To Jesus through Mary: St. Louis Marie de Montfort and Marian Consecration
Today is the feast of a great saint–St. Louis Marie de Montfort. St. Louis lived from 1673 to 1716 in modern day France. He is best known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his writings promoting the practice of Total Consecration to Mary. Let us dive deeper into this practice and see how we can understand it and practice it today.
Consecration means transferring some thing or some person into the “sacred realm.” We can think of consecration as setting something apart from the ordinary, making it holy and for holy things. For example, we speak of the consecration of bishops, the consecration of virgins, the consecration of altars, churches, patens and chalices. The moment at Holy Mass when the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord is called the consecration–and afterwards, those elements are called consecrated.
The practice of Marian Consecration is the practice of giving a person over to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The person to be consecrated does this himself or herself. It is an act of the will, a choice by which the Christian person, who is already a child of God through baptism, voluntarily hands himself over completely to the Mother of God.
St. Louis’ prayer of consecration is long, but the heart of it is what follows:
I [name], an unfaithful sinner, renew and ratify today through you my baptismal promises. I renounce forever Satan, his empty promises, and his evil designs, and I give myself completely to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him for the rest of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have been till now.
This day, with the whole court of heaven as witness, I choose you, Mary, as my Mother and Queen. I surrender and consecrate myself to you, body and soul, as your slave, with all that I possess, both spiritual and material, even including the value of all my good actions, past, present, and to come. I give you the full right to dispose of me and all that belongs to me, without any reservations, in whatever way you please, for the greater glory of God in time and throughout eternity.
Accept, gracious Virgin, this little offering of my slavery to honor and imitate the obedience which Eternal Wisdom willingly chose to have towards you, his Mother. I wish to acknowledge the authority which both of you have over this pitiful sinner. By it, I wish also to thank God for the privileges bestowed on you by the Blessed Trinity. I declare that for the future, I will try to honor and obey you in all things, as your true slave of love.
What does this mean? In Marian Consecration, we give ourselves as a gift to Mary, but this is not a one-time prayer. Instead, we choose to hand ourselves over to be used by Mary for her purposes, for the rest of our lives. And what are her purposes? God has given to Mary a very special role in the plan of redemption: she brought Christ into the world, and now brings the world to Christ. In this way she is a mediator of God’s grace, because it is fitting that the one who once bore Christ to the world should forever have a share in bringing Christ’s grace to the world even now.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is our mother, and she loves us. She wants each person to be united to God, just as she has been perfectly united to God. Mary was conceived without sin, and remained sinless her entire life. As the Immaculate Conception, she lived a perfect life, in perfect relationship with God. Mary was the perfect daughter of God the Father, the perfect mother of God the Son, and the perfect spouse of God the Holy Spirit. She wants each person to have a perfect relationship with God, too. Therefore, when we make a total self gift to Mary, we are offering ourselves to Mary so that she can use us to bring others to God.
Because Mary is such a good and loving Mother, those who are consecrated to her can be assured of many good things. One of these is her protection and assistance in difficulties. We know that because we have handed ourselves over to Mary’s service, she will take good care of us.
Another beautiful reality that has been very comforting in my own life is that, for those who are consecrated to Mary, we can know that all things come to us from her. When we have given our lives to Mary, we trust in her. We can trust that whatever happens to us, if it does not depend on our own will, must come to us from Mary’s hands. Therefore, even if it seems difficult or painful, the things we suffer are only because Mary has permitted them for our own sanctification, to form us into other Christs, and to make us more useful instruments in her hands for the conversion of sinners.
We can also look at Marian Consecration from the perspective of doing Mary’s will. We choose to unite our wills to her own, as best we can, in every moment. One might object here: Should we really do Mary’s will? Shouldn’t we wish to do God’s will instead? The answer to this is that Mary’s will is perfectly united to God’s will. Her will and God’s will are exactly the same! St. Maximilian Kolbe points out that we can seek to do God’s will, and accomplish God’s will, or we can seek to do Mary’s will, and still accomplish God’s will. But the benefit of choosing the latter path, of doing Mary’s will, is that we will additionally glorify God for having created so perfect a creature as the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort described Total Consecration as “the safest, easiest, shortest, and most perfect way of approaching Jesus” and it is easy to see why! Mary is totally conformed to God. We should make her our guide in conforming ourselves to God. And by giving ourselves to Mary, we imitate the first person who gave himself totally to Mary–Jesus Christ himself in the incarnation.
How does one go about making a Marian Consecration? We should take time to prepare ourselves. This is a serious act, after all, and cannot be made lightly. St. Louis de Montfort provided a method of preparation over 33 days. Other books are also available, which incorporate the spiritualties of various saints who wrote about this devotion.1
I encourage everyone to study this devotion, and to practice it. Find a copy of a preparation book, which usually will guide the reader over the course of a month through short reflections. Choose a date to start that will allow you to recite the prayer of consecration on one of Mary’s feast days (some are coming up on May 31, June 27, July 16, August 15, and August 22!). Then, once you have prepared, confidently and trustingly recite the act of consecration.
In my own life, the effects of this devotion have been numerous. Each day, when I wake up, I repeat a shorter form of the consecration prayer. I rededicate myself to the Mother of God, and ask her to use me to glorify God and to bring the world to him. The peace that has come to me knowing that all is in her hands is tremendous. I hope you will find the same to be true.
1 See especially Michael Gaitley, MIC, 33 Days to Morning Glory (Marian Press, 2011).