A Trick of the Devil

Regular Post #21: Presumptuous Devotees (Part 1)[1]


Three down, four to go, by that I mean in our previous posts we have briefly addressed three of the seven false devotions that St. Louis de Montfort writes about in True Devotion. Thus, we have arrived at the fourth type of false devotion: presumptuous devotees. Given that Montfort dedicates more time and effort to draw out the dangers of this type of false devotion, I think it would help us to break the text down and provide you with a running commentary on some of its key points.

Montfort’s teaching on presumptuous devotees

Presumptuous devotees are sinners abandoned to their passions, or lovers of the world,

Pausing here, we should note two things. First, St. Louis de Montfort calls the adherents of this type of devotion “sinners”. Second, he characterizes the sinful lifestyle that they are living.

Regarding the first, we can ask the question, why does St. Louis de Montfort start with such a strong judgment? Because he wants to show how antithetical this type of devotion is to true devotion. Whereas true devotion is intended to lead us to greater holiness by drawing us closer to Christ, presumptuous devotion involves the complete opposite. How? This brings us to our second consideration.

Instead of being slaves of Jesus in Mary, presumptuous devotees are slaves to their passions and the world. We should remember that true devotion to Mary is a perfecting of that primordial consecration we received in Baptism. Its purpose is to facilitate our cooperation with the grace of Baptism, that is the purification of sin, new life in the Holy Spirit, and adoption as children of God. Being a presumptuous devotee facilitates the complete opposite: it leads us back into sin[2], closer to death, and far from the freedom of the children of God.

Lack of sincerity and authenticity

Returning to Montfort’s text, we next read,

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.

What St. Louis seems to be addressing here is a lack of sincerity or coherence. Presumptuous devotees are not sincere about serving and loving Jesus in Mary, instead they are using “devotion” to Jesus and Mary (if it can even be called that) to love and serve themselves.

Like the “white washed” tombs of Jesus’ harsh words towards the Pharisees, so presumptuous devotees appear immaculate in their love for Jesus in Mary on the outside, but their consciences are full of sin and death. Worse still, they do not trust in Mary’s intercession or Jesus’ mercy to help them turn away from their sinful way of life, rather they presume that simply because they perform a devout act here or there or have their name printed on a Sodality list, God will forgive them for their sins. As Montfort writes,

They say that God is good and merciful; that He has not made us to condemn us everlastingly; that no man is without sin; that they shall not die without confession; that one good [Act of Contrition] at the hour of death is enough; that they are devout to our Lady; that they wear the scapular; and that they say daily, without reproach or vanity, seven Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s in her honor; and that they sometimes say the Rosary and the Office of our Lady, besides fasting, and other things.

An illusion of the devil

In addition to ignoring the truth and demands of God’s mercy and practicing external devotions in an almost superstitious way, as we will hear next, presumptuous devotees even go so far as stake their salvation on a miraculous intervention of Our Lady. That God can work miracles through Our Lady’s intercession is unquestionable. But to stake one’s eternal life on this extraordinary means of salvation is more than ludicrous, its diabolic. It is an “illusion of the devil” and a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.


To give authority to all this, and 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 been miraculously retained in their bodies till confession; or how they have obtained from God at the moment of death contrition and pardon of their sins, and so have been saved; and that they themselves expect similar favors.

The only thing we should expect from living out devotion to Mary in such a way is emptiness. To live in sin, enslaved to one’s passions, and enamored with the world is to live the emptiest human existence ever. Pardon my bluntness, but somethings cannot be sugarcoated, and the reality of sin and presumption are two of them.

Positive take-aways

But to make sure that we don’t end on a sour note, I will leave you with a few positive take-aways from our previous Montfortian selection.

  1. Be authentic and sincere in living out your devotion to Mary. Pray and work to acquire the mind and heart of Mary. “Marianize” everything about what you do, remembering that it is the interior practice of devotion, more than the exterior practice that you should be aiming for.
  2. Form a living memory of your sins (i.e. the reality of sin in your life and not the details of your sins) so as to make reparation for them in the present and avoid the same mistakes in the future.
  3. Frequent the sacrament of Confession, seek spiritual direction and daily examine your conscience. This is a tried-and-true triple-threat approach to avoiding the downfall of presumption, slavery to the passions, and worldliness.

Seize the day and make it all Hers!


Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE


[1] Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary: With Preparation for Total Consecration (London: Catholic Way Publishing, 2014), 67–68.

[2] Montfort mentions several sins in particular, “pride, avarice, impurity, drunkenness, anger, swearing, detraction, injustice, or some other sin” (97).