It is, then, very important first of all to know (1) false devotions to our Blessed Lady in order to avoid them; and (2) the true devotion in order to embrace it.
I find seven kinds of false devotees and false devotions to our Lady, namely, (1) the critical devotees; (2) the scrupulous devotees; (3) the external devotees; (4) the presumptuous devotees; (5) the inconstant devotees; (6) the hypocritical devotees; and (7) the interested devotees.
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 criticise 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 humour 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.
The scrupulous devotees are those who fear to dishonour the Son by honouring the Mother, to abase the one in elevating the other. They cannot bear that we should attribute to our Lady the most just praises 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 Blessed Sacrament, as if the one was contrary to the other, as if those who prayed to our Blessed Lady did not pray to Jesus Christ by her. . . . Never do we honour Jesus Christ more than when we are most honouring His Blessed Mother. Indeed we only honour Mary that we may the more perfectly honour Jesus, inasmuch as we only go to her as to the way in which we are to find the end we are seeking, which is Jesus.
External devotees are persons who make all 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 enrol themselves in all sorts of confraternities, without amending their lives.
Presumptuous devotees 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.
Inconstant devotees are those who are devout to our Blessed Lady by intervals and whims. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes lukewarm. Sometimes they seem ready to do any thing for her, and then, a little afterwards, 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 practise the rules with fidelity.
We have still to mention the false devotees to our Blessed Lady, who are the hypocritical devotees; who cloke their sins and sinful habits under her mantle, in order to pass in the eyes of men for what they are not.
There are also the interested devotees, who 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.
Let us, then, take great care not to be of the number of the critical devotees, who believe nothing and criticise every thing; 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 by levity change their practices of devotion, or throw them up altogether on the least temptation; nor of the hypocritical devotees, who put themselves into confraternities, and wear the liveries of the Blessed Virgin, in order to pass for good people; nor, finally, of the interested devotees, who only have recourse to our Lady to be delivered from bodily evils, or to obtain temporal goods.
Text from St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort, A Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, trans. Frederick William Faber (London: Burns and Lambert, 1863).
To be continued next Saturday . . .