I Beg You to Lay it Well to Heart…

Today we return to St. Louis de Montfort’s teaching about presumptuous devotees. [1] In the second part of his teaching, he does two things: he warns us against compromising with sin, and he encourages us to actively seek an ongoing conversion.

First, St. Louis de Montfort considers the presumptuous devotee to be the most anti-Marian because of a hidden willingness to compromise with sin. Mary’s role in salvation history was to be the mother of the Redeemer. The work of redemption is the primary purpose of Christ’s dwelling among us as man. In coming to fully reveal God to us, Jesus especially reveals Him as a Father, rich in mercy, who wants to reconcile sinners to Himself. Since Jesus’ primary mission was redemption, then Mary’s mission is also one of redemption. She is not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but also the Mother of the redeemed. After Jesus, she is at enmity with sin.

But since the presumptuous devotee hides his compromise with sin behind the very devotional practices that should help him avoid and uproot sin, he shows himself to be lacking in true devotion. Montfort’s aim is to draw attention to this dialectic, so as to remind us of an essential aspect of Marian devotion, i.e., conversion from sin.

Our struggle with sin

At the same time, St. Louis de Montfort is a realist. He recognizes that as much as we aim for holiness—negatively understood as a life completely separated from sin—the crux of the problem is not sin itself. He knows that even the most adamant lovers of Jesus in Mary make mistakes and have imperfections. Thus he says,

I confess that, in order to be truly devout to our Blessed Lady, it is not absolutely necessary to be so holy as to avoid every sin, though this were to be wished.

The crux of the problem, however, is unrepented sin, that is, the compromise with sin. Wedding a spirit of unrepentance to the appearance of Marian devotion is for him the greatest sacrilege after profanation of the Holy Eucharist.

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

…I say, that thus to abuse devotion to our Lady, which, after devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, is the holiest and solidest of all devotions, is to be guilty of a horrible sacrilege, which, after the sacrilege of an unworthy Communion, is the greatest and the least pardonable of all sacrileges.

Speaking the truth with love

The severity of his words is quite startling—outright “judgmental” some might say today—but they are the words of a true lover of Jesus in Mary and of souls. True lovers of Jesus and Mary cannot mince their words when it comes to the seriousness of sin; first because of what sin has cost the Lord—the sacrifice of His life on the cross—and second because unrepentance is a matter of eternal life and death. But so as to not come across as too severe, St. Louis also offers us some practical advice on how to truly wed a spirit of repentance to our Marian devotion.

…I beg you to lay it well to heart: (1) To have a sincere resolution to avoid, at least, all mortal sin, which outrages the Mother as well as the Son. (2) I would add also to do violence to ourselves to avoid sin, to enroll ourselves in confraternities, to say the Rosary or other prayers, to fast on Saturdays, and the like.

We can summarize his teaching in three words: resolution, mortification, devotion.


First, cooperation with God’s grace calls us to be focused on our struggle against sin. Just as a vague and half-hearted desire to clean the garage will result in the garage never being cleaned, so also a vague and half-hearted desire to work effectively against sin will result in sins never being uprooted. Thus, “a sincere resolution to avoid sin” helps us focus our attention and harness our efforts in actively cooperating with God’s grace of repentance.


Second, so as to avoiding repeated sins in the future and to atone for our sins from the past Montfort says we should “do violence to ourselves”. The violence he speaks about is spiritual and penitential mortification—saying “no” to ourselves sometimes. Penance for our sins can be done in various ways. The traditional forms of mortification are fasting, abstinence, and small forms of physical discomfort, like sleep on a hard surface or wearing itchy clothes.

But many times, instead of adding mortifications, we would do better by taking advantage of all the discomforts, inconveniences, and unpleasantries that make up our daily lives. There are plenty of opportunities in our daily lives to deny ourselves and make the choice for a virtuous response. We should learn to welcome them as the moments of grace that they are, for in fact, they present us with the best form of mortification: interior mortification.


After resolution and mortification come devotion. The negative work of mortification should be complemented by the positive work of heartfelt Marian devotion, especially nourished through the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary—saying “yes” to Mary always. Both in praying the Rosary, and enacting any form of mortification, Montfort suggests that we do so with a particular intention, that is with

…the intention of obtaining from God, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the grace of contrition and the pardon of his sins, to conquer [our] evil habits, and not to remain quietly in the state of sin.

To remain quietly and contently in past (or present) sins is precisely the presumptuous devotee’s way of life. It is a way of life at complete odds with the spirit of true devotion.

True devotion to Mary is meant to be transformative. Lived consistently and practiced loving in her honor, it is meant to be sure means of completely turning away from sin and completely uniting ourselves to Christ. Only when we are completely Christ’s will Marian devotion find its fulfillment in us.

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), 69.