This is the conclusion of this series on this subject of the great motives that ought to induce us to undertake this greatest of all devotions given to us by Saint Louis Marie de Montfort in his True Devotion to Mary.
His next point has to do with how this devotion again parallels the very essence of the christian life lived well in that it grants to us a true freedom. Not unlimited “license” to do whatever we want, but a freedom to always chose to do what is right. It frees us to fly up to heaven and soar on high like eagles there to join that great Saints in union with our God.
6. It gives great liberty of spirit
It gives great liberty of spirit – the freedom of the children of God – to those who faithfully practice it. Through this devotion we make ourselves slaves of Jesus by consecrating ourselves entirely to him. To reward us for this enslavement of love, our Lord frees us from every scruple and servile fear which might restrict, imprison or confuse us; he opens our hearts and fills them with holy confidence in God, helping us to regard God as our Father; he inspires us with a generous and filial love.
Without stopping to prove this truth, I shall simply relate an incident which I read in the life of Mother Agnes of Jesus, a Dominican nun of the convent of Langeac in Auvergne, who died a holy death there in 1634.
When she was only seven years old and was suffering great spiritual anguish, she heard a voice telling her that if she wished to be delivered from her anguish and protected against all her enemies, she should make herself the slave of our Lord and his Blessed Mother as soon as possible. No sooner had she returned home than she gave herself completely to Jesus and Mary as their slave, although she had never known anything about this devotion before. She found an iron chain, put it round her waist and wore it till the day she died. After this, all her sufferings and scruples disappeared and she found great peace of soul.
This led her to teach this devotion to many others who made rapid progress in it – among them, Father Olier, the founder of the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice, and several other priests and students from the same seminary. One day the Blessed Virgin appeared to Mother Agnes and put a gold chain around her neck to show her how happy she was that Mother Agnes had become the slave of both her and her Son. And St. Cecilia, who accompanied our Lady, said to her, “Happy are the faithful slaves of the Queen of heaven, for they will enjoy true freedom.” Tibi servire libertas. (True Devotion, #169-70)
A beautiful story that ought to inspire us indeed. But up until now we have only looked at what this devotion will do for us personally. Now let us consider what taking on this devotion will mean for our friends, family, all those we encounter, and most importantly to the Mystical Body of Christ (the members of the Church) and the whole human race…
7. It is of great benefit to our neighbour
It is of great benefit to our neighbour, for by it we show love for our neighbour in an outstanding way since we give him through Mary’s hands all that we prize most highly – that is, the satisfactory and prayer value of all our good works, down to the least good thought and the least little suffering. We give our consent that all we have already acquired or will acquire until death should be used in accordance with our Lady’s will for the conversion of sinners or the deliverance of souls from Purgatory.
Is this not perfect love of our neighbour? Is this not being a true disciple of our Lord, one who should always be recognised by his love? Is this not the way to convert sinners without any danger of vainglory, and deliver souls from Purgatory by doing hardly anything more than what we are obliged to do by our state of life? (True Devotion, #171)
Yes by this devotion we are able to pour out many graces upon poor sinners and the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and this simply by living out “our state of life” well. And if we consider just how wonderful the conversion of as sinner is as our Lord explained to us by the parable of the one lost sheep of the one hundred, and that the recovery of that one lost sheep (a sinner) back into the fold causes more joy in heaven than the ninty-nine that remained faithful. And so too the great act of charity we make when we, though this devotion, deliver our brothers and sister in Christ from their suffering in Purgatory so that they may fly up to heaven…
To appreciate the excellence of this motive we must understand what a wonderful thing it is to convert a sinner or to deliver a soul from Purgatory. It is an infinite good, greater than the creation of heaven and earth, since it gives a soul the possession of God. If by this devotion we secured the release of only soul from Purgatory or converted only one sinner in our whole lifetime, would that not be enough to induce any person who really loves his neighbour to practise this devotion?
It must be noted that our good works, passing through Mary’s hands, are progressively purified. Consequently, their merit and their satisfactory and prayer value are also increased. That is why they become much more effective in relieving the souls in Purgatory and in converting sinners than if they did not pass through the virginal and liberal hands of Mary. Stripped of self-will and clothed with disinterested love, the little that we give to the Blessed Virgin is truly powerful enough to appease the anger of God and draw down his mercy. It may well be that at the hour of death a person who has been faithful to this devotion will find that he has freed many souls from Purgatory and converted many sinners, even though he performed only the ordinary actions of his state of life. Great will be his joy at the judgement. Great will be his glory throughout eternity. (True Devotion, #172)
This is a most wonderful thing indeed. But let us now consider Montforts final point which though last is certainly not the least. For here he discusses the great grace of this devotion that it provides the means to persever unto the end in faithfulness and most importantly in sanctifying grace, without which we cannot go to heaven or live there if we got there.
This is a most consoling thing for those of us who are the most wretched of sinners, and who so often like dogs return to our own vomit (sin) again and again. For by this devotion we are stengthened to keep up the good fight and that no matter how many times we get knocked down we pick ourselves right back up and contiue on until we, by the grace of God, overcome ourselves and reach our heavenly homeland…
8. It is a wonderful means of perseverance
Finally, what draws us in a sense more compellingly to take up this devotion to the most Blessed Virgin is the fact that it is a wonderful means of persevering in the practice of virtue and of remaining steadfast.
Why is it that most conversions of sinners are not lasting? Why do they relapse so easily into sin? Why is it that most of the faithful, instead of making progress in one virtue after another and so acquiring new graces, often lose the little grace and virtue they have? This misfortune arises, as I have already shown, from the fact that man, so prone to evil, so weak and changeable, trusts himself too much, relies on his own strength, and wrongly presumes he is able to safeguard his precious graces, virtues and merits.
By this devotion we entrust all we possess to Mary, the faithful Virgin. We choose her as the guardian of all our possessions in the natural and supernatural sphere. We trust her because she is faithful, we rely on her strength, we count on her mercy and charity to preserve and increase our virtues and merits in spite of the efforts of the devil, the world, and the flesh to rob us of them. We say to her as a good child would say to its mother or a faithful servant to the mistress of the house, “My dear Mother and Mistress, I realise that up to now I have received from God through your intercession more graces than I deserve. But bitter experience has taught me that I carry these riches in a very fragile vessel and that I am too weak and sinful to guard them by myself. Please accept in trust everything I possess, and in your faithfulness and power keep it for me. If you watch over me, I shall lose nothing. If you support me, I shall not fail. If you protect me, I shall be safe from my enemies.” (True Devotion, #173)
When we give ourselves to our Lady though this consecration she will always be there for us to hold us up, and with her at our side we cannot be lost…
This is exactly what St. Bernard clearly pointed out to encourage us to take up this devotion, “When Mary supports you, you will not fail. With her as your protector, you will have nothing to fear. With her as your guide, you will not grow weary. When you win her favour, you will reach the port of heaven.” St. Bonaventure seems to say the same thing in even more explicit terms, “The Blessed Virgin,” he says, “not only preserves the fullness enjoyed by the saints, but she maintains the saints in their fullness so that it does not diminish. She prevents their virtues from fading away, their merits from being wasted and their graces from being lost. She prevents the devils from doing them harm and she so influences them that her divine Son has no need to punish them when they sin.” (True Devotion, #174)
And we can always trust that our Lady will never forsake us once we have entered upon this devotion. She will never leave us to destroy ourselves and die in our sins. She is the most faithful of all Mothers and in her we can hope as we sing in the Salve Regina she is “…our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope..”
Mary is the Virgin most faithful who by her fidelity to God makes good the losses caused by Eve’s unfaithfulness. She obtains fidelity to God and final perseverance for those who commit themselves to her. For this reason St. John Damascene compared her to a firm anchor which holds them fast and saves them from shipwreck in the raging seas of the world where so many people perish through lack of such a firm anchor. “We fasten souls,” he said, “to Mary, our hope, as to a firm anchor.” It was to Mary that the saints who attained salvation most firmly anchored themselves as did others who wanted to ensure their perseverance in holiness.
Blessed, indeed, are those Christians who bind themselves faithfully and completely to her as to a secure anchor! The violent storms of the world will not make them founder or carry away their heavenly riches. Blessed are those who enter into her as into another Noah’s ark! The flood waters of sin which engulf so many will not harm them because, as the Church makes Mary say in the words of divine Wisdom, “Those who work with my help – for their salvation – shall not sin.” Blessed are the unfaithful children of unhappy Eve who commit themselves to Mary, the ever-faithful Virgin and Mother who never wavers in her fidelity and never goes back on her trust. She always loves those who love her, not only with deep affection, but with a love that is active and generous. By an abundant outpouring of grace she keeps them from relaxing their effort in the practice of virtue or falling by the wayside through loss of divine grace.
Moved by pure love, this good Mother always accepts whatever is given her in trust, and, once she accepts something, she binds herself in justice by a contract of trusteeship to keep it safe. Is not someone to whom I entrust the sum of a thousand francs obliged to keep it safe for me so that if it were lost through his negligence he would be responsible for it in strict justice? But nothing we entrust to the faithful Virgin will ever be lost through her negligence. Heaven and earth would pass away sooner than Mary would neglect or betray those who trusted in her. (True Devotion, #175-6)
We must recognize that we are indeed wretched sinners and we are in need of help and support without which we will certainly fail. We suffer from the grave defects of the fall with darkened intellects and weakened wills. But our Lady is that to be our strength and to grant us light…
Poor children of Mary, you are extremely weak and changeable. Your human nature is deeply impaired. It is sadly true that you have been fashioned from the same corrupted nature as the other children of Adam and Eve. But do not let that discourage you. Rejoice and be glad! Here is a secret which I am revealing to you, a secret unknown to most Christians, even the most devout.
Do not leave your gold and silver in your own safes which have already been broken into and rifled many times by the evil one. They are too small, too flimsy and too old to contain such great and priceless possessions. Do not put pure and clear water from the spring into vessels fouled and infected by sin. Even if sin is no longer there, its odour persists and the water would be contaminated. You do not put choice wine into old casks that have contained sour wine. You would spoil the good wine and run the risk of losing it.
Chosen souls, although you may already understand me, I shall express myself still more clearly. Do not commit the gold of your charity, the silver of your purity to a threadbare sack or a battered old chest, or the waters of heavenly grace or the wines of your merits and virtues to a tainted and fetid cask, such as you are. Otherwise you will be robbed by thieving devils who are on the look-out day and night waiting for a favourable opportunity to plunder. If you do so all those pure gifts from God will be spoiled by the unwholesome presence of self- love, inordinate self-reliance, and self-will. (True Devotion, #177-8)
Let Mary, our dear mother, be the treasurer and vault of the graces you earn by your good works and prayers, and do not trust them to your own keeping for inevitably they will be lost…
Pour into the bosom and heart of Mary all your precious possessions, all your graces and virtues. She is a spiritual vessel, a vessel of honour, a singular vessel of devotion. Ever since God personally hid himself with all his perfections in this vessel, it has become completely spiritual, and the spiritual abode of all spiritual souls. It has become honourable and has been the throne of honour for the greatest saints in heaven. It has become outstanding in devotion and the home of those renowned for gentleness, grace and virtue. Moreover, it has become as rich as a house of gold, as strong as a tower of David and as pure as a tower of ivory.
Blessed is the man who has given everything to Mary, who at all times and in all things trusts in her, and loses himself in her. He belongs to Mary and Mary belongs to him. With David he can boldly say, “She was created for me”, or with the beloved disciple, “I have taken her for my own”, or with our Lord himself, “All that is mine is yours and all that is yours is mine.” (True Devotion, #179)
And do not be one of those who must always be minimalistic about our grand faith. Do not put limits on God or His great Mother. Certainly Montfort has no time for such things…
If any critic reading this should imagine that I am exaggerating or speaking from an excess of devotion, he has not, alas, understood what I have said. Either he is a carnal man who has no taste for the spiritual; or he is a worldly man who has cut himself off from the Holy Spirit; or he is a proud and critical man who ridicules and condemns anything he does not understand. But those who are born not of blood, nor of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God and Mary, understand and appreciate what I have to say. It is for them that I am writing.
Nevertheless, after this digression, I say to both the critics and the devout that the Blessed Virgin, the most reliable and generous of all God’s creatures, never lets herself be surpassed by anyone in love and generosity. For the little that is given to her, she gives generously of what she has received from God. Consequently, if a person gives himself to her without reserve, she gives herself also without reserve to that person provided his confidence in her is not presumptuous and he does his best to practise virtue and curb his passions.
So the faithful servants of the Blessed Virgin may confidently say with St. John Damascene, “If I confide in you, Mother of God, I shall be saved. Under your protection I shall fear nothing. With your help I shall rout all my enemies. For devotion to you is a weapon of salvation which God gives to those he wishes to save.” (True Devotion, #180-2)