St. Louis on Mary as spiritual mother of all Christians
St. Louis spent most of his priestly life preaching and teaching in western France, basing his teaching on Mary on the principle that just as God had initiated the work of Redemption on the basis of her cooperation, so he would continue and finish that work by means of her: “It was through the blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world.”
He also stressed Mary’s role as spiritual mother of all Christians, basing himself on the fact of her divine maternity and her role in Redemption. He taught that by means of her faith, trust, love, and holiness, she merited the status of “Co-Redemptrix,” one that gives her rights over all mankind, since Jesus’ death was sufficient to save all mankind.
Since she is the spiritual mother of every human being, then we are her “children” in the order of grace, and as children, especially when they are still in the womb or very small, are totally dependent on their mother, so we too are totally dependent on Mary as “Mediatrix” of all graces. This implies that we should be totally devoted to her, which is the essence of the “Holy slavery of love,” although perhaps the idea of “spiritual childhood,” as popularised through St. Thérèse of Lisieux, is easier for the modern mind to understand and accept.
St. Louis composed a formula of consecration to Mary that emphasised the idea of the individual making a total offering of self to God through Mary, arguing that this was really a renewal of the baptismal vows, in which the individual is completely consecrated to God. He insisted though that this consecration had to be carried over into daily life, as a lived spirit, if it was to be really effective.
St. Louis’s major work, the Treatise on True Devotion, was hidden away and not found until 1842, when it providentially began to contribute to the resurgence of Marian ideas that took place from 1830 onwards. His work has been approved by a number of Popes, and he was finally canonised in 1947, thus indicating that the Church has found nothing objectionable in his ideas on the total consecration to Mary.
St. Louis made a number of interesting prophecies concerning the future role of Mary in the Church and the world, including this statement in the True Devotion: “If …as is certain, the knowledge and the kingdom of Jesus Christ must come into the world, it can only be as a necessary consequence of the knowledge and reign of Mary. She who first gave him to the world will establish his kingdom in the world.”
He argued that this was the case “because God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin ever since he created her, [and so] we can safely believe that he will not change his plan in the time to come, for he is God and therefore does not change in his thoughts or his way of acting.”
St. Louis then went on to describe Mary’s future role: “The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished. Mary scarcely appeared in the first coming of Jesus Christ so that men, as yet insufficiently instructed and enlightened concerning the person of her Son, might not wander from the truth by becoming too strongly attached to her.”
He argues that the reasons for hiding Mary’s importance, that is the danger of her being treated as a goddess by the early Church, no longer exist, and so now God can reveal her and make her better known during the “latter times.” This prophecy certainly seems to have been at least partially fulfilled in the nineteenth and twentieth century Marian apparitions and their aftermath, but St. Louis apparently goes on to argue that an even more splendid Marian age is to come.
He foresaw men and women who in their true devotion to Mary would prepare the way for Christ by living the message of the Gospel in simplicity and humility, and thus inaugurate a future great triumph for Christianity, but one also involving persecution and suffering for the Church.
This seems to agree with the prophecies made by St. John Bosco in the nineteenth and by Mary herself at Fatima in the twentieth century.
St. Louis also dealt with true and false devotion to Mary. Speaking of his own era he complained how, “The devil, like a counterfeiter and crafty and experienced deceiver, has already misled and ruined many Christians by means of fraudulent devotions to our Lady.” Obviously “fraudulent devotions,” also includes the possibility of false apparitions, and if that was true three hundred years ago, then it is even more the case today.
He then goes on to make an extremely important point, one which clearly indicates that some modern apparitions must be false: “A counterfeiter usually makes coins only of gold and silver, rarely of other methods, because these latter would not be worth the trouble. Similarly, the devil leaves other devotions alone and counterfeits those mostly directed to Jesus and Mary … because these are to other devotions what gold and silver are to other metals.”
Thus unless the devil has radically changed his method of operation, which seems unlikely if not impossible, given that his opposition to the divine remains unchanged, then some of the modern alleged apparitions of Mary must be false. As is indicated in the section on biblical prophecy and apparitions the devil’s usual approach is to copy an authentic prophecy, writing, movement or devotion and “flood the market” with forgeries, thus sowing confusion and causing problems for the Church.
Thus it is certain that the authentic Marian apparitions have been counterfeited and that in all probability many, if not most, of the modern alleged apparitions are false. This may seem like an extreme statement, but the facts will bear it out.
Sources: St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, (Montfort Press, Liverpool, 1976); Gaffney, “The Holy Slavery of Love,” in Mariology, Vol. 3.
The following is a story (I do not know of its origins) told by St. Louis. On this Feast Day it is worth repeating:
Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all his servants to honor the Blessed Virgin by saying the Rosary. So he used to hang a large rosary on his belt and always wore it, but unfortunately never said it himself. Nevertheless his wearing it encouraged his courtiers to say the Rosary very devoutly.
One day the King fell seriously ill and when he was given up for dead he found himself, in a vision, before the judgment seat of Our Lord. Many devils were there accusing him of all the sins he had committed and Our Lord as Sovereign Judge was just about to condemn him to hell when Our Lady appeared to intercede for him. She called for a pair of scales and had his sins placed in one of the balances whereas she put the rosary that he had always worn on the other scale, together with all the Rosaries that had been said because of his example. It was found that the Rosaries weighed more than his sins.
Looking at him with great kindness Our Lady said: “As a reward for this little honor that you paid me in wearing my Rosary, I have obtained a great grace for you from my Son. Your life will be spared for a few more years. See that you spend these years wisely, and do penance.”
When the King regained consciousness he cried out: “Blessed be the Rosary of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, by which I have been delivered from eternal damnation!”
After he had recovered his health he spent the rest of his life in spreading devotion to the Holy Rosary and said it faithfully every day.”