Slavery of Love

Author: St. Louis de Montfort




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).

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