The 10-year-old girl, Lucia of Fatima, may have been uneducated, but she sure knew how to ask the right questions. When the Beautiful Lady from Heaven appeared to her, she asked right away: “Will I go to Heaven?” And the Lady gave the answer I think we are all longing to hear: “Yes, you will.”
Now it is extremely rare to receive such an unconditional guarantee of salvation, directly from the Queen of Heaven, who foresees the truth of her answer. The promises of the Lord we find in Scripture are all conditional, and rightly so, since we do have to respond personally and wholeheartedly to his offer of salvation if we are in fact to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But even without the benefit of a direct visitation from Heaven, we can find in the Mother of God a kind of guarantee of our salvation, though this too requires our personal response and fidelity.
It’s not only that her intercession is powerful and her faithful love efficacious, even though these are precious elements of our life in Christ. It is simply a verifiable phenomenon that those who love Mary and are deeply devoted to her are the ones who remain most faithful to God and to the Church. Faith in God is essential for salvation, but not all who believe (or who say they believe) are going to be saved. One has only to look at the history of Christianity to see how splintered and fragmented it has become, especially since the time of the Protestant “Reformation.” Many errors have been promulgated in the name of Jesus by those who say they are his followers, and many of them even hate and denigrate those who have kept the True Faith. Even within the Catholic Church herself, many dissenters from the authentic Tradition and teaching of Magisterium are in danger of losing their souls because of their intransigent disobedience. One would rarely, if ever, find souls who are thus alienated from the Truth to be at the same time true and orthodox devotees of Our Lady. It is practically impossible, and this is perhaps why she has been called the destroyer of heresies.
St Bernard of Clairvaux said of Mary: “With her for your guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart. So long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”
It is true that there are some New Agers that view Mary as some sort of goddess, but they are outside the Church altogether, and as such their regard for her is falsely conceived. And there are a few of the radical feminist stripe who try to force the humble Maiden of Nazareth into the mold of a kind of icon of women’s liberation. But again, this is a false image, and they are only devoted to an ideology, not the true Mother of God.
But when you look at the faithful of the Church, traditional orthodoxy and Marian devotion are always found together. More specifically, Marian devotion and Eucharistic adoration are always held together by the faithful. You simply won’t be able to find people in the Church who believe all the teachings concerning Our Lady, who love her and practice devotions in her honor, who are consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, etc, and who at the same time deny the teachings concerning Catholic faith and morals which it behooves all the faithful to embrace. Love for Our Lady and rebellion against the Church do not go together. Indeed, they cannot, for devotion to her is like a sign of divine predilection, a guarantee that one will stay on the narrow but life-giving path to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Of course, it is always possible (though God forbid!) for one to renounce one’s faith and religious practice in favor of some false religion or ideology or the fleeting pleasures of sin, in one form or another, but then true devotion to Mary is also necessarily renounced. Just as true faith and Catholic spiritual life are inseparably bound with devotion to Our Lady, a life of sin and apostasy and heresy is utterly incompatible with genuine Marian devotion.
So love for Mary (with all that this entails) is a kind of mark of the true believers, a sign that they are on the right path, living the whole Gospel—not merely practicing a truncated version of Christianity, but rather the fullness of it—and thus is a sort of guarantee of salvation. One of the saints wrote that no true child of Mary is ever lost. But we do have to persevere. Apostasy is not rewarded simply because we once were faithful. Staying close to the Heart of the Mother all our lives will assure us that we will be carried in her arms to Heaven when we die.
I just recently read the following (from the America Needs Fatima website): “When Saint John of God, who founded a religious order while yet in the flower of his youth, approached his end, he lay in his deathbed waiting to appear before the Sovereign Judge. After receiving the last sacraments, he hoped to be blessed with a visit of the Immaculate Virgin. When she failed to appear, the saint seemed discouraged. Agony had taken its toll when, suddenly, the face of the dying man was transformed. The Queen of Heaven appeared to him: ‘John,’ she said with a maternal smile, ‘do you think me capable of abandoning my devoted servants at such an hour?’ Thus, in the embrace of the Virgin, he breathed his last.”
If we are her devoted servants in this life, we shall have no fear of the judgment at the end of life. Whether we receive extraordinary visions or not, we can be sure of God’s mercy and favor, and hence of eternal happiness in Heaven, when we both live our life and breathe our last in the embrace of the Virgin.