The MOST Theological Collection: Our Father's Plan: God's Arrangements and Our Response
"Chapter 24: Consecration to Jesus and Mary"
All practices of spiritual growth can be summed up and brought to perfection in the living of a complete consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Pope Leo XIII in 1899 consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He explained the basis for that consecration:
We can see at once that this is a consecration in the full sense of the word-for often, not illegitimately, the word consecration means merely "entrusting." The Pope said, in effect, that we already owe most complete service to the Heart of Jesus. We owe that on two grounds: He, as God, has made us out of nothing, has created us; and, as Redeemer He has bought us back from the captivity of the evil one, by paying the price of redemption (cf. chapter 9). Hence Leo XIII said that what we give is not really ours to give, for we already owe it to Him. Yet we can and do ask Him to graciously accept it all on a new title, that of love, as if we were to say: "We already owe you everything; but even if we did not, we would want, out of love, to give you our full service anyway." Inasmuch as His claims on us are total, we can see how it is true to say that consecration sums up everything.
In speaking of "service" however, we need to keep constantly in mind that, as we said in chapter 1, our "service" does Him no good. It is mere kindness on His part-for our service makes us open to receive what He so generously wishes to give-and love of objective goodness, that leads Him to want and value it.
Some may wonder why we specified that this devotion is to the Heart of Jesus. Pius XII, in his great Encyclical Haurietis aquas told us that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not just an optional matter, like devotion to St. Anthony and other favorite Saints.2 This is quite obvious, for devotion to the Sacred Heart is really devotion to the love of God for us, without which we would not exist at all, without which we could not reach eternal happiness. There is nothing more central than this. Of course, certain external features often found in that devotion need not be considered as essential, such as the Nine First Fridays, even though the Church highly commends them. It is the honor to the love of God expressed in and found in the Heart of His Son that is indispensable.
There is a parallel consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for she too, in union with Him, has a parallel claim to our service. She is not the Creator, but she is the Mother of God who created us; she is not by herself the Redeemer, but she shared most intimately with Him in redeeming us, as we saw in chapter 10.
Pope Pius XII brought this fact out beautifully in a broadcast over the Vatican Radio to pilgrims assembled at Fatima on May 13, 1946: "He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship"-which sums up His claims to our service.
We notice the Pope said that her kingdom is just as vast as that of her Son. We should not think of two powers, one infinite, the other subordinate. Rather, she and Her Divine Son form a sort of unit, with one power, for her will is always most perfectly in union with His. Hence in Haurietis aquas the Pope added: "So that more abundant benefits may flow upon the Christian family, and in fact, on the whole human race, from this worship of the most Sacred Heart of Jeus, let the faithful take care that devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God also be closely joined to it."4 God has joined her to His Divine Son at every point in the mysteries of His life and death; what God has joined, let no one put asunder.
Vatican II in its long Marian Chapter (VIII) of the Constitution on the Church, highlighted this fact wonderfully, as we can see from the following synthesis of texts from that chapter. (All words in quotes are from the Council. We have added explanatory comments at suitable points.) "The Blessed Virgin, planned for from eternity as the Mother of God along with the incarnation of the divine Word, was the loving Mother of the Redeemer on this earth, His generous associate, more than others, and the humble servant of the Lord." That is, her union with Him was from all eternity: since the Father always planned for the incarnation of His Son, necessarily He also planned for the Mother through whom it could take place.
"She is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise given our first parents of a victory over the serpent." The Council refers to the prophecy of the Protogospel, Genesis 3:15.5 We see that the Father not only planned for her from eternity, but began to speak of her at once after the fall of our first parents. "Similarly, she is the Virgin who is to conceive and bear a Son. . . ." This is of course, the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14.6
"The Father of Mercies willed that the acceptance of the planned-for Mother should precede the Incarnation." This is the same thought as that of Pope Leo XIII, who said she was asked to consent "In the name of the whole human race'."7 ". . . in this way, just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life." Here the Council builds on the New Eve theme, found in practically every major Father of the Church, according to which just as the first Eve shared in involving our race in the ruin of original sin, so Mary, the New Eve, shared in reversing that damage. . . ."8 "This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is evident from the time of the virginal conception of Christ even to His death." The Council, we notice, says her union with Him became "evident" at the annunciation. Before that it was not evident, though it was there eternally, as the Council itself had taught.
"In the first place, it is evident when Mary, arising in haste to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her faith . . . [and] when the Mother of God joyfully showed her firstborn, who did not lessen but consecrated her virginal integrity, to the shepherds and the Magi." In passing, we notice the Council speaks in a matter of fact way about the shepherds and the Magi. And her virginity is not merely a spiritual symbol, but is physical, for the Council speaks of her "integrity" which can refer only to physical condition.9 "[It is evident also] when she presented Him to the Lord in the temple." There He, for His human mind had the vision of divinity and so was fully aware, made the offertory of the Mass of the Cenacle and Calvary, as we saw in chapter 8. She for her part continued and repeated her fiat of the day of the annunciation. "And [that union was evident] when she heard Simeon foretelling that her Son would be a sign of contradiction, and that the sword would pierce her Mother's heart, so that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed." She, of course, had known, painfully known, long before this. The words of Simeon would increase the pain of the ever-present wound.10
"In the public life of Jesus, His Mother appears remarkably . . . at the very beginning when, at the wedding in Cana . . . moved by pity, she obtained by her intercession the beginning of the miracles of Jesus. . . . During the course of His preaching, she received His words in which He, her Son, praising the kingdom more than ties of flesh and blood, proclaimed blessed those who heard the Word of God and kept it, as she herself was faithfully doing." Her Son dramatically explained that of two forms of greatness-being the bodily Mother of God, and hearing and keeping His word-the second was the greater. Yet, as the Council said, she was greatest in both categories.
"In faith she bore with her union with11 her Son even to the Cross." Yes, her union, the continuation of her fiat was difficult, so it is right to say she endured or bore with it. "There she stood in accord with the divine plan." She was not just an ordinary person, like St. John. She was there really officially, appointed to cooperate in the redemption as the New Eve. "She joined herself to His sacrifice with a Motherly heart, consenting to the immolation of the Victim that had been born of her." It was the will of the Father that He die, die in such a way; it was the will of her Son also. So she had to positively and actively join in that will, willing His death! This was to save us and for the rectification of the objective order. "In suffering with her Son as He died on the Cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls." We recall all the rich content that we saw on this cooperation of hers in chapter 10. "As a result, she is our Mother in the order of grace." An ordinary Mother must share in bringing a new life, and then take care of the new life. She shared by her participation in the Great Sacrifice itself. Now today she continues to take care of the brothers of her Son, for even in heaven "she has not put aside this saving function, but continues by her manifold intercession to win the gifts of eternal salvation for us . . . the brothers of her Son, still in pilgrimage, and involved in dangers and difficulties, until they are led to the happy fatherland." Therefore rightly she is "invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Helper and Mediatrix."
Fittingly we add the words of Pius XII here, on the extra joy every blessed soul will have from seeing her too in heaven:
Surely, in the face of His own Mother, God has gathered together all the splendors of His divine artistry. . . . You know, beloved sons and daughters, how easily human beauty enraptures and exalts a kind heart. What would it ever do before the beauty of Mary. . . ! That is why Dante saw in Paradise, in the midst of 'more than a million rejoicing Angels . . . a beauty smiling-what joy! It was in the eyes of all the other saints.'-Mary!12
What a magnificent perspective has the Council put before our eyes. Literally, from eternity to eternity-that is, from eternity before time began, in which she was joined to her Son in the eternal decree of the Incarnation, to eternity when time shall be no more, when she will be forever Queen of Heaven, and a marvelous added joy to all angels and saints-and at every point in between, in every one of the mysteries of His life and death and resurrection, we find her, "always sharing His lot"13 as Pius XII summed it up. In the approach of our Father to us, she is everywhere, her role is all-pervading.
Now obviously, since we cannot do anything better than to imitate the ways of our Father Himself, the ideal would be for every one of us to give her, in our own spiritual lives, a place corresponding to the place our Father has given her-an all-pervading place. To do that would be to live out most fully a consecration to her Immaculate Heart, in union with the Heart of her Son. Vatican II really did recommend such a life of consecration for it also wrote:
Included among those recommendations of course is consecration. In fact, Pope Paul VI on the floor of the Council itself, at the close of the third session, renewed publicly the consecration of the Church and the world to her Immaculate Heart. He said that his thoughts turned to the whole world "which our venerated predecessor Pius XII . . . not without inspiration from on high, solemnly consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. . . . O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Council, to you we recommend the entire Church."15 When he visited Fatima on May 13, 1967, the same Pope recalled this
At this point we must inject a special comment. The force of the logic we have just seen, namely, that since our Father has put her in an all-pervading role in His approach to us, therefore it would be ideal for us to give her the same place in our spiritual lives-this impresses many souls as a command, as something mandatory. But we must be honest and make a distinction. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of her Son-with the qualifications expressed above-really is mandatory, for that is at the very center of our faith: He is, after all, God. To have at least some devotion to her is also clearly required; we could not, after seeing the place our Father has given her, say in effect: But I do not care to bother with her at all. That would be gravely wrong.17 But to go all the way, to live a life such as we have indicated-and in the way we are about to unfold further-this is not required of all. It falls under the principle of diversity of spiritual graces, which we spoke of in chapter 17. So each one, according to the varied dispositions and graces of that soul, will go into this, some farther than others.
Before making a consecration, it is most desirable to make a careful preparation, extending over some period of time. One good way to make that is described in the last part of St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion book.
The most essential thing is not making an act of consecration, with or without some solemnity, though that is important. The essential thing is to live that consecration.
There are several ways of describing how to live a consecration. Major work on both theory and practice has been done by Father Chaminade,18 St. Louis de Montfort, and St. Maximilian Kolbe.
All are excellent, all have strong similarities and much in common, in spite of certain variations. But let us sketch a generic way, as it were, of carrying out a consecration. We will speak most directly of the Marian phase of consecration, understanding that she is to lead us to the Heart of her Son, which she will surely do. However, in view of the diversity of spiritual attractions, of which we have already spoken, some souls will begin with living a Sacred Heart consecration, and move from that to the Marian phase.
Living a consecration could be described as following three attitudes or spirits: union, dependence, and obedience.
Union with Mary and with the Heart of her Son calls for chiefly two things: imitation of Him and her, so as to become like them, and trying to develop as constant as possible a realization of His and her presence.
Somewhat in the way in which St. Paul could say (Gal 2:20): "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me," St.Maximilian Kolbe spoke in a lyrical or poetic way of "becoming her or being in her" so that we "forget ourselves" and are "annihilated in her."19 This is done by imitating Jesus and Mary, and also through, in the higher reaches, being so fully taken over by the action of the same Spirit who led Jesus, the Spirit whose spouse she is, that what St. John of the Cross said becomes true: "God alone moves the powers of these souls . . . to those deeds which are suitable . . . and they cannot be moved to others."20
He, inasmuch as He is God, is of course present everywhere, most especially in the Holy Eucharist. One who really lives a consecrated life cannot fail to develop a deep attachment to that Eucharistic Presence.
In what sense would we say that Mary is present to us? She is not a mere spirit, yet, in view of her assumption, her glorified body functions according to the principles of spirits. We, with our untransformed bodies, are present somewhere by physically taking up space. But a spirit does not take up, does not even need space-we think of the glorified body of Jesus after the resurrection coming through closed doors of the upper room. We say a spirit is present wherever that spirit is producing an effect.21 So she is present wherever she is causing an effect. What effect? All graces come through her.22 And we need these graces constantly as long as we are in this world, So in that very real sense, she is always present to those devoted to her. There is also a sort of affective presence, almost a presence via feeling; when two people have strong mutual love, that love can create a sort of presence even at a distance.
No one without a most extraordinary grace can have a strictly constant, uninterrupted awareness of the presence of God, of Jesus, or of Mary. But we can cultivate a frequent awareness, one that returns almost spontaneously after interruptions forced by attention to our duties. One way is to make use of conditioned reflexes. If we repeatedly tie together two things, a reflex connection is built up. For example, if one lives in a place where he must climb or descend stairs often, it is possible to get in the habit of beginning to say some aspirational prayer, formal or informal, as soon as we feel our feet on the steps. Or one can tie it to entering or leaving any room, or to many other things. Some too will like a method we might call the small-talk way. If two persons are together in a room, and yet are somewhat occupied with some task that does not demand all their attention, they may exchange comments at intervals: how a thing is going, what one hopes for, what is not turning out well-a host of trivia, really. Now we can use this format to speak to Jesus or His Blessed Mother. This of course is not the highest form of prayer, but it is a prayer, a means of contact, and can serve as a start to better prayer.
There is, secondly, a spirit of dependence. On Jesus, inasmuch as He is God, we have the most absolute dependence; let us recall what we saw about Philippians 2:13 in chapter 18. But if we want to make our consecration as full as possible, we will have given to Jesus and Mary the right to dispose of everything we have, temporal and spiritual. We cannot of course, put their names on our bank account. But we can develop the attitude of taking seriously the fact that we should not, within a total consecration, use any of our money in a way that would not please them. This of course needs adjustment to various states in life; a priest can and should go much farther than a father of a family, who by no means should impose an almost monastic spirit of detachment on his wife and children.
We give too, in a complete consecration, the right to dispose of what spiritual goods we have. Our spiritual goods include condign and congruous merit-the former, condign merit, is so personal that we cannot alienate it at all. But the latter means a claim we can acquire-in a secondary sense, given God's promise (we recall chapter 5)-to good things from Him; we have also the satisfactory power of good acts (rebalancing the scales of the objective order for ourselves and others, as noted in chapter 4, and the power of prayer to obtain favors especially in view of the promise of Our Lord, "Ask and you shall receive."23 In a total consecration we do not stop asking for specific favors especially for particular persons towards whom we have obligations. No. Jesus and Mary respect these obligations. It is from Him as God that we have, for example, the command: "Honor your Father and Mother" which includes not only obedience, in proper limits, but also psychological and perhaps if needed financial support in old age.24 Really, Jesus and Mary love our parents, and others to whom we are indebted, even more than we do, and surely want us to satisfy our obligations to them. In fact, in a total consecration we enter in to a sort of pooling arrangement: we put our poor goods into a pool with those of Jesus and Mary. But in this, we give the last word, the final determination into their hands. So when I pray, I may and at times should ask for particular things for specific persons, but I always have the condition at least understood, sometimes expressed: "If this pleases you. You may use it in other ways if you wish."25
In prayer, we are free to speak directly to Our Father, for He Himself loves us. Yet even when we do that, we should be aware of our dependence on Jesus and Mary, on what they have acquired for us by the Great Sacrifice. To speak of prayer through Mary, there are two ways. In one, I address my words directly to her, asking her to speak for me. In the other, I may speak directly to the Father, or to His Son, trying to realize that even in this I depend on her sufferings and labors. It is good to pray sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, as the Holy Spirit leads us.
It is obvious that we still may, and in general should, pray to individual favorite Saints, again, with the qualifications we have just expressed.
Recall too that in chapter 22 we pointed out that we can give to her a sort of power of attorney. We do not directly ask for specific trials or sufferings, even though these are a special means of likeness to Him and to her. But since we do not know in a specific time and case what would please our Father to have us offer, we say to Her: "Mother, please speak for me. I have ratified in advance any offer you make in my name."
Lastly, there is a spirit of obedience to our heavenly King and Queen. they have, as we said, the right to ask us to do anything at all, even without reward-though they are most generous in giving to us. In consecration, we recognize that right, and give it on a basis of love, and plan to carry it out with fullest generosity.
When we speak of obeying, what do they want us to do? Some things are clear, others less so. Surely, they want us to obey all legitimate comands from lawful authorities. They want us also to be wholehearted in fulfilling the duties of our various states in life, whatever they may be.26 Clearly too they want us to try to actively align our wills with the will of the Father insofar as that is clear at a given time; insofar as it is not yet clear, we are to take, as we explained in chapter 20, an attitude of a sort of plasticity, waiting and ready to carry out His will as soon as it appears.
However there are other things not covered by these comments. We often have to make decisions on what would please Jesus and Mary at a particular juncture. What do we do then? We do pray first, of course, but then we do not wait for a feeling and take that as an inspiration. That would be folly; it would leave us open to autosuggestion, and to the deceits of the evil one. Rather, after praying, we try to reason out what Jesus and Mary would do if placed in our particular circumstances-which may be quite different from those of first century Palestine. We try to imitate their virtues, their way of doing things.
In important decisions, or decisions that are to cover many smaller things, we should take more care than on little things. We ask: Is this proposal in harmony with our state in life? If a light seems to come in prayer we ask: Is it conducive, at least in the long run, to peace and gentleness of heart? Here the rules of what is called discernment of spirits, provided by such writers as St. Francis de Sales and St. Ignatius Loyola, are priceless.27 Still further, especially on important things, we ought to consult with a good spiritual guide, when we have the opportunity. Our Father loves obedience: His Son saved the world by His obedience. Within it, we are safe; outside of it, there is danger.
St. Maximilian Kolbe liked to speak of the relation of consecration to our baptismal promises, in which we promised to renounce satan and all his works, and to follow Jesus, by whom we are "sealed"28 in baptism as His property. Consecration is the fullest kind of response to and carrying out of these promises. Mary, in view of her Immaculate Conception, was most fitted to respond most fully, and that she did, with a fullness and perfection beyond our ability to visualize-for we recall that Pius IX told us that even at the start of her existence, her holiness was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."
Living such a consecration most fully will not dispense us from trials or make life easy. Rather, the added likeness to Jesus and Mary may involve more trials. But it will make this life much happier, by giving us on the point of the soul (cf. chapter 17) that peace which no man can take from us, and which will lead to a consummation beyond anything we can imagine-where eye has not seen nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him.29