FAUSTO GOMEZ OP
Devotion in the singular means devotion to God, while devotion in the plural – devotions –refers to our devotions to the saints, which are not necessary for salvation and include devotions to Mary, to the angels, and to the saints.
Among the devotions to the saints and angels, the devotion to Mary is special. The devotion of the Church to Our Lady is “intrinsic to Christian worship” (Paul VI, MC 56; cf. Lk 1:48; CCC 971). Vatican II affirms: “All should devoutly venerate her and commend their life and apostolate to her motherly concern” (AA 4).
DEVOTED TO MARY
What does it mean to be devoted to Mary? Devotion to Mary means basically filial love to Mary as our Mother. Because Mary is the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, we have to receive her like John the beloved disciple did – in our homes, that is, in the center of our souls. At the Immaculate Conception Shrine in Washington D.C., there is a lovely image statue of Mother and Child with the inscription: “More Mother than Queen.” I love it! Queen also, of course; but above all, Mother of Jesus, and our Mother. Furthermore, because Our Lady is the disciple of disciples, we have to imitate her, and because she is the most intimately united to Jesus, we address to her our petitions.
What are the implications of our devotion to Mary? Mary is a unique intercessor before Christ, and our model in following her Son, our only Way. At the Wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11), Mary shows her role for us: first, her role as intercessor: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Second, her role as disciple of disciples: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
Mary is the most perfect person among the angels and the saints. The Fathers of the Church said that only the Blessed Trinity is above Mary. Our Lady is our Mother, our spiritual Mother, that is, our Mother in the order of grace (cf. CCC 968). Jesus, to be sure, is the only Mediator before God. Mother Mary, on the other hand, is our best intercessor before Christ, and she is the disciple of disciples because she cooperated like nobody else in Christ’s work of redemption. This is why in Christian tradition, Our Lady is given the titles of Mediatrix and Co–Redemptrix; but always through Christ and under Christ, the only Mediator and Savior.
Indeed, Jesus is the only Mediator, and Our Lady is the Mediatrix of all graces. As a daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, she is the channel of graces to us: “In her we have a great and faithful Mediatrix before Christ” (Luis de Granada). Thus, Mary guides us to the sacraments, channels of grace, and, in particular, to the Eucharist, in which Christ’s Body of the Virgin Mary becomes really present. (cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 44). In Ecclesia de Eucharistia, St. John Paul II tells us that Mary is the Woman of the Eucharist, the first and the best tabernacle of Christ (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 54 & 55).
Authentic devotion to Mary implies a constant attempt at imitating her virtuous life. With her unique life, Mary encourages us to practice the virtues of faith (Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed …” – Lk 1:45); of prayer (Mary treasured everything that happened around Jesus in her heart and pondered upon it – cf. Lk 2:51); of obedience (“Let it be,” Fiat – Lk 1:38); of mission (she brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John the Baptist – cf. Lk 1:39-45). Moreover, Mary is our example of solidarity when facingthe needs of others (she asked Jesus for wine at Cana’s wedding – cf. Jn 2:1-11), of compassion with the poor neighbor (her Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant; he has lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things” – Lk 1:46-55).
With or through Mary to Jesus
For Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort, true Marian devotion has the following characteristics: it is interior, trustful, holy, constant and selfless. False devotion, on the other hand, the following: critical, scrupulous, superficial, presumptuous, inconstant, hypocritical and self-interested. He adds: “If devotion to Our Lady distracted us from our Lord, we would have to reject it as an illusion of the devil” (True Devotion to Mary).
Devotion to Mary is really genuine if it takes us to her Son Jesus. Authentic devotion to Mary reflects devotion to Jesus. Saint Bernard: “The reason for our love of Mary is the Lord Jesus; the measure of our love for her is to love her without measure.” As our Mother, Mary wants us, above all, to follow Jesus. As the first disciple of Jesus, she invites us to follow her Son. How beautiful: Our Lady is the best messenger of Jesus, the closest witness of his life, the disciple of disciples (cf. Francisco María Lopez Melus, Desierto 1996).
In his lovely apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 2002), Pope John Paul II invites us to meet Mary in the Rosary. The Rosary is a very special popular devotion to Mary. We are asked to go to the school of Mary to learn about Jesus, to discover his secrets, and to understand his message (RVM 14). We are requested to make of our praying of the Rosary a form of Christo-centric contemplation (Ibid. no. 12). Vatican II tells us: “While honoring Christ’s Mother, these devotions (to her) cause her Son to be rightly known, loved, and glorified, and all of his commandments observed” (LG, 66).
All Christians – priests, consecrated women and men, and lay faithful – need to have a strong devotion to Mary, that is, a special love for her. Life is not easy, and our cross may be heavy. I am convinced that if we are truly devoted to Mary, we will be happy, or at least less unhappy!