This devotion consists then in giving ourselves entirely to the Blessed Virgin, in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her.
-St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort
True Devotion to Mary, No. 121.
These words by St. Louis de Montfort, the great promulgator of Marian consecration, well sum up the means and the goal of consecration to Jesus through Mary. Far from being simply an added or isolated Marian piety, consecration to Jesus through Mary represents a crowning of Marian devotion, a new and dynamic Marian dimension of the Christian life that has been enthusiastically encouraged by the Church through both invitation and example.
What Is Marian Consecration?
Marian consecration is fundamentally a promise of love and a gift of self that gives all that the Christian is and does completely and directly to the Mother of the Lord, which thereby allows her to unite us to her Divine Son in ways simply not possible without her powerful maternal intercession. Consecration to Jesus through Mary is to give oneself entirely to Mary in a self-donation of love that enables the Mediatrix of all graces to use her full intercessory power to keep a person faithful to his or her baptismal promises to Jesus Christ.
Brief History of Marian Consecration
Consecration to Mary has a long and rich tradition in the Church. An early patristic understanding of this gift of self to the Mother of Jesus was seen in the form of referring to oneself as a servus Mariae, or a “servant” or “slave,” to the Mother of God. The expression, “slave of Mary” was also modeled in a secondary sense after the scriptural expression used by St. Paul of being a “slave of Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; etc.), which likewise is meant as a complete filial (a son or daughter-like) gift of self.
Although more foreign to contemporary usage, the term “servant” or “slave” was not understood in a depersonalizing or degrading sense. Rather, it was a succinct expression used by several Church Fathers and doctors to indicate a fully voluntary and whole-hearted dependence on the Mother of Christ.
The Christian practice of becoming a “slave of Mary” dates back at least to the fifth century as contained in various African sermons. (1) For example, the great Eastern doctor of the Church St. John Damascene (d.749), referred to himself as a “slave of the Mother of God” and authored the following prayer form of Marian consecration in the eighth century:
O Lady, before you we take our stand. Lady, I call you Virgin Mother of God and to your hope, as to the sure and strongest anchor we bind ourselves; to you we consecrate our mind, our soul, our body, all that we are…. (2)
The western saint, St. Ildefonsus of Toledo (d.669), described why being a “servant of the Handmaid of the Lord” leads back to the Lord himself:
Therefore I am your servant, because your Son is my Lord. Therefore you are my Lady because you are the handmaid of my Lord. Therefore I am the servant of the handmaid of my Lord, because you, my Lady, have become the Mother of my Lord…. (3)
The practice of referring to oneself as a “slave of Mary” or “servant of Mary” was a devotion exercised in Ireland by the ninth century, and was given official Church approval as manifested by the ecclesiastical approval of the community of the “Servites of Mary,” a religious order in the thirteenth century. Several popes likewise proclaimed themselves “slave of the Mother of God,” including Pope John VII (d.707), Pope Nicholas IV (d.1292) and Pope Paul V (d.1621). (4)
The great scholastic theologian-saints, St. Anselm of Canterbury (d.1109) and St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153), personally identified themselves as slaves of the Mother of God, and St. Bernard added these words regarding the practice of giving all to the Mother of Christ:
Whatever you are about to offer, remember to commend it to Mary, so that through the same channel whence grace flowed, it may return to the giver of grace. (5)
By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, consecration to Our Lady under its various forms had spread throughout all of Catholic Europe. (6) Note that in these early forms of Marian consecration, it was for the ultimate purpose of a more profound, intimate union with Christ that led Christians to give themselves entirely as slaves to the Mother of the Lord.
St. Louis Marie de Montfort
Even with this solid Church tradition of giving oneself to Jesus through Mary, Marian consecration reached new heights of understanding, practice, and promulgation through the tireless work of arguably its greatest advocate, St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort (1673-1716). St. Louis Marie was an indefatigable preacher of “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary” throughout the regions of France and beyond. For his ceaseless preaching and retreats on Marian consecration, de Montfort, who walked the 1,000 mile trip to Rome to submit his work for papal approval, was named by Pope Clement XI as “Apostolic Missionary.” (7) De Montfort later wrote down the substance of his inspired preachings and sermons in the book, now known as True Devotion to Mary (a manuscript which for well over one hundred years after his death was locked up in a trunk, only to be discovered in 1842 by a French de Montfortian priest).
The heart of de Montfort’s classic work on True Devotion to Mary consists of an act of formal consecration to the Immaculate Mother, so that through her intercession the Christian may be completely and totally consecrated to Jesus Christ and more faithful than ever before to his baptismal promises to the Lord. As St. Louis explains:
All our perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ; and therefore the most perfect of all devotions is, without any doubt, that which the most perfectly conforms, unites, and consecrates us to Jesus Christ. Now, Mary being the most conformed of all creatures to Jesus Christ, it follows that, of all devotions, that which most consecrates and conforms the soul to Our Lord is devotion to His Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it is consecrated to Jesus.
Hence it comes to pass that the most perfect consecration to Jesus Christ is nothing else than a perfect and entire consecration of ourselves to the Blessed Virgin and this is the devotion I teach; or, in other words, a perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy Baptism. (8)
Total consecration to the Mother thereby allows the one who is most conformed to Jesus Christ and who is also Mediatrix of all graces to intercede for the Christian that they may be most interiorly united with Our Lord and be as faithful as possible to the baptismal promises of the Christian faith.
Marian consecration is not simply an added devotion or prayer, but rather, a new Marian way of life, a crowning of devotion to Our Lady that invites her and her powerful intercession into every aspect of the Christian’s life. St. Louis de Montfort was the one who explained thoroughly the spiritual method “to Jesus through Mary” and shaped it into a definite mode of spiritual life. He does not propose some special or “extra prayers,” but rather, a devotion which essentially consists of one single act which, under various formulas and conditions, we apply to our whole life, both interior and exterior. This devotion leads to a permanent disposition of living and acting habitually in dependence on our Blessed Mother; it embraces one’s entire life, not just one’s prayer times or specifically religious acts. (9)
The Dominican Theologian, Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange, described the various stages of Marian devotion and designated consecration to Mary as the “highest degree” of authentic Marian devotion:
Like the other Christian virtues, true devotion (to Mary) grows in us with charity, advancing from the stage of the beginner to that of the more proficient, and continuing up to the stage of the perfect. The first degree or stage is to pray devoutly to Mary from time to time, for example, by saying the Angelus when the bells ring. The second degree is one of more perfect sentiments of veneration, confidence and love; it may be manifest by the daily recitation of the Rosary—five decades or all fifteen. In the third degree, the soul gives itself fully to Our Lady by an act of consecration so as to belong altogether to Jesus through her…this act of consecration consists in promising Mary to have constant filial recourse to her and to live in habitual dependence on her, so as to attain to a more intimate union with our Blessed Lord and through Him with the Blessed Trinity present in our souls. (10)
Let us examine the heart of the actual prayer of Marian consecration written by St. Louis Marie and still in very popular usage throughout the world today (the consecration prayer in its entirety can be found in the Appendix):
I, (name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in your hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before.
In the presence of all the heavenly court, I choose you this day for my Mother and Queen. I deliver and consecrate to you, as your slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present, and future; leaving to you the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to your good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and eternity. (11)
The consecration begins with a strong Christological focus, encapsulated in a renewal of the quintessential Christian vows to Jesus Christ, the vows of sacramental Baptism. The Christian renounces Satan and gives himself entirely to Jesus Christ in order to carry his cross like never before and to ever increase in fidelity to the Lord Jesus.
The prayer goes on to consecrate the person to the Blessed Virgin as Spiritual Mother and Queen, giving to Our Lady all that the person is and does to be used within the Mystical Body of the Church for God’s greater glory. It is a self-donation, as St. Louis Marie explains, of “all that we are in the order of nature and in the order of grace and all that may become ours in the future in the orders of nature, grace, and glory.” The spiritual effect of this Marian consecration allows for the Mother of the Mystical Body to distribute a person’s offerings and merits so as to benefit best the Body of Christ and all humanity (inclusive of effecting a release of grace for the conversion and entrance of new members into the Church). The distribution of our spiritual goods is no longer restricted to our very limited knowledge of the needs of those we know, but is now extended to their universal distribution based on Our Lady’s universal knowledge of the need for the Church and the world. As Garrigou-LaGrange confirms:
In this practice of complete dependence on Mary, there may be included—and St. Louis Marie de Montfort invites us to it—the resignation into Mary’s hands of everything in our good works that is communicable to other souls, so that she may make use of it in accordance with the will of her Divine Son and for His glory.
… Consecration to Our Lady is a practical form of recognition of her universal mediation and a guarantee of her special protection. It helps us to have continual childlike recourse to her and to contemplate and imitate her virtues and her perfect union with Christ. (12)
It should also be noted that although consecration to the Mother of God represents the crowning of Marian devotion, it should in no sense be considered either as a sign of or reward for spiritual perfection, having as a pre-requisite the imperative for an advanced devotion to Christ’s Mother. Rather, it is a means of Christian perfection and for a deeper Marian love and abandonment, which calls for a prudent spiritual preparation, as all gifts of ourselves call for. Marian consecration is unquestionably inferior to the reception of Holy Eucharist, and yet even young children properly and rightfully partake of the Bread of Life at the Sacrifice of the Mass, based upon appropriate spiritual preparation. So too should be the case for total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
The theological foundations for an act of consecration to Jesus through Mary lie in the Marian doctrines of Spiritual Maternity and Mediatrix of all graces. De Montfort explains:
The Most High has made her sole treasurer of His treasures and the sole dispenser of His graces to enable, to exalt, and to enrich who she wishes…. It was through her that Jesus Christ came to us, and it is through her that we must go to Him. If we fear to go directly to Jesus Christ, our God, whether because of His Infinite greatness or because of our vileness or because of our sins, let us boldly implore the aid and intercession of Mary, our Mother. She is good, she is tender, she has nothing in her austere and forbidding, nothing too sublime and too brilliant. In seeing her, we see our pure nature. She is not the sun, which by the brightness of its rays blinds us because of our weakness; but she is fair and gentle as the moon (Cant 6:9), which receives the light of the sun, and tempers it to make it more suitable to our capacity. She is so charitable that she repels none of those who ask her intercession, no matter how great of sinners they have been; for, as the saints say, never has it been heard since the world was the world that anyone has confidently and perseveringly had recourse to our Blessed Lady and yet has been repelled. (13)
Why is Marian consecration so efficacious in bringing an abundance of new graces to the Christian soul? Marian consecration grants our Blessed Mother the freedom to use her full power of intercession in the sanctification and spiritual protection of her earthly children. In imitation of the Heavenly Father, she always must respect our free will. In a certain sense, Our Lady can only intercede on behalf of the Christian to the extent that each adult person freely allows her to do so. When a person then consecrates himself or herself to Mary, this free and total gift of self to Mary allows her to use her full God-given power of intercession to sanctify the person in the graces of Jesus Christ and moreover to provide him or her with spiritual protection from the pomps and works of Satan. Marian consecration completely opens the door of our heart to the powerful means of union with Christ given to our Mother and Advocate of the Church.
We again recall the words of the Second Vatican Council that Mary’s God-given task of mediation never diminishes or overshadows the task of Jesus Christ the one Mediator, but rather shows his power and fosters intimate union with him:
Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely upon it and draws all its power from it. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it (Lumen Gentium, No. 60).
St. Maximilian Kolbe’s “Consecration to the Immaculata”
A contemporary Marian apostle who promulgated Marian consecration worldwide is the great Franciscan saint and Auschwitz hero, St. Maximilian Kolbe. St. Maximilian presents a sublime Mariology that centers around Our Lady as the “Immaculata,” based on her self-revelation at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” St. Maximilian tells us that Mary is Immaculate by her very essence, and therefore becomes the perfect human instrument of the Holy Spirit, whom Kolbe refers to as the “Uncreated Immaculate Conception” (a divine and perfect example of all conceptions, proceeding from the perfection of divine love between the Father and the Son). (14)
St. Maximilian points out the profound, sublime union between Mary, the human Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, the divine, uncreated Immaculate Conception, in the mediation of all graces to the human family. Kolbe writes:
The union between the Immaculata and the Holy Spirit is so inexpressible, yet so perfect, that the Holy Spirit acts only by the Most Blessed Virgin His Spouse. This is why she is the Mediatrix of all grace given by the Holy Spirit. And since every grace is a gift of God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, it follows that there is no grace which Mary cannot dispose of as her own, which is not given to her for this purpose. (15)
Because of Mary’s intimate union with the Holy Spirit in the sanctification of humanity, Kolbe sees consecration to the Immaculata as the greatest means by which the human family can be “reconquered” for the Kingdom of God: “The Immaculata must conquer the whole world for herself, and each individual soul as well, so that she can bring all back to God.” (16)
Kolbe, much like de Montfort, desired every person to renew their baptismal promises by making a total consecration to the Immaculata. As Kolbe preached on Easter Sunday of 1937:
We were born again in Baptism, which washed away our sins…How can we dispose ourselves so as to receive the greatest possible influx of grace? Let us consecrate ourselves to the Immaculata. Let her prepare us herself. Let her receive her Son in us. This is the most perfect means, the one Jesus prefers, and the one that will afford us the most abundant fruits of grace. (17)
We see both with St. Louis Marie de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe, arguably the two greatest apostles of Marian Consecration, that the final goal of Marian consecration is always ultimately directed towards a greater fidelity and love offered to our divine Lord and Redeemer in a renewal of our foundational baptismal vows to Jesus through Mary.
Marian Consecration in Modern Papal Teaching
The popes of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, have enthusiastically encouraged consecration to Mary, Mother of the Lord, both by word and example. Repeated papal encouragement has been directed to St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s classic work, True Devotion to Mary. A nearly unprecedented support for an individual spiritual writing has been granted by the popes of the last one hundred fifty years in the forms of praises and indulgences encouraging the faithful to read True Devotion to Mary, and to make the act of total consecration to Jesus through Mary. For example:
Bl. Pope Pius IX declared True Devotion to Mary to be free from all doctrinal error and referred to de Montfort’s devotion to Mary as the best and most acceptable form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin. (18)
Pope Leo XIII encouraged all faithful to make de Montfort’s act of consecration by granting a Church indulgence for those who would do so. Pope Leo XIII also beatified de Montfort in 1888. (19)
Pope St. Pius X manifested an exceptional appreciation of the writings of the French Marian apostle and made several efforts to encourage the faithful to read and to practice the Marian spirituality of True Devotion. St. Pius X declared his dependence on de Montfort’s writing in the composition of his own Marian encyclical, Ad diem illum and granted a plenary indulgence in perpetuum (in perpetuity) for those who recite de Montfort’s formula of Marian consecration. He further granted an apostolic blessing to anyone who merely read True Devotion, so much did this Holy Father desire the Catholic world to receive and practice total consecration to Mary. (20)
Pope Benedict XV declared the practice of making the consecration to Mary and its corresponding devotion to be “of great unction and high authority.” (21)
Pope Pius XI spoke personally of de Montfort’s True Devotion: “I have practiced this devotion ever since my youth.” (22)
Pope Pius XII canonized de Montfort in 1947 and declared his Marian spirituality to be “consuming, solid and right.” (23) He referred to de Montfort as the guide “who leads you to Mary and from Mary to Jesus…he is incontestably one of those who has worked the most ardently and the most efficaciously to make Mary loved and served.” (24)
Pope John Paul II, more than of his any papal predecessors, summoned the Church to make and practice Total Consecration according to de Montfort’s spirituality. So central was the spirit of Marian consecration to this Vicar of Christ that his very papal motto, “Totus Tuus”—”Entirely Yours”—was directed specifically to Our Lady and was taken from de Montfort’s short form prayer of Marian consecration.
In his 1987 Marian encyclical Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II discussed the characteristics of “authentic Marian spirituality and devotion” and singled out amidst the rich history in the Church of Marian spirituality the writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort:
I would like to recall, among the many witnesses and teachers of this spirituality, the figure of Saint Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, who proposes consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary, as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments. I am pleased to note that in our own time too new manifestations of this spirituality and devotion are not lacking. (25)
On a more personal note, John Paul II said the following words about True Devotion in an address to the de Montfort Fathers:
The reading of this book (True Devotion) was a decisive turning point in my life. I say “turning point,” but in fact it was a long inner journey…. This “perfect devotion” is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of Redemption. (26)
Further, Pope John Paul II offered a rich theology for personal Marian consecration, again in Redemptoris Mater. Here the pope discussed what he calls a “filial entrustment to the Mother of Christ.” For his theology of Marian consecration or entrustment, John Paul returned to the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:26).
It is at Calvary that Jesus gave Mary as Spiritual Mother to John and beyond John, to every “beloved disciple.” As the pope stated: “Mary’s motherhood, which becomes man’s inheritance, is a gift: a gift which Christ himself makes personally to every individual.” (27)
How then does John, the beloved disciple, respond to this gift of Mary’s motherhood? The Gospel records John’s response: “And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn 19:27). John, then, becomes an example of how every “beloved disciple” of the Lord should respond to Jesus’ gift of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, a gift offered directly from the Cross: to take Mary into our own homes.
The specific way Christians should take Mary “into their homes” is by consecrating or entrusting themselves, by offering themselves as spiritual sons and daughters to their Christ-given 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…. Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, “welcomes” the Mother of Christ “into his own home…” (28)
Pope John Paul II goes on to explain that the word “home” refers to the spiritual life, the inner life of the believer. This son or daughter-like act of Marian entrusting invites the Mother of Jesus into the spiritual life of the Christian, allowing Mary to exercise her unifying power of grace between the faithful and her divine Son. As the pope describes, the Christian who entrusts himself to Mary:
…brings her (Mary) 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.” Thus the Christian seeks to be taken into that “maternal charity” with which the Redeemer’s Mother “cares for the brethren of her Son,” “in whose birth and development she cooperates” in the measure of the gift proper to each through the power of Christ’s Spirit. (29)
And in his 2002 document, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the Totus Tuus Pontiff elucidates the fruitful spiritual link between the Rosary and Marian Consecration:
In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin…. she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit…
The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary’s side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19)… This is the luminous principle expressed by the Second Vatican Council which I have so powerfully experienced in my own life and have made the basis of my episcopal motto: Totus Tuus. The motto is of course inspired by the teaching of Saint Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort, who explained in the following words Mary’s role in the process of our configuration to Christ: “Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ” (De Montfort, True Devotion). Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined. Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ! (30)
World Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Beyond the specific call for personal Marian consecration, recent popes as the spiritual fathers of all peoples, have also sought to consecrate the entire human family to the maternal care and protection of the Mother of God. This effort by several pontiffs has been undertaken in response to a request of Our Lady herself during the 1917 Marian apparitions at Fatima.
During the third Fatima apparition of July 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin asked the Holy Father to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart as a remedy for the errors that Russia would spread throughout the world which would cause various wars, suffering for the Holy Father and persecutions of the Church, and even the annihilation of nations:
…I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world. (31)
The term “Immaculate Heart of Mary” refers to the maternal heart of Mary from which, in part, the incarnate physical heart of Jesus was formed. Beyond just the material aspect, the heart of Mary formally symbolizes the very person of Mary and all the grace, sanctity, and love that flows from the Mother of Jesus to the human family. Scripturally, the word “heart” bespeaks the whole person. As Mary is always that pure channel of grace, which flows from Jesus and to Jesus, her Immaculate Heart is the perfect channel to Christ’s most Sacred Heart, source and symbol of the infinite love of God for humanity.
Several popes have sought in varying degrees to comply with the request of Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On October 31, 1942 Pope Pius XII, during a radio broadcast to pilgrims at Fatima, consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the midst of the global conflict of World War II:
To you and to your Immaculate Heart in this tragic hour of human history, we commit, we entrust, we consecrate not only holy Church, the mystical body of your Jesus, which suffers and bleeds in so many places, and is afflicted in so many ways, but also the entire world torn by violent discord, scorched in a fire of hate, victim of its own iniquities. (32)
On December 8th, 1942, Pope Pius XII repeated the consecration and made an allusion to Russia in the text. In his 1952 apostolic letter Sacro vergente anno, Pius XII dedicated and consecrated “all the peoples of Russia to the same Immaculate Heart.” (33)
Sr. Lucia, the primary Fatima visionary, specified after the initial papal attempts to comply with the Fatima request that Our Lady desired a “collegial consecration” of Russia to her Immaculate Heart, that is, a consecration by the pope that would be joined in by the college of bishops throughout the world. (34)
Pope Paul VI, after proclaiming Mary as “Mother of the Church” at the Second Vatican Council, proceeded to entrust the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: “We also entrust the whole human race for its protection, its difficulties and anxieties, its legitimate aspirations and ardent hopes to the guardianship of the heavenly Mother.” (35) Moreover, on the fiftieth anniversary of Fatima, May 13, 1967, Pope Paul VI visited Fatima and issued the Marian exhortation, Signum Magnum (A Great Sign), in which he exhorted the “sons of the Church” to renew their consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
We exhort all the sons of the Church to renew personally their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of the Church and to bring alive this most noble act of veneration through a life ever more consonant with the divine will and in a spirit of filial service to, and of devout imitation of, their heavenly Queen. (36)
On May 13, 1981, the Fatima anniversary, Pope John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s square in fulfillment in part of the July 13, 1917 Fatima prophecy that, “the Holy Father will have much to suffer.” John Paul II attributed his miraculous preservation from death to the direct intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, (37) and commenced preparation for the requested collegial consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On March 25, 1984, Pope John Paul II, after having invited all bishops of the world to join him, consecrated the world, inclusive of Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in fulfillment of Our Lady’s request. The inspired prayer of consecration entrusted the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and petitioned Mary to intercede in delivering the world from the multi-form evils that presently threaten its spiritual and physical well-being. (38) John Paul II’s consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984 in union with many bishops throughout the world did satisfy the Fatima request of 1917, as has been confirmed on several occasions both by Pope John Paul II and also by the Fatima visionary, Sr. Lucia. (39) Many contemporaries rightly associate the remarkable and relatively bloodless fall of Eastern European communism in recent times to the papal consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pope John Paul II.
While some have questioned whether or not the Fatima request was actually satisfied since Russia was not explicitly named in the consecration, Sr. Lucia, the recognized authority on its fulfillment after John Paul II, has defended and explained the satisfaction of Our Lady’s request, since by consecrating “the world” John Paul II specifically intended Russia, which constitutes the essential interior element for the consecration and its satisfactory fulfillment. (40)
Marian Consecration and the Brown Scapular
Before concluding our discussion on Marian consecration, brief reference should be made to the traditional Brown Scapular devotion as a form of Marian devotion with significant theological and spiritual complementarity to consecration to Mary. The Brown Scapular (scapula, Latin for shoulder) consists of two small pieces of cloth connected by strings and worn over the shoulders as a symbol of protection of and devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
The Brown Scapular devotion originated in an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock (c. 1165-1265), the thirteenth century Prior General of the Carmelite Order. A contemporaneous Carmelite account records the event:
The Blessed Virgin appeared to him (St. Simon Stock) with a multitude of angels, holding in her blessed hands the Scapular of the Order. She said: “This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire” that is, he who dies in this will be saved. (41)
The wearing of the Brown Scapular (“brown” to designate association with the brown habit of the Carmelites) offers the “scapular promise” that those who faithfully wear it will not suffer the eternal damnation of Hell and, through the intercession of the Mother of God, will attain the graces of final perseverance unto Heaven.
The theological foundation for the Scapular devotion is essentially the same as that of Marian consecration, namely, Our Lady’s roles as “mother to us in the order of grace” (Lumen Gentium, No. 61) and Mediatrix of all graces, which grants her the ability to intercede for what Vatican II refers to as the “gifts of eternal salvation” (Lumen Gentium, No. 62).
As Spiritual Mother and Mediatrix of all graces, Mary can dispense the graces necessary for salvation to those who faithfully wear the Scapular as an external symbol of their internal devotion and dependence on the Mother of Jesus. In recognizing the authentic value of Scapular devotion, we must dismiss immediately any aspect of formalism, that is, an exterior act that is not accompanied by the necessary and corresponding interior disposition of the will. The external wearing of the Scapular should be a reflection of a person’s internal intentions of mind and heart to serve God, to love Our Lady, and to be true to the responsibilities of the Church and to one’s state in life, at least by way of an openness of heart to the extent one knows of these Christian calls of life. As one Carmelite author points out:
As a sign of consecration to Mary, the Scapular is a reminder of the spiritual prerogatives enjoyed by her in the economy of the redemption, and it is a pledge that her role be activated in favor of the wearer of the Scapular. In relation to its wearer, the Scapular is a sign that one has resolved to dedicate himself to the service of Christ and Mary according to his station in life… the Scapular does not provide an escape from the ordinary duties of Christianity, but is rather an incentive to undertake them with fervor and exactitude in the knowledge that one thus prepares himself to arrive at the final goal of the Christian life, union with God in eternity. (42)
At the same time, the extraordinary spiritual efficacy of the Scapular devotion should not be underestimated in its ability to allow our motherly Queen and Advocate to intercede for the graces of final perseverance in situations that may appear hopeless from an external, human perspective. Pope Pius XII testifies to the powerful spiritual effects of wearing the Scapular in perplexing human circumstances:
How many souls even in circumstances which, humanly speaking, were beyond hope, have owed their final conversion and their eternal salvation to the Scapular which they were wearing! How many more, thanks to it, have experienced the motherly protection of Mary in dangers of body and soul. (43)
A balance in an authentic Scapular devotion is achieved by avoiding expressions of formalism, and at the same time, by exercising Christian hope in the Marian promise given with wearing the Brown Scapular.
Included in the Scapular devotion is the belief that Our Lady’s intercessory power may be expected by the departed souls in Purgatory in a special way for all those who had worn the Scapular in faith during their earthly sojourn (along with the further conditions of having practiced chastity according to one’s state in life and prayers designated by one’s confessor for this intention). (44) This extended spiritual benefit of Scapular devotion, called the “Sabbatine privilege,” is traditionally traced back to a Marian inspiration given to Pope John XXII in 1322. Pope John XXII reportedly promulgated a papal bull stating that the faithful wearer of the Scapular who also fulfills the above mentioned conditions would be released from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death (hence the name, “Sabbatine” privilege).
Apart from questions surrounding the historical origins of the Sabbatine privilege, several subsequent papal documents have confirmed the legitimacy of this Marian privilege on her designated day of Saturday to intercede in an accentuated way for the holy souls in Purgatory who faithfully wore the Scapular during their earthly life. (45)
The Scapular, then, is an external symbol of Marian devotion and dependency, of a perpetual physical expression of Marian love and devotion that acknowledges her intercessory role throughout this life and also in relation to the purification of Purgatory that prepares the Christian for eternal life with God. Ideally and when fully understood, the Scapular can become a physical sign of the complete gift of self that takes place in authentic Marian consecration.
The spiritual benefit of Scapular devotion, while avoiding any formalistic misconception of its fruits, is well summarized by Pope Pius XII in a 1950 apostolic letter:
We are not concerned here with a light or passing matter, but with the obtaining of eternal life itself which is the substance of the promise of the most Blessed Virgin which has been handed down to us…. But not for this reason may they who wear the Scapular think they can gain eternal salvation while remaining slothful and negligent of spirit, for the Apostle warns us: “In fear and trembling shall you work out your salvation” (Phil 2:12). (46)
In sum, the interior nature and spirit of Marian consecration is well synthesized in the de Montfortian formula: “to do all our actions through Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary: so that we may do them all the more perfectly through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus.” (47) As St. Louis Marie describes, doing all for Mary does not mean “that we take her for the last end of our services, for that is Jesus Christ alone; but we take her for our proximate end, our mysterious means, and our easy way to go to Him…” (48)
We conclude with this succinct prayer of Marian consecration written by Pope John Paul II during the 1983 Holy Year of Redemption to be used by Christian families in giving themselves completely to Jesus through Mary:
Most Holy Virgin, Mother of God and of the Church, to your Immaculate Heart we today consecrate our family. With your help, we entrust and consecrate ourselves to the Divine Heart of Jesus in order to be with you and with Him in the Holy Spirit, completely and always entrusted and consecrated to the will of the heavenly Father. Amen. (49)
This article was excerpted from Dr. Mark Miravalle's Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion, Queenship, Third Edition, June 2006
(1) Cf. Fr. Michael O’Carroll C.S.Sp., “Consecration,” Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983.
(2) St. John Damascene, Hom. I in dorm., in PG, 96, 720A.
(3) St. Ildefonsus of Toledo, De virginitate sanctae Mariae, ed., V.G. Blance, Madrid, 1937. Cf. O’Carroll, “Consecration,” Theotokos, p. 109.
(4) Cf. Patrick J Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” Juniper Carol, O.F.M., ed., Mariology, Vol. III, Bruce, 1961, p. 145.
(5) St. Bernard of Clairvaux, In Assumptione B.V.M., Sermo IV, in PL 183, 428.
(6) Cf. O’Carroll, “Consecration,” Theotokos, p. 107.
(7) Cf. O’Carroll, “St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort,” Theotokos.
(8) De Montfort, True Devotion, II, Ch I. No. 120.
(9) Cf. de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Tan, 1985, Introduction; cf. also Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., The Mother of Our Savior and Our Interior Life, Tan, 1993, p. 256ff.
(10) Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., The Mother of Our Savior, Ch. 6.
(11) De Montfort, True Devotion, Supplement, Act of Consecration.
(12) Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., Mother of Our Savior, Golden Eagle Book, Dublin, Ireland, 1948, p. 300.
(13) De Montfort, True Devotion, I, I, 44; I, II, 85.
(14) Cf. H. M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculate Conception and Holy Spirit: The Marian Teachings of Fr. Kolbe, Wisconsin: Prow-Franciscan Marytown Press, 1977, Ch. I.
(15) St. Maximilian Kolbe, Letter to Fr. Mikolajczyk of July 28, 1935; Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, p. 99.
(16) St. Maximilian Kolbe; Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, p. 108.
(18) In 1853 the Holy See declared that the works of St. Louis Marie de Montfort were free from error. They had been very carefully examined because St. Louis was being considered for beatification. Cf. Positio super scriptis beatificationis et canonizationis Ven. Servi Ludovici Mariae Grignon de Montfort, Rome, 1853, p. 30; Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” Mariology, III, p. 159; cf. also de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Tan, 1985, p. v.
(19) Cf. de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Tan, 1985, p. v.
(20) Cf. Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, preces et opera, Civitas Vaticana, 1950, No. 96; Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” Mariology, III, p. 160.
(21) Benedict XV, letter to the Superior General of the Montfort Fathers on the occasion of the second centenary of the death of their founder; AAS, Vol. 8, 1916, p. 172; Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” Mariology, III, p. 160.
(22) Cf. de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Tan, 1985, p. v.
(23) Pius XII, homily on the day of the canonization of St. Louis Marie de Montfort; AAS 39, 1947, p. 331; Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” Mariology, III, p. 160.
(24) Pius XII, address to pilgrims in Rome for the canonization of St. Louis Marie de Montfort; AAS 39, 1947, p. 410-411; Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” Mariology, III, p. 160.
(25) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, No. 48.
(26) Cf. de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Tan, 1985, p. vi.
(27) John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, No. 45.
(30) John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, No. 15.
(31) Sr. Lucia, Memoirs, Fourth Memoir.
(32) Pius XII, radio broadcast to pilgrims at Fatima, October 31, 1942; AAS 34, 1942, p. 251-252.
(33) Pius XII, Apostolic Letter Sacro vergente anno, July 7, 1952; AAS 44, 1952, p. 343.
(34) Cf. letter of August 29, 1989 by Sr. Lucia, in Fr. Robert J. Fox, Documents on Fatima & the Memoirs of Sister Lucia, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2002, p. 122.
(35) Paul VI, entrustment of humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; AAS 56, 1964, p. 1017.
(36) Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum, May 13, 1967, No. 8; AAS 59, 1967, p. 475; for summary of papal consecration, cf. O’Carroll, “Consecration,” Theotokos.
(37) Pope John Paul II, meditation with the Italian Bishops from the Policlinico Gemelli, May 13, 1994, Inseg., vol XVII/1, 1994, p. 1061.
(38) Author was present at consecration ceremony and translated the consecration prayer from the original Italian.
(39) Cf. letter of August 29, 1989 by Sr. Lucia in Fr. Robert J. Fox, Documents on Fatima & the Memoirs of Sister Lucia, Fatima Family Apostolate, 2002, p. 122; cf. John Haffert, God’s Final Effort, The 101 Foundation, 1999, p. 6.
(40) Cf. John Paul II, allocution at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, December 31, 1984.
(41) P.M. Xiberta, O. Carm., De Visione Sancti Simonis Stock, Rome, 1950; cf. Christian Ceroke, O. Carm., “The Scapular Devotion,” Mariology, III, p. 129.
(42) Ceroke, O. Carm, “The Scapular Devotion,” Mariology, III, p. 137.
(43) Pope Pius XII, Discourses and Radio Broadcasts, Vol. 12, 1950-51, p. 165.
(44) Ceroke, O. Carm, “The Scapular Devotion,” Mariology, III.
(45) Cf. Ibid.
(46) Pius XII, Apostolic Letter Neminem profecto latet, February 11, 1950; AAS Vol. 42, 1950, p. 390-391.
(47) De Montfort, True Devotion, No. 257.
(48) De Montfort, True Devotion, No. 265.
(49) John Paul II issued this prayer on December 8, 1983 during the 1983-84 Holy Year of Redemption; it has been translated from the Italian by Lysbeth Miravalle.