To Jesus Through Mary part 1.



During the 1914–18 war the name of Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines and Primate of Belgium, became, overnight, a household word in every country. It stood for the very highest peak of heroic courage and patriotic fervour in the face of overwhelming and unscrupulous aggression. It was said of him that “he seemed to be like another St. Lupus of Troyes confronting Attila and successfully intimidating the terrible king of the Huns.” In those grim days he rallied his people and infused into them his own unshakable trust in the protection of God. When the last great German retreat began that was to mean the end of the war, the German Government, in a personal letter to the Cardinal, used these significant words, “You are to us the incarnation of Occupied Belgium and are her venerated Pastor to whom she hearkens.”


Though the world knows him as a great National Leader thrown up by the calamity of war, it is as a Great Churchman that he is revered by the Catholic world. He was first and last that which he chose for his motto, “An Apostle of Jesus Christ.” From the day of his ordination, which was Holy Saturday, 1874, right to January, 1926, when a king knelt at his dying bedside and a nation mourned outside, Cardinal Mercier, as a true Apostle, lived and worked for one thing only- to establish the Kingdom of God in his own heart and in the minds and hearts of his priests and people.


The training of an apostle is long and arduous, no matter how splendid be the natural talents of the would-be apostle. If it were mere brilliance of intellect, genius for organisation, or capacity for leadership that were required, then the whole world would see an abundance of apostles. Natural gifts are, of course, to a certain extent, useful and necessary, but until they have been harnessed to a life of prayer and self-conquest, as well as to that life of inner union with God which is the fruit of a life of prayer, they can be a curse instead of a blessing, a hindrance rather than a help, in the work that is far above all human power. That is why the genuine apostle, the true spiritual leader, is comparatively rare. Human nature shrinks from the complete sacrifice involved.
Cardinal Mercier possessed many and great natural talents, but the power that sustained him, and brought heaven’s fruitful blessings on his work, was the interior life of prayer and union with God. This life of prayer began at a pious mother’s knee in an excellent Christian home, was developed during studious years in the seminary, and grew ever richer even during his years of many-sided activity as priest, Bishop and Cardinal. One has only to read the many writings and conferences he gave, particularly to his priests, to realise that here was a man who had learned the great secret of apostleship -namely, walking alone with God while he poured out on a distracting and materialistic world the wealth of his spiritual communings.


Apart from his spiritual work as priest, and later as Bishop and Cardinal, which, of course, like all true spiritual work, can never be adequately measured, perhaps the outstanding work of his life was his share in founding the renowned Catholic University of Louvain. Had he done nothing else it would have been the achievement of a life-time and would have earned the undying gratitude of every scholar, especially of those who, today, reap the rich fruits of that revival of Scholastic Philosophy which was centred chiefly at Louvain University.


Like all great characters, Cardinal Mercier had the heart of a child and the faith of a peasant. His great mind was not dazzled by the little pebbles of truth which, in the words of the mighty St. Augustine, we are forever picking up like little children on the sands of a boundless shore. So we are not surprised to learn that he had an extraordinary tender and childlike devotion to Our Blessed Lady. To her he dedicated his life and talents. Under her patronage and protection he carried on the ever-widening apostolate of prayer and voice and pen.
Due to his leadership, the Belgian Bishops have the honour of being the first to petition the Holy Father for the special Office and Mass with which we honour Our Lady as Mediatrix of All Grace.


His own devotion to Our Blessed Lady was influenced to a great extent by the writings of a French priest, Blessed Grignion de Montfort, who about two hundred years ago was an Apostle of Devotion to Mary. (He died on April 28, 1716, at the age of forty three-and now his cause of canonisation has been successfully concluded at Rome. This great servant of God embodied all his teachings in a treatise which he called “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.” It has had a phenomenal success all over the Catholic world.
Like every good work, this book was immediately challenged by the less spiritually enlightened. It was the “object of special hatred to all those tainted in any degree with the heresy of Jansenism. It was said to be heretical, dangerous, exaggerated and all that kind of thing. However, in 1853, a formal examination of the work was held in Rome. The result of the examination was to declare that it contained “nothing contrary to faith or morals, or any new doctrine contrary to the Church’s common sentiment and practice.”
Since that time Popes and Bishops have not merely commended it, but have made it the basis of their own spiritual lives.

Pope Pius IX. commended it as the best and most acceptable form of devotion to Mary.

Pius X. gave his Apostolic Benediction to anyone who would even read Blessed de Montfort’s treatise.

Benedict XV. referred to the book as “small in size, but of what great authority and what great sweetness! May it be spread ever more and more, and rekindle the Christian spirit in souls in ever-growing numbers.”

Pope Pius XI. told Cardinal Mercier that he not only approved of de Montfort’s teachings, but that he had actually, from his earliest years, made it the very basis of his whole spiritual life.

The First English Translation.
We owe the first English translation to the celebrated Father Faber. In the preface he wrote: “I have translated the whole treatise myself. . . . I venture to warn the reader that one perusal will be far from making him master of it. If I may dare to say so, there is a growing feeling of something inspired and supernatural about it as we go on studying it; and with that we cannot help experiencing, after repeated readings of it, that its novelty never seems to wear off, nor its fulness to be diminished, nor the fresh fragrance and sensible fire of its unction ever to abate. Let a man but try it for himself, and his surprise at the graces it brings with it, and the transformations it causes in his soul, will soon convince him of its otherwise almost incredible efficacy as a means for the salvation of men, and for the coming of the kingdom of Christ.”


So highly did the late Cardinal Vaughan rate it that when he was Bishop of Salford he caused a special edition to be brought out which he prefaced by a special letter to the Clergy, Secular and Regular, of his diocese, pointing out to them the need for such a devotion and the fruits that would follow its earnest practice.


Before and since that time there have been Bishops, Theologians of the first rank such as August Lehmkul, S.J.; Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., besides numberless others, who have rejoiced to add their testimony to the growing list of authoritative pronouncements.
All these should surely be more than enough to convince the most sceptical mind and help to dispel the fog of ignorance which has, unfortunately, at times, tended to cloud the real teaching of Blessed Grignion de Montfort.
It is hoped that the following learned and tender pastoral from the gifted pen of Cardinal Mercier will help still further to make known to Australian and New Zealand readers just how wonderful is the teaching of the saintly Apostle of Mary in his treatise on “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”


1. General Introduction.
2. Complete Surrender of Oneself to God Through Christ, the Essence of Christian Vitality.
3. This Self-surrender to God and to Christ Through Mary, object of “True Devotion” Set Forth by Blessed de Montfort.
First Reason for This Devotion: The Will of Our Divine Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second Reason: Our Own Spiritual Welfare.
4. Development of Catholic Feeling in Grasping the Mystery of Love, as Displayed in the Incarnation and the Redemption.
5. Conclusion: Exhortation to the Practice of Holy Bondage.
6. The Meaning of Holy Bondage According to Montfort’s Teaching.
7. An Amplification of This Self-surrender.
8. Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, According to the Spirit of Blessed L. M. Grignion de Montfort.


In the Gospel of St. John, the Evangelist records the fact that at the time when the Divine Messiah worked His first miracle at Cana, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was there: “Et erat Mater Jesu tibi”-”And the Mother of Jesus was there.” (John, ii.: 1.)
This fact is a law. In the mystery of the Redemption which Christ came to accomplish, Mary, His Mother, is always united with Him. She is at the crib; at the Presentation in the Temple; for thirty years she abides with her son at Nazareth; she is on the road to Calvary and on Calvary itself at the foot of the Cross at the hour of the closing tragedy; she is present in the Upper Room at the descent of the Holy Ghost and the foundation of the Church; she sits at the right hand of her Divine Son in the Kingdom of His glory, from whence she shields the Christian world under the mantle of her maternal protection.
During the war, we never wavered in acknowledging this heavenly patronage of the Mother of God. Clergy and faithful, the Catholic University, the religious Orders and the Belgian Hierarchy were unanimous in begging His Holiness Pope Benedict XV. to deign to pronounce the universal Mediatorship of the Blessed Virgin as a dogma of Christian belief.
The first answer to our petition came to us through the munificence of Pope Benedict XV., who deigned to grant to the dioceses of Belgium, and those dioceses of Christendom that might ask for them, a proper Office and Mass of Our Lady, under the title of Mediatrix of all graces.

Since January 12, 1921, a great number of diocesan churches and religious Orders have expressed their wish to unite with us in our devotion to the Blessed Virgin under the title of Universal Mediatrix.
Our Holy Father Pope Pius XI deigned to go still further. In November, 1921, he established three theological commissions-one in Belgium, another in Spain, and a third in Rome-instructing each to make a thorough investigation of the doctrine of the Mediation of Mary and its definability.
Both the Belgian and the Spanish commissions have finished their task, and it remains for the theologians in Rome to examine their conclusions and complete them before submitting them for the Holy Father’s approval.
It would seem, then, that the moment for a decision is not far off, whether the Holy Father postpone the definition of the dogma until the re-opening of the Vatican Council, or reserve to himself personally the privilege of acting as the authentic interpreter of the instinctive belief that the Catholic world entertains in the Mediation of Mary.
We must hasten the arrival of that happy moment.
Once more, I make an appeal to your piety, to the prayers of the faithful and to the practice of self-denial by the more generous souls among them.
In 1913, a group of seminarists conceived the idea of forming a society of prayer and penance for the promotion of the devotion to Mary, our Mediatrix. This society has its statutes and can now count its members by thousands. It is anxious to multiply its numbers tenfold and I recommend it to your personal attention and fatherly care.
During the Marian Congress held in Brussels in 1921, a large number of papers were devoted to the study of Our Lady’s mediation, and more recently, in Antwerp, the same topic called forth fresh investigations. These efforts have proved once more how closely the cultus of Mary’s mediatorship is bound up with the devotion which the Blessed Grgnion de Montfort calls “True devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary” or elsewhere “Devotion of holy bondage,” and which is spreading throughout the whole world.
A Marist Father has written to me recently that pamphlets on this subject by the Blessed Grignion are being circulated abroad with remarkable success. The Flemish edition of “Mary’s Secret,” of which 40,000 copies were printed in October, 1922, is now exhausted. A fresh edition of the same pamphlet in French and in Flemish to the number of 120,000 copies will also be re-printed and widely circulated.
During the splendid festivities, organised for August 14–22 this year by the people of Antwerp to celebrate at one and the same time three great anniversaries, I thought it a favourable occasion during the conference, I was invited to give on “Journee Mariale” in Antwerp, to show the connection between the cultus of Our lady as Mediatrix of all graces and the devotion to the Virgin Mother as advocated by the Blessed de Montfort.
These two devotions are not an innovation in the Church, but are the evolution of beliefs as ancient as is our Faith. They are but a corollary to that which forms the very essence of Christian piety-the surrender of oneself to God through Jesus Christ.