In all my ramblings here, I’ve written in a sporadic fashion about Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary . . . But I actually can’t recall a single post entirely devoted to it! (Although this one came close.)
This past Saturday, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, was my first “Consecration Anniversary” and I would have technically offered my yearly renewal on that feast if I hadn’t already made my yearly renewal back on May 13th (it being 100 years since Fatima, and that sort of thing not happening every day . . .). From now on, though, I’ll be sticking with tradition and renewing annually on October 7th 🙂
Across the almost-year of Benedic’s blogging existence, I feel kind of ashamed that I haven’t once gathered my thoughts and written coherently (well, um, do I ever write coherently . . .?) about what the Total Consecration devotion is, how I came into it, why I chose it, and the ways in which it has altered my heart and my spiritual life, the way I think about life and Heaven, and most of all, think about her.
What Lucifer has lost by pride, Mary has gained by humility. What Eve has damned and lost by disobedience, Mary has saved by obedience. Eve, in obeying the serpent, has destroyed all her children together with herself, and has delivered them to him; Mary, being perfectly faithful to God, has saved all her children and servants together with herself, and has consecrated them to His Majesty.
-St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, 53
So, as a belated Consecration anniversary gift to our Blessed Mother, I thought I would at last take the time to write about all these things!
“Strike the roots, My Well-beloved and My Spouse, of all your virtues in My elect, in order that they may grow from virtue to virtue, and from grace to grace.”
A friend introduced me to the Total Consecration devotion in August of 2016, and we did it together from that September to October. Before that point, I only vaguely recall having heard of Total Consecration at all, and the concept was accompanied in my mind by the recollection that it was rather intense and demanding, with a collection of long daily prayers. But at the same time, I was game for it for multiple reasons (let alone just trying to grow in holiness), and thus I embarked, little knowing how much I needed it.
The Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary itself is a 33-day period of daily (often long!) prayer, spiritual reading and meditation (in this case as prescribed by St. Louis de Montfort in his passionate work True Devotion to Mary with Preparation for Total Consecration), with the act of Total Consecration being made on the 34th day, which is always pre-selected to coincide with a Marian feast.
Total Consecration has the character of a vow, and so is solemn and lifelong. You voluntarily surrender yourself, in a spirit of slavery, to Our Lady, so that she can give you completely to Our Lord. Freely and willingly, you give her your rights to “your body with its senses and members; your soul with its faculties; your present material possessions and all you shall acquire in the future; your interior and spiritual possessions, that is, your merits, virtues and good actions of the past, the present and the future.” You give them to Our Lady for her own possessions, so that she can do with you as she wills, for God’s glory. Having totally consecrated yourself, your obligation is to then live in that spirit of special devotion and slavery to the Blessed Virgin for the rest of your life.
At first glance, it sounded radical and even a little frightening. But one thing that struck me from the beginning of this devotion was: how can I suffer, how can I be less, by giving everything I am and have to Our Lady? I have so much trouble sanctifying my own actions and clumsily trying to do God’s will (to put it mildly). If I theoretically gave myself to the Blessed Mother in such a radical way, wouldn’t she only help me and give God more glory in the process? The prospect was appealing!
So it was with that reasoning that I embarked on Total Consecration. Although I was able to keep to the prayers pretty well, I definitely didn’t do it perfectly (such a surprise . . .) especially in spirit, and in all my renewals I know I never will. (Sigh.) But in a way, that’s the point: the idea and practice of Total Consecration is a spiritual summit to daily climb towards and aspire to; it’s a challenge, not a pacification for where you are. My actual day of Total Consecration was comprised of a blown tire, a last-minute English Mass and a hurriedly whispered Act of Consecration that I had to break up into two parts, since I ran out of time after Communion . . . just to give an idea 😉
But despite the chaos and imperfection I brought to it, the graces I received from those 33 days were beyond what I’d anticipated. In fact, they were pretty inundating. The more I read of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, and had my eyes opened to the splendor and beauty of the Mother of God in a way I’d never, ever seen her before; the more of the daily consecration prayers I offered and the more I struggled to embrace that spirit of humble slavery and surrender to the Blessed Mother, I often received these incredible spiritual consolations and a feeling of sweet closeness to her that’s almost futile to attempt describing.
Most importantly, though, these graces coincided with a complicated and painful situation that demanded more of me, emotionally and spiritually, than I previously thought I was able to give. So I’ll always remember my initial Total Consecration as a chrysalis of grace and transformation, a mantle that was wrapped around my shoulders and helped me weather a strong storm. During those weeks, I would take solace outside in the cool autumn wind with a journal and write long letters to the Blessed Mother, sometimes crying, sometimes simply still and listening to the quiet, and feeling pieces of me heal and slowly awaken to a call to conversation with her, and conversion.
Total Consecration to Mary was, really, the very beginning of my being able to embark on vocational discernment. She was the one who tilled up and softened the rocky soil around the shoot of my rose. She began stripping away musty layers and prepared me to be able to tell God, “Do what You want with me,” for really the first time in my life with sincerity and love. She helped me to cry and pray, to better embrace the Faith, and to give God my rose.
Casting a glance back over that time from the perspective of where I am now–so happy and blessed–fills me with amazement. Truly, I would have to be blind in order not to see how much of where I am (so undeservedly) now is due to my first Total Consecration to her.
“It is Mary alone to whom God has given the keys of the cellars of divine love, and the power to enter into the most sublime and secret ways of perfection, and the power likewise to make others enter in there also.”
And now a year has gone by since then!
The practice of Total Consecration is, at its heart, an act of true and selfless love for Our Lady, and for Christ. And, just as with true love, I’ve found out that this practice requires effort of my will 99.9% of the time, with consolations and feelings of joy and devotedness making up the other 0.1% (okay, that’s something of an exaggeration 😉 ) . . . because spiritual consolations just aren’t going to last forever, no matter the devotion.
Although I deeply believe that the graces of this devotion are abundant, and I pray that much is going on (thanks to Our Lady) that I’m not currently able to see . . . I am still the same person, still invariably human and sinful and faulty, and I simply can’t go on feeling deeply excited and consoled all the time about being totally consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. I have realized that, without literally trying to maintain the spirit of consecration, I don’t get very far in behaving anything like truly devoted to the Blessed Mother. (In other words, although this devotion is truly wondrous, it’s not what we sloppy humans call An Easy Way Out.)
More often than not, I’ve learned that I have to purposefully enter into that spirit of consecration to her, and actively cultivate it through effort and prayer . . . especially when I don’t feel like it. (Which is odd, since most other areas of the Faith and the spiritual life are completely removed from that approach. Hmm.)
You are meant to renew your 33-day consecration to her every year, ideally on the same feast, but a year is a long time and you can’t simply glide on feelings of devotion for the other 330-odd days of the calendar.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post how praying the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been important for me, personally, in keeping and cultivating my spirit of holy slavery towards the Mother of God. There are several other practices recommended by St. Louis de Montfort for once the Total Consecration has first been made (below, from Fish Eaters). I feel like I am only scratching the surface in this devotion, and now that I’ve passed a year of being totally consecrated, I’m determined to learn how to incorporate these practices more into my daily life, in a way that’s practical and achievable in the duties of my state (and my own personal quirks . . . sigh):
Keep praying to develop a “great contempt” for the spirit of this world
Maintain a special devotion to the Mystery of the Incarnation (e.g., through meditation; spiritual reading; focusing on Feasts centering around the Incarnation, such as the Annunciation and the Nativity, etc.)
Frequently recite the Ave, Rosary, and the Magnificat
Recite, every day if it is not inconvenient, the “Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin” — a series of Paters, Aves, and Glorias — one Ave for each star in the Virgin’s Crown. St. Louis has a special way of praying the Little Crown, which is recommended.
Do everything through, with, in and for Mary for the sake of Jesus, with the prayer, “I am all thine Immaculate One, with all that I have: in time and in eternity” in your heart and on your lips
Associate yourself with Mary in a special way before, during, and after Communion (see Supplement of the book, “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary”)
Wear a little iron chain (around the neck, arm, waist, or ankle) as an outward sign and reminder of holy slavery. This practice is optional, but very recommended by St. Louis. The appearance of this chain is not further specified.
Renew the consecration once a year on the same date chosen above, and by following the same 33-day period of exercises. If desired, also renew the consecration monthly with the prayer, “I am all thine and all I have is thine, O dear Jesus, through Mary, Thy holy Mother.”
Since my personality and vocation are both rooted in the home and the rhythm of family life, what usually works best for me is to form habits of offering small prayers and ejaculations, or songs (like the “Salve Regina” at the dishwasher . . . those two just seem to go together), in conjunction with daily work, whether it’s dishes or laundry or even showering. (I’ve been finding out that if I don’t remember to pray the Little Crown in the shower, I usually fail to remember to pray it later. So yes . . . )
I’m not by nature a deeply contemplative person and I’m fairly certain my future vocation will require more active forms of prayer that come with nurturing and raising a family. And so I’ve begun to realize that I need to learn how to better incorporate my Total Consecration into the ordinary rhythms of my day, to where our Blessed Mother becomes all the more a part of me and my heart becomes more and more joined to hers, since spiritually I’ve placed myself in her chaste womb and pray to never be removed!
Despite all of my faults, I know it is she who will teach me over the years, in her own beautifully patient and gentle ways, to be a holier woman, a valiant woman, and God-willing a selfless and devoted wife and mother; it is she who will work to preserve my purity of heart and to give me deeper self-knowledge so that I can draw closer to her Son in humility and contrite desire. It is she who will, I pray, save my soul in the end. I really feel like I can give her so little, and yet there’s a strange sort of peace that comes from knowing that I’ve already given her everything I have or ever will have; even though imperfectly, I did it freely, and will keep on doing it freely for all my life. And I trust she understands the beauty and worth of it all far more than I do or ever can–and that’s more than enough for me!
“The most terrible of all the enemies which God has set up against the devil is His holy Mother, Mary.”