Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review - Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction

All our perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ; and therefore, the most perfect of all devotions is, without any doubt, that which most perfectly conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ. Now, Mary being the most conformed of all creatures to Jesus Christ, it follows that, of all devotions, that which most consecrates and conforms the soul to Our Lord is devotion to His holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it is consecrated to Jesus.
-St. Louis de Montfort, Treatise on True Devotion, n. 120

It is always a joy to share sound spiritual sources which allow us to learn and practice Our Lord’s dictum, “Be thou therefore perfect, as also thy Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48). For the Messiah also taught, “The disciple is not above his master: but every one shall be perfect, if he be as his master.” (Luke 6: 40)

How are we to become perfect if we wish to be as Our Master, Jesus Christ? The only answer is repeated many times in both Tradition and Scripture – e.g., the two, inseparable sources in which Divine Revelation is given to us. Throughout the ages, Divine Revelation is expounded by many trusted Christian (which means Catholic) sources - including but not limited to St. Alfonsus di Liguori, St. Dominic, Blessed Alan de la Roche, St. Louis Marie de Montfort, the great Carmelite reformers St. Terese of Avila and St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”), Blessed Columba Marmion, and Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange.

The works of St. Louis Marie include “The Secret of Mary,” “The Secret of the Rosary” and “True Devotion to Mary.” As we will see, a number of popes blessed this particular devotion, and they also spoke or wrote of “True Devotion to Mary.”

---Pope Pius XI declared that St. Louis’ teaching on devotion to Mary was the best and most acceptable form of devotion to Our Lady.
---Pope Leo XIII granted a plenary indulgence to those who make the Act of Consecration to Mary (which is truly an Act of Consecration TO Jesus through Mary). It was this same pope who, on his deathbed, renewed the Act of Consecration and asked for the intercession of the (then) Blessed Louis de Montfort, whom the pope had beautified in 1888.
---Pope St. Pius X: “I heartily recommend ‘True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,’ so admirably written by Blessed De Montfort, and to all who read it [I] grant the Apostolic Benediction.”
---Pope Benedict XV: “A book of high authority and unction.”
---Pope Pius XI: “I have practiced this devotion ever since my youth.”
---Pope Pius XIII: “The greatest force behind all his (St. Louis de Montfort’s) apostolic ministry and his great secret for attracting and winning souls for Jesus was his devotion to Mary. (From the Canonization Address of July 20, 1947)
---Pope John Paul II: “…this Saint's Mariological thought ‘is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God.’ ”

The whole of St. Louis de Montfort’s teaching is that the “shorter way” to spiritual perfection is through the hands of the Virgin Mother. He taught that when we do everything by, through, and with Our Lady, we are the more quickly brought to a deeper spiritual union with God. This wayto Jesus through Maryperfectly coincides with what the Lord manifested as His Divine Will to Sr. Lucia of Fatima, which is that the Immaculate Heart must be loved and honoured next to His Sacred Heart.

Now we shall examine the spiritual direction of the Blessed Columbia Marmion who, as we shall see, offered his humble opinion that the “Act of Consecration” to the Virgin (which is truly an act TO Jesus THROUGH Mary) is especially for souls chosen by the Holy Ghost to more speedily rise to perfect spiritual union with God.

To provide a spotlight biography of the Blessed Columbia Marmion: He had been a priest in Dublin, Ireland before finding a vocation to the monastery, where he eventually become Abbot in Maredsous Abbey, Belgium. One of the foremost spiritual masters of the 20th century, his books are acclaimed by popes and cardinals, including the well-known Cardinal Mercier, Pope Benedict XV, Pope Pius XII, and Pope John Paul II.

A recently republished book, “Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction” ( is a collection of letters first published 10 years after Blessed Columba Marmion’s death. These letters were written “to the many people who wrote to him with their spiritual problems – questions about prayer, faith, temptation, trails, and suffering. Blessed Columba’s advice is always simple and uncomplicated, yet deep and profound.” (From the back cover of “Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion”)

What is “spiritually confirming” about this book (which I would recommend to any adult from high school age and up), is that the Blessed Columba Marmion urged sound interior practices (or even what might be called “interior non-action”), which are expounded in both the great works of the Carmelite reformers, St. Terese of Avila and St. John of the Cross, and also in the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux (of whom the Blessed Marmion became aware during the cause of her canonization). Blessed Marmion did not indulge in novelties, but with firm charity taught the Faith in all its integrity, whole and intact. In a word, he constantly urged that souls give themselves entirely to Our Lord, Jesus Christ – holding back nothing.

Blessed Marmion's spiritual advice conforms itself to “True Devotion to Mary” taught by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, in which the Christian souls gives themselves “To Jesus through Mary.” For that reason, most surprising was Blessed Marmion’s admission that he first found “The Secret of Mary” to be "distracting." Initially, such an admission is alarming to other Christian souls, since St. Louis Marie de Montfort and many other saints explain that a Christian’s honest attitude and devotion (or lack thereof) to the Mother of God, especially in regard to the Most Holy Rosary, reveals the true state of his soul.

However, further reading reveals that Blessed Marmion’s spiritual direction in regard to "True Devotion" was as follows: “For certain souls, drawn to [True Devotion] by grace, this devotion is doubtless fruitful and sanctifying. But for that it needs to be attracted to it by the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Yet he also claimed that for souls attracted to “The Secret of Mary,” he encouraged them, “for this devotion was propagated by a Saint, and [if] it seems to us exaggerated” it is because “perhaps…we are not yet at the diapason of holiness.”

This humble and holy observation should not cause pride in those who find themselves strongly drawn to "True Devotion" and "The Secret of Mary;" instead, it should stir a deeper love and gratitude to God for His great Mercy in calling us to give all to Jesus through the loving hands of His Virgin Mother.

In regard to “The Secret of Mary” – the "shorter" path of higher spiritual union with God via True Devotion to Jesus through Mary – various saints explain that Our Lord Himself wants all of us to give themselves to the Virgin, just as He did. Our Lord, Whose entire Life was an example for us to follow, submitted Himself in loving obedience to the Virgin Mother and his chaste foster-father, St. Joseph. Is Jesus not the Word who gave us the Commandments, including "Honor thy father and they mother"? Our Lord gave more glory to God in his first 30 years of filial submission to His Mother than if He had preached during his youth and early adult life.

We Christians know that Our Lord Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Holy Trinity and Who is both God and Man, allowed Himself to be nurtured, taught and instructed by the Virgin who was always, from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception, “full of grace.” The faithful Christian should do the same as did Our Lord throughout His Holy Life, striving to follow His example in regard to Our Lady, who was God’s “Mater et Magistra” (Mother and Teacher), the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, and Who is the perfect model for the Church.

These Marian doctrines are great mysteries, but we know they are true because God (Who can neither deceive nor be deceived) entrusted to the Church His Divine Revelation (Tradition and Scripture). Both Tradition and Scripture provide certain lights in regard to the Virgin Mary (Spouse of the Holy Ghost) and the Church (the Bride of Christ).

In embracing “True Devotion” to Jesus through Mary, we will find the Immaculate Virgin lovingly declares, as she did at Fatima, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that leads you to God.”

Each day, let us each remember that Our Lady invites us to come to her for all the graces we need, for she is indeed the Mediatrix of All Graces and She herself will intercede for us before Her Divine Son! Offer everything - every thought, word and action of the day - to Jesus through Mary, as sacrifices to God in reparation for sins and to ask for the conversion of sinners. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that any one
who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother!
To thee I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate!
Despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

(The Memorare of St. Bernard. Indulgence, 300 days, each time. Plenary, once a month, on the usual conditions: Confession, Holy Communion, and prayers for the intention of the Holy Father)

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