Friday, March 2, 2012

Does St. Louis de Montfort forbid us from praying for family and friends?

The heart of the Marian devotion promoted by St. Loius-Marie de Montfort is that it is total. Totus Tuus – all that I am and all that I have is yours, Mary, and, through you, I am all Christ’s.
St. Louis-Marie specifies that this means giving over not only all our good works, but even all the value of our good works. All our merits, all our indulgences, all that is of any spiritual value before God, we give to Mary to be disposed of as she wills. Thus, after making the Total Consecration, we no longer offer up prayers directly for anyone, but rather offer up all our prayers and the value of all our prayers to be used according to our Lady’s good will.
This is the Total Consecration, but (we may fear) does this not mean that we will neglect our family and friends? How can I give all to Mary, and at the same time pray in behalf of those whom I love? How can I consecrate myself wholly to Mary, and still pray for my enemies and for the poor (especially the poor souls in purgatory)?

Before reading any further, please pause and offer a prayer to Our Blessed Mother that she may enlighten your mind and fill you with a true spirit of gratitude for that she has given you to learn of the true devotion. This is the request of St. Loius-Marie de Montfort (cf. Secret of Mary n.1).
The Total Consecration is TOTAL
For a fuller account, from St. Louis-Marie, of the character of the Total Consecration, please see our earlier article [here].
“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.
“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.
“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. […] 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. This is not done even in religious orders.”
From True Devotion 121-123.
There will be no loss, St. Louis-Marie replies to an objection
“Some may object that this devotion makes us powerless to help the souls of our relatives, friends and benefactors, since it requires us to give our Lord, through Mary, the value of our good works, prayers, penances, and alms-giving.
“To them I reply:
(1) It is inconceivable that our friends, relatives and benefactors should suffer any loss because we have dedicated and consecrated ourselves unconditionally to the service of Jesus and Mary; it would be an affront to the power and goodness of Jesus and Mary who will surely come to the aid of our relatives, friends and benefactors whether from our meagre spiritual assets or from other sources.
(2) This devotion does not prevent us from praying for others, both the living and the dead, even though the application of our good works depends on the will of our Blessed Lady. On the contrary, it will make us pray with even greater confidence. Imagine a rich man, who, wanting to show his esteem for a great prince, gives his entire fortune to him. Would not that man have greater confidence in asking the prince to help one of his friends who needed assistance? Indeed the prince would only be too happy to have such an opportunity of proving his gratitude to one who had sacrificed all that he possessed to enrich him, thereby impoverishing himself to do him honour. The same must be said of our Lord and our Lady. They will never allow themselves to be outdone in gratitude.
“Some may say, perhaps, if I give our Lady the full value of my actions to apply it to whom she wills, I may have to suffer a long time in purgatory. This objection, which arises from self-love and from an unawareness of the generosity of God and his holy Mother, refutes itself.
“Take a fervent and generous soul who values God's interests more than his own. He gives God all he has without reserve till he can give no more. He desires only that the glory and the kingdom of Jesus may come through his Mother, and he does all he can to bring this about. Will this generous and unselfish soul, I ask, be punished more in the next world for having been more generous and unselfish than other people? Far from it! For we shall see later that our Lord and his Mother will prove most generous to such a soul with gifts of nature, grace and glory in this life and in the next.”
From True Devotion 132-133.
A brief reflection
St. Louis-Marie is so serious about the totality of the Total Consecration that he takes special care to mention that priests are given one exemption, namely, they may offer Mass for specific intentions rather than offering all their Mass-intentions to Mary.
This exemption proves the rule. Indeed, if de Montfort feels the need to clarify in this one specific case, it is clear that he intends us to offer all our other prayers and indulgences entirely and freely to our Lady, that she may dispose of them as she desires.
Now, while the Total Consecration must indeed be more than a matter of mere words – and certainly it is something more than, “Mary I give you all BUT only on the condition that you answer my prayers for others” – we may be certain that our Lady would never abandon one who offered all things to her. Indeed, can we think that she who loves our family and friends even more than do we ourselves would then abandon them after we have given her our all?! Of course not!
We can and should most certainly continue to pray for others, but (after the Total Consecration) our prayer will be radically transformed. From now on, we will offer all the value of our prayers to Mary and then further offer her those for whom we desire to pray. Offering her everything, including our good will for others, we can be sure that she will care for them. Surely, she will give these persons greater blessings than our meager prayers themselves would have earned even if we had offered those prayers directly for these persons!
Total Consecration and abandonment to divine providence
At the heart of it all, the Total Consecration is a perfect abandonment to divine providence. We offer all things to Mary (even our prayers and the value of our prayer) that she may dispose of them as she wills. But, of course, the Blessed Mother wills only what God wills, when he wills it, as he wills it and because he wills it.
Thus, consecrating all things wholly to Mary is effects within us a perfect abandonment to God’s will and providence.
This is a key to the path of holiness, perfect resignation to the divine will. And who can teach us such resignation more perfectly than the Mother of God? Who else can inspire within us such total abandonment?

Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, Pray for us!


Louis said...

I think that it helps a great deal in understanding this commitment of the total consecration, if one considers that whether or not we make the total consecration, we do not have any *right* to apply the merits of our prayers to a particular person. God is free to do what he wishes on account of our prayers - whether to help the person we pray for, or not. He is not bound by our prayers. The consecration of St. Louis Marie de Montfort simply makes explicit what is already the case.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, Fr. Ryan, for explaining all this. Even though I first consecrated myself to the Blessed Virgin Mary last century (that's kind of fun to say!), I didn't realize all it entailed. I'm in the midst of another 33-day prep period now for re-consecration; this time I will consecrate myself TOTALLY with full knowledge of what I am doing.

I do have a question for you, though: If someone is gravely ill and a family member requests prayer to a particular Blessed (e.g., Blsd. John Paul the Great or Blsd. Teresa of Calcutta) for a miracle for the ill person, can I still participate in that effort? Do I put some kind of caveat on my prayer to that Blessed, such as "Blessed Teresa, if it pleases the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom I am totally consecrated, for you to intercede on the behalf of N. for a miracle of healing, please pray for N...." or something like that?

Thanks for your clarification & God bless you!

Amy Seymour

David said...

Dear father,

I am living in the Total Consecration - and my wife is preparing her first annual renewal of it right now for this coming Annunciation - and it is a great joy to read about it here on New Theological Movement, even though my life at the moment prevents me from reading everything you have written intensively.

One thing I thought about was when we are given a penance in Holy Confession. If the priest gives us the penance "Say such and such prayers in memory of the Passion and offer it for the poor souls," then I would suppose this would mean we are complying with Jesus' and Mary's wishes when offering it for those intentions and with such specific small "meditations". So, another reply to an objection would be if it would detract from our religious obligations: Of course not, Jesus and Mary want you to fulfill your obligations and we are obliged to say our penances dutifully, just as the priest is obliged to say Masses for intentions he has received a stipend for! In fact, they will make you perform your duties even better and in a manner more pleasing to God! In the case of penance after Confession I find it a good practice to also ask the Blessed Virgin to accompany me and purify my penance so that it will be more pleasing to God, which is at the heart of the True Devotion: through, with, in and for the Blessed Virgin.

In the Immaculate Heart,

Anonymous said...

But Father, if I have given over everything, e.g. our soul with its faculties of will and intellect as well as all our spiritual possessions how can I pray for specific intentions, i.e. a novena for the poor souls? Does not this voluntary impoverishment mean that my only prayer can be, "Thy will be done." in which case, how do I pray?

-Confused accomplice

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Amy S.,
Yes, I think you have a good understanding how to approach even the other saints within the context of our Blessed Mother.

Peace to you! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

We do indeed offer everything (even our novenas) to the Blessed Mother ... and then we request that she remember those special intentions we have.

It is total abandonment.
But it is certainly NOT abandoning particular prayers/novenas ... indeed, if I really am convinced of Mary's role and truly trust entirely in her, then I will pray even more novenas and such prayers; always offering all things to her, including my specific intentions.

I hope that this makes sense ... our Lady herself will speak to your mind and heart with greater clarity than I am able.

Peace! +

Richard said...

I made my consecration yesterday afternoon, and made a personal ceremony of it, even kneeling before Mary's altar and signing it there. I feel different, feel free now, because I was always all over the spiritual map with novenas and such. I have a wonderful relationship with certain Saints. So now I still venerate the Saints but tell them to ask my Mother if it's okay with her. Thank you Father Rayn

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