I know many people do not understand why Mary, Our Lady, is so honored in the Church. This is a topic addressed by “Mary Vitamin” that I would like to share with you at this time.
Question: Yes, I accept that Our Lady is due a special reverence and devotion above what we accord to the saints, but how far do you take hyper devotion to Our Lady?
To answer this question, I think it is important to talk about the Immaculate Conception. Hyper devotion (hyperdulia) to Our Lady begins in the Immaculate Conception. This is why the great Marian Saints like St. Maximilian Kolbe were so ardent in their love for the Blessed Virgin as expressed in the title: The Immaculate. If we turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to find a definition of Immaculate Conception, we find a quote from Pope Pius IX’s 1854 proclamation:
'"The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin."
Catechism of the Catholic Church #491
Hyper devotion rests on a proper understanding of the Immaculate Conception. Catholics speak of dulia, hyperdulia and latria.(See the Mary Vitamin group description at the home page.) They build on each other, dulia and hyperdulia set the stage for proper worship and meditation on the glory of God: latria. If we try to bypass dulia and hyperdulia, we may only be giving God, dulia and not latria.
Let me explain. Dulia results from reading a good biography of a saint. For example, St. Francis of Assisi, by Omer Englebert. While reading the book you say 'St. Francis was a great man! I wish I could be half the man he was." You greatly admire the Saint’s accomplishments, you recognize something supernatural was going on in his life. You praise the power of God. You see that St. Francis was no ordinary man. (dulia)
Hyperdulia builds upon dulia. The honor you gave to St. Francis, the grace which caused your heart to soften at such love for God, prepares your heart to look upon the Holy Virgin Mary. She was conceived without sin. She didn’t have a fallen human nature. Her intellect was not darkened. Her will was not weakened. She begins ahead of St. Francis in virtue – already-- by virtue of Her Immaculate Conception. Since God, the All Knowing God, had great plans for Her, He lavished the fullness of grace upon Her. Because She would be His Spouse, His Daughter, and His Mother, He gave Her the special qualities that befit:
The Almighty was at work in the Blessed Virgin, before She even did anything to gain more grace. We are still just at the moment of Her Immaculate conception. If we then add: Her complete unwavering fidelity to God, Her commitment to God in the Temple, from the age of three, the Annunciation, being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, nine months of carrying the Lord in Her womb, the Virgin Birth, the exile in Egypt, the hidden years with the Lord and St. Joseph in the Holy House, we still haven’t even mentioned: Her suffering at the foot of the Cross, the Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Now, lets speak of latria. From the mountain peak, taking all the wondrous things we said about the Blessed Virgin Mary, let’s turn your eyes to Almighty God. Our Lady has a beginning in time, She is a creature of God. God has no beginning. God has no end. He is Infinite Being. No one created Him. He always WAS and IS. That is why "God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Ex 3:14)
He is ALL goodness.
He is ALL mercy
He is ALL love.
He is ALL knowing.
He is ALL powerful.
Our finite minds cannot comprehend these thoughts. We just have to fall prostrate at Infinite Being.
Hyperdulia allows you to have the loftiest thoughts, so that our finite minds, can begin to fully appreciate the magnificence of God. So, if we don’t honor the saints and then honor Our Lady more, are we offering to the Second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, only dulia? Without the saints and Our Lady, are we applying to Jesus Christ the same honor that we gave St. Francis: ‘[Jesus] was a great man! I wish I could be half the man he was." I greatly admire [Jesus’] accomplishments, I recognize something supernatural was going on in his life. I praise the power of God. I see that [Jesus] was no ordinary man. (dulia)
Can you take hyperdulia too far? I don’t think so. God is infinitely beyond any created thing or person. Take your devotion of Our Lady as far, as extreme, as maximilist, as high as you can possibly go and then wait for someone else to take it higher. Surely, this is the sentiment of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a giant of a Saint, a genius, a person who lived the burning charity of Our Lady.