In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My God, I pray that you bestow upon me as I, a most unworthy and faithless servant, write this letter the inspiration to convey appropriately and with adequate emphasis the importance of prudence when stepping into the castle that is the interior life of prayer and recollection. Allow the wisdom of Your Saints whom You chose to inspire with the knowledge to compose, and through whose hands You decided to write, the priceless manuals of prayer and meditation which are the treasure of Your Church and by which I have learned all that You have taught me concerning the prayerful life. Allow their words, O Lord I pray, to overshadow mine and shine gloriously so others may come to know the most beneficial teachings which Your Saints have left as guides for Your faithful as we struggle in this Valley of Tears. Protect us little and humble souls, I pray my God, who, although trembling from knowing our own inability to accomplish any good whatsoever by our own actions, step forward and grasp Your outstretched hand with the loving trust of a child as we follow Your call to a life of prayer and fasting beyond that which we little souls could ever hope to endure if left to ourselves, and which, through Your grace, will guide us towards and strengthen us to live a life far higher than we writhing and most wretched creatures deserve. Keep us humble, my Lord I pray, and safe from the countless pitfalls which we, who are so weak, fragile, and meek will, unaided by Your Infinite Mercy and Grace, fall so readily into and from which we have no hope of escape without Your willing us to be free. Amen.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as I was praying about which topic I would address in this weeks letter my eyes happened upon a book which has been my constant companion since well before I came into full communion with the Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ. This profound piece of spiritual writing has inspired countless Saints, numerous Popes, and has enriched the spiritual lives of the faithful for centuries since it was first written. Once entirely lost, as predicted by its author, this masterpiece of St. Louis de Montfort was, by the Grace of God alone, rediscovered and made available to the lay faithful, the Clergy, and Religious alike. “True Devotion to Mary” is most certainly one of the most cherished — if, indeed, not the most cherished — work regarding Marian spirituality ever produced. In this text St. de Montfort outlines not only the complex topic of devotion to our Lord through His Blessed Mother, but he lays out an easy to follow, but no less rigorous, method of consecration to our Lord through His Blessed Mother. However, as valuable as the entirety of St. de Montfort’s work may, indeed, be to anyone who desires to grow closer to our Lord, I wish to focus on only a small part of his masterpiece. In particular, I would like to discuss how St. de Montfort’s description of True Devotion can help us wretched and minuscule souls, those of us who in our weakness struggle daily against even the smallest temptation and know ourselves to be genuinely incapable of exercising any devotion near perfect enough to be worthy of reception by Our Lord Jesus Christ, to, by the Grace of God, move closer to the holy life our Lord and Savior wishes us to lead while we are exiled here in this garden of sorrows.
True Devotion, as St. Louis de Montfort describes it, can be seen to consist of five characteristics: it is interior, it is tender, it is holy, it is constant, and it is disinterested. Let us now address briefly – I encourage everyone who feels a calling to enter into a more intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior to truly invest the time to read the entirety of this most worthwhile work as no time spent in seeking our Lord is time wasted and the devout reading of this book carries with it the blessing of a plenary indulgence as granted by Pope Leo XIII – each characteristic individually before we consider how we may apply the concept of True Devotion to our little way.
True Devotion Is Interior:
While many of us do indeed make excellent and beneficial progress by means of external devotions it is not the actions of the devotion themselves that, of course, assisted by the Grace of God, propel us forward along the spiritual path; but, instead, it is the internal sense of love and affection for our Lord which stems from our minds and flows from our hearts which expresses to God our profound reverence and devotion to Him. It is the private devotion that is reflected in and increases the solemnity and reverence displayed by the external action and not the external activity which increases the internal commitment. Indeed, while the devout expression of our love for God through a reverently performed external act may cause to grow within us the feeling of devotion to God in a sensible way, it is the sincerity of the internal faith – which comes only as a Grace from God – which indeed must be that which we pray to receive an increase of in our prayers and from which true devotion flows forth from our souls. While, certainly, we must not cease praying if we are not granted this wish of ours, as praise is sung to our Lord only because it is right and just that it be offered to Him and not for any personal gain, it is good to pray for what God has deemed suitable for us. Therefore, let our devotion to You, our Lord, not be expressed in many external and faithless commitments by which we seek the honor of men at the expense of the Glory due only to You. If our faith and love for You is not enough to allow us to maintain all of these external devotions, my Lord I pray, you grant to we, your faithless and most undeserving servants, enough dedication and love to You to allow us the grace to perform but one or two solemn and reverent external devotions into which we may pour the entirety of our faith in You our God. Let our dedication to You grow not in its visibility to others, but in our hearts where You alone may discover the truthfulness and faithfulness of our devotion to You. Grant, my God, that what we express externally is only so displayed because even the remotest corners of our souls can no longer contain the love for You which You deemed us most unworthy souls to receive. Amen.
True Devotion Is Tender:
When a soul is chosen by our Lord and Savior to experience true devotion to Him the love they begin to feel towards our Lord is most tender, trusting, innocent, and confident. We should not fear to give ourselves entirely to our God, trusting in Him to fulfill our every need, to guide our soul to Him, and to keep us from straying away from the path to holiness. We little souls must be even more devoted to our Lord in this tender fashion as we are shockingly and most certainly aware of our unworthiness to have been called into the service of our Beloved. We weak and fragile souls, knowing our absolute wretchedness and incapacity for any good, are sure that we would fall immediately into debauchery and sin if we trusted in ourselves instead of our Lord for even the shortest moment. Unlike those lofty and holy souls who walk the sure path of righteousness with ease we little souls struggle with every step we take; however, we are comforted in our struggle with the consolation that, by uniting our hardship with the perfect sacrifice of our Lord upon His Cross, that we can lay at the Adorable feet of our Blessed Lord even the most unworthy of sacrifices in His honor. We know how shameful we are to even but hear His name, yet He has called us to offer Him worship, and reverence, and praise. Therefore, my Lord, I pray that you keep us always trusting in You absolutely, and like little children that we may always place our life in Your hands, tenderly trusting not in ourselves who are incapable of producing anything worthy of even Your dismissal but entirely in You for the fulfillment of all our needs, and all our hopes, and all our undertakings. May we never forget our unworthiness to have been called by You alone into the loving fold of Your Church, my Lord, and may we always praise Your name for Your having been so merciful to our wretched and faithless souls by pulling us from our life of unholy sin and misery. You alone are our Salvation, and in You alone shall we trust to guide us on the path of holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives. Amen.
True Devotion Is Holy:
Devotion to our Lord, which is a reflection of the pure and undeserved grace of interior faith and love which comes only from God, will never, if it is true devotion as described by St. de Montfort, lead us away from the path of holiness. Instead, it should cause us, with the help of the grace of God, to turn away from our sins and rectify our miserable lives as best as we can with the help of God. Frequently, in a wave of zeal and emotion, we may feel called to take up very austere, and perhaps even dangerous, practices in reaction to what we believe is a spiritual consolation or inspiration from God. However, this is often not the case – this is the reason for the great emphasis St. Teresa of Avila gave to not following your inclinations and instead relying on a learned and holy confessor to guide you along the spiritual path – and we may fall prone to evil inclinations which stem from, at best, a severe lack of humility on our part, and at worst an impulse coming from a far more sinister entity. “Caritas patiens est.” [I Corinthians 13:4] When we are feeling a rush of devotion and love for God we may certainly enjoy it, but we must be sure to meet with our confessor often and hold nothing back when it comes to strong feelings and abrupt increases in devotion, and we should be especially more careful when these feelings provoke in us a desire to take up some obscure or very rigorous practice. If God so wills it from you, if your devotion is True Devotion, He will wait for you and will guide you through one of His holy servants called to guide His flock here on earth. May You bless us all, my Lord I pray, with patience and the faith to persevere in following, as best as our lowly and humble abilities shall allow, your inspirations with prudence, my Beloved, and may we all who are called by You to walk the spiritual path seek the aid of one of Your servants, a learned and holy priest, to guide us along our spiritual way and to protect us from the errors brought about by our unchecked egotism and pride, our most ungrateful desires for spiritual rewards and consolations, and our weakness in falling into sin and offending You, our Lord, Who alone is worthy of all our love and most reverent worship and Who shall never lead us astray if we but trust in You and follow with unhesitating obedience the lessons of Your Church which we genuinely believe, with absolute confidence, You established to aid in our Salvation which You have promised to those who faithfully join themselves to You through Your most Holy Sacrifice upon the Cross. Amen.
True Devotion Is Constant:
It is quite common that a faithful servant of our Lord, emboldened by a spiritual fervor and with every good intention swears to uphold all sorts of austere penances and to keep any number of heartfelt vows and devoutly made promises to our Blessed Lord; however, once the emotion has passed, once the spiritual consolation has been replaced by the mundane spiritual dryness which is all too often felt in worldly life, this faithful servant of God who is now worn down by their own misplaced and misinterpreted emotions is entirely defeated and becomes an easy target for the enemy, Satan, who seeks to misguide souls into the fires of hell by their own misplaced and false sense of devotion. Therefore, we must pray for prudence when we feel the urge to respond to what we perceive as a call by God to take up a new practice, to enter a consecrated way of life, or to commit a new addition to our daily prayer routine. We ought, if we are blessed with a learned director, seek his guidance and instruction before making any changes to our spiritual life, and if we are not we ought to continue with what we have been doing and pray unceasingly to Our Lady that She begs Her Son, our Beloved Savior, to send a learned and holy priest to you to guide you on the spiritual path. There is no surer way to ensure you do not stray from the path of our Lord, or that you can take upon yourself only what your soul is capable in its current state of spiritual development to consistently and devoutly uphold, than to be guided by a holy and learned spiritual director.
True Devotion is Disinterested:
While the Lord may, in the beginning, when we are just starting out upon the spiritual path, choose to bestow upon us the great graces of spiritual consolations we, who know ourselves to be the littlest of souls, we who never expect nor feel ourselves worthy to soar with spiritual giants instead humbly and faithfully walk our little way trusting in You, our Lord, as a child trusts unquestioningly her fathers guiding hand, we pitiful and tiny souls should not expect ourselves to attain to any lofty mystical heights. Instead, we should be pleased beyond measure in that You, our Beloved, has allowed us to offer You praise and worship at all in our imperfect, humble, and often faithless nature. It is by Your perfect mercy alone, my Lord, my God, my Beloved, that you accept at all our pitiful cries of praise and our imperfect acts of worship. Keep us faithful to You, my God, even when we receive no benefit from our prayers beyond spending time with You, our Beloved and Adorable Savior. Increase our love for You until there is nothing in this world we desire if it will not work to bring us closer to You, our Lord. Amen.
We must not seek rewards, consolations, or other personal benefits if we are to be truly devoted to our Blessed Lord. Instead, we must be motivated by pure love. That love which is selfless and seeks only to shower our Beloved with affection even if it appears they notice us not. We must love our Lord because He is our Lord and not for any other reason. We must bring our attention always to the memory and praise of our Lord and Savior not because it fills our hearts with warm feelings of love and affection – of course the act of settling our hearts upon our Lord even for a brief moment most certainly ought to bring about the most profound sense of awe and love we can ever hope to know while on earth – but only because it is our duty, the purpose of our creation, to do so. True Devotion is offered simply because the soul can imagine doing nothing else. It is offered because it is due. This type of devotion is that which we must all seek to live towards our Lord. Certainly, we little souls must take each step cautiously and with the utmost care compared to those great souls to whom holiness comes so effortlessly as we are so prone to falling back into grave sin and misery if we falter even for a moment from the path of righteousness; however, even we most wretched and faithless souls ought not to shy away from begging our Lord daily to fill us with this most true and holy devotion to our Beloved Savior. Implore Him continually, and beg the intercession of His Blessed Mother and of all His Saints in heaven, until He purifies your devotion to Him; for the soul who is devoted to our Lord as a child is dedicated to its parents, a child who places her trust in Him obediently knowing all which He decrees is right for her and intended for the improvement of her soul, a child who loves to follow the commands of her heavenly Father as quickly and as naturally as she obeys her earthly father, is one who is genuinely devoted to her Lord. My God, let us, I pray, all be like these innocent, meek, and mild children who love you so purely and selflessly so that we, who are little, fragile, and infinitely weak souls, incapable of even seeing the gates of Your Kingdom by our power, shall, by Your great grace, be allowed to occupy even the lowest position in Heaven in the life to come. Amen.
True Devotion and the Little Way:
As little souls, we are blessed with the knowledge of, perhaps with sometimes frightening certainty, the wretched state into which we are doomed to fall should we place our trust in ourselves instead of Our Blessed Lord for even the shortest moment. We are all too aware of the vileness which we are capable of committing should we falter from the straight and narrow path our Blessed Savior has laid out for us. However, we are also made wonderfully aware of the great Mercy shown to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ when He called us into His Church and chose us as His servants. We little souls who know so well our inability to enter His Kingdom on our own merit should never miss an opportunity to offer worship, honor, and praise to our God for it is a great grace to be called live our lives as Christians, and it is the greatest gift, that of eternal life, which is promised to us by Our Lord and Savior if we but remain faithful to Him and His commands. We need only to trust in Him completely, to show Him our unconditional love, to render Him our unquestioning obedience, to faithfully and consistently offer Him the praise and honor due to Him as God, and to offer Him all of this only because it is right and just to do so seeking no personal gain or spiritual consolations. We little souls ought to seize every moment we can to offer this praise and worship to our God who has saved us from our inevitable doom. Never should we moan that we must pray another day of the Office, that we must attend another Mass, or that we must sacrifice another moment which we wished to squander in worldly pleasure because we were forced to participate in Church on a day of obligation. When we little souls become aware of our wretchedness the hunger pangs of fasting become a great comfort, the small sacrifice of waking early to attend Mass becomes a blessed opportunity to show our love for our Beloved Savior, every hour we spend in prayer is an hour spent as we truly wish we could spend all our earthly moments. We little souls, then, must seek most fervently to be Truly Devoted to our Lord as described by Saint Louis de Montfort for if we are not we are lost. Nobody can hope by his or her efforts to earn for themselves salvation. We know most gloriously how much we need our Lord if we wish to enter into His Kingdom; therefore, be not attached to your own actions and the rewards you expect except that they serve your Blessed Lord, seek not spiritual consolations or sensual comforts from your prayer, look not for mystical visions or inspirations but instead embrace the dryness of daily life, bear the cross of life on earth apart from our Lord with courage, and place your trust in Him – in short, be Truly Devoted to your Beloved Lord and Savior – and He will most certainly guide you into His loving embrace when He welcomes you into His Kingdom in the world to come.
Therefore, I beg you Lord, to Help us avoid falling into one of the various types of false and selfish devotions that the Saintly slave of Your Blessed Mother Mary, St. Louis de Montfort, describes and warns us about in his masterpiece of spiritual writing, and bless us with the grace to know when we are allowing our souls to fall into the temptation of reaching towards that which is far loftier than that for which You have created souls as weak and vile as ours. In Your infinite Wisdom, my Lord, lead us on the path of simple prudence as we follow You through the darkness that is our exile, and guide us towards the unending Holy Light of Your Kingdom in the world to come. Without Your guiding hand we are left to grope and wander like lost sheep in the darkness of the thickest forest, but trusting in You and enlightened with the Grace of Understanding we may, I pray, navigate the trials and avoid the temptations of this world to arrive safely in Your arms as truly and Perfectly Devoted slaves. This we beg You Lord grant to us, by the intercession of Your Most Blessed and Holy Mother, Mary. Amen.
Let us close this letter, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, with a prayer from the Little Office of our Blessed Virgin Mary imploring and begging Her to intercede for us with Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may never fall into the pit of false devotion and egotism as we continue to work and pray to grow in holiness and perfect devotion to Our Lord:
O God, who didst will that Thine eternal Word should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the angel delivered his message; grant that Thy petitioners, who verily believe her to be the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.