The following article by Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins is an excerpt from a chapter in the recently published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book is now available from Queenship Publications. Visit our store to order a copy. To view the book in its entirety, simply click here. Asst. Ed.
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 St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (+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 (+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 (+2005). His motto as bishop and pope was Totus Tuus (all yours), an abbreviated form of one of St. 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 Redemptoris Mater of March 25, 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
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 titleservus 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 St. Ephrem the Syrian (+373) and Pope John VII (+707), but indicates that these instances cannot compare with the consistent usage and fervor of St. 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.13 400. In the case of Pope John VII one might profitably consult the testimony presented by Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M.,
Pope John Paul II himself, in his homily in Saragossa on November 6, 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:
St. 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 St. 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 St. 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.”1 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. 1 Thess 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.2
One notes how in language which is redolent with scriptural overtones St. 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.3
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 honor 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.4
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 St. 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” to Mary:
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].5
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.”6 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 forever as your own slave and bondsman [tanquam proprium servum, tuo mancipatui trado].7
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.8 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 (+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 widespread, commonly as an expression of protection being sought or hoped for, chiefly in connection with the image of the Mother of God.9
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.,10 and he maintained, as Pope Pius XII would in his letter, Neminem Profecto of February 11, 1950,11 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.12 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.”13
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.14 The admission to the congregation, which had as its aim the formation of militant Christians after the ideals of St. Ignatius Loyola and which 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, Germany, in 1576. In it the sodalist chooses Mary as “Lady, Patroness and Advocate” and begs her to receive him as her servum perpetuum.15 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.16
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.17 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.18 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 in this sense by the popes of
the past hundred years.
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 August 2, 1595,19 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.”20
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, St. Simon de Rojas (+1624),1 who was canonized by Pope John Paul II on July 3, 1988. The Augustinian Bartolomé de los Rios (+1652)2 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 St. Louis de Montfort.3
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 (+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 St. John Eudes and the Ven. Jean-Jacques Olier, Sts. 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,4 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.5 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.6 Hence Mary, the first to have made the vow of servitude to Jesus, “pure capacity for Jesus filled with Jesus,”7 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.8
We have already indicated a number of Bérulle’s illustrious disciples, but surely the greatest of them all was St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, described as “the last of the great Bérullians.”9 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.10
While Bérulle had already indicated the link between baptism and his “vow of servitude to Jesus,” de 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 Mary”:
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.11
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.12
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.”13 It is precisely in these terms that Pope John Paul II presented him as a proponent of authentic Marian spirituality in Redemptoris Mater.14
Further, that same Pope defended the whole tradition of Marian slavery of which de Montfort is a major exponent-and, as we have seen, is deeply embedded in the whole tradition-in a discourse to his brother Polish bishops on December 17, 1987:
On May 3 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 Wyszyński 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 Poland?
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.”
Although there continue to be those who call into question and criticize the terminology of “maternal slavery,”16 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.17
While it is only right to recognize de Montfort’s teaching as the highpoint 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 Bl. William Joseph Chaminade (+1850), who incorporated total consecration to Mary into the Society of Mary which he founded as the object of a special perpetual religious vow.18 The specific influence of de 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 Ven. Mother Mary Potter (+1913), the Servant of God Frank Duff (+1980), Bl. Edouard Poppe (+1924), Bl. Dina Bélanger (+1929) and the Servant of God Marthe Robin (+1981).
I believe, however, that in terms of the extent of the influence of de 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. He testified to that influence on his formation on many occasions.1 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. (Rome: Edizioni Monfortane, 2005) 798-816; André Frossard,
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 de Montfort’s; they simply have had their genesis under different circumstances and are a beautiful example of how the Holy Spirit draws unity out of diversity. It seems that St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe discovered de 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.2 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,3 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.4
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 Immaculatae:
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 you.
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.5
Another twentieth century figure who developed an apostolic Marian movement based on total consecration to Our Lady was the Servant of God Joseph Kentenich (+1968). In the process of nurturing what eventually became the Schönstatt family, Father Kentenich formulated a beautiful approach to 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 God. …
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.6
The Papal Magisterium
If, as we have just seen, Pope John Paul II is the heir of the great ecclesial tradition of Marian consecration, manifested in various ways in the course of the Church’s almost two millennia of history, he might be said to be even more explicitly the inheritor of the legacy of papal consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.7 While space does not permit us to enter into this fascinating history here,8 we wish to indicate the most important high points. On October 31, 1942, the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII, gave a radio broadcast to pilgrims at Fatima celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the last of the 1917 apparitions. Concluding the broadcast, he prayed:
To you and to your Immaculate Heart, we, the common father of the vast Christian family, we, the vicar of him to whom was given “all power in heaven and on earth,” and from whom we have received the care of so many souls redeemed by his blood; to you and to your Immaculate Heart in this tragic hour of human history, we commit, we entrust, we consecrate [confiamos, entregamos, consagramos], not only the 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. … Finally, just as the Church and the entire human race were consecrated to the Heart of your Jesus, because by placing in him every hope, it may be for them a token and pledge of victory and salvation; so, henceforth, may they be perpetually consecrated to you, to your Immaculate Heart [assim desde hoje Vos sejam perpetuamente consagrados também a Vós e ao vosso Coração Imaculado], O our Mother and Queen of the world, in order that your love and protection may hasten the triumph of the Kingdom of God.9
The act of consecration, originally made in Portuguese, was renewed in Italian in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1942. This was been referred to many times by Pope John Paul II, especially in his own major consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of May 13, 1982, and March 25, 1984.10 Here it should be pointed out that, even though this first consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was carried out in conjunction with celebrations in Fatima, the fundamental impetus for this came not from Sister Lúcia (who had a particular mission calling for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary), but from Bl. Alexandrina da Costa (whose mission was to implore the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary).11
Another important pronouncement of Pius XII may be found in his address to the Jesuit Marian Congregations or Sodalities on January 21, 1945:
Consecration to the Mother of God in the Marian Congregation is total gift of oneself, for life and for eternity; it is not just a mere matter of form nor a gift of mere sentiment, but it is an effective gift, fulfilled in an intensity of Christian and Marian life, in the apostolic life, making the member of the congregation a minister of Mary and, as it were, her hands visible on earth through the spontaneous flow of a superabundant interior life which overflows in all the exterior works of deep devotion, of worship, of charity, of zeal.12
On November 21, 1964, at the end of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, when he solemnly declared Mary Mother of the Church, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wished to commemorate the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pius XII and prayed in these words:
We commit [committimus] the human race, its difficulties and anxieties, its just aspirations and ardent hopes, to the protection of our heavenly Mother.
O Virgin Mother of God, most august Mother of the Church, we commend [commendamus] the whole Church and the Ecumenical Council to you. … We commend [commendamus] the whole human race to your Immaculate Heart, O Virgin Mother of God.13
A frequently overlooked reference to entrusting oneself to Our Lady is found in the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: “Everyone should have a genuine devotion to her [Mary] and entrust his life to her motherly care” [Hanc devotissime colant omnes suamque vitam atque apostolatum eius maternæ curæ commendent].1
On May 13, 1967, Pope Paul VI issued his Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to the children of Fatima and his own pilgrimage to that shrine. Recalling the great act of consecration of Pius XII in 1942 and his own reaffirmation of it in 1964, he went on to make this appeal.
So now we urge all members of the Church to consecrate [consecrent] themselves once again to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to translate this pious act into concrete action in their daily lives. In this way they will comply ever more closely with God’s will and as imitators of their heavenly Queen, they will truly be recognized as her offspring.2
Bringing with him to the papacy the great heritage of Polish Marian piety and the collective consecrations of Poland to Our Lady (in 1920, 1946, 1956, 1966, 1971, and 1976)3 and his total appropriation of the spirituality of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II promoted Marian consecration and entrustment as no other successor of St. Peter has ever done. Here I can only present a few highlights. His first solemn entrustment of the Church to Our Lady took place at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on December 8, 1978.4
The prototype of great acts of consecration/entrustment was that pronounced by previous recording for Pentecost Sunday, June 7, 1981,5 in conjunction with the celebration of the 1600th anniversary of the First Council of Constantinople and the 1550th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus. The event itself had been planned well in advance by the Pope. The double observance had been the object of a Pontifical Letter, A Concilio Constantinopolitano I, addressed to the bishops of the world,6 in which he spoke of Mary’s divine maternity as establishing a “permanent link with the Church” (perpetuum vinculum maternum cum Ecclesia).7 His more active participation in the festivities marking the observance of these two great councils and culminating on Pentecost Sunday, however, was precluded by an assassin’s bullet. The circumstances of this act of entrustment to Mary which addresses her as “entrusted to the Holy Spirit more than any other human being” and “linked in a profound and maternal way to the Church”8 are particularly poignant, then, and may also be reckoned as the plea of a stricken father on behalf of his family. The very same act was renewed again on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1981 before the icon of the Salus Populi Romani in St. Mary Major’s.9
The above cited act of entrustment became the archetype of two subsequent acts, closely modeled upon it, which gained considerably more public notice. The first of these was made on May 13, 1982, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, in that humble village in Portugal where Our Lady had first appeared 65 years earlier.10 It was also the first anniversary of the near fatal attempt on his life. The second of the acts deriving from that of Pentecost Sunday, 1981, was given more advance publication and correspondingly more emphasis was placed on the collegial nature of the act. It was announced in a pontifical letter to all the bishops of the world dated from the Vatican on December 8, 1983, but only published on February 17, 1984.11 It was intended to be one of the crowning acts of the Holy Year of the Redemption which began on March 25, 1983, and concluded on Easter Day, April 22, 1984. John Paul presented the rationale to his brother bishops in this way:
In the context of the Holy Year of the Redemption, I desire to profess this [infinite salvific] power [of the redemption] together with you and with the whole Church. I desire to profess it through the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God, who in a most particular degree experienced this salvific power. The words of the act of consecration and entrusting which I enclose, correspond, with a few small changes, to those which I pronounced at Fatima on May 13, 1982. I am profoundly convinced that the repetition of this act in the course of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption corresponds to the expectations of many human hearts, which wish to renew to the Virgin Mary the testimony of their devotion and to entrust to her their sorrows at the many different ills of the present time, their fears of the menaces that brood over the future, their preoccupations for peace and justice in the individual nations and in the whole world.
The most fitting date for this common witness seems to be the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord during Lent 1984. I would be grateful if on that day (March 24, on which the Marian Solemnity is liturgically anticipated, or on March 25, the Third Sunday of Lent) you would renew this act together with me, choosing the way which each of you considers most appropriate.12
The act itself was carried out by the Pope on Sunday March 25, 1984, in St. Peter’s Square before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which ordinarily occupies the site of Mary’s appearances at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal, and which was especially flown to the Vatican for this occasion. The act of entrustment13 was recited by the Pope after the Mass commemorating the Jubilee Day of Families. Already the Holy Father has referred to his program of entrustment in his address to the Roman Curia on the Vigil of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1982:
This year, in a special way, after the attempt on my life which by coincidence occurred on the anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin at Fatima, my conversation with Mary has been, I should like to say, uninterrupted. I have repeatedly entrusted to her the destiny of all peoples: beginning with the act of consecration of December 8, (1981), Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to the consecration to the Virgin of the countries visited: of Nigeria at Kaduna, of Equatorial Guinea at Bata, of Gabon at Libreville, of Argentina at the Sanctuary of Lujan. I remember the visits to the Italian sanctuaries of Our Lady of Montenero in Livorno, and of Our Lady of St. Luke in Bologna; culminating in the pilgrimage to Fatima in Portugal, “Land of St. Mary,” which was a personal act of gratitude to Our Lady, almost the fulfillment of a tacit vow for the protection granted me through the Virgin, and a solemn act of consecration of the whole human race to the Mother of God, in union with the Church through my humble service.14
There was never any veering from the path of this “program of entrustment” from the beginning of the pontificate to its very conclusion.15 Pope Benedict XVI has continued to follow in the footsteps of his venerated predecessor, most frequently using the term entrust. Here is one of his strongest exhortations to date. It occurred in his homily at the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão at Campo de Marte, São Paulo, Brazil on May 11, 2007:
In fact, the saint that we are celebrating gave himself irrevocably to the Mother of Jesus from his youth, desiring to belong to her forever and he chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother and Protector of his spiritual daughters.
My dearest friends, what a fine example Frei Galvão has left for us to follow! There is a phrase included in the formula of his consecration which sounds remarkably contemporary to us, who live in an age so full of hedonism: “Take away my life before I offend your blessed Son, my Lord!” They are strong words, the words of an impassioned soul, words that should be part of the normal life of every Christian, whether consecrated or not, and they enkindle a desire for fidelity to God in married couples as well as in the unmarried. The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure. It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage.
In our day, Our Lady has been given to us as the best defense against the evils that afflict modern life; Marian devotion is the sure guarantee of her maternal protection and safeguard in the hour of temptation. And what an unfailing support is this mysterious presence of the Virgin Most Pure, when we invoke the protection and the help of the Senhora Aparecida! Let us place in her most holy hands the lives of priests and consecrated laypersons, seminarians and all who are called to religious life.16
A Question of Terminology?
In recent years not a few Mariologists have taken the position that not only the terminology of Marian slavery-as we have seen above-but also the concept of Marian consecration itself is no longer acceptable.17 The argument is that consecration pertains to God alone and depends on his sovereign initiative and that our part can only be one of response.18 Further some argue that in a larger passive sense one cannot be consecrated to anyone but God.19 These authors argue that Pope John Paul II fully accepted their perspective and so decided to use the words entrust and entrustment to describe our relationship with Mary, effectively avoiding the “defective and discredited formulas of the past.”
In contrast, Father George Kosicki, C.S.B., has considered at some length the meaning of the Polish word most frequently used by John Paul II, translated into Italian as “affidare” and into English as “entrust.” The word is zawierzać, the same word employed in Cardinal Wyszyński’s various consecrations of Poland.20 Let us allow Father Kosicki to share some of his discoveries about this word:
I continued to wonder about the word “entrust” until I met a priest from Poland, a colleague of the present Pope while at the University of Lublin where Karol Wojtyła taught as bishop of Krakow. I asked him about the word “entrust” and its Polish meaning, mentioning that I was disappointed that he didn’t use the word “consecrate” to Mary in his Letter to All Priests [of April 8, 1979].21 His response was very clear and reassuring. He pointed out that the Polish word “zawierzać” (translated as “entrust”) is a strong word and is used for what we call in English “consecration” to Mary. He went on to say that the Polish word which is the equivalent root word to the English “consecration” (viz. “konsekracia“) is usually reserved for the consecration at Mass. He went further to point out that the word “entrust” was a special word for John Paul II because of the way he has used it in his Polish writings. He added that the motto of John Paul, “Totus Tuus,” (I am) all yours (Mary), means, “I consecrate myself to you, Mary” and is what Pope John Paul has in mind when he uses “zawierzać” (translated into English as “entrust”). In short the Polish “to entrust” means “to consecrate.”22
I have studied the question of consecration to Our Lady vis-à-vis entrustment to her, both in terms of contemporary theological discussion23 as well as John Paul II’s use of the term entrustment,24 and am convinced that he frequently used the words interchangeably along with other words such as dedicate, offer, commend, place in the hands of, etc.25 At the same time I have chosen as the title for this chapter the binomial “consecration and entrustment” because I believe that each word can be justified and offers shades of meaning not conveyed by the other.
The Theological Foundations of Consecration/Entrustment
A classical presentation on personal consecration provides us an important approach to the theological questions underlying our presentation:
Strictly speaking, one can consecrate himself only to God, for only God has the right to man’s total dedication and service. Consecration to Christ, to the Sacred Heart, is legitimate because of the hypostatic union. But “consecration” to the Blessed Virgin, or even to St. Joseph or to other saints, is not unknown to Christian piety. In the case of St. Joseph or the other saints, this is to be understood as consecration in a broad sense of the term, and it signifies no more than an act of special homage to one’s heavenly protector. The case of the Blessed Virgin, however, is not the same. The importance of her role in Christian spirituality is such that formulas of dedication to her appear to have more profound meaning. Her position in the economy of salvation is inseparable from that of her Son. Her desires and wants are his, and she is in a unique position to unite Christians fully, quickly, and effectively to Christ, so that dedication to her is in fact dedication to Christ. French spirituality has made much of consecration to Mary. Cardinal Bérulle encouraged the vow of servitude to Jesus and Mary. St. John Eudes propagated the devotion of consecration not only to the Sacred Heart, but to the Heart of Mary as well. But the practice achieved its strongest expression in the Traité de la vraie dévotion à la Sainte Vierge of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. The act of personal consecration according to Montfort, is an act of complete and total consecration. It consists in giving oneself entirely to Mary in order to belong wholly to Jesus through her.1
In effect the author of this article points to a resolution of this problem along two complementary lines. First and, admittedly, only very implicitly he evokes the principle of analogy. Secondly and quite explicitly he points to the unique role of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the economy of our salvation, particularly her mediation.
The Principle of Analogy
In the perspective of the philosophia perennis (perennial philosophy), analogy means a “likeness in difference.” Here are two excerpts from his article on consecration in the Nuovo Dizionario di Mariologia:
The only way to be able to apply a term to God and to a creature is to have recourse to analogy which is based precisely on the likeness in the difference. The analogical use of consecration referred to Mary maintains a sense of “total and perpetual gift” which is required in order to bring this usage in line with the light of revelation and theology. … The gift to her is analogous to that which is made to God since it maintains the significance of the total and perpetual gift, but on the different level proper to a creature.2
Consequently, when one speaks of “consecration to God” and “consecration to Mary” one is effectively speaking in the first place of what the disciples of St. Thomas call the “analogy of attribution.” Gardeil says that
In the analogy of attribution there is always a primary (or principal) analogate (or analogue), in which alone the idea, the formality, signified by the analogous term is intrinsically realized. The other (secondary) analogates have this formality predicated of them by mere extrinsic denomination.3
Following this paradigm, then, “consecration to God” is the primary analogate whereas “consecration to Mary” is a secondary analogate. In other words, the term “consecration” signifies something which is common to both analogates, the recognition of our dependence on them, but since God is our Creator and Mary is a creature that dependence cannot be exactly the same.4
But it can be held as well that such usage of the term “consecration to Mary” is also an instance of the “analogy of proportionality” which Gardeil explains in this way:
It will be remembered that in the analogy of attribution the (secondary) analogates are unified by being referred to a single term, the primary analogue. This marks a basic contrast with the analogy now under consideration, that of proportionality; for here the analogates are unified on a different basis, namely by reason of the proportion they have to each other. Example: in the order of knowledge we say there is an analogy between seeing (bodily vision) and understanding (intellectual vision) because seeing is to the eye as understanding is to the soul.5
Theologians have long recognized that there exists an analogy, a certain “likeness in difference,” between Jesus and Mary, a certain symmetry and complementarity, though not identity, between them.6
Admittedly, today this classical Catholic principle is more and more being called into question, and yet it is a fundamental building block of Catholic theology. Indeed, without it the discipline of theology is impossible and without it there is no understanding of Marian consecration. Even authors whom I have cited, like De Fiores, today distance themselves from it.7 In this regard Father Joaquín Ferrer Arellano has done us a great favor in recent years exposing the weakness of so much modern theology and Mariology8 and clearly indicating the Lutheran/Barthian animus against the principle of analogy.9 Let us have a few examples of how the great masters employ this concept. Here are some very important instances from St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort:
As all perfection consists in our being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus it naturally follows that the most perfect of all devotions is that which conforms, unites, and consecrates us most completely to Jesus. Now of all God’s creatures Mary is the most conformed to Jesus. It therefore follows that, of all devotions, devotion to her makes for the most effective consecration and conformity to him. The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus. That is why perfect consecration to Jesus is but a perfect and complete consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin, which is the devotion I teach; or in other words, it is the perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism.10
This devotion consists in giving oneself entirely to Mary in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her.11
It follows that we consecrate ourselves at one and the same time to Mary and to Jesus. We give ourselves to Mary because Jesus chose her as the perfect means to unite himself to us and unite us to him. We give ourselves to Jesus because he is our last end.12
The Principle of Marian Mediation
The astute reader will recognize that de Montfort’s texts cited above are a marvelous fusion of the principle of analogy and that of Marian mediation. He was, indeed, an extraordinary teacher who knew how to present sound theology to the poor and little ones. It was one of the great achievements of the late Pope John Paul II to re-launch discussion on Mary’s maternal mediation in the third part of his great Marian encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (38-47), at a time when such discourse had been out of favor in most theological and Mariological circles since the time of the Second Vatican Council.1 Perhaps even less noticed are his profound statements about Our Lady in his first encyclical, which speaks about Mary’s mediation without using the word. In Redemptor Hominis 22, he wrote:
For if we feel a special need, in this difficult and responsible phase of the history of the Church and of mankind, to turn to Christ, who is Lord of the Church and Lord of man’s history on account of the mystery of the redemption, we believe that nobody else can bring us as Mary can into the divine and human dimension of this mystery. Nobody has been brought into it by God himself as Mary has. It is in this that the exceptional character of the grace of the divine motherhood consists. Not only is the dignity of this motherhood unique and unrepeatable in the history of the human race, but Mary’s participation, due to this maternity, in God’s plan for man’s salvation through the mystery of the redemption is also unique in profundity and range of action. … The Father’s eternal love, which has been manifested in the history of mankind through the Son whom the Father gave, “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” comes close to each of us through this Mother and thus takes on tokens that are of more easy understanding and access by each person. Consequently, Mary must be on all the ways for the Church’s daily life. Through her maternal presence the Church acquires certainty that she is truly living the life of her Master and Lord and that she is living the mystery of the redemption in all its life-giving profundity and fullness.2
In his own unique style he was already reaffirming the Church’s teaching about Mary’s mediation of all graces.3
The teaching about the analogy between Jesus and Mary, between his Heart and her Heart, and her unique role as Mediatrix, he would draw out in many different ways in the course of his pontificate of over 26 years, precisely in his presentation of Marian consecration and entrustment. Here a few examples must suffice. In his homily at Fatima on May 13, 1982, before making his solemn Act of Consecration and Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he stated:
On the Cross Christ said: “Woman, behold your son!” With these words he opened in a new way his Mother’s Heart. A little later, the Roman soldier’s spear pierced the side of the Crucified One. That pierced Heart became a sign of the redemption achieved through the death of the Lamb of God.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary opened with the words “Woman, behold, your son!” is spiritually united with the Heart of her Son opened by the soldier’s spear. Mary’s Heart was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering himself for them on the Cross, until the soldier’s spear struck that blow.
Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the Mother’s intercession, to the very Fountain of life that sprang from Golgotha. This Fountain pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace. In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world. It is a ceaseless source of new life and holiness.
Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning beneath the Cross of the Son. It means consecrating this world to the pierced Heart of the Savior, bringing it back to the very source of its redemption. Redemption is always greater than man’s sin and the “sin of the world.” The power of the redemption is infinitely superior to the whole range of evil in man and the world.
The Heart of the Mother is aware of this, more than any other heart in the whole universe, visible and invisible.
And so she calls us.
She not only calls us to be converted: she calls us to accept her motherly help to return to the source of redemption.
Consecrating ourselves to Mary means accepting her help to offer ourselves and the whole of mankind to him who is holy, infinitely holy; it means accepting her help-by having recourse to her motherly Heart, which beneath the Cross was opened to love for every human being, for the whole world-in order to offer the world, the individual human being, mankind as a whole, and all the nations to him who is infinitely holy.God’s holiness showed itself in the redemption of man, of the world, of the whole of mankind, and of the nations: a redemption brought about through the sacrifice of the Cross. “For their sake I consecrate myself,” Jesus had said (Jn 17:19).