JESUS LIVING IN MARY: HANDBOOK OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT
I. The Origins of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin: 1. The Notebook; 2. The use of the Notebook; 3. The use of the Fathers and Scripture; 4. How Montfort used his sources in True Devotion. II. Observations on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin: 1. The manuscript: a. Discovery of the manuscript; b. Condition of the manuscript; c. Date and place of composition; d. Intended readers; 2. The title and divisions in the various editions: a. From the first editions until today; b. Observations on the editions. III. Analysis and Principal Content: 1. First part: True Devotion to Mary (1117): a. Introduction; b. God has decided to begin and accomplish His greatest works through the Blessed Virgin (1436); c. The necessity of devotion to Mary (3759); d. Basic truths of devotion to Mary (6089); e. Choosing and practicing true devotion to Mary (90 117); 2. Second part: The perfect practice of true devotion (118 273): a. The perfect consecration to Jesus Christ (120134); b. The motives which recommend this (135182); c. The Biblical representation of this devotion: Rebecca and Jacob (183212); d. Wonderful effects of this devotion (213225); e. Particular practices of this devotion (226265); 3. Some general remarks: a. True devotion and perfect practice; b. The missionary dimension of Marian devotion; c. Marian devotion and Christian life; d. Receiving Marys spiritual maternity. IV. True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin and Contemporary Christianity: 1. Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium and true devotion to Mary; 2. True devotion to the Blessed Virgin and John Paul II: a. The Marian piety of Karol Wojtyla and true devotion; b. The official teaching of John Paul II. V. Conclusion.
True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, considered by most to be the masterpiece of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, is undeniably the work that has most effectively spread his name and the specific devotion to Mary that marked his spiritual journey. This article will deal briefly with the sources of the book, its contents, and its relevance for contemporary men and women.
I. THE ORIGINS OF TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
The development of Saint Louis Maries personal devotion to Our Lady is well documented in the Handbook (cf. articles on Saint Louis de Montfort, Mary, and Consecration). We will limit ourselves, therefore, to a study of the written sources of the TD.
Having read nearly every book on devotion to the Blessed Virgin (TD 118); I shall quote one only of the many passages which I have collected from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church (TD 41). Montfort accumulated a significant amount of literature. As Librarian at Saint- Sulpice he could take advantage of his privileged circumstances and consult the works that interested him.1
1. The Notebook
Montforts notebook (N) has proven exceptionally useful in identifying his sources. Through patient research, Father P.H. Eyckeler has succeeded in tracing the majority of passages that Montfort copied or summarized in his notebook to their original authors, so that we can see the authors from whom Montfort borrowed and who contributed indirectly to True Devotion.2 Study of the notebook reveals Montforts preoccupations while he kept it. Several broad fields of interest emerge: general information on Marian doctrine, such as is found in Poiré (whose influence is scattered throughout TD); the necessity of true devotion and the signs of true and false devotion (from Crasset); responses to those who object to devotion to the Holy Virgin in general and holy slavery in particular, as well as arguments in support of such devotion (from Crasset, from whom Montfort gathered considerable Patristic documentation, and from others such as Grenier and the Capuchin dArgentan); and passages referring to some particular issue discussed in TD, e.g., devotion to the Virgin as a sign of predestination (from dArgentan, Carthagena, Bourgoing, Boissieu, Nicquet, and others), the particularly important theme of Jesus living in Mary and the Incarnation (from dArgentan, Bourgoing, Olier, and others), the communion of Mary or, as it becomes in TD, with Mary (from Bernardine of Paris and Boissieu), consecration and the baptismal vows (from Bérulle). Toward the end of the notebook there are texts that testify to his interest in Jesus as the center and consummation of the spiritual life (notably from Saint-Jure and Nepveu).3
2. The use of the Notebook
There are several important observations to be made on Montforts use of his notebook as he composed the book that is now called True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
To begin with, it is interesting to discover which texts Montfort chose to use and which he ignored in the authors he consulted. On one hand, he chose texts based on his own interests (and we know that he was more interested in what bore directly on the spiritual life rather than in the purely speculative); on the other hand, his spiritual intuition, applied to balanced theology, led him to put aside some exaggerated material (as can be found notably in Poiré). Certainly not everything that he copied into his notebook found its way into TD.4 His deepening personal and pastoral experience enabled him to sort his texts and choose what he needed. As a result, we cannot draw a pure and simple connection between his text and his sources.
In addition, the extent to which St. Louis Marie was genuinely influenced by the authors we find in his notebook is not proportional to the amount of space they occupy there,5 nor to the number of direct references to their work in the text of TD.6 There are some works that Montfort read that were especially influential for him but that are mentioned very little in his writing or not at all, such as Boudons book, God Alone, or the Holy Slavery of the Admirable Mother of God.7
Finally, we must still return to the authors original texts to determine what Montfort chose to adopt and what he passed over, and to understand the meaning of the summaries that he occasionally composed instead.8 This task can sometimes illuminate the meaning these authors gave to words such as predestined or predestination. Boissieu or DArgentan argued that, without prejudicing the sovereign and mysterious action of God, predestination to salvation, which God desires for all mankind because God desires that all men should be saved, requires the freely given response of mankind. Those who accept grace are thus predestined, whereas those who refuse it fall into reprobation. Rather than attempt to discover predestination in God (where it is and will remain for us an unfathomable mystery), they prefer to examine it at the existential level, stating that predestination and reprobation appear to depend on the will of mankind.9 With this we can see much more clearly how St. Louis de Montfort (who had no need to become involved in theoretical considerations on this subject) uses these words, particularly when he speaks of devotion to Mary as a preeminent mark of predestination.
3. The use of the Fathers and Scripture
The importance that Montfort attached to Scripture and the Tradition is evident. Most of the patristic references in TD can be found in the works cited in N, notably in Crasset;10 a number of Scripture passages are also taken from those works.
4. How Montfort used his sources in TD
When we see the abundance and the precision of the documentation on which Montfort drew,11 it is tempting to wonder whether TD is not simply a compilation of many different authors whose works Montfort more or less plundered. However, this is not the case.
First of all, we have seen how Montfort selectively chose his texts while compiling his documentation. This was one way of putting his own imprint on the material he collected. His information also reveals one of his abiding traits in all its richness: he would listen and learn, and he wanted to obey, but his obedience was never blindly conformist. He perceived the world around him in a way that was part of his nature but that also derived from a spiritual intuition connected to the inspiration of the Spirit: Montfort emerges as a true mystic. His readings nourished him spiritually, but to some extent they were filtered through his own experience. And as he progressed in his journey, his ability to discern what could be integrated into his personal synthesis and what would allow him to convey that synthesis continued to grow. In TD he presents us with the product of his rumination and assimilation, renewed and developed,12 so that it became his own; his work is personal and, on a number of points, original.
II. OBSERVATIONS ON TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
The manuscript has its own history and is itself capable of speaking to us; likewise, the way in which it has been edited reveals how the book has been understood at different points of its history.
1. The manuscript
a. Discovery of the manuscript.
On April 22, 1842, a Montfort father, Father Rautureau, the librarian at the Mother House in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, discovered a manuscript that attracted his attention; on looking at it more closely he immediately recognized the stamp of Father de Montfort. The superior general at the time, Father Dalin, identified the handwriting as that of Father de Montfort and, when he had become aware of the manuscripts contents, declared to the congregation, We have found a treasure! He was right.13 How could such a treasure have lain in oblivion for more than a century? For reasons we do not know, Father Montfort never published it, although his intention as he wrote the book was certainly to bring it before the public (TD 112). Why did Montforts earliest successors neglect to carry out this project? We have no answer to that question, but history tells us that it was through neither oversight nor disaffection with the Marian aspect of the founders spirituality: they faithfully respected Marys role in their missions;14 among the Daughters of Wisdom, Marie Louise of Jesus would in no way renounce this inheritance.15 In any case, during the French Revolution the manuscript was entrusted to some local farmers, along with some other items that were thought to be in danger of being destroyed, and was buried in trunks underground, lending prophetic significance to the following passage in the book: I clearly foresee that raging beasts will come in fury to tear to pieces with their diabolical teeth this little book and the one the Holy Spirit made use of to write it, or they will cause it at least to lie hidden in the darkness and silence of a chest and so prevent it from seeing the light of day (TD 114).
b. Condition of the manuscript.
Evidence suggests that the manuscript is materially incomplete.16 The editors of the Complete Works calculated that somewhere between eighty- four and ninety-six pages must be missing from the beginning of the work.17 Must we conclude that we have only a portion of the book that this holy missionary wrote? An internal examination suggests as much. On three occasions the text refers to the first part of the book: in TD 227 (as I have recommended in the first part of this preparation for the reign of Jesus Christ), again in TD 228 (Every day they should say the Litany of the Holy Spirit, with the prayer that follows, as indicated in the first part of this work), and in a further reference to the first part in TD 256. In addition, in TD 230, Montfort speaks of the prayer of Saint Augustine which they will find at the beginning of the second part of this book, although in fact this prayer is at TD 67. Add to this that the manuscript we possess has no title (which is not typical of Montfort), and we can scarcely avoid concluding that a first part has been lost and that, based on what we read in TD 227, the entire work was to be a preparation for the reign of Jesus Christ. This confirms the essentially Christological objective of Marian devotion in general, and its perfect practice, as Montfort describes them.
The manuscript may be truncated at its end as well as at its beginning. TD 231 and 236 give rise to this suspicion, because they refer, respectively, to an act of consecration and to a blessing for little chains, said to be found at the end of this book, like the method for communion which can in fact be found at the end of TD.
Also, the manuscript includes only five subtitles, and the first does not appear until TD 120.18
c. Date and place of composition.
The few elements that give us a clue as to the books date and place of composition are derived from internal examination and can only be considered approximations. The first reference is the following statement from Montfort: I have taken up my pen to write down what I have been teaching with success both publicly and in private in my missions for many years (TD 110). One senses that Montfort has such command of his subject that, as soon as he has taken up his pen, the words and sentences flow effortlessly. In addition, the work is so well organized that it suggests long meditation. This leads us to the conclusion that it was a work of St. Louis Maries maturity.
We cannot conclude much from the allusion in TD 159 to the death of Father Boudon (who died a short time ago) in 1702. The phrase is simply too vague.
How long did it take Montfort to write the work? The hypothesis that it was largely written in one continuous burst of inspiration is not unlikely.19 The book would have to have been written during an adequately long period of tranquillity in the missionarys life. The autumn of 1712, when he sojourned at the hermitage of St. Éloi in La Rochelle, was one such period. That is the date that has traditionally been favored.20
d. Intended readers.
Montfort spoke of his intention of addressing his book to the poor and simple rather than to the so-called intellectuals (TD 26). He did not aim his work at an educated or cultural elite. He used a relatively simple style and vocabulary, and a method of argumentation that is largely accessible. Our saint undoubtedly merits the title of a born mediator between scholarly religion and popular religion.21 Even today, experience demonstrates that he accomplished his objective: many persons of simple faith find themselves completely at ease with the text of TD. He also fulfilled another objective, probably unintentionally: his book has unfailingly given rise to interest from and reflection by theologians, who continue to find it profoundly rich and contemporary.
2. The Title and Divisions of the Various Editions
a. From the first editions until today.
Since 1842, the year it was discovered, publication of the manuscript has been an ongoing preoccupation. Permission was granted by René- François Soyer, bishop of Luçon, on December 18, 1842, and the work appeared in 1843. The person responsible for this first edition was a Director of the Seminary of Luçon, now identified as Augustin Grillard, who entered the Company of Mary on October 6, 1851.22 The first editors chose the title by which the book is universally known today, Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. They also divided the book into sections in order to make it more accessible: after an Introduction (113), they proposed a First part. On devotion to the Blessed Virgin in general (14114), followed by a Second part. On the most excellent devotion to the Blessed Virgin, or the perfect consecration to Jesus through Mary (corresponding to 115273).
This division points to the distinction between true devotion (the object of the first part) and perfect practice of true devotion, i.e., total consecration of oneself to Jesus by the hands of Mary, or holy slavery, according to Montfort (the object of the second part). In light of this, the title Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin seems completely appropriate, because it does not solely encompass either true devotion to the Blessed Virgin or the perfect practice of this devotion.
In 1921, a new French edition appeared,23 divided differently, with a system of progressive numbering.24 In place of the two parts of the previous editions there were eight successive chapters, with an Introduction (113) and a supplement (266273). Although there were reasons for making these modifications, they do not seem to have put a stop to an evolution in expression that was already in progress and that would not be without consequence: true devotion had come to be discussed entirely in terms of its perfect practice. This is not an unusual phenomenon in language: a generic term that is used to apply to a whole, eventually comes to refer to an essential element of that whole. The initiated can grasp the correct meaning (one hopes), but others may become lost. It is not at all difficult to find multiple examples of this kind of drift in meaning.25
With the 1966 edition of the French Complete Works, we come to a third stage. The traditional title was retained; however, we thought it useful to add as a subtitle for the work, the description that Father de Montfort himself used, in TD 127: Preparation for the Reign of Jesus Christ. 26 This has the advantage of emphasizing the Christological objective of the work. The editors once again divided the book into two parts: Necessity of devotion to Our Lady (159), and In what devotion to Mary consists (60265), with a Supplement: Method of practicing this devotion at Holy Communion (266273).
There were evident and worthwhile reasons for choosing this approach. One can still argue that the divisions adopted by the books first editors ought for the most part to be retained, in order to highlight the books structure. The work would then be ordered as follows: I. True devotion to the Blessed Virgin (1117): 1. Necessity of devotion to Our Lady (159), 2. In what devotion to Mary consists (60117); II. The perfect practice of devotion to Mary (or: The way of Montfort) (118 273), with the same divisions that are found in GA.
In this way, two important points would immediately be made clear. The first is the fundamental distinction between true devotion and its perfect practice. The second is that the original cast of Montforts mind, as it is displayed throughout the book, including the first part (if we assume that what is missing is equally specific), is evidence of a personal method for understanding and presenting consecration in holy slavery, so that it becomes his own, in a sense, and he can present the perfect practice of true devotion as an authentic spiritual path.27
b. Observations on the editions.
In 1902 there were sixty-seven editions of TD in eight languages; in 1956, there were 253 editions in eighteen languages. We can form an idea of the amazing international distribution of TD through a brief sampling of some publication figures for 1902 and 1956, not counting editions published by the Montfort missionaries: In Germany/Switzerland/Austria, there were five editions in 1902 and in 1956, twenty. In England, there were nineteen editions in 1902 and in 1956, thirty. In America, there were three editions before 1902 and about a dozen editions in 1956. The same trend is true for the Netherlands and Italy, not to mention the Spanish-speaking countries. In addition, there have been editions of Montforts writings in fifteen countries where the Montfort community has never had a presence.28 This is notable, because it demonstrates that others, outside of the Montfort family, have undertaken to spread the word about the Marian way of Montfort, which is all to the good. Although the Montfort family recognizes that its founders message belongs to the entire Church, it must also be aware that the family of Saint Louis Marie is the living custodian of the treasure. It does, therefore, fall to the Montfort community to ensure, as far as possible, that the purity of this message be respected and, in particular, that it not be used for partisan or sectarian ends, as it sometimes, unhappily and deplorably, has been.
At the time of writing, there are about four hundred editions in more than thirty languages. The momentum of the book worldwide shows no sign of slowing down.
To what is this success due? We can attribute it partly to the intrinsic value and universality of Montforts work. It can also be attributed to the concordanceespecially evident todaybetween the crux of de Montforts doctrine and the teaching of the Magisterium.
III. ANALYSIS AND PRINCIPAL CONTENT
In order to analyze the major teachings of TD, we will follow the divisions proposed in GA, except with respect to the two principal parts.
1. First part: true devotion to Mary (TD 1117)
a. Introduction (TD 113).
TD 113 can be better understood if the reader keeps in mind that they were to introduce a second part, the Preparation for the Reign of Jesus Christ, and that as a result they are joined to what was to have preceded them. The main reason that Montfort speaks of Mary, which he does with special joy (TD 13), is that it is through Mary that Christ must become known (TD 13) and through Mary that he must come to reign more and more, because it is through her that he came into the world (TD 1, 13). We can already see here the principal lines of approach that Montfort will develop: Marys reason for being, and thus Father de Montforts reason for speaking of her, is Jesus Christ; Marys essential link with her Son, and the reason for her role in the coming of Christs kingdom, can be found in the mystery of the Incarnation. Thus, as Mary becomes better known in all her wealth and splendor, as God made her and reveals her to us (because only He knows her [TD 26, 1013]) so too will Jesus become better known. It is from this perspective that Montfort can adopt for his own purposes the De Maria nunquam satis, but his context insures him against an excessive application of the axiom, because he is already speaking of fundamental first truths (TD 6189). This Christological absolutism, which he early on asserts quite strongly, gives St. Louis Maries text a tone that illuminates all true Marian devotion.29
b. God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin (TD 14-36).
TD 14 and 15 have the value of fundamental truths, not to be forgotten. Montfort tells us that God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin. But he immediately affirms that, whatever Marys greatness and however important a role we must acknowledge for her in carrying out the plan of salvation, she owes all to God, Who gives in absolute gratuitousness, and Who has no need except that which originates in His will. Because God is God, the place that Mary holds in the realization of the Incarnation indicates for us the place she must always hold in carrying out the plan of salvation.
What then is Marys role in the Incarnation? The three Persons have freely decided that They need her to play a role in an association wherein her dignity and responsibility are perfectly respected (TD 16). But Montfort goes considerably further, tying Marys maternity toward the Word made flesh to her maternity of grace toward us, always conforming to the design of the three divine Persons and dependent on their action (TD 17-22). Here again we seeand his notebook confirmshow Montfort drew on the ideas of the authors he had studied but gave those ideas an expression and strength that were entirely his own.
TD 22 is itself a small masterwork of profundity, concision, and preciseness. In it, Montfort seeks the light within the mystery of the Incarnation that will allow him to affirm that Marys maternal mission toward us will continue to the end of time until the last coming of Jesus Christ; for him, in effect, the entire plan of salvation is carried out according to what might be called the law of the Incarnation, and this law requires Marys presence and maternal action. Therefore, Mary receives from the three divine Persons all that is necessary for her to fill the maternal mission toward us with which she has been entrusted (TD 2336).
We should note several things here. The first is the importance of the Trinitarian aspect, which becomes all the more forceful as the three divine Persons are perceived concretely through their action in Mary, and this action is completely directed toward our salvation. If we read closely, we will realize that Gods love and attention toward Mary are the sign and token of His love for us. Here as elsewhere when he grapples with other mysteries of faith, the Father from Montfort draws his inspiration above all from the economy, i.e., the history of salvation, as his frequent study of the Fathers and Scripture in particular has revealed it to him. We find in Montfort an excellent example of living Trinitarian theology.
Second, St. Louis Marie does a remarkable job of explaining and locating the association of Mary and the Holy Spirit, which allows him to describe its most profound consequences for spiritual life in general (TD 3436, 43), for what Montfort calls the apostles of the end times (TD 49, 57), and for all those who wish to undertake perfect practice of true devotion (cf., e.g., TD 25859). We can trace this inspiration to the Bérullian tradition, with which he was in contact through Saint Sulpice, but which he raised to a quite extraordinary level (prompting Cardinal Suenens to say, Montfort has written pages on the subject of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary that have never been equaled30). In this way, he gives the title Spouse of the Holy Spirit, which was common among other authors and of which he is especially fond, a new meaning for the tradition of spiritual maternity. For Montfort, the completely spiritual association of the Spirit and Mary, by which they carry out the Incarnation, can only continue and lead in time to their giving birth to the whole Christ, i.e., Christ as the Head of the Body and us, its members.31
c. The necessity of devotion to Mary (TD 3759).
Mary is necessary to us because God has freely willed that she should be. This conclusion follows naturally from what has been said before (TD 39), but, because Montfort knows well that what should be obvious will nonetheless be disputed, he gives several arguments (TD 4345). Then he discusses two consequences of this. First, the more one is called to a special perfection, the greater is ones need for Mary (TD 4345). Second, as the battle against the forces of evil grows fiercer, Marys presence and aid will become even more necessary (TD 4659).
d. Basic truths of devotion to Mary (TD 6089).
The truths that Montfort presents, basic to all true devotion to Mary, are all the more valuable for the remarkable and sound devotion that he wishes to teach us (TD 60), and which he calls the perfect practice of true devotion. The first principle expresses Father de Montforts Christological absolutism with a force, even a vehemence, that would be difficult to equal (TD 6162). In effect, it is respect for this first truth that justifies all devotion, but it also allows Montfort to propose, later on, its most extreme possible consequences. We should note the degree to which Montfort unburdens his heart in 6567, which are written in a confidential tone.
Similarly, the second principleWe belong to Jesus and Mary as their slaves (TD 6877)also has general implications for all Marian devotion, but it finds its ultimate application in holy slavery, as presented by Montfort. Here again, Jesus is primary, in an absolute sense. Marys relative place with respect to Jesus is once again underscored with remarkable theological accuracy (TD 74). It is worth mentioning that Montfort, as if carried away by his own impetus, already begins to justify his conception of holy slavery (TD 7577).32
The three other principles (TD 7889) may require commentary because of their manner of expression, since they are influenced by the cultural climate in which the saint evolved, as should be expected. But we must be careful not to allow the basic truths they contain to slip away from us, even if they prove shocking to a contemporary mentality.
e. Choosing and practicing true devotion to Mary (TD 90117).
We can only emphasize the accuracy of Montforts observations on false devotion (TD 92104). They may have been inspired by Crasset and Tronson, but they bear the stamp of Montfort, including his style. This is also true of the marks of authentic devotion (TD 10514) and the principal practices (TD 11517). Observe that, for Montfort, by virtue of these principles, all true devotion to Mary must be closely joined to Christian life and its demands.
2. Second part: the Perfect practice of true devotion (TD 118-273)
Here we have arrived where Montfort has been leading us: to the perfect practice of true devotion, his own path, which he owes to the legacy he inherited from his precursors and his own additions to that legacy.33 We should note how, in TD 119, he acknowledges that there are degrees of this devotion, and also that we can only attain the fullness of such devotion through the Spirit of Jesus.
a. The perfect consecration to Jesus Christ (TD 12034).34
This is the first subtitle from Montforts own hand: it refers to the perfect practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin who will lead us perfectly to Jesus, in accordance with the first principle of all true devotion. Our explicit and absolute completion in Christ is, as we have previously noted, one of Montforts principal contributions, allowing him to push the gift of oneself to Mary and dependence on Mary to their ultimate consequences.35
The objective is to advance toward union with Jesus, in which Christian perfection consists. Now, of all Gods creatures Mary is the most conformed to Jesus. It therefore follows that, of all devotions, devotion to her makes for the most effective consecration and conformity to him . . . That is why perfect consecration to Jesus is but a perfect and complete consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin, which is the devotion I teach; or in other words, it is the perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism (TD 120).36 We now find ourselves at the very heart of the Christian life, centered on Christ and established by baptism and the promises it entails (cf. TD 126131).
In order to belong entirely to Jesus Christ through Mary, ones gift of oneself must be total and absolute. With a precision and meticulousness that invite us to take him very seriously, Montfort explains exactly what this gift consists of (TD 121). It is so radical as to include surrendering our merits, insofar as this is possible (TD 12223). However, the totality of this gift does not conflict in any way with the obligations of our state of life (TD 124).
But how can we address such a gift to Mary? It seems to involve an act of latria that ought only to be addressed to God.37 In a few authoritative words, Montfort responds to this objection: if the gift of oneself to Mary and to Jesus is identical in extent, it is not identical in its nature. This gift does not stop with Mary, but passes through her, because she is the perfect means to unite himself to us and unite us to him, so that we may reach Jesus, our last end. Since he is our Redeemer and our God we are indebted to him for all that we are. It follows that we consecrate ourselves at one and the same time [i.e., by the same act] to Mary and to Jesus (TD 125). This is extremely important. If we do not understand that this complete gift of oneself must finally be addressed to Jesus Christ, we are not truly understanding St. Louis de Montfort. Neither is our understanding complete if we think that we can make this radical consecration to Mary alone, for in that event we would open ourselves to charges of mariolatry. Nor is our understanding complete if we see in Montforts formulas only a manner of speaking that should not be taken literally, for in that case we would rob the act of consecration of its content. In each case, we are distancing ourselves from Montfort, who, more than his predecessors, was adept at finding the right expressions and making accurate explanations.
b. The motives which recommend this devotion (TD 13582).
This section, in which Montfort discusses reasons for undertaking this perfect practice, does not require particular comment. We need only emphasize the importance of the second motive: this devotion helps us to imitate Christ (TD 13940). Regardless of whether a given spiritual path integrates every other essential element of Christian life, none is worthy of the name if it does not acknowledge the value to be gained in imitating Christ. Submission to Mary is a true but not the only element of Montfort spirituality; to some extent it gives this spirituality its evangelical basis.38 The fifth motive runs along the same lines: This devotion is a smooth, short, perfect, and sure way of attaining union with our Lord, in which Christian perfection consists (TD 15268). Here we are invited to imitate Jesus by following the same path that he took to come to us. Note the care that Montfort takes to show, like Boudon (or Jobert) before him, that this devotion is rooted in the Christian tradition.
c. The Biblical representation of this perfect devotion: Rebecca and Jacob (TD 183212).
Montfort consciously distinguishes between the story of Rebecca and Jacob as the Holy Spirit tells it and his own account of the story (TD 183). This account allows him to return to two themes that are dear to him: devotion to Mary as a sign of predestination, and Marys maternal devotion to her children and the good services that she renders to them (TD 185-212).
d. Wonderful effects of this devotion (TD 21325).
The section on the wonderful effects that this devotion must produce if it is faithfully undertaken, can be read as Montforts personal testimony of his own experience. He felt these effects, from the humility that true knowledge of oneself brings (TD 213), to a share in Marys faith (TD 214), the gift of pure love (TD 215), great confidence in God and in Mary (TD 216), the communication of the spirit of Mary (TD 217), our transformation into the likeness of Jesus through Mary, with the remarkable image of the mold of Mary (TD 21821), and finally, the greater glory of Christ (TD 22225). It is here especially that we can speak of a spiritual self-portrait.
e. Particular practices of this devotion (TD 226265).
Montfort himself does not insist on the distinction between exterior practices (TD 226 56) and interior practices (TD 25766).
The first exterior practice he speaks of is the solemn act of consecration. We must be suitably prepared for this, and the preparation is to be serious and lengthy (one month). Although another method of preparation may be used, the consecration requires sufficient time for reflection and prayer; otherwise, such an act of devotion might be rendered commonplace. In addition, this must be truly personal in character: St. Louis Marie speaks of the signature of the act of consecration.
All the practices that he lists are valuable (and Montfort tells us that the list is far from exhaustive [TD 226]). Of particular interest, however, are the special devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation (TD 24348) and the devotion to the chaplet (or the Rosary), because of their close and almost organic connection to the spirit of perfect practice as described by Montfort.
With the interior practices (TD 257265), we come to an essential aspect of both the Marian way of Montfort and of the act of consecration. On this point, SM is perfectly clear: perfect practice consists in surrendering oneself in the manner of a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through her, and then performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary (SM 28; cf. 43). SM and TD are speaking of the same interior practice, although the order of the formulas is different and the Christological end is made more explicit in TD 257.
If interpreted literally, the terms used in TD 257for those souls who feel called by the Holy Spirit to a high degree of perfectionmay present some difficulty: are we to conclude that, in Montforts view, only a privileged elite can observe this practice? This depends on how we take the word privileged. If we take Montforts statements as a whole, we realize that he is in no way referring to those who are privileged according to the criteria of the world. If, on the other hand, we understand him as referring to those who are privileged with grace, we might find agreement if we also understand that all are called to evangelical perfection and that Gods grace is offered to all so that we may achieve it. But, as with predestination, the appeal may be heard or refused. Thus we cannot invoke this passage in deciding to whom we will deliver Montforts message, any more than we can decide to whom we will proclaim the Gospel. Qui potest capere, capiat, and no one can identify in advance those who will be able, because of special grace or generosity, to grasp what is offered them.
In any case, in order to carry out the project of life included in the act of consecration, it is evident that one must strive to live with Mary so that one can better live with Jesus. Otherwise ones act of consecration may have no future. The gift and total abandonment of self that are part of the act of consecration are not prerequisite to that consecration. In that case, only those who were already established in the fullness of perfection would be capable of it, which is certainly not Montforts intention. We must thus conclude that there is a plan, and that what allows us to contemplate this plan seriously is a consciousness that Christ invites us to participate in it (Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect; cf. SM 3) and an efficacious desire to offer ourselves in an act of trust and hope. Efficacious desire is a desire that will lead to a genuine effort toward realizing the gift of oneself with the intention of becoming consecrated. Interior practices are the best method for accomplishing this, provided we carry them out tirelessly. This is why Montfort could say that his way was sure and, as it were, unfailing.
By way of conclusion, Montfort gives us an example of his devotion: This Devotion at Holy Communion (TD 26673).
3. Some General Remarks
a. True devotion and perfect practice.
It is very important to recognize the distinction between a true devotion to Mary and perfect practice of true devotion according to St. Louis de Montfort. The first has by right been imposed absolutely on all of us, because God desires it; it can and must be made an obligation for all those who are aware of the mission that God Himself entrusted to Mary. We also have a pastoral duty to bring other faithful Christians to true devotion.
On the other hand, while we can propose perfect practice, it cannot by any means be made an obligation for all of us; nor can we simply assert that perfect devotion to Mary is impossible unless we adopt the way advocated by Montfort. Therefore, we must also make a distinction between an attitude toward Mary that may reach perfection in some other way than that explicitly advocated by Montfort (although it will include essential aspects of Montforts approach, in spirit if not in fact), and perfect practice of true devotion. The term practice here refers to precise methods, codified to some extent, that one consciously attempts to put into use.
Montfort is justified in describing his practice as perfect, because it demands the radical step of giving oneself to Christ and because Mary exists as its perfect means (TD 12026). He is also justified in emphasizing the relative ease of this practice and the advantages that it offers for advancing toward perfection, thanks to the gift of oneself to Mary and the constant collaboration with her (cf., e.g., TD 15268). He never suggests that this is the only way of attaining perfection in Christian life. The strength of Montfort lies in his having presented, as no one had before him, 1) true devotion to Mary and why it is necessary, and 2) the consecration to Mary and holy slavery to her, which led him to total consecration to Christ at Marys hands. In this way, the word consecration takes on its full theological value, embodying all that it should.
b. The missionary dimension of Marian devotion.
It would be surprising if Montfort had not grasped and articulated the apostolic dimension of all true Marian devotion. Although he does not include this dimension among the visible marks of true devotion, we would not be betraying him to consider it one. It is naturally connected to Mary and her mission: if she was made to lead us to Christ and help us to know him, how could she not urge her children forward on this same path? Whatever can be said of true devotion (e.g. TD 48, 5759, 62, 113) can a fortiori be said of its perfect practice (e.g. TD 17172, 214, 265).
c. Marian devotion and Christian life.
Because, in Montforts view, all true devotion to Mary has Christ and union with Christ as its ultimate objective, it cannot be pushed to one side of the Christian life; in fact, it must be placed at the very heart of Christian life. And the greater the devotion to Mary, the more apparent it must be that union with Christ is its goal. Therefore, perfect practice is equivalent in effect to the perfect renewal of baptismal promises. This explains why it is truly simple, because it includes no obligations that are new to those who wish to embrace it. After we are consecrated, we must attempt to accomplish all that our state of life requires, in the spirit of interior practice. Again, we need to find methods of doing this, and so it is useful to have recourse to these particular practices, which are flexible and bountiful and can be observed as far as ones circumstances and state of life permit (TD 257).
d. Receiving Marys spiritual maternity.
At the beginning of True Devotion, Montfort immerses us in the atmosphere of Marys spiritual maternity toward us, which he sees as the direct (and, in Gods plan, necessary) extension of her maternity toward Jesus. For Montfort, Mary becomes our Mother by virtue of the Incarnation. He thus sees in Marys behavior toward Jesus the model of her behavior toward us; he also sees in Jesus dependence on Mary, for his life and his worldly education (because in terms of his mission he is clearly the Teacher), the model of what must be our dependence on her, as children of God. Mary has dominion over us, exerts power over us, which is why we are dependent on her (TD 37, 7477), but we must realize that it is in the end a dominion or power that is based on her divine maternity extending into spiritual maternity. Therefore, our dependence, our slavery, must be characterized by filial love.
IV. TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN AND CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIANITY
The present-day appeal of TD is reflected in the new editions that are published regularly in many languages, and this appeal seems to be increasing rather than decreasing. This is a clear sign that the book continues to respond to needs and expectations. But two major reasons for this enduring appeal today deserve to be noted.
1. Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium and True Devotion to Mary
We must begin by emphasizing that the Second Vatican Council wished to place its Marian teaching in a context that is broadly similar to that in which Montfort developed. The title of Chapter 8The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and the Churchexpresses a fundamental preoccupation of the Council: to contemplate the Virgin, from the standpoint of Scripture and Tradition, in her most profound reality, viz., in her relationship with Christ. Here we discover the fundamental reason for Marys existence and her relationship with the Church (i.e., with us), which is derived from her relationship with Christ in the mystery of salvation, as Gods plan decrees. We can immediately see that this is also Montforts perspective.
Therefore, we will find the same conclusions, beginning with Marys mission in the Church in general and with respect to each of us in particular, and the need for the Church and for each of us to respond to her mission. In other words, devotion to Mary is necessary. Although the Council does not use the word devotion, it is led to draw the same conclusion: Taught by the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother (LG 53); This sacred Synod intends to describe with diligence the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body. It also wishes to describe the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God, who is mother of Christ and mother of men (LG 54). Montfort would be entirely comfortable with these affirmations.39
Thus, the Councils approach, based on Scripture and Tradition, was within bounds that Montfort would recognize. Of course, the Council could draw on contemporary exegesis and patristics, whereas Montfort could draw only on those available in his day. But the path that each took to discover Mary and her mission is largely the same. So it is not difficult to enrich Montforts text with the contributions of Vatican II.
There is another issue to be raised. We have seen that Montfort was not content with a solid intellectual foundation for his arguments. He also referred to his own personal and pastoral experience, in his conviction that the Spirit was with him always. Likewise, the Synod was ready to cite the experience of the Church: The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary [i.e., her maternal role in total dependence on Christ]. She experiences it continuously and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer (LG 62).
The Council insists several times on the absolute primacy of Christ and on Marys relative status next to him (with which Montfort would be fully in agreement), so that it can illuminate true Marian piety in all its aspects.40 The marks of genuine devotion that Montfort described can be found in Lumen Gentium, if in rather different language.41 Here are two texts, the first from Vatican II, the second from Montfort, that demonstrate how far they agree on the nature of true devotion: Let the faithful remember moreover that true devotion consists neither in fruitless and passing emotion, nor in a certain vain credulity. Rather, it proceeds from true faith (LG 67); a good and faithful servant of Mary is guided in all his life by faith in Jesus and Mary, and not by feelings (TD 109).
We should also note how Mary is empowered by her elevation to glory to exercise fully her spiritual maternity. And for both Vatican II and Montfort this maternity becomes the site and the setting for our vital and contemporary encounter with her.42
It should be clear that underscoring these points of agreement is not to suggest that Vatican II addressed every issue that Montfort raised (beginning with the perfect practice of true devotion) or that Montfort is the sole author or devotee of Mary with whom such a strong connection could be established. But it is comforting and important to see that this basic agreement exists. Father H.-M. Manteau-Bonamy, an expert at the Synod, gives us this explanation: Knowing that Monsignor Philips had drafted the outline for 5259, and seeing that he liked to invoke Marys role as a new Eve, I asked him, Did you consult Father de Montforts True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin? and he answered, I did not have it physically in front of me, but it was in my memory and in my heart while I was drafting this outline. 43
2. True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and John Paul II
John Paul II has made no secret of his ties to Montfort. We will discuss what bearing the saint has had on his personal piety and his teaching as the vicar of Christ.
a. The Marian piety of Karol Wojtyla and True Devotion.
Pope John Paul II has himself spoken of his encounter with Montfort in TD and its consequences for his life:
My life reached a decisive turning point when I read this book. I say turning point although in fact it was part of an interior journey that coincided with my secret preparation for the priesthood. It was then that this singular book fell into my hands, one of those books of which one can say that simply having read it is not enough. I remember carrying it with me for a long time, even to the soda works, to the point that there were lime stains all over its beautiful cover. I realized right away that there was something fundamental contained within that baroque style. From that point on, the devotion of my childhood and even of my adolescence to the Mother of God gave way to a new attitude, a devotion rising from the depths of my faith, as if from the very heart of the trinitarian and Christological reality.
Whereas previously I had held back for fear that devotion to Mary would obscure Christ rather than give him precedence, I understood with the light of Grignions book that in truth it was entirely different. Our interior relationship to the Mother of God is the organic outgrowth of our connection to the mystery of Christ. So it is impossible that one should prevent us from seeing the other.44
In fact, quite the contrary: true devotion to the Blessed Virgin reveals itself more and more clearly in those who advance in the mystery of Christ, the Word incarnate, and in the trinitarian mystery of salvation, which has this mystery at its center. We might even say that Christ himself appoints his mother to those who strive to know and to love him, as he did at Calvary for his disciple John.45
This account in itself, independent of the personality of the man who is giving it, is extraordinarily revelatory of how Montforts teaching always remains contemporary. John Paul II did not hesitate to follow it to its very conclusion, to the perfect practice of true devotion. The papal motto he has chosen, Totus tuus, calls this to mind.
b. The official teaching of John Paul II.
It would be a labor of love to look for possible traces of Montforts influence in the many pronouncements of the Pope, and to understand the light by which John Paul understood and used Montforts writing.46 We will confine ourselves to the exceptional contribution made by his encyclical on the Mother of the Redeemer to the subject of perfect practice.
For John Paul II, the Marian Year is meant to promote a new and more careful reading of what the Council said about the Blessed Virgin Mary (RM 48). He is referring not only to the doctrine of faith, but also to the life of faith, and thus of authentic Marian spirituality, which, like its corresponding devotion, finds a very rich source in the historical experience of individuals and of the various Christian communities present among the different peoples and nations of the world. And here he introduces a passage that speaks directly of Montfort: In this regard, I would like to recall, among the many witnesses and teachers of this spirituality, the figure of Saint Louis Marie Grignion Montfort, who proposes consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary, as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments. This passage gives an excellent summary definition of perfect practice. And without resorting to triumphalism, we might note that this is the sole reference in the encyclical to a spiritual teacher and the specific path that he proposes. We cannot ask for clearer testimony to the contemporary quality of Montforts message as presented in TD.
Montfort is one of those persons who leave an indelible mark on the history of the Church because of the intensity of their experience of God, thus they attain a kind of universality and permanence, transcending the marks of their own culture and era. This was the case for Saint Louis de Montfort.
Notes: (1) As evidence we have the catalog of the Library of Saint- Sulpice, in five volumes, in Montforts handwriting, now kept at the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris. Cf. M. Quéméneur, Le catalogue de la Bibliothèque de St.-Sulpice (The Catalog of the Library of Saint- Sulpice), DMon 9 (1964), 35. (2) P.-H. Eyckeler, S.M.M., Le Cahier de NotesManuscrit de saint Louis-Marie de Montfortnotes et commentaire (The NotebookManuscript of Saint Louis-Marie de MontfortNotes and Commentary), roneographed edition. The following authors are quoted most often by Montfort, according to Father Eyckelers list: F. Poiré, S.J., La triple couronne de la Bienheureuse Vierge Mère (The Triple Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mother), a book to which Montfort refers explicitly (TD 26); J.-B. Crasset, S.J., La véritable dévotion à la Sainte Vierge (True Devotion to the Holy Virgin); L.-F. DArgentan, Capuchin, Conférences sur les grandeurs de la Sainte Vierge (Discussions Concerning the Greatness of the Holy Virgin); J. de Carthagena, Homiliae Catholicae de Sacris Arcanis Deiparae Mariae; P. Grenier, Apologie des dévots de la Sainte Vierge (Apologia for Devotion to the Blessed Virgin). Montfort drew on other authors as well, not the least of whom were Bérulle, Olier, Boudon, Boissieu, and Bernardine of Paris. (3) Saint-Jures Lhomme spirituel (The Spiritual Man), Conduites pour les principales actions de la vie chrétienne (Principal modes of conduct for the Christian life), La vie de M. de Renty (The Life of de Renty); Nepveus De lamour de N. S. Jésus-Christ (On the Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ). Father Eyckeler chose to attribute certain passages without references in the latter part of the notebook to Olier: Eyckeler, Le Cahier de Notes, 304, 309b. (4) One example: in his notebook (p. 57) he summarized the fourth star of the second crown of Poiré: The most Blessed Virgin is the spouse of Our Lord, a title which is found nowhere in TD or in Montforts other writings. (5) Father Eyckeler has noticed that, with respect to his analysis of Poiré, Montforts method led him to study the texts of dArgentan and Cartagena, subsequently complemented by texts from Crasset and Grenier. Father Eyckeler concludes that Montfort did not find Poirés arguments adequate. (6) See for example Father Eyckelers remark on Boissieus work, Le chrétien prédestiné par la dévotion à Marie (The Christian Predestined through Devotion to Mary): the influence of this book on Montforts Marian doctrine is much greater than the rather few number of citations would suggest: Eyckeler, Le Cahier de Notes, XXI; cf. XVI on dArgentan and XIX, n. 3, on Olier. (7) And yet Blain, 50, suggests that Montfort was directly inspired by this work during his time at Saint-Sulpice. All that we find in Montforts notebook are a few passages from the Avis catholiques touchant la véritable dévotion de la Bienheureuse Vierge (Catholic Views on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin), a work that is not in the Saint-Sulpice catalog (cf. Eyckeler, Le Cahier de Notes, 159 60). (8) Father Eyckeler suggests that this is particularly necessary for the texts of Grenier (Eyckeler, Le Cahier de Notes, XVII), but it is certainly true in other cases as well. (9) Cf. Boissieu, Le chrétien prédestiné par la dévotion à Marie (The Christian Predestined through Devotion to Mary) Lyon 1686, part one, chs. 14; dArgentan, Conférences sur les grandeurs de la Sainte Vierge (Discussions concerning the greatness of the Holy Virgin), disc. 1, art. 1. (10) Cf. Eyckeler, XV. (11) The notes for the edition in OC give some idea of this documentation, as well as the work of Father Eyckeler, XI-XXIV. But more research, in particular a detailed critical examination of Montforts method for using his sources, remains to be done. (12) See below, II.2.ab. (13) Cf. TD, preface to the second edition, Paris 1843, x xiii; also introduction to the photographic edition, Rome 1942, xviii xx. (14) Ibid., xvii. (15) Cf. Besnard, La vie de Soeur Marie-Louise de Jésus (The Life of Sister Marie-Louise of Jesus) International Montfort Center, Rome 1985, 36065. (16) Preface to the second edition, xiixiii. (17) OC, 483. (18) Here are the subtitles supplied by Montfort (with current numbering): The perfect consecration to Jesus Christ (120); The wonderful effects which this devotion produces on a soul that is faithful to it (213); Particular practices of this devotionExterior practices (226); Special interior practices for those who wish to be perfect (257); Method of practicing this devotion at Holy Communion (266). (19) Father Eyckeler believes nonetheless that Montfort had largely composed his Marian doctrine as early as 1703, and that when he began work on the final draft, he inserted passages that were written earlier: Second Montfort International Conference, Saint-Laurent-sur- Sèvre, September 2-8, 1958, 17. (20) See OC, 48182. (21) On Montfort and popular religion, see R. Mandrou, Montfort et lÉvangélisation du peuple (Montfort and the Evangelization of the People), in Rencontres Montfortaines, n. 11 (1974), 1-19; S. De Fiores, Grignion de Montfort e la spiritualità popolare (Grignion de Montfort and Popular Spirituality) in AA.VV., Missioni al popolo per gli anni 80 (Rome 1981, 519ff; A. Bossard, Il carisma del Montfort nel suo tempo: mediazione tra cultura colta e culturale popolare (The Charism of Montfort in His Time: Mediation between Educated and Popular Culture) in QM 1 (1982), 86-96. (22) See the Introduction to the photographic edition, xxii. (23) Mame edition, Tours 1921. We can only discuss here the evolution of the various French editions. (24) Ibid., x. The Italian edition of 1919 was the first to divide the work into numbered paragraphs (cf. OC, 485). (25) At the 1906 Marian congress in Einsiedeln, this kind of shift in meaning appeared clearly in several connections: in the work of Joseph Péré, S.M.M., the theme of true devotion is discussed from the outset in terms of holy slavery: La vraie dévotion et la morale (True Devotion and Morals), Acts of Congress, Revue Mariale, Lyon 1907, 234 46); or in the work by H. Clemens, S.M.M.: De la diffusion parmi les fidèles de la parfaite consécration à Jésus par Marie (On the Spread of Perfect Consecration to Jesus through Mary among the Faithful), Ibid., 26988. In 1956, at the International Montfort Conference at Rotselaer, Father Josselin, Superior General of the Company of Mary, said, Finally, the third unintelligent method (of presenting Montforts message) is to consider True Devotion and Holy Slavery as identical, which is counter to Father Montforts way of thinking. This is undoubtedly because we have to some extent forgotten the Popes reminder to us in his address to the pilgrims following the Canonization. We must admit that one can love and serve the Most Blessed Virgin outside of Holy Slavery. Otherwise we would be accused of building a monopoly. And it is never pleasant to hear that said. (Reports and Resolutions of the Conference, 14.) And yet, at this same conference, Father Ghidotti admitted as self-evident on the level of vocabulary that by a kind of tacit agreement, in the expression true devotion, the word true recalled the Consecration of oneself to Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, through the hands of Mary (although he claimed that on the intellectual level the two can be distinguished): Ibid., 33. In a remarkable account, Comment étudier et présenter la Vraie dévotion (How to Study and Present True Devotion), Father Frehen, S.M.M., reacted vigorously, and quite fairly, against this habit, and noted in passing how dangerous it could prove, such as in certain translations of True Devotion: Ibid., 4447). (26) OC, 484. (27) On this subject, cf. A. Bossard, Marie, milieu mystérieux pour rejoindre le Christ (Mary, mysterious setting for Becoming United with Christ), in Dieu seul (God Alone), 119 and ff. (28) Reports and Resolutions of the Conference at Rotselaer, 71. (29) Therefore we can presume that Montfort went beyond the sources on which he drew. For those sources, particularly those that can be found in his notebook, we can refer to the notes in OC. (30) L.- J. Suenens, Une nouvelle Pentecôte (A New Pentecost) DDB, Paris 1974, 241. (31) One of the censors of Montforts writings at the beatification proceedings had raised the following objection: the renewal of baptismal promises is an act of latria that can only be addressed directly and immediately to God; he also suggested that the total gift of oneself, as described by Montfort, referred to latria and thus could only be made to God. Cf. Lucionen. Beatificationis et canonizationis Ven. Servi Dei Ludovici Mariae Grignion de MontfortPosition super scriptis, Rome 1851, 1113; also the responses that had already been mounted to these objections, Responsio ad adnotationes R.P.D. Promotororis fidei, 34. In themselves, the assertions were just, but their application to Montforts teaching was not. This indicates how important it is to make necessary distinctions in order to convey the doctrine of Saint Louis Marie correctly. (32) We must take this point into account if we wish to grasp exactly how Montfort understands the title Spouse of the Holy Spirit: as soon as he offers an explanation, he speaks in terms of spiritual maternity, even when his point of departure is Marys association with the Spirit for the Incarnation: TD 2021, 36. Most often he simply speaks of the united action of Mary and the Spirit in us, e.g., of spiritual maternity: TD 25, 34, 36, 164, 213, 217, 269. This is also the case when the term Spouse is attributed to the Holy Spirit and its relationship to Mary: TD 36, 152. (33) We must understand that Montfort is very particular about his use of the words slave, and slavery; he justifies it by appealing to the Word of God, which lends irrefutable strength to his argument. If we decide for whatever reason that we can no longer use these terms, we must search for words that capture everything that this concept entailsnot an easy task. (34) When we read the opening sentence of TD 118 (Having read nearly every book on devotion to the Blessed Virgin . . . , I can now state with conviction that I have never known or heard of any devotion to our Lady which is comparable to the one I am going to speak of), we must remember (a) Montforts subsequent efforts to show that the devotion he is teaching is not new (TD 159), (b) his remarks in LEW 219, and (c) his unequivocal assertion in SM 1: Here is a secret, chosen soul, which the most High God taught me and which I have not found in any book, ancient or modern. One way of resolving these statements would be as follows: as he presents it to us, the perfect practice of true devotion has no equivalent among his sources; in this respect it is genuinely new, and so he is entitled to call himself its inventor. It is difficult to identify the extent to which he was conscious of the originality of his path; he unhesitatingly credits his inspiration to God Himself (SM 1, TD 119). (35) Cf. the title of his profession of consecration in LEW 223: Consecration of oneself to Jesus Christ, Wisdom incarnate, through the hands of Mary. (36) Compared with Jobert and Boudon, in whose writings the theologal or Christological aspect is always present but usually only implicitly or indirectly so, Montfort crosses a threshold that tranforms our way of understanding holy slavery: Jobert, La dévotion du saint esclavage de la Mère de Dieu (The Devotion of Holy Slavery to the Mother of God) Orleans 1785 , 34; Boudon, Dieu seul ou le saint esclavage de ladmirable Mère de Dieu (God Alone Or the Holy Slavery of the Admirable Mother of God), 1667, First Treatise, chs. 12 (the imprimatur for the first edition is dated December 5, 1667). Similarly, the prayer for consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin as a slave at the end of Joberts book, replicated in almost perfect detail at the conclusion of Boudons book, proves interesting when compared with Montforts in LEW 22327. On a number of issues, there are points of contact, yet one can see the path traveled by Montfort. (37) It was undoubtedly through Bérulle (cf. the Notebook, 302303) that Montfort was led to join, and almost to consider as identical, consecration of oneself to Jesus Christ by the hands of Mary and the renewal of baptismal vows and promises. But he was capable of exploring the relationship between the two in depth and perceiving an organic connection, whereas for Bérulle, according to Father Eyckeler, this question was only secondary, a piece of luck in a way, allowing him to escape from the difficulty he encountered when he called his donation a vow: Notebook, xix. (38) This issue of imitating Jesuss dependence on Mary in the Incarnation and on his chosen path is certainly present in Jobert and Boudon, including their acts of consecration or offering. But Montfort introduces and develops this issue in a way that renders it much weightier and more significant. (39) Cf. the affirmation of the special character of Marian (this devotion is altogether special, LG 66, which can be connected to TD 39, for example). (40) Cf., e.g., LG 60: the Unique Mediator and Savior (compare with TD 61); LG 66: While honoring Christs Mother, these devotions cause her Son to be rightly known, loved, and glorified, and all His commands observed. Through Him all things have their being (cf. Col. 1:15-16) and in Him it has pleased [the eternal Father] that . . . all his fullness should dwell (Col. 1:19) (cf. TD 13, 49, 62, e.g.). (41) For true devotion to our Lady is interior (TD 106), cf. LG 67; trustful (TD 107), cf. the passages wherein the Council adopts a vocabulary with clear affective resonance to speak of the relationship that we must establish with Mary, such as LG 53, 62, or 67; holy (TD 108); constant (TD 109), cf. LG 67. (42) The quite strong language used in Lumen Gentium to describe Mary after the Assumption, i.e., as she is today (By her maternal charity, Mary cares for the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth), could be used as a title for whole chapters of TD. However, there is one important aspect of Marys maternity toward us, notable in Chapter 8 of LG (at 58, 61), to which Montfort seems to attach less importance than we do today: the proclamation by Christ on the Cross of Marys maternity toward his disciple (Jn 19:2527). It is true that today, especially with the teaching of the Magisterium, it is impossible to discuss Marys spiritual maternity without referring to this passage. But it can be easily and naturally integrated into Montforts teaching, especially as he often referred to John taking Mary for his all (TD 144, 179, 216, 266). (43) H.-M. Manteau-Bonamy, S. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, théologien de la Sagesse au seuil du troisième millénaire (St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Theologian of Wisdom on the Eve of the Third Millenium), Éd. Saint-Paul, Paris 1986, 54. (44) André Frossard, Be Not Afraid! Pope John Paul II Speaks Out on his Life, his Beliefs and his Inspiring Vision for Humanity, St. Martins Press, New York 1982, 12427. (45) Ibid. (46) We should observe in particular how John Paul II uses the terms affidamento and consecration with respect to the relationship with Mary as such, and the significance of this use depending on the context. He definitely uses the term consecration when, following Montfort, he speaks of the total gift of oneself to Christ by the hands of Mary: RMat 48.
Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort (Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).
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