It's common sense knowledge that millions of Catholics pray the Rosary and make devotion to Mary an integral part of their everyday spirituality. See for example this answer to the question According to Catholicism, to what extent is the spiritual growth of a Christian impaired by his/her lack of devotion to Mary and the Saints?
Many books have been written on the reasons for and the benefits of praying the Rosary and having a genuine devotion to Mary, such as:
- True Devotion to Mary: With Preparation for Total Consecration
- Total Consecration Through the Mysteries of the Rosary
- The Rosary Prayer by Prayer
- The Secret Of The Rosary
- The Hinge of the Hail Mary: The Art of Praying the Rosary
- Beneath Thy Protection: Finding Jesus in the Arms of Mary: Mary's Mysteries of the Rosary
- The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions
- Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother
Question: How do Protestants explain / make sense of the fact that so many Catholics report spiritual benefits from praying the Rosary and having a deep devotion to Mary? If God disapproves of Marian devotion, then how come so many Catholics experience spiritual benefits? Doesn't this contradict / disprove the Protestant position regarding Mary?
Brainstorming of possible Protestant explanations:
Hypothesis 1: "Catholics are simply experiencing psychological benefits, just like a Buddhist experiences psychological benefits from meditation, etc.".
The issue with this hypothesis is that it can easily backfire on the Protestant: how does a Protestant who defends this hypothesis know that his/her own spirituality is not also nothing but mere psychology? How does this Protestant know that his/her spirituality is genuine but everyone else's spirituality is just brain tricks and psychology?
Hypothesis 2: "Catholics are being deceived by a demonic counterfeit".
This is a pretty strong claim, so we should naturally expect a pretty heavy burden of proof on the Protestant who claims this to be the case. What kind of evidence could be offered to defend a hypothesis like this? If Catholics are being deceived by evil spirits, then the first thing I would look for is evidence of demonization / demon possession among former Marian devotees. To make a parallel, there are plenty of testimonies from former New Agers, former witches/warlocks, former Hinduists, etc., who can attest to the demonic nature of their former pagan practices. Is this also the case among Marian devotees, and if so, where is the evidence?
Hypothesis 3: "Catholics are wrong, but God in His mercy still allows them to grow spirituality through their practices, because He values their sincerity, their motivations and their heart".
Honestly, this hypothesis sounds very loving and compassionate -- it takes a sort of inclusivist stance --, yet it is a claim nonetheless, so whoever defends this hypothesis has the burden of proof upon them to show that God does indeed act in this way.
Possibly related or relevant questions:
- How do Christians discern genuine spiritual experiences from hallucinations?
- Are there any Christian groups or denominations that teach how to discern between Godly, demonic and psychological experiences?
- How do Christians who subscribe to the "religion vs. relationship" dichotomy make sure that their own relationship with God is genuine?
- How do Christians approach the evangelization of individuals who have had profound spiritual experiences in other religions?