In this book I have been concerned with the excellence of devotion to our Lady for the individual rather than for the community in general. Throughout the writing of it I have kept steadily before my mind the needs of the individual soul in relation to the Truths of Faith, and to Eternity.
From this point of view the blessing of devotion to our Lady can hardly be exaggerated—and this at every period of our lives.
"Jesus and Mary," writes Dr. Northcote, "are the earliest names lisped by a Christian child. They bring the first ideas of the Faith into the infant mind by means of that relationship which it first and most readily understands—that of mother and child. As the child grows up and the passions develop and strengthen, what more general (amongst Catholics) or more effective protection against the seductions of sense and the violence of temptations than the love and veneration of this most spotless model of purity, the Blessed Virgin ? How many wrecks have not been avoided at this most critical season of life by keeping the eye and the heart steadily fixed upon this bright Star of the Sea. And amid the multiplied interests of maturer years, what stronger anchor of the soul to heavenly things, who is more frequently invoked than her of whom 'it has not been heard at any time that anyone ever had recourse to her in vain!' Finally, the very picture of devout old age is of one telling his beads. Old age renews its youth at the altars of Mary; it is ready with aged Simeon to sing its Nunc Dimittis as he did when he received Jesus into his arms; it cries out, after the weary exile of this life, ' Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.' (Mary in the Gospels, pp. 304, 305.)
Our great danger is to be self-centred, to concentrate our efforts on that which passes, to live for self-indulgence, and to forget that by seeming to gain our life we shall lose it in effect. The Christian religion takes us out of ourselves, teaches us to place our treasure in Heaven, and to be content to lose our life here below, if so be that we may gain it in the life to come. That this may be a reality—some thing more than the repetition of phrases—it is necessary to place our Lord in the centre of our heart's affections, to be ready to make what sacrifices He may ask at our hands, to render to Him the loyalty of the affections and the will. But this is easy to write, hard to practise. We do not see our Lord; we do see and feel the attractions of the visible world of sense—feel them sometimes none the less strongly, though they tend to draw us away from His service. It becomes, therefore, of supreme importance in the spiritual warfare to make use of all creatures that we may as a means of attaching us to our Creator. The more we think of Mary, the more we trust Mary, the more we love Mary, in proportion as we get out of ourselves—out of the prison of the body, out of the earthly environment that encompasses us and weighs us down—the more closely shall we find that we are drawn to the thought of God and to trust in God, and to the love of God, which it is the end of our religion to enkindle and keep aflame in our souls. This is the supreme excellence, as it is the justification of devotion to our Lady, that it leads us infallibly to love Jesus Christ her Son. "The more we love Mary, the more we shall love Jesus." This is the assurance given us by St. Alphonsus. All experience testifies to the truth of his words.