by Donal Anthony Foley –
Saint Louis de Montfort (1673 – 1716) was a French priest noted for his promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His most well-known books are The Secret of the Rosary, The Secret of Mary, and True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
He built on the work of his predecessor, St. John Eudes (1601-1680), who had advocated a complete personal consecration to Our Lady, and St. Louis developed this idea in his True Devotion book. The first part of this looks at devotion to the Blessed Virgin in a general sense and speaks of its necessity, its fundamental basis and the importance of choosing an orthodox form of Marian devotion.
He is at pains to point out that such a devotion to Mary is not an end in itself, but rather a more effective way of being devoted to Christ, to the extent that we can be regarded as “slaves” of our Lord. Likewise, he places a lot of emphasis on the idea of Our Lady as our Mediatrix with our Mediator, Christ. For St. Louis, such a devotion should be interior, tender, holy, constant and disinterested.
The second part of the work deals with what the author describes as a “perfect consecration” to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he sees as a perfect consecration to our Lord. In this, he focuses on the nature of the consecration, the motives for it, the wonderful effects resulting from it and the particular practices it requires.
In particular, he emphasizes how this devotion and consecration are a perfect renewal of our baptismal vows and how it is as an “easy, short, perfect and secure way of attaining union with our Lord, in which union the perfection of a Christian consists.”
In return, the person who practices this devotion and makes the consecration can be assured of Our Lady’s love, support and personal direction – and likewise, that she will protect and defend them – and also that she will intercede on their behalf before the throne of God. At the same time, according to St. Louis, the practice of this devotion will lead to greater self-knowledge, great confidence in God and Mary and the “transformation of the faithful soul by Mary into the likeness of Jesus Christ.”
The devotion involves certain exterior practices and particularly the saying of the Rosary. It also has a more internal focus, which the saint expressed in four words: “To do all our actions by Mary, with Mary, in Mary and for Mary, so that we may do them all the more perfectly by Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus and for Jesus.”
He details how the believer can prepare to make this perfect consecration to Jesus through Mary over a period of 33 days, which he divides into four periods, each of which have different prayers assigned to them. The first of these periods lasts 12 days and is designed to enable the soul to rid itself of the spirit of the world. This involves saying prayers/hymns such as the Veni Creator and Ave Maris Stella, while also reading excerpts from the Gospels and Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ.
St. Louis also advises that the person doing the consecration should examine their conscience, pray and practice renouncement and mortification – and since we are just entering Lent, this program fits in perfectly with traditional Lenten spirituality. He also emphasizes the importance of cultivating purity of heart.
The first period of the preparation is followed by three separate weeks of meditation and prayer that are designed to bring about a better knowledge of self, the Blessed Virgin and Christ. For each of these weeks separate prayers and litanies are prescribed, such as the Litanies of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady, as well as the recitation of the Rosary. St. Louis also composed Prayers to Mary and Christ to be said during these weeks.
This whole process culminates on the day of consecration on which St. Louis advises the person to go to confession and receive Holy Communion. After this, they should make the consecration following the formula he gives in his book. He also recommends that this consecration should be repeated annually. The central and most important part of the consecration is as follows:
I, (Name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy 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 thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy 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 thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity.
It is possible to make the consecration at various times during the year, usually in the run up to a major Marian feast such as the Presentation (February 2), the Assumption (August 15) or the Immaculate Conception (December 8). However, ideally, St. Louis recommends that the Consecration should be made on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, because, as he points out, the Incarnation of Christ in the womb of Mary is the mystery proper to this practice of devotion.
This means starting the preparatory 33-day period of prayer on February 20, which is the feast of Saints Jacinta and Francisco, an ideal time for Fatima devotees. In any case, it will surely bring you many spiritual graces and blessings.
In addition to True Devotion to Mary, we recommend: Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus by Fr. Hugh Gillespie SMM, of the Company of Mary, both available in our Fatima Gift Shop.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people, and the third in the series is due to be published later year – details can be seen at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk