Monday, December 11, 2023

Searching Out the Origins of St Louis de Montfort in 17th-century Spain

In between the two great Marian feasts of the first half of Advent — the Immaculate Conception on the 8th and Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 12th — it seems appropriate to make mention of a recent publication, Slavery to the Mother of God, that brings an important Marian devotional work to light for the first time in English.

Two 17th-century Observant Franciscan Friars, Fray Juan de los Angeles and Fray Melchor de Cetina, authored two works, Fray Juan’s Marian Slavery (1609) and Fray Melchor’s Exhortation toward Devotion for the Virgin Mother of God, for the sake of a Confraternity founded by the Conceptionist Nuns of Alcalá de Henares in Spain. This Confraternity was “exported” to Belgium and France by the Spanish, and from there exercised an influence on the French School’s “total consecration to Mary” as we find it in culminating in the much-better-known St. Louis de Montfort.

For those who are devotees of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the manner in which Fray Juan and Fray Melchor develop their theology of consecration will be familiar, as it is based on the Immaculate Conception and on the Absolute Primacy of Christ as emphasized in the Franciscan tradition (Bonaventure, Scotus). Interestingly, while St. Maximilian shows no indication of having come across these works, he not only arrives at the same conclusions as his two 17th-century confreres, but even develops the same formulas — a confirmation of the profound basis of this school of spirituality in orthodox Christology and Mariology. The conclusion they reach is identical: unlimited consecration to Mary, for the sake of unlimited attachment to Jesus.
A volume of Franciscan mystical writings that includes the two works under discussion here

In the words of Fray Juán de los Ángeles:
From whence comes so much honor to such an infamous title in the laws of the world [viz., slave]? From the Virgin Herself and of Her Most Holy Son. She took possession of it, at the same moment that the divine Word took possession of Her heart, and cast Himself into Her womb, and became Her Son. She willed that alongside “Mother,” which calls for infinite respect, there should walk beside it a title of so great humility, which denotes and proclaims subjection:Ecce ancilla Domini—behold, the slave of the Lord…. The works of the slave, and all his actions, belong to his owner (they are his possession), as does the person himself (who is his property): everything belongs to him who purchased him. Who more belongs to the eternal Father than Christ?
And in the words of Fray Melchor de Cetina:
God, because he is the greatest Goodness, must be loved above all things; but since, after God, the Goodness of his Mother is the greatest, She must be, after Him, the most loved. This is the Power that the Virgin, Our Lady, has of carrying away after Herself hearts captured by Her supreme goodness. And what greater sign is there than that they wish to imitate the ways of this heavenly Princess and follow her footsteps: “Keep Her ways with all thy power,” since they trace her footsteps from the first steps of life when she set foot on the ground, which was Her Immaculate Conception?
These two short works count as important forerunners and contributors to de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, insofar as this Spanish Confraternity and the devotional literature it carried served as the foundation for the wave of enthusiasm that spread throughout Christendom in the seventeenth century under the banner of “total Consecration to Mary as Her slaves” (“totus tuus,” a motto re-energized by John Paul II in opposition to the anti-Marian spirit that, with the smoke of Satan, had entered the late twentieth-century Church).

The Franciscan Friars who prepared this translation sought to rescue these works from the oblivion to which historical circumstances had consigned them. Given that they were among the sparks that prompted a “revolution” in Marian spirituality, it seemed long past time to make them available. At this link, those who are interested may read the four-page preface to the book, which is available for purchase here.

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