Oh, if Mary were but known, how much happier, how much holier, how much less worldly should we be, and how much more should we be living images of our sole Lord and Savior, her dearest and most blessed Son!
These words were written by Oratorian Father William Faber in 1862. They still apply today, a century and a half later. For those who don’t know him, Fr. Faber was born into an English Calvinist family in 1814. His education at University College and his frequenting of the Oxford academic environment eventually led him to the Anglican Church. Finally in 1845 he was received into the Catholic Church and ordained a priest two years later. He spent the rest of his priestly life as a tireless preacher, gifted writer and poet, and faithful son of Mary.
One of his greatest contributions to the Church, especially for those of us who speak English, is his translation of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary into English.
As we begin 2024 it would be helpful to return to this Magna Carta of Marian Consecration in modern times and to draw from it guidance in being faithful and loving slaves of Mary.
At the conclusion of the book’s first section Montfort enumerates seven types of “false devotion”. Starting today we will consider each of them one by one. Although they tend to warn against being false devotees of Mary, I intend to use them to draw out their positive teachings as well.
The first class of false devotees are the “critical” ones.
What is a critical devotee?
The critical devotees are, for the most part, proud scholars, rash and self-sufficient spirits, who have at bottom some devotion to the holy Virgin, but who criticize nearly all the practices of devotion to her, which the 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 histories recorded by authors worthy of our 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 in 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 devotions, and that their minds are not so weak as to give faith to such a number of tales and little histories as are in circulation about our Lady. Or, at other times, they reply that the narrators have spoken as professional orators, with exaggeration; or they put a bad interpretation upon their words.
These kind of false devotees and of proud and worldly people are greatly to be feared. They do an infinite wrong to the devotion to our Lady; and they are but too successful in alienating people from it, under the pretext of destroying its abuses (93).
Three are three positive characteristics that we can draw from Montfort’s critical characterization.
1) SCHOLARS and LOVERS
First, we should aim to be scholars and lovers of Mary. Whereas a critical devotee is a man with a great mind, he is also one with little heart. He knows about Mary, but he doesn’t love her. In living out our consecration we should ensure that we are growing interiorly, both in our knowledge and love of Mary. It would be equally unwise of us to be all heart and no brains when it comes to living as consecrated sons and daughters of Mary, as we will see in our last consideration.
2) BOLD LOVERS
Second, we should not be afraid to manifest our love for Mary. It often happens that instead of confronting the truth, people criticize it. The critical devotee refuses to confront the truth of Marian love. He is afraid to love because he is afraid of the changes implied in loving someone better than yourself. And his fear leads him to criticism. He criticizes the fondness expressed by the pious practices of the simplehearted. He counts as pitiable their pious gestures, their devout stories, or their fervent prayers. But what is truly pitiable is his own lack of love for Mary.
Turning this around we learn that true devotion to Mary calls us to be bold lovers. If we truly love her, then we should not be afraid or shy about showing that love. And if we are afraid or shy in expressing our love for her, then perhaps we should dig a little further and examine the depths of our own love. Maybe the true cause is not fear itself, but a lack of authentic and selfless love. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. (1 Jn 4:18)
3) APOSTLES of MARY
Lastly, we should be apostles of Mary. Whereas the critical devotee “alienates” people from Mary, we should work to draw them to her. The authenticity of our love for her will be our greatest asset in this work, hence the connection between being scholars and lovers.
Personal experience alone is not enough to equip us in teaching others about Mary, we also need to be informed about Mary. We need to be scholars of Mary. As I insisted a few months back, reading more about Mary is essential to growing in our Marian devotion. It is equally vital to being good apostles of Mary.
How happy, holy, and how less worldly we will become as we do our part to be scholars and lovers, bold and simple devotees, and apostles of Mary. And better yet, doing so will also be the grace-filled means whereby she forms Jesus Christ in us, the true goal and purpose of our true devotion to Mary.
Seize the day and make it all Hers!
Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
 Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary: With Preparation for Total Consecration (London: Catholic Way Publishing, 2014), 65-66.