Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What is the Total Consecration of St. Louis de Montfort?

“Here is a secret, chosen soul, which the most High God taught me and which I have not found in any book, ancient or modern. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, I am confiding it to you, with these conditions:
“That you share it only with people who deserve to know it, that you use this secret to become holy and worthy of heaven, and that you thank God every day of your life for the grace he has given you in letting you into a secret that you do not deserve to know.”
From the opening of The Secret of Mary, by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort

Let us begin with prayer
“Before you read any further, in an understandable impatience to learn this truth, kneel down and say devoutly the Ave Maris Stella ("Hail, thou star of ocean") [here], and the "Come, Holy Spirit" [here], to ask God to help you understand and appreciate this secret given by him. As I have not much time for writing and you have little time for reading, I will be brief in what I have to say.”
From The Secret of Mary, n. 2
True Devotion to Mary
“This devotion consists in performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary.
“It is not enough to give ourselves just once as a slave to Jesus through Mary; nor is it enough to renew that consecration once a month or once a week. That alone would make it just a passing devotion and would not raise the soul to the level of holiness which it is capable of reaching. It is easy to enroll in a confraternity; easy to undertake this devotion, and say every day the few vocal prayers prescribed. The chief difficulty is to enter into its spirit, which requires an interior dependence on Mary, and effectively becoming her slave and the slave of Jesus through her. I have met many people who with admirable zeal have set about practising exteriorly this holy slavery of Jesus and Mary, but I have met only a few who have caught its interior spirit, and fewer still who have persevered in it.”
From The Secret of Mary, nn. 43-44
To act with Mary
“The essential practice of this devotion is to perform all our actions with Mary. This means that we must take her as the accomplished model for all we have to do.
“Before undertaking anything, we must forget self and abandon our own views. We must consider ourselves as a mere nothing before God, as being personally incapable of doing anything supernaturally worthwhile or anything conducive to our salvation. We must have habitual recourse to our Lady, becoming one with her and adopting her intentions, even though they are unknown to us.”
From Secret of Mary, nn. 45-46
To act in Mary
“We must always act in Mary, that is to say, we must gradually acquire the habit of recollecting ourselves interiorly and so form within us an idea or a spiritual image of Mary.”
From Secret of Mary, n. 47
To act through Mary
“We must never go to our Lord except through Mary, using her intercession and good standing with him. We must never be without her when praying to Jesus.”
From Secret of Mary, n. 48
To act for Mary
“We must perform all our actions for Mary, which means that as slaves of this noble Queen we will work only for her, promoting her interests and her high renown, and making this the first aim in all our acts, while the glory of God will always be our final end.”
From Secret of Mary, n. 49
The heart of the Total Consecration
It should be clear that true devotion is more than the mere recitation of prayers, though (during the period of preparation for the act of consecration) we do indeed recite many prayers. The daily Rosary is necessary, but its outward recitation is not sufficient.
No, true devotion consists of an inward habitual disposition of the will which is regularly expressed in acts of self-abandonment to divine Providence as manifested through Mary’s will. True devotion consists in giving ourselves and all we have over to the blessed Virgin Mary, that she may dispose of us and our valuables (especially the spiritual goods of our soul) according to her good pleasure – for she who bore Wisdom in her womb knows well the designs of God’s Providence.
Hence, true devotion to Mary is identical with perfect conformity of the soul to God’s will.
To give all entirely and freely to Mary
“This devotion consists in giving oneself entirely to Mary in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her. It requires us to give:
(1) Our body with its senses and members;
(2) Our soul with its faculties;
(3) Our present material possessions and all we shall acquire in the future;
(4) Our interior and spiritual possessions, that is, our merits, virtues and good actions of the past, the present and the future.
“In other words, we give her all that we possess both in our natural life and in our spiritual life as well as everything we shall acquire in the future in the order of nature, of grace, and of glory in heaven. This we do without any reservation, not even of a penny, a hair, or the smallest good deed. And we give for all eternity without claiming or expecting, in return for our offering and our service, any other reward than the honour of belonging to our Lord through Mary and in Mary, even though our Mother were not - as in fact she always is - the most generous and appreciative of all God's creatures.”
From True Devotion, n. 121
Totus Tuus
“Note here that two things must be considered regarding our good works, namely, satisfaction and merit or, in other words, their satisfactory or prayer value and their meritorious value. The satisfactory or prayer value of a good work is the good action in so far as it makes condign atonement for the punishment due to sin or obtains some new grace. The meritorious value or merit is the good action in so far as it merits grace and eternal glory. Now by this consecration of ourselves to the Blessed Virgin we give her all satisfactory and prayer value as well as the meritorious value of our good works, in other words, all the satisfactions and the merits. We give her our merits, graces and virtues, not that she might give them to others, for they are, strictly speaking, not transferable, because Jesus alone, in making himself our surety with his Father, had the power to impart his merits to us. But we give them to her that she may keep, increase and embellish them for us, as we shall explain later, and we give her our acts of atonement that she may apply them where she pleases for God's greater glory.
“It follows then: that by this devotion we give to Jesus all we can possibly give him, and in the most perfect manner, that is, through Mary's hands. Indeed we give him far more than we do by other devotions which require us to give only part of our time, some of our good works or acts of atonement and penances. In this devotion everything is given and consecrated, even the right to dispose freely of one's spiritual goods and the satisfactions earned by daily good works.
“It follows then that anyone who in this way consecrates and sacrifices himself voluntarily to Jesus through Mary may no longer dispose of the value of any of his good actions. All his sufferings, all his thoughts, words, and deeds belong to Mary. She can then dispose of them in accordance with the will of her Son and for his greater glory.
“It follows that we consecrate ourselves at one and the same time to Mary and to Jesus.”
From True Devotion, nn. 122-125

Servus Mariae non peribit!
The slave of Mary will not perish!


ellen said...

Thank you so much for this. I am trying to do it, though I am not confident in my ability to persevere. I am getting old and forgetfull and I lead a very busy life (not my choice). But Our Blessed Lady is the best of mothers, so as a mother myself I know she understands her children when the spirit is trying to be willing despite the horrible weakness of the flesh. Yesterday, my 3 year old grandson flew into a terrible rage, but I was so proud of him when he made a big effort (for the first time) to control himself. She will help us to do this consecration if we try.

Riverside said...

Thank you. As a priest I can, and others, so easily be tempted settle for good enough, to think of parishioners or ourselves as good Catholics, simply because others are more of a disaster. This blog and this entry help us to reach for holiness not just "good enough."

Michelangelo said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for the excellent summary of the Secret of Mary! I'm trying with the help of Jesus and Mary. There is no room for fear, or any sinful temptation when I stay close to Our Lady. God bless you, Father.

James Zahler said...

St. Louis offers a wonderful insight that when we adhere to Mary's will, we adhere to the Father's own will.

Anonymous said...

Ave Maria!

Anonymous said...

“We must never go to our Lord except through Mary, using her intercession and good standing with him. We must never be without her when praying to Jesus.”

Praying with the BVM is a wonderful idea and can be a source of inspiration and consolation, but to say that we must go through Mary to the Lord. I am a practicing, not a liberal Catholic, but I believe that we can go to the Lord through the merits of Christ, Mary's intercessions not withstanding. This all comes perilously close to the 'divinization' of Our Lady.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

1) Please use a pseudonym.

2) Only those who feel so called should make this total consecration ... not everyone has to do it.
I am convinced that it is the easiest and safest path to salvation, but it is certainly not absolutely necessary.
Of course, love of Mary is necessary, but not specifically the Total Consecration of de Montfort.

3) And this consecration has nothing to do with "divinization" of Mary ... that is a silly and even blasphemous thing to say (since you are accusing a Saint of the Church of idolatry).
If I always go to a king through his messenger, I am not saying that the messenger is the king ... I am simply respecting the wish of the king, who always comes to me through that messenger.
So too, if I always go to Jesus through Mary, I do not say that Mary is Jesus/God, but only respect my Savior who came to me through Mary.

Bobby Bambino said...

Hi Father.

I am currently preparing myself for the total consecration, and I must admit that even in this early stage I believe that this is one of the best decisions if not the best decision I have ever made in my life, but something in "The Secret of Mary" has me a little worried. Perhaps I am not understanding it correctly, which is why I seek your opinion. Above, you quote de Montfort as saying

"I have met many people who with admirable zeal have set about practising exteriorly this holy slavery of Jesus and Mary, but I have met only a few who have caught its interior spirit, and fewer still who have persevered in it."

In the introduction to The Secret of Mary (paragraph 1), de Montfort also says

"Under no circumstances must you let this secret make you idle and inactive. It would then become harmful and lead to your ruin."

Given the fact that only a few have caught the practice's interior spirit and that even fewer have persevered in it combined with the fact that if we become idle and inactive that it leads to our ruin, it seems like the consecration would lead to many soul's ruin since, according to de Montfort, very few souls persevere in the practice. I suppose here that I am thinking of "catching the interior spirit" and "persevering in it" as the opposite of "becoming idle and inactive." We either grow or we retard; there is no staying stagnant in the interior life.

I don't "plan" to be a soul who makes this consecration and then becomes idle and active (as clearly no one making the consecration would), but probabilistically according to de Montfort, I will become idle and inactive. Is this a risk that I should be taking? I hope I am misunderstanding these two passages because I desire to continue, but it if means that I greatly increase the risk of offending my Lord, then I think it would be better not to.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Bobby B,
I think we need to read this in a broader perspective ...

1) The Total Consecration is only a private vow (if even that), hence it is not as binding as religious vows or other public vows.

2) Still, if we do wish to stop the practice of the Total Consecration, it would be good to mention it in confession and ask the priest to release us from this practice.

3) It is not clear to me that this vow would bind under pain of mortal sin ... in fact, I am quite certain that it does not usually.
Thus, since only mortal sin can send us to hell ... etc.

4) Nevertheless, if we do go to hell and we had made the Total Consecration, the demons will torment us with special hatred, because they so hate our Lady.

5) All that being said, de Montfort states that the Total Consecration is the easiest means of attaining to heaven ... thus, I do not think he wants us to be fearful and afraid as we embark.

Well, I hope that this helps a little bit and gives some peace.

Consider this: Receiving Communion puts us in a much greater obligation before God ... and thus, in one way, means that we increase our risk of offending God ... and yet, clearly, it is better to receive (when in the proper dispositions) ... because God is glorified and we are sanctified.
Similarly with the Total Consecration.

God bless you in this work. +

George Henry said...

Hey Father!

In my quest to understand the nature of the vow we make in DeMontfort's Consecration I ran across this:

"This consecration has the characters of a vow: because it is a most solemn and eternal dedication. It is more than an ordinary promise - which is not binding under penalty of sin; but it is less demanding that the solemn vows, which one would make to become a professed religious. Still, the effect of this consecration, properly made, is irrevocable. Once a person understands the nature of this consecration, he understands that he is entirely abrogating any of his natural spiritual rights to dictate where the merits of his good actions might be applied. (

Would you agree with those statements? Thanks you!

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