The MOST Theological Collection: Vatican II: Marian Council
"Chapter 18 - Consecration to Mary"
The highest, most complete form of Marian devotion lies in making and living out a total consecration to her.
As we saw in chapter 6, Pope Paul VI actually renewed a consecration of the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the very floor of the Council, at the solemn close of the third session, on November 21, 1964. In doing so, he explicitly recalled the previous consecration made by Pope Pius XII. On May 13, 1967, on the occasion of his own unprecedented visit to the great Marian shrine of Fatima, Pope Paul issued an Apostolic Exhortation, in which he spoke of this event of November 21, 1964, and added:1 "We urge all the sons of the Church that they individually consecrate themselves again to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of the Church, and, by carrying over this outstanding sign of devotion into the living of their lives, become more and more conformed to the divine will, and that by devoutly imitating the examples of their heavenly Queen, they serve her as sons."
As we saw in chapter 6, Vatican II gave us a brilliant theological foundation for the fullest possible form of living out of a consecration to Mary. It did this by showing that the Father has freely willed to give her an all-pervading place in all His dealings with us. As a result, we noticed, it is most logical that we give her a similarly all-pervading place in our response to Him.
Of course, there are great variations from one individual to another in the spiritual life. From the fact that any given thing is objectively the best, it does not follow that this particular individual should take it up. Rather, Divine Providence adapts itself to the differences of individuals, and gives varied graces to various persons. As a result. not all are moved to follow the fullest form of Marian consecration. It is most important to keep that fact constantly in mind in reading this chapter. For we are going to present the maximum in Marian consecration. Not everyone should follow everything: let each, following the varieties of grace with supernatural prudence, decide whether to follow all or part and which parts of what we will say.
There are two phases to a complete consecration, the making of the consecration itself, and the living out of that consecration.
We can get a helpful lead on the fullest meaning of the first of these phases from the words of Pope Leo XIII on consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:2 "For we, in dedicating ourselves, not only recognize and accept His rule explicitly and freely, but we actually bear witness that if that which we give were ours, we would most willingly give it. And we ask Him to graciously accept from us that very thing, even though it is already His."
Pope Leo tells us that consecration involves acceptance of the dominion which Christ already has over us, in such a way that we acknowledge that anything we could give Him is really already His. But we ask Him to kindly accept it none the less, as though we were not bound to it already. The reason is simple: Christ as King of the Universe, by that very fact alone has most absolute rights to our service. There is nothing we could possibly do that He could not demand, even with no promise of reward. Yet the fact is that He, in His generosity, does want us to present our service to Him as if we did not already owe it to Him.
Now Vatican II has told us that in the Assumption, Mary3 "was taken up, body and soul, to heavenly glory, and was exalted as Queen of the universe by the Lord." On the same subject, Pius XII had written earlier:4 "And her domain is as vast as that of her Son and God; for nothing is exempt from her dominion." We should not think of her dominion as something as it were separate from that of her Son: no, in royal rule as in all else, she forms a sort of unitary principle with Him. Just as her offering melted together with His on Calvary, so as to form the one great price of Redemption, so her Queenship and His Kingship are one authority, inseparable.
We can easily see then, that we can, with theological exactness, say much the same of consecration to her as Pope Leo XIII said of consecration to Christ the King. We recognize by our consecration that she, as Queen of the Universe with Him, already has fullest rights to our service. We gladly accept that fact, and ask her to graciously accept our offering, to which she already has a right, as if it were not due her by the very fact of her Queenship.
St. Louis de Montfort, in his outstanding book, True Devotion, points out that a complete consecration involves giving to Mary the right to dispose of all the spiritual goods which we can validly and licitly give into her hands. That means that we give her the right to the final word on what our prayers, mortifications, satisfactions are to be used for. We may, in this framework, often pray for specific intentions. Really, she wants us to pray most earnestly for the needs of the Church, our country, our parents and dear ones and all towards whom we have obligations. She will actually take better care of them than we could, for her power as Queen is such that5 "nothing is exempt from her dominion", and her love for them is even greater than ours is.6 But yet, in acknowledgment of her Queenly dominion, we gladly give her the final say. Of course, some things, e.g. personal spiritual growth7 are such that by their very nature they cannot be given to anyone else. That is understood in this arrangement.
We heartily agree with this plea of St. Louis de Montfort: it is evident that no consecration could be called complete without including these features. We would merely add this comment: some souls have been overly preoccupied with this aspect of consecration, so much so that they tend to overlook other, even more important aspects of consecration, those namely, that we will shortly explain.
We could add to this something we already proposed in chapter 11, namely, that we give to her as it were a "Power of Attorney". That is, we appoint her to speak for us to the Father, so that she can make in our name, any offer to accept any specific future trials which it might please Him to have us make. In this way we more actively align our wills with the will of the Father, and we do it in a way that imitates most closely His own ways. For He has freely decreed, as we said, to give her an all-pervading role in all His dealings with us: by this arrangement we try to give her a similarly all
pervading place in our response to Him.
Once we have made our consecration, with or without some solemnity, the important thing is to live it out. We could sum up the chief features of that under three headings.
First, we live in the consciousness of our dependence on her. She is our Queen, our spiritual Mother, the one on whom, next to her Son, we depend for everything. All grace comes to us through her hands. She has the right, for we have given it to her, to dispose of all our spiritual goods insofar as they are disposable. She has even the right. as our "Attorney" to make offers in our name to the Father.
In a sense, we pray only through her. This does not mean that we never address our prayers to the Father, to her Son, or to other Saints. Very definitely we should continue to do so at certain times, while at other times we address them directly to her. The practical details and proportions of this are to be worked out in individual instances with the help of the light of graces she will obtain for us. But even when we speak directly to the Father or to the Son, or to the Divine Spirit, we try to be aware at least in a general way that we depend on her merits and intercession for everything. For she shared with her Son in earning all graces. As a result, whatever is given us, is given through the merits and satisfactions of Jesus and Mary, operating, as we said, as a unit, as one.
Secondly, it is good to try to live in her presence. For there is a real sense in which she is always present to us. Loosely, she can be said to be present by her love, for when there is a mutual love between two, that love constitutes a sort of presence. But more importantly, since her Assumption, though she still has a body, yet it is a glorified body, and, more importantly, she now operates in the way in which a spirit does.8 We say a spirit is present wherever it makes its effects felt, for spirits do not have the same sort of relation to space that we have. Spirits need no space at all. And we recall the way the risen body of her Son seemed to ignore space and time, passing through doors without any need to open them, becoming visible when He wished, not visible when He did not wish. It is much the same with her. But the chief point is this: She is always having her effect on us inasmuch as every grace we receive comes to us through her.9
All souls benefit much by learning to live in the frequent, almost constant, in some cases, awareness of the presence of God. A soul specially dedicated to Mary, realizing her close union with the Divinity, rightly tries to cultivate the awareness of her along with that of God.
How do this? Different souls will prefer different means of cultivating this awareness. Some employ conditioned reflexes, e.g., they form the habit of saying some ejaculation or other brief prayer every time they enter their room, or go up or down steps, or do some other familiar thing. At first, a special effort is needed; in time, one almost automatically begins to say such a prayer in such circumstances. The prayer is valuable both in itself, and as a means of recalling her presence. Others like the method of "small talk". That is, as they go about their regular occupations, they often speak informally to Mary, merely telling her what they are doing, how it is going, asking for light, for help. This is not the most exalted prayer, but it is a good prayer, a helpful means of contact.
This awareness of her presence of course cannot really be constant. It must be interrupted. We work for an explicit fully conscious awareness at some times, and are content with, at most, a vague background consciousness at other times.10
Thirdly, we can cultivate an increasing realization of the fact that since she shares in the royal dominion of Christ the King, when we obey Him, we are at the same time obeying her. We gladly accept this fact.
What does she want us to do? Obviously, she wants us to obey all legitimate commands of all lawful authorities; she wants us to make the best use of providentially sent mortifications, so that we not only do not complain, but actually welcome them with joy.11 But, when we have done all these things, there remain many other decisions to be made, both large and small, in the practical management of our daily lives. How can we know her will in these matters? There is no certain and easy way to determine the answer. Of course, we should try to imitate her, especially in the ways suggested in previous chapters. But also, when we must make a decision, we do well to begin by asking her to obtain light for us. Then, in her presence, we try to think out-being careful not to let vague feelings that strike us seem to be divine inspirations-what she would do. We do not try to project present situations back into first century Nazareth. Rather, we consider what she would do in present circumstances. A special safeguard against illusions lies in consulting a good spiritual director. That does not absolve us of all responsibility. To attempt to escape responsibility in such a way would be contrary to spiritual growth. But we need the help of another, especially for the sake of objectivity. No one can be completely objective about his own affairs, especially when there is question of parting with some creature or pleasure. We tend to go to extremes in such matters. Most of us go to the easy extreme, but human nature has enough of the pendulum characteristic in it to make us quite capable of reacting to the opposite extreme as well. Another person, simply because he is another person, can help much. Most of all, a director should be well versed in ascetic and mystical theology. He should also be a very spiritual man himself. Not always can we obtain such help. But when we can, it would be folly not to make use of it.
Further, it is universal experience that the mere process of trying to explain ourselves to someone else helps clarify our own mind.
If then, each according to the type of graces given him, tries by such means to bring Mary into every facet of his spiritual life, he will be most closely imitating the ways of the Father, who, as we have repeatedly said, chose to employ her at every point of His dealings with us.