Book Review: True Devotion to Mary

How can one praise this book enough? St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is a must-read on  Marian devotion in the Catholic Church. Next to the Eucharist and the Papacy, Marian devotion is probably one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church. Most Protestants accuse Catholics of paying too much attention to Mary, and too often in response Catholics will downplay or outright deny the necessity of Marian devotion in the teachings of the Church and the spiritual life. Yes, necessity.

“It was through the most holy Virgin Mary that Jesus came into the world, and it is also through her that He has to reign in the world.”

St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary is the handbook on Marian devotion– what it is, in what it consists, why such devotion is necessary, and he also distinguishes between true and false devotions. St. Louis de Montfort demonstrates that those who would accuse the Catholic Church of being excessive in her devotion to Mary are confused, and that the Church is right and obliged to reveal the truth about the necessity of devotion to Mary. Mary’s role in the history of our salvation is far greater than simply giving birth to Jesus Christ. Is her role utterly, completely, and entirely dependent upon the grace of God? Of course! But this does not diminish her role. Mary is but a mere creature of the Creator; but she is a creature to whom great graces have been given. She is our means of finding Jesus, and we go to her only that we may more perfectly find and love her Son, Jesus.

“The Son of God became man for our salvation; but it was in Mary and by Mary. God the Holy Ghost formed Jesus Christ in Mary; but it was only after having asked her consent by the one of the first ministers of His court.”

We cannot find Jesus without Mary. And the more perfectly conformed and united to Mary that we are, the more perfectly conformed and united we are to her Son. This is the essential truth of authentic Marian devotion: it leads to a deeper understanding of and union with Jesus, necessarily. Just as Mary led the servants to her Son in the Bible (cf. John 2:5, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you”), so too, does she lead us to God when we become the servant of the handmaid of the Lord. It was her will to do the holy will of God, and this is what she will teach us through imitation and prayer.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of  True Devotion to Mary for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

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The Guardian Angels

“See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 18:10

Today, October 2nd is the Feast Day for all our Guardian Angels. While there are traditionally believed to be 9 choirs of Angels in Heaven (Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones, the Dominations, Virtues and Powers, the Principalities, Archangels and Angels), it is the lowest class–the Angels– who are sent to be our Guardian Angels. However, lest anyone take offense that the lowest class of Angels are given to us as Guardians we would do well to remember the great power of the Angels; and that Satan (/Lucifer) was defeated by the Archangel Michael (Revelation 12:7+).

The existence of Angels is a Biblical fact. The Old Testament shows God’s Angels as His ministers who carried out His Will, and who were at times given special commissions. In Genesis 28-29, Angels act as the executors of God’s wrath against the cities of the plain, and they also deliver Lot from danger. In Exodus 12-13, an Angel is the appointed leader of the host of Israel, and in 32:34, God tells Moses: “my Angel shall go before thee”. We also have the story of Tobias where the Angel Raphael intimately and expressly guides and helps Tobias and his family through (seemingly) ordinary human affairs (marriage, sickness). Angels are also mentioned in the Psalms: Psalm 90:11: “For he hath given his Angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Cf. Psalm 33:8 and 34:5.) Lastly, in Daniel 10 Angels are entrusted with the care of particular districts; one is called “prince of the kingdom of the Persians”, and Michael is termed “one of the chief princes”; cf. Deuteronomy 32:8; and Ecclesiasticus 17:17.

The New Testament reveals the mission of the Angels more clearly, as Hebrews 11:1 sums up nicely: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” Angels are to help us, if we let them, get to Heaven. I quoted above where Our Lord spoke directly about the Angels– and that passage is traditionally used to defend Guardian Angels. At our Baptism (some theologians argue birth), we are given an Angel to guard and protect us– to help us on our way to salvation. In Luke 22:43 an Angel strengthens Our Lord in His agony. And in Acts 5:19 an Angel of the Lord led St. Paul and the Apostles out of prison, and later on in Acts 12:7+ an Angel helps St. Peter escape from prison. It’s interesting to note that the mention of Angels in the New Testament is equal to their mention in the Old. It was the privilege of Angels to announce God’s plan of salvation to Mary, Zechariah, and the Shepherds; and Angels were present and ministering to Christ all throughout His life (He conversed with them, they ministered to Him after the Temptation, they assisted Him in His agony, and they were witnesses to His Resurrection).

(The above is most definitely not an exhaustive reference to Angels in the Sacred Scriptures… indeed, their presence is numerous!)

So, in honor of today’s feast do not forget to pray to your Guardian Angel today (and then make this [praying] a habit for every day!). To help me remember, I added the Guardian Angel prayer to the last prayers after reciting the Rosary (ex. Salve Regina, “O God whose only begotten Son…”, St. Michael Prayer, Prayer to my Guardian Angel, etc.)

(For those seeking marriage, you would also do well to remember that the Angels have played important roles in aiding some of the most important marriages in history: Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 24:7), Tobias and Sara (Book of Tobias), and Our Lady and St. Joseph (Matthew 1:20+)… so it would be especially beneficial to remember the holy Angels!)

There are also several good philosophical reasons for believing in the existence of Angels… but I’ll save that for a later time (…and check out my reading suggestions if you are interested).

Prayer to your Holy Guardian Angel:

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide, Amen.

Latin:

Ángele Dei,
qui custos es mei,
me, tibi commíssum pietáte supérna,
illúmina, custódi,
rege et gubérna.
Amen.

Good Reads for today:
The Book of Tobias (found in complete (Catholic) Bibles)
Treatise on Angels by St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica I, Q. 50-64)
The Angels and Us by Mortimer Adler

Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM – R.I.P.

Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM died on Sunday, September 26 at around 4:45am after battling a long illness.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Fr. Dubay was the author of many books on the Spiritual life worthy of consideration and reflection:

Seeking Spiritual Direction
Prayer Primer
Fire Within
Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer
And You Are Christ’s
The Evidential Power of Beauty
Happy Are You Poor
Faith and Certitude
Authenticity

In his honor, I hope to get a couple reviews of some of his books up on the site relatively soon.

Book Review: Conversation with Christ

Overall: Interesting “how-to” book on prayer and meditation. Points for practicality.

Peter Thomas Rorhbach’s book Conversation with Christ seeks to help the reder understand meditation (and personal prayer) according to St. Theresa of Avila. It is a rather short, practical “how-to” type manual that really lays out clearly not only the utter importance of meditation and personal prayer in the spiritual life, but also gives the reader a concrete example to draw from.

The general outline for practicing meditation includes: a period of preparation, the selection of the material (something to read or a holy picture), consideration, conversation, and conclusion. Preparation mainly consists in placing oneself in the presence of Christ. The selection of the material, either a picture or a book (the various accounts of Our Lord’s Passion from the Gospels are highly recommended) is designed to open the mind and provide direction for the meditation. The consideration consists in asking the main questions: who, what, where, when, how, etc. to reflect upon the material selected. The conversation is really the heart of the meditation where we converse with Christ. The author says in this conversation we ought to employ the affections of love, sorrow, contrition, thanksgiving, petition, etc. towards Our Lord. Lastly, the conclusion consists in thanking Christ for the favors we have received, and examining our success(es)/failure(s), and making a resolution to keep at it and strive for continual and better conversation with Our Lord in the future.

Regarding the necessity of meditation and preparation the author says,

The best over-all preparation for successful meditation is a personal conviction of its importance and a staunch determination to persevere in its practice. Is one has acquired this attitude of mind, he has made a splendid preparation for his meditation.

St. Teresa gives us this important admonition:
It is essential, I maintain, to begin the practice of prayer with a firm resolution to persevere in it.

If one be not convinced of the necessity of meditation in his own life, nor resolved never to omit its daily exercise, he will soon give it up on one pretext or another. Therefore, one should not adopt the practice of meditation with the intention of “giving it a try”; but rather, one must undertake the exercise with a firm belief that it is of the utmost importance that he begin and persevere in it. Our mental attitude towards any enterprise will determine, to a large, extent, our success in it; meditation is no exception.

and later,

Meditation, naturally, consumes time. But this is not time lost; rather, the time expended in meditation aids in the ultimate conservation of time. This is true, first of all, because it places the soul under the direct influence of Christ, Who will then take complete charge of a person’s activities. And, further, the added perspective gained in meditation will enable one to better regulate his life by the separation of the non-essential from the essential. Dom Chautard, in his magnificent book, Soul of the Apostolate, relates this enlightening incident:
One of our great bishops, overburdened with his duties, explained this to a statesmen, who also had too much to do. The latter had asked the bishop the secret of his constant work. “My dear friend,” said the bishop, “add to you other occupations half an hour’s meditation every morning. Not only will you get through your business, but you will find time for still more.”

Finally, St. Peter of Alcantara sums up for us the benefits of meditation in a vibrant passage:
In mental prayer the soul is purified from its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, and strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident; temptation is conquered, sadness dispelled; the senses are renovated; drooping powers revive; tepidity ceases; the rust of vices disappears. out of mental prayer issues forth, like living sparks, those desires of heaven which the soul conceives when inflamed with the fire of divine love. Sublime is the excellence of mental prayer, great are its privileges; to mental prayer heaven is opened; to mental prayer heavenly secrets are manifested and tear of God ever attentive.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Conversation with Christ for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic Store online. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Happy Birthday to the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.

When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light.

Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.

Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.

Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins.

O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen.

(Prayer by St. Anselm)

September 8th the Church celebrates the birth of Our Lady, esteemed Mother of God, who, by her Immaculate Conception was also born free from all stain of sin. She is the solitary boast of our race. So in honor of Our Lady’s birthday pray the Rosary, pray the Angelus, the Litany of Loreto, the Salve Regina, and don’t forget Mary’s own prayer: the Magnificat

Good Reads:
The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori
True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort

Pope Benedict XVI to visit England

If you haven’t already been hearing about it in the news, Pope Benedict XVI will visit England in a few weeks for 4 days. Our Holy Father is definitely going to need prayers. There are already planned protests and everything anyone disagrees with regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church seems to be back on the table for discussion. The Church is never going to ordain women as priests. The Church is never going to allow contraceptives to ruin the marital embrace. Get over it. Find something else to complain about. Putting an ad on a London bus is not going incite an Ecumenical Council to overhaul the teachings of the Church. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It’s just wasted money.

And earlier this summer, it was reported that English Muslims were planning to protest the visit and “tell the Pope what they really think of him” (i.e., utter slanderous and spiteful words). Supposedly the UK police are going to be monitoring the situation, and I hope they keep on it. The extremist website promoting the hatred is still fuming over Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg Address… they obviously never read Pope Benedict XVI’s Truth and Tolerance.

Thus it becomes apparent that, beyond all particular questions, the real problem lies in the question about truth. Can truth be recognized? Or, is the question about truth simply inappropriate in the realm of religion and belief? But what meaning does belief then have, what positive meaning does religion have, if it cannot be connected with truth?
… we have to get a view of the phenomenon of religion as such and cannot simply start from an undifferentiated mass of “religions” in general. We first have to try to understand them as they are, in their historical dynamic, in their essential structures and types, as also in their possible threats to each other, before we try to arrive at any judgments…
And finally, we have inevitably to face up to the question of whether man is made for the truth and in what way he can, and even must, put the question of truth.

From the Regensburg Address:

…I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both… The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three “Laws” or “rules of life”: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole – which, in the context of the issue of “faith and reason”, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature…

The Address was a speech on faith and reason, and the hullabaloo over Pope Benedict XVI’s quotation is pure childishness. He is making a point (in relation to faith and reason) about violence and God using an example from someone else. The Holy Father was never claiming Islam is a religion of violence, or making a statement about Mohammed. Though, the reaction of certain Muslims to the out-of-context quote following the lecture is demonstrating its own point… that it still continues to be a point of contention regarding the Pope is even more baffling. Anyone who flames up at the Holy Father for it, has completely missed the entire point of the lecture, and I hope they will read it (the whole thing), in context.

In any case, we should prepare for the Holy Father’s visit to England by praying hard for him, and for those who will hear him. Viva il Papa!

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.

R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat
eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
[Ps 40:3]

Pater Noster…,  Ave Maria….

Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum
Benedictum, quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti,
propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo,
quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi
credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum
nostrum. Amen.

V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make
him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the
will of his enemies. [Ps 40:3]

Our Father…,  Hail Mary….

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look
mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen
as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we
beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify
those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the
flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Marian Consecration

The more we honor the Blessed Virgin, the more we honor Jesus Christ, because we honor Mary only that we may the more perfectly honor Jesus, since we go to her only as the way by which we are to find the end we are seeking, which is Jesus.

St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary

I sought out Marian devotion when I was feeling helpless. I was spiritually drowning by things that don’t matter now, and I was desperate for Faith. I had a priest bring me a scapular (from Rome), and enroll me in the Brown Scapular*. I found a copy of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and devoured it. I started the 33-day Preparation for Total Consecration, and consecrated myself to the Blessed Mother on August 15, 2006 (the Feast of the Assumption of Mary).

I think in our modern struggles to be ‘ecumenical’, many Catholics overlook Marian consecration in fear that it might take away from Jesus. They couldn’t be any more mistaken. And they’ve obviously never read St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary. Marian devotion is something essential to Christian faith because how we view Our Lady defines how we think about Our Lord. I’ve been in ‘debates’ about Marian doctrines where the other person has retorted that Mary “was merely a vessel for the birth of the Savior” as though God just uses people and then throws them away after He’s accomplished His designs. That’s not how God has revealed Himself to us. Mary was not a vessel, she was (and is) a mother. She became the mother of Jesus Christ the instant the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived, in her womb, the Son of God. Thus, Mary is the Theotokos (the God-bearer)… the Mother of God (“Mother of my Lord” cf. Luke 1:43). And she followed her Son to the Cross, where her own soul was pierced as Simeon the prophet had foretold (cf. Luke 2:35). Clearly, she was not forgotten in the plans of God…

… all generations shall call me blessed

Luke 1:48

But what is consecration to the Blessed Mother?  In short, it is the way “to Jesus, through Mary”. As St. Louis de Montfort opens his True Devotion, it was through Mary that Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world and so it is through her that we ought to go to Him. The great truth of Catholic Marian spirituality is that Mary always leads to her Son, Jesus. Always.

Whatsoever He shall say to you, do

John 2:5

Consecration is about conformity to Jesus Christ. We find our perfection in Him. To this end, and our growth in perfection, St. Louis de Montfort proposes a method of preparation and consecration that is 33 days of preparation + the day of consecration, or about 5 weeks. You can find various books and preparations for consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort that vary slightly. The preparation included in True Devotion to Mary consists of a preliminary period (12 days) to free ourselves from the “spirit of this world”, and then a second period of 3 weeks wherein the first week is devoted to knowledge of ourselves, knowledge of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and knowledge of Jesus Christ which is then crowned by our consecration. It is admitted that this preparation is flexible, and Fr. Helmuts Libietis has done a fine job of compiling a good preparation based on St. Louis de Montfort’s that is divided into 5 weeks, and 4 short meditations for each day followed by the prayers which St. Louis de Montfort suggests for that week titled Consecration to Mary. Slightly different, and perhaps a bit more time consuming than the basics which St. Louis offers in True Devotion, but nonetheless I have personally found Fr. Libietis’ preparation to be doable, and of great assistance in truly getting into the spirit of preparation that St. Louis de Montfort sought. It’s a good help.

So in offering and consecration ourselves to Mary, we seek conformity to her Son. Who was the perfect disciple? Mary. There’s a part in the Sacred Scriptures (which many often mistakenly view and use as an anti-Mary tract) where a woman cries out from the crowd after Jesus has exorcised a demon, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck” and Jesus responds, “Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28). Anyone would have to agree that Mary fulfilled this blessing in a very singular way: she received the Annunciation of the coming of the Savior through the Angel Gabriel, and she responded that the will of God should be done unto her, and then she conceived the Word of God and kept Him, in her womb for 9 months, and thereafter in her Immaculate Heart. Yes, Mary was indeed Blessed to be the Mother of God; but she is blessed even moreso in hearing and keeping the Word of God.  Our Lord’s response to the woman in the crowd was in no way a degradation of Mary as His mother.

Imitation of Mary is imitation of Christ.

Jesus Christ our Saviour, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, else they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, of all things. We labor not, as the Apostle says, except to render every man perfect in Jesus Christ; because it is in Him alone that the whole plenitude of the Divinity dwells together with all the other plenitudes of graces, virtues, and perfections. It is in Him alone that we have been blessed with all spiritual benediction; and He is our only Master, who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepherd who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us. There has been no other name given under Heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection or our glory, than Jesus Christ. Every building which is not built on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or later infallibly will fall. Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him, as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither, and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire. Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation. But if we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is in us, we have no condemnation to fear. Neither the angels of Heaven nor the men of earth nor the devils of Hell nor any other creature can injure us; because they cannot separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things; we can render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost; we can become perfect ourselves, and be to our neighbor a good odor of eternal life (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

If, then, we establish solid devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ, and to provide an easy and secure means for finding Jesus Christ…

St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, #61, 62

Good Reads about the Mother of God:
True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort
The Secret of Mary by St. Louis de Montfort
The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort
The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Consecration to Mary by Fr. Helmuts Libietis

*The Brown Scapular