True Devotion to Mary, Nos. 226-248

Particular Practices of This Devotion

– Article One –

Exterior Practices

226. Although what is essential in this devotion consists in the interior, we must not fail to unite to the inward practice certain external observances. “We must do the one, yet not leave the other undone;” because the outward practices, well performed, aid the inward ones; and because they remind man, who is always guided by his senses, of what he has done or ought to do; and also because they are suitable for edifying our neighbor, who sees them; these are things which inward practices cannot do. Let no worldling, then, or critic, intrude here to say that because true devotion is in the heart, we must avoid external devotion; or that devotion ought to be hidden, and that there may be vanity in showing it. I answer, with my Master, that men should see our good works, that they may glorify our Father who is in Heaven; not, as St. Gregory says, that we ought to perform our actions and exterior devotions to please men and get praise – that would be vanity; but that we should sometimes do them before men with the view of pleasing God and glorifying Him thereby, without caring either for the contempt or the praise of men.

I will allude only briefly to some exterior practices, which I call “exterior” not because we do not perform them interiorly, but because they have something outward about them to distinguish them from those which are purely inward.

I. Preparatory Exercises and Consecration

227. Those who wish to enter into this particular devotion, which is not at present erected into a confraternity (though that were to be wished), after having, as I said in the first part of this preparation for the reign of Jesus Christ, employed twelve days at least in ridding themselves of the spirit of the world, which is contrary to the spirit of Jesus Christ, should employ three weeks in filling themselves with Jesus Christ by the holy Virgin. They can follow this order:

228. During the first week they should offer up all their prayers and pious actions to ask for a knowledge of themselves and contrition for their sins; and they should do this in a spirit of humility. For that end they can, if they choose, meditate on what I have said before of our inward corruption. They can look upon themselves during the six days of this week as snails, crawling things, toads, swine, serpents and unclean animals; or they can reflect on these three considerations of St. Bernard: the vileness of our origin, the dishonors of our present state, and our ending as the food of worms. They should pray Our Lord and the Holy Ghost to enlighten them; and for that end they might use the ejaculations, “Lord, that I may see!” or “May I know myself!” or “Come, Holy Ghost,” together with the Litany of the Holy Ghost and the prayer which follows, as indicated in the first part of this work. They should have recourse to the Blessed Virgin and ask her to grant them this immense grace, which must be the foundation of all the others; for this end, they should say daily the Ave Maris Stella and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.

229. During the second week they should apply themselves, in all their prayers and works each day, to know the Blessed Virgin. They should ask this knowledge of the Holy Ghost; they should read and meditate on what we have said about it. For this intention they should recite, as in the first week, the Litany of the Holy Ghost and the Ave Maris Stella, and in addition a Rosary daily, or if not a whole Rosary, at least the beads.

230. They should apply themselves during the third week to know Jesus Christ. They can meditate upon what we have said about Him, and say the prayer of St. Augustine which they will find in the beginning of the second part of this treatise. They can, with the same saint, repeat a hundred times a day: “Lord, that I may know Thee!” or “Lord, that I may see Who Thou art!” They should recite, as in the preceding weeks, the Litany of the Holy Ghost and the Ave Maris Stella, and should add daily the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus.

231. At the end of the three weeks they should go to confession and Communion, with the intention of giving themselves to Jesus Christ in the quality of slaves of love, by the hands of Mary. After Communion, which they should try to make according to the method given further on, they should recite the formula of their consecration, which they will also find further on. They ought to write it, or have it written, unless they have a printed copy of it; and they should sign it the same day on which they have made it.

232. It would be well also that on that day they should pay some tribute to Jesus Christ and Our Blessed Lady, either as a penance for their past unfaithfulness to the vows of their Baptism, or as a testimony of their dependence on the dominion of Jesus and Mary. This tribute ought to be according to the devotion and ability of each one, such as a fast, a mortification, an alms or a candle. If they had but a pin to give in homage, and gave it with a good heart, it would be enough for Jesus, who looks only at the good will.

233. Once a year at least, and on the same day, they should renew the same consecration, observing the same practices during the three weeks. They might also, once a month or even once a day, renew all they have done, in these few words: “I am all Thine and all that I have is Thine, O most loving Jesus, through Mary, Thy most holy Mother.”

II. Recitation of the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin

234. They may recite every day of their life – without, however, making a burden of it – the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, composed of three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Marys, in honor of Our Lady’s twelve privileges and grandeurs. This is a very ancient practice and it has its foundation in Holy Scripture. St. John saw a woman crowned with twelve stars, clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet; and this woman, according to the interpreters, was the most holy Virgin.

235. There are many ways of saying this Crown well, but it would take too long to enter upon them. The Holy Ghost will teach them to those who are the most faithful to this devotion. Nevertheless, to say it quite simply, we should begin by saying: “Grant that I may praise thee, holy Virgin; give me strength against thy enemies.” After that, we should say the Apostles’ Creed, then an Our Father with four Hail Marys and then one Glory be to the Father; then another Our Father, four Hail Marys, and Glory be to the Father, and so on with the rest; and at the end we should say the Sub Tuum Praesidium (“We fly to thy patronage…”).

III. The Wearing of Little Chains

236. It is a most glorious and praiseworthy thing, and very useful to those who have thus made themselves slaves of Jesus in Mary, that they should wear, as a sign of their loving slavery, little iron chains, blessed with the proper blessing.

It is perfectly true that these external insignia are not essential, and a person who has embraced this devotion may very well go without them; nevertheless, I cannot refrain from warmly praising those who, after having shaken off the shameful chains of slavery of the devil, in which Original Sin, and perhaps actual sin, had bound them, have voluntarily surrendered themselves to the glorious slavery of Jesus Christ, and glory with St. Paul in being in chains for Christ, chains a thousand times more glorious and precious, though of iron, than all the golden ornaments of emperors.

237. Once there was nothing more infamous on earth than the cross, and now that wood is the most glorious boast of Christianity. Let us say the same of the irons of slavery. There was nothing more ignominious among the ancients; there is nothing more shameful even now among the heathens. But among Christians, there is nothing more illustrious than the chains of Jesus; for they unchain us and preserve us from the infamous fetters of sin and the devil. They set us at liberty and chain us to Jesus and Mary; not by compulsion and constraint, like galley-slaves, but by charity and love, like children. “I will draw them to Me,” says God by the mouth of the prophet, “by the chains of love.” These chains are as strong as death and in a certain sense even stronger than death in those who are faithful in carrying these glorious chains to their death. For though death destroys their bodies by bringing them to corruption, it does not destroy the chains of their slavery, which, being of iron, do not corrode so easily. Perhaps, on the day of the resurrection of the body, at the last judgment, these chains shall be around their bones, and shall be a part of their glory, and be transmuted into chains of light and splendor. Happy then, a thousand times happy, the illustrious slaves of Jesus who wear their chains even to the tomb!

238. The following are the reasons for wearing these little chains: First, to remind the Christian of the vows and promises of his Baptism, of the perfect renewal he has made of them by this devotion, and of the strict obligation under which he is to be faithful to them. As man, who shapes his course more often by the senses than by pure faith, easily forgets his obligations toward God unless he has some outward thing to remind him of them, these little chains serve marvelously to remind the Christian of the chains of sin and the slavery of the devil from which Baptism has delivered him, and of the dependence on Jesus which he has vowed to Him in Baptism, and of the ratification of it which he has made by the renewal of his vows. One of the reasons why so few Christians think of their baptismal vows, and live with as much license as if they had promised no more to God than the heathen, is that they do not wear any external sign to remind them of their vows.

239. Secondly, to show that we are not ashamed of the servitude and slavery of Jesus Christ, and that we renounce the slavery of the world, of sin and of the devil.

Thirdly, to protect ourselves against the chains of sin and of the devil; for we must wear either “the chains of sinners or the chains of charity and salvation.”

240. O my dear brother, let us break the chains of sin and sinners, of the world and worldliness, of the devil and his ministers; and let us cast far from us their depressing yoke. Let us put our feet, to use the terms of the Holy Ghost, into His glorious fetters and our necks into His chains. Let us shoulder and carry the Divine Wisdom [that is, Jesus Christ] and let us never weary of His chains. You will remark that the Holy Ghost, before saying these words, prepares a soul for them, lest it should reject His important counsel. See His words: “Hearken, My son, and receive a counsel of understanding and reject not My counsel.”

241. You would wish, my very dear friend, that I should here unite myself to the Holy Ghost to give you the same counsel as His: “His chains are chains of salvation.” As Jesus Christ on the cross must draw all to Himself, whether they will it or not, He will draw the reprobate by the chains of their sins, that He may chain them like galley-slaves and devils to His eternal anger and revengeful justice. But He will, and particularly in these latter times, draw the predestinate by the chains of charity: “I will draw all things to Myself”; “I will draw them with the bands of love.”

242. These loving slaves of Jesus Christ, “the chained of Christ,” can wear their chains on their feet or on their arms, around their body or around their neck. Father Vincent Caraffa, seventh Superior General of the Jesuits, who died in the odor of sanctity in the year 1643, used to wear an iron band around his feet as a mark of his servitude; and he said that his only regret was that he could not publicly drag a chain. Mother Agnes of Jesus, of whom we have spoken before, used to wear an iron chain around her body. Others have worn it around their neck in penance for the pearl necklaces which they had worn in the world; while others have worn it around their arms to remind themselves, in their manual labors, that they were slaves of Jesus Christ.

IV. Special Devotion to the Mystery of the Incarnation

243. Those who undertake this holy slavery should have a special devotion to the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (March 25th). Indeed, the Incarnation is the mystery proper of this practice, inasmuch as it is a devotion inspired by the Holy Ghost: first, to honor and imitate the ineffable dependence which God the Son was pleased to have on Mary, for His Father’s glory and our salvation – which dependence particularly appears in this mystery wherein Jesus is a captive and a slave in the bosom of the divine Mary, and depends on her for all things; secondly, to thank God for the inseparable graces He has given Mary, and particularly for having chosen her to be His most holy Mother, which choice was made in this mystery. These are the two principal ends of the slavery of Jesus in Mary.

244. Have the goodness to observe that I generally say, “the slave of Jesus in Mary,” “the slavery of Jesus in Mary.” I might, in good truth, as many have done before, say the “slave of Mary,” “the slavery of the holy Virgin”; but I think it better to say “the slave of Jesus in Mary,” as Father Tronson, Superior General of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, renowned for his rare prudence and consummate piety, counseled to an ecclesiastic who consulted him on the subject. The following were the reasons:

245. First, as we are living in an age of intellectual pride, and there are all around us numbers of puffed-up scholars and conceited and critical spirits who have plenty to say against the best established and most solid practices of piety, it is better for us not to give them any needless occasion of criticism. Hence it is better for us to say, “the slavery of Jesus in Mary,” and call ourselves the slaves of Jesus Christ rather than the slaves of Mary, taking the denomination of our devotion rather from its Last End, which is Jesus Christ, than from the road and the means to the end, which is Mary; though I repeat that in truth we may do either, as I have done myself. For example, a man who goes from Orleans to Tours by way of Amboise may very well say that he is going to Amboise, or that he is going to Tours; that he is a traveler to Amboise and a traveler to Tours; with this difference, however, that Amboise is but his straight road to Tours and that Tours is only the last end and term of his journey.

246. A second reason is that the principal mystery we celebrate and honor in this devotion is the mystery of the Incarnation, wherein we can see Jesus only in Mary, and incarnate in her bosom. Hence it is more to the purpose to speak of the slavery of Jesus in Mary, and of Jesus residing and reigning in Mary, according to that beautiful prayer of so many great men: “O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in us in Thy spirit of sanctity,” etc.

247. Another reason is that this manner of speaking sets forth still more the intimate union between Jesus and Mary. They are so intimately united that the one is altogether in the other. Jesus is altogether in Mary and Mary is altogether in Jesus; or rather, she exists no more, but Jesus alone is in her, and it were easier to separate light from the sun than Mary from Jesus; so that we might call Our Lord, “Jesus of Mary,” and our Blessed Lady, “Mary of Jesus.”

248. Time would not permit me to stop now to explain the excellences and grandeurs of the mystery of Jesus living and reigning in Mary; in other words, of the Incarnation of the Word. I will content myself with saying these few words: We have here the first mystery of Jesus Christ – the most hidden, the most exalted and the least known. It is in this mystery that Jesus, in His Mother’s womb – which is for that very reason called by the saints “the cabinet of the secrets of God” – has, in concert with Mary, chosen all the elect. It is in this mystery that He has wrought all the other mysteries of His life by the acceptance which He made of them. “When he cometh into the world, He saith: … Behold, I come to do Thy Will, O God.” Hence this mystery is an abridgement of all mysteries and contains the will and grace of all. Finally, this mystery is the throne of the mercy, of the liberality and of the glory of God. It is the throne of His mercy for us because, as we cannot approach Jesus but through Mary, we can see Jesus and speak to Him only by means of her. Jesus, who always hears His dear Mother, always grants His grace and mercy to poor sinners. “Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace.” It is the throne of His liberality toward Mary, because while the New Adam dwelt in that true terrestrial paradise, He worked so many miracles in secret that neither angels nor men can comprehend them. It is on this account that the saints call Mary the “magnificence of God” – as if God were magnificent only in Mary. It is the throne of His glory for His Father, because it is in Mary that Jesus Christ has calmed His Father, angered against men, and that He has made restitution of the glory which sin ravished from Him, and that, by the sacrifice He made of His own will and of Himself, He has given Him more glory than ever the sacrifices of the Old Law could give – an infinite glory, which He had never before received from man.

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