True knowledge and contempt of self only come when a person gets close to God. Then they begin to realize how pure and holy God is, and how utterly miserable they are themselves. It is only then that a person can have true understanding of self, realizing that without the grace of God they are nothing. This realization of their own utter abject misery is heightened when God leads them through that purgation of the soul, described by St. John of the Cross as the Dark Night of the Spirit. It is their faith in God that is their one guiding light through all the trials that come upon them. Only after the soul is purified and strengthened does it come to understand what pure love of God is. The effect of this pure love is to bring confidence and absolute trust in God. This then leads to an increasing awareness of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity. The soul thus consumed in the love of God has one desire only – God.
‘In the light which the Holy Ghost will give you through Mary, His faithful Spouse, you will know…your incapability of doing any good.’ It may seem that St. Louis-Marie is repeating himself. He has already warned us about the evil of which we are capable. What he is insisting on now is that through the continued practice of this devotion to Mary we begin to realize the truth of these statements. We can read books on humility; we can academically accept all that they say about our nothingness. It is only when the grace of God enlightens us that we begin to understand what they mean.
‘In consequence of this knowledge you will despise yourself.’ This is no exaggeration on the part of St. Louis-Marie. Neither are the comparisons he uses to bring home our nothingness. Let us just quote here St. John of the Cross. ‘On account of the majesty and greatness of God there also arises in the soul a consciousness of the other extreme which is in itself – namely, that of deepest poverty and wretchedness; this is one of the chiefest pains that it suffers in this purgation.’ Here we are being brought into the realms of humility which was once described by St. Teresa of Avila as ‘Truth’. And Truth it is! We see ourselves for just what we are. That is why we despise ourselves because we know vividly that any good in us has come from God. It is to return the glory to God in an adequate manner that Montfort encourages us to turn to our Blessed Lady.
It is Mary’s prayer that becomes ours. ‘He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid…and He that is mighty hath done great things to me.’ More and more are we mindful of the grace of God and, a terrifying thought to any saintly soul, what we would be without it. Consequently when others despise us we take that as our just deserts. This passage of Montfort cannot be passed off lightly because what is being spoken of here is sanctity.
The Immaculate Way