In a talk delivered at the Chavagnes Summer conference in 2016, Bishop Athanasius Schneider reflects on the power of Mary as a handmaid of the Truth.
“Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world. Thou believed the word of the Archangel Gabriel. A virgin still, thou brought forth the God-man; thou bore a Child, O Virgin, and remained a Virgin still. Mother of God, intercede for us“. These words Holy Mother Church prays since more than a millennium in the Divine Office and in the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Tract after Septuagesima from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The battle of the Blessed Virgin Mary against Satan, who is spreading errors and heresies in the world, is already indicated by God’s words after the fall in sin of Adam and Eve: “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head while you will strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15). Pope John Paul II taught in his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, that Mary is collocated in the very center of the battle of Christ against Satan: “Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, is placed at the very center of that enmity, that struggle which accompanies the history of humanity on earth and the history of salvation itself. In this history Mary remains a sign of sure hope” (no. 11).
Why the Blessed Virgin Mary has destroyed all heresies? Because She believed that the Son of God will incarnate and become man. The Christian faith consists essentially in the faith in Christ true God and true man. For one who believes in the Divinity of Christ will accept all what Christ taught. The Blessed Virgin Mary was the first who believed in the Incarnation of God and since then this faith will never perish on earth until the Last Judgement. Through the faith of Mary the true faith was established on earth and she was the first who believed and therefore she is most powerful to destroy unbelieve and heresy.
Pope Pius X spoke about Our Lady as of the noblest foundation of the house of our faith: “To Mary it was said: “Blessed is She Who has believed, because the things promised Her by the Lord shall be accomplished.” (Luke 1:45). The promise was that She would conceive and bring forth the Son of God … Therefore, since the Son of God made Man is the “author and finisher of faith” (Heb. 12:2), we must recognize His Most Holy Mother as the partaker and, as it were, the custodian, of the divine mysteries. We must acknowledge that, after Christ, She is the noblest foundation on which is built the house of faith for all ages.” (Encyclical Ad Diem Illum, February 2, 1904).
When Saint Francis Sales in the year 1602 after a long and hard work crushed protestantism in the region of Chablais, he wrote on the arch of the choir of the church in Thonon, the principal town of that region, the words: „Gaude Maria virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo (Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world)”. The Saint Doctor of the Church confessed hereby in a solemn way the Blessed Virgin Mary als the guardian of the fundaments of the whole Christian life, of the true faith.
Saint Louis Grignion de Monfort says in his Treatise on true Devotion to the Blessed Virgin: “Mary has authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and the mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride. Such is the will of almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary. For God has made her queen of heaven and earth, leader of his armies, keeper of his treasures, dispenser of his graces, worker of his wonders, restorer of the human race, mediatrix on behalf of men, destroyer of his enemies, and faithful associate in his great works and triumphs.” (n. 28)
In Bishop Fulton Sheen’s book “The World’s First Love”, we find the following profound thoughts about the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Mary existed in the Divine Mind as an Eternal Thought before there were any mothers. She is the Mother of mothers—she is the world’s first love. When [the American-born painter] Whistler was complimented on his famous portrait of his mother, he said, “You know how it is; one tries to make one’s Mummy just as nice as he can.” When God became Man, He too, I believe, would make His Mother as nice as He could—and that would make her a perfect Mother.”
In the book “The Mystical City of God” of the Venerable Mother Maria of Agreda, who lived in Spain in the 17th century, we can find deep insights into the faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary: „In few words the holy Elizabeth described the greatness of the faith of most holy Mary, when, as reported to us by the evangelist Luke, She exclaimed: “Blessed art thou for having believed, because the words and promises of the Lord shall be fulfilled in Thee” (Luke 1, 45). The faith of the most holy Mary was an image of the whole creation and an open prodigy of the divine power, for in Her the virtue of faith existed in the highest and the most perfect degree possible; in a certain manner and to a great extent, it made up for the want of faith in men. The Most High has given this excellent virtue to mortals so that, in spite of the carnal and mortal nature, they might have the knowledge of the Divinity and of his mysteries and admirable works: a knowledge so certain and infallibly secure, that it is like seeing Him face to face, and like the vision of the blessed angels in heaven. The same object and the same truth, which they see openly, we perceive obscured under the veil of faith. One glance at the world will make us understand, how many nations, reigns and provinces, since the beginning of the world, have lost their claims to this great blessing of the faith, so little understood by the thankless mortals: how many have unhappily flung it aside, after the Lord had conferred it on them in his generous mercy, and how many of the faithful, having without their merit received the gift of faith, neglect and despise it, letting it lie idle and unproductive for the last end to which it is to direct and guide them. It was befitting therefore, that the divine equity should have some recompense for such lamentable loss, and that such an incomparable benefit should find an adequate and proportionate return, as far as is possible from creatures.
It was befitting that there should be found at least one Creature, in whom the virtue of faith should come to its fullest perfection, as an example and rule for the rest. All this was found in the great faith of the most holy Mary and on account of Her and for Her alone, if there had been no other creature in the world, it would have been most proper, that God should contrive and create the excellent virtue of faith; for according to our way of understanding, Mary by Herself was a sufficient pledge to the divine Providence, that He would find a proper return on the part of man, and that the object of this faith would not be frustrated by the want of correspondence among mortals. The faith of this sovereign Queen was to make recompense for their default and She was to copy the divine prototype of this virtue in its highest perfection. All the other faithful can measure and gauge themselves by the faith of this Mistress; for they will be more or less faithful, the more or less they approach the perfection of her incomparable faith. Therefore, She was set as Teacher and example of all the believing, including the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs and all that have believed or will believe in the Christian doctrines to the end of the world.
Our supereminent Lady, Mary, possesses much greater rights and titles to be called the Mother of faith and of all the faithful. In her hand is hoisted the standard and ensign of faith for all the believers in the law of grace. First indeed, according to the order of time, was the Patriarch and consequently he was ordained to be the father and head of the Hebrew people: great was his belief in the promises concerning Christ our Lord and in the works of the Most High. Nevertheless incomparably more admirable was the faith of Mary in all these regards and She excels him in dignity. Greater difficulty and incongruity was there that a virgin should Conceive and bring forth, than that an aged and sterile woman should bear fruit; and the patriarch Abraham was not so certain of the sacrifice of Isaac, as Mary was of the inevitable sacrifice of her most holy Son. She is the One, who perfectly believed and hoped in all the mysteries, and She shows to the whole Church, how it must believe in the Most High and in the works of his Redemption. Having thus understood the faith of Mary our Queen, we must admit Her to be the Mother of the faithful and the prototype of the Catholic faith and of holy hope.“ (Book 2, Chapter 3).
The inestimable treasure of the virtue of divine faith is hidden to those who have only carnal and earthly eyes; for they do not know how to appreciate and esteem a gift and blessing of such incomparable value. The world was without faith. How many men whom the world has celebrated as great, powerful and wise have precipitated themselves, on account of the want of light of faith, from the darkness of their unbelief into most abominable sins, and thence into the eternal darkness of hell! And they are followed by the bad Christians, who having received the grace and blessing of faith, live as if they had it not in their hearts.
We should not forget to be thankful for this precious jewel which the Lord has given us. We have continually to exercise this virtue of faith, for it places us near to our last end, after which we strive, and brings is near to the object of our desires and our love. Faith teaches the sure way of eternal salvation, faith is the light that shines in the darkness of this mortal life and pilgrimage; it leads men securely to the possession of the fatherland to which they are wayfaring, if they do not allow it to die out by infidelity and sinfulness. Faith enlivens the other virtues and serves as a nourishment of the just man and a support in his labors. Faith confounds and fills with fear the infidels and the lax Christians in their negligence; for it convinces them in this world of their sin and threatens punishment in the life to come. Faith is powerful to do all things, for nothing is impossible to the believer; faith makes all things attainable and possible. Faith illumines and ennobles the understanding of man, since it directs him in the darkness of his natural ignorance, not to stray from the way, and it elevates him above himself so that he sees and understands with infallible certainty what is far above his powers and assures him of it no less than if he saw it clearly before him. He is thus freed from the gross and vile narrow–mindedness of those who will believe only what they can experience by their own limited natural powers. The soul, as long as it lives in the prison of this corruptible body, is very much circumscribed and limited in its sphere of action by the knowledge drawn from the coarse activity of the senses. Let us appreciate, therefore this priceless treasure of the Catholic faith given thee by God, watch over it and practice it in great esteem and reverence.Writing in 1935 about the founding of the Militia Immaculatae back in 1917, St. Maximilian said: The Freemasons in Rome began to demonstrate openly and belligerently against the Church. They placed the black standard of the “Giordano Bruno” under the window of the Vatican. On this standard the archangel St. Michael was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer. At the same time, countless pamphlets were distributed to the people in which the Holy Father was attacked shamefully. “Right then I conceived the idea of organizing an active society to counteract Freemasonry and other slaves of Lucifer.”
In 1939, writing in the Latin magazine for priests which he began publishing a year earlier, Miles Immaculatae, Saint Maximilian Kolbe said this about the Masonic demonstrations against the Church and Masonry’s evil designs: some enraged hands dared to write such slogans as, ‘Satan will rule on Vatican Hill, and the Pope will serve as his lackey,’ and other such insults. Now these unreasoning acts of hatred toward the Church of Christ and his temporal Vicar were not the inept rantings of a few individual psychopaths, but the manner, way and plan of action deduced from the Masonic rule: Destroy all teaching about God, especially the Catholic teaching. In their plan they use many and various kinds of societies, which under their leadership promote neglect of Divine things and the breakdown of morality. This is because the Freemasons follow this principle above all: “Catholicism can be overcome not by logical arguments but by corrupted morals.” And so they overwhelm the souls of men with the kind of literature and arts that will most easily destroy a sense of chaste morals, and foster sordid lifestyles in all phases of human life . . . To bring help to so many unhappy persons, to stabilize innocent hearts so that all can more easily go to the Immaculate Virgin through whom so many graces come down to us, the Militia Immaculatae was established in Rome in 1917. We can imagine what Saint Maximilian Kolbe would say today regarding the widespread promotion of immorality in television, movies, music and the arts; and we can ponder to what extent Freemasonry — which is truly an arm of Satan — has contributed and continues to contribute to the current state of affairs. But we are sure that the humble immaculate Virgin Mary crushes Satan’s proud head (cf. Gen. 3:15).
The Immaculate Virgin Mary will surely crush the greatest heresy of all times which is the heresy of the Anti-Christ: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2: 22). The greatest enemy of the Christian faith is not an army with material weapons, but an army of those who are equipped with ink and pen in order to undermine and pervert the virginal purity of the Catholic faith. In his “The Ballad of the White Horse” (a great poetic meditation on the defeat of the King of Denmark in the year 878 by the King of England Alfred the Great) G.K. Chesterton narrates the following words of a vision of King Alfred: “I know that weeds [destructive errors] shall grow in it faster than men can burn. And though they scatter now and go, in some far century, sad and slow. I have a vision, and I know the heathen shall return. They shall not come with warships. They shall not waste with brands [torches], but books be all their eating, and ink be on their hands. Not with the humour of hunters or savage skill in war, but ordering all things with dead words. What though they come with scroll and pen. By this sign you shall know them, that they ruin and make dark. By God and man dishonoured, by death and life made vain, know ye the old barbarian, the barbarian come again with scroll and pen”.
According to Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort Our Lady needs apostles in order to prepare with Her triumph the final victory of Jesus. These apostolic souls should be instructed by Mary and totally consecrated to Her service, entirely dedicated in Her hands to the mission to snatch the souls from the darkness of the errors and of from the danger of the final perdition, as we are witnessing in our days the immensity of the evil which the powers of darkness have installed in all the corners of the world. When Saint Louis Grignion de Monfort announces the Gospel, it seems that he scandalizes through the harshness of his language in insisting on the Marian slavery. Yet, we are living in a world of slavery. The slavery of money, of power, of lust, of the passions, of the fashion, of the public opinion, of, of the narcotics, of the television, of the internet, of the pornography. The results are before our eyes: despair, frustration, neurosis, violence, degradation: the price of the sins according to the words of Saint Paul (cf. Rom 6: 23).
The original temptation “You shall be as God” (Gen 3: 5) drives men to all kind of slavery under the pretext of freedom. The cry “It’s forbidden to forbid” opened the door to all kind of violence and depravations of the souls and as well of the body. The chains which bind one to Mary as Her servant and slave, are in reality wings according to Saint Louis Grignion de Monfort. Just like Jesus came to us through Mary, so let us go back to Him on His wonderful way he came to us. With these words begins Saint Louis Grignion de Monfort his admirable book, a sacred Code of the end-times, capable to form the apostles, the Saints and the combatants of the last battles which the Apocalypse indicates.
Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote in his book “The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God”: “As the mother knows the needs better than the babe, so the Blessed Mother understands our cries and worries and knows them better than we know ourselves.” Pope Leo XIII indicated the prayer of the holy Rosary and the veneration of the powerful Queen of the Holy Rosary as the surest means of help and protection in times of the spiritual danger which causes the spreading of heresies: “It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in Her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God. And truly the Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God and thereby associated with Him in the work of man’s salvation, has a favour and power with Her Son greater than any human or angelic creature has ever obtained, or ever can gain. And, as it is Her greatest pleasure to grant Her help and comfort to those who seek Her, it cannot be doubted that She would deign, and even be anxious, to receive the aspirations of the universal Church. This devotion, so great and so confident, to the august Queen of Heaven, has never shone forth with such brilliancy as when the militant Church of God has seemed to be endangered by the violence of heresy spread abroad, or by an intolerable moral corruption, or by the attacks of powerful enemies. Ancient and modern history, and the more sacred annals of the Church, bear witness to public and private supplications addressed to the Mother of God, to the help She has granted in return, and to the peace and tranquility which She had obtained from God. Hence Her illustrious titles of helper, consoler, mighty in war, victorious, and peace-giver. And amongst these is specially to be commemorated that familiar title derived from the Rosary by which the signal benefits She has gained for the whole of Christendom have been solemnly perpetuated.“ (Encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio, September 1, 1883).
Saint Pius X. encouraged Catholics to take refuge to Our Lady in times of the persecution of the Catholic faith: “We earnestly desire that everyone in the world who is called a Christian will draw near to this love of the Virgin during this time when we honor the Mother of God in a more solemn manner. The persecution of Christ and the most holy religion He founded is now raging bitterly and fiercely. At this present time, therefore, there is a serious danger that many will be deceived by the increasing number of errors and ultimately abandon the Faith. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) More than that, let us all humbly beg God through the intercession of the Mother of God that those who have fallen from the path of truth may repent ….The Church will always be attacked, “for there must be factions, so that those who are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Cor. 11:19) The Virgin, however, will always assist us in even the most difficult trials; She will always continue the battle She has been waging ever since Her conception. Thus every day we can say: “Today the head of the ancient serpent was crushed by Her” (Antiphon of the Office of the Immaculate Conception). (Encyclical Ad Diem Illum, February 2, 1904).
The Second Vatican Council teaches in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, that the Church “imitating the Mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, keeps with virginal purity the entire faith” (no. 64). Saint Augustine spoke of the Church as a “chaste virgin whom the Apostle speaks of as espoused to Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 11.2). Do, in the inner chambers of your soul, what you view with amazement in the flesh of Mary. He who believes in his heart unto justice conceives Christ; he who with his mouth makes profession of the right faith unto salvation brings forth Christ. Thus, in your souls, let fertility abound and virginity be preserved.” (Sermon 191).
From the first centuries of the Church there is preserved a collection of religious poems, called the “Odes of Solomon”. They were written against the spreading of the Christian gnostic doctrine inside the Church. The most dangerous corruption, which Satan spreads, is the corruption of the mind, the corruption of the virginal purity of the Catholic doctrine. The battle between Mary and Satan, between the Church and Satan will last until the end of the time, but Satan will never conquer the purity of the faith Mary and the integrity of the doctrine of the Church, because there will always remain the souls of the simples and pure one, in the invincible “sensus fidelium” inside the Church. In this poem Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mother of God and the Church are seen almost as one person. The Blessed Virgin Mary who is the Mother Church, speaks through the mouth of the Church to the souls who seek refuge and strength in midst of the seduction of the heresy: “Grace was swift and dismissed the Corruptor, and descended upon him to renounce him. And he caused utter destruction before him, and corrupted all his work. And he stood on the peak of a summit and cried aloud from one end of the earth to the other. Then he drew to him all those who obeyed him, for he did not appear as the Evil One. However, the perfect Virgin stood, who was preaching and summoning and saying: O you sons of men, return, and you their daughters, come. And leave the ways of that Corruptor, and approach me. And I will enter into you, and bring you forth from destruction, and make you wise in the ways of truth. Be not corrupted nor perish. Obey me and be saved, for I am proclaiming unto you the grace of God. And through me you will be saved and become blessed. My elect ones have walked with me, and my ways I will make known to them who seek me; and I will promise them my name.” (Ode 33).
A true child and a true servant of Mary will always keep intact and pure the holy Catholic faith. To sin against the purity of the Catholic faith will signify to slander the virginal purity of the Blessed ever-Virgin Mary. The sins against the purity of the faith, that means the sins of heresy, spoil the soul and so the soul is loosing its virginal purity of the mind, of the intellect and as a consequence usually also the chaste purity of the body. The virtue of the purity of the faith is deeply linked with the virtue of chastity.
In these our dark times of doctrinal confusion with its deceitful flashes of relativism, naturalism and anthropocentrism often times covered under the mask of “dialogue” or “pastoral accompaniment”, let us often invoke our Lady with confidence and filial love : “Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world. Mother of God, intercede for us“.