The difference in reading St Louis de Montfort's Secret of the Rosary and Sor Maria de Agreda's Mystical City of God is quite striking. As we discussed in class, Maria's work seemed to have a goal of communicating God and Mary's glory to the reader, in a style that potentially leaves a somewhat confused and bewildered effect on the reader. The Secret of the Rosary, on the other hand, generally comes off as more practical and simple to read. This is immediately laid out in a White Rose: "...you my fellow priests who preach the truth of God and who teach the gospel to all nations, let me give you this little book... The truths contained in it are set forth in a very simple and straightforward manner..." It is perhaps later exemplified by "a Rosebud," where Louis's intended audience is actually children, and he takes that into account: "Of course it would be too much to expect you to say the whole fifteen mysteries every day, but do say at least five mysteries..."
Louis de Montfort's writing's simplicity stems from the Rosary that he preaches. Although he might have simplified matters for children, this was by no means because it was necessarily too complicated for them. He relates in the third Rose how Saint Dominic delivered a sermon in Notre Dame to a congregation "made up of theologians and other eminent people who were used to hearing unusual and polished discourses; but Saint Dominic told them that it was not his wish to give them a learned discourse, wise in the eyes of the world... so he began preaching the Holy Rosary and explained the Hail Mary word by word as he would to a group of children..." The values of taking this simple approach to a sermon even to individuals well-versed in theology are laid out later in the third Rose. For one, Dominic refrained from using his own wisdom but instead humbly preached the book that Mary had offered him. For another, this more unassuming method of preaching is necessary and more effective than the approach that many other priests would take; "[they fail] to realize that before a sick person is given bitter medicine he needs to be prepared by being put in the right frame of mind to really benefit from it."
Secret of the Rosary, therefore, is simple and straightforward compared to Mystical City of God because the nature of its subject matter is elegantly simple. The rosary is presented as an easy, effective and accessible means of glorifying God, usable even by children and particularly good for establishing a love for Jesus, Mary and prayer prior to instilling fear of sin. This is illustrated in the thirty-seventh Rose; the introduction of the Rosary into a lax monastery virtually single handedly caused the reformation of the proud and worldly nuns. "So the Holy Rosary worked more changes in their hearts than the priest could have worked by exhorting and commanding them." Similarly in the thirty-eighth Rose, a bishop who introduced it into his sermons noticed that his diocese improved "in almost no time," and "these changes were all the more striking because this Bishop had been striving to reform his diocese for some time but with hardly any results." Essentially, proper Christian devotion stems from sentiment, and this sentiment can be easily provided by the Rosary in a way that other exhortations or sermons cannot; once that sentiment is in place, it maintains the other devotions. A Mystical Rose Tree says: "If it [the Rosary] is carefully watered and properly attended to each day it will grow to such a marvelous height and its branches will have such a wide span that, far from hindering your other devotions, it will maintain and perfect them." Given how long, overwhelming and frequently confusing I found The Mystical City of God to be, I might be inclined to agree.
Something that I found in common between The Mystical City of God and Secret of the Rosary, however, is that both do indulges in seeming hyperbole or exaggeration on occasions. This is especially noticeable in the later Roses; for example, the thirty-fourth discusses the military feats performed under Mary's patronage by Simon de Montfort, Alan de Lanvallay and Othere. The thirty-third is a very detailed recounting of an exorcism that Saint Dominic performed near Carcassone. According to the text, there were fifteen thousand devils in a single man, who pleaded at length with Saint Dominic to have mercy on them; at a point during the exorcism, the man virtually combusted—"... a glowing flame leaped out of the ears, nostrils and mouth of the Albigensian." This flame imagery is recurrent throughout Louis de Montfort's work; in the thirty-seventh Rose, the single devout nun knelt to a Lady surrounded by angles with "flaming spears by with which they repelled a crowd of devils who wanted to come in." Othere's army was also apparently "surrounded by flaming swords" while in battle against heretics.
The effect of these florid descriptions undermines the veracity of the events described—in particular, the reports of the military victories against Saracens and heretics seem very exaggerated—but the structure of the work somewhat limits this. I found the way that Louis de Montfort laid out his work easy to make sense of. The first section of assigned Roses explained the value of the Rosary and its importance, many Roses of the second section broke down and analyzed the actual language and the significance of the words, while the third illustrated its power. This rough layout made it a lot easier to follow along than
of God. Mystical