In the first series (I, II, III) on this topic we looked at just what True Devotion to Mary is. Now, in another three part series, we will discuss why everyone should greatly desire to undertake this greatest of all devotions.
Montfort gives a number of motives that would induce us to follow this devotion that he hands down to us. Let us take a look at the first…
1. By it we give ourselves completely to God
This first motive shows us the excellence of the consecration of ourselves to Jesus through Mary.
We can conceive of no higher calling than that of being in the service of God and we believe that the least of God’s servants is richer, stronger, and nobler than any earthly monarch who does not serve God. How rich and strong and noble then must the good and faithful servant be, who serves God as unreservedly and as completely as he possibly can! Just such a person is the faithful and loving slave of Jesus in Mary. He has indeed surrendered himself entirely to the service of the King of kings through Mary, his Mother, keeping nothing for himself. All the gold of the world and the beauties of the heavens could not recompense him for what he has done. (True Devotion, #135)
He goes on to explain that this is unlike anything else in the Church, for it is indeed a unique and special devotion…
Other congregations, associations, and confraternities set up in honour of our Lord and our Blessed Lady, which do so much good in the Church, do not require their members to give up absolutely everything. They simply prescribe for them the performance of certain acts and practices in fulfilment of their obligations. They leave them free to dispose of the rest of their actions as well as their time. But this devotion makes us give Jesus and Mary all our thoughts, words, actions, and sufferings and every moment of our lives without exception. Thus, whatever we do, whether we are awake or asleep, whether we eat or drink, whether we do important or unimportant work, it will always be true to say that everything is done for Jesus and Mary. Our offering always holds good, whether we think of it or not, unless we explicitly retract it. How consoling this is! (True Devotion, #136)
How wonderful it is to think that by this greatest of all devotions that we will be giving worship and glory to God even while we sleep! How can we not undertake this devotion when it so easily allows us to give back to God so much, when we know he has given us everything we have? And then consider what reward we may receive from all this glory we give to God by this devotion…
If even in this life he gives a hundredfold reward to those who renounce all material, temporal and perishable things out of love for him, how generously will he reward those who give up even interior and spiritual goods for his sake!
Jesus, our dearest friend, gave himself to us without reserve, body and soul, grace and merits. As St. Bernard says, “He won me over entirely by giving himself entirely to me.” Does not simple justice as well as gratitude require that we give him all we possibly can? He was generous with us first, so let us be generous to him in return and he will prove still more generous during life, at the hour of death, and throughout eternity. “He will be generous towards the generous.” (True Devotion, #137-8)
Montforts second point is that beyond giving so much glory to God it also helps us imitate His Son perfectly…
2. It helps us to imitate Christ
Our good Master stooped to enclose himself in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, a captive but loving slave, and to make himself subject to her for thirty years…He chose to come through the Virgin Mary. Thus he did not come into the world independently of others in the flower of his manhood, but he came as a frail little child dependent on the care and attention of his Mother. Consumed with the desire to give glory to God, his Father, and save the human race, he saw no better or shorter way to do so than by submitting completely to Mary.
He did this not just for the first eight, ten or fifteen years of his life like other children, but for thirty years. He gave more glory to God, his Father, during all those years of submission and dependence than he would have given by spending them working miracles, preaching far and wide, and converting all mankind. Otherwise he would have done all these things.
What immeasurable glory then do we give to God when, following the example of Jesus, we submit to Mary! With such a convincing and well- known example before us, can we be so foolish as to believe that there is a better and shorter way of giving God glory than by submitting ourselves to Mary, as Jesus did? (True Devotion, #139)
And in place ourselves under the protection and depending entirely upon our Lady for help we not only imitate her Divine Son, but the entirety of the Most Blessed and Adored Trinity…
Let me remind you again of the dependence shown by the three divine Persons on our Blessed Lady. Theirs is the example which fully justifies our dependence on her. The Father gave and still gives his Son only through her. He raises children for himself only through her. He dispenses his graces to us only through her. God the Son was prepared for mankind in general by her alone. Mary, in union with the Holy Spirit, still conceives him and brings him forth daily. It is through her alone that the Son distributes his merits and virtues. The Holy Spirit formed Jesus only through her, and he forms the members of the Mystical Body and dispenses his gifts and his favours through her.
With such a compelling example of the three divine Persons before us, we would be extremely perverse to ignore her and not consecrate ourselves to her. Indeed we would be blind if we did not see the need for Mary in approaching God and making our total offering to him. (True Devotion, #140)
With these reasons to urge us on how could we need any more but Montfort here so passionate about this particular point gives a number of quotations from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church…
Here are a few passages from the Fathers of the Church which I have chosen to prove what I have just said: “Mary has two sons, the one a God-man, the other, mere man. She is Mother of the first corporally and of the second spiritually” (St. Bonaventure and Origen).
“This is the will of God who willed that we should have all things through Mary. If then, we possess any hope or grace or gift of salvation, let us acknowledge that it comes to us through her” (St. Bernard).
“All the gifts, graces, virtues of the Holy Spirit are distributed by the hands of Mary, to whom she wills, when she wills, as she wills, and in the measure she wills” (St. Bernardine).
“As you were not worthy that anything divine should be given to you, all graces were given to Mary so that you might receive through her all graces you would not otherwise receive” (St. Bernard).
St. Bernard tells us that God, seeing that we are unworthy to receive his graces directly from him, gives them to Mary so that we might receive from her all that he decides to give us. His glory is achieved when he receives through Mary the gratitude, respect and love we owe him in return for his gifts to us. It is only right then that we should imitate his conduct, “in order”, as St. Bernard again says, “that grace might return to its author by the same channel through which it came to us”.
This is what we do by this devotion. We offer and consecrate all we are and all we possess to the Blessed Virgin in order that our Lord may receive through her as intermediary the glory and gratitude that we owe to him. We deem ourselves unworthy and unfit to approach his infinite majesty on our own, and so we avail ourselves of Mary’s intercession. (True Devotion, #141-2)
And he goes on the explain that this devotion is a way of practicing the “Queen” of the Virtues: Humility…
Moreover, this devotion is an expression of great humility, a virtue which God loves above all others. A person who exalts himself debases God, and a person who humbles himself exalts God. “God opposes the proud, but gives his graces to the humble.” If you humble yourself, convinced that you are unworthy to appear before him, or even to approach him, he condescends to come down to you. He is pleased to be with you and exalts you in spite of yourself. But, on the other hand, if you venture to go towards God blindly without a mediator, he vanishes and is nowhere to be found. How dearly he loves the humble of heart! It is to such humility that this devotion leads us, for it teaches us never to go alone directly to our Lord, however gentle and merciful though he may be, but always to use Mary’s power of intercession, whether we want to enter his presence, speak to him, be near him, offer him something, seek union with him or consecrate ourselves to him. (True Devotion, #143)
Of course if all this wasn’t enough Montfort now considers the many blessings this devotion will bring from our Lady herself…
3. It obtains many blessings from our Lady
The Blessed Virgin, mother of gentleness and mercy, never allows herself to be surpassed in love and generosity. When she sees someone giving himself entirely to her in order to honour and serve her, and depriving himself of what he prizes most in order to adorn her, she gives herself completely in a wondrous manner to him. She engulfs him in the ocean of her graces, adorns him with her merits, supports him with her power, enlightens him with her light, and fills him with her love. She shares her virtues with him – her humility, faith, purity, etc. She makes up for his failings and becomes his representative with Jesus. Just as one who is consecrated belongs entirely to Mary, so Mary belongs entirely to him. We can truthfully say of this perfect servant and child of Mary what St. John in his gospel says of himself, “He took her for his own.”
This produces in his soul, if he is persevering, a great distrust, contempt, and hatred of self, and a great confidence in Mary with complete self-abandonment to her. He no longer relies on his own dispositions, intentions, merits, virtues and good works, since he has sacrificed them completely to Jesus through his loving Mother. He has now only one treasury, where all his wealth is stored. That treasury is not within himself: it is Mary. That is why he can now go to our Lord without any servile or scrupulous fear and pray to him with great confidence. He can also share the sentiments of the devout and learned Abbot Rupert, who, referring to the victory which Jacob won over an angel, addressed our Lady in these words, “O Mary, my Queen, Immaculate Mother of the God-man, Jesus Christ, I desire to wrestle with this man, the Divine Word, armed with your merits and not my own.”
How much stronger and more powerful are we in approaching our Lord when we are armed with the merits and prayers of the worthy Mother of God, who, as St. Augustine says, has conquered the Almighty by her love! (True Devotion, #144-5)
How can we read these words of this great Saint and not immediately desire to begin and undertake this devotion? Or if we have already done so to revive that first fervor with which we made our consecrations. These great graces won for us by this devotion are beyond our understanding. And I can speak from personal experiance that the miracles and graces obtained though this devotion are many and amazing. Simply the fact that I am not in hell at this very moment, which I very much deserve, is to me a testimony of the incredible affect of this devotion upon even a miserable sinner such as myself. People who have only met me in the last few years are shock to discover the person I was before I undertook this devotion, and I owe it all to our Lady and the mercy of God. If there is anything praiseworthy or holy in me it is merely the mark of our Lady, and not to any merit of my own.
And we can gain so many graces from God by this devotion because our Lady takes all of our prayers, works, and penances and purifies them before offering them to God on our behalf. Thus our prayers in this devotion become our Lady’s and thus they have incredible power!…
Since by this devotion we give to our Lord, through the hands of his holy Mother, all our good works, she purifies them, making them beautiful and acceptable to her Son.
(1) She purifies them of every taint of self-love and of that unconscious attachment to creatures which slips unnoticed into our best actions. Her hands have never been known to be idle or uncreative. They purify everything they touch. As soon as the Blessed Virgin receives our good works, she removes any blemish or imperfection she may find in them.
(2) She enriches our good works by adorning them with her own merits and virtues. It is as if a poor peasant, wishing to win the friendship and favour of the king, were to go the queen and give her an apple – his only possession – for her to offer it to the king. The queen, accepting the peasant’s humble gift, puts it on a beautiful golden dish and presents it to the king on behalf of the peasant. The apple in itself would not be a gift worthy of a king, but presented by the queen in person on a dish of gold, it becomes fit for any king.
(3) Mary presents our good works to Jesus. She does not keep anything we offer for herself, as if she were our last end, but unfailingly gives everything to Jesus. So by the very fact we give anything to her, we are giving it to Jesus. Whenever we praise and glorify her, she sings today as she did on the day Elizabeth praised her, “My soul glorifies the Lord.” (True Devotion, #146-7)
Montfort then makes clear the predicament we are in being poor and miserable sinners. For we cannot pull ourselves out of our sinfulness because we are sinners, but by this gift of our Lady we are able to obtain graces only great Saints could merit by their own devout prayers…
At Mary’s request, Jesus accepts the gift of our good works, no matter how poor and insignificant they may be for one who is the King of kings, the Holiest of the holy. When we present anything to Jesus by ourselves, relying on our own dispositions and efforts, he examines our gift and often rejects it because it is stained with self-love, just as he once rejected the sacrifices of the Jews because they were imbued with selfish motives.
But when we present something to him by the pure, virginal hands of his beloved Mother, we take him by his weak side, in a manner of speaking. He does not consider so much the present itself as the person who offers it. Thus Mary, who is never slighted by her Son but is always well received, prevails upon him to accept with pleasure everything she offers him, regardless of its value. Mary has only to present the gift for Jesus graciously to accept it. This is what St. Bernard strongly recommended to all those he was guiding along the pathway to perfection. “When you want to offer something to God, to be welcomed by him be sure to offer it through the worthy Mother of God, if you do not wish to see it rejected.”
Does not human nature itself, as we have seen, suggest this mode of procedure to the less important people of this world with regard to the great? Why should grace not inspire us to do likewise with regard to God? He is infinitely exalted above us. We are less than atoms in his sight. But we have an advocate so powerful that she is never refused anything. She is so resourceful that she knows every secret way to win the heart of God. She is so good and kind that she never passes over anyone no matter how lonely and sinful. (True Devotion, #149-150)
And then, as I mentioned above, this devotion offers an incredible opportunity to give glory to God…
4. It is an excellent means of giving glory to God
This devotion, when faithfully undertaken, is a perfect means of ensuring that the value of all our good works is being used for the greater glory of God. Scarcely anyone works for that noble end, in spite of the obligation to do so, either because men do not know where God’s greatest glory is to be found or because they do not desire it. Now Mary, to whom we surrender the value and merit of our good actions, knows perfectly well where God’s greatest glory lies and she works only to promote that glory. The devout servant of our Lady, having entirely consecrated himself to her as I have described above, can boldly claim that the value of all his actions, words and thoughts is used for the greatest glory of God, unless he has explicitly retracted his offering. For one who loves God with a pure and unselfish love and prizes God’s glory and interests far above his own, could anything be more consoling? (True Devoton, #151)
In Part II we will continue with this same subject.