A Reader’s Question
Some time ago a reader of Vultus Christi asked, “How does one kindle (in oneself) a devotion to Mary?” I would answer that one cannot kindle in oneself a devotion to Mary; it is a flame ignited by the Holy Ghost, a fire that descends from above, a gift. One can and should pray for this gift perseveringly. I say this because all true devotion to Mary is a participation in the love of the Heart of Jesus for His Mother. Like every other participation in the sentiments of the Heart of Jesus, love for Mary is communicated to souls by the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
Room made for the Holy Ghost is room made for Mary. And room made for Mary is room made for the Holy Ghost. From the moment of the Incarnation until the end of time, the Holy Ghost is inseparable from His Immaculate Spouse. Mary’s “Yes” to the plan of God at the moment of the Annunciation engaged her not only in the mystery of the Incarnation, but also in an ongoing collaboration with the Holy Ghost until such time as the Church, the Body of Christ, attains her plenitude in all the saints (cf. Eph 1:22-23).
Saint Joseph and Saint John
More often than not, true devotion to Mary begins with a gentle impulse or a divine invitation to make room for her in one’s life. Saint Joseph obeyed the word of the Angel and took Mary unto him as his wife (cf. Mt 1:20-24). Saint John obeyed the word of the Crucified Jesus and took Mary “to his own” (Jn 19:27). It is significant that Saint Joseph and Saint John, the two men with whom the Blessed Virgin shared her daily life, appeared with her at Knock in 1879.
Images of Mary
Like Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, I am very fond of blessed images of the Mother of God, and convinced of their efficacy as sacramentals. I am especially devoted to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. One can symbolically declare one’s readiness to make room for Mary in one’s heart and in one’s life by placing her image in a place of honour in one’s home. Saint Alphonsus recommends a daily visit to an image of the Blessed Virgin.
Different images of the Mother of God speak to the heart according to the changing seasons, struggles, sorrows, and joys of one’s life with God. At a given moment one may find oneself drawn to the Black Madonna of Paris, Our Lady of Good Deliverance, the help of those struggling with depression. At another moment, the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal of the Rue du Bac or the Mother of Sorrows will fascinate the soul. My own icon of the Virgin Mother of Christ draws me again and again into adoration of His Eucharistic Face. Our Lady of Knock reassures me because her hands are raised in prayer; she is our all-powerful suppliant before the throne of God and of the Lamb. The countless faces of the one Blessed Virgin Mary depicted in devotional art through the centuries correspond to real life experiences and to the most intimate needs of souls.
What about the Rosary? The Rosary is as suited to the capacity of beginners who want to know Mary and love her, as it is to the capacity of those who have known and loved her for many years. The Rosary is a school of ceaseless prayer, a way of entering slowly but surely into that prayer of the heart that neither slumbers nor sleeps. One book that I recommend for readers who want to explore this further is The Rosary, A Road to Constant Prayer by Father Jean Lafrance. I read the French original, Le Chapelet, many years ago and I still return to it from time to time for a “tuneup.” One should also read the classics: The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, and The Glories of Mary by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori. In my Rosary Archives one can also find a fair amount of reflection on what is for me and for so many others the sweetest and sturdiest of prayers, a lifeline in danger, and a channel of healing.