JESUS LIVING IN MARY:
HANDBOOK OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. LOUIS DE MONTFORT

CONSECRATION


Summary
    
I.	Introduction. 
II.	Consecration in Scripture: 
	1.	Consecration itself; 
	2.	Consecration of humanity through the covenant; 
	3.	Jesus, the Consecrated One; 
	4.	The Church a consecrated people through Baptism; 
	5.	Mary, the consecrated in Jesus: 
		a.	Mary, the model of Consecration, 
		b.	Mary, Mother of the consecrated. 
III.	Consecration in History: 
	1.	The beginnings; 
	2.	Immediate sources of the Montfort Consecration: 
		a.	Cardinal de Bérulle, 
		b.	Henri Boudon. 
IV.	The Nature of the Montfort Consecration: 
	1.	Trinitarian/Christocentric; 	
	2.	Total; 
	3.	Baptismal renewal; 
	4.	Marian; 
	5.	Apostolic; 
	6.	Conclusion. 
V.	Motives of the Montfort Consecration: 
	1.	Perseverance; 
	2.	Interior liberty; 
	3.	Totally devoted to the service of God; 
	4.	Living for God Alone; 
	5.	Imitation of the Trinity; 
	6.	Union with Our Lord: 
		a.	An easy way, 
		b.	A short way, 
		c.	A perfect way, 
		d.	A secure way; 
	7.	A sharing of life with Mary; 
	8.	Charity towards our neighbor; 
	9.	Summary. 
VI.	The Effects of the Montfort Consecration: 
	1.	The stripping of self; 
	2.	Participation in Mary’s faith; 
	3.	Deliverance from scruples, cares, and fears; 
	4.	Great confidence in God and in Mary; 
	5.	Communication of the spirit of Mary; 
	6.	Transformation by Mary into the likeness of Christ; 
		7.	The greater glory of God. 
VII.	Particular Practices of the Montfort Consecration: 
	1.	Exterior practices: 
		a.	Preparation for the Act of Consecration, 
		b.	Prayers of those who live the Consecration, 
		c.	The external sign of Consecration: little chains, 
		d.	A special devotion to the Incarnation; 
	2.	Interior practices: 
		a.	By Mary, 
		b.	With Mary, 
		c.	In Mary, 
		d.	For Mary. 
VIII.	Conclusions: 
	1.	The relevance of Montfort’s doctrine; 
	2.	The constant need of inculturation; 
	3.	The necessity of the perfect devotion;
	4.	The Marian emphasis; 
	5.	Entrustmentor/Consecration?
    

I. INTRODUCTION

Although "Consecration" in Montfort spirituality is used at times as an umbrella term denoting the totality of the saint’s doctrine, it is employed by Louis de Montfort himself in two different ways that reflect degrees of the explicit giving of oneself to God. First, as one of many exterior expressions of true devotions to Our Lady signifying both a resolve to live as her own and an act of petition for her maternal care (cf. TD 116; LEW 215) in order to live the Gospel more fully. Second, as a dynamic state of life resulting from the perfect "Consecration of oneself to Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, by the hands of Mary" (LEW 223). This latter "devotion"1 is also called "perfect renewal of baptism" (TD 120, 126), "Consecration to the Blessed Virgin" (SM 31), the "perfect Consecration to Jesus Christ" (TD 120), "Holy Slavery of Jesus and Mary" (SM 44), "giving of oneself entirely and as a slave to Mary and to Jesus through Mary and after that to do all that we do through Mary, with Mary, in Mary and for Mary" (SM 28; cf. LEW 219; TD 118), "Consecration to Jesus by the hands of Mary" (TD 35), "Covenant Renewal" (cf. CG), and the "Tree of Life" (SM 70-78).2 It is this "most perfect and most profitable of all devotions to the Blessed Virgin" (LEW 219) that is considered in this article. From the variety of names Father de Montfort gives to this one Act of Consecration, it is already evident that it is the hub where a number of elements converge.

The study of the perfect Consecration is found in the fourth means of arriving at union with the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom (LEW 203-222) and only after spending the greater part on devotion to Mary in general (LEW 203-218). Although SM touches on devotions to Mary, its clear aim from the very start is to give a concise teaching on St. Louis de Montfort’s version of Holy Slavery. The specific explanation of the total Consecration begins with TD 120 and continues to the end of that work. It is at the beginning of this chapter (TD ch. 3) that we have the manuscript’s first authentic title, which Montfort wrote in large letters: THE PERFECT CONSECRATION TO JESUS CHRIST. The entire first section of TD—dealing with devotion to Mary in general and its theological foundations—is an absolute prerequisite for an understanding of the perfect Consecration.3


II. CONSECRATION IN SCRIPTURE

Saint Louis de Montfort tells us that his teaching on perfect Consecration cannot be refuted without overturning the very foundations of Christianity (TD 163; cf. TD 180). To understand his claim, it is important to search its scriptural roots,4 for Scripture as proclaimed, taught, prayed by the Church (i.e., Scripture-Tradition) is the norma non normata, the norm that has no other norm.5

 

1. Consecration itself

The term "Consecration" comes from the root "holy" (Hebrew qds, Greek hag) and fundamentally means that a person, place, or thing is sanctified, made holy (Greek hagiazein) to the Lord. To be consecrated or to be made holy conveys the idea, then, of being separated from the profane through a sharing in some manner in the life of God. For God Alone is the "Holy One," the "Holy One of Israel" (Isa 40:25; 60:14).

Holiness expresses, in its highest meaning, divinity itself. It has of itself a double polarity: the holy both attracts and wards off. It withdraws itself inaccessibly from our grasp; before its awesomeness we can only be silent. Yet nothing but this "other" can fulfill us in the very depths of our being. It is only in contact with the holy that we are interiorly liberated from the ambiguity of the self. The duality of abyss and presence does not signify a disharmony in the holy but the oneness of its holiness where we are both strangers and at home, experiencing distance in proximity. Gen 28 and 32, Ex 3 and 19, and Isa 6 display the typical combination of remoteness and proximity, awe and joy inherent in the holy.

Consecration, therefore, is the entrance into the holy, sharing in the life of the All-Holy One, God Alone. The more intense the proximity through Consecration, the more the awesome otherness of God becomes a vivid reality. Both polarities—the tender closeness of God and His awesomeness—are found throughout Montfort’s writings, especially when describing Consecration to the Incarnate Wisdom.

 

2. Consecration of humanity through the covenant

Creation itself as the handiwork of the All-Holy One is "good" (cf. Gen 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31), holy, consecrated, although through original sin disfigured and deformed (cf. Gen 3; Rom 5:12-21). Holiness— Consecration—is especially attributed to the ground around the burning bush (Ex 3:5), the temple (Isa 64:11), special days (Neh 8:9), offerings (1 Sam 21:4), and priests (Ex 29), since these now pertain to the Holy. "Since holiness is a participation in the self-communication of God, in man it is a grace-given listening to God and a commitment to Him."6 Holiness is shared with His people through the covenant, whereby Israel becomes a nation whom God has made peculiarly His own. The covenant with Noah, with Abraham, the covenant with Moses as the culmination of the Exodus event—all express God’s desire to share His holiness, to consecrate His creatures. YHWH has consecrated them to Himself—made them holy—through His free, unmerited gift; they must accept this offer and thereby implement the Consecration freely initiated by their God. The chosen people do this by the acceptance of the ten words and the code of the covenant (Ex 24:3,7). Israel is now "the people of God," God’s "chosen people," God’s "holy people." "If only you will now listen to me and keep my covenant, then out of all peoples you shall become my special possession" (Ex 19:5). And the people accept and thereby implement the Consecration: "Whatever the Lord has said we will do" (Ex 19:8). According to Deuteronomy, intrinsic to God’s Consecration of His people—which implies an active and responsible acceptance of God’s offer, expressed in holiness of life—is the notion of mission. The consecrated nation Israel is not separated from others in the sense of isolation. Rather, it is to witness to the only God, deliverer and Lord of history (Isa 44:8).

Over and over again, Israel breaks its ratification of the covenant, in spite of numerous renewals at moments of national conversion.7 When Israel deserts its God and had to be driven out of its holy frontiers during the exile because it had desecrated them, God nonetheless promises a new offer of covenant love (Jer 31:31-34) so that the Israelites may truly become the sheep consecrated to the Lord (Ezek 36:37-38). "I will make a covenant with them to bring them prosperity; this covenant shall be theirs forever, I will greatly increase their numbers and I will put my sanctuary forever in their midst" (Ezek 37:26; cf. 36:22-36).

 

3. Jesus, the Consecrated One

The fulfillment of God’s promises of a new covenant is found in Jesus the Christ. He is in his Person "the Holy One of God" (Mk 1:24; Lk 4:34; Jn 6:69). The consecrated nation Israel becomes a Person, Jesus the Lord. In virtue of the Incarnation, he is the personal presence of the Holy in this creation. In him we see the two polarities of holiness: majestic awesomeness, remoteness ("Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord" [Lk 5:8]) and proximity to the awesome ("It is well that we are here, let us make three booths" [Mk 9:5]).

Jesus Himself personally and lovingly accepts and ratifies his being as the Holy One. "As thou didst send me into the world, . . . for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19). The incarnational Consecration of Jesus is not only ontological. It is also personal, subjective, willing, loving. He lovingly, willingly consecrates himself to the Father. And as the summit of all creation, he personalizes the ontological Consecration of this universe accomplished climactically through his redemptive Incarnation: "I consecrate them in truth." Heb 10:5-10 tells us that this personal Consecration of Jesus to the Father begins at the Incarnation itself. It reaches its intensity in his Consecration from the Cross: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46).8

 

4. The Church a consecrated people through Baptism

In Jesus, then, the entire universe and, especially, all peoples are made holy, sanctified, consecrated. But as with the ancient Israelites, there is to be a response, an acceptance, for a gift becomes truly gift only when it is accepted. Jesus is the Consecration of the cosmos to the Father; he is also the acceptance of the Father’s gracious love. The role of his "brothers and sisters" is to be one with him so that in the power of the Spirit all may be made holy, consecrated through Christ to God. The total, loving response of the intellectual creatures to Jesus’ call, "Come, follow me," implements the transformation of all creation into God’s holiness.

We enter into the victorious holiness of Christ through Baptism. The baptized person renounces everything that enslaves him to Satan in order to enjoy the freedom of belonging to Christ Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16-17; Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27). The Christian is God’s chosen, dedicated in a special way to be at His service: "the slave of Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1, etc.). The Christian accepts the Gospel as the rule of life and follows the Lord where-so-ever he leads: he will carry his Cross after him all the days of his life (Lk 9:23). Baptism is, therefore, the fundamental Consecration of whoever in Christ believes in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). The Consecration of the world in Christ is personalized through its baptismal acceptance.9 Anointed by the Holy Spirit (1 Jn 2:20-27), the Christian now is part of the New Covenant, a nation consecrated, a people whom God has chosen for His own to proclaim His marvels (1 Pet 2:9).

It is not surprising, therefore, that the baptized are called "the consecrated"; in Baptism they have put on Christ. They are part of the family of God, "consecrated in the Consecrated" (cf. Col 1:12-23). As in the OT, so in the NT the Consecration of the Church - the new people of God - is linked to God’s free offer of salvation, which empowers our loving acceptance (2 Thess 2:13;2 Tim 1:8, 9). The majestic beginning of Eph declares the Church to be consecrated - holy - to God (Eph 1:4- 2:22). Peter can therefore address his congregation: "To those of God’s scattered people . . . who have been chosen by the provident purpose of God the Father, to be made holy by the Spirit, obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood" (1 Pet 1:2); "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people claimed by God for his very own to proclaim the triumphs of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You are now the people of God who once were not his people" (1 Pet 2:9-10).

 

5. Mary, the consecrated in Jesus

Of all called by God to share in His holiness, to be consecrated to Him through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit, no one responds more fully than Mary, the Mother of the Consecrated One.

a. Mary, the model of Consecration.

Mary, a member of the chosen people of God, is, then, herself a consecrated woman. Her life is lived in fidelity to the covenant, for she "hears the word of God and keeps it" (Lk 11:28; cf. Lk 2:19). Moreover, she is, in Luke’s narrative, the kecharitomene: "the highly beloved one" (Lk 1:28), sharing in a unique way in the holiness of God. As a sign and model of this universe seeking a new Consecration to the All-Holy, she surrenders to the mysterious ways of the Holy One of Israel. The Infinite Word shares with her his total Consecration to the Father, so that she too may make—in him and through him—a total, loving Consecration of herself to the All-Holy: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word" (Lk 1:38). The Magnificat song portrays her being: "He who is mighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name" (Lk 1:49). She carries in her heart and womb the "Holy" (Lk 1:35) and becomes herself a uniquely "holy place," a new Ark of the Covenant bearing the Consecration of this universe, Jesus the Lord. She is the first of the consecrated in the Consecrated, sharing as none other in the redemptive Consecration wrought by her Son. Her courageous fidelity to her Son accompanies him even to the Cross, where she stands as the Church—the consecrated people of God—one with Jesus in his Consecration to the Father. Through the unmerited favor of God, she is the model of Consecration to the All- Holy, in and through the Incarnate Holy One who is Consecration itself.

Finally, in Montfort’s thought Mary is the model of consecration, for she shares eminently in the holiness of Eternal Wisdom in virtue of her immaculate conception. The saint’s strong belief in this prerogative of Mary—a century and a half before it was solemnly defined—is the context for his praise of Mary’s holiness at the beginning of her existence: "When the time appointed for the redemption of mankind had come, Eternal Wisdom built himself a house worthy to be his dwelling-place. He created the most holy Virgin, forming her in the womb of St. Anne with even greater delight than he had derived from creating the universe. . . the torrential outpouring of God’s infinite goodness which had been rudely stemmed by the sins of men since the beginning of the world was now released precipitately and in full flood into the heart of Mary. Eternal Wisdom gave to her all the graces which Adam and all his descendants would have received so liberally from him had they remained in their original state of justice. The fullness of God. . . was poured into Mary insofar as a creature is capable of receiving it." (LEW 105). Mary’s heart, as Montfort teaches, is immaculate, all-holy, from the first moment of her conception (cf. SM 17; TD 50, 64, 145, etc.; H 75, 19-20). In anticipation of the redemptive Incarnation, Our Lady is consecrated from the first instant of her conception. She is of her very being, immaculate, all-holy, consecrated.

b. Mary, Mother of the consecrated.

In Mary’s womb, the Consecration of this universe comes to be through God’s grace and her representative consent. Though no creature is necessary to the All-Holy, YHWH freely chooses her to be the representative of the people of God in accepting the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. In her the New Covenant takes place as Mary, summarizing Israel, speaks her fiat, echoing and voicing the assent of Israel to God’s offer of His holiness: "We will obey and do all that the Lord has said" (Ex 24:7). "Mary, in particular, is heiress and the completion of the faith of Abraham."10

In her and through her, the definitive Consecration of the world becomes a reality. She is the spokes-person for the universe in accepting Consecration in "the Holy One" to be born of her, as is evident from Luke’s Annunciation narrative (1:26-38). The pericope resembles more a covenant renewal (Mary, personification of the people of God, accepting God’s offer of a new alliance; cf. Ex 19:8) than an OT birth- annunciation narrative like that of Samson (Judg 13:2-22). John also teaches this truth in his own fashion. Through the literary device of inclusion,11 John depicts the faithful Mary as the antiphon of Jesus’ entire ministry. The first antiphon is at Cana (2:1-11) where she is the woman who in the name of all called to the banquet requests the wine of new life (cf. Jl 4:18). The responding antiphon is the woman at the foot of the Cross (19:25-27), where she stands as the representative acceptance of the overflowing new wine of the Enfleshed Holy One, the universe’s Consecration to the Father.

Moreover, at that culmination of the Consecration of the world to the Father, Mary is present not only as the Mother of the Lord but as the Mother of all who are contained in Him, of all the faithful. "Woman, behold your son . . . behold your mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own" (Jn 19:26-27). Her spiritual maternity is promulgated from the throne of the Cross, and John takes her "to his own" (eis ta idia), into his very life. As Mary is to Jesus and Jesus to Mary, so she is now to the beloved disciple - the faithful - and the disciple to her.


II. CONSECRATION IN HISTORY

Saint Louis de Montfort’s understanding of Consecration to Jesus through Mary must be placed in its proper historical context. He is the successor of centuries of development on this theme, which he then quite radically develops and molds into the core of a school of spirituality. Even in early Christian times, the followers of Jesus called themselves "slaves of Jesus Christ."12 It is with difficulty, however, that we can trace the early stages of what could be equivalently called Consecration to Jesus through the hands of Mary.

 

1. The beginnings

The history of "Consecration to Our Lady" has been well documented.13 What is of primary interest in this article are the immediate sources of Saint Louis de Montfort’s total Consecration. Although he may have been introduced to the form of Consecration called Holy Slavery while studying with the Jesuits at Rennes, it is certain that he immersed himself in literature on the subject while a student and librarian at St. Sulpice in Paris.

As Father de Montfort himself notes, "This devotion was practiced by several private individuals up to the seventeenth century when it became public" (TD 159). But as practiced by these "private individuals,"14 Holy Slavery appears to have lacked a strong Christocentric foundation and was highly involved in externals. Even when it became public, especially through the seventeenth-century school of spirituality, "it had not as yet reached the clarity and plenitude that it achieved under Saint Louis de Montfort. Moreover [the Consecration] is not addressed to Jesus, the Incarnate Wisdom, in dependence on Mary; it does not present to us the imitation of this filial dependence as its principal motive. Likewise, it leaves the spiritual maternity of Mary only in the shade."15

 

2. Immediate sources of the Montfort Consecration

Montfort’s primary sources for his doctrine on Consecration appear to be Cardinal de Bérulle,16 the founder of the French school of spirituality, and his disciples J.J. Olier17 and H. Boudon,18 although he finds the basic theological underpinnings especially in J.B. Crasset19 and F.Poiré20. It appears that Bérulle and Boudon play the more significant roles in the developing of Montfort’s own particular doctrine on Holy Slavery, or, as he more specifically terms it, the perfect Consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary.

a. Cardinal de Bérulle.

Thanks to Cardinal de Bérulle, the devotion of Holy Slavery was made part of the French school of spirituality. Having become acquainted with the confraternities in Spain, he became its propagator in France.21 This "great and holy man" (TD 162), however, did not merely import this devotion; he transformed it along the essential lines of his spirituality. Montfort speaks of the following developments introduced by the cardinal: "He showed them that the devotion was founded on the example of Jesus Christ, on the obligations which we have toward Him and on the vows which we have made in holy Baptism. . . making them see that this consecration to the holy Virgin and to Jesus Christ by her hands, is nothing else than a perfect renewal of the vows and promises of Baptism" (TD 162). The French school of spirituality "singled out as central and fundamental to all Christ’s states his state of servitude. In the complete possession of Christ’s humanity by the divinity, wherein the humanity of Christ lacks its own subsistence, its own personality, they saw the absolute condition of self-renouncement and clinging to God. From this state of ‘infinite servitude’ they drew the most fundamental characteristic of their spirituality - the deep, total renunciation of self that is at the same time total adherence to Christ and being possessed by Him. . . . Adoration, then, in the Bérullian sense, is a persisting state of renunciation, of self-surrender . . . grace in [the Christian] is a created copy of the state of servitude of Christ in the hypostatic union."22

Even as developed by this great spiritual author, the devotion of Holy Slavery, or total Consecration, differed from the spirituality that would be explained by Saint Louis de Montfort. "On the part of Jesus, Bérulle assigns, as foundation of his Donation, the state of servitude of the Holy Humanity of the Incarnate Word; Montfort, the state of dependence of the Incarnate Word himself in relation to Mary in the entire redemptive work. On the part of Our Lady, Bérulle bases his Donation on the Divine Maternity and the Universal Sovereignty that flows from it; Montfort, on the spiritual maternity and the special dominion of Mary over the members of the Mystical Body."23 More-over, Bérulle’s attitude towards Our Lady appears to be more reverential than loving.24

b. Henri Boudon.

Boudon’s work on Holy Slavery also had a profound effect on Montfort’s understanding of perfect Consecration (TD 163). Here again, however, Saint Louis is not a copyist; he creatively analyzes Boudon’s verbose explanations. This prolific writer does insist that any Consecration is ultimately to God Alone, for He alone merits the loving servitude of His creatures: this becomes an essential element of Montfort’s understanding of the perfect Consecration. He also lists precisely what is given to Our Lady, such as our merits and satisfactions; Montfort will follow him closely on this point. But Boudon’s Consecration is not made to Jesus- Wisdom, and its Marian dimension is founded on Our Lady’s Queenship, not, as with Montfort, on her spiritual maternity. Moreover, "it is regrettable that according to the Bérullian tradition, he presents this generous transaction (Consecration) as a solemn pledge in virtue of which one surrenders his right over a thing; the Marian transaction of Boudon brings to mind the vow of Bérulle, the sacred covenant of St. John Eudes; evidently what is lacking is the clarity of synthesis and adaptation."25 Strangely, Boudon’s book on holy slavery ignores Bérulle’s essential insight into the unity of Consecration and the renewal of the vows of Baptism.

Even as understood, therefore, by Montfort’s proximate sources, Bérulle and Boudon, Holy Slavery of Love cannot be equated with Saint Louis de Montfort’s perfect Consecration to Jesus the Incarnate Wisdom through the hands of Mary. The missionary’s creativity, his pastoral ministry, and his own personal mystical experiences enable him to further develop, clarify, and synthesize the teachings of his predecessors to a point where his doctrine on Consecration takes on a new depth. Care must be had, therefore, in the use of the term "Holy Slavery" as understood in the Bérullian School to designate the Montfort Consecration, since it substantially differs from the "Holy Slavery" generally attributed to the French school of spirituality.


IV. THE NATURE OF THE MONTFORT CONSECRATION

The theological foundations for true devotions to Mary (TD 14-89) and the characteristics of authentic devotions (TD 90-117) form the general introduction to Saint Louis de Montfort’s explanation of the "perfect consecration to Jesus Christ" (TD 120-273). There are no special theological roots for Montfort’s perfect Consecration; it is but the full flowering of the principles he has laid down in the first section of TD.

The above scriptural examination of Consecration—although nowhere so expressed in the writings of Father de Montfort—is the solid substratum of the saint’s total Consecration. Often in baroque language, this preacher to the "simple folk" does nothing more than proclaim the word of God and apply it in its fullest conclusions: the essence of his understanding of the perfect Consecration to Jesus Christ. The following appear to be the more important characteristics of Consecration as outlined by Saint Louis de Montfort in his writings and summarized in his Act of Consecration to the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom by the Hands of Mary (LEW 223-227).26 They remarkably mirror the scriptural understanding of Consecration.

Father de Montfort explains the nature of "perfect Consecration to Jesus Christ" in TD 120-134. In SM also, Montfort begins with an explanation of the nature of this way of life (28-34), and in a summary fashion he does the same in LEW 219. There are several essential elements intrinsic to the nature of Holy Slavery as fashioned by Saint Louis de Montfort.

 

1. Trinitarian/Christocentric

In LEW, SM, and TD—the three works dealing with perfect Consecration—the missionary makes it clear that Jesus is the goal of the covenant renewal. In fact, in his first fundamental truth of all devotions to Mary, he declares that if the final end is not Jesus Christ, it can only be called diabolical: "If then we establish solid devotion to Our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ. If devotion to Our Lady removed us from Jesus Christ, we should have to reject it as an illusion of the devil" (TD 62). And in the introduction to his explanation of the nature of perfect Consecration, he again is firm and explicit: "All our perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ" (TD 120). Montfort makes it clear from the outset that there is absolutely no such thing as Consecration—in the strict sense of the term—to Mary. In his eyes, that would be nothing short of blasphemous, for Mary is in herself a "nothing," a "pure (i.e. nothing more than) creature." Mary can only unite us with Christ: "The greatest means of all and the most wonderful of all secrets for obtaining and preserving divine Wisdom is a loving and genuine devotion to the Blessed Virgin" (LEW 203). The Christocentricity of the Montfort Consecration is clearly and emphatically stressed: "Jesus, our Savior, true God and true man must be the ultimate end of all our devotions; otherwise they would be false and misleading. ‘We labor,’ says St. Paul, ‘only to make all men perfect in Jesus Christ.’ For in him alone dwells the entire fullness of the divinity and the complete fullness of grace, virtue and perfection. In him alone we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing; he is the only teacher from whom we must learn; the only Lord on whom we should depend; the only Head to whom we should be united and the only model that we should imitate. He is the only Physician that can heal us; the only Shepherd that can feed us; the only Way that can lead us; the only Truth that we can believe; the only Life that can animate us. He alone is everything to us and he alone can satisfy all our desires" (TD 61).

The Trinitarian structure of the Consecration formula of LEW (23-227) is apparent. But in describing the perfect Consecration as Trinitarian/Christocentric, there are especially three qualifications to be underlined:

• The ultimate purpose of the Consecration is for the "greater glory of God" (LEW 227). As majestic as He is, it is the mighty God’s tenderness and closeness that is accentuated by Montfort. The source of all, the Father, is the fountainhead of love.

• It is essential to Saint Louis de Montfort’s understanding of the perfect Consecration that the goal be seen as Jesus, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom (cf. LEW). The attractive, tender, often feminine qualities of Wisdom as described especially in the sapiential books of the Bible are intrinsic to the goal that lures us to surrender all lovingly to Wisdom Incarnate. This is not a superficial element; rather, it profoundly affects his doctrine. The son of Mary, Jesus-Wisdom, caught up in the folly of the victorious Cross is the specific manner in which the saint wishes us to contemplate the Consecration of this world to God Alone; it is by becoming one with Jesus-Wisdom that we enter into this Consecration.

• Montfort lays particular stress on the truth that life in the Spirit is integral to the Consecration. The Consecration to Jesus-Wisdom necessarily entails a surrender to the overshadowing Spirit who both draws us into the Trinitarian life and sends us forth as "other Christs." "The Holy Spirit, finding his dear Spouse [Mary] present again in souls, will come down into them with great power. He will fill them with his gifts, especially wisdom, by which they will produce wonders of grace" (TD 217).

To be faithful to Montfort, any study of his Consecration should begin not with Mariology or Marian devotion but with the Trinity/Incarnation as outlined in LEW and TD.

 

2. Total

In the eyes of the modern reader, Saint Louis goes to extremes in demonstrating the totality of this Consecration to Jesus-Mary. Everything must be lovingly consecrated to the All-Holy. Following the authors of his time quite closely, he lists what we give to Our Lady and therefore more effectively to Christ: "We must give her (1) our body with all its senses and its members; (2) our soul, with all its powers; (3) our exterior good of fortune whether present or to come; (4) our interior and spiritual goods, which are our merits and our virtues and our good works, past, present and future. In a word, we must give her all we have in the order of nature and in the order of grace and all that may become ours in the future, in the order of nature, grace and glory; and this we must do without the reserve of so much as one farthing, one hair, or one least good action; and we must do it also for all eternity and we must do it, further, without pretending to, or hoping for any other recompense for our offering and service except the honor of belonging to Jesus Christ through Mary and in Mary" (TD 121).

This itemizing of what we freely consecrate is done by Montfort in order to try to get across the absolute totality of the Consecration. There is nothing whatsoever not included in this "perfect Consecration." We become "divested" of everything, for our career, plans, possessions, spiritual goods - even glory - is freely "made holy," i.e., subject to the overriding will of Jesus. There may be other ways of "itemizing" the totality of Consecration in contemporary circumstances, but the scope of the surrender envisioned by Montfort does not omit one iota (cf. LEW 225). What Montfort is speaking about is not ultimately the handing over of material things; rather, the Consecration entails a deeper personal relationship with Christ-Wisdom through Mary to a point that this relationship qualifies all others. Everything is seen, judged, planned, evaluated in the light of the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom, the son of Mary. Montfort insists that we pour out ourselves totally, completely.

Montfort stresses the Consecration of our interior goods: "Here everything is consecrated to Him, even the right of disposing of our interior goods and the satisfactions we gain by our good works day after day. This is more than we do even in a religious order . . . we strip ourselves as far as a Christian can, of that which is dearest and most precious, namely, our merits and our satisfactions" (TD 123). The saint makes it clear that it is, of course, impossible to transfer our grace, virtues, and merits, for they constitute who "I" am in the eyes of God. We entrust them, however, to the care of Our Lady, i.e., we beg for her maternal care to persevere in the grace of God. The "impetratory" value of our life, however - the fruit of our good actions and prayers - we hand over to Our Lady so that she may apply them to whomsoever she wills. Even when we explicitly pray for someone or something, it is always with the proviso that it be her will - always one with Jesus - so that she can apply them in any way she wants. "A person who is thus voluntarily consecrated and sacrificed to Jesus Christ through Mary can no longer dispose of the value of any of his good actions. All he suffers, all he thinks, all the good he says or does, belongs to Mary in order that she may dispose of it according to the will of her Son and His greatest glory without interfering in any way with the obligations of our state [of life]" (TD 124). Montfort writes that even after Baptism, "we remain entirely free either to apply them [the value of our good actions] to ourselves or to whom we please" (TD 126). One of the reasons that Saint Louis Marie calls this Consecration "perfect" is precisely because it includes this "impetratory" value of all our good works.

The missionary calls for the most radical poverty possible, stripping ourselves of everything, of this "make-believe" ownership, for everything belongs to Jesus and Mary; all is for the glory of God Alone. Montfort’s love for practical poverty is but an outgrowth of the loving acceptance of the reality of his existential poverty. All flows from our loving Father, Who redeems us - consecrates us - in Christ through the divinely willed consent of Mary. For Montfort, this is a clear, objective reality. To declare that we are anything of ourselves, that we of ourselves "own" anything is absurd. There is absolutely no self- redemption, no Pelagianism in Montfort’s thought. All belongs to Jesus and Mary. Montfort is a realist: the truth that we are from every point of view ab alio (from the Other) must be sincerely acknowledged. The self-emptying, the kenosis, must be complete.

Two principles must be kept in mind in trying to interpret Saint Louis Marie on this subject of total Consecration. First, we are all intertwined, interrelated, interdependent. Everything we do or say affects everyone else in the Body of Christ. As process thought reminds us, every actual entity affects every other in the cosmos, even if it be at times in an infinitesimal way. This is especially true in the realm of our loving harmony - or disharmony - with God. Consecration or not, our good and evil actions affect all others. But more to the point, is it not the essence of all prayer, of all our good actions that "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? Is that not the understood condition of everything we are and do? If it is not, then we can hardly say that we are Christian, that we are in harmony with God. In the perfect Consecration, however, we are explicitly and willingly making "Thy Will be done" the overriding rule of all that we are, of all that we do. In this sense, we "give the value of all our good actions." As Montfort points out, this is the foundation for a more profound life in the Spirit.

Second, in the language of popular piety, Montfort speaks of "giving," "surrendering," yet he recognizes that we as redeemed creatures already do belong totally to Jesus the son of Mary. But offering all lovingly and freely through the power of the overshadowing Spirit results in a new depth of "belonging to" the Lord. The power of the Redemption, the intensity of our oneness in Christ through Mary is more firmly implemented in our lives by the perfect Consecration. The "I" freely empties itself into the "thou" so that it may be its true self. The Act of Consecration is not so much the pronouncement of a formula as the pronouncement of the self: a total and definitive loving "pouring out" into the All Holy. In the Act of Consecration, man finds his identity not in the pride of posing as being-in-itself but in the realistic humility of a loving, lived out relationship with the awesome yet so close "Other," Love itself.

 

3. Baptismal renewal

For Montfort, the two concepts, perfect renewal of the promises of Baptism and perfect Consecration, are synonymous (LEW 223, 225; TD 120, 126-130). Any authentic Consecration must be linked to Baptism; more so the perfect Consecration. Since Baptism is our immersion, our fundamental Consecration into Christ Jesus, then it is evident that a willing, loving Act of perfect Consecration to Christ Jesus can be nothing but a renewal of the vows of our Baptism. Montfort has left no special treatise on Baptism, but his TD, especially, implies a deep knowledge of its importance and its consequences.27

The Second Vatican Council recalls that "already by baptism, [the Christian] was dead to sin and is consecrated to God" (LG 44). It is through Baptism that man enters into the sphere of the Holy, for he is baptized into the death and Resurrection of the Consecrated One, Jesus the Christ. By Baptism, the Christian is consecrated, anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit: he participates in the essential Consecration of Christ. With Christ and by Christ, he is ordained to the glory of God and the salvation of the world. He no longer belongs to himself. He belongs to the Lord, Who shares with him His own life.

Montfort, following his sources, uses the term "slave" to illustrate the meaning of this fundamental and radical act of Baptism (TD 68-73, 126). "Slave," stripped of all connotations of oppression and servility and expressing solely the totality of "belonging to" another: it is apparent that in some contemporary cultures, the word is so inextricably bound with horrendous injustice that other expressions should be found as substitutes or as clarifications of what Montfort means by "slavery." Faith is a "belonging to" God Alone through Christ Jesus in the power of the Spirit. We enter into that special state of "belonging to God" through the Sacrament of Baptism: in this sense, through it we are the "slaves of Jesus Christ." As the missionary preaches to the people of his time, however, even before Baptism we belong to God through a "slavery of nature." We are His creation, we do not have existence of ourselves. Every breath we take, every heartbeat is the free gift of God; for creation is not something in the past, it is a present happening. Montfort describes our radical status as creatures as "slaves of nature." Now, according to the missionary, we have a choice: we can lovingly ratify this total dependence on God and become "slaves of love" or we can deny the truth of our belonging to God our Savior and become a "slave of constraint," or "slave of the devil" (TD 126). Through Baptism, we become slaves of love, accepting that we are loved by God in Christ Jesus to such a point that we are being transformed into the holiness of God.

The perfect Consecration is precisely the renewal of this baptismal covenant: "In baptism . . . he [the Christian] has taken Jesus Christ for his Master and Sovereign Lord, to depend on Him in the quality of a slave of love. That is what we do by this present devotion" (TD 126).

The saint insists that there are three reasons the Consecration should be called "perfect" renewal of the vows of Baptism. First, "in baptism we ordinarily speak by the mouth of another, our godfather or godmother, and so we give ourselves to Jesus Christ not by ourselves but through another. But in this devotion we do it by ourselves, voluntarily, knowing what we are doing" (TD 126). It can be said that, whether Baptism took place when one was an infant or an adult, the perfect Consecration is the occasion for an ever deepening personal commitment to Jesus Christ, a renewal of the very foundation of our faith. Second, in Baptism we do not "give Him [the Lord] the value of all our good actions," as was noted above. Third, in Baptism "we do not give ourselves to Jesus by the hands of Mary, at least not in an explicit manner" (TD 126), as we do in the perfect Consecration.

 

4. Marian

Montfort stresses that this perfect baptismal Consecration is necessarily Marian. The covenant renewal does not artificially unite Baptism and Mary; this is, as seen above, a reality of salvation history that the Consecration willingly and lovingly recognizes not only in theory but in a lived-out spirituality. The reason the saint can make what first appears such a strong statement is that his arch of Consecration is firmly embedded in the reality of the Incarnation.

In the present order of salvation - and there is in reality no other - the Consecration of this world takes place in Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ because a woman says "yes." God will become man "provided that" Mary gives her consent (LEW 107). This is for Montfort the eternal pattern God follows in all the mysteries of salvation history, because they are "contained" in this headstream, this source, this beginning of the climactic Consecration, the divinization of the cosmos (cf. TD 248).

Saint Louis teaches, of course, that Jesus alone is the Consecration to the Father. But he must also insist, with the word of God as preached, taught, and prayed by the Church, that this incarnational Consecration takes place in Mary through God’s grace and her divinely willed consent. It is, then, utterly impossible to separate the Consecration of this universe - the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom - from the woman whose faith-consent is intrinsic to the Incarnation of Eternal Wisdom. Her salvific fiat brings about the Consecration of this world, inasmuch as her faith gives entry to the enfleshment of the Eternal Wisdom who is in his Person the Consecration of this universe to God.

Consecration to Jesus Christ must, therefore, be Marian. There are not, in Montfort’s thinking, two consecrations. There is but one: we freely enter into the Holy One of God, the Incarnate Wisdom, in his full reality—the fruit of the faith-filled womb of Mary. "We consecrate ourselves at one and the same time to the most holy Virgin and to Jesus Christ . . . to Our Lord as to our last End, to whom as our Redeemer and our God, we owe all we are" (TD 125). To consecrate ourselves to Christ and exclude Mary is to consecrate ourselves to a chimera, a figment of the imagination, for there is no such person. In her, through her representative consent, our Consecration in Christ comes to be. We are called to freely and lovingly enter into that mystery: such is the Consecration proposed by Saint Louis Marie.28 It is through Mary’s salvific consent at the Incarnation that she becomes Mother of the Consecration of this universe—Jesus—and, therefore, Mother of us all, for we are spiritually embraced in this Consecration (cf. TD 32; SM 12; LEW 213; H 104:21). It is through Mary’s representative consent that Grace itself becomes enfleshed—Jesus—and she is rightfully, then, the spiritual Mother of all who share in that new life of grace which makes us holy to the Lord. The immediate foundation of the Marian dimension of the montfort Consecration is, then, her spiritual maternity.29 And the spiritual maternity calls forth the Queenship, which is for Montfort primarily the effective maternal influence Mary exercises over the Body of Christ (TD 37, 38).

It follows that the perfect renewal of our Baptism is necessarily Marian. Baptism is our entrance into the Church, the consecrated people of the New Covenant: it is our entry into the Consecration, the Divinization of the world, who is Jesus.30 Our baptismal covenant includes, therefore, this Marian Consecration. It is evident that when we speak of Consecration to Mary in montfort terms, we are using a short formula for Consecration to God Alone through the Incarnate Wisdom in the power of the Spirit, through Mary, our Mother. "She is so completely transformed into you by grace that she no longer lives, she no longer exists, because you alone, dear Jesus, live and reign in her more perfectly than all the angels and saints" (TD 63).

 

5. Apostolic

The ultimate purpose of the Montfort Consecration is to bring about "the reign of Jesus Christ" (TD 227). He therefore preaches and writes in order "to form a disciple of Jesus Christ" (TD 111). In fact, Montfort firmly believes that he is called by God to raise up not only "a great squadron of valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, a squadron of men and women to combat the world" (TD 114) but also "true apostles of the latter times" (TD 58; cf. 23-27). Although this urgent call is directed primarily to priests, it must not be overlooked that his plea is universal: men and women of all ages, of all places are to become dynamic apostles of Jesus Christ. In the power of the Spirit, they will reform the Church and renew the face of the earth (TD 43; PM 17). The perfect Consecration, the lived-out baptismal covenant renewal, is the principal means he proposes for the formation of these apostles of Jesus Christ, and it is also the means they will use to bring about a renewal within the Church. His goal in promoting the perfect Consecration is to transform the members of the Body of Christ into an army of apostolic men and women who truly live the utter existential poverty of total Consecration and therefore, rich with the Spirit, "perform great wonders in the world in order to destroy sin and establish the reign of Jesus Christ" (SM 59).

The saint’s theological foundation for this facet of the perfect Consecration is, again, the Incarnation. The sending of the Wisdom of the Father into the folly of this world is apostolic. As the God-man, he is both God’s offer of the New Covenant carved in the hearts of men and its acceptance. The full flowering of his redemptive Incarnation, the Consecration from the victorious Cross, is already "contained" in the Incarnation itself (cf. TD 248). The redemption of the world is accomplished through and in Mary, the first beneficiary of the New Covenant and also its first missionary, bringing the Good News of the Incarnate Holiness to her relative Elizabeth and the yet unborn John the Baptist (Lk 1:39-45).

Montfort’s more than 200 missions and retreats bear the imprint of this firm conviction. His early biographer, Grandet, tells us that the purpose of his parish missions was "to renew the spirit of Christianity by the renewal of the baptismal promises"31 and adds, "In order that his people would better remember this truth, he had printed a formula of the renewal of the vows of Baptism and had the people sign them."32 His mission processions were grandiose events solemnly dramatizing the perfect renewal of Baptism. The elaborate processions signified that we are a people on journey with Mary, choosing to follow the victorious crucified Jesus all the days of our life. Father de Montfort was convinced of the value of symbols, of dramatizing the truths of the faith. The processions, therefore, included lighted candles, symbol of Jesus the Light of the World, the renewal of the baptismal vows at the baptismal font, the entrusting of this new life to the Mother of God, the solemn pledge to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.33 The end of the mission was a NT re-enactment of the "holy day" when Ezra and Nehemiah called upon all of Israel to accept the words of the Law that God had given them (cf. Neh 8).

The Consecration does not, then, close us up into ourselves. Rather, through a personal renewal of the faith, it is a renewed sharing in the life of the Missionary, Jesus. All who live the Consecration are to be living proclaimers of the New Covenant.34

 

6. Conclusion

Saint Louis de Montfort’s creative weaving of these essential characteristics of Consecration cannot be found as such in his sources. His evangelical insight is a unique gift of the Spirit to the Church, as valid for its renewal today as it was in his time, even though his terminology and baroque expressions must be modified from culture to culture. Moreover, the saint does not give us an "Act of Consecration." Rather, since Mary is the person in whom and through whom Consecration - Jesus-Wisdom - comes to be, he calls for a way of life in Mary so that we may be more intensely consecrated in the Consecrated. It is especially this Marian spirituality - essential to a Montfort consecrated life - which is considered in the following sections, keeping close to his explanations in TD and SM.


. MOTIVES OF THE MONTFORT CONSECRATION

The longest section in TD on perfect Consecration is dedicated to the motives that recommend this devotion (135-212). About one third of this chapter is given to an allegorical explanation of the biblical narrative of Jacob (183-212), which serves as a summary of the entire section, whose evident emphasis is on the necessary Marian dimension of the Consecration to Christ. Already in TD 91 the saint has told us that the total Consecration to Jesus through Mary is "the most perfect, the most agreeable to her, the most glorious to God, and the most sanctifying for ourselves." And again, in TD 118, Montfort cannot resist anticipating his specific section on the motives of perfect Consecration, "demanding from the soul, as it does, more sacrifices for God, ridding the soul more of itself and of its self-love, keeping it more faithfully in grace and grace more faithfully in it, uniting it more perfectly and more easily to Jesus Christ and finally being more glorious to God, more sanctifying to the soul and more useful to our neighbor than any other of the devotions to her." In LEW 219, several motives are given: "I have never found a practice of devotion to our Lady more solid than this one since it takes its inspiration from the example of Jesus Christ . . . [and none] more feared by the enemies of our salvation." In SM 34 the missionary speaks of the "excellence of this practice" and then devotes several paragraphs (35-42) explaining reasons for this excellence, all of which are found under the title "Motives" in TD.

The primary reason for this lengthy treatment of the motives of perfect Consecration is that Montfort employs the term in a broad sense, encompassing not only foundational, universally accepted principles (e.g., Christian perfection consists in union with Jesus Christ) that motivate the will to embrace this devotion but also—and primarily—an explanation of the amazing fruits and results of this Consecration spirituality, which as goal move the will to the living of this perfect renewal of the vows of our Baptism. There is, then, an evident overlapping with the following sections on the effects of the perfect Consecration (TD 213-225) and its interior practices (TD 257-265).

 

1. Perseverance

There is no clear order in the arrangement of the motives of the perfect Consecration, as there is for the section on its effects. Yet the saint, both in SM and in TD, states, "Were there but this one motive to incite in me a desire for this devotion, namely, that it is a sure means of keeping me in the grace of God and even of increasing that grace in me, my heart ought to burn with longing for it" (SM 40; TD 173). The practical missionary realizes that the gift of perseverance, especially final perseverance, is a strong incentive to live the perfect Consecration (TD 87-89).

It is not that perseverance, which demands a special help of God,35 can be strictly merited (cf. LEW 188). The difficulty is not that God does not will our perseverance, for such would go against the universal salvific will of God (1 Tim 2:4). Rather, in the unfathomable mystery of man’s freedom and God’s absolute primacy, the gift is not necessarily actualized. Without claiming that a person living the perfect Consecration is certain of final perseverance,36 Montfort stresses that "she [Mary] does obtain for those who attach themselves to her the graces of fidelity to God and perseverance . . . with an effectual and efficacious love [she] hinders them, through a great abundance of graces, from drawing back in the pursuit of virtue, from falling in the road and from losing the grace of her Son" (TD 175).37

The key to Montfort’s thought on how the Consecration brings about perseverance in grace is his expression "losing oneself in Mary" (TD 179), the "faithful Virgin who by her fidelity to God repairs the losses which the faithless Eve has caused by her infidelity" (TD 175). Montfort speaks of Consecration to Our Lady as "entrusting all that we possess to the Blessed Virgin . . . taking her as the universal depository of all our goods of nature and of grace" (TD 173). In this mystical union with Mary, the saint himself has experienced Mary’s maternal influence, an influence which is in keeping with her personality: the faithful Virgin who hears the word of God and lives it. It is this effective influence of the faithful Mary - which affects us so deeply because of our Consecration - that Montfort describes as "entrusting our graces and virtues" to her and thereby persevering in grace. Here again, Montfort emphasizes his firm belief in the Communion of Saints, in the interrelatedness and interdependence of all. By our lovingly accepting, through the Consecration, this powerful maternal relationship of Mary, thereby "losing ourselves in Mary," her influence is intensified. We become more and more like her, the first Christian, the model disciple, the faithful Virgin, the Church consecrated to its Savior. In the language of the preacher-mystic, Montfort can, therefore, speak of those consecrated to her as receiving "an augmentation of purity and consequently of merit and of satisfactory and impetratory value" (TD 172), since we become one moral person with the Mother of Grace, Mary.

 

2. Interior liberty

"Losing ourselves in Mary" through this perfect renewal of Baptism not only is a means of perseverance but gives us a joyful interior liberty, the freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:21). Having so willingly and lovingly accepted to be embraced by the tenderness of God - in imitation and under the influence of Mary - the consecrated person is freed from all servile fear, from crippling scrupulosity, and trusts joyfully in the love of God (TD 215; cf. H 45:31; 104:9; TD 107, 170, 215, 264; SM 41).

 

3. Totally devoted to the service of God

Montfort can, therefore, declare that those "consecrated to Jesus Christ by the hands of Mary," having explicitly and lovingly given all "to Jesus and Mary without reserve," are "devoted to his service entirely and without reserve, to the utmost extent possible" (TD 135). Like Mary, those consecrated to the Lord through this perfect renewal of Baptism are free, loving "slaves of love" of Jesus Christ. It is the Spirit, the Spouse of Mary, Who therefore works through them in every facet of life for the good of the Body of Christ, especially of the poor.

 

4. Living for God Alone

While perseverance may be the motive that most moves Montfort’s hearers to embrace the total Consecration, there is little doubt that ontologically the most important motive - and effect - of the total Consecration is that it is an excellent means of procuring the greater glory of God Alone (TD 151, 222-225). This overarching principle of Montfort’s spirituality is the keystone of his teaching on total Consecration, the ultimate goal of all he preaches and writes. Everything is done for the glory of the good God Who so loves us. "Is it not a simple matter of justice and of gratitude that we should give Him all that we can give Him? He has been the first to be liberal towards us; let us at least be the second" (TD 138).

The greater glory of God is assured, because the Consecration is done through Mary, by "entrusting ourselves to her" (TD 179). For "Mary is altogether relative to God; and indeed, I might well call her the relation to God. She only exists with reference to God. She is the echo of God that says nothing, repeats nothing but God. If you say ‘Mary,’ she says ‘God.’. . . When we praise her, love her, honor her or give anything to her, it is God who is praised, God who is loved, God who is glorified and it is to God that we give, through Mary and in Mary" (TD 255).

 

5. Imitation of the Trinity

In explaining the theology undergirding all true devotions to Mary, Montfort outlines the relationship of each of the Divine Persons to Mary (TD 14-39). He now draws the logical conclusion: if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit give us the example of freely willed dependence on Mary, "can we without extreme blindness dispense with Mary, can we fail to consecrate ourselves to her and depend on her for the purpose of going to God and sacrificing ourselves to God?" (TD 140; SM 35). The Consecration Montfort advocates is in perfect conformity to the plan of salvation history as God has freely willed it. He has not come to us "at the age of a perfect man, independent of others, but like a poor little child, dependent on the care and support of his Holy Mother" (TD 139). "Is it not most just, then, that we imitate this conduct of God?" (TD 140). To do otherwise is to set up our own order of salvation, to lack humility. It is for Montfort incomprehensible to approach Eternal Wisdom in any other way than in the manner Wisdom comes to us: through Mary (SM 36). Severely wounded as we are through the sin of Adam, it is only fitting that we go to Jesus our God, our Friend and Brother (SM 36; TD 138) with and through this "little girl" (TD 18), who represents the human family in perfect conformity to Jesus.

 

6. Union with Our Lord

When discussing motives which should lead us to live the Consecration, Montfort accentuates the Christocentricity of his teaching by explaining that Mary is an "easy, short, perfect and secure way of attaining union with our Lord" (TD 152; LEW 212).

a. An easy way.

This spirituality of the perfect renewal of our baptismal promises is first of all easy, for it is the way which Jesus Christ trod in coming to us - through Mary. Although it conforms to salvation history so beautifully, Montfort insists that it is not the only spirituality: "It is true that we can attain divine union by other roads" (TD 152). In fact, only a few saints have actually "walked this sweet path to go to Jesus" through a singular grace of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, even of those granted the grace of embracing this way, few live it fully and thereby experience the swiftness and facility with which it brings us to our goal, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom (TD 152). The Consecration is a "secret," a "singular grace" of the Most High, a "mystery." It leads us—without any obstacle—to Jesus. Montfort’s "to Jesus through Mary" does not mean that Our Lady is a hurdle that must be overcome in order to arrive at Jesus. Rather, she only enhances this direct union with Christ Jesus, she only intensifies our union with Christ in his Consecration of the universe to the Father. For how can she who is totally relative to God, so transformed by grace into the likeness of her Son, be anything but a positive catalyst in achieving the purpose for which we have been created, union with Christ Jesus?

Mindful of his insistence upon the Cross as an intrinsic element of his spirituality (LEW 167-180; FC), Montfort tells us that "easy" actually means being gifted with crosses, for those who are consecrated "receive from her the greatest graces and favors of heaven, which are crosses" (TD 154). Yet the missionary, speaking undoubtedly from his own experience, tells us that devotion to Mary, " is the very sweetness of crosses" (TD 154). We must not be confused by the baroque language of this saint of the early eighteenth century; the spirituality he advocates, the Consecration to Mary he recommends is not sentimental, spineless, weak. Rather, it is founded on the strength of "obedience unto death, even death upon a cross" (cf. Phil 2:8). Montfort’s "easy" way is the courageous living out of the radical demands of the Gospel. He cannot tolerate halfway measures. He is a man of the absolute.

b. A short way.

The perfect Consecration is also a short way to Jesus Christ. Again, the fundamental reason for this statement is the example of the Savior. Since he consecrates himself to the Father at the Incarnation in and through Mary, the shortest way for us to enter the Lord’s Consecration is also in and through Mary.

c. A perfect way.

Total Consecration is a perfect path uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ. Perfect for two reasons. Again, it is the path that Jesus took: through Mary; we can do no better. Second, Mary is the most perfect of pure creatures, a "way without stain or spot, without original or actual sin, without shadow or darkness" (TD 158), leading directly to Jesus Christ. In majestic terms, reminiscent of Pope Leo’s famous Christmas sermon,38 Montfort eloquently writes, "The Incomprehensible has allowed Himself to be comprehended and perfectly contained by the little Mary without losing anything of His immensity. . . . The Inaccessible has drawn near to us and has united Himself closely, perfectly and even personally to our humanity by Mary without losing anything of His majesty. . . . He Who is has willed to come to that which is not and to make that which is not become He who is and He has done this perfectly in giving Himself and subjecting Himself entirely to the young Virgin Mary without ceasing to be in time He Who is from all eternity" (TD 157). After each of these statements, Montfort draws the evident conclusion: it is by Mary that we too must draw near to God, that we "who are nothing can become like unto God by grace and glory by giving ourselves to her so perfectly and entirely as to be nothing in ourselves but everything in her, without fear of delusion" (TD 157). The example of the Eternal Wisdom Who emptied Himself and is thereby exalted (Ph 2:6-11) teaches us that our divinization (theosis) can only take place through a total stripping of self (kenosis), which is realized in the living of the perfect Consecration. Montfort insists upon the nothingness of man in and of himself, of his corruption through original sin; far more does the saint stress the glory and exaltation of man divinized by grace, which is forever the fruit of Mary’s womb.

d. A secure way.

In. explaining that the Consecration is a secure way, Saint Louis de Montfort first underlines its conformity with the teachings of the Church, basing himself primarily on the findings of Henri Boudon. Montfort’s conclusion is emphatic: "Indeed, we cannot see how this devotion could be condemned without overturning the foundations of Christianity. It is clear then that this devotion is not new and that if it is not common, that is because it is too precious to be relished and practiced by everyone" (TD 163; cf. SM 42; LEW 219; TD 118).

He appears to contradict himself, however, when he states that the perfect Consecration is a "secret which the Most High has taught me, which I have not been able to find in any book old or new" (SM 1). Montfort is speaking autobiographically here. Although he has read almost all the books that treat of devotion to Mary (TD 118; LEW 219), although he declares that Holy Slavery of Love is so ancient that we cannot even discern its beginnings (TD 159; SM 42), nonetheless his personal mystical experience of living the Consecration has disclosed a depth and clarity that he has not found in his studies.39 From the Scriptures as explained, lived, prayed by the Church down through the ages, Montfort has formed a new school of spirituality based on living the perfect renewal of the baptismal vows. It is not a fad, it is not a dainty devotionette; it is a challenging way of life, demanding the practical acceptance of the very root of salvation history: the Incarnation, with all its integral components and consequences.

The second reason why the perfect Consecration is secure is that it is the very characteristic - the very personality of Mary - to lead us directly, quickly, intensely to union with Christ Jesus, in whom and through whom we are consecrated to the Father. To insinuate that she could lead us astray, that she would not enhance a direct union with the Lord, is to fashion a mockery, a caricature of Our Lady that has no resemblance whatsoever to the authentic Mary of the Scriptures as prayed by the Body of Christ, the Church.

 

7. A sharing of life with Mary

"Mary gives her whole self, and gives it in a wondrous manner, to him who gives all to her" (TD 144; cf. SM 55). The Consecration effects an intense mutual sharing of life with Our Lady. As we entrust to her maternal care our baptismal life in Christ, so she shares with us her incomprehensible union with Jesus. This truth - which is, again, an example of Montfort’s mystical union with Christ in Mary - is founded on the incontrovertible principle that everything and everyone in the cosmos is interrelated, interdependent. Mary, the person most intensely one with the climactic point of the universe, Christ Jesus, influences this world in an immeasurable degree.

Through the Consecration, we lovingly and formally accept this great gift, thereby making Mary’s influence ever more effective: "She causes him to be engulfed in the abyss of her graces, she adorns him with her merits, she supports him with her power, she illuminates him with her light, she inflames him with her love, she communicates to him her virtues" (TD 144). The missionary again expresses this truth of Mary’s maternal influence, so accentuated by living the Consecration, through analogies easily understood by his audience. "That good mother purifies all our good works, embellishes them and makes them acceptable to her Son" (TD 146). Her effective influence strengthens us to do everything for God Alone, thereby enabling us to surrender to the purifying Spirit who overturns the many idols of over-concern, over-anxiety, attachments which hinder our union with Christ. She embellishes our good works: a graphic description of the truth that through the Consecration we form one moral person with Mary, model and representative of the human race in its total surrender to the Redeemer Jesus.

 

8. Charity towards our neighbor

Through the Consecration we formally and lovingly acknowledge that God may do with us and with our actions whatsoever he wants for His glory, for the advancement of the kingdom (SM 39; H 40:32; TD 171-172). The covenant renewal ratifies that in Christ Jesus, the Heart of the universe, we are linked to all creation, especially to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The Consecration is, then, an expression of love for God and neighbor, the fulfillment of the Law. As Montfort explains in TD 214, this love for God and neighbor will express itself in action, enabling us to "carry out great things for God and for the salvation of souls."

 

9. Summary

The lengthy allegorization of the Genesis story of Rebecca who secures Isaac’s blessing for Jacob instead of Esau (TD 183-212; cf. Gen 27) recapitulates all the motives drawing us to live the perfect Consecration. "Of all the truths which I have been explaining with regard to our Blessed Lady and her children and servants, the Holy Spirit gives us an admirable figure in the Scriptures . . . the story of Jacob who received the blessing of his father Isaac through the skill and pains of his mother Rebecca" (TD 183; SM 38). Here again, Montfort describes the effect of living the Consecration - from the point of view of its Marian dimension - as a convincing reason to embrace his teaching.

Montfort probably recounted this story many times in order to explain the meaning - and therefore the motives - of total Consecration. The narrative is clearly divided into two main sections: the summary of the biblical account (TD 184) and Montfort’s allegorical interpretation, which comprises almost the entire section (TD 185-212), with the greatest emphasis on the role of Mary to those consecrated to her (201- 212).

As a summary statement, the allegory reveals characteristics of total Consecration that the saint believes central. In his comparison between Esau and Jacob, the source of the differences is that Esau—figure of the reprobate (those who freely refuse to accept God’s empowering call)—is little prone to an interior life. Jacob on the other hand,—figure of the elect (those who lovingly accept God’s invitation to share in divine life)— knows that "while sometimes his brothers and sisters are working outwardly with much energy, success and skill, in the praise and with the approbation of the world, they on the contrary know by the light of the Holy Spirit that there is far more glory, more good and more joy in remaining hidden in retreat with Jesus Christ, their model, in an entire and perfect subjection to their Mother" (TD 196). The missionary is not denying the importance of the active apostolate; his own life would belie such an opinion. But he firmly believes that the perfect Consecration involves primarily who we are, not what we do. The Montfort version of the Holy Slavery of Love is essentially interior, a new way of life in Jesus, Wisdom, son of Mary, not primarily a new way of doing things. Montfort’s intense missionary activity flows from his sincere, interior mystical union with Jesus in Mary. "What is essential in this devotion consists in the interior" (TD 226, 119).

Those who live the Consecration to Jesus in Mary live in that mystical "interior." There they will in a unique manner experience the maternal care of the new Rebecca, Mary (TD 201-212). They will taste her tender love, thus inspiring them to strip themselves of everything not the Lord’s and to be clothed with the double garments of the life of Jesus and Mary. This empowers them to work great things for the glory of God and the salvation of their brothers and sisters. All is for God’s greater glory, making us worthy to appear before our heavenly Father to receive His blessing even though we have no natural right to have it (TD 201-207). Moreover, as new Jacobs, those living the Consecration will know her overflowing bounty, for she will nourish them with Jesus, the fruit of life, whom she brings into the world (TD 208). She becomes in a special way their guardian and protector, directing them infallibly according to the will of her Divine Son (TD 209). She so protects them that they having nothing to fear (TD 210). Finally, she intercedes for them so that they may be united to Jesus in a most intimate union and so that she may keep them unshaken in that unity, preserving them in Jesus and Jesus in them (TD 211-212).

This allegorization of the biblical story of Jacob is for Montfort a summary motive for entering into the life of total Consecration. It not only powerfully expresses many effects of Consecration spirituality but also stresses the Trinitarian/Christocentric nature of Saint Louis’ doctrine. Those who lose themselves in her will be formed in a short period of time into living copies of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God Alone.


VI. THE EFFECTS OF THE MONTFORT CONSECRATION

In the original manuscript of TD, one of the few titles Saint Louis de Montfort himself wrote is the marvelous effects which this devotion produces in a soul faithful to it (TD 213). Unlike his study of the motives to live the Consecration, the section on the effects (TD 213- 225; SM 53-57) follows a progressive line of thought. It is, in a sense, a bare-bones outline of the spiritual life, a sketch of the Montfort "path" of total Consecration. The seven steps the saint describes are— like the Teresian castles—not independent but dynamically interrelated and interlinked. Moreover, they cannot be isolated from the motives of perfect Consecration and its practices. They are also highly autobiographical. They describe what Montfort himself experienced as he deepened his living of the perfect Consecration to Jesus through the hands of Mary. The saint stresses that these effects only follow upon the faithful living of the Consecration, which he will summarily describe in the next section.

 

1. The stripping of self

As the self-emptying of the Eternal Wisdom in the Incarnation is the first step to his exaltation (Phil 2:6-11), so too the first effect of the perfect Consecration is the total stripping of the self of all that is not the Lord’s in order to participate in divine life (2 Pet 1:4). It is only in emptiness that we are filled. This terminus a quo of the journey into Infinite Light is stressed in vivid terms by the parish missionary: "By the light of the Holy Spirit . . . you will understand your own evil, corruption and incapacity for anything good." And again, Montfort makes use of expressions describing man of himself in terms quite repulsive to modern ears: "You will think of yourself as a snail that spoils everything with its slime, or as a toad that poisons everything with its venom or as a spiteful serpent seeking only to deceive" (cf. TD 79, 83, 173, 177, 178; FC 47; LEW 51). This knowledge (demanding a spirit of true humility, says Montfort) is not just for the sake of understanding our nothingness. The living of the Consecration "demands from the soul more sacrifices for God, rids the soul more of itself and of its self-love" (TD 118). The desire for Eternal Wisdom is the willingness to take all the means necessary to divest ourselves of everything not in conformity with our Baptism, even dying to ourselves. It is not just a velleity (LEW 181-183; FC 15, 61).

 

2. Participation in Mary’s faith

The supernatural gift of faith gives us insight into the true meaning of life - Jesus - and, informed by love, strengthens us to follow the Light of Life wheresoever he may lead (H 6; FC 50, 53). Through this faculty, the person living the Consecration is enabled to belong to the Lord on every level of personality. On this easy path to Jesus, Mary’s effective maternal intercession wins for us that gift of faith which she possessed to such an incredible degree (FC 57; TD 214). Montfort terms this a participation in Mary’s active and courageous faith, which, with the permission of the Most High, she has retained even in the light of glory as gift for her servants.

It is this talent which impels us to leave the terminus a quo and "gives us entrance into the mysteries of Jesus . . . into the Heart of God." Saint Louis underlines not only the courage of this Marian faith but also its apostolic dimension: "You will use [this faith] to enlighten those who are in darkness of the shadow of death, to inflame those who are lukewarm and who have need of the heated gold of charity, to give life to those who are dead in sin, to touch and overthrow . . . the hearts of marble and the cedars of Lebanon."

 

3. Deliverance from scruples, cares, and fears

Nothing so freezes a soul in its journey to the inner castle, so Montfort constantly affirms, as servile fear of God, which manifests itself in the disorder of scrupulosity. There are times when, on this pilgrimage to contemplative union, the majesty and awesomeness of God become staggering, so overwhelming, in fact, that a person may fear to continue and may even turn back. The Divine becomes more "awe-ful" as we approach Him through faith. Reverence for God is definitely needed (Sir 1:14); rejected, however, must be all servile fear and scrupulosity. For God is not only majestic; God is also our "tenderness" (H 52,11: "God Alone is my tenderness").

True freedom is, then, an effect of living Montfort Holy Slavery of Jesus in Mary: the freedom to run into the arms of Infinite Love, to let ourselves be embraced, to accept forgiveness, to accept acceptance. The effect of total Consecration is not hesitation, scrupulosity, timidity, or quietism but, rather, an active and responsible pure love that casts out fear so that our faith may be lived to the hilt. The barricades of fear, of an exaggerated sense of unworthiness, of refusing to accept that God yearns for us more than we can ever yearn for Him—all are destroyed through the living of the Consecration.

 

4. Great confidence in God and in Mary

Not only does living the Consecration remove the roadblocks; it also gives us the confidence to move on, to walk ever more deeply into the whiteness of Eternal light. Stifling fear is transformed into courageous assurance. We say to Our Lady, "Totus Tuus,"40 so that we may confidently proclaim with her to the Lord, "I am your servant." This confidence is not a "self-affirmation." Rather, it is the affirmation of our nothingness become our strength, for we are so identified with Mary, the Mother of Grace Itself, that we are filled with the Spirit. This joyful confidence becomes a hallmark of those who live the Consecration. An insurmountable conviction of God’s infinite love for us becomes a dynamo of strength propelling us on our journey to the Lord. Trust in Providence becomes characteristic of those who live the Consecration.

 

5. Communication of the spirit of Mary

SM 55 declares that this effect is "the most important of them all," for it means that "it is no longer the soul that lives but Mary living in it, since Mary’s life becomes its life." For the missionary, this effect is the most important, because it is the turning point in our journey to Eternal Wisdom. To establish "Mary’s life in the soul" is an absolutely essential element in his spirituality of total Consecration.

His reason for such a bold statement finds its source in his Marian theology. Introducing his explanation of total Consecration, St. Louis de Montfort writes, "Of all God’s creatures, Mary is the most conformed to Jesus . . . the more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus. That is why the perfect consecration to Jesus is but a perfect and complete consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin" (TD 120).

We must, then, "breathe Mary as the body breathes air."41 Every breath is one with her spirit: a total "yes" of radical discipleship to the Lord. As Eternal Wisdom in and through Mary consecrates Himself to the Father, so it is by becoming living copies of Mary that we become one with Christ’s complete surrender to God. In his hymn "The Devout Slave of Jesus in Mary," Montfort puts into verse this effect of living the Consecration: "Here is what one cannot believe: / I bear her in my very heart / . . . Although in faith’s obscurity" (H 77:15). Montfort is certain that if this effect is achieved, the following two effects—the final goal of "perfect consecration to Jesus Christ"—will definitely be experienced.

 

6. Transformation by Mary into the likeness of Christ

The sixth (TD 218-221; SM 56) and seventh (TD 222-225) effects describe the term of our journey into the life of God. We are in the Montfort inner castles. Father de Montfort has told us that the more we breathe Mary, the more we become one with the image of the Father, Christ Jesus. Grace is a sharing in the divine life in and through Jesus. The goal of Consecration’s journey is to be one with Christ Jesus, a mystical and true union with Incarnate Love. This goal is realized "without much toil," for we have lost ourselves into the "Holy of Holies," Mary, where we find the Incarnate Presence (shekinah), Jesus. But we more than find, more than gaze upon; we actually experience, taste, participate in the Consecrated One, Incarnate Infinite Love, Jesus (H 54, 55, 56).

Mary is the mold of God (SM 16; TD 219-221). Through this comparison, attributed to St. Augustine,42 Montfort tries to summarize all the effects he has thus far described. To be poured into Mary we must be melted, i.e., we must surrender all. "Losing ourselves in the fair interior of Mary," we take on her active, responsible and courageous discipleship and thereby become "faithful portraits of Jesus Christ." Montfort’s analogy of Mary as the mold of God underlines one of his basic theological principles, which must constantly be kept in mind: the beginning is the never-to-be-repealed law governing all that flows from it. The Incarnation, the beginning and compendium of all mysteries, is the divinely willed pattern of all sanctification. God comes to us in the Infinite Beloved through and in the faith-filled womb of Mary. Therefore it is in and through this sacred mold of God that we become one with Jesus, or, as Montfort forcefully expresses our divinization by grace, "at a light expense and in a short time he [the consecrated person] will become god because he has been cast into the same mold which has formed a God" (TD 219).

 

7. The greater glory of God

The innermost castle of the Montfort Consecration is entitled: all for the glory of God Alone. To lose ourselves in Mary, i.e., to be completely and lovingly open to her effective maternal influence, to become living copies of this woman who is " relative only to God because she exists uniquely in reference to him . . . an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God." (TD 225) is, then, to be one with the personal glory of God, Jesus, and through him, in the power of the Spirit, to become one with the Father, God Alone.

Through the living of the perfect Consecration, we are being dynamically drawn into the inaccessible Light of the Trinity Itself. Here we have for Montfort the ultimate goal, the greatest motive, the supreme effect of Consecration: a true mystical union with God Alone, Who is the keystone of the entire Montfort structure.


VII. PARTICULAR PRACTICES OF THE MONTFORT CONSECRATION

Not only is this title from Saint Louis’ own hand, so too are its divisions into "exterior practices" and "special interior practices for those who wish to become perfect." He has already spoken of practices of true devotions to Mary (TD 115-117). Here, however, he is describing the specific practices of the perfect Consecration itself. The practices presuppose a knowledge of the nature of the perfect renewal of the baptismal promises. These practices, specifically the interior ones, are the pulsing heart of total Consecration. Without them, it is nothing more than a cadaver.

 

1. Exterior practices

After a brief introduction (TD 226) explaining the necessity of "certain external observances," Saint Louis Marie summarizes his thought: "I will allude only briefly to some exterior practices which I call exterior not because we do not perform them interiorly but because they have something outward about them to distinguish them from those that are purely inward." The TD manuscript itself (TD 226-256) numbers each of the seven external practices; SM 60-64 abbreviates them into four. Montfort stresses their importance: "We must not omit [them] through negligence or contempt" (TD 257); "We must neither omit nor neglect [them]" (SM 60).

a. Preparation for the Act of Consecration.

The Montfort Spiritual Exercises consist of three weeks, preceded, when the Consecration is first made, by twelve days of "ridding themselves of the spirit of the world." The missionary considers the topic of these twelve days to be of importance, for his seventh external practice is but a repetition of the identical subject (TD 256). The theme of each of the weeks dovetails with Montfort’s consistent doctrine that in order to be united to Jesus Christ the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom, we must first know ourselves,43 our own failings, weaknesses, and need for God [first week] (TD 228). Then, having immersed ourselves in Mary, the mold of God [second week], we must pray for a deeper knowledge - a true experience - of Jesus, in whom and through whom in the power of the Spirit we are one with God Alone [third week] (TD 227-223). The Exercises echo the motives (TD 135-212) and effects (TD 213-225) of total Consecration.

It is evident that the life of total Consecration is not to be undertaken lightly. The Exercises are to be repeated yearly, the Consecration to be renewed if possible every day.

b. Prayers of those who live the Consecration.

Of all the prayers listed among the exterior practices of true devotions to Our Lady in general (TD 116), Saint Louis Marie chooses three as of special importance for those who live the life of perfect Consecration. He numbers them the second, fifth, and sixth external practices: the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, the Hail Mary and the Rosary, and, finally, the Magnificat.44 The fact that these three are singled out so emphatically - especially the Rosary - indicates the special role they must play in Montfort spirituality.45

If the prayers Saint Louis Marie advises are Marian, it is because - as he consistently declares - the turning point of our journey into Christ God is our immersion into the spirit of Mary, which is the spirit of Jesus. In fact, it could be said that for Montfort, there is no such thing as a purely Marian prayer. Jesus and Mary are inseparable, she is the indissoluble spouse of the Holy Spirit, forever the daughter of the Father. Authentic Marian prayers are for this preacher Christocentric/Trinitarian.

c. The external sign of Consecration: little chains.

While insisting that the wearing of little chains is not essential for those who have willingly recognized their loving slavery to Jesus in Mary, nonetheless the missionary strongly encourages that this practice not be omitted. Since Montfort is basically recommending some clear external symbol of our baptismal Consecration through Mary, the substitutes mentioned when describing external practices of devotion to Mary in general would also apply here: "5. Carrying such signs of devotion to her as the rosary, the scapular, or a little chain" (TD 116). The ordinary chain that many wear with a cross or religious medal, a ring clearly symbolizing discipleship, the religious habit, all are legitimate substitutes for the little chain. Each culture will have its own manner of externally manifesting one’s Consecration, whether it be through a chain of some sort or through some other sign. Whatever it may be, the purpose of this recommendation should be fulfilled: "First, to remind the Christian of the vows and promises of his baptism, of the perfect renewal he has made of them by this devotion and of the strict obligation under which he is to be faithful to them . . . second, to show that we are not ashamed of the slavery and servitude of Jesus Christ and that we renounce the slavery of the world, of sin and of the devil . . . third, to protect ourselves against the chains of sin and of the devil for we must of necessity choose to wear either the chains of sin and damnation or the chains of love and salvation" (TD 238, 239). The chain or its substitute is, then, in Montfort’s eyes a constant effective sign both to us and to others, and also to the devil, of our Consecration to Jesus in Mary.

d. A special devotion to the Incarnation.

Since the theological foundation of Montfort’s spirituality of total Consecration is built upon the mystery of the Incarnation, he recommends as an external practice a "singular devotion to the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Word" (TD 243). The fundamental reason for the veneration of this mystery is that it fulfills "the two principal goals of slavery of Jesus Christ in Mary. . . first, to honor and imitate the ineffable dependence which God the Son was pleased to have on Mary for His Father’s glory and our salvation . . . second, to thank God for the incomparable graces He has given Mary and particularly for having chosen her to be His most holy Mother" (TD 243).

 

2. Interior practices

Again we have one of the relatively rare authentic titles in the TD manuscript: "Special interior practices for those who wish to become perfect." It is not that this interior life is to be considered optional for those who have made the Act of Consecration. As the formula itself demonstrates, anyone entering the life of total Consecration firmly desires "to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. . . . [Immaculate Mary] grant the desire which I have to obtain Divine Wisdom. . . . O faithful Virgin, make me in all things so perfect a disciple, imitator and slave of the Incarnate Wisdom Jesus Christ, thy Son." (LEW 224, 225, 226). Montfort himself is straightforward on this point: "This devotion consists in surrendering oneself in the manner of a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through her and then performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary and for Mary" (SM 28). And again: "I have already said that this devotion consists in performing all our actions with Mary, through Mary and for Mary" (SM 43). Still more explicitly in TD 119: "This devotion consists essentially in a state of soul." The interior practices are, therefore, the very heart of the Consecration life flowing from the Act of Consecration.

These interior practices "may be expressed in four words: to do all our actions by Mary, with Mary, in Mary and for Mary so that we may do them all the more perfectly by Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus and for Jesus" (TD 257). They are explicitly treated in both TD (257-265) and SM (43-52), although the order of the formulas and also their content are not precisely the same in SM and TD; it is the spirit of the Consecration life that Montfort is attempting to formulate.

a. By Mary.

"We must obey her in all things and in all things conduct ourselves by her spirit which is the Holy Spirit of God" (TD 258). The missionary has already explained that to "lose oneself in Mary" is to become one with the spirit of Jesus and through Jesus to be one with the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father (TD 179). And that spirit of Mary which must overrule our rebellious spirit is described by Montfort in emphatic terms: "a spirit meek and strong, zealous and prudent, humble and courageous, pure and fruitful" in the living of the Gospel (TD 258).

By Mary therefore demands that we first of all empty ourselves of our own spirit before doing anything - celebrating the Liturgy, teaching or attending a class, beginning household work or the daily chores - and then "deliver ourselves to the spirit of Mary to be moved and influenced by it in the manner she chooses" (TD 259). Although this is included in the daily renewal of the Consecration, the saint recommends that we formally "renounce" our spirit and release ourselves into the spirit of Mary often during the day (TD 165, 259) "in an instant, by one glance of the mind, by one little movement of the will, or even verbally" (TD 259).46 Montfort aims at creating a life of intense, peaceful union with Mary, through whom Divine Wisdom comes to us and through whom we enter into Divine Wisdom. "We place ourselves as instruments in the hands of Mary that she may act in us and do with us and for us whatever she pleases for the greater glory of her Son and through her Son for the glory of the Father" (SM 46).47

b. With Mary.

This interior practice especially demands an authentic knowledge of the true Mary as depicted in the Scriptures in the light of their clarification by the Body of Christ. "We must take our Lady as the perfect model of all that we do" (SM 45). The practical missionary therefore calls upon us to "examine and meditate on the great virtues which she practiced during her life: her lively faith . . . her profound humility . . . her divine purity . . . and so on with all her other virtues" (TD 260). We copy Mary, for she is "an accomplished model of every virtue and perfection which the Holy Spirit has formed in a pure creature for us to imitate according to our little measure" (TD 260).

Stressing the contemporary ascending Christology, some declare that Jesus, and not Mary, is the human who is the paradigm of every virtue. Such an opinion, however, may easily bracket the truth that Jesus is our God in a fully human way. He is the Eternal Wisdom Incarnate. As Christ God, he is not - to use the scholastic term that Montfort often repeats - a "pure creature." All our perfection consists in being conformed to the Holy One of Israel, the Consecrated One, Jesus the Lord. No one is such an "accomplished model" of conformity to Jesus as Mary.

c. In Mary.

This aspect of consecrated life is the culmination of the interior practices, the fruit of fidelity to living by and with Mary. It is life in the innermost montfort castle. It is in Mary that Incarnate Grace came to be through the gift of the Trinity and Mary’s faith-filled consent. It is in Mary that we are intensely united with Wisdom and, through Wisdom, in the power of the Spirit, made one with God Alone. Although the theology undergirding this practice can scarcely be disputed, the precise meaning of in Mary is difficult to comprehend. And understandably so. It is the highest expression of the Consecration life. Its description by Montfort is in unfathomable, contemplative terms, vainly attempting to clarify in human language what he himself knows through experience. TD 261-263 are TD’s most mystical sections. He himself writes that "it is only the Holy Spirit who can make us know the hidden truth" of the meaning "in Mary."

After describing Our Lady through the primary image of "the Paradise of God" where, therefore, the Trinity reposes, the contemplative missionary concludes, "How difficult it is for sinners like ourselves to have the permission . . . to enter into a place so holy which is guarded by the Holy Spirit" (TD 263). "To enter into," "to lose ourselves in" speak of an intense union of love between the soul and Mary, between her personality of total fiat to God and our weak surrender to Infinite Love, between the woman fully consecrated in the Consecrated One, Jesus, and our fearful living of our baptismal Consecration. Montfort is attempting to describe a habitual state so penetrated with the spirit of Mary that we become one moral person with her. In her, at last, we have become one in the Consecration of this universe, the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom. In this holy place, we will have nothing to fear and "shall fall into no considerable fault" (TD 264). It is in this mold, this womb - all images of the effective influence of Mary - that "the soul shall be formed in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in it" for the glory of God Alone.

Few there are, says the missionary, who will understand the depths of this mystery. Fewer still those who will enter upon this way. And rare, he says, are the souls who will persevere in the life of Holy Slavery and experience this mysterious but real oneness with Mary and thereby live to the full their baptismal Consecration in Christ Jesus (TD 119, 152; SM 70).48

d. For Mary.

Living in Mary, it is understandable that we do everything for Mary so that our life can be lived more intensely for Jesus and, through him in the power of the Spirit, for God Alone. Mary is the "proximate end, the mysterious milieu" (TD 265) in whom everything we do is more perfectly turned only to the Lord. Montfort envisages this practice for Mary as including a truly apostolic life: "We must undertake great things for this august Queen, we must stand up for her glory when it is attacked . . . we must speak and cry out against those who abuse her devotion to outrage her Son" (TD 265).


VIII. CONCLUSIONS

 

1. The relevance of Montfort’s doctrine

Montfort’s teaching on the covenant renewal is of greater relevance today than it was in his time. He lived and preached in an age that, in spite of its excesses under the reign of Louis XIV, was still clearly Christian. Today the secularized West is in a post-Christian era. It is not only the lack of authentic church affiliation that characterizes our times but the demise of the significance of Gospel values in solving the personal and social problems of the day. Today man is Pelagian simply because the contemporary citizen of the Western world does not feel bound by the radical demands of the Gospel. No one denies the need of a renewal of the Church. And that is the ultimate purpose of Saint Louis de Montfort’s perfect Consecration: "to renew the face of the earth and reform the Church" (PM 17; TD 56-59). He draws a blueprint for the formation of "a great squadron of brave and val- iant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, men and women, to combat the world, the devil and corrupted nature in those more than ever perilous times which are about to come" (TD 114). The saint’s teaching calls for and implements a solid renewal of our baptismal Consecration with all its practical consequences in order to bring about the needed reform and renewal. Small wonder that it has been so constantly extolled by the magisterium of the Church, especially in recent times.

 

2. The constant need of inculturation

Saint Louis de Montfort is, of course, a man of his times. His expressions, his stresses are all geared to the circumstances in which he lived and proclaimed the Word of God. In many contemporary cultures, verbal fidelity to the missionary’s explanation of Holy Slavery could lead to a betrayal of his authentic thought. There is a constant need of "translating" the solid truth he teaches into the language and thought patterns of diverse cultures and, at the same time, of always being in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Montfort’s writings on perfect Consecration are not only a gift to the Church but also a challenge: to adapt them faithfully to the mindset and the needs of constantly changing times.

There is also a need to explain the Montfort covenant renewal within the context of the full teaching of Saint Louis de Montfort. At times, this demands a fleshing out of the core truth found in the saint’s writings. For example, the interior practices of perfect Consecration should be brought to their completion by a more detailed explanation of "by, with, in, for" Jesus, which the saint declares to be - but never fully explicates - the fruit of "by, with, in, for" Mary. The same has to be done with Montfort’s Spiritual Exercises, and with his description of our journey into the Heart of God, etc.

 

3. The necessity of the perfect devotion

Saint Louis Marie insisted upon the necessity of devotion to Mary in general (TD 39-42), especially for "those called to any special perfection" (TD 43-46) and, in a uniquely special way, for those "apostles of the latter times" (TD 47-59). In no way, however, does he speak about the necessity of adopting his spirituality of perfect Consecration. There are other ways of attaining a mystical union with Christ besides that outlined by Saint Louis de Montfort. In fact, he explicitly states that although it is an "easy way," few saints have "entered upon this way" (TD 152). Nonetheless, "we must draw all the world, if we can, to her service and to this true and solid devotion" (TD 265). We should understand this to mean that people are to be attracted to it by its intrinsic appeal and never by any triumphalistic pressure. The fundamental simplicity of Montfort’s teaching on perfect Consecration, its evangelical underpinnings, enable it to be adapted to, if not enhance, other schools of spirituality.

 

4. The Marian emphasis

The perfect Consecration Montfort proposes is one. It has, however, a variety of dimensions: Christocentric, baptismal, Marian, etc. Especially in TD and SM, Saint Louis Marie stresses and develops extensively the Marian aspect of the baptismal renewal, and this for especially three reasons. First, Our Lady’s role is clearly an essential element in the present order of Redemption, Consecration. It is intrinsic to the very foundation of salvation history, the Incarnation. Mary must, therefore, play a predominant role in authentic Consecration theology and spirituality. Montfort has also personally experienced the efficacy of contemplative Marian spirituality in bringing about a new depth of union with the Lord. Second, the authentic Marian dimension is also, Montfort believes, the most unknown, the most misunderstood, and therefore the most neglected dimension of our life in Christ Jesus. It is a "secret of the Most High" (SM 1) that he is inspired to explain. Finally, as seen above, the Montfort Consecration spirituality reaches its turning point in "losing oneself in Mary," for it is in her and through her that our Consecration came to be. Mary is, then, the privileged entry into a constantly deeper baptismal life in Christ Jesus.

 

5. Entrustment or Consecration?

Pope John Paul II often uses the term "entrustment to Our Lady" rather than "Consecration to Our Lady," although he at times intermingles both expressions. Some prefer the term "entrustment" to Mary, "entrustment" to Jesus, because of its more mystical connotations of total trust and loving surrender.49

There is, however, another angle to consider concerning the use of one or both terms. Consecration taken in its strict sense is an act of adoration (latria), as its scriptural roots demonstrate; in this sense, it cannot be used with Mary as its object. In the broad sense, it is an act of veneration (dulia), denoting a petition for protection and intercession on our way to the All-Holy and can be used, e.g., in relation to any of the saints and most especially to the Queen of All Saints, Mary, where Consecration becomes an act of hyperdulia. It is in this sense that Montfort speaks of "consecration to Mary" among the practices of devotion to Mary in general (TD 116). The magisterium’s more than occasional usage of "entrustment" over "Consecration" to Mary reminds the Church that Consecration strictly so called is nothing less than an act of worship of God. In other words, its "strict" meaning is coming to the fore.

P. Gaffney


Notes: (1) When speaking of the perfect Consecration as a "devotion," Saint Louis intends to convey the concept of an act of the will giving oneself completely to God; this interior spirit is made manifest in service to God and neighbor; cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 82, aa. 1-2. (2) Montfort uses the analogy of "the tree of life" not only for the perfect Consecration but also for Mary (LEW 204; SM 67, 78; TD 44, 164, 218), the Cross (SM 22). (3) In introducing someone to the Montfort Consecration, it may be better pastorally to begin with a study of LEW, which gives an overview of Montfort’s spirituality. Emphasis must be given to the saint’s understanding of the Incarnation and his strong Trinitarian/Christocentric stance. Only then should TD be studied, for it is a clarification of the fourth means of sanctity outlined in LEW. Finally, the summary of perfect Consecration in SM should be examined. And all, of course, must be read within the entire literary and historical context of the saint and within the present teachings of the Church, especially in Christology and Mariology. (4) Cf. P. Suarez, La consécration totale à Jesus par Marie (The total consecration to Jesus through Mary) in DMar (part 2, May 1986), 1-47; O. Procksch, hagios, in TDNT 1:88-112. (5) Cf. DV 7-10. (6) K. V. Truhlar, Holiness, in SMun, 637. (7) The Deuteronomic editing of the books of the OT interprets all the setbacks and evils inflicted on Israel as the result of unfaithfulness to its Consecration (cf. Judg 2; 2 Kings 17). (8) Jesus, the personal externalization within the human family of the All Holy God, is the summit of creation. In him creation is released from bondage (Rom 8:19-22) and is God’s holy place. Yet there is a certain "becoming" in Incarnate Wisdom; cf. P. Gaffney, Inexhaustible Presence: The Mystery of Jesus, Dimension, Denville, N.J. 1986, 150-151. Jesus becomes "fully" the Holy One when he conquers sin and death in his death and resurrection. Jesus can therefore say, "Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made" (Jn 17:5); and even more to the point: "The Holy Spirit had not as yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified" (Jn 7:39). Here "glory" can be considered the equivalent of "sanctified," "made holy," "consecrated." It is in his death/resurrection that Jesus, even in his transformed humanity, is transferred into the realm of YHWH. It is in the paschal mystery that he is fully the "Holy One of Israel." And from our point of view, this fullness (pleroma, cf. Eph 1:10) will only be accomplished when Christ is "all in all" (Eph 1:23) at the parousia, when all creation will, each in its own way, reach its destiny and be in the Holy Spirit one with the Holy One, Jesus, to the glory of God Alone. (9) The necessity of Baptism is to be understood according to the teachings of the Church. When baptism of water is impossible, baptism of desire suffices, even implicit desire. The Letter of the Holy Office to Archbishop Cushing of Boston (1952) is the clearest statement of the nature of the necessity of the Church and Baptism for salvation, stressing that belonging to the Church must be actual (in re) or, if that be not possible, through desire (in voto), even implicit desire (etiam implicito). The full text and commentary can be found in American Ecclesiastical Review 127 (1952), 307-311, 450-561; cf. Sal Terrae 41 (1953), 22-26; DS 3869-3472; LG 16; CCC 1260 clarifies: "Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (10) Pope John Paul II, Angelus Message, December 4, 1983, in L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition (12 December 1983), 2. (11) Inclusion: "At the end of a passage the Gospel will often mention a detail or make an allusion that recalls something recorded in the opening of the passage. This feature, well attested in other biblical books, for example, the Wisdom of Solomon, can serve as a means of packaging a unit or a subunit by tying together the beginning and the end." R.E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, i-ixx, Doubleday, Garden City 1966, cxxxv. (12) Besides the scriptural references, cf. article "Slavery." (13) Cf. J. Dayet, Notre Consécration: Le mot de la tradition, in La Revue des Prêtres de Marie Reine des Coeurs, (Our Consecration: The Word of Tradition in The Review of the Priests of Mary Queen of All Hearts) 26 (1939), 33-44, 65-72, 97-105, 162-169, 193-198, 226-230, 257-263, 290- 296, 321-329; 27 (1940), 2-6, 33-38, 65-71; 28 (1941), 2-8, 33-37, 65- 72, 97-104, 132-142; 29 (1942), 40-52; S. De Fiores, Consacrazione, in Nuovo dizionario di mariologia, (Consecration, in The New Dictionary of Mariology) ed. S. De Fiores and S. Meo, Edizioni Paoline, Rome, 398-40; P. Gaffney, The Holy Slavery of Love, in Mariology, ed. J.Carol, Bruce, Milwaukee 1961, 3:143-149. (14) The first confraternity of Holy Slavery appears to have originated in Spain on the August 2, 1595, under the leadership of Sister Agnes of St.Paul of the Franciscan Conceptionists at the convent of Saint Ursula in Alcala de Henares. With the exuberant dynamism so characteristic of Marian devotion at this time, Holy Slavery confraternities spread throughout Europe. Excesses crept into some of these and other pious associations that, at least from our vantage point, appear to have lacked a Christocentricity and at times to have been more involved in external manifestations - especially the wearing of chains - than in forming a true interior spirit. Rome condemned the abuses. For an example of a formula of Consecration at this time, see DM 3 (May-June 1956), 34-35. (15) Dayet, Notre Consécration, in La Revue des Prêtres de Marie 28 (1941), 37. (16) Oeuvres Complètes, 2 vols., 1644, reprint, Maison de l’Institution de l’Oratoire, Montsoult 1960. (17) Oeuvres Complètes, ed. Migne, 1856. Much of Olier’s spirituality came to Montfort through one of his spiritual directors at St. Sulpice, M.Bayün. (18) Oeuvres Complètes, 3 vols., ed. Migne, 1856. For the Consecration, Montfort is especially influenced by Boudon’s Dieu Seul ou le saint esclavage de l’admirable mère de Dieu, vol 2. (19) La veritable dévotion envers la Sainte Vierge établie et défendue, (The true devotion towards The Blessed Virgin Established and Defrended), De Launay, Paris 1708. (20) La triple couronne de la Bienheureuse Vierge Mère de Dieu tissue de ses principales Grandeurs d’Excellence, de Pouvoir et de Bonté, et enrichie de diverses inventions pour l’aimer, l’honorer et la servir, (The Triple Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God woven from her Principal Grandeurs of Excellence, Power and Goodness, and Enriched with Multiple New Ways of Loving, Honoring and Serving Her) Cramoisy, Paris 1639. (21) Cf. A. Molien, Bérulle, in DSAM 1547. (22) E.A. Walsh, Spirituality, French School of, in The New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill, New York 1967, 13:605. (23) Dayet, Notre Consécration, in La Revue des Prêtres de Marie, 29 (1942), 40; P.Poupon, Le poème de la parfaite consécration à Marie, (The Poem of the Perfect Consecration to Mary), Bellecour, Lyons 1947, 337-338, 361-364. (24) Cf. ibid., 362. (25) Ibid., 369. (26) Montfort refers to a "Consecration" that is to be found at the end of TD. The present condition of the manuscript contains no such formula. The Act of Consecration is found only in the LEW manuscript. Although it surely expresses the saint’s thought and is in full harmony with his teaching on total Consecration, it bears striking resemblance to other formulas of Consecration found in the first exercise of F. Nepveu, Exercices intérieurs pour honorer les mystères de N.S. Jésus-Christ, (Interior Exercises to Honor the Mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ) 2 vols., Paris 1791. (27) For a discussion of Baptism in the French School of spirituality especially as described by Jean Eudes, cf. Poupon, Le poème, 253-296. (28) "Every Christian Consecration begins with the Consecration of Mary on the day of the Incarnation and in a definitive way with the Consecration of the holy humanity of Jesus the Head in the womb of the most holy Mary; the Consecration flows from this as a stream from its source, as the fruit from the tree" Ibid., 251 (29) V. Devy, La royauté universelle de Marie, in La Nouvelle Revue Mariale, (The Universal Royalty of Mary in The New Marian Review) 8 (1956), 23: "Saint Louis Marie de Montfort has not based his slavery of love formally on the queenship but on the spiritual maternity of the Blessed Virgin." J. Ghidotti, in his resume of the conferences of the Montfort Missionaries at the 1950 Rome Mariological Congress in Marianum, 13 (1951), 96: "Without doubt—and this is the affirmation of all—the spiritual maternity in montfort Mariology holds the principal place."; cf. P. Gaffney, The Spiritual Maternity according to Saint Louis Mary de Montfort, Montfort Publications, Bay Shore 1976. (30) Baptism is the moment when Mary begins to exercise her office of Mother of the Church. That is why "we cannot speak of the Church if Mary is not present" (MC 28). (31) J. Grandet, 101. (32) Ibid., 395. (33) ìbid., 405-412, vividly describes the processions that Saint Louis de Montfort held during a parish mission; cf. P. Suarez, La consécration totale, 38-40. (34) This apostolic dimension of the Consecration is clearly evident in many societies that have taken Saint Louis as their spiritual guide and live the montfort Consecration. The Legion of Mary is one of the primary examples. (35) Cf. DS 832. Final perseverance is called a "great gift" by the Council of Trent, DS 826. (36) Cf. DS 805. (37) Montfort blames the inherent weakness flowing from original sin as the reason for the lack of perseverance (TD 177). He speaks of the cedars of Lebanon falling and eagles "which had raised themselves to the sun, become birds of night" (SM 40). It is the living of our total Consecration to Jesus through Mary that strengthens us to persevere in grace, even to the end. (38) Cf. Sermo in Nativitate Domini, PL 54:193- 199. (39) Cf. Pius XII, Discours aux pèlerins pour la canonisation, 21 juillet 1947, (Address to the Pilgrims for the Canonization, July 21 1947) AAS 39 (1947), 412: "Incomparably more than his own human activity, he called upon divine help, which he attracted by his life of prayer." (40) This beginning of a short formula of Consecration (cf. TD 233, 216; MP 5) has become famous because adopted by Pope John Paul II as his episcopal motto. (41) For a magnificent insight into this montfort expression, read the poem of the famous English Jesuit author Gerard Manley Hopkins Mary Compared to the Air We Breathe, in J.Pick, A Hopkins Reader, Image Books, Garden City, N.Y. 1966, 70-73. For a comparison between Montfort and Hopkins’ poem, cf. Sr. M. Teresa Wolking, Mary Compared to the Air We Breathe, in QOAH (Jan.-Feb. 1953), 13 (42) Cf. S. Augustinus (apocryphal), Sermo 208, in PL 39:2131; Tronson has the same expression, which he attributes to Saint Augustine, Oeuvres Complètes de Monsieur Tronson, ed. Migne, 2:577. (43) TD 228 terms this "the foundation of all other graces." (44) SM 64, presuming the Rosary, speaks of the Little Crown and the Magnificat. (45) At first sight it may appear astonishing that this contemplative missionary does not list any prayer to Jesus, and even more surprising that he does not include the celebration of the Sacraments among the prayers of those who have made the Consecration. A survey of the saint’s writings makes it evident that he recommends the Sacraments and even frequent Communion to all Christians. Saint Louis sees no need of repeating what he considers so fundamental to a basic Christian life. (46) This interior practice - as all the others - presupposes the firm theological foundations of the perfect Consecration as described above and in the article "Mary." (47) Much of what Montfort includes under "by Mary" in TD is found under the rubric "with Mary" in SM. (48) For a profound yet concise explanation of the interior practice "in Mary," see the article written by a Ukranian rite monk, Joseph, Finding Jesus in the Heart of Mary, in QOAH (January- February 1991), 26 (49) Cf. De Fiores, Consacrazione in Nuovo Dizionario di mariologia, 412-413. De Fiores himself opts for what he calls the usage of Pope John Paul II "which pays attention to the substance (of the term) and attempts to express it in a variety of ways without being bound to one only expression." Ibid., 413; P. Gaffney, Entrustment or Consecration? in QOAH (May-June 1988), 8-9.

 

Back to Index Page


Taken from: Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of St.
Louis de Montfort
(Litchfield, CT: Montfort Publications, 1994).

Provided courtesy of the Montfort Fathers © All Rights Reserved.

Electronic Copyright © 1998 EWTN
All Rights Reserved

.

Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210
www.ewtn.com


HOME-EWTNews-FAITH-TELEVISION-RADIO-LIBRARY-GALLERY-CATALOGUE-GENERAL
ESPAÑOL