Marian Consecration and Entrustment
Arthur Burton Calkins
Some – perhaps many – Catholics,
if they give any thought to it at all, may think that the practice of consecrating oneself to Our Lady or placing
one’s life entirely in her hands is a rather recent phenomenon in the life of the Church. Indeed, even if
they are rather well informed, they may be of the conviction that this custom dates from the time of Saint Louis-Marie
Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716), the author of the famous treatises, True Devotion to
the Blessed Virgin and The Secret of Mary.
Surely without hesitation St. Louis de Montfort (whom I hope will soon be named a Doctor of the Church) and St.
Maximilian-Maria Kolbe (1894-1941) should be acknowledged as two of the principal proponents of Marian consecration
in modern times. Yet the fact remains that this devotional practice dates from the earliest days of the Church
and is really rooted in the Scriptures themselves, especially the words of Jesus from the cross spoken to his Mother
and to the beloved disciple (cf. Jn. 19:25-27).
Arguably the greatest proponent
of Marian consecration in our own time was the Servant of God Pope John Paul II (1920-2005). His motto as
Bishop and Pope was Totus Tuus (all yours), an abbreviated form
of one of Saint Louis de Montfort’s formulas, Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt (I am all yours [O Mary] and everything I have is yours). 1 More than any other teacher of Marian consecration before him, this Pope rooted his teaching and
practice in the entrusting of John to Mary and Mary to John on Calvary. Here is a very important text from
his Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater of 25 March 1987 in
which he expounded this doctrine in an authoritative manner:
The Redeemer entrusts Mary
to John because he entrusts John to Mary. At the foot of the Cross there begins that special entrusting of humanity to the Mother of Christ, which in the history of the
Church has been practiced and expressed in different ways. The same Apostle and evangelist, after reporting
the words addressed by Jesus on the Cross to his Mother and to himself, adds: “And from that hour the disciple
took her to his own home” (Jn. 19:27). This statement certainly means that the role of son was attributed
to the disciple and that he assumed responsibility for the Mother of his beloved Master. And since Mary was
given as a mother to him personally, the statement indicates, even though indirectly, everything expressed by the
intimate relationship of a child with its mother. And all of this can be included in the word “entrusting.”
Such entrusting is the response to a person’s love, and in particular
to the love of a mother.
The Marian dimension of the life of a disciple of Christ is expressed in a special way
precisely through this filial entrusting to the Mother of Christ, which began with the testament of the Redeemer
on Golgotha. Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, “welcomes”
the Mother of Christ “into his own home” and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to
say into his human and Christian “I”: he “took her to his own home” (Redemptoris Mater #45).
Explaining the intimate relationship
which Jesus wishes us to have with his Mother, the Pope pointed out that, while it is truly a personal relationship
with Mary, it is ultimately oriented to Jesus himself:
This filial relationship,
this self-entrusting of a child to its mother, not only has its beginning in Christ but can also be said to be definitively directed towards him. Mary can be said to continue to say to each individual the words which she spoke at Cana in Galilee:
“Do whatever he tells you.” ... Precisely with her faith as Spouse and Mother she wishes to act upon all those
who entrust themselves to her as her children. And it is well known that the more her children persevere
and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8) (Redemptoris Mater #46).
The more one studies, the
more one discovers Mary’s maternal presence in the itinerary of the Church’s life as well as the desire on the
part of the faithful to entrust themselves to her. Here we can only indicate some of the major landmarks
on this journey. 2
A. Patristic Period
It does not seem presumptuous
to see the first adumbrations of the tradition which would come to be known as Marian consecration in the Church
in the most ancient recorded prayer to the Mother of God, dating from the third or fourth century, the Sub tuum praesidium.3 It is the filial prayer of Christians who know Mary’s motherly mercy (eusplangchnía in the Greek text) and therefore do not hesitate to have recourse to her protection (praesidium in the Latin text). If it does not speak of belonging to Mary,
it is surely not far removed from this concept.
The late redoubtable Marian
encyclopedist, Father Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., renders this third or, at the latest, fourth century prayer according
to the reconstruction of Father Gabriele Giamberardini, O.F.M.: “Under your mercy, we take refuge, Mother
of God, do not reject our supplications in necessity. But deliver us from danger. [You] alone chaste,
alone blessed.” 4 This Marian troparion
used in almost all the Rites of the Church and cited in Lumen Gentium #66 is ordinarily rendered into English after the Latin version: “We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious
and blessed Virgin.” 5 Mother Maria
Francesca Perillo, F.I., on the basis of her recent study on the philology and doctrinal contents of the prayer,
translates: “We take refuge in your womb, Holy Mother of God; do not refuse our pleas in our need, but save
us from danger, O incomparable Virgin, divinely pure and blessed.” 6
This ancient Marian invocation
is of capital importance from many perspectives. First, it constitutes a remarkable witness to the fact that
prayer was already explicitly addressed to Mary as Theotókos
or “Mother of God” long before the Council of Ephesus which vindicated the use of this title in 431. Secondly,
it may well reflect a tradition even older than the third century, the era from which many scholars believe the
Egyptian papyrus dates, going all the way back to the Apostolic period. Thirdly, while this antiphon (called
a “troparion” according to Byzantine liturgical usage) does not explicitly call Mary “our Mother”, it does so in
equivalent and very expressive terms.
About this justly famous
and most ancient of Marian prayers Father Quéméneur makes this careful observation:
Here we do not yet have a
consecration properly so called, but we already discern the fundamental elements that characterize Marian consecrations.
The Sub tuum recognizes the patronage of the Mother of God;
it is a spontaneous gesture of recourse to Mary. Originating in Egypt, the Sub tuum, with slight variations, will soon be taken up by the other churches; starting with the sixth century,
it is inserted into the Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman liturgies. We can say that it is the root from which
the formulas of other Marian prayers will arise. 7
Significantly and very conscious
that he was standing in the most ancient stream of the Church’s tradition, John Paul II framed the first part of
his great Acts of Consecration and Entrustment of the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1982 and 1984 with
the words of this antiphon: “We have recourse to your protection, holy Mother of God.” 8 There are numerous other instances of his quotation of this most
ancient Marian prayer. 9
Father O’Carroll informs us
that his confrère, the late Father Henri Barré, C.S.Sp., found evidence for the title servus Mariae in African sermons from the fifth and sixth centuries which indicate
a personal attitude of belonging to Mary. 10
Father Stefano De Fiores, S.M.M. also points to the use of this term in Saint Ephrem the Syrian (+ 373) and Pope
John VII (+ 707), but indicates that these instances cannot compare to the consistent usage and fervor of Saint
Ildephonsus of Toledo (+ 667). 11 Ildephonsus
is usually considered the first major representative of the spirituality of “Marian slavery” 12 which eventually develops into what is now known as Marian consecration.13
Pope John Paul II himself
in his homily in Saragossa on 6 November 1982 immediately prior to the Entrustment of Spain to Our Lady reviewed
what is for us the most relevant information about this Benedictine Abbot who became the Archbishop of Toledo:
Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo,
the most ancient witness of that form of devotion which we call slavery to Mary, justifies our attitude of being
slaves of Mary because of the singular relation she has with respect to Christ. “For this reason I am your
slave, because your Son is my Lord. Therefore you are my Lady because you are the slave of my Lord.
Therefore, I am the slave of the slave of my Lord, because you have been made the Mother of my Lord. Therefore
I have been made a slave because you have been made the Mother of my Maker” [De virginitate
perpetua Sanctæ Mariæ, 12: PL 96, 108].
As is obvious, because
of these real and existing relationships between Christ and Mary, Marian devotion has Christ as its ultimate object.
The same Saint Ildephonsus saw it with full clarity: “So in this way one refers to the Lord that which serves
his slave. So, what is delivered up to the Mother redounds to the Son; thus passes to the King the honor
that is rendered in the service of the Queen” [c. 12: PL 96,
108]. Then one understands the double employment of the desire expressed in the same blessed formula, speaking
with the most Holy Virgin: “Grant that I may surrender myself to God and to you, to be the slave of your
Son and of you, to serve your Lord and you” [c. 12: PL
96, 105]. 14
The next major witness to
the development of the tradition is the great Doctor of the Church, Saint John of Damascus (+ c. 750). The
last of the great Eastern Fathers of the Church interprets the name of Mary according to Syriac etymology to mean
“lady” or “mistress”. In his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
he says of Mary: “Truly she has become the Lady ruler of every creature since she is the Mother of the Creator.”15 In his first homily on the Dormition of the Mother
of God he consequently prays:
We are present before you,
O Lady [Despoina], Lady I say and again Lady, binding our souls
to our hope in you, and as to a most secure and firm anchor [cf. Heb. 6:9], to you we
consecrate [anathémenoi] our minds, our souls, our bodies [cf. I Th. 5:23], in
a word, our very selves, honoring you with psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles [cf.
Eph. 5:19], insofar as we are able – even though it is impossible to do so worthily. If truly, as the
sacred word has taught us, the honor paid to our fellow servants testifies to our good will towards our common
Master, how could we neglect honoring you who have brought forth your Master? ... In this way we can
better show our attachment to our Master.
Turn your gaze on us,
Noble Lady, Mother of the good Master, rule over and direct at your discretion all that concerns us; restrain the
impulses of our shameful passions; guide us to the tranquil harbor of the divine will; make us worthy of future
blessedness, of the beatific vision in the presence of the Word of God who was made flesh in you. 16
One notes how in language
which is redolent with Scriptural overtones Saint John makes the total gift of himself and those who are joined
with him, of all that they have and are, to our Lady. He deliberately used the Greek term anathémenoi in order to indicate that “consecration” means “setting aside
for sacred use”. What is literally signified, according to the use of this word in Leviticus 27:28 and in
other places in the Old Testament, is that this “giving of oneself to Mary” is so exclusive, absolute and permanent
that one who would revoke the gift would be “cut off” (i.e. anathema)
from God and his people. In analyzing this text, Father José María Canal, C.M.F. makes three
major points: (1) Damascene’s deliberate use of the term “consecration” which pertains to setting aside for sacred
use; (2) the comprehensiveness of this act which excludes nothing and (3) its basis in Mary’s unique relationship
to her Divine Son by virtue of the Divine Maternity.17
B. Medieval Period
In the feudal setting of the
early Middle Ages we find the custom of “patronage” (patrocinium)
becoming widespread. In order to protect their lives and possessions, freemen would vow themselves to the
service of their overlords; in exchange for the assurance of protection and the necessities of life, the client
would place himself completely at the disposal of his protector. Here is a description of a traditional ceremony
by which a vassal would put himself under the patronage and at the service of a suzerain, by the well-known liturgical
scholar, Josef Jungmann, S.J.:
He put his hands in the enfolding
hands of the master, just as is done today by the newly ordained priest when he promises honour and obedience to
his bishop at the end of the ordination Mass. The act is also called commendation: se
commendare, se tradere, in manus or manibus se commendare (tradere), and also patricinio se commendare (tradere).
From the side of the overlord there was the corresponding suscipere, recipere, manus suscipere and the like.18
Not surprisingly in those
ages of faith this relationship of vassalage would provide a way of describing one’s relationship to Mary.
If Jesus is one’s Lord, as we have already seen Saint John of Damascus reason, then it is only logical that Mary
becomes one’s Lady. Fulbert of Chartres (+ 1028) provides us with a beautiful prayer in which he underscores
that his consecration to Christ in Baptism also makes of him another “beloved disciple” (cf. Jn. 19:26-27) “committed”
Remember, O Lady, that in
Baptism I was consecrated to the Lord and professed the Christian name with my lips. Unfortunately I have
not observed what I have promised. Nevertheless I have been handed over [traditus] to you and committed to your care [commendatus] by
the Lord, the living and true God. Watch over the one who has been handed over to you [traditum]; keep safe the one who has been committed to your protection [commendatum].19
Likewise, a freeman who was
in debt or otherwise not prospering in his affairs might present himself to an overlord “a rope around his neck,
a sign that [he] was to become a serf, engaging his person, his family and his goods.”20 This, too, could be transferred into the spiritual realm and appropriated
to one’s relationship to Our Lady as we see in the case of St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny (+ 1049) who as a young man
consecrated himself to Our Lady by going to a church dedicated to her and presenting himself at her altar with
a rope around his neck and praying:
O most loving Virgin and Mother of the Savior of all ages, from this day and hereafter take me
into your service and in all my affairs be ever at my side as a most merciful advocate. For after God I place
nothing in any way before you and I give myself over to you for ever as your own slave and bondsman [tanquam proprium servum, tuo mancipatui trado]. 21
Another beautiful image of the patrocinium
of the Virgin is that of her “protective mantle” or Schutzmantel
as it became known in German. In the Christian East the same image of the Virgin’s “protective mantle” is
manifested in a slightly different iconographical style in the feast and image of the Pokrov. 22 Here is Jungmann’s description
of the Marian iconography which would become classical in the medieval West:
The emblem of Citeaux was
the image of the Mother of God with the abbots and abbesses of the order kneeling under her mantle. Caesarius
of Heisterbach (d. 1240) also knew this motif as he shows in his description of a Cistercian monk in heaven, looking
about in vain for his brothers until Mary opens out her wide mantle and discloses a countless number of brothers
and nuns. In the later Middle Ages especially, the motif of the protective mantle is wide-spread, commonly
as an expression of protection being sought or hoped for, chiefly in connection with the image of the Mother of
Arnold Bostius (+ 1499), a
Flemish Carmelite, wrote explicitly about Mary’s patronage and protection of his order in his major Marian work,
De Patronatu et Patrocinio Beatissimae Virginis Mariae in Dicatum sibi Carmeli Ordinem. Although he did not use the word “consecration” to describe the Carmelite’s relationship to Mary
because that meaning had not yet been appropriated to the word, he used all the equivalent Latin expressions such
as dicare, dedicare, devovere, sub qua vivere, etc. 24 and he maintained, as Pope Pius XII would in his Letter, Neminem Profecto of 11 February 1950. 25 that the wearing of the Carmelite scapular was an explicit sign of the acceptance of Mary’s patronage
and protection, of the Carmelite’s belonging to her. 26 In continuity with his predecessor Pope John Paul II took up the same theme in his Message to the Prior
General of Carmelites of the Ancient Observance and the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelites on the 750th
Anniversary of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, stating that “the most genuine form of devotion to the
Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is consecration to her Immaculate Heart”. 27
C. Modern Period
This heritage of the patrocinium of Mary would find expression in the Marian Congregations (sodalities)
established by the Belgian Jesuit, Jean Leunis in 1563 for the students of the Collegio Romano. 28 The admission to the Congregation, which had as its
aim the formation of militant Christians after the ideals of St. Ignatius Loyola and was placed under the patronage
of Our Lady, soon became an act of oblation to the Virgin. The text of one of these early admission ceremonies
by Father Franz Coster (+ 1619) was published in the Libellus sodalitatis in 1586 and is most likely the very formula which he first used to receive students into the Congregation
which he had founded at Cologne in 1576. In it the sodalist chooses Mary as “Lady, Patroness and Advocate”
and begs her to receive him as her servum perpetuum. 29 Father Quéméneur underscores the fact
that the Marian Congregations introduce yet another perspective into the question of Marian consecration which
is inherited from the late Middle Ages: the corporate dimension. 30
In 1622 the Marian Congregation
admission formulae of the Italian Jesuit, Pietro Antonio Spinelli, as well as that of Father Coster were published
in the book, Hortulus Marianus of Father La Croix. The
two formulae are described respectively as modus consecrandi
and modus vovendi to the Blessed Virgin. Jungmann comments
that this is the first appearance of the word consecrare (to
consecrate) with the meaning of putting oneself under the patrocinium of Mary and it is taken as being synonymous with the word devovere which in classical Latin meant to devote oneself to a deity. 31 In effect, the understanding from the beginning of this usage has been that by the act of consecration
to Our Lady the sodalist places himself at the service of Christ the King through her mediation and under her patronage.
32 The use of the term “consecration”
with the meaning of giving oneself completely to Mary in order to belong more perfectly to Christ enters into the
common Catholic lexicon from this period and has continued to be used by in this sense by the Popes of the past
During virtually the same
period of time that the Jesuit Marian Congregations were developing, confraternities of the Holy Slavery of Mary
were germinating in the soil of Spain. In fact, the earliest of these, founded under the inspiration of Sister
Agnes of St. Paul at the convent of the Franciscan Conceptionists at Alcalá de Henares, dates from 2 August
1595 33 and thus antedates the foundation
of the sodality movement. The first theologian of this “Marian slavery” as it was practiced in Alcalá
was the Franciscan Melchor de Cetina “who composed in 1618 what may be called the first ‘Handbook of Spirituality’
for the members of the confraternity." 34
As the seventeenth century
progressed, the confraternities multiplied and papal approval followed. One of the great promoters and proponents
of this spirituality was the Trinitarian, Simon de Rojas (1552-1624). 35 who was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 3 July 1988. The Augustinian, Bartolomé de los
Rios (1580-1652)36, extended the work
of his friend, de Rojas, into the Low Countries and propagated it by means of his writings which were known and
cited by Saint Louis de Montfort. 37
Perhaps the single most important
figure to emerge thus far in our brief consideration of the forms of Marian consecration in the spiritual journey
of the Church is Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629). Founder of the Oratory of Jesus and promoter
of the Teresian reform of Carmel in France, his greatest glory in terms of the history of spirituality is probably
one of which he was never conscious, that of being the “founder of the French School” of spirituality. His
spiritual paternity would enrich the Church through Saint John Eudes and the Venerable Jean-Jacques Olier, Saints
Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort and Jean-Baptiste de la Salle. His disciples of even the second and third
generations would continue to develop his doctrine with their own refinements and emphases. The depth of
thought and the ponderousness of his style rendered him somewhat inaccessible so that often his immediate followers
such as Olier and Eudes presented the fruits of his contemplation in ways which were much more appealing. 38 but there can be no doubt that
he was “le chef d’école”.
Of specific interest to us
is that while visiting Spain in 1604 Bérulle, who had been a member of the Marian Congregation in his days
in the Jesuit College of Clermont, came into contact with the confraternities of the Slaves of the Virgin and in
particular with that of Alcalá de Henares where he went to see the General of the Carmelites. 39 This exposure would seem to have had a notable influence
on the development of his own spirituality for he would eventually formulate a “vow of servitude” to the Virgin
Mary because of his conviction that in the divine design God wished to include in the vocation and predestination
of Jesus Christ his divine filiation as well as the divine maternity. 40 Hence Mary, the first to have made the vow of servitude to Jesus, “pure capacity for Jesus filled with
Jesus," 41 relates one perfectly
to him. Here are his words:
To the perpetual honor of
the Mother and the Son, I wish to be in the state and quality of servitude with regard to her who has the state
and quality of the Mother of my God ... I give myself to her in the quality of a slave in honor of the gift which
the eternal Word made of himself to her in the quality of Son. 42
We have already indicated
a number of Bérulle’s illustrious disciples, but surely the greatest of them all was Saint Louis-Marie Grignion
de Montfort, described as “the last of the great Bérullians”. 43 According to François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D.:
all of his teaching is marked by the powerful Christocentrism of the French School, with the
same insistence on the mystery of the Incarnation and on the place of Mary in this mystery. But in receiving
this precious talent, he makes it fruitful in a way that is personal and original. Above all, he renders
accessible to all, especially the poorest and the smallest, the doctrine which Bérulle had formulated in
a very theological manner, but in difficult language. 44
While Bérulle had already
indicated the link between Baptism and his “vow of servitude to Jesus,” Montfort would associate Mary with one’s
Baptismal commitment as well. What he proposes in his classic work True Devotion
to the Blessed Virgin is a renewal of one’s Baptismal promises “through the hands of
In holy baptism we do not
give ourselves to Jesus explicitly through Mary, nor do we give him the value of our good actions. After
baptism we remain entirely free either to apply that value to anyone we wish or keep it for ourselves. But
by this consecration we give ourselves explicitly to Jesus through Mary’s hands and we include in our consecration
the value of all our actions. 45
If Louis-Marie had written a special formula of consecration in conjunction with his treatise,
True Devotion, it has not thus far come to light. This
is because the first and last pages of the manuscript, only discovered in 1842, have never been found. The
formula which he has left us in his earlier work, The Love of Eternal Wisdom, clearly highlights the fact that Jesus is the goal of the act of consecration which he proposes while
Mary is its intermediary:
Eternal and incarnate Wisdom,
most lovable and adorable Jesus, true God and true man, only Son of the eternal Father and of Mary always Virgin,
... I dare no longer approach the holiness of your majesty on my own. That is why I turn to the intercession
and the mercy of your holy Mother, whom you yourself have given me to mediate with you. Through her I hope
to obtain from you contrition and pardon for my sins, and that Wisdom whom I desire to dwell in me always.
... O admirable Mother, present me to your dear Son as his slave now and for always, so that he who redeemed me
through you, will now receive me through you. 46
Thus, while de Montfort readily and very frequently speaks of “consecrating oneself to Mary,”
this must always be understood as a shorthand form of “consecrating oneself to Jesus through the hands of Mary."
47 It is precisely in these terms that
Pope John Paul II presented him as a proponent of authentic Marian spirituality in Redemptoris
Further, that same Pope defended
the whole tradition of Marian slavery of which Montfort is a major exponent – and, as we have seen, is deeply embedded
in the whole tradition – in a discourse to his brother Polish Bishop on 17 December 1987:
On 3 May of the year of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland  we were witnesses to the
participants in the Act of Consecration proclaimed by Cardinal
Stefan Wyszynski at Jasna Góra. The title of the Act stimulated reflection, and at the same time it
gave rise to certain objections, even protests. Can one speak of giving oneself “as a slave”, even
if it is only a question of a “maternal slavery” and the Act in question concerns the Mother of God and Queen of
One could say that the Act of Jasna Góra is itself rooted
in the history of that “great paradox”
whose first setting is the gospel itself. Here it is a question not only of verbal paradoxes, but of ontological
ones as well. The most profound paradox is perhaps that of life and death, expressed, among other places,
in the parable of the seed which must die in order to produce new life. This paradox is definitively confirmed
by the paschal mystery.
The tradition of a “holy slavery” – that is of a “maternal slavery” which is a “slavery of love” – has grown up on the same soil, and has been passed on by certain figures
in the history of Christian spirituality. Suffice it to mention St. Louis de Montfort and our own St. Maximilian.
Of course, the Primate of the Millennium inherited this tradition of Marian spirituality in part from his predecessor
in the Primatial See as well. It is known that Cardinal Hlond died with these words on his lips: “Victory, if it comes, will be victory through Mary”.
Thus it is that “maternal slavery” must reveal itself as the path towards victory, the
price of freedom. For that matter, it is difficult to imagine any being less inclined to “enslave” than a
mother, than the Mother of God. And if what we are speaking of is an “enslaving” through love, then from
that perspective “slavery” constitutes precisely the revelation of the fullness of freedom. In fact, freedom attains its true meaning, that is, its own fullness, through a true good.
Love is synonymous with that attainment. ...
If we are speaking of the Act of Consecration itself “in maternal slavery” to the Mother of God, it is certainly, like every expression of her authentic
cult, profoundly Christocentric. It introduces us into
the whole mystery of Christ. Furthermore, we have a solid basis for affirming that the experiences of our
country (which in a certain sense culminate in the act of Consecration proclaimed at Jasna Góra) are also
very close to the Mariology which found expression in Lumen Gentium: The
Mother of God “present in the mystery of Christ and of the Church." 49
Although there continue to be those who call into question and criticize the terminology of “maternal
slavery" 50, as John Paul II acknowledged,
it remains one of those Gospel paradoxes which reflects the fact that the Son of God himself took on the “form
of a slave” (Phil. 2.7) and that his followers glory in being “slaves of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor. 7:22; Col. 1:7, 4:7).
In recent years Fathers François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D. and Étienne Richer of the Community
of the Beatitudes have offered extended reflections on its perennial validity. 51
While it is only right to
recognize Montfort’s teaching as the high-point of the Marian consecration championed by the “French School”, it
would be unfair to consider the subsequent history of this phenomenon in the life of the Church simply in terms
of denouement. The unfolding of this process continued even in that difficult period after the French Revolution
with holy founders such as Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850) who incorporated total consecration to
Mary into the Society of Mary which he founded as the object of a special perpetual religious vow. 52 The specific influence of Montfort has been
experienced, deepened according to the particular gifts of each and spread directly or indirectly by many other
holy persons in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among these are the Venerable Mother Mary Potter (1847-1913), the Servant of God Frank Duff (1889-1980), Blessed Edouard Poppe (1890-1924), Blessed Dina Bélanger (1897-1929)
and the Servant of God Marthe Robin (1902-1981).
I believe, however, that in
terms of the extent of the influence of Montfort on his life and teaching and his subsequent diffusion of that
teaching in his own unique way no twentieth century figure can equal the Servant of God Pope John Paul II (1920-2005).
He testified to that influence on his formation on many occasions. 53 I am convinced that his Marian magisterium is his greatest single legacy to the Church and that
he has not only consolidated the teaching of his predecessors on Marian consecration, but has raised it to a new
level by making it such a fundamental feature of his ordinary magisterium.
It should also be noted that
there are other approaches to Marian consecration which have come into existence in modern times which are not
a direct result of the influence of great saint of Montfort-la-Cane. These are surely not in conflict with
Montfort’s; they simply have had there genesis under different circumstances and are a beautiful example of how
the Holy Spirit draws unity out of diversity. It seems that Saint Maximilian-Maria Kolbe discovered Montfort’s
True Devotion only after he had been led to the necessity of
Marian consecration through his immersion in the great Franciscan Marian tradition. 54 Maximilian, who was familiar with de Montfort and saw the movement
which he founded as a means of fulfilling his prophecy on the latter times. 55 was also conscious of standing in the great tradition of Marian slavery. Although he did not employ
the word with the frequency of de Montfort, he leaves no doubt about its implications in the following text:
You belong to her as her own
property. Let her do with you what she wishes. Do not let her feel herself bound by any restrictions
following from the obligations a mother has towards her own son. Be hers, her property; let her make free
use of you and dispose of you without any limits, for whatever purpose she wishes.
Let her be your owner,
your Lady and absolute Queen. A servant sells his labor; you, on the contrary, offer yours as a gift: your
fatigue, your suffering, all that is yours. Beg her not to pay attention to your free will, but to act towards
you always and in full liberty as she desires.
Be her son, her servant,
her slave of love, in every way and under whatever formulation yet devised or which can be devised now or in the
future. In a word, be all hers.
Be her soldier so that others may become ever more perfectly hers, like you yourself,
and even more than you; so that all those who live and will live all over the world may work together with her
in her struggle against the infernal serpent.
Belong to the Immaculate so that your conscience, becoming ever purer, may be purified
still more, become immaculate as she is for Jesus, so that you too may become a mother and conqueror of hearts
for her. 56
Standing in the great tradition
which we have been sketching, Maximilian brings a note of urgency about the battle, Mary’s “struggle against the
infernal serpent” (cf. Gen. 3:15) and, hence, the all-consuming goal of his life was to mobilize an army, a militia
completely at her disposal. This is clearly illustrated in the official Act of Consecration for the Militia
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has
willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, N … a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet humbly
imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property.
Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases
If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what
was said of you: “She will crush your head,” and, “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.”
Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the
maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom
of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in
holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. 57
Another twentieth century
figure who developed an apostolic Marian movement based on total consecration to Our Lady was the Servant of God
Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968). In the process of nurturing what eventually became the Schönstatt family,
Father Kentenich formulated a beautiful approach Marian
consecration in richly biblical imagery as a “covenant of love”:
Through a solemn consecration,
that is, through a perfect mutual covenant of love, we want
to give ourselves to her [Mary] entirely and unreservedly for time and eternity, so that as a perfect covenant
partner we may always stand in her presence and grow in holy two-in-oneness with her, and in her with the Triune
The covenant of love
not only gives us the right, but even makes it our duty to make proper use of our right to make claims of love
on our covenant partner, and to use the power of petition which has been given to us. In other words, just
as Our Lady makes claims on and expresses wishes to us, we in turn should do the same with her. 58
1. Cf. True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin [= TD] #179, 216, 266 in God
Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort (Bay Shore, NY:
Montfort Publications, 1988). In each of these passages the phrase appears with slightly different variations.
The Latin formula quoted in TD #216 comes from a work attributed
to Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274), the Psalterium Majus, Opera Omnia (Vives Ed.), Vol. 14, 221a and 221b.
2. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus: John
Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford: Academy
of the Immaculate, “Studies and Texts”, No. 1, 1992) [= Totus Tuus]
41-74. I hope that within a year a second enlarged and revised edition of this work will appear. On
the historical evolution of Marian consecration, cf. also P. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I., “La consacrazione a
Maria,” Immaculata Mediatrix I:3 (2001) [Apollonio, Cons] 72-91.
in 1917, a papyrus now kept in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England contains the text of this Marian
prayer which makes it the oldest invocation of the Mother of God which has thus far been found. Cf. Gerard
S. Sloyan, “Marian Prayers” in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (ed.) Mariology Vol. 3 (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1961) 64-68;
I. Calabuig, O.S.M., “Liturgia” in Stefano De Fiores and Salvatore Meo (eds.) Nuovo Dizionario
di Mariologia (Cinisello Balsamo: Edizioni Paoline, 1985) [= NDM] 778-779; Théodore Koehler, S.M., “Maternité Spirituelle, Maternité Mystique”, in
Hubert du Manoir (ed.), Maria: Études sur la Sainte Vierge Vol. VI (Paris: Beauchesne et Ses Files, 1961) [= Maria]; Gabriele Giamberardini, O.F.M., Il culto mariano in Egitto, Vol. I: Secoli I-VI (Jerusalem: Franciscan
Printing Press, 1975) 69-97; Achille M. Triacca, “Sub tuum praesidium: nella lex orandi un’anticipata presenza della
lex credendi. La teotocologia precede la mariologia?” in La
mariologia nella catechesi dei Padri (età prenicena), ed. Sergio Felici (Rome:
Libreria Ateneo Salesiano “Biblioteca di Scienza Religiosa” no. 88, 1989) 183-205; R. Iacoangeli, “Sub tuum praesidium. La più antica preghiera mariana: filologia
e fede”, ibid. 207-40; Mother M. Francesca Perillo, F.I., “Sub Tuum Praesidium: Incomparable Marian Praeconium” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – IV: Acts of the
Fourth International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy
of the Immaculate, 2004) [ Perillo] 138-169.
4. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological
Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier; Dublin:
Dominican Publications, 1982) [= Theotokos] 336.
7. M. Quéméneur, S.M.M.,
“Towards a History of Marian Consecration”, trans. Bro. William Fackovec, S.M. Marian Library Studies 122 (March 1966) 4. (This excellent article
originally appeared as “La consécration de soi à la Vierge à travers l’histoire”, Cahiers Marials no. 14  119-128.
8. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II [= Inseg] V/2 (1982) 1586, 1587 [L’Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English (= ORE). First number = cumulative edition number; second number = page] 735:5, 12; Inseg VII/1 (1984) 774, 775 [ORE 828:9, 10].
11. Stefano de Fiores, “Consacrazione” in NDM 400. In the case of Pope
John VII one might profitably consult the testimony presented by Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza Vol. IV (Isola del Liri:
Tipografia Edirtice M. Pisani, 1969) 97-98.
12. Cf. the excellent study by Théodore Koehler, S.M. in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité Ascétique et Mystique [= DSp] 14:730-745.
13. Cf. Patrick
J. Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (ed.), Mariology 3:143-146; Roschini, Maria Santissima
nella Storia della Salvezza IV:85-86.
14. Inseg V/3 (1982) 1179-1180
[trans. by Debra Duncan].
15. Cited in Valentine
Albert Mitchell, S.M., The Mariology
of Saint John Damascene (Kirkwood, MO: Maryhurst Normal Press, 1930) 76;
cf. also 214.
Graeca 96, 720C-D, 721A-B; Sources Chrétiennes 80, 118 (my trans. made with reference to Theotokos
199 and Georges Gharib et al (ed.), Testi Mariani del Primo Millennio Vol. 2: Padri e altri autori bizantini (Rome:
Città Nuova Editrice, 1989) 519-520); my emphasis.
17. P. José
María Canal, C.M.F., “La Consagración a la Virgen y a Su Corazon Inmaculado”, Virgo Immaculata Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Romae anno MCMLIV
(Rome: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1956) XII:234-235.
18. J. A. Jungmann, S.J., Pastoral Liturgy (NY: Herder and Herder, 1962) 298.
19. Henri Barré,
C.S.Sp., Prières Anciennes de l’Occident à la Mère du Sauveur:
Des origines à saint Anselme (Paris: Lethielleux,, 1963) 159 (my trans.).
21. Barré, Prières Anciennes, 147 (my trans).
22. Cf. S. Salaville, A.A., “Marie dans la Liturgie Byzantine ou Gréco-Slave”,
in Maria I:280; cf. also Quéméneur 4 and Redemptoris Mater #33.
23. Jungmann 300;
cf. also Theotokos 93-94.
24. I. Bengoechea,
O.C.D., “Un precursor de la consagración a María en el siglo XV: Arnoldo Bostio (1445-1499),”
Estudios Marianos 51 (1986) 218; cf. also Redemptus M. Valabek, O. Carm., Mary, Mother of Carmel:
Our Lady and the Saints of Carmel, Vol. I (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1987)
25. Acta Apostolicæ Sedis
[= AAS] 42 (1950) 390-391; Our Lady:
Papal Teachings (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) [= OL] #452-454.
26. Bengoechea 224-225; Valabek 76.
27. Inseg XXIV/1 (2001) 600 [ORE 1687:5].
28. Cf. E. Villaret, S.J., “Marie et la Compagnie de Jésus” in Maria 2:962-968.
33. Gaffney 146;
Canal 250 and especially J. Ordoñez Marquez, “La Cofradía de la Esclavitud en las Concepcionistas
de Alcalá,” Estudios Marianos 51 (1986) 231-248.
34. Gaffney 146;
Canal 252-53; Gaspar Calvo Moralejo, O.F.M., “Fray Melchor de Cetina, O.F.M., el primer teólogo de la ‘Esclavitud
Mariana’ (1618),” Estudios Marianos 51 (1986) 249-271; Juan de los Angeles – Melchior de Cetina, Esortazione alla devozione della Vergine Madre di Dio: Alle
origini della “schiavitù mariana”
Introduzione, traduzione e note di Stefano Cecchin, O.F.M., (Vatican City: Pontificia Academina Mariana Internationalis,
35. Cf. Juan Pujana, “Simóm de Rojas,” DSp 14:877-884; Gaffney 147; Canal 253-254.
36. Cf. Quirino Fernandez, “Los Rios y Alarcón (Bartolomé de)”
37. TD #160; Gaffney 255-259.
38. Raymond Deville,
P.S.S., L’école française de
spiritualité, n. 11 de la “Bibliothèque d’Histoire du Christianisme
(Paris: Desclée, 1987) 29.
39. A. Molien, “Bérulle,” DSp 1:1547.
de piété, 93, 1103 quoted in Paul Cochois, Bérulle
et l’École française, n. 31 de “Maîtres Spirituels” (Paris:
Editions du Seuil, 1963) 105. Cf. also William M. Thompson (ed.), Bérulle
and the French School: Selected Writings (NY: Paulist Press, 1989) 14-16;
41-50; Théodore Koehler, S.M., “Servitude (saint esclavage),” DSp 14:738-741.
41. Quoted in Cochois 105.
43. Henri Brémond, Histoire littéraire
du sentiment religieux en France, IX, (Paris: Librairie Bloud et Gay, 1932) 272.
This appellation is also cited in Deville 139.
44. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, L’Amour de Jésus
en Marie: Le Traité de la vraie dévotion, Le Secret de Marie Nouvelle
édition établie et présentée par François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D, I:
Présentation Générale (Geneva: Ad
Solem, 2000) 23-24 (my trans.). Cf. also Ibid., “La Maternité de Marie dans le mystère de l’Incarnation
et de notre divinisation selon saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort et le Cardinal de Bérulle” in François-Marie
Léthel, O.C.D, Théologie de l’Amour de Jésus: Écrits
sur la théologie des saints (Venasque: Éditions du Carmel, 1996)
45. TD #126
(in God Alone 329).
46. Love of Eternal Wisdom
#223, 226 (in God Alone 112, 113). Léthel points
out in L’Amour de Jésus en Marie, II: Textes, pp. 198-201 that #66-69 of the Secret of Mary [= SM] three prayers addressed to Jesus, to the Holy
Spirit and to Mary effectively constitute a renewal of this consecration.
47. Cf. Reginald
Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Mother of The
Saviour and Our Interior Life trans. by
Bernard J. Kelley, C.S.Sp., (St. Louis: B. Herder Book, Co., 1957) 256, note 19.
48. Redemptoris Mater #48.
49. Inseg X/3 (1987) 1435-1437 [ORE 1022:11].
50. Here, for example, is the critique of E. Schillebeeckx, O.P.: “Let
us take one example of antiquted terminology in this context, the phrase ‘slave of Mary.’ It is quite obvious,
both from the cultural and from the religious point of view,
that this term cannot hope to make a favorable impact or produce the right effect nowadays. In the past this
phrase may well have concealed a deep religious reality. Today it is absolutely unacceptable, and its use
can only lead to total misunderstanding. The reader should not impute pride to this condemnation – the very
opposite is true. It is simply that the present-day Christian is incapable of embodying in his life the idea
of total loving surrender if this is presented to him in the form of ‘loving slavery.’ The greatest tribute
which could be paid to St. Louis Grignion de Montfort would be to free his profound vision from its now out-of-date
terminology, which today hinders rather than promotes devotion to the Blessed Virgin.” Mary
Mother of the Redemption trans. by N. D. Smith (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1964) 139.
51. Cf. François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D., “La Maternité de
Marie dans le mystère de l’Incarnation et de notre divinisation selon saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort
et le Cardinal de Bérulle” in François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D, Théologie
de l’Amour de Jésus: Écrits sur la théologie des saints (Venasque:
Éditions du Carmel, 1996) 127-133; Ibid., L’Amour de Jésus en Marie, I: Présentation Générale
I:81-119; Étienne Richer, La pédagogie de sainteté de saint Louis-Marie
de Montfort (Paris: Pierre Téqui, éditeur, 2003) 179-188; Ibid.,
Suivre Jésus avec Marie: Un secret de sainteté de Grignion de Montfort
à Jean-Paul II (Nouan-le-Fuzelier: Éditions des Béatitudes,
52. Cf. Henri Lebon,
S.M., “Chaminade (Guillaume-Joseph),” DSp 2:454-59; Peter A. Resch, S.M., “Filial Piety” in Mariology 3:162-167.
53. Cf. Alberto Rum, S.M.M., “Montfort e Giovanni Paolo II: Due Testimoni
e Maestri di Spiritualità Mariana,” Fragmenta Monfortana
3 (Rome: Edizioni Monfortane, 1999) 107-142; Ibid., “Giovanni Paolo II” in Dizionario
di Spiritualità Monfortana (Rome: Edizioni Monfortane, 2005) 798-816; André
Frossard, “Be Not Afraid!” trans. by J. R. Foster (NY:
St. Martin’s Press, 1984) 125-127; Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope edited by Vittorio Messori and trans. by Jenny and Martha McPhee (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994)
212-215; Ibid., Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 1996) 41-43.
54. Cf. Alessandro Maria Apollonio, F.I., Mariologia
Francescana: Da san Francesco d’Assisi ai Francescani dell’Immacolata. Dissertationes
ad Lauream in Pontificia Facultate Tehologigica «Marianum» 71, Estratto (Rome, 1997) [= Apollonio,
55. Cf. TD #35, 46-59; Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe (Rome: Editrice Nazionale Milizia dell’Immacolata,
1997) #1129 [Anselm W. Romb, O.F.M. Conv., The Kolbe Reader
(Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1987) 36-39].
56. Scritti #1334 [Romb
57. Scritti #37, 1331 [English
version from Marytown, Libertyville, IL]. On the consecration proposed by Saint Maximilian cf. Apollonio,
MF 192-195; Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., St.
Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, Pneumatologist: His Theology of the Holy Spirit
(New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004) 143-145.
58. Joseph Kentenich,
Schoenstatt’s Covenant Spirituality ed. and trans. Jonathan Niehaus (Waukesha, WI: Schoenstatt
Fathers) 28, 57.
Copyright ©; Msgr Arthur Calkins 2011
Version 23rd November 2011