2. The Offering of a tribute to the Blessed Virgin.
(2) ‘The scond practice,’ says the holy writer, ‘is to pay on the same day some little tribute to the Blessed Virgin as a token of our servitude and dependence, for it has always been the custom of slaves thus to pay homage to their masters.’ It is a mark of honour, affection, devotion, gratitude and a pledge of fidelity.
‘Now this tribute may be either some mortification or an alms, or a pilgrimage or some prayers.’
‘Some mortification…Blessed Marino, his brother, S. Peter Damian tells us, took the discipline publicly every year before the altar of the Blessed Virgin on the day of his consecration.’
Père J.M. de Lombaerde, a missionary of the Holy Family, in chapter XXXI of his book: Ma Journée avec Marie,’ which after the pattern of the Imitation he entitles: ‘The Royal Road,’ and dealing with the cross and suffering, speaks of the extraordinary penances which we can impose upon ourselves in honour of Mary. For instance: the hair shirt; little chains; bracelets; crosses with sharp points; iron girdles; the discipline; knotted cords; the deprivation of sleep; a hard bed; a wooden pillow made of a little bunch of twigs or long straws.
Let me say first that these extraordinary penances must only be used with the permission of a director and with prudence and discretion, because sometimes, on a pretext of perfection they harm our moral health by flattering our self-love and our physical health, by too much hindering our work and the duties of our station.
And so Blessed Louis wisely adds: ‘We neither ask nor even counsel such fervour.’
Most souls must then, failing a special urging of grace and the permission of the director, be satisfied with the ordinary ways and only make those ordinary penances which are attainable, easy, countless, advised and meritorious. Some souls, drawn on by unenlightened zeal, deluded, perhaps, may be tempted to attempt more. ‘But,’ says Blessed Louis, ‘if we cannot give much to Mary we should at least offer what we do give her, with a humble and grateful heart.’
We know the proverb: ‘leave well alone.’ Let those souls eager for great penances, unattainable, unwise, useless and even harmful, know, that obedience is better than penance, that the ordinary ways, which are the ways of all, are preferable to the extraordinary ways which are only meant for souls who have been specially called to them and who will be carefully controlled and wisely directed. The Montfortian remark that we must only give what we can, applies equally to alms, pilgrimages and prayers.
Some alms: the spiritual alms of good advice, good example, a good prayer; material alms according to one’s means and one’s heart. We may remember that many little souls…I mean little in the eyes of the world…hidden, obscure, interior, show an admirable delicacy and generosity towards Mary. It goes without saying that these little alms, directly concerned as they are with the True Devotion of the Holy Slavery, should be addressed to the Headquarters of the Work; it is understood that we should materially support that which supports us spiritually.
Some pilgrimage: preferably to a sanctuary of Our Lady, the centre of some confraternity.
Some prayers: special and of greater length. Blessed Louis mentions several of them, and personal piety will suggest many others.
(To be continued.)