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

Summary
I.	History: 
	1.	History of the word “slave”; 
	2.	Confraternities; 
	3.	Decisions of the Church; 
	4.	French spiritual writers: 
		a.	Pierre de Bérulle, 
		b.	Henri-Marie Boudon. 
II.	Saint Louis Marie and the Holy Slavery of Love: 
	1.	In his writings; 
	2.	In his missionary and personal life; 
	3.	Doctrine: 
		a.	Meaning of a language, 
		b.	Scriptural foundations, 
		c.	Liturgical foundation: Baptism, 
		d.	Spiritual deepening, 
		e.	Liberation, 
		f.	The small chains. 
III.	Holy Slavery Today: 
	1.	The fullness of freedom; 
	2.	The essential.

Saint Louis Marie de Montfort asked his followers to acknowledge that 
they were slaves of the love of Jesus Christ through Mary, and even 
suggested that they wear small chains (TD 236-242) as an external sign 
of this condition. This might cause surprise and even offense today. In 
order to clear up any misunderstandings, we will first consider the 
Consecration of Holy Slavery in its historical context.

 

I. History 
The Consecration of Holy Slavery was one of the main features of the 
spirituality of the French school, on which St. Louis Marie drew 
heavily. It was a cultural and spiritual legacy of Catholic Spain, where 
it was born in the sixteenth century. It referred to a biblical 
tradition and spread to a number of countries.
1. The history of the word “slave” 
The word “slave” (in Latin sclavus, slavus) was first used in the tenth 
century. The German lords and Spanish caliphs used to recruit their 
“slaves” from the Slav countries; in the thirteenth century, the Italian 
merchants renewed this practice. As a result, the word came to refer to 
any human being owned by another.1
In the Latin documents referring to the confraternities of the Holy 
Slavery, the words mancipium, mancipatus are used. The terms are also 
found in the Middle Ages with reference to the serfs who could not be 
removed from their lords’ land. It is this kind of slavery that is 
referred to in the examples given in the tradition of the Holy Slavery 
of Love. It must be kept in mind that the Church had her slaves, who 
could not be removed from the land belonging to a diocese or a 
monastery. There were also voluntary slaves, and this accounts for the 
Consecration made by Blessed Marinus († 1016 cf. TD 159) and Gautier de 
Bierbach († 1222?), as well as the offering of himself to Mary by Odilon 
of Cluny († 1049), who wore a rope round his neck.
As the Consecration is an act of Christian devotion, it is not so much 
its relation to actual slavery that matters but, rather, its foundation 
in Scripture and Tradition. In Scripture the Greek word doulos, 
translated by servus in the Vulgate version, referred to slavery as it 
was known in ancient times and to spiritual realities: our complete 
dependence on God and, in accordance with St. Paul’s teaching, our 
acknowledgment of Christ’s sovereignty. Thus, when St. Luke says that 
Mary was the doulê, the slave or servant of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38), the 
meaning is to be understood in the spiritual sense. St. Paul urges us to 
imitate Christ, who “took the form of a slave, being born in human 
likeness” (Phil 2:7).
The Marian terms servus, servitus Mariae spread in the Orient as well as 
in the West.2 Around the year 500, Melodius addresses the Blessed Virgin 
as “the hope of your servants.”3 Before the year 600, Pseudo-Augustine4 
begs to be excused for daring to call Mary the Spouse “of my Lord,” 
while acknowledging that he is “not only a worthless servant but also a 
sinful one” who speaks to her “in trembling.” In Spain St. Ildefonsus of 
Toledo († 667) wrote prayers which have become part of the Mozarabic 
liturgy, and also a prayer to Mary begging “that we may ever live as 
your slaves.”5
In the sixteenth century the word “slave” was part of the vocabulary of 
the spiritual masters of the “golden age” of religious history in Spain. 
St. Ignatius Loyola († 1556), in his Exercises, no. 114, contemplates 
the birth of Christ and looks on himself as “an unworthy slave” 
(esclavito) of Mary, Joseph, and the God-man. According to Blessed John 
of Avila (1499-1569), Mary prayed to God that she might be “the slave of 
the young woman who is to conceive and bear you while ever remaining a 
virgin.” St. Joseph was the first person to declare himself a slave of 
Mary: “When he considered that Mary was the Mother of God . . . he gave 
praise to God Who had chosen him as spouse of the Blessed Virgin and 
offered himself to her as her slave.”6
2. Confraternities 
It is therefore not surprising that the explicit devotion of Holy Slavery 
to Mary first appeared in Spain. The first confraternity of the Slaves of 
the Mother of God was established in honor of the Assumption of Mary by a 
Franciscan nun of the Immaculate Conception. She was Sister Ines Bautista 
de San Pablo, in an Ursuline convent at Alcala de Henares, between l575 and 
1595. It was canonically established on August 2, 1595. A Franciscan monk, 
Juan de los Angeles († 1609), rewrote the rules of the confraternity, and 
Melchor de Cetina (1618) wrote the final version, which he gives in chapter 
12 of an Exhortación.7 He did so at the request of the nuns because the 
practice of the Holy Slavery to Mary was spreading throughout Spain. In 
1612 a Benedictine monk, Anthony d’Alvarado, founded the confraternity of 
the Blessed Virgin in exile and wrote a Guide for use by Slaves of the 
Blessed Sacrament and the members of his own confraternity. In 1615 a 
member of the Order of Mercy, Peter de la Serna, published a set of rules 
for the Slaves of Our Lady of Mercy. The order had been founded for the 
purpose of ransoming the captives held in slavery by the Turks, and the 
members of the confraternity shared in the prayers, merits, and work of the 
members of the order.8
The Trinitarian Simon de Rojas († 1624), who had approved Peter de la 
Serna’s rules, founded the renowned confraternity of the Slaves of the 
Name of Mary, approved in 1616, which the royal family joined. This 
encouraged Simon, and he sent to the Netherlands, then under Spanish 
rule, an Augustinian, Bartholomew de los Rios († 1652), who founded a 
confraternity there (approved in 1631). De los Rios wrote a six-volume 
treatise on Holy Slavery, “De Hierarchia Mariana,” which is his most 
widely known work.
The devotion spread to Germany, Poland, Luxembourg, and France. The 
Theatine Francesco Olimpio promoted it in Italy by publishing a Brief 
Exercise for use by the “chained Slaves of the Mother of God.”9
The nuns of Alcala de Henares declared themselves slaves “out of love 
for our Lord and the Immaculate Conception of Mary in order to serve 
them”; “they offered themselves to our Redeemer and his glorious Mother 
and surrendered to them, body and soul, as living victims.”10 They were 
therefore not only spouses of Christ but also slaves of his most holy 
Mother. The Blessed Virgin “took for herself [the title of slave] when 
the Word of God took possession of her heart, was made flesh in her 
womb, and became her Son . . . Ecce ancilla Domini.” The Son of God 
himself “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil 2:7).11
3. Decisions of the Church 
De los Rios was the first to mention the wearing of small chains, and 
Francesco Olimpio also mentions it in his book. The practice led to 
abuses and tendentious interpretations. During the papacy of Clement X, 
the practice was placed on the Index, as were some confraternities (July 
5 and October 2, 1673), and the apostolic brief “Pastoralis Officii” 
(December 15, 1675) proscribed the wearing of small chains. The 
condemnation and the proscription were confirmed by Pope Benedict XIV in 
an Index decree issued in 1758. These decisions were directed, however, 
against the abuses and by no means against the devotion of Holy Slavery 
or the use of the term in spiritual books.
4. French spiritual writers 
Montfort in N gives the names of a number of spiritual writers who 
influenced him in his seminary days. With reference to the devotion 
of Holy Slavery, Bérulle and Boudon played a prominent part (TD 159-
163). 
a.   Pierre de Bérulle. 
For Bérulle († 1629) the Holy Slavery was not just any form of devotion. 
The spirituality he lived earned him the title of “apostle of the 
Incarnate Word”: he strove to adhere as perfectly as possible to all the 
mysteries of the life, death, and Resurrection of the Word made flesh, 
who had become the Servant of God, a “slave,” in order to save us. 
Bérulle summed up his teaching on the subject in the heading of a text 
approved in 1620: “Desires or elevations to God were prompted by the 
mystery of the Incarnation. There were opportunities to offer oneself to 
Jesus in the state of slavery. This we owe him as a consequence of the 
ineffable union of the Divinity with humanity. This is done in order to 
offer oneself to the most Blessed Virgin in the state of dependence and 
slavery, which we ought to assume in her regard as the Mother of God, 
and because she has a special power over us as a result of this 
admirable condition.” In 1623 he published the texts in Discourse on the 
State and Grandeurs of Jesus. He begins with an elevation to the 
Trinity, to Christ, and to Mary. This is followed by the vow of offering 
oneself “to Jesus Christ in the state of perpetual servitude . . . by 
the bond of perpetual servitude.” He completes this with the offering to 
Mary: “I consecrate and dedicate myself to Jesus Christ in the state of 
perpetual servitude to his most holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; in 
perpetual honor of the Mother and the Son, and in honor of her quality 
as Mother of God; I offer myself to her in this state and quality as a 
slave; and I give myself to her grandeur in honor of the offering that 
the Eternal Word made of himself as Son, through the mystery of the 
Incarnation, which he chose to accomplish in her and through her.” 
Bérulle identifies his vow with “the solemn profession of the Christians 
at Baptism,”12 basing his assertion on the Catechism of the Council of 
Trent (art. 1, c. 31). For him, “it is a vow of the worship Jesus 
rendered, of which he himself in person is the author and initiator; it 
is the first and oldest worship, with the Apostles as its first . . . 
directors”13 The vow of servitude (Bérulle used “slavery” less 
frequently), is strictly conformed to the fundamental truth of our 
relation with God as creatures. “This state of servitude ought not to 
appear suspect or strange to anyone; it is the correct, fundamental 
state of a creature in relation to God. For a creature is essentially a 
servant or, better still, a slave of the Creator; and it is the primary, 
general, absolute, and universal condition of a creaturely being. . . . 
It is a primitive state, in respect of nature as well as grace.”14
b.   Henri-Marie Boudon. 
The title of Boudon’s († 1702) book, God Alone or the Holy Slavery of 
the Admirable Mother of God, tells us that his devotion is based on “God 
Alone,” which later became Montfort’s well-known motto. Boudon was a 
follower of St. Francis de Sales and Bérulle. He called to mind “the 
total and irrevocable offering [to Mary] made long ago, of all that I am 
in the order of nature and the order of grace. . . . My interior as well 
as my exterior life, and generally all that is mine, belongs more to you 
than to myself.” Like Bérulle, he belonged to Mary in “the state and 
condition of a slave.” He wrote his book in order to “win hearts . . . 
secure slaves” for Mary, and “in honor of the state and form of 
servitude that the Eternal Word took on himself, making himself nothing 
in your pure womb and becoming your subject.”15 According to St. Francis 
de Sales, devotion is “a love that prompts us to serve with a ready and 
loving will.” The devotion of Holy Slavery is this kind of devotion to 
Mary “without any reservation.”16 In his “meditation preparatory to 
offering himself to the most Blessed Virgin as a slave” (583-584), he 
first called on the Blessed Trinity, then on Christ; and because God 
chose to give himself to us through Mary and wants us to give ourselves 
to him through her, “I take and choose her as my very good and most dear 
Mother, my most holy Patron, my faithful Advocate, my dear Mistress, my 
Sovereign and Queen, and vow to be her servant and slave for the rest of 
my life.”17

 

II. Saint Louis Marie and the Holy Slavery of Love 
1. In his writings 
In his writings, St. Louis Marie recommends that we consecrate ourselves 
“as slaves,” that is to say, that we consecrate “completely and for all 
eternity our body and soul, our possessions both spiritual and material, 
the atoning value and the merits of our good actions, and our right to 
dispose of them. In short, it involves the offering of all we have 
acquired in the past, all we actually possess at the moment, and all we 
will acquire in the future” (LEW 219). This entails a complete surrender 
through the hands of Mary. “We should choose a special feast-day on 
which to give ourselves” (SM 29); “This is an occasion for receiving 
Holy Communion and spending the day in prayer” (SM 61). “At least once a 
year on the same day, we should renew the act of consecration.” “We 
should give our Lady some little tribute as a token of our servitude and 
dependence . . . homage paid by slaves to their master.” “This tribute 
could consist of an act of self-denial or an alms, or a pilgrimage or a 
few prayers” (SM 62). In accordance with the tradition of the 
confraternities, Louis Marie recommends that “in token of their slavery 
of love, the slaves of Jesus in Mary wear a little chain” (TD 236) 
“either around the neck, on the arm, on the foot, or about the body” (SM 
65). He makes clear, however, that this practice can be omitted without 
detriment to the essential feature of the Consecration, but “just the 
same, it would be wrong to despise or condemn it, and foolhardy to 
neglect it” (SM 65) without a good reason.18
Holy Slavery is, however, primarily a way of living, a spirit, a 
spirituality, as surrendering to Mary means “performing all our actions 
with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary” (SM 28).
2. In his missionary and personal life 
In his biography of St. Louis Marie, Grandet writes, “In every parish 
where he gave a mission, he established the devotion of the Holy Slavery 
of Jesus living in Mary.”19 He also draws attention to the fact that 
Bishop de Champflour authorized Father Mulot to “bless the small chains 
as the late Father de Montfort used to do.”20
St. Louis Marie practiced what he preached, as attested by the fact that 
he died like a chained slave, “wearing small iron chains on his arm, 
round his neck and on his feet; in his right hand he held the crucifix 
to which Clement XI had attached indulgences, and in his left hand he 
clutched a small statue of the Blessed Virgin that he always carried 
with him.”21 It is not known when he made his offering as a slave,22 but 
he has handed on to us the formula of Consecration as a conclusion to 
LEW: “With the whole court of heaven as witness, I choose you, Mary, as 
my Mother and Queen. I surrender and consecrate myself to you, body and 
soul, as your slave.” This is followed by the surrender mentioned above 
(LEW 225 and 219).
He signed himself “slave” only between 1700 and 1702, then once again in 
1704, stating that he was “priest and unworthy slave of Jesus in Mary,” 
or “slave of Jesus living in Mary.”23
3. Doctrine 
a.   The significance of the term. 
In considering the Slavery of Love within the context of Montfort’s 
writings, we should note that in them the saint explained that his 
relationship with Christ and Mary took various forms.
In LEW, he did not consider Holy Slavery in itself, as Boudon did, but, 
rather, as a description or a quality of the Consecration: “Consecrating 
ourselves entirely to her [Mary] and to Jesus through her as their 
slaves. It involves consecrating to her completely and for all eternity 
our body and soul” (LEW 219). Montfort views the Consecration in a 
Wisdom perspective: it is “the greatest means of all . . . for obtaining 
and preserving divine Wisdom” (LEW 203). Here Montfort acknowledges his 
debt to his predecessors, to whom he refers the reader explicitly: 
“There are several books treating of this devotion” (LEW 219).
The words “in the manner of a slave” also occur in SM 28, 32, but always 
within the context of surrender or Consecration: “Happy the person who . 
. . consecrates himself entirely to Jesus through Mary as their slave” 
(SM 34). The larger perspective in which the total gift of self is 
placed is that of holiness (SM 3-22). Montfort regards the Consecration 
as a “secret” that he has not found in “any book, ancient or modern” (SM 
1).
In the central part of TD (120-134), Montfort becomes more clearly aware 
than ever of the novelty of the devotion that he recommends: “I have 
never known or heard of any devotion to Our Lady which is comparable to 
the one I am going to speak of” (TD 118). He calls this devotion “the 
perfect consecration to Jesus Christ,” which was the authentic title of 
the manuscript and which he had written in large letters as a heading 
before what is now TD 120. 
The explanation that he gives does not mention the Slavery of Love. He 
does not reject it, since he mentions it again in the same central 
section when he speaks of the Council of Trent “exhorting the faithful 
to remember and to hold fast to the belief that they are bound and 
consecrated as slaves to Jesus” (TD 129). When he explains the essential 
part of the Consecration, however, Montfort does not mention the Holy 
Slavery explicitly.
This is even more noticeable in CG, a printed statement which Montfort 
had his people sign at the close of the parish mission. The central part 
of the formula used in the Covenant gives only the bare bones: “I give 
myself entirely to Jesus Christ by the hands of Mary to carry my cross 
after him all the days of my life.” It is clear that in his desire for 
inculturation with ordinary people, Montfort used the sort of language 
they could easily understand: he has replaced the Holy Slavery and even 
the total Consecration with complete surrender, and Wisdom with Jesus 
Christ and the Cross. He also left out the titles of Mother and Mistress 
given to Mary, and the list of possessions surrendered to her. In his 
hymns Montfort does not refer to the Holy Slavery, except in Hymn 77, 
which he entitled “The devout slave of Jesus in Mary.” Similarly, in his 
letters, he frequently signs himself “unworthy slave of Jesus in Mary” 
from 1700 to 1702, but then he omits the word “slave,” except in L 20 
(August 28, 1704). This less frequent use seems to indicate the relative 
significance of the word and its declining importance, which is 
consonant with his life in its last twelve years.24 After these 
preliminary reflections, we can now consider the thought of Montfort on 
slavery.
St. Louis Marie distinguishes between three types of slavery: (i) 
natural slavery, and all creatures are slaves of God in this sense, as 
He is their Creator and Master; (ii) enforced slavery, which includes 
the devils and the damned; (iii) voluntary slavery, “the slavery of love 
and free choice, the kind chosen by one who consecrates himself to God 
through Mary, and this is the most perfect way for us human beings to 
give ourselves to God, our Creator” (SM 32). God is the God of the 
heart.
Along with Boudon (cf. TD 71), Montfort makes a clear-cut distinction 
between a servant, who remains his own master, and a slave, who is the 
property of his master. Only through the slavery of free will can anyone 
belong entirely to Jesus Christ and his Mother (TD 71, 72). 
In TD, Montfort explains several ways of expressing our belonging. His 
own usual and favorite way is Christ-centered:25 “slave of Jesus in 
Mary” (TD 244-245). The advantages he sees in it are: (i) “We avoid 
giving pretext for criticism”; we describe the devotion by stressing its 
ultimate end, Jesus Christ, rather than Mary, who is the means to this 
end; however, “we can very well use either term without any scruple, as 
I myself do.” (ii) It fits in better with the mystery of the 
Incarnation: we say we are “slaves of Jesus . . . dwelling and reigning 
in Mary,” according to the beautiful prayer “O Jesus, living in Mary.” 
It is the mystery that this devotion honors: “It is the first mystery of 
Jesus Christ; it is the most hidden, and it is the most exalted. . . . 
In this mystery Jesus in the womb of Mary and with her cooperation, 
chose all the elect . . . anticipated all subsequent mysteries of his 
life by his willing acceptance of them” (TD 244-247).
b.   Scriptural foundation. 
The devotion practiced by the Ursuline nuns at Alcala de Henares was 
inspired by Scripture, and St. Louis Marie’s also was based on 
Scripture. The Slavery of Love consists in following the example of 
Christ and Mary. Jesus took the form of a slave (Phil 2:7) “out of 
love.” Mary “called herself the handmaid or slave of the Lord” (TD 72). 
St. Louis Marie reminds us that St. Paul considered it an honor to be 
called “slave of Christ,” and several times in Scripture the Christians 
are referred to as “slaves of Christ” (TD 72). Jesus is our model, and 
he points to us the ways of God, the Father’s secret, Mary. “Our good 
Master stooped to enclose himself in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, a 
captive but loving slave, and to make himself subject to her for thirty 
years”(TD 139). This conduct of Divine Wisdom is beyond human 
comprehension. “Consumed with the desire to give glory to God, his 
Father, and save the human race, he saw no better or shorter way to do 
so than by submitting completely to Mary. What better and shorter way of 
giving God glory than by submitting ourselves to Mary as Jesus did” (TD 
139)? Such is the example given by the three Divine Persons: through 
Mary the Father gives his Son and every grace; through Mary the Son was 
formed and is formed in us all; through Mary the Holy Spirit formed 
Christ and forms him in us. “With such a compelling example . . . we 
would be extremely perverse to ignore her and not consecrate ourselves 
to her. We would be blind if we did not see the need for Mary in 
approaching God and making our total offering to him” (TD 140).
c.   Liturgical foundation: Baptism. 
The missionary wanted the faithful to make a “perfect renewal of the 
vows and promises of holy baptism” (TD 120, 126). “Before baptism every 
Christian was a slave of the devil because he belonged to him” (TD 126). 
Through Baptism he is set free and “chooses Jesus as his Master and 
sovereign Lord and undertakes to depend upon him as a slave of love” (TD 
126). These are the words of the Catechism of the Council of Trent; we 
have to “devote and consecrate ourselves for ever to our Redeemer and 
Lord as slaves (non secus ac mancipia)” (cf. TD 129). This dependence is 
professed perfectly when “we give ourselves to Jesus Christ through the 
hands of Mary” (TD 126).
d.   Spiritual deepening. 
For St. Louis Marie “the slavery of love and free choice . . . is the 
most perfect way for us human beings to give ourselves to God our 
Creator” (SM 32). This involves “the most radical and complete” 
dependence,26 which is born of love, leads to love (TD 75-76, 113, 126), 
and ends with the freedom of the children of God (SM 41; TD 169-170, 
215). As A. Lhoumeau explains, “It is not a question of a double 
belonging, to God and Jesus on the one hand, and to the Blessed Virgin 
on the other; belonging to Mary is the continuation and the consequence 
of belonging to Jesus and the means of achieving it: ‘Depending on her 
care / The better to depend / On Jesus’” (H 77:8).27 Stating that we are 
slaves of Jesus through Mary is not enough, however, and we have to live 
through Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary, in order to live more 
perfectly through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus (cf. TD 
257ff.). On what grounds does Mary accept us as her slaves? First of 
all, because we are slaves of Jesus. Montfort gives the following 
theological explanation: “What I say in an absolute sense of Jesus 
Christ, I say in a relative sense of the Blessed Virgin.” Christ chose 
her as his “inseparable associate in his life, death, glory and power in 
heaven and on earth”; “he has given her by grace in his kingdom all the 
same rights and privileges that he possesses by nature”; so, “they have 
the same subjects, servants and slaves” (TD 74). Besides, Mary is 
acknowledged as “Queen and Sovereign of heaven and earth.” But Mary is 
only the means, not the ultimate end. Every Christian spirituality warns 
its followers of the difficulty of renouncing sin and of making the 
uphill journey to holiness (cf. TD 78ff.). Through the Slavery of Love 
we surrender our whole being and life to Mary, thus enabling her to give 
us a share of her dispositions, to unite us perfectly with Jesus and to 
form him more fully in us. The Marian way is an easy, short, perfect, 
secure way.
e.   Liberation. 
The Slavery of Love is a new Beatitude, as it were. “Happy, very happy 
indeed, will the generous person be who, prompted by love, consecrates 
himself entirely to Jesus through Mary as their slave, after having 
shaken off by baptism the tyrannical slavery of the devil” (SM 34). The 
Slavery of Love makes us free: “Since we lower ourselves willingly to a 
state of slavery out of love for Mary, our dear Mother, she out of 
gratitude opens wide our hearts enabling us to walk with giant strides 
in the way of God’s commandments” (SM 41).
f.   The small chains. 
Iron chains are “ignoble” in the eyes of the world, but they are 
“glorious” when worn as “the chains of Jesus Christ, because by them 
Christians are liberated and kept free from the shackles of sin and the 
devil” (cf. Rom 6:22). “Thus set free we are bound to Jesus and Mary . . 
. by charity and love as children are to their parents” (TD 237). Father 
de Montfort is fond of quoting Hosea 11:4: “I led them with bands 
[Montfort uses ‘chains’] of love” (cf. TD 237). “Love is strong as 
death” (Song 8:6). Death will destroy our bodies, “but the chains of our 
slavery, being of metal, will not easily corrupt . . . and will be 
transformed into chains of light and splendor” (TD 237). The small 
chains are a constant reminder of our baptismal promises and of their 
renewal. We ought to realize how much St. Louis Marie was aware of the 
importance of external signs and symbols; he demonstrated this when he 
died wearing his small chains and holding his crucifix and a small 
statue of Our Lady. In his opinion, too many Christians are forgetful of 
their baptismal vows and neglect wearing external signs reminding them 
of their vows (TD 238).

 

III. Holy Slavery Today 
In Spain between 1877 and 1956, several religious foundations included 
the word “slaves” in their name (e.g., Slaves of the Sacred Heart, of 
the Heart of Jesus [or of the Eucharist] of the Immaculate Heart of 
Mary, of Christ the King).28 A major development took place in Poland. 
It occurred on May 3, 1966, at the Shrine of Our Lady at Czestochowa, on 
the occasion of the thousandth anniversary of the evangelization of 
Poland. Cardinal Wyszynski addressed a prayer to God the Father, and 
then consecrated the whole nation to Mary, Queen of Poland, according to 
the devotion of Holy Slavery, for the service of the Church: “We, the 
baptized children of God born in Poland and all those whom our country 
defends, place ourselves under your eternal and maternal yoke that the 
freedom of the Church may prevail throughout the world and in our native 
land and that the Kingdom of God may be established on earth.”2
1. The fullness of freedom 
John Paul II renewed the Consecration on June 4, 1979, and explained its 
paradoxical significance. In essence, those who love God want to belong 
to Him. Now, “the fact of ‘not being free’ in love is not perceived as 
slavery but as an affirmation of freedom and its realization. The act of 
Consecration as slaves therefore indicates a singular dependence and a 
boundless confidence. In this sense, slavery (lack of freedom) expresses 
the fullness of freedom.”30
2. The essential 
St. Maximilian Kolbe has tackled the language problem that arises when 
trying to describe a perfect spiritual relationship with Mary. “All try 
to emphasize the most perfect form of Consecration possible, even though 
their words and their immediate meaning show some difference. Thus, the 
expressions ‘servant of Mary,’ ‘servant of the Immaculate,’ may suggest 
an idea of renunciation in acknowledgment of the servants’ work. The 
expression ‘son of Mary’ may suggest the legal obligations of a mother 
towards her son. Even the expression ‘slave of love’ is not universally 
accepted; although the stress is on love, the idea lingers in the mind 
that a slave only remains such against his will. Some prefer ‘thing and 
possession.’ Obviously, all these expressions and any other possible 
ones eventually point to the same reality: all those using them want to 
consecrate themselves completely to the Blessed Virgin.”31 This shows 
that Kolbe was aware of the language problem.
In times past, several writers have placed great emphasis on the word 
“slavery” as used by Montfort because it expresses his thought 
accurately and undeniably suggests the idea of our dependence on God. 
“The term ‘slavery’ is accurate and in accordance with the language of 
the tradition.”32
As the word “slavery” was rejected in certain circles, other writers 
suggested that it be no longer used. They argued that instead of evoking 
“an attitude of willing dependence that prompted a renunciation of all 
things out of love for Jesus and Mary,” it suggests the unjust and 
unnatural condition of a master with the unrestricted right to use his 
slave. “As a result,” they asked, “Is it advisable to tell modern 
readers that whenever they come across the word in Montfort’s writings, 
they should engage in the complicated process of substituting an 
inappropriate meaning for the literal one?’”33
In between are the middle-of-the-road writers like A. Josselin, a past 
superior general of the Company of Mary, who wrote in 1959: “I am not 
talking about the use but rather the abuse of such terms as ‘slavery’ 
and ‘slave.’” He added: “Although quite accurate, the terms do stir up 
unpleasant memories in some countries, and there is nothing we can do 
about this. We have to allow for historical events and not use the terms 
unthinkingly. Other words could be used that imply the same thing, 
‘complete surrender,’ ‘Consecration,’ ‘belonging,’ ‘total dependence,’ 
etc. Perhaps we could use them in circumstances where we are aware that 
‘slave’ and ‘slavery’ may sound offensive.”34
In our opinion, using various expressions to refer to the Consecration 
to Jesus through Mary is best because it shows an awareness of the 
limits of any language to express fully the realities of life. Besides, 
Montfort himself used a variety of words and expressions, such as “the 
most perfect devotion” (LEW 219), “consecration” (LEW 219; TD 120, 231), 
“slavery” (LEW 226; SM 32; TD 244-245), “placing everything in Mary’s 
hands” (LEW 221-222; SM 31), “offering” (LEW 222; TD 121, 124), “giving” 
(LEW 222, 225; SM 28-31; CG; TD 120, 126), “entrusting” (SM 40; TD 179), 
“belonging entirely” or “totus tuus” (TD 179, 216, 266; SM 66). John 
Paul II accepts the various terms, but he seems to prefer affidamento 
(“commitment, entrustment”) and “Consecration.” He also emphasizes that 
we should welcome Mary into our human and Christian “I” (RMat 45). He 
points out that a person fulfills himself through self-giving in love; 
the Montfort Consecration is meant to be a giving of self out of the 
most personal and complete love.
T. Koehler

 

Notes:
(1) Le Crom, Esclavage (dans la spiritualité chrétienne) (Slavery 
[in Christian Spirituality]), in Catholicisme, 4:421-424; Ch. Verlinden, 
Slavery (History of), in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 283-285; ibid. 
L’origine de sclavus, esclave, (The Origin of “Sclavus,” Slave), in 
Archivium Latinitatis Medii Aevi, 17, 97-128. (2) Th. Koehler, Servitude 
(Saint Esclavage) (Servitude [Holy Slavery]), in DSAM, 14:731; cf. P. 
Gaffney, The Holy Slavery of Love in J.B. Carol (ed.), Mariology vol. 3, 
Bruce. Milwaukee, 1961, 143-149. (3) Hymn. 13 de Nativ. 4.13, SC 110, p. 
146. (4) Sermon 195.2., PL 39:2108. Cf. H. Barré, Prières anciennes de 
l’Occident à la Mère du Sauveur (Ancient Western Prayers to the Mother 
of the Savior), Paris 1963, 22. (5) Oracional Visigotico (Visigoth 
Prayer Book), Barcelona 1946, 75. (6) Serm. 75 (on Saint Joseph), in 
Obras (Works), BAC, II, Madrid 1953. (7) Melchor de Cetina, Exhortación, 
BAC 46, in Misticos Francescanos Espanoles (Spanish Franciscan Mystics), 
ed. J.B. Gomis, Madrid 1949, 805-809. Cf. J. Ordonez Marquez, La 
Cofradia de la esclavitud en las Concepcionistas de Alcala (The Slavery 
Confraternity among the Conceptionists of Alcala), in EstMar 51 (1986), 
234. (8) Pedro de la Serna, Estatutos y Constituciones que han de 
guardar los Esclavos de Nuestra Senora de la Merced, (Statutes and 
Constituions to be Observed by the Slaves of Our Lady of Mercy), Seville 
1615; cf. L. Aquatias, Piedad mariana en la Orden . . . de la Merced 
(Marian Piety in the Order . . . of Mercy), in Alma Socia Christi, vol. 
7, Rome 1952, 491-582. (9) Cf. DSAM 14:735-737. (10) Regla y 
Constiotuciones Generales de las monjas franciscanas de la Orden de la 
Immaculada Concepcion de la Bienaventurada Virgen Maria (Rule and 
General Constitutions of the Franciscan Nuns of the Order of the 
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary), ed. Burgos, 1975, 
chap. 2, n. 5, p. 17 and chap. 2, n. 2, p. 16. (11) Juan de los Angeles, 
Cofradia y devocion de las esclavas y esclavos de Nuestra Senora la 
Virgen Santisima (Confraternity and Devotion of the Slaves of the Most 
Blessed Virgin), BAC III, 46, Misticos Francescanos Espanoles, 691-
698. (12) Oeuvres . . . de Bérulle, Migne, 625-630. (13) Ibid., 377-
378. (14) Ibid., 618. (15) Oeuvres, Migne, 2:370-371. (16) Ibid., 377-
378. (17) Ibid., 583-586. (18) The advice he gives is that “if the 
chains are not made of iron, they should be made of some other metal for 
the sake of convenience” (ibid.) (19) Grandet, 315. (20) Ibid., 
439. (21) Le Crom, Esclavage, 374. (22) According to E. Villaret, Marie 
et la Compagnie de Jésus,(Mary and the Company of Jesus), in Maria. 
Etudes sur la Sainte Vierge (Mary:Studies on the Blessed Virgin), ed. du 
Manoir, Beauchesne, Paris 1952, 2:961, Montfort became acquainted with 
the Slavery of Love while attending the Jesuit college at Rennes. De 
Fiores agrees that the Slavery of Love was promoted by the Jesuits Jégou 
and Nepveu at the college in Rennes, but he does not think that Louis 
Grignion embraced it then. Blain’s silence on the subject suggests that 
Montfort discovered the Slavery of Love at Saint-Sulpice when he read 
Boudon (Itinerario, 70-71). (23) R. Laurentin, Dieu seul est ma 
tendresse (God Alone Is My Tenderness), Paris 1984, 196, analyzes the 
signatures and finds that “God alone” becomes more frequent. (24) Ibid., 
48. (25) R. Laurentin shows “how Montfort corrected the expression 
‘Consecration to Mary’ by relating the Consecration to Christ.” Whereas 
his predecessors, Sister Ines-Bautista, Los Rios, Fenicki, Boudon, etc., 
commonly said “the slavery of the Mother of God,” Montfort prefers the 
expression “slave” or “slavery of Jesus in Mary” (L 5, 6, 8-12, 20; LPM 
6; TD 236-237, 244-245, 252), or “consecration to Jesus through Mary as 
slaves of love” (SM 34, 44, 61; LEW 219; TD 231). It must be admitted 
that Montfort frequently speaks of Holy Slavery with reference to Jesus 
as well as to Mary: TD 56, 68, 72-77, 113, 135, etc. (26) A. Lhoumeau, 
La vie spirituelle à l’école de saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort 
(The Spiritual Life at the School of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de 
Montfort), Beyaert, Bruges 1954, 99. (27) Ibid., 96. For his part, A. 
Bossard perceives the dynamic of the Consecration as follows: “The 
Consecration recommended by Montfort involves only one movement towards 
Christ. . . . But the movement implies two distinct relationships: one 
with Mary, the ‘perfect means,’ and the other with Christ, ‘our ultimate 
end.’” Se consacrer à Marie (To Consecrate Oneself to Mary), in CM 28, 
no. 137 (1983), 101-102. (28) Cf. Dicc. de Hist. ecl. de Esp., 2:806-
808. (29) M. Zalecki, Notre-Dame de Czestochowa, DDB, Paris 1981, 98-
99. (30) Documentation Catholique 76 (1979), 615. (31) St. Maximilian 
Kolbe, Gli scritti (The Writings), Italian translation, Firenze 1978, 
vol. 3, no. 1329, p. 776. See further references in the index on p. 
1051, under consacrazione illimitata. (32) Ibid., 127. M. Th. Poupon, Le 
poème de la parfaite consécration à Marie (The Poem of the Perfect 
Consecration to Mary), Librairie du Sacré-Coeur, Lyon 1947, 337, states 
that “those trying to do away with the term . . . water down the 
spirituality of the holy poet and even change its nature.” (33) R. 
Graber, La donation totale à Jésus par Marie (The Total donation to 
Jesus through Mary), taken from the preface to the German edition of Le 
Livre d’Or (The Golden Book) (1960), in DMon 8 no. 32 (1963), 12. (34) 
A. Josselin, Vraie Dévotion, âme de notre ministère (True Deovtion, Soul 
of Our Ministry), at International Montfort Marian Meeting, Rotselaar, 
July 26-August 4, 1956, in Acts of the Rotselaar Meeting, Generalate of 
the Company of Mary, Rome 1956, 14.

 


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.

 

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