By CINDY WOODEN, CNS | Published January 15, 2004
Pope John Paul II said that at one point in his life he had worried that strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin could weaken devotion to Jesus Christ.
The 83-year-old pope, whose private life and public ministry have been marked by a strong Marian devotion, said the concerns he had as a youth were assuaged by reading St. Louis de Montfort’s book, “True Devotion to Mary.”
“In the years of my youth, I myself found great help in reading this book in which I found the answers to my questions that arose from the fear that devotion to Mary, if it became too great, might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ,” the pope said.
The pope made his comments in a letter to the religious orders that trace their founding to St. Louis de Montfort: the Company of Mary—known as the Montfort Missionaries—the Daughters of Wisdom and the Brothers of St. Gabriel.
The papal letter, dated Dec. 8, 2003, was published by the Vatican Jan. 13 and marked the 160th anniversary of the publication of “True Devotion to Mary” more than 100 years after St. Louis de Montfort wrote it.
The pope’s appreciation of the book has been obvious throughout his ministry as a bishop and as pope; the book is the source of his episcopal and papal motto: “Totus tuus” (“All yours”).
“These two words express a total belonging to Jesus through Mary,” he said, offering the translation of St. Louis de Montfort’s complete phrase: “I am all yours and all that is mine belongs to you, my loving Jesus, through Mary, your holy mother.”
Pope John Paul said the book makes it clear that if devotion to Mary is focused on becoming closer to Christ and more devoted to him the risk subsides.
In his letter to the Montfort religious, the pope said he wanted to clarify some points about Marian devotion in the light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
“True Marian devotion is Christocentric,” he said.
“The love of God through union to Jesus Christ is the aim of every authentic devotion,” the pope said.
He said that, as St. Louis de Montfort taught, “Devotion to the Holy Virgin is a privileged way to find Jesus Christ perfectly, to love him tenderly and to serve him faithfully.”
At the same time, the pope said, the saint correctly recognized “the total relativity of Mary to Christ, and, in him, to the Holy Trinity.”
The saint taught that, when one prayed to Mary, Mary offered that prayer to God, the pope said, and when one offered praise to Mary, Mary offered that praise to God.
“In a unique way in her immaculate conception, the mother of the Redeemer was redeemed by him,” the pope said, “and she preceded us in that believing and lovingly listening to the word of God which makes one blessed.”
Mary received from God the grace that enabled her to believe completely that her son was the source of salvation for all humanity, including her, the pope said.
In her total obedience to God, in giving life to Jesus and in following him to the foot of the cross, he said, Mary is the perfect model of a disciple of Christ and the human being best able to lead others to him.