For centuries, Marian devotions among Roman Catholics have included many examples of personal or collective acts of consecration and entrustment to the Virgin Mary, with the Latin terms oblatio, servitus, commendatio and dedicatio having been used in this context.
Consecration to the Virgin Mary by Roman Catholics has taken place from three perspectives, namely personal, societal and regional and with three forms: to the Virgin herself as a whole, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Immaculata. In Catholic teachings, consecration to Mary does not diminish or substitute the love of God, but enhances it, for all consecration is ultimately made to God. Pope Leo XIII, specially encouraged everyone to make acts of consecration to the Virgin Mary based on the methods of Saint Louis de Montfort. Pope Benedict XV also provided strong support for Marian consecration. Pope John Paul II's motto Totus Tuus (i.e. totally yours) reflected his personal consecration to Mary.
Early in the 20th century, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, called the "Apostle of Consecration to Mary", began a vigorous program of promoting consecration to the Immaculata and published Militia Immaculatae in multiple languages which reached a circulation of 750,000 copies a month.
Theologian Garrigou-Lagrange designated personal consecration to Mary as the highest level among Marian devotions. Pope John Paul II made Marian devotions and consecrations a hallmark of his papacy, often referring to John 19:26-27, and heavily relying on the spirituality of Saint Louis de Montfort. He also consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
History and development
The beginnings of the notion of "belonging to Mary" can be seen in the writings of Saint Ephrem the Syrian in the 4th century, and a form of personal consecration to Mary dates back to the 5th century, where its practitioners were called "servants of Mary" and the practice was sometimes referred to as "holy servitude". However, the first consistent and repeated use of the concept of consecration to Mary was perhaps by Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo in the 7th century, and Pope John VII also referred to it in the 8th century.
The notion that consecration to Mary is linked with consecration to Christ and has an ultimate Christocentric goal was already present in the 7th century writings of Ildephonsus, when he wrote: "What is delivered up to the Mother rebounds to the Son; thus passes to the King the honor that is rendered in the service of the Queen."
In the 8th century, Saint John Damascene continued the theme of consecration to Mary, and when he wrote "to you we consecrate (anathemenoi) our minds, our souls and our bodies, in a word our very selves" he used the Greek term anathemenoi which indicates "the setting aside for sacred use". By the 9th century, being a "servant of Mary" was practiced in Ireland.
The act of consecration of cities and regions dates back at least to the 9th century, when Abbo Cernuus of Saint-Germain-des-Prés composed a poem in which he attributed the failure of the Vikings in the Siege of Paris (885–886) to the consecration of the city to the Virgin Mary, and her protection over it. During the feuding Medieval period, abbeys, towns and cities began to consecrate themselves to the Virgin Mary to seek her protection. In the 12th century Cîteaux Abbey in France used the motif of the protective mantle of the Virgin Mary which shielded the kneeling abbots and abbesses. In the 13th century Caesarius of Heisterbach was also aware of this motif, which eventually led to the iconography of the Virgin of Mercy.
Although previous saints had discussed the notion of consecration, it was only in 11th century France that Saint Odilo at the Cluny Abbey began to spread the formal practice of personal consecration to Mary. In the 12th century, the Cistercian orders began consecrating themselves to Mary, first individually and then as a group, and this practice then spread to the Benedictines and the Carmelites.
The 17th century also saw the adoption of the custom of consecrating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin. The practice of consecration to Mary continued among Catholics and in the 18th century was further promoted by Saint Louis de Montfort. Montfort's concept of consecration was influenced by Henri Boudon's book Dieu seul: le Saint esclavage de l'admirable Mère de Dieu, (Only God, the Holy Slavery of the admirable Mother of God). By reading Boudon, Montfort concluded that any consecration is ultimately made to "God Alone", for only God merits the loving servitude of man. Later, "God Alone" became the motto of Montfort. Montfort's approach followed Boudon very closely, but differed on one element: while Boudon's consecration was founded on the Queenship of Mary, Montfort approach was based on the divine maternity.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the traditions of Marian consecration grew and by 1860 first communion in France included an act of consecration to the Virgin Mary. By this time Marian consecrations had spread beyond continental Europe and in England Father Frederick Faber (a follower of John Henry Newman) had composed a hymn of consecration to the Virgin Mary which included a petition to her motherly role.
Theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, a professor at the Angelicum (where he taught the future Pope John Paul II, then 26 years old) studied and analyzed various forms and stages of Marian devotions. He designated personal consecration to Mary as the highest level among these devotions. In his theological analysis, Marian devotions are categorized into stages, from beginner to advanced, as follows:
The theology of personal consecration to Mary was further explained by Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater where building on John 19:27 he stated that the word "home" refers to the spiritual and inner life of believers, and "to take Mary into one's home" signifies a filial entrustment to her as mother in every aspect of life. John Paul II suggested Saint John as an example of how every Christian should respond to the gift of the spiritual motherhood of Mary.
Montfort's total devotion and consecration
The process of Total Consecration to Mary was introduced by Saint Louis de Montfort in the early part of the 18th century. The heart of Montfort's classic work True Devotion to Mary is a formal act of consecration to Mary, so through her, one can be consecrated to Christ. His approach is highly regarded among Catholics, and the Vatican's guidelines for Marian consecrations state:
Louis Grignon de Montfort is one of the great masters of the spirituality underlying the act of "consecration to Mary". He proposed to the faithful consecration to Jesus through Mary, as an effective way of living out their baptismal commitment.
Montfort's approach to true devotion and consecration has been supported by several popes over the centuries. In the 19th century, Pope Pius IX considered it the best and most acceptable form of Marian devotion, while Pope Leo XIII granted indulgences for practicing Montfort's method of Marian consecration. In the 20th century Pope Pius X acknowledged the influence of Montfort's writings in the composition of his encyclical Ad diem illum and granted an indulgence in perpetuity to those who recite Montfort's formula of consecration to Mary. He also granted an apostolic blessing for just reading the book True Devotion to Mary. Pope Pius XI stated that he had practiced Montfort's devotional methods since his early youth. Pope Pius XII declared Montfort a saint and stated that Montfort is the guide "who leads you to Mary and from Mary to Jesus". Pope John Paul II stated that reading Montfort had been a "turning point" in his own life.
Montfort defined consecration to Mary as "giving ourselves entirely to the Blessed Virgin, in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her". In Montfort's approach to Marian consecration, Jesus and Mary are inseparable. He views "consecration to Jesus in Mary" as a special path to being conformed to, united and consecrated to Christ, given that "of all God's creatures Mary is the most conformed to Jesus" and that the more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus. He argued that having come from the Father and having returned to him, Jesus is "the Way", and given that Mary was integral to the movement of Jesus from the Father, and that she is intimately united with Jesus, she is an integral element of "The Way".
For Montfort the goal of consecration is "holiness": the renewal of the baptismal promise and continued search for unity with God. In his view people are often unaware that the soul is clouded by sin and self-love, and consecration begins a gradual process of sanctification in which a person's focus turns away from self-love and towards God through Mary. Relying on the assertion that "Mary is full of grace" he argued that in order to find grace with God, one must first discover Mary. Pope John Paul II echoed the same sentiment when he stated that as a young seminarian he had read and reread Montfort many times and "understood that I could not exclude the Lord's Mother from my life without neglecting the will of God-Trinity".
Montfort's process of Total Consecration has seven elements and effects: knowledge of one's unworthiness, sharing in Mary's faith, the gift of pure love, unlimited confidence in God and Mary, communication of the Spirit of Mary, transformation into the likeness of Jesus, and bringing more glory to Christ. Montfort's practice of consecration to Mary has both internal and external components. The internal components focus on surrendering oneself as a slave to Mary and to Jesus through her, and performing all actions "with Mary, in Mary, through Mary and for Mary". The suggested exterior practices include enrolment in Marian societies, or joining Marian religious orders, making Marian privileges known and appreciated, and giving alms in honor of Mary.
In Montfort's view it takes effort to progress along the scale of achieving closer union with God through consecration to Mary and that different individuals reach different levels along this scale, depending on their efforts and purity of intentions. But he did not hesitate to point out that the door was open for everyone to achieve high levels of spiritual progress through Marian consecration. Montfort's classification of the multiple levels of spiritual progress is similar to the "spiritual dwelling places" described by Saint Teresa of Avila in the Interior Castle. Yet Montfort's view differs from Teresa's contemporary, Saint John of the Cross in that Montfort sees the Marian path to Jesus as far more positive, encouraging and smooth than the path followed by Saint John in the Dark Night of the Soul.
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Saint Louis de Montfort's devotions and consecrations were developed in the first few years of the 18th century, and did not explicitly refer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was just beginning to gain a following at about the same time in France, but had not yet received Church approval. Saint Francis de Sales began to write on the perfections of the Heart of Mary as the model of love for God in the early parts of the 17th century and his work influenced St. Jean Eudes who then develop the joint devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Although Saint Bonaventure had referred to the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary in the 13th century, the joint devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary was only initiated in the middle of the 17th century by Saint Jean Eudes who established the Society of the Heart of the Mother Most Admirable. Jean Eudes began his devotional teachings with the Heart of Mary, and then extended it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, it was only in 1805 that Pope Pius VII allowed a feast to honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The two factors that helped the rapid progress of the devotion were the introduction of the Gregory XVI made a confraternity the same year. In July, 1855, the Congregation of Rites approved the Office and Mass for the Immaculate Heart.
Another driving force for devotions and consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary appeared in the 1917 messages of Our Lady of Fátima, which later gained millions of followers. The three children who reported the messages of Marian apparitions at Fátima referred to the Immaculate Heart, emphasized the links between the two hearts of Jesus and Mary and stated that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be honored together with the Heart of Mary. The messages also stated that the children of Fátima would be used to make the Immaculate Heart known to the world. The third apparition reported at Fátima on July 13, 1917 specifically encouraged devotions and consecrations for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Although the reports of the Fátima apparitions were initially met with skepticism, they grew in popularity and were approved by the Holy See in 1930, and continued to gain popularity thereafter. By the end of the 20th century, on May 13 and October 13 of each year, the country road that leads to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima was walked by about a million pilgrims a day.
On May 13, 1967, the 50th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Paul VI visited Fatima, Portugal and issued the Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum (meaning a great sign in Latin) in which he asked "all sons of the Church to renew their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary".
Resonating with the theme of Fátima, Pope John Paul II's program of "Marian consecration and entrustment" related and equated consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The theme that John Paul II developed and repeated in various forms was based on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and he suggested: "let us go to the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary". The pope's rationale for consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary relied on many different, yet mutually complementary arguments, as to why one can approach Jesus and achieve a special unity with him based on the intimate union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
In 1986, when addressing the participants in the 1986 International Theological Symposium on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Pope John Paul II stated:
Our act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary refers ultimately to the Heart of her Son, for as the Mother of Christ she is wholly united to his redemptive mission. As at the marriage feast of Cana, when she said "Do whatever he tells you", Mary directs all things to her Son, who answers our prayers and forgives our sins.
The theological underpinnings of Immaculate Conception had been the subject of debate during the Middle Ages with opposition provided by figures such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican. However, supportive arguments by Franciscans William of Ware and Duns Scotus, and general belief among Catholics made the doctrine more acceptable, so that the Council of Basel supported it in the 15th century, but the Council of Trent sidestepped the question. Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, had tried to pacify the situation by forbidding either side from criticizing each other, and placed the feast of the Immaculate Conception on the Roman Calendar in 1477, but Pope Pius V, a Dominican, changed it to the feast of the Conception of Mary. Clement XI made the feast universal in 1708, but still did not call it the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Popular and theological support for the concept continued to grow and by the 18th century it was widely depicted in art.
By the end of the 18th century, two separate factors had combined forces to support the approval of a dogma for Immaculate Conception. On one hand, the theological arguments had been further refined and gained popularity so that for about a century before its dogmatic definition, almost the entire Church believed the Immaculate Conception. And it was largely in recognition of the existing sensus fidei in its regard, witnessed to by the majority of Roman Catholic bishops, that Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma in Ineffabilis Deus. This greatly helped the spread of devotions and consecrations to the Immaculata.
In the early part of the 20th century, Saint Maximilian Kolbe began his efforts to promote consecrations to the Immaculata, partly relying on the 1858 messages of Our Lady of Lourdes. Kolbe's theological basis for Marian consecration relied on his view of the Holy Spirit as the "Uncreated Immaculate Conception" that works in concert with the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate. He argued that since Mary is Immaculate, by her very nature she is the perfect instrument of the Holy Spirit in the mediation of all graces, given that "every grace is a gift of the Father through his Son by the Holy Spirit". Like Montfort, Kolbe emphasized the renewal of the baptismal promises by making a total consecration to the Immaculata, which he considered the most perfect means of achieving unity with Jesus.
In 1915, while still in seminary, Kolbe and six friends formed the Militia Immaculatae and four years later began publishing the magazine Knight of the Immaculate. In October 1917, Saint Maximillian Kolbe and six other friars formed the Militia Immaculata with the goal of using every possible means to promote total consecration to Mary. Kolbe wanted the entire Franciscan Order consecrated to the Immaculata by an additional vow. The idea was well received, but faced the hurdles of approval by the hierarchy of the order and the lawyers, so it was never formally adopted during his life and was no longer pursued after his death.
Kolbe then founded the monastery of Immaculate City and continued publishing Militia Immaculatae in multiple languages, which eventually reached a circulation of 750,000 copies a month, until it was stopped when Kolbe was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he volunteered to die in place of another prisoner. Kolbe's efforts in promoting consecration to the Immaculata made him known as the "Apostle of Consecration to Mary".
For many centuries, the Carmelites have worn the Brown Scapular as a sign of their consecration to Mary, and her protection over them. In the 13th century the Servite Order (Servants of Mary) was approved in Florence, Italy, and although its key focus was on the sorrows of Mary, the members were consecrated to her.
Over the centuries, a number of Marian movements and societies have been consecrated to the Virgin Mary, e.g. the fourth vow taken by the Marianist Fathers, whose order was formed in the 18th century, during the French Revolution includes a consecration to the Virgin Mary. In the 1948 Apostolic Constitution Bis Saeculari Pope Pius XII encouraged Marian consecrations by the Marian societies such as Sodality of Our Lady.
On Sunday, October 8, 2000, upon the completion of the ceremonies for the Jubilee of the Bishops, Pope John Paul II and the bishops consecrated and entrusted themselves and the Catholic Church in the new millennium to Mary.
On May 12, 2010 at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fátima, Portugal, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto Pope Benedict XVI consecrated all priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Consecration of locations and regions
The consecration of cities and regions to the Virgin Mary dates back at least to the 9th century, and during the feuding Medieval period, abbeys, towns and cities began to consecrate themselves to the Virgin Mary to seek her protection. In the 17th century France was consecrated to the Virgin Mary by Louis XIII and a number of other countries such as Portugal followed that trend.
The 1917 messages reported by three children in Fatima, Portugal resulted in four consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by two popes. In the messages of Our Lady of Fatima, the Virgin Mary specifically asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Based on these messages both popes Pius XII and John Paul II consecrated Russia and the world to the Virgin Mary.
Both Pius XII and John Paul II felt a close bond to Fatima in that Pius XII was being made an archbishop in Rome on May 13, 1917 just as the first messages of Fatima were being reported and John Paul II was shot on May 13, 1981 in Saint Peter's Square and attributed his recovery to Our Lady of Fatima. Pope Pius XII's two consecrations were made in October 1942 and July 1952 and those of John Paul II in May 1982 and March 1984. This paralleled the consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pope Leo XIII in 1899.
The Pope Pius XII Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 31, 1942 was made at major turning points in World War II. Pope Pius XII consecrated not only the Catholic Church but the whole human race to the Virgin Mary, doing so as “Father of Christianity” as the representative of Christ, who has all power in heaven and on earth”, referring to Matthew 28:18. The consecration was performed via a Portuguese radio broadcast, and then renewed on December 8, 1942 in Rome.
Consecration of the world and the human race to the Immaculate Heart meant that non-Christians would also be consecrated. However, Pope Leo XIII had already covered that theological ground in Annum Sacrum by consecrating the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in which non-Christians were also consecrated. 
According to author Edward Sri, given the emphasis Pius XII had placed on the Queenship of Mary, the consecration emphasized the importance Pius XII placed on the powerful role of Mary as an intercessor and a protector of humanity. Mariologist Gabriel Roschini wrote that the 1942 consecration of humanity to Mary can be viewed as an apex for Marian culture.
Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the mother's intercession, to the very fountain of life that sprang from Golgotha. This fountain pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace. In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world. It is a ceaseless source of new life and holiness.
On March 25, 1984 Pope John Paul II again performed the solemn consecration of the world, and implicitly Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before the statue of the Virgin Mary of Fatima brought to Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City for the ceremony. In his "program of Marian consecration and entrustment" John Paul II considered consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Divinely intended to complement the consecration to the sacred Heart of Jesus.
Prayers of consecration
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A number of different prayers may be used as part of the consecration to the Virgin Mary. The "Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" appears in the official Raccolta book of indulgenced prayers.
The prayer originally composed by Saint Louis de Montfort is as follows:
Today, I, a faithless sinner, renew in your hands my Baptismal vows; I renounce Satan forever, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, and will carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and will be more faithful to Him than I have ever been. With the entire heavenly court as my witness, I choose you this day for my Mother. I deliver and consecrate myself to you, my body and soul, myself, both interior and exterior, and the worth of my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to you the total right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, according to your wish, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity.
Immaculata, Queen and Mother of the Church, I renew my consecration to you for this day and for always, so that you might use me for the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus in the whole world. To this end I offer you all my prayers, actions and sacrifices of this day.
Here we stand before you to entrust to your maternal care ourselves, the Church, the entire world. Plead for us with your beloved Son that he may give us in abundance the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth which is the fountain of life.
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- University of Dayton: John Paul II Entrustment of Bishops in 2000
- Vatican website: John Paul II Entrustment of Bishops in 2000
- onlineTrue Devotion to MaryThe book
- onlineWorks of Saint Louis de Montfort
- Militia of the Immaculata Consecrations
- University of Dayton: Prayers of Marian consecration