St. Louis-Marie on the importance of Devotion to Mary
On the final Sunday of the Marian month of May, it is fitting to turn to the words of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort who teaches the Church on the manner and importance of devotion to Mary.
In his work, The Secret of Mary, the great saint prefaces the manner and style of having a devotion to Mary by noting how important such a devotion is for a Catholic. Observing how the soul is called to become holy and to follow God, St. Louis-Marie presents a simple way of doing so – by cultivating a devotion to Mary: “It all comes to this, then. We must discover a simple means to obtain from God the grace needed to become holy. It is precisely this I wish to teach you. My contention is that you must first discover Mary if you would obtain this grace from God.”
The saint continues by presenting reasons to support his claim:
Let me explain: (1) Mary alone found grace with God for herself and for every individual person. No patriarch or prophet or any other holy person of the Old Law could manage to find this grace.
(2) It was Mary who gave existence and life to the author of all grace, and because of this she is called the “Mother of Grace.”
(3) God the Father, from whom, as from its essential source, every perfect gift and every grace come down to us, gave her every grace when he gave her his Son. Thus, as St Bernard says, the will of God is manifested to her in Jesus and with Jesus.
(4) God chose her to be the treasurer, the administrator and the dispenser of all his graces, so that all his graces and gifts pass through her hands. Such is the power that she has received from him that, according to St Bernardine, she gives the graces of the eternal Father, the virtues of Jesus Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to whom she wills, as and when she wills, and as much as she wills.
(5) As in the natural life a child must have a father and a mother, so in the supernatural life of grace a true child of the Church must have God for his Father and Mary for his mother. If he prides himself on having God for his Father but does not give to Mary the tender affection of a true child, he is an impostor and his father is the devil.
(6) Since Mary produced the head of the elect, Jesus Christ, she must also produce the members of that head, that is, all true Christians. A mother does not conceive a head without members, nor members without a head. If anyone, then, wishes to become a member of Jesus Christ, and consequently be filled with grace and truth, he must be formed in Mary through the grace of Jesus Christ, which she possesses with a fullness enabling her to communicate it abundantly to true members of Jesus Christ, her true children.
(7) The Holy Spirit espoused Mary and produced his greatest work, the incarnate Word, in her, by her and through her. He has never disowned her and so he continues to produce every day, in a mysterious but very real manner, the souls of the elect in her and through her.
(8) Mary received from God a unique dominion over souls enabling 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. Consequently, just as an infant draws all its nourishment from its mother, who gives according to its needs, so the elect draw their spiritual nourishment and all their 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 of the 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 especially deep humility and ardent charity.
(10) Mary is called by St Augustine, and is indeed, the “living mould of God.” In her alone the God-man was formed in his human nature without losing any feature of the Godhead. In her alone, by the grace of Jesus Christ, man is made godlike as far as 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 mould. The first way is long and involved and open to all sorts of accidents. It only needs a faulty stroke of the chisel or hammer to ruin the whole work. The second is quick, easy, straightforward, almost effortless and inexpensive, but the mould must be perfect and true to life and the material must be easy to handle and offer no resistance…
Happy, indeed sublimely happy, is the person to whom the Holy Spirit reveals the secret of Mary, thus imparting to him true knowledge of her. Happy the person to whom the Holy Spirit opens this enclosed garden for him to enter, and to whom the Holy Spirit gives access to this sealed fountain where he can draw water and drink deep draughts of the living waters of grace. That person will find only grace and no creature in the most loveable Virgin Mary. But he will find that the infinitely holy and exalted God is at the same time infinitely solicitous for him and understands his weaknesses. But there is no place where God can be more present to his creature and more sympathetic to human weakness than in Mary. It was indeed for this very purpose that he came down from heaven. Everywhere else he is the Bread of the strong and the Bread of angels, but living in Mary he is the Bread of children.