“This divine mother, O my children, is the ladder of sinners by which they ascend to the height of divine grace. She is my greatest confidence. She is the whole basis of my hope” - Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.
Sublime veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary has always belonged uniquely to the Catholic Church, and is essential to its holiness.
The eminence given to Our Lady and her part in the salvation of souls is so marvellous, and her power to help us so immense, that the Church has taught there to be a certain necessity in understanding and embracing a profound devotion to her.
This has ever been a great stumbling block for heretics and schismatics; and, although a Catholic will reverence the Mother of God, he may yet be struck by the extent to which Our Lady is said truly to be necessitous in the sanctification and salvation of mankind.
In what sense, he asks, is devotion to Mary necessary to my salvation? Is devotion to Christ not enough?
Father Germàn Fliess sits down with Alexander Krawczyk to answer this question. He lays out the main principles behind the devotion to Our Lady as it has been esteemed and approved of by the Fathers of the Church, and by the doctors, popes, theologians, and saints of every age. All these have professed that the Blessed Virgin Mary stands in such relation to God’s grace, and plays so crucial a part in communicating it to mankind, that it is extremely difficult – in fact, morally impossible – to obtain and preserve the graces necessary for salvation without the help of Our Lady.
Father Fliess begins by first clarifying that the devotion to Our Lady is not considered by the Church to be of absolute necessity, but of moral necessity. What this means is that whereas something is said to be absolutely necessary when we cannot attain the end simply without it (as is true of sanctifying grace in order to attain to the Beatific Vision), something is morally necessary when the end cannot be attained easily without it.
As Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces, being the treasurer of all the graces God is pleased to bestow on us, and obtaining grace for souls even without any promptings of prayer and invocation, her assistance is bound up in our eternal welfare. To neglect this help is to take on so many difficulties in working out our salvation, that it is considered morally impossible to be saved without it.
This fact is testified to by the Popes and Doctors of the Church. Pope Leo XIII once said of Our Lady that “so great is her dignity, so great her favour before God, that whosoever in his need will not have recourse to her, is trying to fly without wings.”
Mr. Krawczyk asks Father Fliess to give additional demonstrations of the moral necessity of devotion to Mary.
Father follows the reasoning of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who observed that every man is obliged to pray in order to receive the spiritual goods which only God can bestow. Prayer is primarily to God as the end, as from God we expect all good, but in a secondary way we pray to the saints as our patrons, whom God is pleased to have intercede on our behalf. As Our Lady is Queen of all saints and Mediatrix of all graces, then we are necessarily bound to ask her to intercede for us and obtain the graces necessary for our salvation. Who else has greater power to move God to spare us? Who can better secure our salvation?
Father Fliess further mentions that devotion to Mary is in accordance with the natural law, in that it greatly assists us in our duty to tend towards God as our proper end. To neglect this means of winning grace is to seriously fall short in the pursuit of our eternal goal. It is to forego the surest, most direct road to Christ, as it was declared by Pope Saint Pius X.
Of great interest and consolation is the fact that devotion to Our Lady has always been considered by the Church to be one of the best signs of predestination. Conversely, to give it scorn is just as sure a sign of reprobation.
To those truly devoted to her, Mary is the ‘certain salvation of Christians’ according to Saint Ephrem. She was to Saint John Damascene a ‘certain pledge of salvation.’ On the other hand, Saint Alphonsus cites the teaching of Saint Albert the Great and others to assert that those who are not protected by Mary shall be lost. “Let those tremble who little esteem or abandon devotion to this divine mother.”
Father Fliess closes out this episode by discussing the three kinds of devotion to Mary: the perfect, imperfect, and false devotion. He further emphasises the necessity of perseverance. If we persevere in this devotion, Our Lady will obtain for us our conversion. If we do not, we are in danger of becoming obdurate in our sins.
Such is the grave importance of having a strong devotion to Mary. Theoretically, we might go without it; but to do so would be insanity. Practically, we need Mary to get to heaven. If we must ensure as much as possible our salvation, we cannot refrain from devotion to the Mother of God. We must be zealous in the practice of it.
Father Fliess ends with his personal advice, that we see frequently this devotion ‘in the light of eternity’; for the inestimable value of her extreme and maternal love for us will be made known at our judgment. Let us make use of it now, and honour that Mother whom God has been so pleased to give us as a ladder to heaven and as the promise of our salvation.
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