In 1842, a priest was looking through an old chest in a house in Saint Laurent-sur-Sevre, in France. The priest was a member of the Fathers of the Company of Mary, today commonly called the Montfort Fathers, and the house belonged to the community.
At the bottom of the chest, the priest found a stack of old handwritten pages, yellow with age. The priest took the sheets to his superiors. There were many consultations, many readings, much comparing of handwriting. Finally it was announced that these were two manuscripts which had undoubtedly been written by Father Louis Marie de Montfort, the founder of the community.
A STACK OF OLD HANDWRITTEN PAGES, YELLOW WITH AGE
The Bishop of Lucon authorised the publication of the work, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has since gone through 130 editions and has played a tremendous part in increasing devotion to the Blessed Mother. The other manuscript, The Secret of Mary, is a summary of the True Devotion.
“YOU ATTACK ME IN VAIN; I STAND BETWEEN JESUS AND MARY.”
Louis Marie de Montfort was born in a little town in Brittany in 1673, the eldest of seventeen children. He was ordained a priest in 1700. Most of his priestly career was devoted to preaching against the heresy of Jansenism which had taken a strong hold in France. In his preaching he constantly taught devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He stressed the fact that she is Mediatrix. In 1716, worn out by his constant labour, he was struck by a fatal illness. Just before he died, he cried out: “You attack me in vain; I stand between Jesus and Mary. I have finished my course. I shall sin no more.”
“THE DEVIL WOULD ENVELOP IT IN THE SILENCE OF A COFFER”
For a long time after his death, De Montfort was almost forgotten. Then, about a century later, discussion of his virtues began. In 1853, Rome decreed his writings to be exempt from all error that could be a bar to his canonisation. He was beatified in 1888 and canonised on July 20, 1947.
Sometime between his ordination in 1700 and his death in 1716, De Montfort wrote True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Secret of Mary. As he wrote he said, “If I thought that my poor blood could help to carry the truths that I write in my dear Mother’s honour to the hearts of men, I would use it instead of ink to form the letters.”
But he foretold that the little book would not come to light for a long time. He said that the devil would “envelop it in the silence of a coffer, in order that it might not appear.” He went on to prophesy that eventually it would appear and that it would be successful. We have seen that these prophecies were fully realised. The manuscript was lost for 126 years, but the book is now widely circulated.
THE BOOK IS NOW WIDELY CIRCULATED
Although St Louis Marie lived and died long before the period covered by this book, he belongs in any study of the Blessed Mother in the modern world.
The True Devotion preached by St Louis Marie was total consecration to the Blessed Virgin. We give her all our earthly possessions, all our thoughts, words, and deeds. Mary exists only to honour God and to serve Him, so when we offer these things to Mary we really offer them to God through Mary. St Louis Marie says that we should make ourselves slaves of Mary. He calls his devotion “the slavery of Jesus in Mary.”
The devotion did not originate with St Louis Marie, but to him must go most of the credit for making it widely known and widely practised. The devotion will be discussed more fully in a later chapter. For the present, we shall confine ourselves to that section of True Devotion which concerns the role of the Blessed Virgin in the modern world. In writing this section, the saint-author seems to have been inspired from heaven, because he looks into the future and tells what is going to happen. Many of the events that are taking place in the world today are more understandable when considered in the light of De Montfort’s words.
“MORE KNOWN, MORE LOVED AND MORE HONOURED THAN SHE HAS EVER BEEN”
“God wishes that His Holy Mother should be at the present time more known, more loved and more honoured than she has ever been,” St Louis Marie tells us.
This statement helps explain the many manifestations of the Blessed Virgin in the last [centuries] and the great increase in devotion to her. The manuscript of True Devotion was found in 1842. In the twelve years preceding its finding, there had been manifestations of the Blessed Mother at the convent of the Daughters of Charity in Paris, at Blangy, and at the shrine of Our Lady of Victories in Paris. Four years later, our Lady was to appear to children at La Salette. Twelve years later the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception was to be defined. Three years after that our Lady was to appear to Bernadette of Lourdes. And this was only the beginning! Truly, it would seem that God wants his mother more known, more loved, and more honoured than ever before. – Why does God wish this?
“IN MERCY, IN MIGHT, AND IN GRACE”
“It was through Mary that the salvation of the world was begun and it is through Mary that it must be consummated. Mary hardly appeared at all in the first coming of Jesus Christ. But in the second coming… Mary has to be made known and revealed by the Holy Ghost, in order that through her, Jesus Christ may be known, loved and served…”
It was through Mary that our Lord came into the world the first time. It is through her that he will come back to the world. In order to accomplish this, Mary herself must become better known and better loved.
St Louis Marie then elaborates on why God “wishes to reveal and make known the masterpiece of His hands in these latter times:
“It is by her that the souls who are to shine forth especially in sanctity have to find Our Lord. He who shall find Mary shall find life, that is Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But no one can find Mary who does not seek her, who does not know her… It is necessary, then, for the greater knowledge and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, that Mary should be more than ever known.
That is a further possible explanation for the many apparitions of the Blessed Virgin that have been taking place since 1830.
FOR THE GREATER KNOWLEDGE AND GLORY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
St Louis Marie continues: “Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might, and in grace in these latter times.” In mercy, he says, to bring back the strayed sinner. In might, against the enemies of God who shall rise in terrible revolt against Him. In grace, to sustain the soldiers and servants of Christ who shall battle in His service.
He concludes the list of reasons with the following words which seem to have special bearing on the present world situation:
“And lastly Mary must be terrible to the devil and his crew, as an army ranged in battle, principally in these latter times, because the devil, knowing he has but little time, and now less than ever, to destroy souls, will every day redouble his efforts and his combats. He will presently raise up cruel persecutions, and will put terrible snares before the faithful servants and true children of Mary, whom it gives him more trouble to conquer than it does to conquer others.”
One has but to think of the events of the past two centuries and of conditions in our modern world to realise that the devil has indeed been raising up cruel persecutions of the Church and that they have been increasing in intensity. St Louis Marie tells us that these last and cruel persecutions “shall go on increasing daily till the reign of Antichrist.”
With such a powerful enemy ranged against us, the situation would be hopeless if we did not have an even more powerful friend and protector. After the fall of our first parents God said to the serpent: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
On this point St Louis Marie says: “God has formed… but one enmity, but it is an irreconcilable one, which shall endure and grow even to the end. It is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil – between the children and servants of the Blessed Virgin, and the children and tools of Lucifer.” God has given His Mother such power over the devil, De Montfort tells us, that Satan “fears her not only more than all the angels and men, but in a sense more than God Himself. Not that the anger, the hatred and the power of God are not infinitely greater than those of the Blessed Virgin, for the perfections of Mary are limited, but Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little handmaid of God, and her humility humbles him more than the divine power.
The devils, we are told, fear one of Mary’s sighs for a soul, “more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats against them more than all other torments.”
THE BATTLE HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR CENTURIES
The battle between the devil and our Blessed Mother has been going on for centuries. It is a battle for souls. The devil is trying to lure all of us into the lowest depths of hell. Mary is trying to lead us to heaven. Today, according to De Montfort, the devil is more active than ever before because he has little time left. As a consequence the Blessed Virgin is making herself better known to us, so that we might resist the devil and enrol on her side. The battle seems to be approaching a great climax.
The saint’s words about Mary’s power over the devil are consoling ones for these trying days. Satan may rage and roar at us. He may persecute us openly or subtly, but he cannot harm us do long as we stay by Mary’s side.
– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954