THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARYThe apostle writer must be ready to deal with any subject, to give his help to any work whose goal is God's greater glory and the greater good of people. Still, this is not to deny that, given his natural inclination or his particular preparation, he may feel attracted towards a specific activity.
There is the person who has a special fascination for children and enjoys devoting his time to them. Another, instead, who lives an intense interior life, is animated and deals in a wonderful way with issues that concern union with God. Others again are more disposed to deal with theological, philosophical or social issues...
Still, there are topics that must be of interest to
all and which concern all - comforting and enjoyable topics that touch the deepest aspirations of the human mind.
Among such, the one that holds the highest place is the proposal to spread devotion to the Virgin Mary, a true devotion that leads people to admire Mary, to imitate her, and to give her due devotion.
Faith in the Virgin Mary
This is based on and has its origin in the knowledge of the Mother of God's dignity and on the consequences which derive therefrom, the object of marian theology.
This subject, overall and in its various parts, has already given rise to an endless stream of books and yet leaves room for new ones. It is up to the apostle to spread and support what already exists, and to avail of every occasion to make this tender Mother of ours known.
The subject is wide-ranging; it allows for a variety of topics, and responds to the needs and demands of everyone.
How many and how diverse are the things to be said about Mary when we consider her in revelation, in tradition, in her earthly life, in doctrine, in worship, in the liturgy, in devotions, in her shrines and in her apparitions!
However, the marian truths that interest
and touch people's hearts the most are those that portray her in her role as regards God, the creation of humans, each person in particular.
As regards God: her bonds of kinship with the Blessed Trinity. She is the beloved daughter of the Father and associated with him in the work of the Incarnation; she is the Mother of the Son and his helper in the work of the Redemption; she is the living temple, favored shrine, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
As regards Creation: with Jesus Christ she is its final and formal cause.
As regards the Redemption: she is Coredemptrix of human beings because she is the mother of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, who is by divine disposition at the head of the regenerated humanity.1
As regards each person in particular: she is, albeit in a secondary way, the meritorious and exemplary cause of the Christian's life and the dispenser of grace.
Imitation of the Virgin Mary
Admiration for the Virgin Mary, which results from a particular awareness of her privileges, must lead to the most tender homage we can give her, which is imitation.
So many people can be frightened off at the thought of the divine heights of Jesus Christ's perfection.
But the holiness of the Eternal Word, enfleshed in the Saints, like light shining through a prism is, as it were kaleidoscopic,2 allowing it to be more easily analyzed and more effectively absorbed.
Now, since the Virgin Mary holds the primacy among the Saints, she is, after Jesus, the most beautiful model we could imitate. The Holy Spirit, who dwelt in [this immaculate Virgin], through the efficacy of the [anticipated] merits of Jesus Christ made her a living copy of her divine Son.
To draw close to Mary is to draw close to Jesus.
Convinced of this great and consoling truth, the apostle is to share it with people and exhort them to study her, to meditate on her ever more and to strive to imitate the virtues and examples of this our heavenly Mother. Mary's holiness is immensely superior to that of the other Saints and of the very Angels in heaven on account of - to say it with Abbot Elgebert - her universal graces, her singular privileges, and her surpassing dignity.
"The other Saints" says Saint Thomas "have excelled in one particular virtue or another. But the Blessed Virgin excels in all the virtues and is a model for us in each of them. She is, thus, the model for people of all ages and states, and in a particular way for virgins consecrated to God."
The Gospel gives instances of Mary's wonderful
virtues. These are short accounts, like lightning flashes, that illumine only some features of the Virgin and leave us guessing at the greatness of her hidden ones.
The apostle will know the time and place to remove the veil that hides from our gaze the inner life of the Virgin Mary and highlight how uncomplicated and orderly it is, the envy of the Angels themselves. A life that can be summed up in what should be the ideal of every Christian: All for Jesus, all with Jesus, all in Jesus.
In this way it will be easy to understand the essence of devotion to Mary which is, in other words, to go to Jesus through Mary, "ad Jesum per Mariam."
Prayer and devotion to the Virgin Mary
Admiration and imitation of Mary must not be separated from devotion to her. Not a superstitious or strange devotion but one that is right and holy, as Mother Church desires. Internal and external devotion, private and public devotion, that leads to deep veneration, absolute trust and filial love. Veneration that is based on her dignity as Mother of God and on the consequences which derive therefrom; veneration that leads therefore not to parity with God and to her as the source of grace, but to a glorification of God in her for the privileges with which he has enriched her, and her role as dispenser of all
graces. Indeed what veneration should not we render to her whom the Word incarnate reveres as his Mother, the Father contemplates lovingly as his beloved Daughter, the Holy Spirit regards as a temple of predilection!
An unshakable and universal trust [which is] based on the power and goodness of the Virgin Mary. A power that issues not from her but from her power of intercession, for God will not refuse anything legitimate to the One whom he venerates and loves more than all creatures. The goodness of a mother who showers on us, members of Jesus Christ's mystical Body, the affection she bears for its Head, her divine Son; of a mother who has generated us in the pangs of birth, and for which she paid the price in her role as Coredemptrix.
Love of satisfaction that rejoices in the greatness, the virtues and the privileges of Mary; love of benevolence that yearns, prays and acts so that devotion to the Virgin Mary may take over and enflame the hearts of all. Love of gratitude for the benefits that she lavishes on us. Love of conformity that has a person strive to conform his will in everything to Mary's will and consequently to God's will.
Devotion to Mary sets before us a subject of encyclopedic proportion whether we look at it:
- in itself: its legitimacy, its nature and its essential acts, its fruits and its necessity;
- in its liturgical setting: times
dedicated to Mary, prayers and praises in her honor;
- in its gradual development down the ages, as attested to by literature and art;
- in the particular devotions to Mary: countless and varied devotions, which have as their object some prerogative or special revelation of Mary; devotions which, while not imposed by the Church but left to the free choice of the faithful, are approved and governed by the Church. Some of these are based on Mary's mercy (Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the devotion to Mary Auxiliatrix, to Mary, Mother of Providence, to Our Lady of Good Counsel, to Mary Consolatrix, to the Queen of Apostles, the practice of the three Hail Marys). Others honor her especially in her relationship with Christ the Redeemer (devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament).
Still others exalt Mary especially as mediatrix of all graces (the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the devotion to Mary Queen of hearts or of the holy slavery of love).
To be added to these are the modern forms of veneration to the Immaculate Conception (the Miraculous Medal, the Immaculate of Lourdes) and the devotions which bear Mary's hallmarks (devotion to Mary's scapular, pilgrimages in honor of Mary).
Other such devotions are the pious associations in honor of Mary (the Marian Congregation for youth, the Daughters of Mary) and national and international Marian Congresses.
To be sure these are matters which do not interest everyone and on every occasion. The apostle well knows how to choose the time and place and to make the most of every occasion to foster, more and more, the admiration, the imitation and the veneration of the Virgin Mary, mindful of Saint Bernard's words: "De Maria nunquam satis."3
The apostle is to have a particular care and predilection for sinners and to entrust them to the Queen of Mercy.
Among the many devotions to Mary let him find room for the one that summarizes them all: the act of complete consecration to Mary, as expounded by Blessed Grignion de Montfort.
1 * This sentence reconstruction is based on the presumed sense and the correction made in the 1950 edition. The line was missing in the original edition.
2 * The Italian text reads: Decomposta sta per scomposta.
3 * "You will never say enough about Mary."