Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, The Anchor, December 5, 2008

Fr. Roger J. Landry
The Anchor
Putting Into the Deep
December 5, 2008

Fifteen years ago this Monday, on the Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in 1993, I did one of the most consequential things of my life.

I was at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, three months into my six-year preparation for the priesthood. In the mailroom on All Saints Day, I noticed a flier by a transitional deacon inviting seminarians to a meeting to begin preparations to make a “total consecration” of themselves to Mary.

The opportunity intrigued me. The fact that the deacon was willing to sacrifice his time to guide younger seminarians through the consecration process attracted me, too.

By that point, I already had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. My earliest memory is of praying the Rosary as a family in our living room, as my parents, two brothers, sister and I would do every night throughout my childhood. My mother was a president of a Legion of Mary praesidium and Marian piety imbued our home.

When I got to college, and no longer had the same familial structure of prayer around me, my appreciation for the Rosary grew and my love for Mary matured and became more manly. Men do things for women they love and during those years, with other Catholic guys at Harvard, I started to make Marian pilgrimages on Saturdays. We journeyed to the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Dorchester, the Shrine of the Madonna in East Boston, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Holliston and of Our Lady of LaSalette in Attleboro, and to altars of the Blessed Mother in Churches in the area. Eventually our horizons expanded and we visited the Marian holy sites of Montserrat in Spain, Lourdes in France and Divino Amore outside Rome.

These were the days of intense and somewhat agonizing discernment of whether the Lord was calling me to be a priest. Each day I was asking Mary to help me patiently and prayerfully trust in her Son enough to say “fiat” to whatever he was asking of me. At the time a young priest friend, who had been a seminarian at my home parish a few years earlier, visited and encouraged me to “consecrate my vocation” to Mary. He told me that he had suffered greatly during his seminary years for his piety — the 1980s featured some confused days for priestly houses of formation — and had it not been for Mary’s help, he was convinced he would have never survived. He urged me to place my future in Mary’s hands with confidence that she would intercede for me for whatever graces I would need faithful to respond to her Son. Later that night as I was praying in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother, I confided to her that I didn’t know how to consecrate myself, but wished to do so, and begged her to receive my feeble entrustment.

A couple of years later I had a chance, on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, to renew that consecration. It was, on the one hand, the worst day of my life, when I was refused, for reasons of ignoble ecclesiastical politics, an application to become a seminarian for my home diocese. On the other hand, it was the happiest day of my existence because, despite my indignation and total incomprehension of where I would go from there, I was thoroughly convinced that the mother to whom I had entrusted my vocation would intervene. Six months later I was a seminarian for the Diocese of Fall River. Three months after that I was standing before total consecration advertisement on the bulletin board in Emmitsburg.

I was interested in making the total consecration both out of gratitude to Our Lady for all she had done for me as well as because I was convinced that my earlier “made-up” consecratory prayer somehow must have been inadequate. So I went to the meeting, joined by about 30 other interested seminarians. The deacon explained the 33-day process of preparation and passed out a small book entitled, “Preparation for Total Consecration according to St. Louis Marie Grignion de Monfort.” It contained various prayers and readings from the Gospel, St. Louis’ writings, and the Imitation of Christ, all broken down into 33 digestible portions across four sections: leaving behind the spirit of the world, knowledge of self, of our Lady and of Christ.

Over the course of the next month, I went through these spiritual exercises, which were an occasion for thorough spiritual renewal. The day of my consecration was like the day of my ordination several years later, as, with the help of the Blessed Mother, I tried to make a total gift of myself to God. I tangibly experienced on both occasions the beauty that comes from saying yes to the divine plan.  

It was during this time of preparation that I first became aware of how central total consecration to Jesus through Mary was in the life of Pope John Paul II. His spirituality and even his motto, “Totus Tuus,” came from St. Louis’ formula for consecration. He would later explain:

“At the time when my priestly vocation was developing, … a change took place in my understanding of devotion to the Mother of God. I was already convinced that Mary leads us to Christ, but at that time I began to realize also that Christ leads us to his Mother. At one point, I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. There I found answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she leads us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ. This treatise by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort … is the origin of the motto Totus Tuus. …. It is an abbreviation of a more complete form of entrustment to the Mother of God which runs like this: Totus Tuus ego sum et omnia mea Tua sunt. Accipio Te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria.

John Paul II wished to proclaim as the motto of his life and papacy his total consecration to the Blessed Mother. His wished to “live her mystery in Christ.” I’m convinced that this was one of the principal reasons for his sanctity and greatness. He would pray those words of consecration every day, which translated means, “I am all yours and all I have is yours. I take you for my all. Give me your heart, O Mary!” I have adopted those same words as a morning offering each day when I awaken, asking Mary for her heart that with it I might more faithfully love her son.

In his beautiful apostolic letter on the Rosary, Pope John Paul said that total consecration to Mary “in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.” He confessed openly that he had “powerfully experienced” in his own life St. Louis’ “luminous principle” that  “our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ.”

For the last 15 years and beyond, I, too, have been powerfully guided by that luminous principle. As we approach Mary’s Immaculate Conception, I would urge you — if you already haven’t done so — to discover for yourself St. Louis’ practice of total consecration to Christ through Mary so that you might experience that same joyful light and sure maternal guidance.