Serious Theological Errors — Part I

True Devotion to Mary

Saint Louis de Montfort was born in Brittany, France, on January 31, 1673. He studied for the priesthood in Paris and was ordained at age twenty-seven. After his ordination, Saint Louis wanted to travel the world as an evangelist, but he was instructed by his bishop to remain in France, where he spent his time preaching and giving retreats. During this time, Saint Louis encountered great opposition from many religious authorities, including the Bishop of Poitiers, who would not allow Saint Louis to preach in his diocese.

Because of the opposition that Saint Louis encountered, he decided to ask the Holy Father if he should continue his work as an evangelist or if he should choose another vocation. During his meeting with Pope Clement XI in Rome, the Holy Father advised Saint Louis to continue his work proclaiming the Gospel message, but to make sure he was obedient to the diocesan authorities. After his meeting with the Holy Father, Saint Louis de Montfort established a religious order known as the Montfort Fathers and Brothers, which was founded in 1715. A year later, Saint Louis died on April 28, 1716, at age forty-three.

During his life, Saint Louis de Montfort faced many challenges. As he traveled throughout France as an evangelist, he encountered many Catholic parishioners who maintained a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother, but many of these people lacked an authentic relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In his book, True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis de Montfort describes these parishioners as external devotees, presumptuous devotees and interested devotees as follows:

In Section 96, Saint Louis de Montfort describes external devotees as those who “will say quantities of Rosaries with the greatest precipitation; they will hear many Masses distractedly; they will go, without devotion, to processions; they will enroll themselves in all her confraternities—without amending their lives…”

In Section 97, Saint Louis de Montfort describes presumptuous devotees as “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. 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.”

In Section 103, Saint Louis de Montfort describes interested devotees as those “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.”

In an attempt to minister to these different types of devotees, Saint Louis tried to help them enter into an authentic relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. By studying Section 61 of Saint Louis de Montfort’s writings, we can see his love for Jesus and also his desire to help his followers experience the fullness of God’s abundant blessings:

“Jesus Christ our Savior, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, else they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, of all things. We labor not, as the Apostle says, except to render every man perfect in Jesus Christ; because it is in Him alone that the whole plenitude of the Divinity dwells together with all the other plenitudes of graces, virtues and perfections.

“It is in Him alone that we have been blessed with all spiritual benediction; and He is our only Master, who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepherd who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us.

“There has been no other name given under Heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection or our glory, than Jesus Christ. Every building which is not built on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or latter infallibly will fall. Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him, as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither, and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire.

“Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation. But if we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is in us, we have no condemnation to fear. Neither the angels of Heaven nor the men of earth nor the devils of Hell nor any other creature can injure us; because they cannot separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things...”

Because Saint Louis de Montfort experienced a divine calling to lead people into a life-saving relationship with Jesus, he was faced with a difficult challenge—should he spend his time ministering to the external, presumptuous and interested devotees through the Blessed Mother, hoping that Mary would unite these people to her Son Jesus, or should he spend his time helping Catholics enter into an authentic relationship with Jesus directly?

Because it was easier for Saint Louis de Montfort to minister to people in a place where they felt most comfortable, he focused his efforts on Marian devotions, in hopes that Mary would connect these people to her Son, Jesus. The only problem with this approach was that Saint Louis, along with many of his missionary companions, began to experience persecution from many theologians and diocesan authorities for the following reasons:

1. The first reason why Saint Louis de Montfort’s approach of trying to connect people with Jesus through the Blessed Mother was so controversial is because Mary is not omnipresent. Because Mary is part of God’s creation (as per the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Section 488 and 493) she cannot be in two places at the same time. The same is true for all of God’s creatures, including the angels and archangels. For example, there is only one Saint Michael the Archangel. Saint Michael cannot be in two places at the same time. He can either be in heaven ministering before God’s throne, or he can be here on earth accomplishing God’s assignments.

A good example of Saint Michael’s inability to be in two places at the same time comes from Daniel 10:1–14, when God sent an angel to deliver a message to Daniel. In this situation, the messenger angel was delayed for twenty-one days because he had to fight against a demonic principality. After God sent Saint Michael to fight against the demonic principality, the messenger angel was able to escape the battle and deliver the message to Daniel. In the same way that there is only one Saint Michael the Archangel, there is only one Blessed Mother, and she cannot be in two places at the same time. Because Mary is not omnipresent, she is limited in her ability to deliver messages to millions of Catholics at the same time.

Continue to Part II