‘I have found many persons,’ says Blessed Louis, ‘who with great fervor have submitted to this holy slavery outwardly, but rarely have I met any who have imbibed its spirit and still fewer who have persevered in it.’
These are the words of a spiritual director, with consummate experience of souls and the supernatural knowledge gained from meditation. And his statement is correct and true. He does not blame the ‘great fervor’ which at a given moment, under the influence of grace, and a very sincere and intense desire to please God and Jesus, and to sanctify ourselves, urges a soul towards Mary and subjects it to the bonds of Holy Slavery. What he deplores is the inadequate reflection and prayer, the graceful absence of the spirit of dependence and perseverance. Perhaps the bearing of the undertaking given has not been sufficiently understood. Perhaps too much reliance has been placed upon the interior work of the Blessed Virgin. Perhaps there has been a lack of constancy, of serious purpose. Doubtless this is why Blessed de Montfort not only recommends, but demands and exacts, a long and serious preparation of thirty days for the thorough study of this teaching, its spirit and the interior obligations which are its specialty. We cannot then be too strict if, like him, we insist on the observance of this rule, for the chief interest of the soul who desires to join the Archconfraternity, is concerned in it. Read this page which Montfort wrote in his Treatise of the True Devotion.
‘As the essential of this devotion consists in the interior, which it ought to form, it will not be equally comprehended by everybody. Some will stop at what is exterior in it and will go no further, and these will be the greatest number. Some in small number will enter into its inward spirit, but they will only mount but one step. Who will mount to the second step? Who will get as far as the third? Lastly, who will so advance, as to make this devotion his habitual state? He alone to whom the Spirit of Jesus Christ shall have revealed the secret, the faultlessly faithful soul, whom He shall conduct there Himself to advance from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, from light to light, until he arrives at the transformation of himself into Jesus Christ, and to the plenitude of his age on earth and of his glory in Heaven.’
These words are suggestive and full of meaning; they give us our rule of conduct. And so if we wish to conform as much as possible to the Montfortian teaching, we must avoid three rocks, three ways of undertaking this devotion: by force, compelle intrare; in haste, without real preparation; because others do, like sheep. On the other hand, three things are required: a sincere and definite desire on the part of the postulant; a serious and sufficient preparation; an individual and private preparation.
(To be continued.)