The Mother of the Savior by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange

In the language of the Church, both in the Liturgy and in her universal preaching, Mary is not only Mother and Mediatrix but Queen of all men and even of the angels and the whole universe. In what sense is she a queen? In a true or in a merely metaphorical sense? It should be recalled first that God alone has universal kingship over all things through His Essence: He governs all things and leads them to their end. Jesus and Mary share in this Divine Kingship. Even as man, Jesus shares in it for three reasons: because of His Divine Personality,348 because of His fulness of grace which overflows on men and angels, and because of His victory over sin, Satan and death.349 He is King of all men and of all creatures including the angels, who are “His angels.” Thus He says (Mark 13:26): “And then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with great power and glory. And then shall He send his angels . . . For Jesus is Son of God by nature, whereas the angels are but God’s servants and adopted sons. Jesus has said too of Himself: “All power is given to me in Heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18), and we read in the Apocalypse that He is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Apoc. 19:16).


Can it be said of Mary, since her Assumption especially, and her crowning in Heaven, that she shares in God’s universal Kingship in the sense that she is Queen of all creatures in subordination to Christ?350

She could certainly be called a queen in the wide sense of the term by reason of her spiritual qualities and her fulness of grace, of glory and of charity which raise her above all other creatures. It is quite customary to use the words king and queen to designate persons of such eminence. Her motherhood of Christ the King would also entitle her to be called a queen—still in a wide sense of the term at least.

But would it not appear that she is a queen in the literal sense of the term by the fact of having received royal authority and power? Has she not, in dependence on Jesus and through Him, not only a primacy of honor in regard to the angels and saints, but a real power to command both angels and men? This is, in fact, what emerges from an examination of Tradition as expressed in the preaching of the universal Church, the Fathers, the statements of different Popes, the Liturgy. There are theological arguments besides in favor of the affirmative answer.

The Fathers of both East and West referred frequently to Mary under such titles as Domina, Regina, Regina nostrae salutis. It is sufficient to mention a few among many: in the East SS. Ephrem, Germanus of Constantinople, Andrew of Crete, John Damascene; in the West St. Peter Crysologus, the Venerable Bede, St. Anselm, St. Peter Damien, St. Bernard. The same titles occur also in the works of the theologians: in St. Albert the Great,351 St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas,352 Gerson, St. Bernadine of Siena, Denis the Carthusian, St. Peter Canisius, Suarez, St. Grignon de Montfort, St. Alphonsus. Different Sovereign Pontiffs have often used the same expressions.353

The Roman and Oriental liturgies proclaim Mary Queen of the heavens, Queen of angels, Queen of the world, Queen of all the saints. Among the mysteries of the Rosary commonly recited in the Church since the 13th century the last of all is that of the crowning of Our Lady in Heaven—a scene represented in one of Fra Angelico’s most beautiful frescoes.

The arguments adduced by theologians to prove that Mary has universal Queenship in the proper, non-metaphorical sense of the term, are conclusive. They may all be reduced to the following three.

Jesus Christ is King of the universe, even as man, in virtue of His Divine Personality. But Mary as Mother of God made man belongs to the hypostatic order and shares in the dignity of her Son, for His Person is the term of her divine motherhood. Hence she shares connaturally, as Mother of God, in His universal Kingship.354 Our Blessed Lord owes it to Himself to recognise His Mother’s title in gratitude.

A second argument is that Jesus is King of the universe by His fulness of grace and by the victory which He won over Satan and sin by His humility and His obedience unto death, “For which cause God hath exalted Him. . . .” But Mary was associated with His victory over Satan, sin, and death by her union with Him in His humiliations and sufferings. She is therefore really associated with Him in His Kingship.

The same conclusion may be arrived at by considering the close relationship in which Mary stands to God the Father, of whom she is the first adoptive daughter and the highest in grace, and God the Holy Ghost through whose operation the word took flesh in her womb.

It has been objected that the mother of a king, the queen-mother, is not by that simple fact queen in the strict sense of the term: she has nothing of royal power. Neither then has Mary. We have answered this objection already. There is no parity between the two cases. A queen-mother is simply the mother of a child who later became king. But Mary is the mother of Him who from the instant of His conception is King of the universe by His hypostatic union and His fulness of grace. Besides, Mary was associated closely with the victory by which He obtained universal kingship as a right of conquest, even though He possessed it already as Son of God. Mary is therefore associated with His Kingship in a true, even if in a subordinate, manner.

Many consequences follow from this truth. As universal King, Jesus has power to establish and promulgate the New Law, to propose revealed doctrine, to judge the living and the dead, to give souls sanctifying grace and all the virtues.355 Mary shares in this universal kingship especially by dispensing in an interior and hidden manner the graces which she merited in dependence on Jesus. She participates in it exteriorly also by the fact that she gave on earth the example of all the virtues, that she helped to enlighten the Apostles, and that she continues to enlighten us when, for example, she manifests herself exteriorly in sanctuaries such as those of Lourdes, La Salette, and Fatima. Theologians note that she does not seem to share in any special way in the royal judicial power of inflicting punishment for sin, for Tradition calls her not the Mother of justice but the Mother of mercy, a title which is hers in virtue of her mediation of all graces.356 Jesus seems to have kept to Himself the reign of justice357 as is becoming Him who is the “judge of the living and the dead.”358

Mary has a radical right to universal queenship by the fact of her divine motherhood, but the divine plan was that she should merit it also by her union with her suffering Son, and that she should not exercise it fully before being crowned queen of all creation in Heaven. Her royalty is spiritual and supernatural rather than temporal and natural, though it extends in a secondary way to temporal affairs considered in their relation to salvation and sanctification.

We have seen how Mary exercises her queenship on earth. She exercises it in Heaven also. The essential glory of the blessed depends on Jesus’ merits and hers. She contributes to their accidental glory—as well as to that of the angels—by the light she communicates to them, and by the joy they have in her presence and in the realization of what she does for souls. To both the angels and the saints she manifests Christ’s plan for the extension of His Kingdom.

Mary’s queenship extends to purgatory, for she prompts the faithful on earth to pray for the souls detained there and to have Masses offered for them. She herself offers their prayers to God, thereby increasing their value. She applies the fruits of the merits of Jesus and of herself to the Holy Souls in Jesus’ name.

Her queenship extends to the demons too who are obliged to recognise her power, for she can make their temptation cease, can save souls from their snares, and can repulse their attacks. “The demons suffer more,” says St. Grignon de Montfort, “from being conquered by the humility of Mary than by the Omnipotence of God.” Her reign of mercy extends to Hell itself, as we have seen, in the sense that the lost souls are punished less than they deserve,359 and that on certain days—including possibly the Assumption—their sufferings become less fearful.

Thus Mary’s queenship is truly universal. There is no region to which it does not extend in some way.


Mary’s universal queenship comes home to us in a more concrete form if we consider its different aspects as presented in the Litany of Loreto: Queen of angels, of patriarchs, of prophets, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins, of all the saints, of peace.


Mary is Queen of the angels since her mission is higher than theirs. They are but servants, whereas she is the Mother of God. She is as much above them as the word “mother” surpasses the word “servant.” She alone with the Father can say to Jesus: “Thou art my Son, I have begotten thee.”

She is higher than the angels also by her fulness of grace and glory, which surpasses that of all the angels united. She is purer than they, for she has received purity for others as well as for herself. She was more perfect than they and more prompt in her obedience to God’s commandments and in following His counsels. By her co-operation in the redemption she merited de congruo for the angels themselves the accidental graces by which they help us to save our souls and the joy which they experience in doing so.

As Justin of Miechow well remarks,360 if the angels have served Our Lord, how much more did not Mary serve Him, she who conceived and bore Him, who cared for Him, who carried Him into Egypt to escape Herod’s anger?

She surpasses the angels in this also, that they have each care of one soul or one community, but she is the guardian of all men and of earth in particular. She is, more than they, the messenger of God who brought us not a created word but the Uncreated Word.

Archangels are appointed to protect this or that city: Mary protects all cities and all churches in them. Principalities are the custodians of provinces: Mary has the whole Church under her protection. Powers repel demons: Mary has crushed the serpent’s head; she is terrible to the demons by the depth of her humility and the ardour of her charity. Virtues perform miracles as God’s instruments: but the greatest miracle was to conceive the Incarnate Word for our salvation. Dominations command the lower angels: Mary commands all the heavenly choirs. The Thrones are those angels in whom God dwells in a specially intimate way: Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, is the Seat of Wisdom, and the Blessed Trinity reside in her more familiarly than in the highest angel—that is to say, in a way proportionate to her consummated grace.

She surpasses even the Cherubim and Seraphim. The Cherubim shine with the splendor of their knowledge: but Mary has penetrated deeper than they into the divine mysteries since she has the light of glory in a degree far above theirs. She has carried in her womb Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. She lived with Him for thirty years on earth, and in Heaven she is nearest of all to Him.

The Seraphim burn with the flame of love: but more ardent still is the living flame of Mary’s charity. She loves God more than all creatures together, for she loves Him not only as Creator and Father but as her Infant and her treasured Son.

She is therefore the Queen of angels. They serve her faithfully, surround her with veneration, marvel at her tender solicitude for each one of us and for the whole Church. Her charity, her zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls are the objects of their intense admiration.

Such is the substance of Justin of Miechow’s treatise on Mary, Queen of Angels.


The superiority of Mary to Adam in the state of innocence is clear from all that has been said thus far. She was higher in grace than he, and had as well the principal effects of original justice: subordination of the sensibility to the higher faculties, and subordination of these latter to God. Mary’s charity was greater from the first instant of her conception than that of Adam in the state of innocence, and she had in addition the special grace of freedom from all sin however slight, even though she was conceived in passible and mortal flesh.

Her intimacy with God was much closer than that of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph. Abraham’s most heroic act was that of preparing himself to immolate his son Isaac, the son of the promise. It was far more for Mary to offer Jesus who was dearer to her than her own life: nor did an angel come to arrest Jesus’ immolation as one did in the case of Isaac. Her title of Mother of God, her charity and the heroicity of all her virtues make Mary shine as a star without compare among the patriarchs.


Prophecy in the strict sense of the term is the gift of knowing with certainty and predicting the future under divine inspiration. It was given to many in Old Testament times. In the New Testament St. John and St. Paul were both prophets and apostles. Sacred Scripture tells us of certain holy women also who received the gift of prophecy: Mary the sister of Moses, Deborah, Anne, mother of Samuel, Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist.

Mary is Queen of prophets. She foretold the future in the Magnificat when she sang: “Behold from henceforth all nations shall call me blessed.” Of her the prophets spoke when they announced the mystery of the Incarnation. She bore in her womb Him of Whom the prophets spoke, and she heard from His own lips the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

She had the gift of prophecy in the highest degree after Our Blessed Lord, and at the same time she had perfect understanding of the fulness of the revelation which He communicated to the world.


In what sense is Mary Queen of the twelve Apostles? Her dignity as Mother of God surpasses theirs. The apostolate is a form of ministry.361 But according to the phrase of St. Albert which we have quoted already, Mary is not simply God’s minister since as Mother of the Saviour she is still more closely associated with Him. After the Ascension the Apostles had need of direction, of counsel, and no one was better equipped than Mary to give it to them. She consoled them in their grief at the departure of Our Lord when they felt lonely and helpless in face of the task of the evangelisation of the pagan world. Jesus had left them His mother to help them. She was for them, it has been said, a second paraclete, a visible paraclete, a mediatrix; she was their guiding star in the midst of the tempest of persecution that raged about them. She was truly a mother to them. None of them ever left her side without having been enlightened and consoled, without having been strengthened. By her example in suffering calumnies, by her experience of the things of God she sustained them in times of trial and persecution.

There was no one who could talk as she did of the virginal conception of Christ, of His birth, His infancy, His hidden life, of what took place in His soul on the cross. This is what prompted St. Ambrose to say: “It is not strange that St. John should have spoken better of the mystery of the Incarnation than the others did; he lived at the source of heavenly secrets.”362 He lived in Mary’s company what he speaks of in the fourth gospel.363


The title of Queen of Martyrs has been applied to Mary by SS. Ephrem, Jerome, Ildephonsus, Anselm and Bernard. The implied allusion is to her martyrdom of heart of which Simeon spoke: “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.”

Mary’s grief was proportionate to her love for her Son. She suffered when He was called a seducer, a violator of the Law, one possessed by a devil; she suffered inexpressibly when Barabbas was preferred to Him, when He was nailed to the cross, when He was tortured by the crown of thorns, when He was parched with thirst; she shared in all the anguish of His priestly and victim soul. She felt as it were all the blows Jesus received in His scourging and crucifixion, for her love made her one with Him. As Bossuet exclaims: “One cross was enough to make martyrs of Him and her.” They offered but one sacrifice, and since she, for her part, loved Jesus more than herself, she suffered more than if she herself had been the victim. All this she endured so as to confess her faith in the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, and in her the faith of the Church was strong at that moment, stronger and more ardent than in all the other martyrs.

We should remember that Mary’s sufferings had the same cause as her Son’s—the accumulated sins of men and their ingratitude which made the sufferings to be partly of no avail. We must remember too that she suffered from the time of the conception of the Saviour, still more after Simeon’s prophecy, still more as she saw the opposition to Jesus mounting, and most of all at the foot of the cross. But even then, even when her soul was inundated with grief, her zeal for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls caused her a holy joy at the sight of her Son consummating His redemptive work by the most perfect of holocausts.

Lastly, she has helped the martyrs in their torments. She is Our Lady of a happy death because of her care for the dying who call on her. Much more does she help those who die to profess their faith in the Redeemer.


She is Queen of all who confess their faith in Jesus for she herself confessed the same faith more than any other creature.

But we shall speak principally in this section of what she is to the priests of Our Blessed Lord. To represent Jesus truly, the priest who brings Him down on the altar and offers Him sacramentally in Holy Mass should unite himself more and more to His sentiments, to the oblation which is always living in the Heart of Jesus “always living to make intercession for us.” In addition, he should, through the different sacraments, distribute the grace which is the fruit of the merits of Jesus and Mary.

Because of the work to which they are called, Mary is specially zealous for the sanctification of priests. She sees that they share in the priesthood of her Son and she watches over their souls that the grace of their ordination may bear fruit in them, that they become living images of the Saviour. She protects them against the dangers which surround them and lifts them up if they happen to stumble. She loves them as sons of predilection, just as she loved St. John who was committed to her on Calvary. She attracts their heart to herself to raise it up and to lead them to greater intimacy with Jesus, so that one day they may be able to say in all truth: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

Mary helps priests in a special way at the altar so that they may become more fully conscious of their union with the Principal Offerer. She is spiritually present at that sacramental oblation which perpetuates the substance of the sacrifice of the Cross, and she distributes to the priest the actual graces he needs to minister with recollection and in a spirit of self-donation. In that way she helps the priest to share in Jesus’ victimhood as well as in His priesthood. All this means to form priests to the image of the Heart of Jesus.

With Jesus she arouses priestly vocations and cultivates them. She knows that where there are no priests there is no Baptism, no Confession, no Mass, no Christian Marriage, no Extreme Unction, no Christian life: without the priest the world returns to paganism.

Our Lord who has willed to have need of Mary in the work of salvation has willed also to have need of priests, and Mary forms them in holiness. We can see her action clearly in some of the saints who were priests—St. John the Evangelist, St. Bernard, St. Dominic, the Apostle of the Rosary, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Grignon de Montfort, St. Alphonsus.


Mary is Queen of Virgins since she had the virtue of virginity in the most eminent degree and preserved it in the conception, birth, and after the birth of the Saviour. She teaches souls the value of virginity. It is a true virtue, a spiritual force, something more than a mere good inclination of the sensibility. She teaches them that virginity consecrated to God is higher than simple chastity since it promises integrity of the body and purity of the heart for the whole of life—a consideration which led St. Thomas to say that virginity stands in much the same relation to chastity as munificence does to simple liberality, since it is a perfect gift of self, and sign of a perfect generosity.

Mary safeguards virgins from danger, she supports them in their difficulties and leads them, if they are faithful, to great intimacy with her Son.

What is her role in regard to consecrated souls? The Church calls such souls “spouses of Christ.” It follows that Our Lady is their perfect model. Following her example they should live a life of prayer and of reparation in union with Our Blessed Lord. They should become also consolers of the afflicted, remembering that the consolation which they afford in a supernatural spirit to the suffering members of Christ is afforded to Himself and makes amends for the ingratitude, coldness, and even hatred of so many. Thus, these souls are called to reproduce the virtues of Mary and to continue in some measure her work for Our Blessed Lord and for souls.

If consecrated souls but know and follow Mary’s guidance they find through her a wonderful compensation for the privations their lives impose on them, and which, though all accepted in advance, are felt most keenly only as they come one by one, day after day. Through Mary they can aspire to a certain spiritual motherhood, which is an image of her own, in regard to all—the poor, the afflicted, sinners—who are in need of spiritual care. Our Blessed Lord alluded to that spiritual motherhood when He said: “I was hungry, and you gave me eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matt. 25:35–36).

Spiritual motherhood in the life of contemplation and reparation may be practised also by the apostolate of prayer and suffering which makes fruitful the exterior apostolate for the conversion of sinners and the extension of the reign of Christ. A hidden, interior apostolate can be one of great sufferings; but Our Lady will show how to bear them and she will afford some glimpse of their effects in souls.

Another work of Mary’s is to help Christian mothers to bring up their children to a life of faith, confidence in God, and love. She helps them also to win back their erring children, as St. Monica did St. Augustine.

Thus, we see the universality of Mary’s Queenship. She is Queen of all the saints by virtue of her unique mission in God’s providential plan, and her fulness of grace and glory. She is Queen of all the saints, the unknown as well as the known, the uncanonised as well as the canonised, the Queen of all those who strive after holiness on earth, whose trials and joys are so well known to her, and the crown of whose merits she foresees even now.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

In this chapter we shall speak of: 1st—the cult of hyperdulia which is due to the Mother of God; 2nd—the usual forms of Marian devotion, especially the Rosary as a school of contemplation; 3rd—Consecration to Our Lady as explained by St. Grignon de Montfort; 4th—Intimate and mystical union with Mary.


Cult in general means honor paid in a spirit of submission and dependence to a superior because of his excellence.365 Whether it be merely interior, or exterior as well, cult differs according to the position or excellence of the person to whom it is paid. Since the excellence of God is infinite, He being First Principle and Supreme Master of all things, the cult to which He has a right is supreme. It is known as latria and to pay it is an exercise of the virtue of religion. This same cult is due to the Sacred Humanity of Our Blessed Lord considered as belonging to the uncreated Person of the Word, and in a relative manner it is due to crucifixes and to pictures and statues which represent Him.

Created persons who have a certain excellence are entitled to the cult called dulia: a cult of respect. Thus, in the natural order respect is due to parents, kings, teachers; in the super natural order it is due to the saints, the heroicity of whose virtues has been recognised. The latter cult paid to God’s servants honors God Himself who is revealed to the world in the saints and draws us by them to Himself.366

It is commonly taught in the Church that the Blessed Virgin is entitled to a cult of hyperdulia, or supreme dulia, because of her eminent dignity as Mother of God.367


There have been two opposed false tendencies in regard to the cult of Mary. According to the testimony of St. Epiphanius (Haer78–79) the Collyridians wished to pay her divine cult and to offer sacrifice to her. This error might be termed Mariolatry. It was of brief duration. Opposed to it is the Protestant contention that the cult offered to Mary by Catholics is a form of superstition.

To answer this charge, we must insist that the cult of latria or adoration can be and is offered to God alone. If we adore the Sacred Humanity, it is because of Its personal union with the Word; if we offer relative cult of adoration to the crucifix, it is because it represents Our Saviour,368 for it is quite clear that the crucifix and other representations of Our Saviour have no other excellence than that of representing Him. Were relative adoration to be offered to Our Lady because of her connection with the Word made flesh, it might easily be mistaken for adoration offered to her because of her own intrinsic excellence, and would therefore be an occasion of grave error and of idolatry, as St. Thomas remarks.369

The cult due to Our Lady is therefore one of dulia. This statement is of faith, because of the teaching of the universal magisterium of the Church; hence the condemnation of the opposed propositions of Molinos.370 It is common and certain doctrine that Mary is entitled to a special kind of dulia known as hyperdulia, which is due to her considered as Mother of God. This doctrine is traditional. It is found quite explicitly in the works of St. Modestus in the 7th century, of St. John Damascene in the 8th, and later in the works of St. Thomas,371 St. Bonaventure,372 Scotus,373 Suarez374 and almost all Catholic theologians.375

The cult of hyperdulia is due to Mary formally because she is Mother of God since the dignity of her divine motherhood belongs by its term to the hypostatic order and is therefore very much higher than that which follows upon her degree of grace and glory. If Mary had received only the fulness of grace and glory without having been made the Mother of God, if, in other words she were higher than the other saints only through her degree of consummated glory, a special cult of hyperdulia would not be due to her.376

It is the more common and more probable opinion that hyperdulia differs from dulia not in degree only but in kind, just as the divine maternity belongs by its term to the hypostatic order, which is specifically distinct from that of grace and glory.377

The cult of hyperdulia is offered to Mary since she is Mother of the Saviour. But we should remember that for the same reason she is Mother of men, universal Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix.


By rendering Mary the cult of hyperdulia we move her to look down on us with still greater love, and for our part are drawn to imitate her virtues. The cult of hyperdulia leads effectively to salvation, for Mary can obtain the grace of final perseverance for all those who pray faithfully to her for it. For this reason true devotion to Our Lady is commonly looked on as one of the signs of predestination: though it does not give absolute and infallible certainty of salvation—a possibility ruled out by the authority of the Council of Trent (Denz. 805)—it gives rise to a firm hope. This firm hope rests on Mary’s great power of intercession and her special love for those who invoke her.15 In this sense St. Alphonsus asserts (The Glories of Mary, Part I, ch. viii) that it is morally impossible that they should be lost who have the desire to amend their lives and who honor the Mother of God faithfully and commit themselves to her protection. Those who have no serious desire to amend their lives cannot, of course, look on the fact that they keep up a certain appearance of devotion to Our Lady as a probable sign of predestination. But a sinner who tries to give up sin and turns to Mary for assistance will find that she will not fail him. This is the opinion of St. Alphonsus (lb., ch. I, 4) and of most modern theologians.378

The cult offered to Mary in the Church confirms in a general way the foundations of our faith since it derives from the Redemptive Incarnation. Thereby it destroys heresies: “Cunctas haereses interemisti in universo mundo.” The same cult leads to holiness by suggesting the imitation of Mary’s virtues, and it glorifies the Son by honoring the Mother.


The objection raised by some Protestants, that cult offered to Mary is derogatory to the divine cult, can be answered without much difficulty. The Catholic Church teaches that the cult of latria or adoration is offered to God alone and that the cult of Mary, far from taking from the cult of the Godhead, promotes it by recognising God as the Author of all the gifts with which Mary is endowed. The honor paid to the Mother redounds to the glory of the Son, and Mary the Mediatrix of all graces helps us to know better God, the Author of all graces. Experience has shown that faith in the divinity of Christ has best been preserved in those countries which are marked by devotion to Mary. All the saints were devout to both Jesus and Mary.

Since the cult of Mary is more sense-perceptible, there are some who perform its acts with more intensity than those pertaining to the cult of the Godhead. But even for such persons the cult of the Godhead is higher in kind, for they love God above all things with a love of preference (amour d’estime), and this love in its turn becomes more intense according as they advance in holiness and live a life more detached from the senses.

Confidence in Mary increases our confidence in God. The confidence that pilgrims had in the Cure of Ars, for example, increased their confidence that God would help them through his instrumentality.

It would be a real lack of humility, as St. Grignon de Montfort says, to pass over the mediators whom

God has given us because of our weakness. Far from lessening our intimacy with God, they prepare us for its increase. Just as Jesus does nothing in souls except in order to lead them to His Father, so also Mary works on minds and hearts solely in order to lead them nearer to her Son. God has willed to make continual use of Mary for the sanctification of souls.


From among the many customary devotions to Our Lady, such as the Angelus, the Office of the Blessed Virgin, the Rosary, we shall speak especially of the last in so far as it prepares us for and leads us up to contemplation of the great mysteries of salvation. After Holy Mass it is one of the most beautiful and efficacious forms of prayer, on condition of understanding it and living it.

It sometimes happens that its recitation—reduced to that of five mysteries—becomes a matter of routine. The mind, not being really gripped by the things of God, finds itself a prey to distractions. Sometimes the prayer is said hurriedly and soullessly. Sometimes it is said for the purpose of obtaining temporal favors, desired out of all relation to spiritual gain. When a person says the Rosary in such a way, he may well ask himself in what way his prayer is like that of which Pope Leo XIII spoke in his encyclicals on the Rosary, and about which Pius XI wrote one of his last apostolic letters.

It is true that to pray well it is sufficient to think in a general way of God and of the graces for which one asks. But to make the most out of our five mysteries, we should remember that they constitute but a third of the whole Rosary, and that they should be accompanied by meditation—which can be very simple—on the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which recall the whole life of Jesus and Mary and their glory in Heaven.


The fifteen mysteries of the Rosary thus divided into three groups are but different aspects of the three great mysteries of our salvation: the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life.

The mystery of the Incarnation is recalled by the joys of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of the Saviour, His Presentation in the Temple and His finding among the doctors. The mystery of the Redemption is recalled by the different stages of the Passion: the Agony in the garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion. The mystery of eternal life is recalled by the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption of Our Lady and her crowning as Queen of Heaven.

Thus, the Rosary is a Credo: not an abstract one, but one concretised in the life of Jesus who came down to us from the Father and who ascended to bring us back with Himself to the Father. It is the whole of Christian dogma in all its splendor and elevation, brought to us that we may fill our minds with it, that we may relish it and nourish our souls with it.

This makes the Rosary a true school of contemplation. It raises us gradually above vocal prayer and even above reasoned out or discursive meditation. Early theologians have compared the movement of the soul in contemplation to the spiral in which certain birds—the swallow, for example—move when they wish to attain to a great height.379 The joyful mysteries lead to the Passion, and the Passion to the door of Heaven.

The Rosary well understood is, therefore, a very elevated form of prayer which makes the whole of dogma accessible to all.

The Rosary is also a very practical form of prayer for it recalls all Christian morality and spirituality by presenting them from the sublime point of view of their realization in Jesus and Mary. The mysteries of the Rosary should be reproduced in our lives. Each of them is a lesson in some virtue—particularly in the virtues of humility, trust, patience and charity.

There are three stages in our progress towards God. The first is to have knowledge of the final end, whence comes the desire of salvation and the joy to which that desire gives rise. This stage is symbolised in the joyful mysteries which contain the good news of the Incarnation of the Son of God who opens to us the way of salvation. The next stage is to adopt the means—often painful to nature—to be delivered from sin and to merit Heaven. This is the stage of the sorrowful mysteries. The final stage is that of rest in the possession of eternal life. It is the stage of Heaven, of which the glorious mysteries allow us some anticipated glimpse.

The Rosary is therefore most practical. It takes us from the midst of our too human interests and joys and makes us think of those which center on the coming of the Saviour. It takes us from our meaningless fears, from the sufferings we bear so badly, and reminds us of how much Jesus has suffered for love of us and teaches us to follow Him by bearing the cross which divine providence has sent us to purify us. It takes us finally from our earthly hopes and ambitions and makes us think of the true object of Christian hope—eternal life and the graces necessary to arrive there.

The Rosary is more than a prayer of petition. It is a prayer of adoration inspired by the thought of the Incarnate God, a prayer of reparation in memory of the Passion of Our Saviour, a prayer of thanksgiving that the glorious mysteries continue to reproduce themselves in the uninterrupted entry of the elect into glory.


A more simple and still more elevated way of reciting the Rosary is, while saying it, to keep the eyes of faith fixed on the living Jesus who is always making intercession for us and who is acting upon us in accordance with the mysteries of His childhood, or His Passion, or His glory. He comes to us to make us like Himself. Let us fix our gaze on Jesus who is looking at us. His look is more than kind and understanding: it is the look of God, a look which purifies, which sanctifies, which gives peace. It is the look of our Judge and still more the look of our Saviour, our Friend, the Spouse of our souls. A Rosary said in this way, in solitude and silence, is a most fruitful intercourse with Jesus. It is a conversation with Mary too which leads to intimacy with her Son.

We sometimes read in the lives of the saints that Our Blessed Lord reproduced in them first His childhood, then His hidden life, then His apostolic life, and finally His Passion, before allowing them to share in His glory. He comes to us in a similar way in the Rosary and, well said, it is a prayer which gradually takes the form of an intimate conversation with Jesus and Mary. It is easy to see how saintly souls have found in it a school of contemplation.

It has sometimes been objected that one cannot reflect on the words and the mysteries at the same time. An answer that is often given is that it is not necessary to reflect on the words if one is meditating on or looking spiritually at one of the mysteries. The words are a kind of melody which soothes the ear and isolates us from the noise of the world around us, the fingers being occupied meanwhile in allowing one bead after another to slip through. Thus, the imagination is kept tranquil and the mind and the will are set free to be united to God.

It has also been objected that the monotony of the many repetitions in the Rosary leads necessarily to routine. This objection is valid only if the Rosary is said badly. If well said, it familiarises us with the different mysteries of salvation and recalls what these mysteries should produce in our joys, our sorrows, and our hopes. Any prayer can become a matter of routine—even the Ordinary of the Mass. The reason is not that the prayers are imperfect, but that we do not say them as we should—with faith, confidence and love.


To understand the Rosary better it is well to recall how St. Dominic conceived it under the inspiration of Our Lady at a time when southern France was ravaged by the Albigensian heresy—a heresy which denied the infinite goodness and omnipotence of God by admitting a principle of evil which was often victorious. Not only did Albigensianism attack Christian morality, but it was opposed to dogma as well—to the great mysteries of creation, the redemptive incarnation, the descent of the Holy Ghost,’ the eternal life to which we are called.

It was at that moment that Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic a kind of preaching till then unknown, which she said would be one of the most powerful weapons against future errors and in future difficulties. Under her inspiration, St. Dominic went into the villages of the heretics, gathered the people, and preached to them the mysteries of salvation—the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life. As Mary had taught him to do, he distinguished the different kinds of mysteries, and after each short instruction he had ten Hail Marys recited—somewhat as might happen even today at a Holy Hour. And what the word of the preacher was unable to do, the sweet prayer of the Hail Mary did for hearts. As Mary had promised, it proved to be a most fruitful form of preaching.380

If we live by the prayer of which St. Dominic’s preaching is the example our joys, our sorrows, and our hopes will be purified, elevated and spiritualized. We shall see that Jesus, Our Saviour and Our Model, wishes to make us like Himself, first communicating to us something of His infant and hidden life, then something of His sorrows, and finally making us partakers of His glorious life for all eternity.


In his Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, St. Grignon de Montfort has distinguished a number of different degrees of true devotion to the Mother of God. He speaks only briefly of the forms of false devotion—that which is altogether exterior, or presumptuous, or inconstant, or hypocritical, or self-interested—since his main concern is true devotion.

Like the other Christian virtues, true devotion grows in us with charity, advancing from the stage of the beginner to that of the more proficient, and continuing up to the stage of the perfect. The first degree or stage is to pray devoutly to Mary from time to time, for example, by saying the Angelus when the bell rings. The second degree is one of more perfect sentiments of veneration, confidence and love; it may manifest itself by the daily recitation of the Rosary—five decades or all fifteen. In the third degree, the soul gives itself fully to Our Lady by an act of consecration so as to belong altogether to Jesus through her.381


This act of consecration consists in promising Mary to have constant filial recourse to her and to live in habitual dependence on her, so as to attain to more intimate union with Our Blessed Lord and through Him with the Blessed Trinity present in our souls. The reason for making it lies, St. Grignon de Montfort says, in the fact that God has willed to make use of Mary for the sanctification of souls, having already made use of her to bring about the Incarnation (Treatise of True Devotion, ch. I, a. 1, no. 44).

The saint continues: “I do not think that anyone can attain to great union with Our Blessed Lord or perfect fidelity to the Holy Ghost without being closely united to Our Lady and depending very much on her help. . . . She was full of grace when she was saluted by the Archangel Gabriel, she was superabundantly filled with grace by the Holy Ghost when He overshadowed her, she so advanced in grace from day to day and from moment to moment as to arrive at an inconceivable summit of grace; on which account the Most High has made her His unique treasurer and the unique dispenser of His graces, so that she may ennoble, enrich and elevate whom she wills, and make whom she wills enter the narrow gate of Heaven. . . . Jesus is everywhere and always the Son and the fruit of Mary; Mary is everywhere the true tree which bears the fruit of life and the true mother who produces it.”

In the same chapter, a little earlier, we read: “We may apply to Mary with even more truth than St. Paul applies them to himself the words: ‘My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you. I am in labour daily with God’s children till Jesus be formed in them in the fulness of His age.’ St. Augustine says that the predestined are in this world hidden in the womb of Mary in order to become conformed to the image of the Son of God; and there she guards, nourishes, and supports them and brings them forth to glory after death, which is the true day of their birth—the term by which the Church always speaks of the death of the just. O mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate and little understood by the predestined!” Mary is truly the mother of the just, conceiving them spiritually and bringing them forth after death by their entry into glory, which is their definitive spiritual birth. It is clear then that it would be a falling short in humility to neglect to have frequent recourse to the Universal Mediatrix whom Divine Providence has given us as our true spiritual mother to form Christ in us. It is clear also that theology cannot but recognize that it is lawful and more than lawful to consecrate oneself to Mary, Mother and Queen of all men.382

Consecration to Our Lady is a practical form of recognition of her universal mediation and a guarantee of her special protection. It helps us to have continual childlike recourse to her and to contemplate and imitate her virtues and her perfect union with Christ. In the practice of this complete dependence on Mary, there may be included—and St. Grignon de Montfort invites us to it—the resignation into Mary’s hands of everything in our good works that is communicable to other souls, so that she may make use of it in accordance with the will of her Divine Son and for His glory. “I choose thee this day, O Mary, in the presence of the whole court of Heaven, as my Mother and Queen. I give and consecrate to you as your slave my body and my soul, my interior and exterior possessions, and even the value of my past, present and future good actions, allowing you the full right to dispose of me and of all that belongs to me, without any exception whatever, according to your good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and in eternity.” This offering is really the practice of the so-called heroic act, there being question here not of a vow but of a promise made to the Blessed Virgin.383

We are recommended to offer our exterior possessions to Mary, that she may preserve us from inordinate attachment to the things of this world and inspire us to make better use of them. It is good also to consecrate to her our bodies and our senses that she may keep them pure.

The act of consecration gives over to Mary also our soul and its faculties, our spiritual possessions, virtues and merits, all our good works past, present and future. It is necessary, however, to explain how this can be done. Theology gives us the answer by distinguishing what is communicable to others in our good works from what is incommunicable.


To begin at the other end of the problem, our merits de condigno which constitute a right in justice to an increase of grace and to eternal glory are incommunicable. Our merits de condigno differ in that from those of Our Blessed Lord. He was Head of the human race and could in justice communicate His merits to us. If, therefore, we offer our merits de condigno to Mary, it is not in order that she may give them to others but that she may keep them for us, that she may help us to make them bear fruit, and, if we have the misfortune to lose them by mortal sin, that she may obtain for us the grace of really fervent contrition.

There is, however, something in our good works which we can communicate to others whether on earth or in purgatory.384 There is in the first place the merit de congruo proprie, founded on the rights of friendship with God by grace. God gives grace to some because of the good intentions and good works of others who are His friends. There are, in the second place, our prayers; we can and should pray for our neighbor, for his conversion and his spiritual progress; we should pray also for the dying, for the souls in purgatory. There are finally our acts of satisfaction. We can make satisfaction de congruo for others, for example, by accepting our daily crosses to help to expiate for their sins. We may even, if God moves us to do so by His grace, accept the penalty due to their sins as Mary did at the foot of the Cross, and thereby draw down the divine mercy on them.385 This the saints did frequently. An example is found in the life of St. Catherine of Siena. To a young Sienese whose heart was full of hate of his political enemies she said: “Peter, I take on myself all your sins, I shall do penance in your place; but do me one favor; confess your sins.” “I have been frequently to Confession,” answered Peter. “That is not true,” replied the saint. “It is seven years since you were at Confession,” and she proceeded to enumerate all the sins of his life. Confounded, he repented and pardoned his enemies. Even without having all St. Catherine’s generosity, we can accept our daily crosses to help other souls to pay the debt they owe to the divine justice.

We can also gain indulgences for the souls in purgatory, opening to them the treasury of the merits and satisfactions of Christ and the saints and hastening the day of their liberation.

There are, therefore, three things which we can share with others: our merits de congruo, our prayers, our satisfaction. And if we put these in Mary’s hands for others, we ought not to be surprised if she sends us crosses—proportionate, of course, to our strength—to make us really work for the salvation of souls.

Who are those who may be advised to make this act of consecration? It certainly should not be recommended to people who would make it for merely sentimental reasons or through spiritual pride, and would not understand its true meaning. But those who are truly spiritual may be recommended to make it for a few days at first and then for some longer time; when finally they are prepared they may make it for their whole lives.

Someone may say that to give everything to Our Lady is to strip oneself, to leave one’s own debts unpaid, and so to add to one’s term in Purgatory. This is in fact the difficulty the devil suggested to St. Brigid of Sweden when she thought of making the act of donation to Mary. Our Blessed Lord explained, however, to the saint that the objection sprang from self-love and made no allowance for Mary’s goodness. Mary will not be outdone in generosity: her help to us will far exceed what we give her. The very act of love which prompts our donation will itself obtain remission of part of our Purgatory.

Others wonder if making the act of donation to Mary leaves them free to pray for relatives and friends afterwards. They forget that Mary knows the obligations of charity better than we do: she would be the first to remind us of them. There may even be some among our relatives and friends on earth and in purgatory who have urgent need of prayers and satisfactions, without our knowing who they are. Mary, however, knows who they are, and she can help them out of our good works if we have put them at her disposal.

Thus understood, consecration and donation make us enter more fully, under Mary’s guidance, into the mystery of the Communion of Saints. It is a perfect renewal of the baptismal promises.386


“This devotion,” St. Grignon de Montfort tells us,387 “gives us up altogether to the service of God, and makes us imitate the example of Our Blessed Lord, who willed to be ‘subject’ in regard to His Blessed Mother. (Luke 2:51). It obtains for us the special protection of Mary, who purifies our good works and adorns them when she offers them to her Divine Son. It leads us to union with Our Blessed Lord; it is an easy, short, perfect and safe way. It confers great interior freedom, procures great benefits for our neighbor, and is an excellent means of assuring our perseverance.” The saint develops each of these points in a most practical way.

He speaks of the easiness of the way in ch. 5, a. 5: “It is an easy way, one followed and prepared for us by Our Blessed Lord in His own coming, one where there are no obstacles in reaching Him. It is true that one can arrive at union with God by following other roads; but there will be many more crosses and trials, and many more difficulties which it will not be easy to surmount—there will be combats and strange agonies, steep mountains, sharp thorns, fearful deserts. But the way of Mary is sweeter and more peaceful.

“Even along the way of Mary there are stern battles and great difficulties; but our good Mother makes herself so near and present to her faithful servants to enlighten them in their doubts, to strengthen them in their fears, and to sustain them in their battles, that in truth the Virgin’s way to Jesus is a way of roses and honey compared with all others.” The saint adds that the truth of this can be seen from the lives of the saints who have followed this way most particularly: St. Ephrem, St. John Damascene, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Francis de Sales.

A little further on in the same chapter, the saint states that Mary’s servants “receive from her Heaven’s greatest graces and favors which are crosses; but it is the servants of Mary who bear the crosses with most ease, merit and glory; and what would hold back another makes them advance,” for they are more aided by the Mother of God, who obtains for them the unction of love in their trials. It is wonderful how Mary makes the cross at the same time easier to bear and more meritorious: easier to bear because she helps us, and more meritorious because she obtains for us greater charity, which is the principle of greater merit.

“It is a short way . . . one advances more in a little while of submission to and dependence on Mary than in many years of self-will and self-reliance. . . . We can advance with giant strides along the path by which Jesus came to us. . . . In a few years we shall arrive at the fulness of the perfect age.”388

“It is a perfect way, chosen by God Himself . . . The Most High descended to us by way of the humble Mary without losing anything of His divinity; it is by Mary that little ones can rise perfectly and divinely to the Most High without fear.”

It is finally a safe way, for the Blessed Virgin preserves us from the illusions of the devil and our imagination. She preserves us from sentiment as well, calming and ruling our sensibility, giving it a pure and holy object, and subordinating it to the rule of the will vivified by charity.

In consecration to Mary, we find great interior liberty: this is the reward of putting ourselves in such complete dependence on Mary. Scruples are banished; the heart dilates with confidence and love. The saint confirms this point by referring to what he read in the life of the Dominican, Mother Agnes de Langeac, “who, suffering great anguish of soul, heard a voice which said to her that if she wished to be delivered and to be protected from her enemies, she should make herself at once the slave of Jesus and His Holy Mother.

. . . When she had done so all her anguish and scruples ceased, and she found herself in a state of great peace, as a result of which she determined to teach the devotion to others . . . among whom was M. Olier, the founder of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, and many other priests of the same seminary.” It was in the same seminary that St. Grignon de Montfort received his priestly formation.

“Finally, this devotion is one which procures the good of our neighbor and it is for those who live by it an admirable means of persevering in grace . . . for by it one gives to Mary, who is faithful, all that one has. . . . It is on her fidelity that reliance is placed . . . that she may preserve and increase our merits in spite of all that could make us lose them. . . . Do not commit the gold of your charity, the silver of your purity, the waters of heavenly graces, or the wine of your merits and virtues . . . to broken vessels such as you yourselves are; else you will be despoiled by robbers, that is by the demons, who watch day and night for a favorable opportunity. . . . Put all your treasures, all your graces and virtues, in the womb and in the heart of Mary: she is a spiritual vessel, a vessel of honor, a singular vessel of devotion.

“Souls who are not born of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God and of Mary, understand and relish what I say; and it is for them that I write. . . . If a soul gives itself to Mary without reserve, she gives herself to it without reserve” and helps it to find the road which leads to the eternal goal.

Such are the fruits of this consecration: Mary loves those who commit themselves to her fully; she guides, directs, defends, protects, supports and intercedes for them. It is good to offer ourselves to her so that she may offer us to her Son according to the fulness of her prudence and her zeal.

There are also fruits of a higher order which this devotion produces, fruits which are strictly mystical, as we shall explain in the next section.389


A soul faithful to the devotion of which we have been speaking performs all its actions through Mary, in Mary and for Mary, and attains thereby to great intimacy with Our Lord.390 To consider only humility, the theological virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the following are the more precious fruits of consecration to Mary when it is lived fully: a gradually increasing participation in Mary’s humility and faith, great confidence in God through her, the grace of pure love, and the transformation of the soul to the image of Jesus.391


By the light of the Holy Ghost the soul consecrated to Mary will come to learn of all the evil that is in itself; it will see by experience that it is naturally incapable of every salutary and supernatural good and that through self-love it opposes many obstacles to the work of grace within it. Thus, it will attain to that contempt of self of which St. Augustine speaks in the City of God (Bk. XIV, ch. 28): “Two loves have built two cities. The love of self even to the degree of despising God has built the city of Babylon, and the love of God even to the degree of despising self has built the city of God.” “The humble Mary,” says St. Grignon de Montfort,392 “will make you a sharer in her deep humility, so that you will despise yourself and no one else, and you will love to be despised.

“She will give you a share in her faith also, which was greater than the faith of the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, and all the saints. She herself has that faith no longer, for she sees all things clearly in God in the light of glory; but she keeps it . . . in the Church militant for her most faithful servants.

“The more you win her love . . . the more you will have a pure faith, which will make you set little store by the sense-perceptible and the extraordinary; a faith living and animated by charity which will make you act from a motive of pure love; a faith firm and immovable as a rock which will make you constant in the midst of storms and afflictions; a faith active and piercing which, like a mysterious master-key, will give you entry to all the mysteries of Jesus, the final destiny of man, and the heart of God Himself; a courageous faith which will make you undertake and bring to achievement great things for God and the salvation of souls; a faith that will be your flaming torch, your divine life, your hidden treasure of divine wisdom, your all-powerful weapon, yours to use for the enlightenment of those who are in darkness and the shadow of death, for the inflaming of those who are lukewarm and who need the purified gold of charity, for the restoration to life of those who are dead by sin, for touching and uprooting by your sweet and powerful words the hearts of marble and the cedars of Lebanon, and finally for resisting the devil and all the enemies of salvation.”393 These wonderful pages are the fruit of the full development of the virtue of faith, lit up by the gifts of understanding and wisdom—fides donis illustrata, as theologians say.


By confidence we mean that firm hope which tends towards eternal glory with sureness of direction. According to St. Grignon de Montfort,394 the Blessed Virgin inspires great confidence in God and in herself: 1st—since through consecration we approach Jesus no longer alone but in the company of His Mother; 2nd—having given Mary all our merits, graces and satisfactions to dispose of as she wills, she in return will communicate to us her virtues and clothe us with her merits; 3rd—since we have given ourselves to Mary she will give herself to us. We can say to Mary: “I belong to you, O Holy Virgin. Save me.” And to God we can say with the psalmist (Ps. 130:1): “Lord, my heart is not exalted: nor are my eyes lofty. Neither have I walked in great matters, nor in wonderful things above me. No, but I keep my soul in calm and silence; as a child that is weaned (from the pleasures of the world, and resting) on its mother’s breast (and trusting in her).” Through Mary we receive more and more the inspirations of the gift of knowledge which shows us the emptiness of the things of this world and our frailty, and contrasts them with the reward of eternal life and the divine assistance.


Those who walk by the way of Mary grow in charity under the influence of her who is called the “Mother of fair love.” (Ecclus. 24:24). “She will take out of your heart every scruple and servile fear; she will expand it so that you will run in the commandments of her Son (Ps. 118:32) with the holy freedom of the children of God. She will introduce into your heart that pure love of which she has all the treasures so that you will no longer serve the God of love in fear as you have done, but in pure love. You will look on Him as your good Father whom you will try to please at all times, with whom you will converse in all confidence. If you have the misfortune to offend Him . . . you will at once ask forgiveness humbly, you will stretch out your hands to Him . . . and you will continue your journey towards Him with unshaken confidence.”395

Mary’s soul will be communicated to yours to glorify the Lord and to rejoice in Him, to live the Magnificat. The faithful Christian “inhales Mary in a spiritual manner just as his body inhales the air.”396 So well is her spirit of wisdom communicated that her fully faithful servant and child becomes a living image of her mother.

Through this communication the soul is transformed to the image of Jesus Christ. “St Augustine calls the Blessed Virgin the mould of God, forma Dei . . ,397 Whoever is cast in this mold is soon formed in Christ . . . Some directors are like sculptors who, placing their trust in their art, deal blow after blow with hammer and chisel to a hard stone or a piece of wood in order to shape it into a representation of Jesus, and sometimes do not succeed . . . one badly-aimed blow can botch the whole work. But those who accept the secret of grace of which I write are like the artists who work from a mould. Having found the beautiful mould of Mary, where Jesus was formed naturally and divinely, they do not trust their own industry but only the fidelity of the mould, and cast and lose themselves in Mary, becoming thus images of Christ . . . But remember that you can cast in a mould only what has been melted to a liquid: that is to say, you must destroy and melt down the old Adam, to become the new Adam in Mary.” 398

The way of Mary increases purity of intention. By it a person renounces his own peculiar intentions, even if good, to be lost in those of the Blessed Virgin. “One enters thus into the sublimity of her intentions which were so pure that she gave more glory to God by the least of her actions—for example, by winding her distaff, or by some needlework—than St. Laurence did on the gridiron by his martyrdom, or even all the saints by their most heroic acts . . . or all the angels. . . . By deigning to receive into her virginal hands the gift of our actions she gives them a beauty and splendor which glorify Our Blessed Lord much more than if we offered them to Him ourselves. . . . Finally, you never think of Mary but she thinks of God for you. . . . She is all she is relative to God . . . she is the echo of God, who says and repeats but ‘God.’ . . . When she is praised God is loved and praised. We give to God through and in Mary.”399


Some souls are favored with a special grace of union with Mary. Fr. E. Neubert, the Marianist, has gathered a number of significant testimonies in this connection.400 Reference must also be made to the work “Mystic Union with Mary,” written by a Flemish recluse, Marie de Sainte-Therese (1623–1677), who had personal experience of the subject on which she wrote.

Fr. Chaminade, who exercised the priestly ministry at Bordeaux with great zeal during the French Revolution and who founded the Marianists, had the same experience. He wrote: “There is a gift of the habitual presence of the Blessed Virgin even as there is a gift of the habitual presence of God—very rare, it is true, but obtainable through great fidelity.” As Fr. Neubert explains, this text refers to normal and habitual mystical union with Mary. The Ven. L. Ed. Cestac had the same gift. “I do not see her,” he said, “but I feel her presence as the horse feels the hand on the rein.” Thus these souls are conscious of the influence which Mary exercises on us continually by transmitting actual graces to our souls.

Marie de Sainte-Therese has words to the same effect: “That sweet mother has taken me under her maternal direction just as a teacher takes in her own the hand of the child she is teaching to write. . . . She remains almost uninterruptedly before my soul, drawing me to herself in so loving and motherly a manner, stimulating me, guiding me, instructing me in the way of the spirit and in the perfect practice of the virtues. And I do not lose for a single instant the charm of her presence along with that of the God head. . . . She produces the divine life in me by an imperceptible inflow of different graces. . . . It is of the nature of love to unite itself to the object loved. . . . Thus tender, burning and unifying love draws the soul which loves Mary to live in her, to be united to her, and to other effects and transformations. . . . Then God shows Himself in Mary and by her as in a mirror.” Such was a great part of the life of this servant of God.

Some souls who have had great intimacy with Mary say that they never experienced her presence in them, but rather her presence very near them—as near as possible, in fact—and that they felt a great joy at knowing of her happiness. We have known a saintly Carthusian who said: “I suffer, but she is happy.”

Finally, many holy souls have had, in the midst of their sufferings, a gift of deep intimacy with Mary which was the source of their strength even though they have left no account of it. Many of them have experienced, were it only for an instant, her presence like that of a mother who peeps into the room where her children are. In such experiences she communicates an indescribable holiness, and prompts to more generous sacrifices, such as lead the soul into the depths contained in the Magnificat and the Stabat Mater.


The gravity of the events of these latter years, since the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War and the World War, shows that the faithful should have recourse to God more and more through the great mediators He has given us on account of our weakness. The horror of these events shows in a singularly striking manner to what men can come if they wish to do absolutely without God, and organise their life without Him, far from Him and against Him. When, instead of believing in God, hoping in Him and loving Him above all and our neighbor in Him, we wish to believe in humanity, hope in it, and love it in a purely earthly manner, it does not take long to show itself to us with all its blemishes and gaping wounds: the pride of life, the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and all the brutality that ensues from them. When, instead of making our last end God, who can be simultaneously possessed by all, we seek our final end in earthly goods, we are not long in finding out that they divide us profoundly; for the same house, the same field, the same territory, cannot belong simultaneously and integrally to several owners. The more life is materialized, the more the lower appetites are excited, without any subordination to a superior love, the more the conflicts between individuals, classes and peoples become acute, till finally earth becomes a veritable Hell.

The Lord shows thus to men what they can be without Him. It is a striking commentary on these words of the Saviour: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth” (Matt. 12:30); “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). The psalmist in the same way says: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.” (Ps. 126:1).

The two great evils of the age, as Pope Pius XI said, are on the one hand materialistic and atheistic communism according to the programme of the “God-less,” and on the other hand, an unbounded nationalism which aims at establishing the supremacy of the stronger nations over the weaker, without respect for divine and natural law. Hence the bitter conflict in which the entire world is plunged.

As a remedy for these evils, the best and most zealous among catholics in nations actually on opposite sides feel the need for common prayer which will reunite before God the souls of true Christians in all countries, to obtain that the reign of God and of His Christ be established more and more in the place of the reign of pride and covetousness. To this end, masses are daily offered along with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; which latter has been established in different countries in so speedy and widespread a manner that one must consider it the fruit of a great grace from God.

Exterior peace will not be obtained for the world except by the interior peace of souls, bringing them back to God and working to establish the reign of Christ in the depths of their intellects, of their hearts and of their wills. For this return of straying souls to Him who alone can save them, it is necessary to have recourse to the intercession of Mary, Universal Mediatrix and Mother of all men. It is said of sinners who seem for ever lost that they must be confided to Mary: it is the same for Christian peoples who stray. All the influence of the Blessed Virgin has as its end to lead souls to her Son, just as that of Christ, the Universal Mediator, has as its end to lead them to His Father.

Mary’s prayer, especially since she was assumed into Heaven, is universal in the widest sense of the term. She prays not only for individual souls on earth and in Purgatory, but also for families and for all nations, which ought to live beneath the rays of the Gospel’s light and the influence of the Church. Moreover, her prayer is all the more powerful in that it is more enlightened and proceeds from a love of God and of souls which nothing can weaken or interrupt. The merciful love of Mary for men surpasses that of all the angels and saints united, and so does the power of her intercession with the Heart of her Son.

That is why on all sides many interior souls, before the unprecedented disorders and tragic sufferings of the hour, feel the need for recourse to the redeeming Love of Christ through the intercession of Mary Mediatrix.

In many countries, especially in convents of fervent contemplative life, it is remembered that many French bishops united at Lourdes, at the second national Marial Congress, on the 27th of July, 1929, expressed to the Sovereign Pontiff their desire for a consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is remembered also that Father Deschamps, SJ., in 1900, Cardinal Richard, Archbishop of Paris, in 1906, Fr. Le Dore, Superior General of the Eudists, in 1908 and 1912, and Fr. Lintelo, S.J., in 1914, took the initiative in the matter of petitions to the Sovereign Pontiff to obtain the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

By a collective act, the bishops of France, at the beginning of the war of 1914, in December of the same year, consecrated France to Mary. Cardinal Mercier in 1915, in his Pastoral Letter on Mary Mediatrix, saluted the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the human race, as Queen of the World. Fr. Lucas, new Superior General of the Eudists, obtained finally in a few months more than three hundred thousand signatures to hasten by this consecration the peace of Christ in the reign of Christ.

The strength that we need in the present upheaval is the prayer of Mary, Mother of all men, who will obtain it for us from the Saviour. Her intercession is very powerful against the spirit of evil which ranges individuals, classes and peoples one against the other. If a formal pact, fully consented to, with the demon, can have dire consequences in the life of a soul and send it to eternal damnation, what spiritual effect will a consecration to Mary not have, made in a deep spirit of faith and often renewed with still greater fidelity?

One may remember how in December, 1836, the venerable cur6 of Our Lady of Victories in Paris, while celebrating Mass at the altar of the Blessed Virgin, heartbroken at the thought of the apparent failure of his ministry, heard these words: “Consecrate your parish to the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary,” and how once the consecration was made the parish was transformed.

Mary’s prayer for us is that of a Mother very enlightened, very loving and very strong, who watches ceaselessly over her children, over all men, called to receive the fruits of the Redemption. This is the experience of anyone who daily consecrates to Mary all his works, material and spiritual, and all his undertakings. He recovers faith and confidence when all seems lost.

Now, if the individual consecration of a soul to Mary obtains for it daily great graces of light, love and strength, what will not be the fruits of a consecration of the human race made to the Saviour by Mary herself, at the request of the common Father of the faithful, the supreme Pastor? What will not be the effect of a consecration thus made, especially if the faithful among the different peoples unite, so as to conform their lives to it, in fervent prayer often renewed at Holy Mass?

To obtain that the Sovereign Pontiff perform this act, it is necessary that a sufficient number of the faithful understand the recent lessons given us by Divine Providence. In other words, a sufficient number must have seized the meaning and the import of the consecration asked for. Otherwise it will not be able to produce the required effects. In the divine plan, trials end when they have produced the effect they were intended to produce, when souls have profited by them—just as Purgatory ends when the soul is purified.

As a saintly religious used to say:401 “We do not live for ourselves; we must see everything as it is in God’s plan; our present sufferings—even were they to rise to their peak and were we ourselves to be sacrificed in the disaster—gain and prepare the future assured triumphs of the Church. . . . The Church goes thus from struggle to struggle and from victory to victory, each succeeding the other until Eternity, which will be the final victory.” “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). The Church and souls must go along the same road. The Church does not live only for a day; when the martyrs fell like snowflakes in winter, might one not have believed that all was lost? No, their blood was preparing the triumphs of the future.

In the difficult period we are going through the Church has need of very generous souls, of real saints. It is Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, Mother most pure, Virgin most prudent and strong, who must shape them.

From various sides the Lord suggests to interior souls a prayer of which the form may differ but of which the substance is always the same: “In this time when a spirit of pride pushed to the point of atheism seeks to spread itself among the peoples, O Lord, be Thou as the soul of my soul, the life of my life; grant me a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Redemption and of Thy holy self-abasement, the remedy of all pride. Grant me a sincere desire to participate, in the measure intended for me by Providence, in these salutary humiliations and make me find in this desire the strength, peace and—when Thou desirest it—the joy, to stir up my courage and the confidence of those around me.”

To enter thus practically into the depths of the mystery of the Redemption, it is necessary that Mary, who at the foot of the Cross entered into them deeper than did any other creature, should teach us interiorly and reveal to us in the words of the Gospel the spirit in which she herself lived so fully.

May the Mother of the Saviour deign by her prayer to place all the faithful of the different nations beneath the rays of these words of Christ: “The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one.” (John 17:22).

It is to be hoped that one day, when the hour appointed by Divine Providence will have come, and when souls are prepared, the Supreme Pastor, in answer to the prayers of the bishops and the faithful, will consecrate the human race to the merciful and Immaculate Heart of Mary,402 that she may offer us all the more appealingly to her Son and so obtain peace for the world. This would be a new affirmation of the universal mediation of the Blessed Virgin.

Let us go to her with the greatest confidence: she has been called “the hope of the hopeless,” and by going to her as to the best and the most enlightened of mothers we shall go to Jesus as to our sole and merciful Saviour.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

He that is lesser among you all, he is the greater.” —Luke 9:48

One cannot write a book on Our Lady without referring to the predestination of St. Joseph, his eminent perfection, the character of his special mission, his virtues, and his role in the sanctification of souls.


The opinion that St. Joseph is the greatest of the saints after Our Lady is one which is becoming daily more commonly held in the Church. We do not hesitate to look on the humble carpenter as higher in grace and eternal glory than the patriarchs and the greatest of the prophets—than St. John the Baptist, the apostles, the martyrs and the great doctors of the Church. He who is least in the depth of his humility is, because of the interconnection of the virtues, the greatest in the height of his charity: “He that is the lesser among you all, he is the greater.”

St. Joseph’s pre-eminence was taught by Gerson403 and St. Bernardine of Siena.404 It became more and more common in the course of the 16th century. It was admitted by St. Teresa, by the Dominican Isidore de Isolanis, who appears to have written the first treatise on St. Joseph,405 by St. Francis de Sales, by Suarez,406 and later by St. Alphonsus Liguori,407 Ch. Sauve,408 Cardinal Lepicier409 and Mgr Sinibaldi;410 it is very ably treated of in the article “Joseph” in the Diet, de Theol. Cath. by M. A. Michel.

The doctrine of St. Joseph’s pre-eminence received the approval of Leo XIII in his encyclical Quamquam pluries, August 15th, 1899, written to proclaim St. Joseph patron of the universal Church. “The dignity of the Mother of God is so elevated that there can be no higher created one. But since St. Joseph was united to the Blessed Virgin by the conjugal bond, there is no doubt that he approached nearer than any other to that super-eminent dignity of hers by which the Mother of God surpasses all created natures. Conjugal union is the greatest of all; by its very nature it is accompanied by a reciprocal communication of the goods of the spouses. If then God gave St. Joseph to Mary to be her spouse He certainly did not give him merely as a companion in life, a witness of her virginity, a guardian of her honor, but He made him also participate by the conjugal bond in the eminent dignity which was hers.” When Leo XIII said that Joseph came nearest of all to the super-eminent dignity of Mary, did his words imply that Joseph is higher in glory than all the angels? We cannot give any certain answer to the question. We must be content to restate the doctrine which is becoming more and more commonly taught: of all the saints Joseph is the highest after Jesus and Mary; he is among the angels and the archangels. The Church mentions him immediately after Mary and before the Apostles in the prayer A cunctis. Though he is not mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, he has a proper preface, and the month of March is consecrated to him as protector and defender of the universal Church.

The multitude of Christians in all succeeding generations are committed to him in a real though hidden manner. This idea is expressed in the litanies approved by the Church: ‘St. Joseph, illustrious descendant of David, light of the Patriarchs, Spouse of the Mother of God, guardian of her virginity, foster-father of the Son of God, vigilant defender of Christ, head of the Holy Family; Joseph most just, most chaste, most prudent, most strong, most obedient, most faithful, mirror of patience, lover of poverty, model of workers, glory of domestic life, guardian of virgins, support of families, consolation of the afflicted, hope of the sick, patron of the dying, terror of demons, protector of the Holy Church.” He is the greatest after Mary.


What is the justification of this doctrine which has been more and more accepted in the course of five centuries? The principle invoked more or less explicitly by St. Bernard, St. Bernardine of Siena, Isidore de Isolanis, Suarez, and more recent authors is the one, simple and sublime, formulated by St. Thomas when treating of the fulness of grace in Jesus and of holiness in Mary: “An exceptional divine mission calls for a corresponding degree of grace.” This principle explains why the holy soul of Jesus, being united personally to the Word, the Source of all grace, received the absolute fulness of grace. It explains also why Mary, called to be Mother of God, received from the instant of her conception an initial fulness of grace which was greater than the initial fulness of all the saints together: since she was nearer than any other to the Source of grace she drew grace more abundantly. It explains also why the Apostles who were nearer to Our Blessed Lord than the saints who followed them had more perfect knowledge of the mysteries of faith. To preach the gospel infallibly to the world they received at Pentecost the gift of a most eminent, most enlightened, and most firm faith as the principle of their apostolate.

The same truth explains St. Joseph’s pre-eminence. To understand it we must add one remark: all works which are to be referred immediately to God Himself are perfect. The work of creation, for example, which proceeded entirely and directly from the hand of God was perfect. The same must be said of His great servants, whom He has chosen exceptionally and immediately—not through a human instrument—to restore the order disturbed by sin. God does not choose as men do. Men often choose incompetent officials for the highest posts. But those whom God Himself chooses directly and immediately to be His exceptional ministers in the work of redemption receive from Him grace proportionate to their vocation. This was the case with St. Joseph. He must have received a relative fulness of grace proportionate to his mission since he was chosen not by men nor by any creature but by God Himself and by God alone to fulfil a mission unique in the world. We cannot say at what precise moment St. Joseph’s sanctification took place. But we can say that, from the time of his marriage to Our Lady, he was confirmed in grace, because of his special mission.411


St. Joseph’s mission is evidently higher than the order of nature—even by angelic nature. But is it simply of the order of grace, as were that of St. John the Baptist who prepared the way of salvation, and that the Apostles had in the Church for the sanctification of souls, and that more particular mission of the founders of religious orders? If we examine the question carefully we shall see that St. Joseph’s mission surpassed the order of grace. It borders, by its term, on the hypostatic order, which is constituted by the mystery of the Incarnation. But it is necessary to avoid both exaggeration and understatement in this matter.

Mary’s unique mission, her divine motherhood, has its term in the hypostatic order. So also, in a sense, St. Joseph’s hidden mission. This is the teaching of many saints and other writers. St. Bernard says of St. Joseph: “He is the faithful and prudent servant whom the Lord made the support of His Mother, the foster-father of His flesh, and the sole most faithful co-operator on earth in His great design.”10

St. Bernardine of Siena writes: “When God chooses a person by grace for a very elevated mission, He gives all the graces required for it. This is verified in a specially outstanding manner in the case of St. Joseph, Foster-father of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Spouse of Mary . . .”412 Isidore de Isolanis places St. Joseph’s vocation above that of the Apostles. He remarks that the vocation of the apostles is to preach the gospel, to enlighten souls, to reconcile them with God, but that the vocation of St. Joseph is more immediately in relation with Christ Himself since he is the Spouse of the Mother of God, the Foster-father and Protector of the Saviour.413 Suarez teaches to the same effect: “Certain offices pertain to the order of sanctifying grace, and among them that of the apostles holds the highest place; thus they have need of more gratuitous gifts than other souls, especially gratuitous gifts of wisdom. But there are other offices which touch upon or border on the order of the Hypostatic Union . . . as can be seen clearly in the case of the divine maternity of the Blessed Virgin, and it is to that order that the ministry of St. Joseph pertains.”414

Some years ago Mgr Sinibaldi, titular Bishop of Tiberias and secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Studies, treated the question very ably. He pointed out that the ministry of St. Joseph belonged, in a sense, because of its term, to the hypostatic order: not that St. Joseph co-operated intrinsically as physical instrument of the Holy Ghost in the realization of the mystery of the Incarnation—for under that respect his role is very much inferior to that of Mary—but that he was predestined to be, in the order of moral causes, the protector of the virginity and the honor of Mary at the same time as foster-father and protector of the Word made flesh. “His mission pertains by its term to the hypostatic order, not through intrinsic physical and immediate cooperation, but through extrinsic moral and mediate (through Mary) co-operation, which is, however, really and truly co-operation.”415


St. Joseph’s pre-eminence becomes all the clearer if we consider that the eternal decree of the Incarnation covered not merely the Incarnation in abstraction from circumstances of time and place but the Incarnation here and now—that is to say, the Incarnation of the Son of God who by the operation of the Holy Ghost was to be conceived at a certain moment of time by the Virgin Mary, espoused to a man of the family of David whose name was Joseph: “The angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” (Luke 1:26–27).

All the indications are therefore that St. Joseph was predestined to be foster-father of the Incarnate Word before being predestined to glory; the ultimate reason being that Christ’s predestination as man to the natural divine sonship precedes the predestination of all the elect, since Christ is the first of the predestined.416 The predestination of Christ to the natural divine sonship is simply the decree of the Incarnation, which, as we have seen, includes Mary’s predestination to the divine motherhood and Joseph’s to be foster-father and protector of the Incarnate Son of God.

As the predestination of Christ to the natural divine sonship is superior to His predestination to glory and precedes it, and as the predestination of Mary to the divine motherhood precedes (in signo priori) her predestination to glory, so also the predestination of St. Joseph to be foster-father of the Incarnate Word precedes his predestination to glory and to grace. In other words, the reason why he was predestined to the highest degree of glory after Mary, and in consequence to the highest degree of grace and of charity, is that he was called to be the worthy foster-father and protector of the Man-God.

The fact that St. Joseph’s first predestination was one with the decree of the Incarnation shows how elevated his unique mission was. This is what people mean when they say that St. Joseph was made and put into the world to be the foster-father of the Incarnate Word and that God willed for him a high degree of glory and grace to fit him for his task.


This point is explained admirably by Bossuet in his first panegyric of the saint: “Among the different vocations, I notice two in the Scriptures which seem directly opposed to each other: the first is that of the Apostles, the second that of St. Joseph. Jesus was revealed to the Apostles that they might announce Him throughout the world; He was revealed to St. Joseph who was to remain silent and keep Him hidden. The Apostles are lights to make the world see Jesus. Joseph is a veil to cover Him; and under that mysterious veil are hidden from us the virginity of Mary and the greatness of the Saviour of souls . . . He who makes the Apostles glorious with the glory of preaching, glorifies Joseph by the humility of silence.” The hour for the manifestation of the mystery of the Incarnation had not yet struck: it was to be preceded by the thirty years of the hidden life.

Perfection consists in doing God’s will, each one according to his vocation; St. Joseph’s vocation of silence and obscurity surpassed that of the Apostles because it bordered more nearly on the redemptive Incarnation. After Mary, Joseph was nearest to the Author of grace, and in the silence of Bethlehem, during the exile in Egypt, and in the little home of Nazareth he received more graces than any other saint.

His mission was a dual one.

As regards Mary, he preserved her virginity by contracting with her a true but altogether holy marriage. The angel of the Lord said to him: “Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 1:20; Luke 2:5). Mary is truly his wife. The marriage was a true one, as St. Thomas explains (Ilia, q. 29, a. 2) when showing its appropriateness. There should be no room for doubt, however light, regarding the honor of the Son and the Mother: if ever doubt did arise Joseph, the most informed and the least suspect witness, would be there to defend it. Besides, Mary would find help and protection in St. Joseph. He loved her with a pure and devoted love, in God and for God. Their union was stainless, and most respectful on the side of St. Joseph. Thus he was nearer than any other saint to the Mother of God and the spiritual Mother of men—and he too was a man. The beauty of the whole universe was nothing compared with that of the union of Mary and Joseph, a union created by the Most High, which ravished the angels and gave joy to the Lord.

As regards the Incarnate Word, Joseph watched over Him, protected Him, and contributed to His human education. He is called His foster-father, but the term does not express fully the mysterious supernatural relation between the two. A man becomes foster-father of a child normally as a result of an accident. But it was no accident in the case of St. Joseph: he had been created and put into the world for that purpose: it was the primary reason of his predestination and the reason for all the graces he received. Bossuet expressed this well:417 “If nature does not give a father’s heart, where will it be found? In other words, since Joseph was not Jesus’ father, how could he have a father’s heart in His regard?

“Here we must recognise the action of God. It is by the power of God that Joseph has a father’s heart, and if nature fails God gives one with His own hand; for it is of God that it is written that He directs our inclinations where he wills. . . . He gives some a heart of flesh when He softens their nature by charity. . . . Does He not give all the faithful the hearts of children when He sends to them the Spirit of His Son? The Apostles feared the least danger, but God gave them a new heart and their courage became undaunted. . . . The same hand gave Joseph the heart of a father and Jesus the heart of a son. That is why Jesus obeys and Joseph does not fear to command. How has he the courage to command his Creator? Because the true Father of Jesus Christ, the God who gives Him birth from all eternity, having chosen Joseph to be the father of His only Son in time, sent down into his bosom some ray or some spark of His own infinite love for His Son; that is what changed his heart, that is what gave him a father’s love, and Joseph the just man who feels that father’s heart within him feels also that God wishes him to use his paternal authority, so that he dares to command Him who he knows is his Master.” That is equivalent to saying that Joseph was predestined first to take the place of a father in regard to the Saviour who could have no earthly father,418 and in consequence to have all the gifts which were given him that he might be a worthy Protector of the Incarnate Word.

Is it necessary to say with what fidelity St. Joseph guarded the triple deposit confided to him: the virginity of Mary, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the secret of the Eternal Father, that of the Incarnation of His Son, a secret to be guarded faithfully till the hour appointed for its revelation?

In a discourse delivered in the Consistorial Hall on the 19th of March, 1928, Pope Pius XI said, after having spoken on the missions of St. John the Baptist and St. Peter: “Between these two missions there appears that of St. Joseph, one of recollection and silence, one almost unnoticed and destined to be lit up only many centuries afterwards, a silence which would become a resounding hymn of glory, but only after many years. But where the mystery is deepest it is there precisely that the mission is highest and that a more brilliant cortege of virtues is required with their corresponding echo of merits. It was a unique and sublime mission, that of guarding the Son of God, the King of the world, that of protecting the virginity of Mary, that of entering into participation in the mystery hidden from the eyes of ages and so to co-operate in the Incarnation and the Redemption.” That is equivalently to state that Divine Providence conferred on St. Joseph all the graces he received in view of his special mission: in other words, St. Joseph was predestined first of all to be as a father to the Saviour, and was then predestined to the glory and the grace which were becoming in one favored with so exceptional a vocation.


St. Joseph’s virtues are those especially of the hidden life, in a degree proportioned to that of his sanctifying grace: virginity, humility, poverty, patience, prudence, fidelity, simplicity, faith enlightened by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, confidence in God and perfect charity. He preserved what had been confided to him with a fidelity proportioned to its inestimable value.

Bossuet makes this general observation about the virtues of the hidden life:419 “It is a common failing of men to give themselves entirely to what is outside and to neglect what is within; to work for mere appearances and to neglect what is solid and lasting; to think often of the impression they make and little of what they ought to be. That is why the most highly esteemed virtues are those which concern the conduct and direction of affairs. The hidden virtues, on the contrary, which are practised away from the public view and under the eye of God alone, are not only neglected but hardly even heard of. And yet this is the secret of true virtue . . . a man must be built up interiorly in himself before he deserves to be given rank among others; and if this foundation is lacking, all the other virtues, however brilliant, will be mere display . . . they will not make the man according to God’s heart. Joseph sought God in simplicity; Joseph found God in detachment; Joseph enjoyed God’s company in obscurity.”

St. Joseph’s humility must have been increased by the thought of the gratuity of his exceptional vocation. He must have said to himself: why has the Most High given me, rather than any other man, His Son to watch over? Only because that was His good pleasure. Joseph was freely preferred from all eternity to all other men to whom the Lord could have given the same gifts and the same fidelity to prepare them for so exceptional a vocation. We see in St. Joseph’s predestination a reflection of the gratuitous predestination of Jesus and Mary. The knowledge of the value of the grace he received and of its absolute gratuitousness, far from injuring his humility, would strengthen it. He would think in his heart: “What have you that you have not received?”

Joseph appears the most humble of the saints after Mary—more humble than any of the angels. If he is the most humble he is by that fact the greatest, for the virtues are all connected and a person’s charity is as elevated as his humility is profound. “He that is lesser among you all, he is the greater.” (Luke 9:48).

Bossuet says well: “Though by an extraordinary grace of the Eternal Father he possessed the greatest treasure, it was far from Joseph’s thought to pride himself on his gifts or to make them known, but he hid himself as far as possible from mortal eyes, enjoying with God alone the mystery revealed to him and the infinite riches of which he was the custodian.420 Joseph has in his house what could attract the eyes of the whole world, and the world does not know him; he guards a God-Man, and breathes not a word of it; he is the witness of so great a mystery, and he tastes it in secret without divulging it abroad.”421

His faith cannot be shaken in spite of the darkness of the unexpected mystery. The word of God communicated to him by the angel throws light on the virginal conception of the Saviour: Joseph might have hesitated to believe a thing so wonderful, but he believes it firmly in the simplicity of his heart. By his simplicity and his humility, he reaches up to divine heights.

Obscurity follows once more. Joseph was poor before receiving the secret of the Most High. He becomes still poorer when Jesus is born, for Jesus comes to separate men from everything so as to unite them to God. There is no room for the Saviour in the last of the inns of Bethlehem. Joseph must have suffered from having nothing to offer to Mary and her Son.

His confidence in God was made manifest in trials. Persecution came soon after Jesus’ birth. Herod tried to put Him to death, and the head of the Holy Family was forced to conceal the child, to take refuge in a distant country where he was unknown and where he did not know how he could earn a living. But he set out on the journey relying on Divine Providence.

His love of God and of souls did not cease to increase during the hidden life of Nazareth; the Incarnate Word is an unfailing source of graces, ever newer and more choice, for docile souls who oppose no obstacle to His action. We have said already, when speaking of Mary, that the progress of such docile souls is one of uniform acceleration, that is to say, they are carried all the more powerfully to God the nearer they approach Him. This law of spiritual gravitation was realized in Joseph; his charity grew up to the time of his death, and the progress of his latter years was more rapid than that of his earlier years, for finding himself nearer to God he was more powerfully drawn by Him.

Along with the theological virtues the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are connected with charity, grew continuously. Those of understanding and of wisdom made his living faith more penetrating and more attuned to the divine. In a simple but most elevated way his contemplation rose to the infinite goodness of God. In its simplicity his contemplation was the most perfect after Mary’s.

His loving contemplation was sweet, but it demanded of him the most perfect spirit of abnegation and sacrifice when he recalled the words of Simeon: “This child will be . . . a sign that will be contradicted” and “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.” He needed all his generosity to offer to God the Infant Jesus and His Mother Mary whom he loved incomparably more than himself. St. Joseph’s death was a privileged one; St. Francis de Sales writes that it was a death of love.422 The same holy doctor teaches with Suarez that St. Joseph was one of the saints who rose after the Resurrection of the Lord (Matt. 27:52 sqq.) and appeared in the city of Jerusalem; he holds also that these resurrections were definitive and that Joseph entered Heaven then, body and soul. St. Thomas is much more reserved regarding this point. Though his first opinion was that the resurrections were definitive423 he taught later, after an examination of St. Augustine’s arguments in the opposed sense, that this was not the case.424


The humble carpenter is glorified in Heaven to the extent to which he was hidden on earth. He to whom the Incarnate Word was subject has now an incomparable power of intercession. Leo XIII, in his encyclical Quamquam pluries finds in St. Joseph’s mission in regard to the Holy Family “the reasons why he is Patron and Protector of the universal Church. . . . Just as Mary, Mother of the Saviour, is spiritual mother of all Christians . . . Joseph looks on all Christians as having been confided to himself. . . . He is the defender of the Holy Church which is truly the house of God and the kingdom of God on earth.”

What strikes us most in St. Joseph’s role till the end of time is that there are united in it in an admirable way apparently opposed prerogatives. His influence is universal over the whole Church, and yet, like Divine Providence, it descends to the least details; “model of workmen,” he takes an interest in everyone who turns to him. He is the most universal of the saints, and yet he helps a poor man in his ordinary daily needs. His action is primarily of the spiritual order, and yet it extends to temporal affairs; he is the support of families and of communities, the hope of the sick. He watches over Christians of all conditions, of all countries, over fathers of families, husbands and wives, consecrated virgins; over the rich to inspire them to distribute their possessions charitably, and over the poor so as to help them. He is attentive to the needs of great sinners and of souls advanced in virtue. He is the patron of a happy death, of lost causes; he is terrible to the demon, and St. Teresa tells us that he is the guide of interior souls in the ways of prayer. His influence is a wonderful reflection of that of Divine Wisdom which “reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly.” (Wis. 8:1).

He has been clothed and will remain clothed in Divine splendor. Grace has become fruitful in him and he will share its fruit with all who strive to attain to the life which is “hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3).
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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