitting. Because this is a lofty and mysterious secret, you might find it difficult to accept. Your understanding of it could be clouded even if you do believe. This is because of the higher things of God are not easily received by the minds of human beings. Such is the mystery of the cross which confounds the wisdom of this world. Only those who are truly chosen will able to comprehend how important this secret really is. However, if you do begin to make use of this secret in the ordinary actions of your daily life, you will soon come to understand its extraordinary value.
- Before you read any further, kneel down and devoutly say a prayer. Ask God to help you understand and appreciate this secret, which is really given by him. You must prepare your soul if you would profit from this secret. You may certainly pray that God deliver you from any deception, and that he illumine your mind with a spirit of discernment. Any illumination that comes from God always has a good effect upon the soul. Still, pray that God give you the grace to rightly understand what I am about to teach you.
The Necessity of Having a True Devotion to Mary
- Chosen soul, you are the living image of God. You have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Through the merits of Christ, and through your baptism, you have been spiritually adopted by God as his own child. Now, God wants you to become holy like he is in this life, and glorious like he is in the next life.
Above all else, growth in the holiness of God is your most important vocation. To take your vocation to holiness seriously, you must realize why God called you into existence in the first place. Why are you here? What is the purpose of your life? You were created to know, to love, and to serve God in this life, and to be forever happy with him in heaven. This may seem simple. But, it is very important for you to understand why God called you into existence. From the foundation of the world God chose you in Christ, to share in Christ's own divine inheritance. You were called into existence to become, as it were, an eternal mirror of Jesus Christ himself. Though you will always retain your own individual personality, your eternal soul will become a mirror of the divine Eternal Word.
People of this world do not understand, nor do they care, that they are called to holiness. They do not realize that it is actually in the search for holiness that we find the true meaning of our own lives. Whatever other vocations in life we may have, we can only gain true satisfaction in our earthly achievements and successes, by striving to accomplish God's primary will for us. That is why, above all else, holiness is our most important vocation.
Knowing that we are called to holiness, we must understand exactly what that means for us. We are not angels. We are earthly human creatures. As human beings, we are called to glorify God in our bodies. The apostle says: "I beg you my brothers to appreciate God's mercy! Behave in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies to God as a holy sacrifice that is truly pleasing to him." (Romans 12:1) All of our thoughts, all of our words, all of our spontaneous utterances, all of our postures and gesticulations, all of the actions of our bodies, everything we do, everything we suffer or undertake should lead us towards the goal of holiness. Otherwise, we are resisting God's will for us if, we are not striving to accomplish the primary purpose for which he created us. Even now he is keeping us in existence for this purpose!
What a marvelous transformation is possible for us! Lives that seem to be without meaning can be transformed into story's of heroic achievement. Ignorant souls can grow into the fullness of divine wisdom. Souls fouled by sinful impurities may be transformed into noble souls which redeem the world. Frustration can be changed into satisfaction, failure into success, anger into joy! In fact, we are called to such holiness that our souls can be transformed by a mystical divine union with God, so that we become as perfect as it is possible for us to become in this life.
Sadly, this transformation is not only difficult but, it is impossible for a mere creature to bring it about. God, however, can easily accomplish this in you by giving you his sanctifying grace in an extraordinary manner. Only God's infusion of sanctifying grace into our souls will accomplish the high purpose to which we are called. This, however, is a work that only God himself can bring about. The very creation of the universe is not as great an achievement for God, as is the perfection of of the soul of a human being. God desires that we love him as much as it is possible for us to love him, and he desires to love us as much as it is possible for him to love us! This is why God wills holiness for you above all things. Through holiness, we not only find the joy of intimate union with God, but we also find the perfection of every other aspect of our human lives.
- Chosen soul, how can you bring this transformation about? What steps will you take to reach the glorious vocation to which God is calling you? The ordinary means of holiness and salvation are known to everybody. They are found in the teachings of Jesus, and by the teachings of the apostles in the epistles of the Bible. The masters of the spiritual life have explained them; the saints have practiced them and shown how essential they are for those who wish to be saved and to attain perfection. The ordinary means to achieve holiness are: unreserved faith in Jesus Christ, sincere humility, prayerful lives, love of God and neighbor, self-denial, abandonment to Divine Providence, and obedience to the will of God in all things. But how is it possible to really attain to the full measure of this?
- The grace and help of God is absolutely necessary for us to attain this transformation into the full stature of Jesus Christ. We know that grace is given to all, but it is not given to all in the the same measure. I say not in the same measure, because God does not give his graces in equal measure to everyone. In his infinite goodness he always gives more than sufficient grace to each. But the response of the soul to God's grace determines how he will progress. A person who responds to great graces should perform great works, while a person who responds to lesser graces will perform lesser works. Our actions should correspond to the graces given to us by God: if we faithfully respond to them. Because we almost always respond inadequately to the graces which God gives to us, we must find a means by which he will continue to pour out his graces into our souls, in spite of our unworthiness.
TO FIND THE GREATEST GRACES OF GOD, WE MUST FIND MARY!
- It all comes to this: we must discover a simple means to consistently obtain the greatest graces from God, which are needed to enable us to become truly holy. It is precisely how to do this that I wish to teach you. You must discover the secret of Mary if you would consistently obtain the greatest graces from God.
- Let me explain:
(1) Mary alone was given the most sublime grace that God could give to any mere human creature. Because God chose her to be the mother of his only begotten Son, the Eternal Word at time of his Incarnation, God infused her soul with every grace possible. She required every grace imaginable to be a worthy vessel to conceive, to sustain, and to bear within her body the Eternal Son of God in the divine person of Jesus Christ. The primary reason for of the creation of the whole universe itself, began within the womb of Mary. "All things were created for him." (Col. 1:16) Through Mary, and in Mary, God accomplished the greatest, most sublime work of his entire creation. The greatest work of God came into existence in Jesus Christ himself. Christ alone glorifies, and loves, almighty God to the greatest extent possible for any created being.
In Jesus Christ, through the hypostatic union, God became man. In the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, the earthly matter of a human body, and the created soul of a man assumed the very nature of divinity itself! This is a mystery and a miracle beyond human or angelic understanding. In Christ, God actually turned created matter into God!
First, the created soul of Christ glorifies God through love more perfectly than can any other created being.
Second, in the Incarnation, God who is immaterial and eternal, became incarnate, that means: made flesh. This means that God himself became material. In Christ, the infinite and eternal God himself became matter! Thus, in Christ, God does not only exist as pure spirit in eternity, but God also exists as a creation within his own creation, confined by time and space.
Thus, the greatest creative feat possible for God is accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ. In the person of Christ, God is more perfectly glorified than by the rest entire of his creation. This is why, before all time began, the Incarnation of the Eternal Word was God's first and primary creative intention. It is also for this reason that God gave Mary every grace necessary to fittingly bring forth Christ into the creation. It is first in Mary, that the primary glorification of God's creation was performed. Thus, it is firstly through Mary that the grace of salvation came to every other human being. No patriarch or prophet, or any other holy person of the Old Law was ever given such grace from God!. Untold graces were given to her as special privileges, because she was chosen from the foundation of the world to be the mother of the Incarnate God.
- (2) In Jesus Christ, Mary gave human existence to the author of all grace. Because she is the human mother of the source of all grace, she is called the "Mother of Grace".
- (3) God the Father, from whom comes every perfect gift and every grace, himself gave Mary every grace when he gave her his Son. When the angel Gabrielle first came to her, he said: "Hail full of grace!". This means that her soul was filled with every grace that it was capable of being filled with at that time. She herself confesses: "My soul magnifies the Lord ... the Almighty has done great things for me!" (Luke 1:47-49) St. Bernard says, "the specific will of God for Mary was manifested to her in Jesus himself."
- (4) In the new dispensation of grace to the world through Christ, God also chose Mary to be the treasurer, the administrator and the dispenser of all his graces. The sanctifying grace which brings about our spiritual adoption as children of God, passes to us through her soul as through a crystal clear channel. Thus, everyone who is a member of the mystical Body of Christ is spiritually born both of God and of Mary - just as Jesus was. Through Christ, the salvation and grace of God is available to all men. Man's personal response of faith establishes his spiritual adoption and life in God. But, the sanctifying of graces of God gained by the sacrifice of Christ, come to us through the spiritual mediation of Mary. This is why the Church calls her the "Mediatrix of Grace."
- (5) As in the natural life a child must have a father and a mother, so in the supernatural life of grace, a child of the Church must have God for his Father and Mary for his mother. If a man prides himself on having God for his Father but does not give to Mary the tender affection of a child, he has made a presumptuous error. The grace of the Holy Spirit, through which a Christian becomes a member of the mystical Body of Christ, always comes from God through Mary. Those who despise her, or who do not acknowledge her as their spiritual mother, can never grow into the fulness of the stature of Jesus Christ. To despise Mary is to despise the glass from which radiates the Light of the World. To despise Mary is to despise the fountain from which flows the water of eternal life. Though God definitely loves all such souls, they grieve him greatly! They erect within themselves great obstacles of resistance which makes them incapable of receiving the full out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. Mary is their mother in grace whether they acknowledge her or not. In so far as a soul despises Mary, they are unknowingly rejecting the fulness of the light of truth.
The Church says of Mary: "You alone have destroyed every heresy in the whole world." This means that when souls fully accept Mary as their own mother, and as the Mother of Grace, and as the Mother of the Church, every other heresy which may have contaminated their souls is destroyed.
- (6) With Christ as the head, the members of the mystical body of Christ make up the Church. Since Mary produced the head of the elect, Jesus Christ, so also does she produce the mystical members of that head, who are all true Christians. A mother does not conceive a head without members, nor members without a head. If anyone, then, wishes to become a full member of the mystical body of Jesus Christ, and to consequently be filled with the same grace and truth, he must be formed by the Holy Spirit through Mary: just as Jesus himself was. Mary is the living vessel of the Holy Spirit. God has enabled her to communicate the Holy Spirit in abundance to the members of the mystical body of Christ, who are her spiritual children. To the elect: "The Spirit and the Bride say: Come! Let everyone who listens, answer!" (Rev. 22:17)
- (7) In the new dispensation of grace, the Holy Spirit continues to produce every day, in a mysterious but very real manner, the souls of the elect in her and through her. These souls make up the mystical body of Christ.
- (8) Mary received from God a unique dominion over souls which enables her to nourish them and make them more and more godlike. St. Augustine went so far as to say that even in this world all the elect are enclosed in the womb of Mary, and that their real birthday is when this good mother brings them forth to eternal life. Just as an infant draws all its nourishment from its mother, who provides for the child according to its needs, so do the elect draw spiritual nourishment and strength from Mary.
- (9) It was to Mary that God the Father said, "Dwell in Jacob", that is, dwell in my elect who are typified by Jacob. It was to Mary that God the Son said, "My dear Mother, your inheritance is in Israel", that is, in the elect. It was to Mary that the Holy Spirit said, "Place your roots in my elect". Whoever, then, is chosen and predestinate will have the Blessed Virgin living within him, and he will let her plant in his very soul the roots of every virtue, but most especially deep humility and ardent charity.
- (10) Mary is called by St. Augustine, and indeed is, the "living mold of God". In her the God-man himself was formed in his human nature without losing any feature of the Godhead. In her, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, all men can be made godlike as far as their human nature is capable of it.
A sculptor can make a statue or a life-like model in two ways: (i) By using his skill, strength, experience and good tools to produce a statue out of hard, shapeless matter; (ii) By making a cast of it in a mold. The first way is long and involved and prone to all sorts of accidents. It only needs one faulty stroke of the chisel or hammer to ruin the whole work. The second way is quick and easy. Using a mold is almost effortless and it produces perfect results. But, the mold itself must be perfect in every way and true to life. Equally important is that the material used to make the image be easy to handle and that it offer no resistance.
- Mary is the great mold of God. Through her God fashioned by the Holy Spirit the human nature of Jesus Christ, who is true God by the hypostatic union. Now, through her he also fashions through grace, men who are images of his Son. No godly feature is missing from this mystical mold. Everyone who casts himself into it and allows himself to be molded will acquire every feature of Jesus Christ with little pain or effort: as befits his weak human condition. He will take on a faithful likeness to Jesus with no possibility of distortion, for the devil has never had, and never will have, any access to Mary, in whom there is not the least stain of sin.
- Dear friend, what a difference there is between a soul brought up in the ordinary way to resemble Jesus Christ by people who, like sculptors, rely on their own skill and industry, and a soul thoroughly tractable, entirely detached, most ready to be molded in her by the working of the Holy Spirit. What blemishes and defects, what shadows and distortions, what natural and human imperfections are found in the first soul, and what a faithful and divine likeness to Jesus is found in the second!
- There has never been, and there will never be, either in God's creation or in his mind, a mere creature in whom he is so honored as he is in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not all the the saints together, nor all the cherubim and the highest seraphim in heaven, can equal the glory bestowed upon the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is because her soul was singularly created to be the vessel of the Holy Spirit. Mary is God's garden of Paradise. She his own unspeakable world, into which his Son entered to do wonderful things: to tend it, to perfect it, and to take his delight in it.
God created a world for the way-farer, that is the one we are living in now. He created a second world, Heaven, which is not only very real, but it has most certainly existed from beginning of the creation. What it consists in is unimaginable to men on earth, but it is certain that the Angels and the Saints will occupy it in perfect happiness for all eternity with God.
God created a third, spiritual world for himself: which he named Mary. She is a spiritual world unknown to most mortals here on earth. No one can begin to fathom the depth, or the beauty, or the power, or the complexity of the spirit of even an angel, like a Cherubim or Seraphim. It is even more impossible for men to comprehend the unfathomable perfection's of the soul of Mary, or the soul of Christ. Christ is one person with the Eternal Word in all it's fullness, while Mary is the Bride of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within her in all his plenitude, her soul is a true City of God. She is the true New Jerusalem in whom God dwells in his fullness: "coming down from heaven like a beautiful bride adorned for her husband." (Rev. 21:2)
Even the angels and saints in heaven find the depth, and breadth, and beauty of the the virtues of the soul of Mary incomprehensible. They remain in a state of holy, perpetual awe at the exquisite perfection's of the seemingly infinite virtues of her soul. Her soul is the most perfect living image of God after Christ's own soul. The Soul of Christ is one person with the Eternal Divine Word. Mary's soul was created singularly to be the primary vessel of the Holy Spirit. God exalted Mary so far above the angels, and so vast and incomprehensible is her being, that God has called her his chosen world. Upon seeing Mary, all of heaven exclaims: "Holy, holy, holy". Mary's being is exalted above every other being, except for Jesus Christ himself. Though all of God's universe was created for Christ, Mary was singularly created to be the most dearly beloved created companion for Christ. Thus, her soul, as the singular vessel of the of the Holy Spirit, is a divine mirror of the splendor of Christ's own. Those who despise Mary are bound by invincible ignorance. They have no idea who, or what they are resisting. Her soul contains the fullness of the glory of the Holy Spirit, and her being is exalted by grace to the right hand of Christ himself.
- Happy, indeed sublimely happy, is the person to whom the Holy Spirit reveals the secret of Mary! Happy is he who begins to meditate on the true knowledge of her. How blessed is the person to whom the Holy Spirit opens the mysteries of this enclosed garden! How favored is the person to whom the Holy Spirit gives access to this sealed fountain, where they can drink deep draughts of the living waters of grace. In her, they will find only light and grace.
These will find that the infinitely holy and exalted God is at the same time infinitely merciful and generous. God understands the weaknesses of men, and he wishes to compensate for their weaknesses. God is everywhere. He exists everywhere, even in hell. Though now he reigns through the merciful scepter of Christ, there is no place where God can be more present in mercy to his needy creatures, or more sympathetic to human weakness, than in Mary. Everywhere else, Christ is the Bread of the strong, or the Bread of angels, but living in Mary he is the Bread of his most chosen children.
- Let us not imagine, then, as some misguided teachers do, that because Mary is a simple creature, she would be a hindrance to union with God. Far from it! At first it might seem to us that adopting a total dependence on Mary might in in some way hinder us from obtaining the full outpouring of God's grace. But, in reality the effect of dependence on Mary is just the opposite. It will be to your great surprise that the more you depend upon Mary, the more you will be filled with supernatural graces. It is innocent ignorance that causes one to imagine that reliance on Mary is an unnecessary step in attaining the graces of God. Only experience can teach what riches are found in the shift of souls spiritual dependency onto Mary, and by the practice of this devotion. As Saint Augustine says: "understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, do not try to understand that you may believe, but rather believe so that you may understand."
Mary was created only for God's glory! Bringing glory to God is Mary's greatest delight! Perfect love of God is her highest end, and only for his service and his pleasure was she created. To the soul's great surprise, Mary opens the flood-gates of God's mercy on anyone who entrusts himself to her. She has no desire to keep even one soul for herself. To the contrary, she takes great interest, and maternal delight in flooding souls with divine graces, so that they will glorify God's mercy! She works most diligently, and with the greatest maternal care, to quickly lead every single soul into the holiness of union with God. The trusting soul, who depends upon Mary, will suddenly find that the presence of God is surrounding him in a manner he never knew before. Dependence upon Mary is not an obstacle: quite to the contrary, it is an amplifier of divine grace. Mary is the wonderful echo of God. The more a person joins himself to Mary, the more effectively she unites him to God. When we say "Mary", she re-echoes "God". Her soul magnifies the Lord. (Luke 1:47) No one can learn this until he actually begins to practice the secret of this devotion.
When, like St. Elizabeth, we call Mary blessed on earth, she immediately gives the honor to God in his holy presence in heaven. Just as she she did on earth, when Elizabeth, "filled with the Holy Spirit said: 'you are blessed above all among women'." she immediately confessed: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior! He has looked with favor on his lowly servant, and holy is his name!" (Luke 1:42-46) If misguided souls, so sadly led astray by the devil, even in their prayer-life, knew how to discover Mary, and to discover Jesus through her, and to discover God through Jesus, they would never have stumbled into such spiritual errors, nor would they or suffer such terrible and embarrassing falls. The saints tell us that when we have once found Mary, and through Mary Jesus, and through Jesus, God the Father, then we have discovered every good. When we say "every good", we except nothing. "Every good" includes every grace, continuous friendship with God, every protection against the enemies of God, possession of truth to counter every falsehood, endless benefits, the favor of God in our material lives, and unfailing headway against the hazards we meet on the way to salvation, and finally every consolation and joy amid the bitter afflictions of life.
- This does not mean that one who has discovered Mary through a genuine devotion is exempt from crosses and sufferings. Far from it! One is tried even more than others are, because Mary, as Mother of the living, gives to all her children splinters of the tree of life, which is the Cross of Jesus. But while meting out crosses to them she gives the grace to bear them with patience, and even with joy. In this way, the crosses she sends to those who trust themselves to her are rather like sweetmeats, i.e. "sweetened" crosses rather than "bitter" ones. If from time to time they do taste the bitterness of the chalice from which we must drink to become proven friends of God, the consolation and joy which their Mother sends in the wake of their sorrows creates in them a strong desire to carry even heavier and still more bitter crosses.
A TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN IS INDISPENSABLE
- The difficulty, then, is how to arrive at the true knowledge of the most holy Virgin and so to find grace in abundance through her. It is very true that God, who is absolute Master, can give the graces which he now ordinarily dispenses through Mary, directly. It would be rash to deny that not only can he dispense his grace directly but he always did so in the past, and he also sometimes does so now. For example, God directly illumined the Magi, the wise men from the east. So too did he directly sanctify all the saints of the old testament; especially Moses, St. John the Baptist, and St. Joseph. However, St. Thomas assures us that now, a new order of dispensation of grace has been established by the divine Wisdom for the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. Now, God ordinarily imparts his graces to men through Mary.
Therefore, if we wish to go to him, and to seek union with him, we should use the same means that he used in coming down from heaven to us. He chose to become dependent upon Mary, when his divine nature assumed our human nature. Only after Christ assumed dependence upon Mary in his human nature, did he begin to impart his graces of salvation to men. Now, our human natures should be re-assumed into his divine nature by the very same means which he chose to unite himself to us: dependence upon Mary. Clearly the very first means that Jesus himself used to unite himself to us, was through a complete dependence on his mother. Christ himself points us to how true devotion to Mary begins. This is not just a passing observation! It is an essential principle! Beginning with absolute dependence on Mary, we begin to perfectly imitate Jesus Christ himself. What he did by his total dependence in body and soul within Mary, we must now imitate in spirit. We must permit ourselves to be formed to his likeness within her, by submitting ourselves interiorly to a total dependence upon her. This is how we begin to become perfect members of the mystical body of Christ.
WHAT PERFECT DEVOTION TO MARY CONSISTS IN
Some true devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
- There are indeed several true devotions to our Lady. I do not intend to discuss those that are false.
- The first consists in fulfilling the duties of our Christian state, avoiding all mortal sin, performing our actions for God more through love than through fear, praying to our Lady occasionally, and honoring her as the Mother of God, but without our devotion to her being exceptional.
26. The second consists in entertaining for our Lady deeper feelings of esteem and love, of confidence and veneration. This devotion inspires us to join the confraternities of the Holy Rosary and the Scapular, to say the five or fifteen decades of the Rosary, to venerate our Lady's pictures and shrines, to make her known to others, and to enroll in her sodalities. This devotion, in keeping us from sin, is good, holy and praiseworthy, but it is not as perfect as the third, nor as effective in detaching us from creatures, or in practicing that self-denial necessary for union with Jesus Christ.
- The third devotion to our Lady is one which is unknown to many and practiced by very few. This is the one I am about to present to you now.
THE PERFECT PRACTICE OF TRUE DEVOTION TO MARY
What it consists in:
- Chosen soul, this devotion consists in a total surrender of one's whole self in order to become the absolute possession, and the perfect instrument of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We must abandon ourselves to dependence upon Mary as Christ himself did within her womb. For us, it must be a total abandonment of ones own self, and all that one possesses, both materially and spiritually. One must will to become the total possession and property of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, this will require us to adopt her own spirit as the spiritual chapel of our own soul.
To accomplish this, one must not only adopt the the spirit of a trusting child, or the heart a perfect servant. To effect this we must become willingly become for her, as it were, a slave of love. We must totally give up all that we would call our own, and consecrate and dedicate ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary: with the aim of always serving her as slaves of love. This secret requires that, for the rest of our lives, we perform all of our actions as slaves of love for Mary, and that we depend upon her entirely for absolutely everything. In the future we serve Almighty God by doing everything for Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and through Mary.
- We should choose a special feast-day on which to give ourselves totally to her. Then, willingly and lovingly, under no constraint we consecrate and sacrifice to her unreservedly our body and soul. We give to her our material possessions, such as our house, our family, and our income. Most especially we offer even the inner possessions of our soul, namely, our merits, graces, virtues and the value of our sacrifices and sufferings. We give her the value of all of our good actions, so that she herself may dispose of them to the greatest glory of God and the salvation of souls.
- Notice that in this devotion we sacrifice to Jesus through Mary what is most dear to us, that is, the right to dispose of ourselves, of the value of our prayers, and our acts of self-denial and our sufferings. We even offer her full possession of any heavenly glory we might attain in this life, so that nothing that we might call our own remains. We hope to become her full possession and property in time and in eternity. In fact, we even beg her - implore her - to take us as her own possession. To even hope that Mary might actually call us her own for all eternity is an honor that we do not deserve, nor could we ever deserve. How fortunate is the soul, which Mary actually receives as her own - to guide, to nourish, and to instruct!
Knowing what a most special honor it actually is to truly become the possession of the Most Blessed Virgin; we still approach her with absolute confidence! She wills to receive us because she desires that we glorify God to the greatest possible extent. Thus, we leave to her the right to dispose of all the value of our prayers, sacrifices, and good deeds. After having done this, but without going so far as making a vow, we cease to claim merit for any good deed we might do. Our Lady now may use the value of our good deeds to help bring about the conversion of a sinner, or perhaps to provide the necessary grace to obtain the salvation of a dying soul. We do not bury our talent, so that we may return it to the master when he asks for it back. No, we have given it to the wisest banker, who will return it to him with interest. For us, this is the wisest investment we can make, and God will reward us for being wise stewards.
- By this devotion we place our merits in the hands of our Lady: but only that she may preserve, increase and embellish them. Strictly speaking, merit for increase of grace and glory cannot be handed over to any other person. But we do give her all the value of our prayers and good works, inasmuch as they have intercessory merit, and value for the atonement of sins. We give her our spiritual merits, that she might distribute and apply them according to the greatest needs of the Church, and to the greatest glory of God. If, after having thus consecrated ourselves to our Lady, we wish to rescue a sinner, or to assist a friend by prayer, or to help a soul in purgatory by giving an alms, or by performing an act of self-sacrifice, we must humbly request it of our Lady, abiding always by her decision: which of course remains unknown to us. We can be sure that the value of our actions will be dispensed by her in the most productive possible way. This is certain, because now even the graces of God himself are being distributed through her. She cannot fail to apply our humble merits for his greatest glory and in accordance with his most perfect will. We ourselves could never act with such merciful wisdom as the Mother of the Church, who is at every moment the mediatrix of graces. Moreover, she intercedes constantly before God to obtain forgiveness and mercy for her children, and for all mankind.
- I have said that this devotion consists in adopting the status of a slave with regard to Mary. We must remember that there are three kinds of slavery. There is, first, slavery based on nature. All men, good and bad alike, are slaves of God in this sense. The second is the slavery of enforced compulsion. The devils and the damned are slaves of God in this second sense.
The third is a slavery of love. This is a slavery of free choice. This slavery of love is the kind chosen by one who consecrates himself to God through Mary. This is the most perfect way for human beings to give themselves to God. Our souls thus become adorned by double garments! As the possessions of Christ through Mary, our souls become embellished by the merits of both Jesus and Mary! Only thus may our souls become as beautiful before God, and as pleasing to him, as it is possible for them to become.
- There is a vast difference between a servant and a slave! A servant can demand wages for his services, but a slave can demand no wage. A servant is free to leave his employer when he likes and serves him only for a time. But a slave belongs to his master for life, and has no right to leave him. A servant does not give his employer a right of life and death over him, but a slave is so totally the property of his master, that his master can put him to death without fearing any action by the law.
It is easy to see then, that no human dependence is so absolute as that of a person who is a slave by enforced compulsion. Strictly speaking, no man should be so absolutely subjected to another man, or so completely subservient to any one, except to the Creator. Therefore, we do not find this kind of slavery among true Christians, but only among heretics, Muslims and pagans.
- But happy, very happy indeed, will the generous person be who, after having shaken off the tyrannical slavery of the devil through Christian baptism, prompted by love, consecrates himself entirely to Jesus through Mary as their slaves of love.
The excellence of this practice of devotion
- I would need much more enlightenment from heaven to describe adequately the surpassing merit of this devotional practice. I shall limit myself to these few remarks:
1. In giving ourselves to Jesus through Mary's hands, we imitate God the Father, who gave us his only Son through Mary, and who imparts his graces to us only through Mary. Likewise we imitate God the Son, who by giving us his example for us to follow, inspires us to go to him using the same means he used in coming to us, that is, through Mary. Again, we imitate the Holy Spirit, who bestows his graces and gifts upon us through Mary. "Is it not fitting," remarks St. Bernard, "that grace should return to its author by the same channel that it was conveyed to us"?
2. In going to Jesus through Mary, we are really paying honor to Jesus, for we are showing that, because of our sins, we realize that we are unworthy to approach his infinite divine holiness directly on our own merit. Devotion to Mary results from a full appreciation of the absolute dignity of the divinity of the person of Jesus Christ, who is Incarnate God, and who contains within his own person the plenitude of God. We are showing that we trust in Mary, his holy Mother like her children, and and that we are confident that we really are his brothers. In humility, we choose her to be our advocate with Christ, who is himself not only our only Mediator with God, (by his very divine nature), but who is also the awesome judge, the true sanctifier of our souls, and the reward and joy of all men and angels.
This devotion also requires the humility of the realization that all things were created for Christ. We approach Jesus knowing that "all things were created through him, all things were created for him, he is before all else that is. Now the Church is his body and he is it's head. He holds the primacy in everything, and all perfection resides in him." (Col. 1:17-19) Because "all things were created for him", and "he holds the primacy in everything", it is wise that we not approach his awesome judgment seat alone. As the children of his mother Mary, we may approach now him as our brother; but we must always profoundly humble ourselves before him because he is the Creator of the Universe, our God, and our Judge. Because all things were created for him, we ourselves were created by him - and for him. This should make us not only supremely grateful, but also completely humble. Mary herself also approached Jesus with the profound humility of a creature before her creator, even though she knew she was his human mother. In short, we are practicing the very same humility which Mary practiced.
3. Consecrating ourselves in this way to Jesus through Mary implies placing our good deeds in Mary's hands. Now, although these deeds may appear good to us, in reality they are often defective. They are tainted by pride, or smug presumption, and in truth they are not worthy of God, who is himself eternally perfect, all-pure, and all powerful. He dwells in inaccessible splendor and majesty. Before him, the sun itself lacks brightness. It is folly to attempt to stand before the awesome God, or even before Christ Jesus the Lord, trusting in the value of our own faith and merit. "Many will say to the Son of Man on that day, but Lord - did we not perform miracles and cast out demons in your name? But he will say to them, away with you - you workers of iniquity - I have never known you!" He would not say that to them, if they were all dressed up and presented to him by his beloved mother, or if they were standing behind her, dressed as her children. These would be the adopted children of his own mother who have cultivated their love for him through her, as his own brothers and sisters for their whole lives!
Just because one imagines that he enjoys the full favor of Christ does not, in any way, mean that he actually does so. We are warned by the apostle that many false prophets have gone out into the world, and that they will deceive many. How many of these deceived ones stand before Christ as if they themselves possess the fulness of truth? In reality, many of them are deceived themselves, and they go about deceiving others. It is certain that, because of all the division between Christians themselves, many Christians DO NOT in fact enjoy the fulness of the light of Christ: even though they believe that they do so.
This is obvious because of the countless various sects of Christians, who all hold and teach very different doctrines. It is precisely the sin of omission of presumptuously refusing to even consider the implications of this, that will bring about their own condemnation. The faith of many, deteriorates into pridefull presumption. "Even the devils have such faith." (James 2:19) Those who cling to their presumption with delight, and with damnable obduracy (hardness of heart) are in grave danger. If they intentionally cling to this haughty and smug presumption: "They are shamelessly looking after only themselves. They are like clouds blown about by the wind who bring no rain, or barren trees that when uprooted are twice dead. They are like shooting stars, destined for an eternity of black darkness." (Jude 1:12)
Let us pray, then, to our dear Mother and Queen, that having accepted our poor present of ourselves, she may purify us, sanctify us, beautify us, and so adorn us with the merits of her Son to make us worthy of God. Any good our own souls could produce is of less value to God our Father, in winning his friendship and favor, than a worm-eaten apple would, if it were presented by a disheveled peasant to his King as payment for the rent of his farm. But, what if that peasant were wise and if he enjoyed the esteem of the Queen? If he were to first present his apple to Queen, would she not, out of kindness to the poor man and out of respect for the King, remove from the apple all that was maggoty and spoiled, place it on a golden dish, and surround it with flowers? Could the King then refuse the apple? Would he not accept it most willingly from the hands of his Queen who is now showing the King such loving concern for that poor man? "If you wish to present something to God, no matter how small it may be," says St. Bernard, "place it in the hands of Mary to ensure its certain acceptance."
- Dear God, how everything we do comes to so very little! But let us adopt this devotion and place everything in Mary's hands. When we have given her all we possibly can, emptying ourselves completely to do her honor, she far surpasses our generosity and gives us very much for very little. She enriches us with her own merits and virtues. She places our gift on the golden dish of her charity and clothes us, as Rebecca clothed Jacob, in the beautiful garments of her first-born and only Son, Jesus Christ, which are his merits, and which are at her disposal. Thus, as her servants and slaves, stripping ourselves of everything to do her honor, we are clad by her in double garments - namely, the garments, adornments, perfumes, merits and virtues of both Jesus and Mary. This magnificent embellishment is imparted to the soul of the slave of love who has emptied himself, and is resolved to remain in that state.
- Giving ourselves in this way to our Lady is a practice of charity towards our neighbor of the highest possible degree, because in giving ourselves to Mary, we give her all that we hold most dear, and we let her dispose, as she knows what is best for our neighbor, and for the greatest glory of God.
40. By adopting this devotion, we all put our graces, merits and virtues into safe keeping by making Mary the depository of them. It is as if we said to her, "See, my dear Mother, here is the good that I have done through the grace of your dear Son. I am not capable of keeping it, because of my weakness and inconstancy, and also because so many wicked enemies are assailing me day and night. Alas, every day we see cedars of Lebanon fall into the mire, and eagles, which had soared towards the sun, become birds of darkness. A thousand of the just are falling to the left and ten thousand to the right. But you, most powerful Queen, hold me fast lest I fall. Keep a guard on all my possessions lest I be robbed of them. I entrust all I have to you, for I know well who you are, and that is why I confide myself entirely to you. You are faithful to God and man, and you will not suffer anything I entrust to you to perish. You are powerful, and nothing can harm you or rob you of anything you hold."
"When you follow Mary you will not go astray; when you pray to her, you will not despair; when your mind is on her, you will not wander; when she holds you up, you will not fall; when she protects you, you will have no fear; when she guides you, you will feel no fatigue; when she is on your side, you will arrive safely home" (Saint Bernard). And again, "She keeps her Son from striking us; she prevents the devil from harming us; she preserves virtue in us. Like a wise banker, she stores our merits for us lest we loose them all by dashing them to the ground by an act of mortal sin and incurring the judgment of God. No, even if we sin, she retains our merits for us, because we have already given them to her. Though we ourselves may fall, she holds the values of our good action, our merits, safe! She retains them, and prevents them from being lost or devalued by sin." These words of St. Bernard explain in substance much of what I have tried to say. If I had only this one motive to impel me to choose this devotion, namely, that of the preservation of my merits, and keeping me in the grace of God and increasing that grace within me, my heart would burn with longing for it!
- This devotion makes the soul truly free by imbuing it with the liberty of the children of God. Since we lower ourselves willingly to a state of slavery of love for Mary our dear Mother, she out of gratitude, opens wide our hearts enabling us to walk with giant strides in the way of God's commandments. She delivers our souls from weariness, sadness and scruples. It was this very devotion that our Lord himself taught to Mother Agnes de Langeac, a religious who died in the odor of sanctity, as a sure way of being freed from the severe suffering and confusion of mind that afflicted her. "Make yourself," he said, "my Mother's slave and wear her little chain." She did so, and from that time onwards her troubles ceased.
- To prove that this devotion is authoritatively sanctioned, we need only recall the bulls of the popes and the pastoral letters of bishops recommending it, as well as the indulgences accorded to it, the confraternities founded to promote it, and the examples of many saints and illustrious people who have practiced it. But I do not see any necessity to record them here. (Editors note: Pope John Paul II has explicitly recommended this devotion to the Church, and all the writings of St. Louis DeMontfort.)
- The interior constituents of this consecration and its spirit:
- I have already said that this devotion consists in performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary.
- It is not enough to give ourselves just once as a slave to Jesus through Mary; nor is it enough to renew that consecration once a month or once a week. That alone would make this just a passing devotion. It would not raise the soul to the level of holiness which it is capable of reaching. It is easy to enroll in a confraternity; it is easy to make an act of consecration, or to say every day the few vocal prayers prescribed. The chief difficulty is to enter into the spirit of this devotion, which requires adopting an interior trustful dependence on Mary, total confidence in her, and the ardent desire to act, and to behave in such a way that we really do honor her as a slave of love. To this end, we strive to honor and obey Christ as King. Thus, we actually do keep his commandments as slaves of love through Mary. I have met many people who, with admirable zeal, have set about exteriorly practicing this holy devotion to Jesus through Mary, but I have met only a few who have actually understood the secret of its interior spirit of total dependence, and fewer still who have persevered in it.
Act with Mary
- The essential practice of this devotion is to perform all our actions with Mary. We adopt her as the model for all we to do, and we constantly seek to please her in all things. We consciously act as her faithful slaves of love. In acting in such a manner so as to please her, we are actually acting with her. She consciously surrounds us with her presence as we undertake our prayers, or our duties, and we are sheltered within her - as within a spiritual bubble. Her soul will become the living chapel of our own soul, and everything we do - we do with Mary. Because we are no longer on our own, everything we do, we do with Mary.
- Before undertaking anything, we must forget self and abandon our own views. We must consider ourselves as a mere nothing before God, as being personally incapable of doing anything supernaturally worthwhile or anything conducive to our salvation. We then have recourse to our Lady, intentionally adopting her intentions as our own to the best of our ability. Certainly we do not always know exactly what her specific intention is, but that does not matter for we are serving her unconditionally as slaves of love. By adopting Mary's spirit, we supernaturally adopt the intentions of Jesus in a far more perfect manner than if we acted without her. We have consecrated ourselves to be an instrument in Mary's hands, for her to act in us and do with us what she pleases, for the greater glory of her Son; and through Jesus for the greater glory of the Father. This is the way we pursue our interior life. We make our spiritual progress precisely by cultivating total confidence in her, and dependence on her, and strive to always act with her spirit; for we always know to some extent how she would act.
Mary's was a spirit of constant prayer to God. The goal of becoming dependent upon Mary, and acting with her is to allow her own spirit of constant prayer to God, to become our own. We attempt to imitate her in all we do, especially in constant petitions to God, or acts of resignation to his will, because we are seeking to imitate her. We interiorly shift the idea of our own independent identity, to a total interior dependence on Mary. Her soul then, will become the chapel of our own. Mary's soul is a chapel of constant prayer, constant worship, constant intercession, constant reparation for all mankind. We must also, as St. Peter Julian Eymard teaches us to do, seek to imitate Mary's own habit of continual adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, which Mary herself practiced it in this life. That is why he calls her: "Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament." Her adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and her acts of Eucharistic reparation in this life were unceasing. By acting with her, we imitate her spirit of constant prayer and her works of mercy.
Act in Mary
- We must always act in Mary. This means that we must gradually acquire the habit of interiorly recollecting ourselves so that we are ever more conscious of being surrounded by her presence. We act in her, because we are surrounded by her. She has now covered us with the mantle of her constant protection. We cultivate within our souls an idea, or a spiritual image of Mary. We act as if we are within her. Her soul must become, as it were, the Chapel of our Soul where we offer up our prayers to God without fear of being ignored. She will become as a Tower of David for us, in which we can seek safety from all our enemies. Living in her ignites a burning lamp in us, lighting up our inmost soul. She will inflame us with love for God. Her spirit will become a sacred place in which we can repose and contemplate God in her company.
Finally, Mary will be the only means we will use in going to God, because she herself is the Chapel of our Soul. She herself will always be our active intercessor before Christ for everything we need. When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion we will place him in Mary that he may take his delight in her soul and not primarily in our own. If we do anything at all, it will be in Mary, and in this way Mary will help us to forget ourselves everywhere and in all things. If the devil entices us to pride, we immediately ignore his praise, and acknowledge that any good thing we do is in no way our own. We deflect his compliments by rejecting them as lies. We immediately rebuke proud thoughts by confessing that any good that may exist in us comes from God though Mary, and belongs entirely to Mary.
Act through Mary
- We now never go to our Lord except through Mary, for we are always using her intercession and her favored station to approach him. Since her soul is now the Chapel of our own, our prayers always go through her. Because we are now covered by the mantle of her protection, and surrounded by her love as if we are in a bubble, we necessarily approach Jesus through Mary. She is more than just our intercessor with Christ. We do not go through her only as if she were our messenger; rather we go through her precisely because we are already within her. She surrounds her beloved children with the spirit of her own holiness, so let us never forget our child-like dependence upon her when we approach our Blessed Lord. Indeed, we must frequently ask Mary to intercede for us, and ask her to pray to her Son for us. In this way also, with Mary as our intercessor, do we offer up our prayers through her. Every petition we offer to God will now accompany the merits of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was pierced by such a sword that it endured nothing less than a martyrdom of sorrow.
- We must perform all our actions for Mary. This means that, as slaves of this noble Queen, we always work with serving her constantly in mind. We always intend to promote her interests and to acknowledge her high renown. We are always conscious of offering our merits to Mary, and we make this the first aim in all our acts: though the glory of God must always be our final intention. In everything we must renounce self-love, because more often than not, without our being aware of it, selfishness sets itself up as the end of all we work for. We should often repeat from the depths of our heart: "Dear Mother, it is to please you that I go here or there, that I do this or that, or that I suffer this pain or this injury."
- Beware, chosen soul, of thinking that it is more perfect to direct your work and intention straight to Jesus or straight to God. Without Mary, your works and your intentions will be of less value, since they will not be adorned by the beauty of the virtues of the soul of your Queen. If you always go to God through Mary, your work itself will become Mary's work, and consequently it will be most noble and most worthy in the eyes of God.
- Beware of harming yourself by endeavoring to experience pleasure in your prayers and good deeds. Try to pray and act always with some of that pure faith which Mary had when she lived on earth, for she will share this with you. You do not need to concern yourself with raptures or ecstasies. The greatest mystical theologians of the Church treat such things with the gravest caution. In fact, St. John of the Cross advises any soul who believes that it experiences a mystical experience to reject it immediately. If it is from God, it will always have the good effect that God desires. But, if it is not from God, (which often they are not), you will have put no stake or value in them at all. By immediately dismissing any mystical experience, God's grace will always sanctify your soul in spite of your cautious humility, while the devils false pleasures will be constantly rejected. Slave of love, let your sovereign Queen enjoy the clear sight of God, the raptures, the delights, and the satisfactions and riches of heaven. Content yourself with a pure faith, which may be accompanied by repugnance, distractions, weariness and dryness. Let your prayer be: "Whatever Mary my Queen in heaven wills, I say: Amen! So be it!" We cannot do better than this for the time being.
God will not be slow in showering you with consolations, even if you do not seek them. And when you do experience his heavenly consolations, receive them always with holy fear. For if God gives you consolation today, it is only to strengthen you to be able to suffer more grievous crosses or afflictions tomorrow. When those afflictions come, and they surely will, be certain that those agonies also will soon pass, and that God will again refresh you. As we become stronger, our consolations may become less frequent. But our faith, and our habits of prayer, especially the habit of the affective prayer of love, should remain lively. By persevering in love, and by habitually performing acts of love, even when we feel no consolation, our soul will soon be purified unto perfection. The saints teach that developing the habit of affective prayer, (the prayer of pure loving, intentionally adopting a disposition of ardent love of God; which power resides only in the will,) is by far the most effective means to attain union with God! Learning to practice the affective prayer of love, is more edifying to our souls than are years of fasting or strict mortification.
- Should you not savor immediately the sweet presence of the Blessed Virgin within you, do not be surprised, or torment yourself wondering why you do not experience her heavenly sweetness. This grace is given only rarely, and even if God in his great mercy favors a soul with such a grace, it is most probable that one will quickly lose it: except if the soul has acquired the virtue of practicing habitual affective prayer, and is thus permanently aware of her sweetness through recollection.
The effects that this devotion produces in a faithful soul
53 Experience will teach you much more about this devotion than I can tell you, but if you remain faithful to the little I have taught you, you will acquire a great richness of grace that will surprise you and fill you with delight. Do not imagine that heavenly contemplations are far off, for contemplation is as simple as passively looking at any picture and allowing it to fill you with meaning. Contemplation occurs when you passively behold a divine mystery. Doing this, you may often then come to a realization. These realizations are called illuminations. You could in fact be contemplating why you do not seem to contemplate. When you realize something new, you are enjoying an illumination, which is a fruit of contemplation. Contemplation occurs within every soul that quiets itself to passively ponder anything. Contemplation consists in passively reflecting on something, pondering it, and allowing your soul to absorb whatever meaning it contains. If you are illumined by God, you may realize some obvious truth that you overlooked before. Sometimes you may be puzzled by some new question that presents itself to you.
Spiritual contemplation involves passively looking at some truth and allowing God to infuse whatever realization he wishes you to have. These new realizations, these illuminations are fruits of contemplation. It is as easy as this when it comes to contemplating the mysteries of God. It is called 'Heavenly Contemplation' when one ponders the being of God, any of the divine mysteries, or the articles of faith, or the significance of some divine event or heavenly truth. The heavenly contemplations that devotion to the Blessed Virgin will afford you are so common and plenteous that you may not even be aware that you have been so quickly granted the grace of heavenly contemplation.
Meditation, on the other hand, is not so passive. Meditation occurs when one actively applies himself to reconstructing an event in ones mind, and engaging in an interior dialogue about it, so as to reflect upon it's meaning. Meditation is more like proposing a situation as a puzzle, and then trying to discern the significance of the events. Meditation is more active because it involves creating a mental construct and searching for meaning. Then, one might contemplate the meaning of the mental construct which he has created while meditating. But, meditation always involves intellectually applying oneself in an active quest to search for significance. Contemplation, on the other hand, is passive. It is simply watching and wondering at the spectacle of God, or a divine mystery of a truth that pertains to him. If one wonders at God, or a spiritual or heavenly truth, then one is engaged in heavenly contemplation. The fruits of contemplation may be consolations, (satisfying feelings of love) or insightful realizations (illuminations). Contemplation is so simple that the very act of contemplation itself may evade you. The Lord may have blessed you with it in abundance.
However, there will be times when your mind seems to remain blank. At such times one peers painfully into darkness, and receives no consolations, or enjoys no realizations. This might last for days or weeks, and one may come to feel there is no meaning to anything in life at all. Every aspect of life itself may feel tedious. (This must be contrasted to physical or mental depression - though often they are indeed one and the same thing. Consulting a physician to combat depression will not obstruct ones growth in holiness, and may it in fact be helpful. But, in the long run there is no way to eliminate suffering in this life. While mental health is always important, men try in vain to permanently escape the cross.) Spiritual crosses, whether they originate in the body or the soul are part of life itself. Everyone on earth endures great suffering. This will continue to be true at every stage of life. For a zealous beginner, feeling deprived of contemplation may seem to be a cross. But it is more likely that they will learn what contemplation is, before they experience the dryness of being deprived of it.
It is in these states of spiritual dryness, where one may pursue the greatest strides in the spiritual life! Here is the souls opportunity to continue to affectively love God, even in this darkness. Then, rather than experiencing the illumination of the intellect, one may then experience the union of the will. Like a blind man who feels the face of a stranger to learn his features, so does the soul who practices the affective contemplation of love, (though in darkness), come to an even deeper encounter with God through the effect of love. It is the practice of this affective contemplation of love in darkness, which precedes the mystical union of the soul with God. The practice of constant affective prayer, (the prayer of pure love of the will), is the quickest and surest way to divine union. One need not be illuminated by lofty raptures, to enter into a state of pure love of God. True heavenly wisdom consists in intuitively knowing what most pleases God in every situation. The soul who loves him, will most certainly try to please him. The soul who intuitively always recognizes how to please God will flee from sin as if from fire, but habitually loves, and strives to please God. The soul favored with such a permanent state has attained what is called the mystical divine union.
- Let us set to work, then, dear soul, through perseverance in the living of this devotion by seeking to adopt the spirit of Mary as our model. Let us seek to please her, and in her, Mary's soul will glorify the Lord in us. Soon, her spirit will be within us to rejoice in God our Savior. "Do not think that there is more glory and happiness dwelling in Paradise, the 'bosom of Abraham', than in dwelling in the bosom of Mary where God has set up his throne in light inaccessible." (Abbot Guerric)
- This devotion faithfully practiced produces countless happy effects in the soul. The most important of them is that it establishes, even here on earth, Mary's own spiritual life within the soul. In a manner of speaking, Mary's soul becomes identified with the soul of her servant. Indeed when, by an unspeakable but real grace, Mary most holy becomes Queen of a soul, she works untold wonders within it. She is a great wonder-worker, especially in the interior of souls. She works there in secret, unsuspected by the soul, as knowledge of her action might destroy the beauty of her work. So, if you are depending upon Mary, and persevering in your prayers, and attempting to love God with affection, whether you feel him or not, rejoice in the knowledge that Mary is secretly forming Christ within you.
- As Mary is everywhere the fruitful Virgin, she produces in the depths of the soul where she dwells a purity of heart and body, a singleness of intention and purpose, and a fruitfulness in good works. Do not think, dear soul, that Mary, the most faithful of all God's creatures, who went as far as to give birth to a God-man, remains idle in a receptive soul. She causes Jesus to live continuously in that soul, and that soul to live in continuous union with Jesus. If Jesus is equally the fruit of Mary for each individual soul as for all souls in general, he is even more especially her fruit and her masterpiece in the soul where she is present.
- To sum up then, Mary becomes singularly important to the soul that wishes to serve Jesus Christ. She enlightens the mind with her pure faith. She deepens the heart with her humility. She enlarges and inflames the heart with her charity, and makes it pure with her purity. She herself makes it noble through her motherly care. But why dwell any longer on this? Experience alone will teach you the wonders wrought by Mary in the soul. These wonders are so great that the wise and the proud, and even a great number of devout people, find it hard to believe them.
- As it was through Mary that God came into the world the first time in a state of self-abasement and privation, may we not say that it will be again through Mary that he will come the second time? For does not the whole Church expect him to come and reign over all the earth and to judge the living and the dead? No one knows how and when this will come to pass, but we do know that God, whose thoughts are further from ours than heaven is from earth, will come at a time and in a manner least expected, even by the most scholarly of men and those most versed in Holy Scripture, which gives no clear guidance on this subject. (As is evidenced by the countless arguments about it.)
- We are given reason to believe that, towards the end of time and perhaps sooner than we expect, God will raise up people filled with the Holy Spirit and imbued with the spirit of Mary. Through them Mary, Queen most powerful, will work great wonders in the world, destroying sin and setting up the kingdom of Jesus her Son upon the RUINS of the corrupt kingdom which is this great earthly Babylon. (Rev. 18:20) These holy people will accomplish this by means of this very devotion, of which I have only traced the main outlines. It suffers from my incompetence.
- Besides interior practices, which we have just mentioned, this devotion has certain exterior practices that must not be omitted or neglected. These practices include adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, frequent reception of Holy Communion, (or acts of Spiritual Communion), frequent acts of trust in God's mercy, praying the Rosary, abandoning oneself to the divine providence in daily life, reading and meditating on spiritual books, performing fasts and mortifications, giving alms to the poor, and practicing the works of mercy, all done in the service of Mary as a slave of love.
Consecration and its renewal
- The first is to choose a special feast-day to consecrate ourselves through Mary to Jesus, whose slaves of love we are making ourselves. This is an occasion for receiving Holy Communion and spending the day in prayer. At least once a year on the same day, we should renew the act of consecration.
Offering of a tribute in submission to the Blessed Virgin
- The second is to give our Lady every year on that same day some little tribute as a token of our servitude and dependence. This has always been the customary homage paid by slaves to their master. This tribute could consist of an act of self-denial, or an alms, or a pilgrimage, or a few prayers. St. Peter Damian tells us that his brother, Blessed Marino, used to give himself physical discipline in public on the same day every year before the altar of our Lady. This kind of zeal is not required, nor would we counsel it. But what little we give to our Lady we should at least offer with a heart that is humble and grateful.
A Special Celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation
- The third practice is to celebrate every year with special fervor The Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord on March 25. This is the distinctive feast of this devotion and was chosen so that we might honor and imitate the total dependence, and entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary which the Eternal Word himself accepted on this very day. On this day God totally entrusted the body of his Son to Mary's loving care. On this day, God became man; and Mary became the Mother of God. On this day we recall both the Incarnation of God, and the Divine Maternity of Mary.
The Saying of the Little Crown or the Magnificat
- Another practice is to say every day, without the obligation of sin, the prayer entitled "The Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin", which comprises three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Marys, or to pray daily the Magnificat in honor of Our Lady, which is the only Canticle of Praise recorded in the Scriptures composed by our Lady herself. In the Magnificat we thank God for favoring us in the past, and we beg further blessings from him in the future. One special time when we should remember to say this prayer is during thanksgiving after Holy Communion. A person so scholarly as Gerson informs us that our Lady herself used to recite this prayer herself after receiving Holy Communion in the early days of the Church. A person who says the Little Crown, or the Magnificat each day as a special token of his total consecration to Mary, along with the other prayers required by the duty of his state in life, will soon be imbued with the fruits of this most excellent devotion.
The wearing of a medal, or a blessed chain.
- The fifth is the wearing of a blessed Medal around the neck. The Miraculous Medal given to St. Catherine Laboure, also called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, is most suitable for this purpose. Our Lady herself promised great graces to those who would wear it. It is the first sacramental given to the Church to have ever been granted extraordinary promises of both sanctifying and actual grace from heaven. It should also be noted that all the privileges and promises of the Brown Scapular have been commuted to the Miraculous Medal by the Holy See, if wearing the cloth Scapular is difficult or impractical. (If it is possible, the cloth Brown Scapular should also be worn, for today it is the primary symbol of one's consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One should be properly enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular by a Priest using the Book of Blessings to gain its full merits and indulgences.) The other external signs, like wearing the Miraculous Medal, or the even wearing a blessed chain on the arm, on the foot, or about the body, might symbolize the great zeal of one who sincerely practices this devotion. Strictly speaking, these practices could be omitted without affecting the essential nature of the devotion, but it would be foolish to despise the graces offered to those who will wear sacramentals, which are themselves sources of protection and grace.
- Here are the reasons for wearing these external signs:
If we wear a special blessed chain, or a medal, they remind us bound by chains of love.
Finally, wearing an external sign, such as the Miraculous Medal, itself brings down graces upon the soul, through the promise of Our Lady, and it helps us to recall that we are dependent on Jesus and Mary. People who have become the slaves of love of Jesus and Mary value these external signs so much that they are unhappy if they are not permitted to wear them publicly.
External signs, like the Brown Scapular and the Miraculous Medal are more valuable and more glorious than the necklaces of gold and precious stones worn by emperors: because they are the illustrious insignia of Jesus and Mary. Not only do they signify the bonds uniting us to them, but because they are holy sacramentals, great graces and protections are given to those wear them.
It should be noted that if chains are worn about the body, other than the neck, and are not of silver, they should for convenience' sake at least be made of iron. If one chooses to wear them, they should never be laid aside at any time so that they may be with us even to the Day of Judgment. Great will be the joy, glory and triumph of the faithful slave on that day when, at the sound of the trumpet, his bones rise from the earth still bound by such medals or chains of holy bondage, which to all appearance will not have decayed. This thought alone should convince a devout servant of Our Lady never to take off his medal, or chain, however inconvenient it might be.
The Act of Consecration
Introductory Prayer to Jesus
Most loving Jesus, permit me to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for your kindness in giving me to your holy Mother through the devotion of holy slavery, and so making her my advocate to plead with your Majesty on my behalf, and to make up for all that I lack through my own inadequacy.
Alas, O Lord, I am so wretched that without your dear Mother I would probably be lost. Yes, Lord I always need Mary when I dare to approach you. I need her to calm your indignation, for I commit many offenses against you almost every day. I hope that with her help, I might be saved from the sentence of eternal punishment that I may deserve. I hope that she will turn to you, speak to you, pray to you, and approach you on my behalf: for I know that she is pleasing to you. I hope that she will help save my soul, and the souls of others. I need her powerful help so that I might be able to do your holy will, and to seek your greater glory in everything I do.
Oh that I could proclaim to the whole world the mercy which you have shown to me! Oh that the whole world would know how ardently I desire to belong to her as you do! If only I could offer you adequate thanks for such so great a gift that you have given her to me to be my mother also! Should I not in return belong entirely to her? If I did not love your own beloved Mother, how ungrateful would I be! My dear Savior, send me death rather than I should be guilty of such a lapse, for I would rather die than not belong to Mary.
Like St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her times without number as my mother, and just as often I have given myself to her. But if I have not done so as perfectly as you, dear Jesus would wish, I hope to do so now according to your desire. If you still see in my soul or body anything that does not belong to this noble Queen, please pluck it out and cast it far from me, because anything of mine which does not belong to Mary is unworthy of you.
- Holy Spirit, grant me all these graces. Implant in my soul the tree of true life, which is Mary. Foster it and cultivate it so that it grows and blossoms and brings forth the fruit of life in abundance. Holy Spirit, give me a great love and longing for Mary, your exalted spouse. Give me a great trust in her maternal heart and a continuous access to her compassion, so that with her you may truly form Jesus, great and powerful, in me until I attain the fullness of his perfect age. Amen.
TOTAL CONSECRATION TO MARY
- Hail, Mary! most beloved daughter of the eternal Father! Hail, Mary! most admirable mother of the Son! Hail, Mary! most faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit! Hail, Mary, Mother most dear; Lady most lovable; Queen most powerful! Hail, Mary, my joy, my glory, my heart and soul. You are all mine through God's mercy, but I am all yours in justice. But I do not yet belong sufficiently to you, and so once again, as a slave who loves his Queen, I give myself completely to you, reserving nothing for myself. I consecrate to you my body and my soul, my whole life, my death, and my eternity. Especially, I give you the value and merits of all my good actions, past, present, and to come. I give you the entire and full right to dispose of me, and everything that belongs to me, according to your good will and pleasure.
If you still see anything in me that has not been given to you, please take it now. Make yourself the complete owner of all my faculties and capabilities. Destroy in me everything that is displeasing to God. Uproot it and bring it to nothing! Implant in me all that you deem to be good; improve it and make it increase in me. May the light of your faith dispel the darkness of my mind! May your deep humility replace my pride. May your heavenly contemplation put an end to the distractions of my wandering imagination. May your continuous vision of God fill my memory with his presence. May the burning love of your heart inflame the coldness of mine. May your virtues take the place of my sins. May your merits be my adornment, to make up for my unworthiness before God. Finally, most dearly beloved Mother, grant, if it be possible, that I may have no other spirit but yours to know Jesus and his divine will. May I have no soul but yours to praise and glorify the Lord. May I have no heart but yours, so that I might love God as purely and as ardently as you love him.
- I do not ask for visions or revelations, for sensible devotion or even spiritual pleasures. It is your privilege to see God clearly in perpetual light. It is your privilege to savor the delights of heaven where nothing is without sweetness. It is your privilege to triumph gloriously in heaven at the right hand of your Son without further humiliation, and to command angels, men, and demons, without resistance on their part. It is your privilege to dispose at your own choice of all the good gifts of God without any exception.
Such, most holy Mary, is the excellent portion that the Lord has given you, and which will never be taken from you This gives me great joy. As for my portion here on earth, I wish only to have a share in your portion, that is, to have true faith without seeing or tasting, to suffer joyfully without the consolation of men, to die daily to myself without flinching, to work gallantly for you even until death without any self-interest, as your eternal slave of love. The only grace I beg you in your kindness to obtain for me is that every day and moment of my life I may say this threefold Amen:
Amen, so be it, to all you did upon earth; Amen, so be it, to all you are doing now in heaven; Amen, so be it, to all you are doing in my soul. In that way, you might raise me up to the full stature of Jesus Christ in this life, and you alone will glorify Jesus within me throughout my whole life and throughout eternity. I am all thine, Immaculate One, in time and in eternity. Amen.
IV. THE CARE AND GROWTH OF THE TREE OF LIFE
HOW BEST TO CAUSE MARY TO LIVE AND REIGN IN OUR SOULS
A. The holy slavery of love.
The Tree of Life
- Have you understood with the help of the Holy Spirit what I have tried to explain in the preceding pages? If so, be thankful to God. It is a secret of which very few people are aware. If you have discovered this treasure in the field of Mary, this pearl of great price, you should sell all you have to purchase it. You must offer yourself to Mary, happily lose yourself in her, come to rely upon her for everything, and strive to please her as a slave of love to thus to find God within her.
If the Holy Spirit has planted in your soul the true Tree of Life, which is the devotion that I have just explained, you should see carefully to its cultivation, so that it will yield its fruit in due season. This devotion is like the mustard seed of the Gospel, which is indeed the smallest of all seeds, but nevertheless it grows into a big plant, shooting up so high that the birds of the air, that is, the souls of the elect, come and make their nest in its branches. They repose there, shaded from the heat of the sun, and safely hidden from beasts of prey.
B. How to cultivate it.
Here is the best way, chosen soul, to cultivate it:
- (1) This tree, once planted in a docile heart, requires fresh air and no human support. Being of heavenly origin, it must be uninfluenced by any creature, since a creature might hinder it from rising up towards God who created it. Hence you must not rely on your own endeavors or your natural talents or your personal standing, or too much on the guidance of men. You must resort primarily to Mary, and strive to rely solely on her for help.
- (2) The person in whose soul this tree has taken root must, like a good gardener, watch over it and protect it. For this tree, having life is capable of producing the fruit of life; so it must be tended with enduring care and attention. A soul that desires to be holy will make this devotion to Jesus through Mary it's chief aim and occupation.
- Whatever is likely to choke this tree, or in the course of time prevent its yielding fruit such as trite friendships, bad company, or time-wasting habits, must be cut away and rooted out. This means that by self-denial and self-discipline you must sedulously cut short and even give up vane pleasures, and cut off endless useless dealings with other creatures. In other words, you must crucify your emotions for a time until you have really come to rely upon Mary in everything, keep a careful guard over your tongue, and strive to engage in fasts or other little mortifications of the senses.
- (3) You must guard against grubs doing harm to the tree. These parasites are self-love, and the love and quest for fine things. These eat away the green foliage of the Tree and frustrate the fair hope it offered of yielding good fruit; for love of self is incompatible with love of Mary.
- (4) You must not allow this tree to be damaged by destructive animals, that is, by sins, for they may cause its death simply by their contact. They must not be allowed even to breathe upon the Tree, because their mere breath, that is, even venial sins, are most dangerous, especially if we do not trouble ourselves about them. Relationships of sin, or constant occasions of impurity must be intentionally torn out by the roots. There is no way to untie the bonds of sinful, or useless relationships. Rather, like they are bonds which, like the Gordian Knot, cannot be untied, they only be severed by being cut with the knife, and then they must be forever discarded.
- (5) It is also necessary to water this Tree regularly with your Communions, frequent Confession, Masses and other public and private prayers. Otherwise this devotion can not bear fruit. If you ever find that your devotion is slipping away, quickly begin a Novena to the Blessed Virgin for the grace of holy desire. Immediately begin praying on your knees with your hands clasped every day, and implore the Blessed Mother to rekindle the flame of her own holy devotion within you. Woe to the person who abandons the path of perfection and slips into luke-warmness, or the impurity of sin! If once one embraces this devotion, and then turns back to sin, that soul is in grave jeopardy. Frequent confession, reception of holy communion, or acts of spiritual communion, fervent prayer, and constant acts of confidence in God's mercy, and the reading of pious books are the only ways to avoid the hazard of the slippery slope into tepidity.
- (6) Yet you need not be alarmed when the winds blow and shake this tree, for it must happen that the storm-winds of temptation will threaten to bring it down, and snow and frost tend to smother it. By this we mean that this devotion to our Blessed Lady will surely be called into question and attacked. But as long as we continue steadfastly in tending it, we have nothing to fear.
C. Its lasting fruit: Jesus Christ
- Chosen soul, provided you thus carefully cultivate the Tree of Life, which has been freshly planted in your soul by the Holy Spirit, I can assure you that in a short time it will grow so tall that the birds of the air will make their home in it. It will become such a good tree that it will yield in due season the sweet and adorable Fruit of honor and grace, which is union with Jesus, who has always been and will always be the only fruit of Mary. If one will fully practice this devotion without reserve, pray one's daily prayers, apply oneself diligently to the duties of ones state in life, practice fasts and mortification, and learn to constantly utter ejaculatory prayers of praise and thanks giving, the mystical divine union of the soul with God can occur in about two years. Instead of scrambling up the mountain of perfection, descend into the valley of humility - where you will find the Lord waiting for you with his most intimate love.
Happy is that soul in which Mary, the Tree of Life is planted. Happier still is the soul in which she has been able to grow and blossom. Happier again is the soul in which she brings forth her fruit. But happiest of all is the soul that savors the sweetness of Mary's fruit and preserves it up till death and then beyond to all eternity. Amen.
"Let him who possesses it, hold fast to it."