The book selected for this Month of June, 2017 is The Love of Eternal Wisdom, by St. Louis-de-Montfort, published by De Montfort Publications.
Archbishop Lefebvre and The Love of Eternal Wisdom
Of all the works of Montfort, The Love of Eternal Wisdom can certainly lay claim to being the least known by people at large. However, The Love of Eternal Wisdom is a fundamental book which, alone, gives us the overall view of Montfort spirituality. In his spiritual conferences, Archbishop Lefebvre rightly recalls the influence of St. Louis-de-Montfort upon the Holy Ghost Fathers - the religious order to whom he first belonged before founding the SSPX. The Archbishop stressed that the contents of The Love of Eternal Wisdom were more or less taken verbatim from the spiritual conferences given in 1703 by St. Louis de Montfort to the seminarians of Claude Poullard des Places, one of the two co-founders of the Holy Ghost Fathers. Archbishop Lefebvre thus claimed that, as the Holy Ghost Fathers inherited from the spirituality of De Montfort expressed in The Love of Eternal Wisdom, such spirituality had passed through him to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X, who are keeping the true missionary spirit, according to St. Louis de Montfort.
Excerpts from The Love of Eternal Wisdom, chapters 8 & 17
CHOICE OF TRUE WISDOM
74. God himself has his Wisdom, the one and only true Wisdom which we should love and seek as a great treasure. The corrupt world also has its wisdom which must be condemned and detested, for it is evil and destructive. Philosophers also have their wisdom which must be spurned as useless for it can often endanger our salvation. So far we have been speaking of God's wisdom to those who are spiritually mature, as the Apostle calls them (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6), but lest they be deceived by the false glitter of worldly wisdom, let us unmask its hypocrisy and malice.
Wisdom of the world
75. The wisdom of the world is that of which it is said, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise (1 Cor. 1:19; cf. Is. 29:14), i.e. those whom the world calls wise." "The wisdom of the flesh is an enemy of God" (Rom. 8:7), and does not come from above. It is earthly, devilish and carnal (Jas. 3:15). This worldly wisdom consists in an exact conformity to the maxims and fashions of the world; a continual inclination towards greatness and esteem; and a subtle and endless pursuit of pleasure and self-interest, not in an uncouth and blatant way by scandalous sin, but in an astute, discreet, and deceitful way. Otherwise the world would no longer label it wisdom but pure licentiousness.
76. In the opinion of the world, a wise man is one with a keen eye to business; who knows how to turn everything to his personal profit without appearing to do so. He excels in the art of duplicity and well-concealed fraud without arousing suspicion. He thinks one thing and says or does another. Nothing concerning the graces and manners of the world is unknown to him. He accommodates himself to everyone to suit his own end, completely ignoring the honour and interests of God. He manages to make a secret but fatal reconciliation of truth and falsehood, of the gospel and the world, of virtue and sin, of Christ and Belial. He wishes to be considered an honest man but not a devout man, and most readily scorns, distorts and condemns devotions he does not personally approve of. In short, a man is worldly-wise who, following solely the lead of his senses and human reasoning, poses as a good Christian and a man of integrity, but makes little effort to please God or atone by penance for the sins he has committed against
79. Never has the world been so corrupt as it is now, for never has it been so cunning, so wise in its own way, and so crafty. It cleverly makes use of the truth to foster untruth, virtue to justify vice, and the very maxims of Jesus Christ to endorse its own so that even those who are wisest in the sight of God are often deceived. "Infinite is the number of these men, wise in the sight of the world but foolish in the eyes of God" (Eccles. 1:15).
80. Earthly wisdom of which St James speaks, is love for the things of this world. Worldly men secretly subscribe to this wisdom when they set their hearts on worldly possessions and strive to become rich(…) They pay little or no attention to their eternal salvation or to the means of saving their souls, such as Confession, Holy Communion, prayer, etc.; except in an offhand way out of routine, once in a while, and for the sake of appearances.
81. The wisdom of the flesh is the love of pleasure. This is the wisdom shown by the worldly-wise who seek only the satisfaction of the senses. They want to have a good time. They shun everything that might prove unpleasant or mortifying for the body, such as fasting, and other austerities. Usually they think only of eating, drinking, playing, laughing, enjoying life and having a good time. They must always be comfortable and insist on having entertaining pastimes, the best of food and good company (…) They detest anything that could possibly cause them any bodily discomfort.
82. Diabolical wisdom is the love and esteem of honours. This is the wisdom of the worldly-wise who, secretly, of course, long for distinctions, honours, dignities and high offices. They strive to be seen, esteemed, praised and applauded by men. In their studies, their work, their undertakings, their words and actions, all they want is the esteem and praise of men, to be reputed as devout or learned people, as great leaders, eminent lawyers, men of great and distinguished merit or deserving of high consideration. They cannot bear insult or blame and so they hide their shortcomings and parade their better qualities.
83. We must, like our Lord Jesus Christ, incarnate Wisdom, detest and condemn these three kinds of false wisdom if we are to possess the true one, which is not self-seeking, not found in the world nor in the heart of those who lead a comfortable life, and which loathes everything that men consider great and noble.
FOURTH MEANS: A LOVING AND GENUINE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
203. The greatest means of all, and the most wonderful of all secrets for obtaining and preserving divine Wisdom is a loving and genuine devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Necessity of genuine devotion to Mary
207. If it is true to say that Mary is, in a sense, mistress of Wisdom incarnate, what control must she have over all the graces and gifts of God, and what freedom must she enjoy in giving them to whom she chooses. The Fathers of the Church tell us that Mary is an immense ocean of all the perfections of God, the great storehouse of all his possessions, the inexhaustible treasury of the Lord, as well as the treasurer and dispenser of all his gifts. Because God gave her his Son, it is his will that we should receive all gifts through her, and that no heavenly gift should come down upon earth without passing through her as through a channel. Of her fulness we have all received, and any grace or hope of salvation we may possess is a gift which comes to us from God through Mary. So truly is she mistress of God's possessions that she gives to whom she wills, all the graces of God, all the virtues of Jesus Christ, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, every good thing in the realm of nature, grace and glory. These are the thoughts and expressions of the Fathers of the Church, whose words, for the sake of brevity, I do not quote in the Latin. But whatever gifts this sovereign and lovable Queen bestows upon us, she is not satisfied until she has given us incarnate Wisdom, Jesus her Son; and she is ever on the look-out for those who are worthy of Wisdom (Wis 6.17), so that she may give him to them.
209. Only through Mary, then, can we possess divine Wisdom. But if we do receive this great gift, where are we to lodge him? What dwelling, what seat, what throne are we to offer this Prince who is so dazzling that the very rays of the sun are dust and darkness in his presence? No doubt we will be told that he has asked only for our heart, that it is our heart we must offer him, and it is there we must lodge him.
212. Mary is like a holy magnet attracting Eternal Wisdom to herself with such power that he cannot resist. This magnet drew him down to earth to save mankind, and continues to draw him every day into every person who possesses it. Once we possess Mary, we shall, through her intercession, easily and in a short time possess divine Wisdom. Mary is the surest, the easiest, the shortest, and the holiest of all the means of possessing Jesus Christ. Were we to perform the most frightful penances, undertake the most painful journeys, or the most fatiguing labours, were we to shed all our blood in order to acquire divine Wisdom, all our efforts would be useless and inadequate if not supported by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and a devotion to her. But if Mary speaks a word in our favour, if we love her and prove ourselves her faithful servants and imitators, we shall quickly and at little cost possess divine Wisdom.
213. Note that Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus, Head of all the elect, but is also Mother of all his members. Hence she conceives them, bears them in her womb and brings them forth to the glory of heaven through the graces of God which she imparts to them. This is the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, and among them St. Augustine, who says that the elect are in the womb of Mary until she brings them forth into the glory of heaven. Moreover, God has decreed that Mary should dwell in Jacob, make Israel her inheritance and place her roots in his elect and predestinate (cf Sir 24.13).
214. From these truths we must conclude:
- that it is futile for us to compliment ourselves on being the children of God and disciples of Wisdom, if we are not children of Mary;
- that to be numbered among the elect we must have a loving and sincere devotion to our Lady, so that she may dwell in us and plant the roots of her virtues in us;
- that Mary must beget us in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in us, nurturing us towards the perfection and the fulness of his age (Eph 4.13), so that she may say more truthfully than St. Paul, "My dear children, I am in travail over you afresh until Jesus Christ my Son is perfectly formed in you" (Gal 4.19).