False Devotions To The Blessed Lady And False Devotees

St. Louis De Montfort in his characteristics of true and false devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, defines seven false devotees and false devotions to Our Lady namely

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1. Critical Devotees:
These are, for the most part, proud scholars, rash and self-sufficient spirits, who have at heart some devotion to the holy Virgin, but who criticize nearly all the practices of devotion which simple people pay simply and holily to their good Mother, because these practices do not fall in with their own humor and fancy.

They call in doubt all the miracles and pious stories recorded by authors worthy of faith, or drawn from the chronicles of religious orders: narratives which testify to us the mercies and the power of the most holy Virgin.

They cannot see, without uneasiness, simple and humble people on their knees before an altar or an image of Our Lady, sometimes at the corner of a street, in order to pray to God there; and they even accuse them of idolatry, as if they adored the wood or the stone.

They say that for their part, they are not fond of these external devotion, and that they are not so credulous as to believe so many tales and stories that are told about Our Lady. When they are told how admirably the Fathers of the Church praised the Blessed Virgin, they either reply that the Fathers spoke as professional orators, with exaggeration; or they misinterpret their words.

These kinds of false devotees and of proud and worldly people are greatly to be feared. They do an infinite wrong to devotion to Our Lady; and they are but too successful in alienating people from it, under the pretext of destroying its abuses.

2. Scrupulous Devotees:
These are those who fear to dishonor the Son by honoring the Mother, to abase the one in elevation the other. They cannot bear that we should attribute to Our Lady the most just praise which the holy Fathers have given her.

It is all they can do to endure that there should be more people before the altar of the Blessed Virgin than before the other, as if those who prayed to our Blessed Lady did not pray to Jesus Christ through her. They are willing that we should speak so often of Our Lady and address her so frequently.

Here are some of their favorite sayings: “Why so many rosaries, so many confraternities and so many external devotions to the Blessed Virgin? There is much ignorance in all this. It makes a mummery of our religion. Speak to us of those who are devout to Jesus Christ.” (Yet they often name Him without raising their hats- I say this by way of parenthesis.) “We must have recourse to Jesus Christ; He is our only Mediator.

We must preach Jesus Christ; this is the solid devotion.” What they say is in a certain sense true, but in the application they make of it, namely, to hinder devotion to our Blessed Lady, very dangerous; and it is, under pretext of a greater good, a subtle snare of the evil one.

For the more we honor the Blessed Virgin, the more we honor Jesus Christ, because we honor Mary only that we may the more perfectly honor Jesus, since we go to her only as the way by which we are to find the end we are seeking which is Jesus.

The Church, with the Holy Ghost, blesses Our Lady first, and Our Lord second; “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.” It is not Mary is more than Jesus or even equal to Him-that would be intolerable heresy; but it is that, in order to bless Jesus more perfectly, we must begin by blessing Mary.

Let us then say, with all the true clients of Our Lady, in opposition to these false scrupulous devotees, “O Mary, thou art blessed among all women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

3. External Devotees:
These are persons who make devotion to our Blessed Lady consist in outward practices. They have no taste except for the exterior of this devotion, because they have no interior spirit of their own.

They will say quantities of Rosaries with the greatest precipitation; they will hear many Masses distractedly; they will go, without devotion, to processions; they will enroll themselves in all her confraternities-without amending their lives, without doing any violence to their passions, or without imitating the virtues of that most holy Virgin.

The world is full of these exterior devotees, and there are no people who are more critical that they of men of prayer, who foster an interior spirit as the essential thing, without, however, disregarding that outward modesty which always accompanies true devotion.

4. Presumptuous Devotees:
These are sinners abandoned to their passions, or lovers of the world, who under the fair name of Christians and clients of our Blessed Lady conceal pride, avarice, impurity, drunkenness, anger, swearing, detraction, injustice or some other sin.

They sleep in peace in the midst of their bad habits, without doing any violence to themselves to correct their faults, under the pretext that they are devout to the Blessed Virgin.

They promise themselves that God will pardon them; that they will not be allowed to die without confession; and that they will not be lost eternally because they say the Rosary, because they fast on Saturdays, because they belong to the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, or wear the Scapular, or are enrolled in other congregations, or the wear the little habit or little chain of Our Lady.

They will not believe us when we tell them that their devotion is only an illusion of the devil and a pernicious presumption likely to destroy their souls.

To blind themselves still further, they quote certain stories which they have heard or read – it does not matter to them whether they be true or false – relating how people have died in mortal sin without confession, and then, because in their lifetime they sometimes said some prayers or went through some practices of devotion to Our Lady, how they have been raised to life again in order to go to confession; or their soul has been miraculously retained in their bodies till confession; or through the clemency of the Blessed Virgin they have obtained from God, that at the moment of death, contrition and pardon of their sins, and so have been saved, and that they expect similar favors.

Nothing in Christianity is more detestable than this diabolical presumption. For how can we truly say that we love and honor our Blessed Lady when by our sins we are pitilessly piercing, wounding, crucifying and outraging Jesus Christ, and her Son?

It is not absolutely necessary to be so holy as to avoid every sin, though this were desirable; but this much at least is necessary,

i. To have a sincere resolution to avoid at least all mortal sin, which outrages the Mother as well as the Son;

ii. To do violence to ourselves to avoid sin

iii. To enroll ourselves in confraternities, to say the Rosary or other prayers, to fast on Saturdays and the like.

5. Inconstant Devotees:
These are those devoted to Our Lady by fits and starts. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes lukewarm. Sometimes they seem ready to do anything for her, and then a little afterward, they are not like the same people.

They begin by taking up all the devotions to her, and enrolling themselves in the confraternities; and then they do not practice the rules with fidelity.

They change like the moon, and Mary puts them under her feet with the crescent, because they are changeable and unworthy to be reckoned among the servants of that faithful Virgin who have for their special graces fidelity and constancy.

It was better for such persons not to burden themselves with so many prayers and practices but to choose a few and fulfill them with faithfulness and love, in spite of the world, the devil and the flesh.

6. Hypocritical Devotees:
These men cloak their sins and sinful habits with her mantle, in order to be taken by men for what they are not.

7. Interested Devotees:
These have recourse to Our Lady only to gain some lawsuit, or to avoid some danger, or to be cured of some illness, or for some other similar necessity, without which they would forget her altogether. All these are false devotees, pleasing neither to God nor to His holy Mother.

In conclusion, let us then take care not to be of the number of the critical devotees, who believe nothing and criticize everything; nor of the scrupulous devotees who are afraid of being too devout to Our Lady, out of respect to Our Lord; nor of the exterior devotees, who make all their devotion consist in outward practices; nor of the presumptuous devotees, who, under the pretext of their false devotion to the Blessed Virgin, wallow in their sins; nor of the inconstant devotees, who from levity change their practices of devotion, or give them up altogether, at the least temptation; nor of the hypocritical devotees, who join confraternities and wear the liveries of the Blessed Virgin in order to pass for good people; nor, finally, of the interested devotees, who have recourse to Our Lady only to be delivered from bodily evils, or to obtain temporal goods.

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