Consecration to the
Immaculate Heart of Mary
According to the Spirit of St. Louis de Montfort's
TRUE DEVOTION TO MARY
Fr. Nicholas A. Norman
DIRECTOR THE CONFRATERNITY OF MARY QUEEN OF ALL HEARTS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1949
TRUE DEVOTION, PART 1
Devotion is a much abused word. Shoddy imitations exist which usurp the place of the true in the hearts of many of the faithful. Sentimental stirrings and personal-interest motivated prayer often don the apparel of true devotion, and the spurious often crowds out the genuine. Abundance of words becomes more important than sincere love, warm but inefficacious feeling more desirable than arid will. Pursued, this course leads to our having to say some day:
"Master, we have labored all the night, and caught nothing."
There is nothing mysterious about true devotion. It is love, pure and simple. But love is love only insofar as it forgets pure self and becomes absorbed in the will, the good and the glory, and the embrace of perfect union, of the beloved. "He must increase, and I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30) ------this is the expression born of true love.
So easy it is to see this in our human relations. The devoted husband is the one who seeks constantly to make his wife happy, disregarding his own desire for rest and personally appealing recreations. The devoted wife and mother works to the limit of human endurance with a light heart, finding her happiness in making her family happy.
Psychiatrists earnestly advise the ill to seek their happiness outside of themselves. Seeking themselves, they feed upon themselves. Seeking their happiness in the service of others, selflessly and without expectation of return, they find release, quiet, serenity and joy.
When these natural motives are sublimated to the supernatural, and we serve and love ultimately God, rather than allowing our efforts to terminate in ourselves and our fellow men, then we find "the peace that surpasses all understanding."
It should be evident that if the service of our fellow man rather than the seeking of self can bring deep contentment, then the loving service of God for His Own sake should bring immeasurably more, for He is the All, the goal of all desire. But strange are the ways of man! What should be as clear as light does not in practice seem to be so evident at all, with the result that many say that they love God, but their regard is of a quality decidedly inferior to the kind they entertain for their fellow man. The creature, the imperfect------he receives true love; the Uncreated, the All-Beautiful, the All-Good, the All-True receives a makeshift imitation that would be angrily rejected were it offered to men.
So people curiously imagine that they love God when they seek Him only to get temporal gifts that will make the world more attractive and pleasing. How many would not go to any trouble at all, if they knew in advance that the temporal gift they are asking would not be granted, but a spiritual one of far higher value that would bring far closer union with the Lord, would be substituted in its place, and its delights would be known only in the world to come? How many, when they do receive, grab and run, without a word of thanks, with what in human relations would be considered shameless manners and outright boorishness.
True devotion is love, and love means:
"He must increase, and I must decrease" (Jn. 3:30).
True devotion will often, and in this mortal life usually, be mixed with adulterating self-love. One hundred percent true devotion is pure sanctity, rare indeed here below. But with thoughtful attention, desire and prayer we can ever refine our love, and make it more pleasing to God.
True love does not exclude our asking God for spiritual and temporal favors. Indeed, they must be asked for, always and without ceasing. But are we not then seeking self, the antithesis of true love?
There is no conflict, but only the necessary co-ordination of petition and love, when we seek only those things which will increase God's pleasure in us and our union with Him, and we reject all those things that would lessen His pleasure in us. In this way, all that we seek is for the greater honor and glory of God, and not for pure self at all. It is not then self we seek, but God.
True love is one; there are not different kinds of true love any more than there are different kinds of truth. True devotion to God is one, no matter what attribute we glorify. True devotion to Our Lady is likewise one, no matter under what title we honor her. Yet do we not sometimes hear people vigorously defending the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and disparaging, say, the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima? Or having complete faith in Our Lady of Sorrows, and but little in Our Lady of Mount Carmel or Our Lady of Lourdes?
Is this not childishness unworthy of an adult? Is Our Lady one or many? Is she her own rival?
All of these devotions are good, but all demand true devotion. This true devotion will seek Our Lady's good, glory and exaltation, and will look for gifts for self only insofar as they will increase her joy in us, and the honor and glory we can give and obtain for her, and our union with her, for love is union. "Devotion" which seeks self and this world alone is a sorry sort of devotion, indeed!
There is only one light coming down from the sun. But this light, touching the emerald, or the ruby, or the diamond, gives to each its separate loveliness. Who shall say which is more beautiful than the rest?
It may be well to utter here a word of caution regarding an unwarranted assumption that is sometimes made by those who follow or who have heard of St. Louis De Montfort. Although he entitled his marvelous work True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he expressly repudiated the idea that the practices therein outlined constitute the only form of true devotion to Mary.
"There are several interior practices of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Here are the principal ones, stated compendiously: (1) To honor her as the worthy Mother of God, with the worship of hyperdulia; that is to say, to esteem her and honor her above all the other Saints, as the masterpiece of grace, and the first after Jesus Christ, true God and true Man; (2) to meditate on her virtues, her privileges and her actions; (3) to contemplate her grandeurs; (4) to make acts of love, of praise, of gratitude to her: (5) to invoke her cordially; (6) to offer ourselves to her and unite ourselves with her; (7) to do all our actions with the view of pleasing her; (8) to begin, to continue and to finish all our actions by her, in her, with her and for her, in order that we may do them by Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ, our Last End . . .
"True devotion to Our Lady has also several exterior practices, of which the following are the principal ones: (1) to enroll ourselves in her confraternities and enter her congregations; (2) to join the religious orders instituted in her honor; (3) to proclaim her praises; (4) to give alms, to fast and to undergo outward and inward mortifications in her honor; (5) to wear her liveries, such as the Rosary, the Scapular or the little chain; (6) to recite with attention, devotion and modesty the holy Rosary composed of fifteen decades of Hail Marys in honor of the fifteen principal mysteries of Jesus Christ; or five decades. ..or some other prayers, hymns and canticles of the Church; (7) to sing, or have sung, spiritual canticles in her honor; (8) to make a number of genuflections or reverences. ..(9) to take care of her confraternities, to adorn her altars, to crown and ornament her images; (10) to carry her images or have them carried in procession, and to carry a picture or an image of her about our own persons, as a mighty arm against the evil spirits; (11) to have copies of her name or picture made and placed in churches or in houses, or on the gates and entrances into cities, churches and houses; (12) to consecrate ourselves to her in a solemn and special manner," (T. D. 115-116).
The followers of St. Louis commonly refer to the practices, interior and exterior, of true devotion for which he has a special predilection, as "The True Devotion." This can give rise to misunderstandings, and to the false assumption that the practices he advocates are the only expression of true devotion.
There are many varieties of wine, some admittedly more excellent than others, but they are all true wine. There are varying degrees of true love of God, according to our willingness to forsake venial sin, inordinate attachments and imperfections; so too there are varying degrees of true devotion to Mary.
St. Louis, having expressly stated that there are many forms of true devotion, states his claims with regard to the particular practices he advocates:
"But after all, I loudly protest that, having read nearly all the books which profess to treat of devotion to Our Lady, and having conversed familiarly with the best and wisest men of these latter times, I have never known or heard of any practice of devotion toward her at all equal to the one which I now wish to unfold; demanding from the soul, as it does, more sacrifices for God, emptying the soul more of itself and of its self-love, keeping it more faithfully in grace and grace more faithfully in it, uniting it more perfectly and more easily to Jesus Christ; and finally, being more glorious to God, more sanctifying to the soul and more useful to our neighbor than any other of the devotions to her." (T. D. 118).
But we shall refer to St. Louis De Montfort later, and here continue to treat of true devotion in general.
True devotion is like the light of the sun. It touches, or rather permeates, and floods with glory, devotion to her under any title whatsoever, or by any approved practices whatsoever. It is internal and intrinsic, and can bear many external forms. It is the form that gives life and vigor and substance to the prime matter of external and internal practices. For true devotion is love, and true devotion to Mary is simply the real and genuine love of Mary, delighting in every title that can be bestowed upon her, glorying in their number, grieved only by the efforts of those who would seek to narrow their limits or to dim their brilliance.
Shall we limit the Queen to diamonds and deny her emeralds, rubies, sapphires and pearls? Shall we limit her to roses and deny her lilies and orchids?
Never let it be thought that true devotion is a new devotion added to the galaxy, or that it limits anything. It is as wide as love, for it is love, and delights in any and every external expression of genuine affection for our Queen Mother. It rejoices in the light from any and all of the unnumbered facets of the Gem of God------Mary Most Holy, ever a Virgin.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL DEVOTION
What good is gratitude, if it be not shown? What good is love, if no evidence is given of it, nor proof? What good is love that never shines forth in the brightness of a smile, the warmth of expression, the little sacrifices that sound forth with the glory of silver trumpets:
"Thus do I show that it is my will that thou shalt increase and I shall decrease!"
True interior devotion cannot, simply cannot, exist without external manifestation. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matt. 12:34). But the reverse, alas, is not true. External devotion can exist without the internal, but when it does it is meaningless, a mockery, shoddy and worthless.
"This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." (Matt. 15:8). Do not some people pride themselves on being good Christians simply because they go to Divine services with regularity and make donations, while most of the time they are in unrepented mortal sin, enemies of God, having evicted Him from their hearts? What monstrous kind of "devotion" is this?
Of such it is written:
"Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doth the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Many will say to Me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and cast out devils in Thy Name, and done many miracles in Thy Name?
"And then I will profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from Me, you that work iniquity." (Matt. 7: 21-23).
Must not all of us paraphrase the bitter lament of Cardinal Wolsey, and say:
"If I had served my God with half the love I served myself
. . ."
True Devotion is the blindingly splendid spirit; let it enter and inform whatsoever bodies it will, and they shall be beautiful and glorious before the Lord.
Speak for Mary, act for Mary, honor her, glorify and extol her before men, and the spirit and the body shall be united, and stand before the Lord in wondrous beauty, and He shall look upon His handiwork, and see that it is good, and rest.
THE ULTIMATE END OF ALL DEVOTION IS GOD
We must always retain true perspective in our devotions. Mary, great and ineffable as she is, is not the final vanishing point, the focus of all. No one would be so angry as she if we acted on this assumption. Devotion to Mary is not an end in itself. She is the Mediatrix with the Son, and He is the sole Mediator with the Father. It is not she who glorifies herself; it is the Father Who glorifies her. It is the Eternal Father's free will that things be done this way. She is the way unto the Way, the truth unto the Truth, the life unto the Life.
St. Louis De Montfort is among the first to decry any abuse:
"Inasmuch as grace perfects nature, and glory perfects grace" it is certain that Our Lord is still, in Heaven, as much the Son of Mary as He was on earth, and that consequently He has retained the obedience and submission of the most perfect child toward the best of all mothers. But we must take great pains not to conceive this dependence as any imperfection or abasement in Jesus Christ. For Mary is infinitely below her Son, Who is God, and therefore she does not command Him as a mother here below would command her child, who is below her. Mary being altogether transformed by God's grace, and by the glory which transforms all the Saints into Him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing, which is contrary to the eternal and immutable will of God. When we read then in the writing of Sts. Bernard, Bernardine, Bonaventure and others, that in Heaven and on earth, everything, even to God Himself, is subject to the Blessed Virgin, they mean that the authority which God has been well pleased to give her is so great that it seems as if she had the same power as God, and that her prayers and petitions are so powerful with God that they pass for commandments with His Majesty, Who never resists the prayer of His dear Mother because she is always humble and conformed to His Will." (T. D. 27).
St. Louis states as the first fundamental truth of the True Devotion to Mary that "Jesus Christ is the last end of devotion to Mary."
"Jesus Christ our Saviour, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, otherwise they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and 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 is 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 that is not founded on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or later will infallibly 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, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things; we can render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost; we can become perfect ourselves, and be to our neighbor a good odor of eternal life.
"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." (T. D. 61).
And he expresses in a sublime prayer all that is to be hoped for ultimately from true devotion:
"Make me love Thee, my Lord, ardently, so that I may obtain of Thy mercy a true devotion to Thy Holy Mother, and inspire the whole earth with it; and for that end receive the burning prayer which I make to Thee, with St. Augustine and Thy other true friends:
"Thou art Christ my tender God, my great King, my good beautiful and my most 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 Thee, Jesus my God? Where was I when I was not in Thy mind with Thee? Now, from this time forth, do ye, all my desires, grow hot, and flow out upon the Lord Jesus; run, ye have been tardy this far; hasten whither ye are going; seek Whom you are seeking.
"O sweet Jesus, may every good feeling that is fitted for Thy praise, love Thee, admire Thee, delight in Thee. God of my heart, and my portion, Christ Jesus, may my heart faint away in spirit and mayest Thou be my life within me! May the live coal of Thy 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 flow 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 Thee! Amen." (T. D. 67).