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Where Jesus is truly present, devotion to the Blessed Virgin only leads to stronger devotion to her Son

3 min • Digitized on May 9, 2023

From A Defense of the Teachings of Mary, page 98
By St. John Henry Newman

This truth, exemplified in history, might also be abundantly illustrated, did my space admit, from the lives and writings of holy men in modern times.

Two of them, St. Alfonso Liguori and the Blessed Paul of the Cross, for all their notorious devotion to the Mother, have shown their supreme love of her Divine Son, in the names which they have given to their respective congregations, viz. “of the Redeemer,” and “of the Cross and Passion.”

However, I will do no more than refer to an apposite passage in the Italian translation of the work of a French Jesuit, Fr. Nepveu, “Christian Thoughts for every Day in the Year,” which was recommended to the friend who went with me to Rome, by the same Jesuit Father there, with whom, as I have already said, I stood myself in such intimate relations; I believe it is a fair specimen of the teaching of our spiritual books.

“The love of Jesus Christ is the most sure pledge of our future happiness, and the most infallible token of our predestination. Mercy towards the poor, devotion to the Holy Virgin, are very sensible tokens of predestination; nevertheless they are not absolutely infallible; but one cannot have a sincere and constant love of Jesus Christ, without being predestinated. … The destroying angel, which bereaved the houses of the Egyptians of their first-born, had respect to all the houses which were marked with the blood of the Lamb.”

And it is also exemplified, as I verily believe, not only in formal and distinctive Confessions, not only in books intended for the educated class, but also in the personal religion of the Catholic populations.

When strangers are so unfavourably impressed with us, because they see Images of our Lady in our Churches, and crowds flocking about her, they forget that there is a Presence within the sacred walls, infinitely more awful, which claims and obtains from us a worship transcendently different from any devotion we pay to her.

That devotion might indeed tend to idolatry, if it were encouraged in Protestant Churches, where there is nothing higher than it to attract the worshipper; but all the images that a Catholic Church ever contained, all the Crucifixes at its Altars brought together, do not so affect its frequenters, as the lamp which betokens the presence or absence there of the Blessed Sacrament.

Is not this so certain, so notorious, that on some occasions it has been even brought as a charge against us, that we are irreverent in Church, when what seemed to the objector to be irreverence was but the necessary change of feeling, which came over those who were there, on their knowing that their Lord was away?

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