Having spoken thus far of the necessity of devotion to the most holy Virgin, I must now show in what this devotion consists. This I will do, with God’s help, after I shall have first laid down some fundamental truths which shall throw light on that grand and solid devotion which I desire to disclose.
— First Truth —
Jesus Christ Is the Last End of Devotion to Mary
61. Jesus Christ our Savior, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, else they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, (1) the beginning and the end, of all things. We labor not, as the Apostle says, except to render every man perfect in Jesus Christ; because it is in Him alone that the whole plenitude of the Divinity dwells together with all the other plenitudes of graces, virtues and perfections. It is in Him alone that we have been blessed with all spiritual benediction; and He is our only Master, who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepherd who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us. There has been no other name given under Heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection or our glory, than Jesus Christ. Every building which is not built on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or latter infallibly will fall.
Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him, as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither, and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire. Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation. But if we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is in us, we have no condemnation to fear.
Neither the angels of Heaven nor the men of earth nor the devils of Hell nor any other creature can injure us; because they cannot separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things; we can render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit; (2) we can become perfect ourselves, and be to our neighbor a good odor of eternal life (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
62. If, then, we establish solid devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ, and to provide an easy and secure means for finding Jesus Christ. If devotion to Our Lady removed us from Jesus Christ, we should have to reject it as an illusion of the devil; but so far from this being the case, devotion to Our Lady is, on the contrary, necessary for us—as I have already shown, and will show still further hereafter—as a means of finding Jesus Christ perfectly, of loving Him tenderly, of serving Him faithfully.
63. I here turn for one moment to You, O sweet Jesus, to complain lovingly to Your Divine Majesty that the greater part of Christians, even the most learned, do not know the necessary union there is between You and Your holy Mother. You, Lord, are always with Mary, and Mary is always with You, and she cannot be without You, else she would cease to be what she is. She is so transformed into You by grace that she lives no more, she is as though she were not. It is You only, my Jesus, who lives and reigns in her more perfectly than in all the angels and the blessed. Ah! If we knew the glory and the love which You receive in this admirable creature, we should have very different thoughts both of You and her from what we have now. She is so intimately united with You that it were easier to separate the light from the sun, the heat from the fire; nay, it were easier to separate from You all the angels and the saints than the divine Mary, because she loves You more ardently and glorifies You more perfectly than all the other creatures put together.
64. After that, my sweet Master, is it not an astonishingly pitiable thing to see the ignorance and the darkness of all men here below in regard to Your holy Mother? I speak not so much of idolaters and pagans, who, knowing You not, care not to know her. I speak not even of heretics and schismatics, who care not to be devout to Your holy Mother, being separated as they are from You and Your holy Church; but I speak of Catholic Christians, and even of doctors among Catholics, (3) who make profession of teaching truths to others, and yet know not You nor Your holy Mother, except in a speculative, dry, barren and indifferent manner. These gentlemen speak but rarely of Your holy Mother and of the devotion we ought to have to her, because they fear, so they say, lest we should abuse it, and do some injury to You in honoring Your holy Mother too much. If they hear or see anyone devout to our Blessed Lady, speaking often of his devotion to that good Mother in a tender, strong and persuasive way, and as a secure means without delusion, as a short road without danger, as an immaculate way without imperfection, and as a wonderful secret for finding and loving You perfectly, they cry out against him, and give him a thousand false reasons by way of proving to him that he ought not to talk so much of our Blessed Lady; that there are great abuses in that devotion; and that we must direct our energies to destroy these abuses, and to speak of You, rather than to incline the people to devotion to our Blessed Lady, whom they already love sufficiently.
We hear them sometimes speak of devotion to our Blessed Lady, not for the purpose of establishing it and persuading men to embrace it, but to destroy the abuses which are made of it; and all the while these teachers are without piety or tender devotion toward Yourself, simply because they have none for Mary. They regard the Rosary and the Scapular as devotions proper for weak and ignorant minds, without which men can save themselves; and if there falls into their hands any poor client of Our Lady who says his Rosary, or has any other practice of devotion toward her, they soon change his spirit and his heart. Instead of the Rosary, they counsel him the seven Penitential Psalms. Instead of devotion to the holy Virgin, they counsel him devotion to Jesus Christ.
O my sweet Jesus, do these people have Your spirit? Do they please You in acting thus? Does it please You when, for fear of displeasing You, we neglect doing our utmost to please Your Mother? Does devotion to Your holy Mother hinder devotion to Yourself? Does she attribute to herself the honor we pay her? Does she head a faction of her own? Is she a stranger who has no connection with You? Does it displease You that we should try to please her? Do we separate or alienate ourselves from Your love by giving ourselves to her and honoring her?
65. Yet, my sweet Master, the greater part of the learned could not discourage devotion to Your holy Mother more, and could not show more indifference to it, even if all that I have just said were true. Thus have they been punished for their pride! Keep me, Lord, keep me from their sentiments and their practices, and give me some share of the sentiments of gratitude, esteem, respect and love which You have in regard to Your holy Mother, so that the more I imitate and follow her, the more I may love and glorify You.
66. So, as if up to this point I had still said nothing in honor of Your holy Mother, “give me now the grace to praise You worthily,” in spite of all her enemies, who are Yours as well; and grant me to say loudly with the saints, “Let not that man presume to look for the mercy of God who offends His holy Mother.”
67. Make me love You ardently, so that I may obtain of Your mercy a true devotion to Your holy Mother, and inspire the whole earth with it; and for that end, receive the burning prayer which I offer to You with St. Augustine (4) and Your other true friends:
You are Christ, my holy Father, my tender God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my one Master, my best Helper, my most Beautiful and my Beloved, my living Bread, my Priest forever, my Leader to my country, my true Light, my holy Sweetness, my straight Way, my excellent Wisdom, my pure Simplicity, my pacific Harmony, my whole Guard, my good Portion, my everlasting Salvation.
Christ Jesus, my sweet Lord, why have I ever loved, why in my whole life have I ever desired anything except You, Jesus my God? Where was I when I was not in Your mind with You? Now, from this time forth, do you, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus; run, you have been tardy thus far; hasten whither you are going; seek whom you are seeking. O Jesus, may he who loves You not, be anathema; may he who loves You not, be filled with bitterness!
O sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Your praise, love You, delight in You, admire You. God of my heart and my Portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit and may You be my life within me! May the live coal of Your love grow hot within my spirit, and break forth into a perfect fire; may it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart; may it glow in my innermost being; may it blaze in hidden recesses of my soul; and in the day of my consummation, may I be found consummated with You. Amen.
We Belong to Jesus and Mary as Their Slaves
68. We must conclude, from what Jesus Christ is with regard to us, that, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 6:19-20), we do not belong to ourselves but are entirely His, as His members and His slaves, whom He has bought at an infinitely dear price, the price of all His Blood. Before Baptism we belonged to the devil, as his slaves; but Baptism has made us true slaves of Jesus Christ, who have no right to live, to work or to die, except to bring forth fruit for that God-Man (Rom. 7:4); to glorify Him in our bodies and to let Him reign in our souls, because we are His conquest, His acquired people and His inheritance. It is for the same reason that the Holy Spirit compares us: 1. to trees planted along the waters of grace, in the field of the Church, who ought to bring forth their fruit in their seasons; 2. to the branches of a vine of which Jesus Christ is the stock, and which must yield good grapes; 3. to a flock of which Jesus Christ is the Shepherd, and which is to multiply and give milk; 4. to a good land of which God is the Husbandman, in which the seed multiplies itself and brings forth thirty-fold, sixty-fold and a hundred-fold (Ps. 1:3; Jn. 15:2; 10:11; Matt. 13:8). Jesus Christ cursed the unfruitful fig tree (Matt. 21:19), and pronounced sentence against the useless servant who had not made any profit on his talent. (Matt. 25:24-30). All this proves to us that Jesus Christ wishes to receive some fruits from our wretched selves, namely our good works, because those works belong to Him alone: “Created in good works, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10)—which words of the Holy Spirit show that Jesus Christ is the sole beginning, and ought to be the sole end, of all our good works, and also that we ought to serve Him, not as servants for wages, but as slaves of love. I will explain what I mean.
69. Here on earth there are two ways of belonging to another and of depending on his authority: namely, simple service and slavery, whence we derive the words “servant” and “slave.”
By common service among Christians a man engages himself to serve another during a certain time, at a certain rate of wages or of recompense.
By slavery a man is entirely dependent on another during his whole life, and must serve his master without claiming any wages or reward, just as one of his beasts, over which he has the right of life and death.
70. There are three sorts of slavery: (5) a slavery of nature, a slavery of constraint and a slavery of will. All creatures are slaves of God in the first sense: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 23:1); the demons and the damned are slaves in the second sense; the just and the saints in the third. Because by slavery of the will we make choice of God and His service above all things, even though nature did not oblige us to do so, slavery of the will is the most perfect and most glorious to God, who beholds the heart (I Kg. 16:7), claims the heart (Prov. 23:26), and calls Himself the God of the heart (Ps. 72:26), that is, of the loving will.
71. There is an entire difference between a servant and a slave:
§ 1. A servant does not give all he is, all he has and all he can acquire, by himself or by another, to his master; but the slave gives himself whole and entire to his master, all he has and all he can acquire, without any exception.
§ 2. The servant demands wages for the services which he performs for his master; but the slave can demand nothing, whatever assiduity, whatever industry, whatever energy he may have at his work.
§ 3. The servant can leave his master when he pleases, or at least when the time of his service expires; but the slave has no right to quit his master at will.
§ 4. The master of the servant has no right of life and death over him, so that if he should kill him like one of his beasts of burden, he would commit an unjust homicide; but the master of the slave has by law a right of life and death over him, (6) so that he may sell him to anybody he likes, or kill him as if he stood on the same level as one of his horses.
§ 5. Lastly, the servant is only for a time in his master’s service; the slave, always.
72. There is nothing among men which makes us belong to another more than slavery. There is nothing among Christians which makes us more absolutely belong to Jesus Christ and His holy Mother than the slavery of the will, according to the example of Jesus Christ Himself, who took on Himself the form of a slave for love of us (Phil. 2:7); and also according to the example of the holy Virgin, who called herself the servant and slave of the Lord. (Lk. 1:38). The Apostle calls himself, as by a title of honor, “the slave of Christ.” (7) Christians are often so called in the Holy Scriptures; and the word for the designation, “servus,” as a great man has truly remarked, (8) signified in olden times a slave in the completest sense, because there were no servants then like those of the present day. Masters were served only by slaves or freedmen. This is what the Catechism of the holy Council of Trent, in order to leave no doubt about our being slaves of Jesus Christ, expresses by an unequivocal term, in calling us mancipia Christi, “slaves of Jesus Christ.” (9)
73. Now that I have given these explanations, I say that we ought to belong to Jesus Christ, and to serve Him not only as mercenary servants, but as loving slaves who, as a result of their great love, give themselves up to serve Him in the quality of slaves simply for the honor of belonging to Him. Before Baptism we were the slaves of the devil. Baptism has made us the slaves of Jesus Christ: Christians must needs be either the slaves of the devil or the slaves of Jesus Christ.
74. What I say absolutely of Jesus Christ, I say relatively of Our Lady. Since Jesus Christ chose her for the inseparable companion of His life, of His death, of His glory and of His power in Heaven and upon earth, He gave her by grace, relatively to His Majesty, all the same rights and privileges which He possesses by nature. “All that is fitting to God by nature is fitting to Mary by grace,” say the saints; so that, according to them, Mary and Jesus, having but the same will and the same power, have also the same subjects, servants and slaves. (10)
75. We may, therefore, following the sentiments of the saints and of many great men, call ourselves and make ourselves the loving slaves of the most holy Virgin, in order to be, by that very means, the more perfectly the slaves of Jesus Christ. Our Blessed Lady is the means Our Lord made use of to come to us. She is also the means which we must make use of to go to Him. (11) For she is not like all other creatures who, if we should attach ourselves to them, might rather draw us away from God than draw us near Him. The strongest inclination of Mary is to unite us to Jesus Christ, her Son; and the strongest inclination of the Son is that we should come to Him through His holy Mother. It is to honor and to please Him, just as it would be to do honor and pleasure to a king to become more perfectly his subject and his slave by making ourselves the slaves of the queen. It is on this account that the holy Fathers, and St. Bonaventure after them, say that Our Lady is the way to go to Our Lord: “The way of coming to Christ is to draw near to her.” (12)
76. Moreover, if, as I have said, (13) the holy Virgin is the Queen and Sovereign of Heaven and earth, has she not then as many subjects and slaves as there are creatures? (14) St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Bonaventure say: “All things, the Virgin included, are subject to the empire of God: Behold, all things, and God included, are subject to the empire of the Virgin.” Is it not reasonable that among so many slaves of constraint there should be some of love, who of their own good will, in the quality of slaves, should choose Mary for their Mistress? What! Are men and devils to have their voluntary slaves, and Mary to have none? What! Shall a king hold it to be for his honor that the queen, his companion, should have slaves over whom she has the right of life and death, (15) because the honor and power of the one is the honor and power of the other; and yet are we to think that Our Lord, who as the best of all sons has divided His entire power with His holy Mother, shall take it ill that she too has her slaves? Has He less respect and love for His Mother than Ahasuerus had for Esther, or than Solomon had for Bethsebee? Who shall dare say so, or even think so?
77. But whither is my pen hurrying me? Why am I stopping here to prove a thing so plain? If we do not wish to call ourselves slaves of the Blessed Virgin, what matter? Let us make ourselves, and call ourselves, slaves of Jesus Christ; for that is being the slave of the holy Virgin, inasmuch as Jesus is the fruit and the glory of Mary; and it is this very thing which we do perfectly by the devotion of which we are hereafter to speak. (16)
This above article is an excerpt from St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s True Devotion, chapter II.
(1) The following is taken almost entirely from Holy Scripture; cf. Apoc. l:8; Eph. 4:13; Col. 2:9; Matt. 23:8-10; Jn. 13:1 3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:18; Jn. 13:15; 10:16; Acts; 4:1 2; 1 Cor. 3:11, etc.
(2) Canon of the Mass.
(3) We should remember that St. Louis De Montfort wrote this at a time when Jansenism, which opposed devotion to the Blessed Virgin, was flourishing throughout Europe. Even eminent authors were deceived by this heretical sect.
(4) Meditationum lib. I, cap. XVIII, no. 2 (inter opera Sancti Augustini).
(5) St. Thomas, Summa Theol., III, Q. 48, a. 4, corp. et ad 1.
(6) By law, i.e. by the ancient civil law of some of those countries where slavery existed; not by the law of God, nor the law of Moses, nor our modern civil codes, which all condemn such an action. St. Louis De Montfort merely states a fact as it once existed. He prescinds entirely from the question of morality and wishes only to give an example of the complete dependence of which he is speaking.
(7) Rom. l:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:1; also cf. 1 Cor. 7:22; 2 Tim. 2:24. The insistence of Sts. Paul, Peter, James and Jude on calling themselves slaves of Jesus Christ, shows that there is no opposition between this appellation and the words of Jesus: “I will not call you now servants (slaves). . . but I have called you friends.”
(8) Henri Marie Boudon, archdeacon of Evreux, in his book, Le Saint Esclavage de l’admirable Mère de Dieu, chapter II.
(9) Catechismus Roman., Pars Ia, Caput III, De secundo Symboli articulo (in fine).
(10) St. John Damascene, Sermo 2 in Dormitione B. Mariae.
(11) St. Augustine, Sermo 113 in Nativit. Domini (inter opera Sti. Augustini).
(12) Psalt. majus B.V. Ps. 117.
(13) Cf. no. 38.
(14) Speculum B.M.V., lect. III, no. 5.
(15) Cf. no. 71, note 6.
(16) For a further explanation of this second truth, cf. La Vie Spirituelle à I’école de St. Louis Marie de Montfort, by A. Lhoumeau, S.M.M., 1 Partie, ch. IV