The Role of Mary in our Call to be Saints
In recent meetings of Concilium we have been speaking about two of the truly major themes of the II Vatican Council that are also two of the central pillars of the Legion of Mary: the universal call to be saints and the universal call to be apostolic. The two calls are inseparable from each other. The Legion is a school founded by Mary through the instrumentality of Frank Duff for making saints and minting apostles and you cannot be one without the other.
Today I want to speak briefly about an absolutely pivotal question for legionaries - both active and auxiliary - namely, what role does Mary play in our call to be saints? Another time we shall speak about the role of Mary in our apostolic life.
First of all, what is holiness? It is a habitual relationship of faith, hope and love with Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and the Son of Mary. And through this relationship with our Lord we are enabled to live the life of the Trinity. Holiness is the life of sanctifying grace, that is, a created sharing in the inner life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Cardinal Newman, one of the favourite authors of legionaries, says that ‘grace is simply the life of glory lived in exile.’ There is no difference in substance between the life of grace lived here on earth and our life with God in heaven. The only difference lies in the mode or way we live the life of the Trinity. Here on earth we live the life of the indwelling Trinity by faith, ultimately sheer faith, and in the next life by immediate vision.
Where does Mary come into all this? Well if holiness is our life in Christ then Mary is essential because it is she who gives us Jesus. In the eternal decree of God Jesus and Mary are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. Frank Duff puts it well: “We must understand her real place, which is that of standing beside our Lord in all his doings. He doesn’t operate without her. She, of course, is dependent upon Him, being a creature. But we have to look upon the two of them as a pair. They carried out the redemption of mankind together, and together they are administering that redemption. We must never forget Her when we are thinking of Him; and we must never forget Him when we think of her. They are a pair, and if, either by deliberation or by ignorance, we relegate her into a minor position to that, we are interfering with the whole plan of grace and we ourselves will be the sufferers and the world will be the sufferer.”
There is nothing in Mary that is not a loving reference to Jesus or to put it more positively she is totally absorbed with and committed to Jesus with every fibre of her being. She is absolutely Christocentric, that is, centred in Christ. To be united to Her is to be centred on Jesus or in other words to be authentically holy. This whole doctrine is summed up perfectly in the ancient dictum: Ad Jesum per Mariam: to Jesus through Mary. With her whole being and mission she seeks to unite us to Jesus. That is the very nature of her motherhood of each one of us - to form Jesus in us.
Striving to live in complete union with Mary is the quickest, easiest, most secure way of living in union with Jesus and therefore becoming a saint. Let us listen to the words of St. Louis Marie de Montfort the great teacher of the Legion: “All our perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ; and therefore the most perfect of all devotions is, without 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 the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it is consecrated to Jesus.” (Treatise on True Devotion to Mary n. 120)
In another place where St. Louis Marie is praying to Jesus he describes the relationship between the Son and the Mother: “She is so transformed into you by grace that she lives no more, she is as though she were not. It is you only my Jesus who lives and reigns in her … Ah! If we knew the glory and the love which you receive in this admirable creature…She is so intimately united with you… She loves you more ardently and glorifies you more perfectly than all other creatures put together.” (ibid., n63)
So my dear legionaries the role of Mary in God’s plan for our salvation is absolutely essential. She gives us Jesus; She nourishes and forms Him in us. She is the Mother of Divine Grace. We will never come to an end of our obligation of giving thanks to Mary. No wonder one of the highlights of the life of a legionary is when he or she places their hand on the vexillum and says with all the sincerity and conviction they can muster: ‘I am all Yours my Queen and my Mother and all that I have is Yours.” We belong totally to Mary in order to belong totally to Jesus. There is no better way of becoming a saint. This is the deepest secret of the spirituality of the Legion. The spirit of the Legion is the spirit of Mary herself.