instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Comments on Mary

While I think of it, let me steal from some comments I left on a post about Protestant concerns with Catholic devotion to Mary at Catholic and Enjoying It!. The original post was set up by a quotation from St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary:
Devotion to our Blessed Lady is necessary for salvation,and that (even in the opinion of Oecolampadius and some other heretics) it is an infallible mark of reprobation to have no esteem and love for the holy Virgin; while on the other hand, it is an infallible mark of predestination to be entirely and truly devoted to her.
Devotion to Mary is not optional. Devotions to Mary are.

By that, I mean we are obligated to love and honor Mary, but we are not obligated to use a particular means of devotion, like the Rosary, litanies, Immaculate Heart devotion, and so forth.

As for St. Louis, my advice is that Protestants who are struggling with Catholic devotion to Mary not read him and stick to more doctrinal and dispassionate sources. Plenty of Catholics -- in his own lifetime as well as today -- don't get St. Louis either.

The particular quotation is not Catholic doctrine, in that the Church doesn't teach that giving due honor to Mary is categorically necessary for salvation (much less that it's sufficient). It is, though, wrong and contrary to God's will to fail to give due honor to Mary; that follows directly from the meaning of the words "to give due honor." In some, even most instances, it may not be culpably sinful, depending on what a person knows, believes, and wills. But if someone knows and believes what the Church teaches about honoring Mary, and still wills to do otherwise, they sin, and I suppose there are circumstances in which it could be mortal sin.

Devotion to Mary follows from the doctrine of the Incarnation, as feeding the hungry follows from the second greatest commandment. I may fail to feed someone who is hungry because I don't know he is hungry; I may fail to give due honor to Mary because I don't know what honor she is due.

The real stumbling block, which seems to be where a lot of people start on this question even though it's found pretty far down the doctrinal path, comes with the answer to, "How much honor is due Mary?" The answer is that a whacking great lot of honor is due her, way way way more than seems sensible or balanced to someone coming at it out of curiosity or intellectual questioning.

And it is nonsensical and imbalanced, unless you set it next to the answer to the question, "How much worship is due God?" Eventually, you come to see that honoring Mary not only follows from worshiping God, it leads back to it, even that, while distinguishable, the two acts are inseparable. As St. Louis de Montfort put it, true devotion to Mary is simply a means (the very best means, in his opinion) of keeping your baptismal promises.

Lumen Gentium Chapter 8 is a good place to start reading about "the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God."

St. John Paul II's 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae is pretty good on the Rosary as the "School of Mary," the general idea being to learn to see the mysteries of Jesus' life from the perspective of Mary.

Mary is not only my spiritual mother. She is also the Mother of God, whom we can come to know through her actions, joys, and sorrows during her earthly life. If any thought of a mother is troublesome, Mary is Queen of Heaven and Earth -- though I once saw someone say they can't relate to queens.

The Litany of Loreto, to pick one source, also presents Mary as Mirror of justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of honor, Singular vessel of devotion, Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold, Ark of the covenant, Gate of heaven, Morning star, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, and Help of Christians.

If the tradition of the Church offers no means at all for someone to relate to Mary, I'm not sure what to say; maybe it's for that person to provide the tradition with a new way.