The following is an excerpt from my recent conference talk.
I am probably not alone — I hope I am not — in considering much of devotional literature a bit tiresome when it presents one or another special devotion as if it were the end-all and be-all of the Christian life, as if those who do not practice it are somehow cursed, or as if it were part of a new dispensation that updates the actual New Testament. This approach we can call the “monistic” approach to the spiritual life, a monism being the irrational reduction of reality to one specific principle, such as Heraclitus’ doctrine that all is fire or Thales’ doctrine that all is water or Anaximenes’ doctrine that all is air — or Hobbes, power; Marx, the class struggle; Freud, the sexual appetite, Darwin; biological evolution, etc. Along with the phenomenon of false moral imperatives, one of the insufferable banes of life in the traditional movement (in spite of its being not particularly traditional) is the ever-present monism.
So let me say now that the ultimate remedy to our ills is the life of grace, which life recognizes all of reality for what it is. This is one and the same with the Christian and Catholic life, lived in supernatural union with Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. The life of grace necessitates justification, or sanctifying grace, which elevates the soul, along with faith, hope, and charity that elevate its highest powers toward God; it depends upon the supernatural helps of God’s actual grace to move us, the Gifts of the Holy Ghost to perfect our virtues, the sacraments of Holy Mother Church to nourish us, her moral teaching to guide us in our actions, her ascetical and mystical doctrines to assist us in reaching perfection, the examples of our Blessed Mother and the saints to edify us, and the bright and beautiful culture she fosters to buoy us up and encourage us along the way. That is the thing. That is of the essence.
This life of grace involves the sanctification of all of man’s powers and neglects nothing that is in man by nature. Far from being opposed to human nature, divine grace builds on that nature and elevates it to the divine. This life of grace is Christocentric, and it is Trinitarian, for through Christ and in the Holy Ghost it leads us to the Father.
When enough of us truly live this life in common and with conviction — and when we can also produce elites who are guided by truly Christian, Catholic principles — then we can transform the social order. This will take authentic holiness joined to intelligence and will to accomplish. And of course, it should go without saying that without God’s grace it will not happen.
As a Catholic psychologist once told me — not Dr. Dilsaver, by the way — the faith has the answer to all our problems. When one keeps in mind all that I mentioned above under the heading of “the life of grace,” and considers also the broad sweep of the virtues that our religion inculcates, including the acquired and supernaturally infused moral virtues that should guide all our human activities — prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, along with their forty-or-so different “parts” — one will see that my psychologist friend’s claim is not at all exaggerated.
How then do I justify the title of this talk, and indeed the title of this whole conference, which is admittedly of my own crafting: “Total Consecration to Mary: The Remedy for our Ills”? I will do so in four ways:
I. First is what I call the Ontological Argument, because it pertains to our very being as Christians. The Christian life is a reproduction of the life of Jesus Christ in each of us, a truth that Venerable Emmanuel d’Alzon (1810-1880) rightly termed Christ’s “Mystical Incarnation in the Church and in each of the members of the Church.” This profound reality is begun at baptism and terminates in Heavenly Beatitude. But between those two termini, it should be augmented as long as we are members of the Militant Church sojourning in this vale of tears. Two texts of Saint Paul come to mind here: “I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20), which shows the reality of Christ’s life in us; and “he, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), which shows that the divine life is meant to increase in us.
The Christian order of things, the New Covenant, is founded on the Mystery of the Incarnation. Without that mystery, there are no Mass, no Eucharist, no sacraments, no Redemption on the Cross, etc. Now, the Incarnation occurred when the Divine Word became man in the blessed womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost. Because we are by grace what Jesus is by nature, there is a parallel between His life and ours. “His mysteries are [therefore] our mysteries,” to use the phrase of Blessed Columba Marmion. And the same Persons involved in the Incarnation of the Divine Word are also involved in the Mystical Incarnation of the Word in each Christian. Therefore, we can say that the Holy Ghost and His Immaculate Spouse conceive Christ in our souls. And because of this, we, too, as Christians, are conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Viewed in this light, consecration to Mary, by which we consciously and willfully subject ourselves to her maternal activity in our souls, is a radical acceptance of our status as sons of God. It therefore facilitates in us the life of grace by opening us to the sanctifying action of the Holy Ghost.
All of what I have just said is concentrated in fewer words by Saint Louis de Montfort in The Secret of Mary (No. 17): “Mary” he says, “is the great mould of God, fashioned by the Holy Spirit to give human nature to a Man who is God by the hypostatic union, and to fashion through grace men who are like to God. No godly feature is missing from this mould. Everyone who casts himself into it and allows himself to be moulded will acquire every feature of Jesus Christ, true God, with little pain or effort, as befits his weak human condition. He will take on a faithful likeness to Jesus with no possibility of distortion, for the devil has never had and never will have any access to Mary, the holy and immaculate Virgin, in whom there is not the least suspicion of a stain of sin.”
Saint Louis Marie also says that the true Slaves of Jesus through Mary will have a special devotion to the Incarnation (True Devotion, No. 243). Perhaps this is owing to the great truth we have just labored to explain, namely, that the Mystical Incarnation of the Word in us is radically dependent on that historical event we honor in the first Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.
II. Second is the Argument from Mediation. God chooses to use certain of His creatures in order to mediate to us His truth, love, and mercy. We can think here of the priesthood, the sacraments, prayer, each other, our senses (“faith cometh by hearing”), etc. Even the Protestants must agree, when pressed, that the Bible, preachers, and prayer — all creatures — somehow mediate grace to us. After Jesus’ sacred Humanity, the holiest of all creatures, and the most transparent to the action of the Three Divine Persons, is Our Lady. Now, no other creature is so united to Christ in mediating grace to men, for, as Blessed Pius IX says in Ineffabilis Deus: “God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom.”
In his own Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin, Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe addresses her thus: “For wherever you enter, you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” As he explains elsewhere, Marian Consecration makes no sense unless the Blessed Mother is the Mediatrix of all Grace. Saint Louis Marie testifies to this same truth in his own Act of Perfect Consecration, using the following words: “I have recourse to the intercession of Thy most holy Mother, Whom Thou hast given me for a mediatrix with Thee. It is through Her that I hope to obtain of Thee contrition, the pardon of my sins, and the acquisition and preservation of wisdom.”
III. Third is the Argument from Efficacy. This can be explained by citing the words of Saint Louis: “she is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus” (TD, No. 55). That which most perfectly effects the achieving of an end might be considered as joined to the end itself. Again, in the words of Ineffabilis Deus: “God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom.”
IV. Last is the Argument from Timeliness. In True Devotion, No. 217, Saint Louis Marie speaks of the “age of Mary.” From what I can tell, this is the first historical use of that now-consecrated term. For Saint Louis, it is an indeterminate time in the future, and he wonders when it will come to pass. Father Feeney conceives of the Age of Mary in a broader sense, and dates it from the year 1000 on, due to the increase, during that era, of Marian devotion, of Marian doctrinal definitions, and, especially, an increase of Mary’s active role in the Church by way of the apparitions of Guadalupe, Rue de Bac, Lourdes, Fatima, and others. Sometime between 1787 and 1790, the great servant of Mary, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), conceived of his own time as beginning the Age of Mary. Frankly, I see no contradiction in any of this. Father Feeney sees a general era, during which Marian devotion, doctrinal development, and her own personal activity in the Church increase. During that time, in 1712, Saint Louis Marie heralds a future time of great Marian piety, and then around 1780, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade sees its beginnings. It should be noted that Chaminade lived during the time that True Devotion lay hidden in obscurity.1 The fact that his language often bears a startling resemblance to Saint Louis Marie’s is a testimony to some common sources, but also of the work of the Holy Ghost in both of them.
Fast-forward another 140 years or so from Chaminade and we come to Fatima. At least two parts of that revelation point to a special power given to Our Lady by God in these times. First, we have the words of Our Lady, who had not yet revealed her identity to the children, on July 13th, 1917: “I want you to come here on the 13th of next month, and to continue praying the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war, because only She can help you.” (These words are too-often paraphrased into “Only I can help you,” which is not exactly what she said, although the meaning is the same.) The same Man-God who declared “without me you can do nothing” also appointed His Mother to say these words about a new dependence on Mary’s help. There is no contradiction, but, rather, an economy of perfect cooperation between the Second Adam and the New Eve.
The second thing from Fatima I cite are Sister Lucy’s words to Father Augustin Fuentes, again about the Rosary: “Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves. We will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
1. True Devotion was written in 1712, but not discovered till 1842. Saint Louis prophesied this: “I clearly foresee that raging beasts will shall come in fury to tear with their diabolical teeth this little writing and him whom the Holy Ghost had 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.” (TD, no. 114).