Image: (C) Fr Hugh Gillespie SMM
Our recent Holy Fathers have set us a very good and powerful example on giving everything to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to Jesus through Her.
Pope Francis prays at Her altar in Santa Maria Maggiore before and after every trip he makes on behalf of the Church, and he constantly asks us to be devoted to the Mother of God.
And Pope John Paul II consecrated the world to Her Immaculate Heart on the feast of the Annunication, 1984, in Saint Peter’s Square, in response to Her request after the appearances at Fatima.
The greatest proponent of the call to give everything to Mary, was Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. In his masterpiece, Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary, he writes –
“Being the sure means and the straight and immaculate way to go to Jesus Christ, and to find Him perfectly, it is by Her that the holy souls, who are to shine forth especially in sanctity, have to find Our Lord. He who shall find Mary shall find life; that is, Jesus Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.. they will know the grandeurs of that Queen, will consecrate themselves entirely to Her service, as subjects and slaves of love. They will experience Her sweetness and Her maternal goodness, and they will love Her tenderly like well-beloved children. They will know the mercies of which She is full, and the need they have of Her succour; and they will have recourse to Her in all things, as to their dear advocate and mediatrix with Jesus Christ.. and they will deliver themselves to Mary, body and soul, without reserve, that they may thus be all for Jesus Christ.” (n.50 and 55)
Pope John Paul certainly lived out this devotion to Mary – in his own person and also as Vicar of Christ. And in this way, he sent out a strong message on his views on devotion to Mary generally, and to the ‘True Devotion’ in particular. Indeed, it was through this saintly Pope that many came to know for the first time of the life and writings of Saint Louis Marie. Pope John Paul was also greatly devoted to the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, as is already very well-known, and which became even more apparent following the attempt on his life on Her feastday in 1981, with all that came about as a result of this. It is interesting how greatly the works of St Louis Marie prefigure the message that would be given two hundred years later at Fatima by the Mother of God Herself.
In his Treatise On The True Devotion, Saint Louis Marie gives many excellent reasons why we should be entirely devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Amongst them, he notes that as we are subject to sin, pride, and human wekanesses, all we do and all we might achieve alone is similarly affected. Mary, on the other hand, is subject to no such limitiations; She takes what is weak and makes it strong, takes what is dull and makes it shine, purifying it by Her love of God and Her perfect conformity to His divine will. Unlike us, She keeps nothing back for Herself – everything is ordered and directed towards God alone. And by giving ourselves to Her entirely, and following Her example, we learn from Her and begin to walk the path of true sanctity.
Having already proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of the Church, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1967, Pope Paul VI wrote his Apostolic Exhortation ‘Signum Magnum’ (A Great Sign). Within it, is this –
“It is well to bear in mind that Mary’s eminent sanctity was not only a singular gift of divine liberality. It was also the fruit of the continuous and generous cooperation of Her free will in the inner motions of the Holy Spirit. It is because of the perfect harmony between divine grace and the activity of Her human nature that the Virgin rendered supreme glory to the Most Holy Trinity and became the illustrious ornament of the Church, which thus greets Her in sacred Liturgy: ‘You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the honor of our people’.” (SM 28)
With these words, Pope Paul reminded us that – with the exception of the Lord Himself – we could have no greater model of sanctity than She who gives everything to the Most High, She who exults in Him and whose soul proclaims His greatness. She is the perfect model of the Church and of the people of God, striving always for holiness.
He added –
“True devotion to the Most Holy Mary reflects Her virtues.. It is therefore the duty of all Christians to imitate in a reverent spirit the examples of goodness left to them by their heavenly Mother. This, venerable brothers, is the other truth to which we are pleased to call your attention and the attention of the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care..
The general norm “Through Mary to Jesus” is therefore valid also for the imitation of Christ. Nevertheless, let our faith not be perturbed, as if the intervention of a creature in every way similar to us, except as regards sin, offended our personal dignity and prevented the intimacy and immediacy of our relationships of adoration and friendship with the Son of God. Let us rather recognize the ‘goodness and the love of God the Savior,’ Who, condescending to our misery, so remote from His infinite sanctity, wished to make it easier for us to imitate it by giving us as a model the human person of His Mother. She, in fact, among human beings, offers the most shining example and the closest to us, of that perfect obedience whereby we lovingly and readily conform with the will of the eternal Father.” (SM 35 and 38)
The writings of Saint Louis Marie perfectly accord with these words of Pope Paul – indeed, the Holy Father draws from the works of Saint Louis, even to using the particular phrases ‘True Devotion’ and ‘to Jesus through Mary’.
What should be clear to us by now, is that the idea of being truly devoted to Mary and to Jesus through Her, is perfectly in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church, and is heavily proposed to us by the Saints and the Popes of the Church – they not only give us their writings on the matter, but also the example of their own lives, within which burns the fire of sanctity.
Only a stubborn and foolish soul could fail to take this clear message to heart and to examine it carefully in the light of faith and, having done so, only the blind among them could fail to practice what they had learned.
For all of us, may the holy Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be the one to whom we give everything we are and everything we have in order that She might give us more perfectly to Her Son, Our Lord.