Holy Slavery

Pope St John Paul II is possibly one of the most influential figures of the last fifty years, not least for Catholics. It may be of some interest, therefore, to investigate the figures who were of particular importance to his own life and spirituality. One figure who had a particularly profound influence on Pope St John Paul II was a French saint by the name of St Louis-Marie de Montfort. It was with great interest, therefore, that I read St Louis-Marie de Montfort’s The Secret of Mary and Treatise on True Devotion, wherein he describes a form of devotion in which one consecrates oneself to Jesus through Mary. What intrigued me even further was that the Treatise on True Devotion was first translated into English by the celebrated Catholic priest and hymn-writer Fr. Faber. Inspired by all this I decided to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary following St Louis-Marie de Montfort’s formula, described by Pope St John Paul II as “an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments” (Redemptoris Mater, n. 48).

What is total consecration to Jesus through Mary? The Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001) describes it as a means by which we entrust ourselves completely “to the Father, through Christ in the Holy Spirit, imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom we entrust ourselves completely, so as to keep our baptismal commitments and live as her children.” Let it not be forgot, after all, that by virtue of our baptism we are not only children of God, but also children of Mary. For just as Christ into whom we are baptised is the Son of God, so is He also the son of Mary.

What the Directory does not explicitly mention, however, is that by the same act of total consecration we also volunteer ourselves as slaves of Jesus. This is in fact the cornerstone of de Montfort’s spirituality – a holy slavery which is inaugurated by our baptism and ratified through our making the act of total consecration. St Louis-Marie de Montfort explains that there “is nothing among Christians which makes us more absolutely belong to Jesus Christ and his holy Mother than the slavery of the will, according to the example of Jesus Christ himself, who took on the status of a servant for love of us and also according to the example of the holy Virgin who called herself the servant and handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1:38).” He goes on to point out that the Apostle Paul “refers to himself as ‘the slave of Christ’ (servus Christi) as though the title were an honour” and that “Christians are often so called in the Holy Scriptures” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 72). This language of slavery may seem unusual to some, but it is a natural and necessary corollary of speaking of Jesus as Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Making this act of total consecration is simply a way of formally expressing in words the acknowledgement of the Lordship of Christ and Queenship of Mary over our own lives.

I made my total consecration to Jesus through Mary on 16th August 2020, the (transferred) Feast of the Assumption, and intend to solemnly renew it on the Feast of the Annunciation this year and in the years to come. I encourage you to join me on this feast day in either making your act of total consecration for the first time or renewing it. It is an especially good feast day to do this, for in so doing we will be following St Louis-Marie de Montfort’s injunction that loving slaves of Jesus “should hold in high esteem devotion to Jesus, the Word of God, in the great mystery of the Incarnation, March 25th, which is the mystery proper to this devotion” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 243). Throughout the course of the year, however, you may find that there are other Marian feast days in which you might want to make or solemnly renew your consecration. Popular choices for consecration days include not only the Feast of the Annunciation, but also the Feasts of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. If there are others in your parish or university’s CathSoc who have done the consecration it might be worth gathering for Mass and a renewal of your consecration on prominent Marian feast days.

If you are making the total consecration for the first time, I would strongly urge you to properly prepare for it. Firstly, read either The Secret of Mary or Treatise on True Devotion so that you truly know what you are about to embark on. Secondly, take some time to carefully read and meditate on the words of the consecration prayer before reciting it – the wording is beautiful and profound, so it deserves careful study. Thirdly, make sure you make the consecration on a special feast day (a Marian feast day would be especially appropriate) on which you can go to Mass and receive Holy Communion after having made a good confession. When the day of consecration arrives make sure that you have a copy of the act of consecration to hand (whether it be a print-out or a handwritten version) so that you can recite it and then sign and date it. Once you have done this keep it in a safe place so that you can have it at hand when you wish to solemnly renew your consecration. You might also like to light a votive candle in your church or in your prayer corner at home as a sign of your submission to the “sovereignty of Jesus and Mary” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 232).

Whilst St Louis-Marie de Montfort encourages us to renew our consecration daily, he realises that the solemn act of consecration is somewhat lengthy to pray every day. It is for this reason that he provides us with a shorter consecration prayer for daily use: “I am all yours, and all that I have is yours, O dear Jesus, through Mary, your holy Mother” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 233). I pray this short prayer not only when getting out of bed in the morning, but also after receiving Holy Communion as I find it an especially appropriate way to respond to Christ’s total giving of himself to us in that Sacrament. If He gives Himself totally to us, should we not also give ourselves totally to Him?

If you would like to join me in making (or renewing) the act of total consecration to Jesus through Mary, then you can find the readings for the 33-day preparation here: https://www.catholiccompany.com/how-to-make-your-st-louis-de-montforts-total-consecration-to-jesus-through-mary/

The text of St Louis-Marie de Montfort’s prayer of consecration can be found here: https://www.catholiccompany.com/content/act-of-consecration-prayer-st-louis-de-montfort

~ Edward Kendall

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