If you wonder about the link between devotion to Our Lady and the struggle between good and evil in the world, here is the answer.
It’s a bit long, but well worth the time and effort it takes to read the entire piece. It was written in 1970 by the Catholic thinker Plinio Correa de Oliveira, and is the preface to the 1970 Argentine edition to his masterwork Revolution and Counter-Revolution.
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1970 - PREFACE to the First Argentine Edition of Revolution and Counter-Revolution
by Plinio Correa de Oliveira
My young and brilliant friends of the Argentine Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property have asked me for a prologue to this new edition of Revolution and Counter-Revolution showing the points of connection between this book and the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
There are many Catholics today – outside of progressivist circles, of course – who know and admire the work of that great and fiery popular missionary of the 18th century.
He was born in Montfort-sur-Meu or Montfort-la-Cane (Brittany) in 1673. After his ordination in 1700 he dedicated himself until his death in 1716, to preach missions to rural and urban populations in Brittany, Normandy, Poitou, Vendée, Aunis, Saintonge, Anjou, and Maine. The cities where he preached, including the most important ones, lived to a great degree from agriculture and were profoundly marked by rural life. So it is that St. Louis Marie, even if he did not preach exclusively to peasants, can be considered essentially an apostle of rural folks.
In his preaching, which in modern terms could be called up-to-date, he did not limit himself to teaching Catholic doctrine in a way that might apply to just any place or time but he emphasized the most necessary points for the faithful in his audience.
His way of being “up-to-date” would probably disconcert many adepts of today’s so-called modernization. He did not consider the errors of his time to be mere fruits of intellectual slips from men whose good faith was beyond suspicion; errors which could be always cleared up by a skilled and pleasant dialogue.
Although he was capable of a kindly and attractive dialogue, he never lost sight of all the influence of original sin and actual sins, as well as the action of the Prince of Darkness, in the origin and development of the immense fight by impiety against the Church and Christian civilization.
He always kept in view the celebrated trilogy, the devil, the world and the flesh, to be found in the reflections of trustworthy theologians and missionaries of all times, as one of the basic elements to diagnose the problems of his century. So it was that, according to the circumstances, he knew how to be suave and sweet like an angel messenger of God’s love and pardon, and at other times as an invincible champion announcing the threats of divine justice against rebellious and hardened sinners. That great apostle knew how to alternate dialogue and polemics; and in him the polemicist did not hold back the sweetness of the Good Shepherd, nor did his pastoral meekness water down the holy rigors of the polemicist.
We see by this example how far he was from certain progressivists according to whom all our separated brethren, heretics and schismatics, are necessarily in good faith, only accidentally in error so that to polemicize with them would always be a mistake and a sin against charity.
French society in the 17th and 18th centuries was seriously ill (our Saint lived, as we have seen, at the end of one and in the first decades of the next). Everything prepared society to receive the inoculation of the germs of the Encyclopaedia passively and to plunge soon afterward into the catastrophe of the French Revolution.
In presenting here a brief and therefore very simplified picture of French society, though indispensable to understand our Saint’s preaching, one can say that two types of souls were in preponderance in the three social classes, clergy, nobility and common people: the lax and the rigorous. The lax tended to a life of pleasures which led to dissolution and scepticism. The rigorists were inclined toward a stiff, formal and somber moralism which led to despair if not rebellion. Worldliness and Jansenism were the two poles exerting a nefarious attraction even in the circles considered most moral and pious in the society of that time.
Both sides – as so often happens with the extremes of error – led to the same result. Indeed, both of them in their own way led souls away from the wholesome spiritual balance of the Church. She, in fact, preaches to us an admirable harmony between sweetness and rigor, justice and mercy. She affirms to us on the one hand the authentic natural grandeur of man – made sublime by his elevation to the supernatural order and his participation in the Mystical Body of Christ – and on the other hand, she makes us see the misery into which original sin, with all its grave consequences, has plunged us.
Nothing could be more natural than for all the extreme and contradictory errors to coalesce against the apostle who preached authentic Catholic doctrine: the true contrary of an imbalance is not the opposite imbalance but rather, equilibrium. And so the hatred that animates the henchmen of opposing errors does not throw them against one another but rather unites them all against the apostles of the truth. This is especially true where the truth is proclaimed with a vigorous frankness that emphasizes the points most sharply opposed to the errors in vogue.
St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort’s preaching was exactly that. His sermons, usually delivered to large popular audiences, often culminated in true apotheoses of contrition, penance and enthusiasm. His clear, fiery, profound and consistent words deeply shook the souls of those who had been softened by the thousand different kinds of sloth and sensuality which spread from the highest classes to the other strata of society at the time.
Afterward, those who listened to his sermons frequently gathered pyramids of frivolous and sensual objects and impious books in the public square, which they set on fire. While the fire was burning, our indefatigable missionary would speak again, urging the people to practice austerity.
This work of moral regeneration was fundamentally supernatural and pious. The start and finish of his preaching was Jesus Christ crucified, His precious Blood, His most sacred Wounds and the Sorrows of Mary. For that reason he promoted the construction of a great Calvary at Pont-Château which was to become the centre of convergence of the whole spiritual movement that he raised up.
Our Saint saw in the Cross the fountainhead of a superior wisdom, Christian Wisdom, which teaches men to see and love creatures as manifestations and symbols of God; to put Faith over proud reason, Faith and right reason over the rebellious passions, morality over the disorderly will, the spiritual over the material and the eternal over the contingent and transitory.
But this ardent preacher of genuine Christian austerity had nothing of the taciturn, bilious and narrow-minded austerity of a Savonarola or a Calvin. His austerity was mellowed by a very tender devotion to Our Lady.
We could even say that no one carried devotion to the Mother of Mercy higher than he did. Our Lady, as the necessary Mediatrix between Jesus Christ and men by divine election, was the object of his continuous and tender enthusiasm and the theme that inspired his most profound and original meditations. No serious critic can deny that they had an inspired genius about them. St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort built up a whole Mariology around Mary’s Universal Mediation (today a truth of the Faith) which is the greatest monument of all times to the Virgin Mother of God.
These are the main features of his admirable preaching.
This whole preaching is condensed in his three principal writings: the Circular Letter to the Friends of the Cross, the Treatise on Divine Wisdom and the Treatise on True Devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. They are a kind of admirable trilogy all made of gold and fire in which the Treatise on True Devotion stands out as the masterpiece of masterpieces.
By these works we may come to know the substance of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort’s preaching.
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Our Saint was fiercely persecuted. All his biographers emphasized this aspect of his life. *
* See, for example: Obras de San Luis Maria Grignion de Montfort, BAC, Madrid, tome 111, prepared by Fr. Camilo Abad, S.J.; Louis Le Crom, Un apôtre marial; Msgr. Laveille, Le Bienheureux Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort d'après des documents inédits, 1907, Pouisselgue.
Infuriated with so much faith and austerity, the worldly, the sceptics and the Jansenists indignant at such an outstanding and ineffably suave devotion to Our Lady, unleashed a furious storm against his preaching. The ensuing whirlwind stirred up, so to speak, the whole of France against him.
Many times, as happened in Poitiers in 1705, his magnificent "autos de fé" against immorality were interrupted by order of ecclesiastical authorities who thus avoided the destruction of objects of perdition. He was denied faculties in almost all the dioceses of France. After 1711, only the bishops of La Rochelle and Luçon permitted his missionary activities, and in 1710, Louis XIV ordered the destruction of the Calvary of Pont-Château.
Our Saint showed himself a prophet in the face of this immense power of evil. With words of fire he denounced the germs that were undermining France at the time and foretold that a catastrophic subversion would rise from them. The century in which St. Louis Marie died had not ended when the French Revolution confirmed his predictions in a sinister way.
But there is a fact that is both symptomatic and extraordinary; the regions where our Saint was free to preach his doctrine and where the humble masses followed him were those where the Chouans rose up in arms against impiety and subversion. They were descendants of the peasants to whom he had preached, thus preserving them from the germs of the Revolution.
Now we will take up the connection between the masterpiece of this great Saint and the content of our essay that appears so small in comparison.
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Let us begin by expounding here some thoughts contained in Revolution and Counter-Revolution.
The Revolution is presented as an immense process of tendencies, doctrines and politico-social and economic transformations, derived in the final analysis, from a moral deterioration arising from two fundamental vices: pride and impurity, which create in man a profound incompatibility with Catholic doctrine.
Indeed, the doctrine of the Catholic Church, as it really is, enables us to know so splendidly the universe that God has created, and fosters in man a virtuous, pure, humble, deep and tender admiration. He feels joy when he considers the Church and the universe as they are.
But if a person makes any concession to the vices of pride and impurity, there begins to arise in him an incompatibility with various aspects of the Church and the order of the universe. That incompatibility can begin, for example, with an antipathy toward the hierarchical character of the Church, then spread and extend to the hierarchy of temporal society, to eventually manifest itself even regarding the hierarchical order of the family. So someone can, by various forms of egalitarianism, reach a metaphysical position whereby he condemns each and every inequality and even the hierarchical character of the universe. That would be the effect of pride in the field of metaphysics.
One may also delineate the consequences of impurity in human thought in an analogous way. As a general rule, the impure man begins by tending toward liberalism: the existence of a command, of a restraint and of a law that circumscribes the overflowing of his senses irritates him. With that he dislikes any kind of self-denial. This dislike naturally gives rise to an aversion to the very principle of authority. The extreme point of liberalism generated by impurity is the desire for an anarchical world – in the etymological sense of the word – with neither laws nor established powers and in which the State itself would be no more than an immense cooperative.
Both pride and liberalism give rise to a desire for total liberty and equality, which are the essence of communism.
Pride and impurity gradually form the basic elements of a view of the universe diametrically opposed to the work of God. In its final aspect, this concept is not merely different from the Catholic concept in just one point or another. As those vices go deeper and become more accentuated in the course of generations, a whole Gnostic and revolutionary concept of the universe is gradually developed.
Otherness and individuality, which for Gnosis are evil, are principles of inequality, and any and every hierarchy is an offspring of individuality. According to the Gnostics, the universe is rescued from otherness and inequality by a process of destruction of the “I” that reintegrates individuals into a great and homogeneous ALL (pan). The achievement of absolute equality among men and of its corollary – complete liberty in an anarchic order of things – can be considered a preparatory stage for that total re-absorption.
In this perspective it is not difficult to see the connection between Gnosis and communism.
Thus, the doctrine of the Revolution is Gnosis, and its ultimate causes are rooted in pride and sensuality. Given the moral character of these causes, the whole problem of Revolution and Counter-Revolution is, in the final analysis, principally a moral problem. What is said in Revolution and Counter-Revolution is that without pride and sensuality the Revolution would not exist as an organized movement in the whole world; it would not be possible.
Now then, if in the centre of the problem of Revolution and Counter-Revolution there is a moral question, there is also and eminently a religious question; because all moral questions are substantially religious ones. There is no morality without religion. A morality without religion is the most unsubstantial thing one can imagine. Thus, every moral problem is fundamentally religious. This being so, the struggle between Revolution and Counter-Revolution is a religious one in its essence. If it is religious and if a moral crisis is what gives rise to the spirit of the Revolution, then that crisis can only be avoided or remedied with the help of grace.
It is a dogma of the Church that men cannot, with just their natural resources, durably fulfill the precepts of Catholic morality in their integrity as they are synthesized in the Old and New Law. The assistance of grace is necessary for the fulfillment of the commandments.
Furthermore, if man falls into a state of sin, thus accumulating his appetites for evil, he is even less able to raise himself from that state without the assistance of grace.
Since all true moral preservation and all authentic moral regeneration derive from grace, it is easy to see the role of Our Lady in the struggle between the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution. Grace depends on God; nevertheless, God by a free act of His will wished to make the distribution of graces depend on Our Lady. Mary is the Universal Mediatrix; she is the channel through which all graces pass. For that reason her assistance is indispensable to prevent the Revolution or cause it to be overcome by the Counter-Revolution.
Indeed, whoever asks for grace through her intercession obtains it; whoever strives to obtain it without the help of Mary will not receive it. If men correspond to the graces they receive, the Revolution will automatically disappear; if they do not correspond, the Revolution will inevitably rise and triumph. Therefore, devotion to Our Lady is an indispensable condition for the Revolution to be crushed and for the Counter-Revolution to win.
I insist on what I have just affirmed. If a nation is faithful to the necessary and sufficient graces it receives from Our Lady and if the practice of the Commandments becomes generalized, inevitably society will be well structured. Because with grace comes wisdom, and with it all of man’s activities are properly ordered.
This is demonstrated in a certain way by analyzing the state of contemporary civilization. Built upon a rejection of grace, it has achieved thunderous results which nevertheless devour man. Present-day civilization is harmful to man to the degree in which it is based on secularism and violates, in many aspects, the natural order taught by the Church.
Whenever devotion to Our Lady is ardent, profound and rich in theological substance, it is certain that prayer will be heeded. Graces will rain upon those who pray to her devoutly and assiduously. If on the other hand that devotion were to be false, tepid, or stained with restrictions of a Jansenist or Protestant savor, there is a grave risk that grace will be given less abundantly because it encounters harmful resistance on the part of man. What is said here about a man can be said with due adjustments about a family, a region, a nation or any other human group.
It is customary to say that in the economy of grace Our Lady is the neck of the Mystical Body of which Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head, for everything passes through her. This image is entirely true in the spiritual life. An individual who has little devotion to Our Lady is like someone who has a rope tied around his neck and is scarcely able to breathe. When he has no devotion he suffocates. When he has a great devotion, on the other hand, his neck is completely free and the air pours abundantly into his lungs allowing him to live normally.
The sterility and even harmfulness of everything done against the action of grace and the enormous fecundity of that which is done with its help determine quite well the position of Our Lady in this combat between the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution, for the intensity of the graces men receive depends on the greater or lesser devotion they have to her.
However, a vision of Revolution and Counter-Revolution cannot be limited to these considerations. The Revolution is not the fruit of mere human malice, which opens the doors to the devil and lets itself be stimulated, exacerbated and directed by him.
It is, therefore, important to consider in this respect, the opposition between Our Lady and the devil. The role of the devil in the outbreak and advances of the Revolution was enormous. It stands to reason that an explosion of disorderly passions so deep and so generalized as that which gave rise to the Revolution could not have occurred without a preternatural action. Furthermore, without the contribution of the spirit of evil it would be difficult for man to reach the degrees of cruelty, impiety and cynicism which the Revolution has attained many times in the course of its history.
Now then, that very powerful driving force depends totally on Our Lady. All she has to do for hell to tremble, be confounded, recoil and disappear from the human scene is to issue a fulminating, imperial command. All she needs to do to chastise men is to leave the devil a certain margin of action and the Revolution will advance. Therefore, the great driving forces of the Revolution and the Counter-Revolution, which are respectively the devil and grace, depend on her empire and dominion.
Considering this sovereign power of Our Lady brings us to the idea of the Royalty of Mary. We must not see this royalty as a merely decorative title. Although she is totally submissive to the will of God, the royalty of Our Lady implies an authentic power of personal government.
One time in a lecture I had occasion to use a metaphor that makes it easier to comprehend the role of Our Lady as Queen.
Imagine a headmaster of a prep school whose students are unruly and insubordinate and whom he punishes with an iron hand. After having brought them to order he withdraws, saying to his mother: “I know that you will govern this school in a different way from the one I’m using now. You have a motherly heart. Now that I have punished the students I want you to govern them with sweetness.” This lady is going to run the school like the director would want her to, but with a method different from his. While her action is distinct from his, it does his will entirely.
No comparison is exact. Nonetheless, I think from a certain aspect this metaphor helps us understand the question.
The role of Our Lady as Queen of the universe is analogous to what I have just said. Our Lord gave her a royal power over the whole creation; her mercy, without falling into any exaggeration, reaches the extreme. He has placed her as Queen of the universe to govern it, keeping in sight especially the poor, fallen and sinful human race. It is His will that she does what He did not wish to do Himself directly but rather through her, the regal instrument of His Love.
There is, then, a truly Marian regime in the government of the universe. And thus one sees how Our Lady, although entirely united with God and dependent on Him, carries on her action in the course of history. Obviously, Our Lady is infinitely inferior to God, but He willed to give her this role by an act of liberality. It is Our Lady who, by distributing grace sometimes more abundantly, sometimes less so, and by restraining the action of the devil sometimes more and sometimes less, exercises her royalty over the course of earthly happenings.
In this sense, the duration of the Revolution and the victory of the Counter-Revolution depend on her. Furthermore, she sometimes intervenes directly in human events as she did for example at Lepanto. How numerous are the episodes in the history of the Church in which her direct intervention in the course of events became clear. All this makes us see how effective Our Lady’s royalty really is.
When the Church praises her by singing: “Thou alone hast exterminated all heresies in the whole universe,” it says that her role in this extermination was, in a certain way, unique. This amounts to saying that she directs history because whoever directs the extermination of heresies directs the triumph of orthodoxy; and by directing one and the other she directs history in its very essence.
There would be an interesting historical work to do: to show that the devil begins to win when he manages to diminish devotion to Our Lady. That has taken place in all the epochs of decadence of Christendom and in all victories of the Revolution. A characteristic example is that of Europe before the French Revolution. Jansenism prodigiously diminished devotion to Our Lady in Catholic countries, which became like a dry forest where a mere spark could set fire to everything.
These and other considerations drawn from the teachings of the Church open perspectives for the Reign of Mary, that is, an historical era of faith and virtue which will be inaugurated with a spectacular victory of Our Lady over the Revolution.
In that era, the devil will be expelled and return to the infernal dens and Our Lady will reign over humanity by means of the institutions that she has selected for that. In the work of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort we find some noteworthy allusions to the Reign of Mary.
He is undoubtedly a prophet who announces that coming of which he says expressly: “When will it happen, this fiery deluge of pure love with which you are to set the whole world ablaze and which is to come, so gently yet so forcefully, that all nations, Muslims, idolaters and even Jews, will be caught up in its flames and be converted? “Non est qui se abscondat a calore ejus” [And there is no one who can hide himself from his heat] (Ps. 18:7)” (Cf. “Prayer for Missionaries,” God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort (Bay Shore, N.Y.: Montfort Publications, 1997), p. 405).
That deluge which is going to wash mankind will inaugurate the Reign of the Holy Ghost which he identifies with the Reign of Mary. Our Saint affirms that it will be an era of such a flourishing of the Church as has never occurred before. He goes so far as to affirm that “Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs” (Ibid. p. 302).
Considering the great Saints which the Church has already produced, we are dazzled at the stature of those who will arise at the breath of Our Lady. Nothing is more reasonable than to imagine an enormous growth of sanctity in an historical era in which Our Lady’s action will also increase prodigiously.
We can, then, say that St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, with his weight as a thinker but above all with his authority as a saint canonized by the Church, gives substance and consistency to the hopes that shine in many private revelations that there will come an epoch in which Our Lady will truly triumph.
Although the Royalty of Our Lady has a sovereign efficacy in the whole life of the Church as well as temporal society, it is effected in the first place in the interior of souls; whence, it is from the interior sanctuary of each soul, that it is reflected in the religious and civil life of a people considered as a whole.
The Reign of Mary will be an epoch in which the union of souls with Our Lady will reach an intensity without precedent in history (with the exception, of course, of individual cases). What is the form of that union, which is in a certain sense a supreme one? I know no more perfect means to enunciate and achieve that union than the sacred slavery to Our Lady as taught by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in the Treatise on True Devotion.
Considering that Our Lady is the highway by which God comes to men and they go to God, and the universal Royalty of Our Lady, our Saint recommends that the devotee of the Virgin consecrate himself to her entirely as a slave. That consecration is admirably radical. It encompasses not only a man’s material goods but also the merit of his good actions, prayers, life, body and soul. It is without limits because by definition a slave has nothing of his own.
In exchange for that consecration, Our Lady acts in the interior of her slave in a marvelous way by establishing an ineffable union with him.
The fruits of that union will be seen in the Apostles of the Latter Days, whose moral profile the Saint outlines in fire in his famous “Fiery Prayer.” In it he employs a language of an apocalyptic grandeur in which he seems to bring back to life all the fire of a John the Baptist, all the clamour of an Evangelist and all the zeal of a Paul of Tarsus.
St. Louis describes the outstanding men who will fight against the devil for the Reign of Mary, gloriously carrying on the struggle against the devil, the world and the flesh until the end of time as magnificent models inviting to a perfect slavery to Our Lady those in these tenebrous times who struggle in the ranks of the Counter-Revolution.
Thus, with these considerations about the role of Our Lady in Revolution and Counter-Revolution, and about the Reign of Mary – in the light of the Treatise on True Devotion – I believe I have enunciated the principal points of connection between the masterpiece of the great Saint and my essay, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, as I said, so small by comparison.