– Article Two –
True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
105. After having laid bare and condemned the false devotions to the most holy Virgin, we must, in a few words, give the characteristics of true devotion. It must be: 1. interior, 2. tender, 3. holy, 4. constant, and 5. disinterested.
106. True devotion to Our Lady is interior; that is, it comes from the mind and the heart. It flows from the esteem we have for her, the high idea we have formed of her greatness, and the love which we have for her.
107. It is tender; that is, full of confidence in her, like a child’s confidence in his loving mother. This confidence makes the soul have recourse to her in all its bodily and mental necessities, with much simplicity, trust and tenderness. It implores the aid of its good Mother at all times, in all places and above all things: in its doubts, that it may be enlightened; in its wanderings, that it may be brought into the right path; in its temptations, that it may be supported; in its weaknesses, that it may be strengthened; in its falls, that it may be lifted up; in its discouragements, that it may be cheered; in its scruples, that they may be taken away; in the crosses, toils and disappointments of life, that it may be consoled under them. In a word, in all the evils of body and mind, the soul ordinarily has recourse to Mary, without fear of annoying her or displeasing Jesus Christ.
108. True devotion to Our Lady is holy, that is to say, it leads the soul to avoid sin and to imitate the virtues of the Blessed Virgin, particularly her profound humility, her lively faith, her blind obedience, her continual prayer, her universal mortification, her divine purity, her ardent charity, her heroic patience, her angelic sweetness and her divine wisdom. These are the ten principal virtues of the most holy Virgin.
109. True devotion to Our Lady is constant. It confirms the soul in good, and does not let it easily abandon its spiritual exercises. It makes it courageous in opposing the world in its fashions and maxims, the flesh in its weariness and passions, and the devil in his temptations; so that a person truly devout to our Blessed Lady is neither changeable, irritable, scrupulous nor timid. It is not that such a person does not fall, or change sometimes in the sensible feeling of devotion. But when he falls, he rises again by stretching out his hand to his good Mother. When he loses the taste and relish of devotion, he does not become disturbed because of that; for the just and faithful client of Mary lives by the faith of Jesus and Mary, and not by natural sentiment.
110. Lastly, true devotion to Our Lady is disinterested; that is to say, it inspires the soul not to seek itself but only God, and God in His holy Mother. A true client of Mary does not serve that august Queen from a spirit of lucre and interest, not for his own good, whether temporal or eternal, corporal or spiritual, but exclusively because she deserves to be served, and God alone in her. He does not love Mary just because she obtains favors for him, or because he hopes she will, but solely because she is so worthy of love. It is on this account that he loves and serves her as faithfully in his disgusts and drynesses as in his sweetnesses and sensible fervors. He loves her as much on Calvary as at the marriage of Cana.
Oh, how agreeable and precious in the eyes of God and of His holy Mother is such a client of our Blessed Lady, who has no self-seeking in his service of her! But in these days how rare is such a sight! It is that it may be less rare that I have taken my pen in hand to put on paper what I have taught with good results, in public and in private, during my missions for many years.
111. I have now said many things about the most holy Virgin; but I have many more to say, and there are infinitely more which I shall omit, either from ignorance, inability or want of time, in unfolding the plan for forming a true client of Mary and a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
112. Oh, but my labor will have been well expended if this little writing, falling into the hands of a soul of good dispositions – a soul well-born of God and Mary, and not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man – should unfold to him, and should by the grace of the Holy Ghost inspire him with the excellence and the value of that true and solid devotion to our Blessed Lady which I am going presently to describe. If I knew that my guilty blood could serve in engraving upon anyone’s heart the truths which I am writing in honor of my true Mother and Sovereign Mistress, of whose children and slaves I am the least, I would use my blood instead of ink to form the letters, in the hope of finding some good souls who, by their fidelity to the practice which I teach, should compensate my dear Mother and Mistress for the losses which she has suffered through my ingratitude and infidelities.
113. I feel myself more than ever encouraged to believe and to hope for the fulfillment of all that I have deeply engraven upon my heart and have asked of God these many years, namely, that sooner or later the Blessed Virgin shall have more children, servants and slaves of love than ever; and that by this means, Jesus Christ, my dear Master, shall reign in hearts more than ever.
114. I clearly foresee that raging beasts shall come in fury to tear with their diabolical teeth this little writing and him whom the Holy Ghost has made use of to write it – or at least to smother it in the darkness and silence of a coffer, that it may not appear. They shall even attack and persecute those who shall read it and carry it out in practice. But what matter? On the contrary, so much the better! This very foresight encourages me, and makes me hope for great success, that is to say, for a great squadron of brave and valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, of both sexes, to combat the world, the devil and corrupted nature, in those more-than-ever perilous times which are about to come. “He who reads, let him understand.” “He who can receive it, let him receive it.”
1. Common practices, both interior and exterior.
115. 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. We will presently explain this last practice.
116. True devotion to Our Lady also has 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, which is one third of the Rosary, either in honor of the five Joyful Mysteries, which are the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the Purification and the Finding of Our Lord in the Temple; or in honor of the five Sorrowful Mysteries, which are the Agony of Our Lord in the Garden of Olives, His Scourging, His Crowning with Thorns, His Carrying of the Cross, and His Crucifixion; or in honor of the five Glorious Mysteries, which are the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, body and soul, into Heaven, and her Coronation by the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. We may also say a chaplet of six or seven decades in honor of the years which we believe Our Lady lived on earth; or the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, composed of three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Marys, in honor of her crown of twelve stars or privileges; or the Office of Our Lady, so universally received and recited in the Church; or the little Psalter of the holy Virgin, which St. Bonaventure composed in her honor, and which is so tender and so devout that one cannot say it without being moved by it; or fourteen Our Fathers and Hail Marys in honor of her fourteen joys; or some other prayers, hymns and canticles of the Church, such as the Salve Regina, the Alma, the Ave Regina Coelorum, or the Regina Coeli, according to the different seasons; or the Ave Maris Stella, the O Gloriosa Domina, the Magnificat, or some other practices of devotion, of which books are full; (7) to sing, or have sung, spiritual canticles in her honor; (8) to make a number of genuflections or reverences, while saying, for example, every morning, sixty or a hundred times, Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis (“Hail Mary, Faithful Virgin”), to obtain from God through her the grace to be faithful to the graces of God during the day; and then again in the evening, Ave Maria, Mater Misericordiae (“Hail Mary, Mother of Mercy”) to ask pardon of God through her for the sins that we have committed during the day; (9) to take care of her confraternities, to adorn her altars, to crown and ornament her images; (10) to carry her images, or to have them carried, in procession, and to carry a picture or an image of her about our own persons, as a might arm against the evil spirity; (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 special and solemn manner.
117. There are numerous other practices of true devotion toward the Blessed Virgin which the Holy Ghost has inspired in saintly souls and which are very sanctifying; they can be read at length in the Paradise Opened to Philagius of Father Barry, the Jesuit, in which he has collected a great number of devotions which the saints have practiced in honor of Our Lady – devotions which serve marvelously to sanctify our souls, provided they are performed as they ought to be, that is to say, (1) with a good and pure intention to please God only, to unite ourselves to Jesus Christ as to our Last End, and to edify our neighbor; (2) with attention and without voluntary distraction; (3) with devotion, equally avoiding precipitation and negligence; (4) with modesty, and a respectful and edifying posture of the body.
2. Its perfect practice
118. 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 of men of these latter times, I have never known nor 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, ridding 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.
119. As the essential of this devotion consists in the interior which it ought to form, it will not be equally understood by everybody. Some will stop at what is exterior in it, and will go no further, and these will be the greatest number. Some, in small number, will enter into its inward spirit; but they will only mount one step. Who will mount to the second step? Who will get as far as the third? Lastly, who will so advance as to make this devotion his habitual state? He alone to whom the Spirit of Jesus Christ shall have revealed this secret, the faultlessly faithful soul whom He shall conduct there Himself, to advance from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, from light to light, until he arrives at the transformation of himself into Jesus Christ, and to the plenitude of His age on earth and of His glory in Heaven.