The Mother of  the Savior
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.
Nihil Obstat  and Imprimi Potest 1941 and 1948

True Devotion to Our Lady


In this chapter we shall speak of: 1st ---- the cult of hyperdulia which is due to the Mother of God; 2nd ---- the usual forms of Marian devotion, especially the Rosary as a school of contemplation; 3rd ---- Consecration to Our Lady as explained by St. Grignon de Montfort; 4th ---- intimate and mystical union with Mary.

Article I

Cult in general means honor paid in a spirit of submission and dependence to a superior because of his excellence. [2] Whether it be merely interior, or exterior as well, cult differs according to the position or excellence of the person to whom it is paid. Since the excellence of God is infinite, He being First Principle and Supreme Master of all things, the cult to which He has a right is supreme. It is known as latria and to pay it is an exercise of the virtue of religion. This same cult is due to the Sacred Humanity of Our Blessed Lord considered as belonging to the uncreated Person of the Word, and in a relative manner it is due to crucifixes and to pictures and statues which represent Him.

Created persons who have a certain excellence are entitled  to the cult called dulia: a cult of respect. Thus, in the natural order respect is due to parents, kings, teachers; in the supernatural order it is due to the Saints, the heroicity of whose virtues has been recognized. The latter cult paid to God's servants honors God Himself Who is revealed to the world in the saints and draws us by them to Himself [3]

It is commonly taught in the Church that the Blessed Virgin is entitled to a cult of hyperdulia, or supreme dulia, because of her eminent dignity as Mother of God. [4]

Nature and Foundation of the Cult of Mary

There have been two opposed false tendencies in regard to the cult of Mary. According to the testimony of St. Epiphanius (Haer., 78-79) the Collyridians wished to pay her divine cult and to offer sacrifice to her. This error might be termed Mariolatry .It was of brief duration. Opposed to it is the Protestant contention that the cult offered to Mary by Catholics is a form of superstition.

To answer this charge, we must insist that the cult of latria or adoration can be and is offered to God alone. If we adore the Sacred Humanity, it is because of Its personal union with the Word ; if we offer relative cult of adoration to the crucifix, it is because it represents Our Savior, [5] for it is quite clear that the crucifix and other representations of Our Savior have no other excellence than that of representing Him. Were relative adoration to be offered to Our Lady because of her connection with the Word made flesh, it might easily be mistaken for adoration offered to her because of her own intrinsic excellence, and would therefore be an occasion of grave error and of idolatry, as St. Thomas remarks. [6]

The cult due to Our Lady is therefore one of dulia. This statement is of faith, because of the teaching of the universal magisterium of the Church; hence the condemnation of the opposed propositions of Molinos. [7]

It is common and certain doctrine that Mary is entitled to a special kind of dulia known as hyperdulia, which is due to her considered as Mother of God. This doctrine is traditional. It is found quite explicitly in the works of St. Modestus in the 7th century, of St. John Damascene in the 8th, and later in the works of St. Thomas, [8] St. Bonaventure, [9] Scotus, [10] Suarez [11] and almost all Catholic theologians. [12]

The cult of hyperdulia is due to Mary formally because she is Mother of God since the dignity of her divine motherhood belongs by its term to the hypostatic order and is therefore very much higher than that which follows upon her degree of grace and glory. If Mary had received only the fulness of grace and glory without having been made the Mother of God, if, in other words she were higher than the other Saints only through her degree of consummated glory a special cult of hyperdulia would not be due to her. [13]

It is the more common and more probable opinion that hyperdulia differs from dulia not in degree only but in kind. just as the divine maternity belongs by its term to the hypostatic order, which is specifically distinct from that of grace and glory. [14]

The cult of hyperdulia is offered to Mary since she is Mother of the Savior. But we should remember that for the same reason she is Mother of men, universal Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix.

What are the Fruits of this Cult?

By rendering Mary the cult of hyperdulia we move her to look down on us with still greater love, and for our part are drawn to imitate her virtues. The cult of hyperdulia leads effectively to salvation, for Mary can obtain the grace of final perseverance for all those who pray faithfully to her for it. For this reason true devotion to Our Lady is commonly looked on as one of the signs of predestination: though it does not give absolute and infallible certainty of salvation ---- a possibility ruled out by the authority of the Council of Trent (Denz. 805) ---- it gives rise to a firm hope. This firm hope rests on Mary's great power of intercession and her special love for those who invoke her. [15] In this sense St. Alphonsus asserts (The Glories of Mary, Part I, ch. viii) that it is morally impossible that they should be lost who have the desire to amend their lives and who honor the Mother of God faithfully and commit themselves to her protection. Those who have no serious desire to amend their lives cannot, of course, look on the fact that they keep up a certain appearance of devotion to Our Lady as a probable sign of predestination. But a sinner who tries to give up sin and turns to Mary for assistance will find that she will not fail him. This is the opinion of St. Alphonsus (Ib., ch. I, 4) and of most modern theologians. [16]

The cult offered to Mary in the Church confirms in a general way the foundations of our faith since it derives from the Redemptive Incarnation. Thereby it destroys heresies: 'Cunctas haereses interemisti in universo mundo.' The same cult leads to holiness by suggesting the imitation of Mary's virtues, and it glorifies the Son by honoring the Mother.


The objection raised by some Protestants, that cult offered to Mary is derogatory to the divine cult, can be answered without much difficulty. The Catholic Church teaches that the cult of latria or adoration is offered to God alone and that the cult of Mary, far from taking from the cult of the Godhead, promotes it by recognizing God as the Author of all the gifts with which Mary is endowed. The honor paid to the Mother redounds to the glory of the Son, and Mary the Mediatrix of all graces helps us to know better God, the Author of all graces. Experience has shown that faith in the Divinity of Christ has best been preserved in those countries which are marked by devotion to Mary. All the saints were devout to both Jesus and Mary.

Since the cult of Mary is more sense ---- perceptible, there are some who perform its acts with more intensity than those pertaining to the cult of the Godhead. But even for such persons the cult of the Godhead is higher in kind, for they love God above all things with a love of preference (amour d'estime), and this love in its turn becomes more intense according as they advance in holiness and live a life more detached from the senses.

Confidence in Mary increases our confidence in God. The confidence that pilgrims had in the Cure of Ars, for example, increased their confidence that God would help them through his instrumentality.

It would be a real lack of humility, as St. Grignon de Montfort says, to pass over the mediators whom God has given us because of our weakness. Far from lessening our intimacy with God, they prepare us for its increase. Just as Jesus does nothing in souls except in order to lead them to His Father, so also Mary works on minds and hearts solely in order to lead them nearer to her Son. God has willed to make continual use of Mary for the sanctification of souls.

Article II

From among the many customary devotions to Our Lady, such as the Angelus, the Office of the Blessed Virgin, the Rosary, we shall speak especially of the last in so far as it prepares us for and leads us up to contemplation of the great mysteries of salvation. After Holy Mass it is one of the most beautiful and efficacious forms of prayer, on condition of understanding it and living it.

It sometimes happens that its recitation ---- reduced to that of five mysteries ---- becomes a matter of routine. The mind, not being really gripped by the things of God, finds itself a prey to distractions. Sometimes the prayer is said hurriedly and soullessly. Sometimes it is said for the purpose of obtaining temporal favors, desired out of all relation to spiritual gain. When a person says the Rosary in such a way, he may well ask himself in what way his prayer is like that of which Pope Leo XIII spoke in his encyclicals on the Rosary, and about which Pius XI wrote one of his last apostolic letters.

It is true that to pray well it is sufficient to think in a general way of God and of the graces for which one asks. But to make the most out of our five mysteries, we should remember that they constitute but a third of the whole Rosary, and that they should be accompanied by meditation ---- which can be very simple ---- on the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which recall the whole life of Jesus and Mary and their glory in Heaven.

The Three Great Mysteries of Salvation

The fifteen mysteries of the Rosary thus divided into three groups are but different aspects of the three great mysteries of our salvation: the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life.

The mystery of the Incarnation is recalled by the joys of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of the Savior, His Presentation in the Temple and His finding among the doctors. The mystery of the Redemption is recalled by the different stages of the Passion: the Agony in the garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion. The mystery of eternal life is recalled by the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption of Our Lady and her crowning as Queen of Heaven.

Thus, the Rosary is a Credo: not an abstract one, but one concretized in the life of Jesus Who came down to us from the Father and Who ascended to bring us back with Himself to the Father. It is the whole of Christian dogma in all its splendor and elevation, brought to us that we may fill our minds with it, that we may relish it and nourish our souls with it.

This makes the Rosary a true school of contemplation. It raises us gradually above vocal prayer and even above reasoned out or discursive meditation. Early theologians have compared the movement of the soul in contemplation to the spiral in which certain birds ---- the swallow, for example ---- move when they wish to attain to a great height. [17] The joyful mysteries lead to the Passion, and the Passion to the door of heaven. The Rosary well understood is, therefore, a very elevated form of prayer which makes the whole of dogma accessible to all.

The Rosary is also a very practical form of prayer for it recalls all Christian morality and spirituality by presenting them from the sublime point of view of their realization in Jesus and Mary. The mysteries of the Rosary should be reproduced in our lives. Each of them is a lesson in some virtue ---- particularly in the virtues of humility, trust, patience and charity.

There are three stages in our progress towards God. The first is to have knowledge of the final end, whence comes the desire of salvation and the joy to which that desire gives rise. This stage is symbolized in the joyful mysteries which contain the good news of the Incarnation of the Son of God Who opens to us the way of salvation. The next stage is to adopt the means ---- often painful to nature ---- to be delivered from sin and to merit heaven. This is the stage of the sorrowful mysteries. The final stage is that of rest in the possession of eternal life. It is the stage of Heaven, of which the glorious mysteries allow us some anticipated glimpse.

The Rosary is therefore most practical. It takes us from the midst of our too human interests and joys and makes us think of those which center on the coming of the Savior. It takes us from our meaningless fears, from the sufferings we bear so badly, and reminds us of how much Jesus has suffered for love of us and teaches us to follow Him by bearing the Cross which Divine providence has sent us to purify us. It takes us finally from our earthly hopes and ambitions and makes us think of the true object of Christian hope ---- eternal life and the graces necessary to arrive there.

The Rosary is more than a prayer of petition. It is a prayer of adoration inspired by the thought of the Incarnate God, a prayer of reparation in memory of the Passion of Our Savior, a prayer of thanksgiving that tIle glorious mysteries continue to reproduce themselves in the uninterrupted entry of the elect into glory .

The Rosary and Contemplative Prayer

A more simple and still more elevated way of reciting the Rosary is, while saying it, to keep the eyes of faith fixed on the living Jesus Who is always making intercession for us and who is acting upon us in accordance with the mysteries of His childhood, or His Passion, or His glory .He comes to us to make us like Himself. Let us fix our gaze on Jesus who is looking at us. His look is more than kind and understanding: it is the look of God, a look which purifies, which sanctifies, which gives peace. It is the look of our Judge and still more the look of our Savior, our Friend, the Spouse of our souls. A Rosary said in this way, in solitude and silence, is a most fruitful intercourse with Jesus. It is a conversation with Mary too which leads to intimacy with her Son.

We sometimes read in the lives of the saints that Our Blessed Lord reproduced in them first His childhood, then His hidden life, then His apostolic life, and finally His Passion, before allowing them to share in His glory. He comes to us in a similar way in the Rosary and, well said, it is a prayer which gradually takes the form of an intimate conversation with Jesus and Mary. It is easy to see how Saintly souls have found in it a school of contemplation.

It has sometimes been objected that one cannot reflect on the words and the mysteries at the same time. An answer that is often given is that it is not necessary to reflect on the words if one is meditating on or looking spiritually at one of the mysteries. The words are a kind of melody which soothes the ear and isolates us from the noise of the world around us, the fingers being occupied meanwhile in allowing one bead after another to slip through. Thus, the imagination is kept tranquil and the mind and the will are set free to be united to God.

It has also been objected that the monotony of the many repetitions in the Rosary leads necessarily to routine. This objection is valid only if the Rosary is said badly. If well said, it familiarizes us with the different mysteries of salvation and recalls what these mysteries should produce in our joys, our sorrows, and our hopes. Any prayer can become a matter of routine ---- even the Ordinary of the Mass. The reason is not that the prayers are imperfect, but that we do not say them as we should ---- with faith, confidence and love.

The Spirit of the Rosary as St. Dominic Conceived It

To understand the Rosary better it is well to recall how St. Dominic conceived it under the inspiration of Our Lady at a time when southern France was ravaged by the Albigensian heresy ---- a heresy which denied the infmite goodness and omnipotence of God by admitting a principle of evil which was often victorious. Not only did Albigensianism attack Christian morality, but it was opposed to dogma as well ---- to the great mysteries of creation, the redemptive incarnation, the descent of the Holy Ghost, the eternal life to which we are called.

It was at that moment that Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic a kind of preaching till then unknown, which she said would be one of the most powerful weapons against future errors and in future difficulties. Under her inspiration, St. Dominic went into the villages of the heretics, gathered the people, and preached to them the mysteries of salvation ---- the Incarnation, the Redemption, Eternal Life. As Mary had taught him to do, he distinguished the different kinds of mysteries, and after each short instruction he had ten Hail Marys recited ---- somewhat as might happen even today at a Holy Hour. And what the word of the preacher was unable to do, the sweet prayer of the Hail Mary did for hearts. As Mary had promised, it proved to be a most fruitful form of preaching. [18]

If we live by the prayer of which St. Dominic's preaching is the example our joys, our sorrows, and our hopes will be purified, elevated and spiritualized. We shall see that Jesus, Our Savior and Our Model, wishes to make us like Himself, first communicating to us something of His infant and hidden life, then something of His sorrows, and finally making us partakers of His glorious life for all eternity.

I. Merkelbach, Mariologia, pp. 392-413. E. Dublanchy, Dict. Theol. Cath. art. Marie, cot. 2439-2474.
2. Ila Ilae, q. 81, a. I, ad 4 and a. 4; q. 92, a. 2. Cult is something more than honor: it is honor paid by an inferior to a superior. God honors the Saints but He does not offer them cult.
3. Ila Ilae, q. 103, a. 4.
4. According to J. B. de Rossi, Roma sotteranea christiana, Rome, 1911, t. III, pp. 65 sqq, and 252, and Marucchi, Elements d' archeologie chretienne, 2nd edit., 191 I, p. 21 I sqq. the first representations of the Blessed Virgin holding the child Jesus in her arms which are found in the Roman catacombs date back to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. The institution of special feasts in Mary's honor appears to be traceable to the 4th century, from which time St Epiphanius (Haer., 79) speaks of her cult while condemning the error of the Collyridians who transformed it into adoration. St Gregory of Nazianzen mentions her cult also (Orat. XXIV, xi) as well as St Ambrose (De instit. virginis, XXX, 83). There are 11 prayers to her attributed to St. Ephrem (d. 378) in Assemani's edition of his works. The cult of Mary became general in both East and West in subsequent times.
5. IlIa, q. 25, a. 3 and a. 5.
6. Ib. a. 3, ad 3.
7. Denz. 1255 sqq., 1316.
8. na nae, q. 103, a. 4, ad 2; ma, q. 25, a. 5.
9. In III Sent., d. 9, a. I, q. 3.
10. In III Sent., d. 9, q. un.
11. In mam, disp. XXII, sect. n, n. 4.
12. Cf. Dict. Theol. Cath., art. Marie, cols. 2449-2453.
13. In this matter, Vasquez differs from the great majority of theologians by holding that the cult of hyperdulia is due to Mary principally because ofher eminent holiness. This view ofhis is a consequence ofhis holding that sanctifying grace has a dignity higher than that of the Divine maternity.
14. This is the opinion of Fr. Merkelbach, op. cit., pp. 402, 405.
15. Dict. Theol. Cath., art. Marie, co1. 2458.
16. Cf. Terrien, op. cit., t. IV, pp. 291 sqq.
17. Cf. lIa lIae, q. 180, a. 6. The spiral movement lifts itself up to God progressively by the consideration of the different mysteries of salvation, any of which lead to Him.
18. The first fruit of the Rosary was the victory of Simon of Montfort over the Albigensians, obtained while St. Dominic implored Mary's help in prayer.   




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