Allocutio at September 2017 Concilium Meeting by Fr. Bede McGregor OP
The Role of Mary in the Universal Call to Holiness
In recent Concilium meetings we have been reflecting on the seminal work of Frank Duff: ‘Can we be Saints?’ I sought to encourage a prayerful reading or rereading of this little classic by our Founder with a view to its practical implementation in our lives. Of course, it does not need any recommendation from me. It is about 100 years since it was written and has now been translated into several languages and sold hundreds of thousands of copies throughout the world. Much of it has been transcribed into the Handbook or only slightly rephrased. Recently substantial excerpts from it have been quoted in the Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults published by the Irish Episcopal Conference. I think it should be given a prominent place in our preparation and celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Legion.
The major theme of this booklet is the universal call to be saints as the will and plan of God for each one of us and how to achieve it. Today I would like to speak on the role of Mary in this universal call to be saints.
Let us begin with a quotation from ‘Can we be Saints?’: ‘You must have a tremendous love for Mary. Read and pray, and pray again, until you get that love. Implore Our Lord to give you just the love of her that He would wish you to have. A great love for her is a great sign of sanctity.’ That is terrific advice for all of us legionaries or non-legionaries. God answers that prayer of our Founder magnificently. Through a set of providential circumstances and friends he comes to discover the True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis Marie de Montfort and under his tutelage he comes to know what he later calls the real Mary. He tells the story very simply. One day he overheard a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society speaking very enthusiastically about a little book on Our Lady. He didn’t pay much attention to the conversation but he did remember the title of the book and its author. One day he happened to be in a second hand bookstore and saw the book on the shelves and bought it. He brought it home and read it but was not very impressed thinking that it was all a bit exaggerated and thought he would never be bothered to read it again. Then Tom Fallon, a good friend whom he respected and admired, cajoled and persuaded him to read it again and again with little change of mind until on what he considered a final reading he suddenly realised that everything de Montfort wrote was the truth and it changed his whole life. He began to see the role of Mary in the universal call to be saints in a new and compelling light.
Let me quote from the Handbook to give some inkling of just how profoundly he began to think about Our Lady and her place in our lives. He writes: ‘The Legion’s trust in Mary is limitless, knowing that by the ordinance of God, her power is without limit. All that He could give to Mary, He has given her. All that she was capable of receiving she has received in plenitude. For us God has constituted her a special means of grace. Operating in union with her we approach him more effectively, and hence win grace more freely. Indeed we place ourselves in the flood-tide of grace, for she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit: she is the channel of every grace which Jesus Christ has won. We receive nothing which we do not owe to a positive intervention on her part. She does not content herself with transmitting all: she obtains all for us. Penetrated with this belief in the office of Mary, the Legion enjoins it as a special devotion for all legionaries.’ So what Frank Duff learns from St. Louis de Montfort is that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces especially the grace of sanctity. The theological principle is very simple: Mary gives us Jesus the source of every grace and there is absolutely no grace apart from Him. It is God’s will and decision to give us Jesus and with His every grace through Mary. Our Founder following de Montfort writes: ‘Our Lady is suitably described as the moon because thereby is shown very well the relation between herself and her Son. The moon shines with the light of the sun; it has no light of its own. Similarly Our Lady is lustrous with the light of her Child; she lives by Him; what she gives is His.’ Mary has an exclusively Christocentric vocation and apostolate and all other apostolates in order to be authentic must be a sharing in hers, namely to bring Christ into the world and everything He stands for.
From time to time we meet people who suggest, and sometimes vehemently, that de Montfort and the Legion exaggerate the place of Mary in the life of the Church and the individual Christian. They argue that we give more attention and devotion to Mary than to Jesus. So it is important for us to be able to set the record straight about our true devotion to Mary. De Montfort writes: ‘If then, we are establishing solid devotion to Our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ, to provide an easy and sure means of finding Jesus Christ. Did devotion to Our Lady draw us away from Jesus Christ, we would have to reject it as an illusion of the devil; but so far is this from being the case, that on the contrary, as I have already shown and as I shall show, this devotion is necessary for us only to find Jesus Christ perfectly and to love Him tenderly and to serve Him faithfully.’
We habitually pray for some share in Our Lord’s love for his Mother Mary and for some sharing in Mary’s love for her son Jesus. We seek to be immersed in that relationship between Mother and Son convinced that to know Mary is to come to know Jesus and to know Jesus is to come to know Mary the Mother of Jesus and our Mother too.
Finally, I hope and pray that St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary will play a central role in our preparation for and celebration of the centenary of the birth of the Legion. The Legion was born and built on the solid foundation of the True Devotion to Mary and will continue to flourish provided it remains the dominant ethos of the Legion. Amen.