For all who profess a devotion to the Mother of God, it is a salutary – in fact, a necessary – task to stop from time to time and to compare the practice of our devotion to those descriptions given by the Church, by the Popes and by the great Marian saints such as Louis de Montfort.
In his great work, ‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort takes time to describe the signs of that devotion which can properly be called ‘true’.
To begin with, St Louis tells us that “I must now state in what this devotion consists. This I will do, with God’s help, when I have laid down certain fundamental truths, which will throw light on this great and solid devotion which I desire to disclose” (TD 60). He then expounds on five articles, describing his thoughts on each of them. The five articles are that Jesus Christ is the ultimate end of devotion to Our Lady; we belong to Jesus Christ and to Mary as their slaves; we must empty ourselves of what is evil in us; we need a mediator with our Mediator, Jesus Christ; and it is very difficult for us to preserve the graces and treasures received from God.
After this, our Saint tells us that it is crucial that we are able to recognise false devotion to the Blessed Virgin so that we can avoid it; and to be able to recognise true devotion, so that we can embrace it. He adds that it is equally important that we know which practices are the most pleasing to the Blessed Virgin, the most perfect, the most glorious for God and the most sanctifying for us. Saint Louis then moves on to describe seven characteristics of false devotees of Our Lady and of false devotions. He gives these as being critical; scrupulous; external; presumptuous; inconstant; hypocritical; and self-interested. As before, he adds much detail to each of these categories to explain his thinking.
Concluding his thinking in this area, he explains the characteristics of a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin – he describes it as being interior; tender; holy; constant; and disinterested.
For all who think themselves to be devoted the Mother of God, or who feel drawn to practice that True Devotion described by Saint Louis, it is important to think critically about the nature and purpose of our devotion, comparing our intentions and resolutions objectively to the descriptions offered by the great Knight of the Blessed Virgin, whose writings have been so lauded by the Church and by so many of the Popes.
In this present time, this is perhaps especially pertinent.
The reason I say this is that I see some souls who profess to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin and to practice the devotion of our Saint – and yet who, at the very same time, place themselves in direct opposition to the Holy Father and to the Church. Such souls are either deluding themselves or being deluded. I say this not as a judgement upon such souls but as an observation which I am noting increasingly often these days.
One of the most common expressions of this seems to be those who profess to be devoted to the Mother of God under the title of ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ – and who, at the same time, state with no evidence and with no sense of critical thinking, that the Church, in the persons of the last few Popes, has deceived and lied to the faithful, has had an ‘imposter’ nun squirrelled away in a convent over several decades, occasionally appearing to give false statements which are designed to lead the faithful astray and in this way, to perpetuate the lies of the Church hierarchy. In my experience, such souls are not at all open to discussion – and so making any attempt at this is entirely fruitless – and do not recognise that their views can only exist if certain other conditions are met. In the case of Sister Lucia, they presuppose that the ‘real’ nun is where – dead? Silenced in some other way? And for the lie to hold, it is necessary that the upper hierarchy of the Church has put out a lie which they have maintained over many, many years. The evidence to the contrary – the repeated statements of Sr Lucia, the documents and statements of the Church and of the various Holy Fathers – mean nothing and are simply discarded and excluded from their critical thinking and from any sense of objective judgement.
A second example concerns the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima, revealed by the Blessed Virgin to the three seers in July 1917. Notwithstanding the very clear and consistent documents of the Church and, in particular, the document released in 2000 which revealed the contents of the third part of the ‘secret’, these souls proclaim, instead, that the Church has lied and deceived the faithful – and simply reject outright the testimony of Sr Lucia herself, who said repeatedly that the document was an accurate description of what she had seen.
Similarly, for the consecration made by the Holy Father Pope John Paul in March 1984; Sr Lucia made it perfectly clear this consecration fulfilled the request of the Blessed Virgin and had been accepted by Heaven. But these souls do not accept this, as though they are in a position make a judgement on the matter and to tell Sr Lucia – and the Pope – that they were wrong.
So why does all of this matter enough that I write about it here? There are several reasons.
Firstly, such an attitude does great damage to the Church and to its unity – the work of these souls is divisive and does nothing for the good of the Church.
Secondly, it does damage to the reputation of the Blessed Virgin; for other souls, She will become ‘tainted’ in a sense, so that souls who would otherwise have developed a strong and healthy relationship with Her, will perhaps not do so now. Often these days, for example, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is equated to a caustic view of the Church and the world, to a ‘fringe element’ within a particular corner of the Church – and this is diametrically opposed to the authentic message and purpose of the Fatima appearances.
Thirdly, it places these souls in danger. Certainly, Fatima is part of ‘private revelation’ and no matter how good and holy, the faithful are not obliged to accept or practice the devotion – the Church notes only that it is ‘worthy of belief’ and leaves the rest to us, even while recommending the devotion strongly to us. But for such souls, Fatima is raised to a level above the public revelation to which we are required to submit. And for such souls, how can it be possible to believe the Church and the Popes to be liars and deceivers whilst at the same time professing unity with them and allegiance to them? And so the great danger for these souls is that their misguided and deluded views place them, inch by inch, outside the Church and ever further from the submission to the Vicar of Christ which is one of the great marks of the Catholic Church.
To be very clear – the Mother of God will never, ever, distance any soul from the Church nor from her true Shepherd. In life, Mary and Peter were very close – and in eternity, it is no different. And to be just as clear again – if our ‘devotion’ to the Blessed Virgin places us at enmity with the Church or with the Holy Father, then it comes not from God, but from the Deceiver, the Father of Lies.
Proclaiming to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin is not, in itself, a guarantee that one is so devoted, nor that one is ‘on the right path’.
As Saint Louis notes so very carefully, there are particular characteristics of any such devotion which will let us know – if our hearts and minds are open to it – whether or not we are walking the right path.
Earlier in his work, Saint Louis makes the point that an authentic and true devotion in the form he is describing is not something we take upon ourselves – rather, it is a grace to which we are called and to which we may (or may not) respond.
As for the Church herself, she too gives us a description of authentic Marian devotion – this is found in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution On The Church), from the Second Vatican Council. Together with this, we have so many beautiful Encyclicals and other documents written by so many of the Holy Fathers – and in more recent years, particularly those of Saint John Paul II.
For all who profess a devotion to the Mother of God, it is a salutary – in fact, a necessary – task to stop from time to time and to compare the practice of our devotion to those descriptions given by the Church, by the Popes and by the great Marian saints such as Louis de Montfort. Please God, we will find that our devotion aligns with what we read there – and if not, may the grace of God enlighten us and open our hearts and minds in all humility, so that we might change and address whatever is remiss.