One of the most zealous promoters of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort's True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary which brings about what is called a "Holy Slavery of Love" was Pope St. Pius X, a devoted "Slave of Mary."
So ardent was the desire of this Marian Pope to encourage interest in Montfort's method of devotion to Our Lady that he gave a special apostolic blessing to all those who even merely read the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, at the same time, he declared: "We eagerly commend the Treatise on True Devotion." In addition to this, the Holy Father granted a plenary indulgence (on 24 December 1907), under the usual conditions, to be gained on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, and on the Feast of Saint Louis de Montfort, April 28, to those who recite the Montfort formula of consecration entitled "Consecration of Ourselves to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, by the Hands of Mary." This plenary indulgence, which Leo XIII (also a "Slave of Mary") had granted for only seven years, was now granted "in perpetuum"—in perpetuity.
What is also of particular significance, among other things, is the dependence of St. Pius X on the Marian doctrine of St. Louis de Montfort in writing the second Encyclical of his Pontificate, Ad Diem Ilium (2 February 1904), commemorating the Golden Jubilee of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX, "a Pontiff of most holy memory," in 1854. And though the character of the Encyclical is obviously Marian throughout, and devotes considerable space to the doctrine of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, its chief purpose, as the Pope takes special care to point out, is "to restore all things in Christ" which was the theme of his first Encyclical, E Supremi Apostolatus (4 October 1903), as well as the chosen theme and motto of his entire Pontificate. As he explained it, "there is no surer nor easier way than Mary for uniting all persons with Christ." And this is precisely the doctrine of St. Louis de Montfort, as is evident already in the very title of his formula of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.
Another Pope—though not the only other one—who is known for his special love for St. Lous de Montfort, and the one who canonized him on 21 July 1947, is Pius XII, himself outstanding in devotion to Our Lady. He spoke of the Montfort True Devotion as "a shorter path to perfection." On the day after the canonization, he again addressed pilgrims and told them that the new Saint was "the guide who leads you to Mary, and, through Mary to Jesus." He then added that "all the Saints were undoubtedly great servants of Mary and they all lead souls to her; Grignion de Montfort is one of those Saints who worked more ardently and more efficaciously to make her loved and served."
But despite his great praise for the Saint and his True Devotion, Pius XII was careful not to give the impression that Montfort's was an exclusive kind of devotion that ruled out other forms of devotion to Mary. He stated that the form and practice of true and traditional devotion to Mary "may vary according to time, place, and personal inclination." He added that "the true and perfect devotion to the Blessed Virgin is not bound up with any modes in such a manner that one of them can claim a monopoly over the others." With this word of caution given first, the Holy Father then proceeded to say: "We ardently hope that, in addition to the various manifestations of devotion to the Mother of God and of men, you will draw from the treasury of the writings and example of our Saint that which constitutes the basis of his Marian devotion: his firm conviction of the most powerful intercession of Mary, his resolute will to imitate as far as possible the virtues of the Virgin of virgins, and the vehement ardor of his love for her and for Jesus."
With recommendations such as those of St. Pius X and the saintly Pius XII, given by both word and example, what child of Mary can resist the desire and urge to read and study St. Louis de Montfort's Treatise on True Devotion, as well as other writings of his, and then follow through with the Total Consecration "to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, by the hands of Mary"? The purpose of this article is precisely to encourage readers to give serious attention to Montfort's extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to put into practice, as far as possible, what he recommends.
The little book entitled Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was not given its title by Montfort himself. At his death in 1716, at the age of 43, he left the work in manuscript form, predicting that "raging brutes will come in fury to tear with their diabolical teeth this little writing . . ., or at least to envelop it in silence of a coffer, in order that it may not appear." In literal fulfillment of this prophecy, the manuscript was hidden away for 126 years, until 1842, when it was found "by accident" by a priest of the congregation founded by Montfort, that is, the "Missionaries of the Company of Mary" (Montfort Fathers), at the motherhouse of the congregation in western France. The title of True Devotion was given to the work by the first publishers.
As has been pointed out, even by priests of the Montfort Company of Mary, the title "True Devotion" can be misleading, as it may unwittingly give the impression to some that there are no other forms of "true" devotion to Our Lady except that of St. Louis de Montfort. However, it is a fact that Montfort's devotion to Mary is eminently true in itself and richly deserves the title given to it. Quite appropriately, Montfort explains in much detail— and this makes a good examination of self for anyone professing devotion to Mary!—the various forms of false devotion to Mary, while describing the characteristics and practices of true devotion to her. Furthermore, he does make what some might consider an extravagant claim that his form of devotion to Mary is not only perfect, but is even above all other forms. He writes: "I loudly protest that, having read nearly all the books which profess to treat of devotion to Our Lady, and having conversed familiarly with the best and wisest of men of these latter times, I have never known nor heard of any practice of devotion toward her at all equal to the one which I now wish to unfold ..."
The "Holy Slavery of Love" which is a consequence of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary is, in itself, basically an ancient idea as Montfort himself observes. A number of the Fathers of the Church are said to have used the expressions "Slave of Mary" and "Slave of the Mother of God," as did also some of the Popes, and there were confraternities of "Holy Slavery" before the time of St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716). But full credit must be given to Montfort for developing the notion of "Holy Slavery" in such detail and to such perfection, and for applying it, as he does, to Jesus and Mary as to an inseparable unit. Thus, though Montfort's devotion to Mary is not the only "true" kind of devotion to her, it is nevertheless a "perfect" form of devotion to her independently of any comparison with other forms.
The perfection of Montfort's form of devotion to Mary is due to the fact that it calls for a total giving of oneself, not just to Mary alone, but rather to Jesus, Whom Montfort loves to acknowledge as the "Incarnate Wisdom," through the hands of Mary. Thus, if one is a true "Slave of Mary," he is first and above all a "Slave of Jesus," being subject to Him as God and then to her as Mother of God. The very notion of "slavery” implies total subjection and subservience, but there is obviously nothing degrading or ignoble, nor could there possibly be, in the total subjection of "Holy Slavery" to Jesus and Mary. "Holy Slavery" logically follows upon Total .Consecration, for such consecration implies and means "total surrender" and "total abandonment" to Jesus and Mary.
It must be admitted, and this was suggested by the words of Pius XII, quoted above, that other Saints and holy persons have taught and practiced the essence of Montfort's true and perfect devotion to Mary, inasmuch as they, too, have surrendered themselves totally into her hands, though they may not have expressed themselves as Montfort did nor adopted the "unequalled" practices of devotion to her of which he speaks.
St. Louis de Montfort ties this doctrine in with the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. He says: "If Jesus Christ, the Head of men, is born in her . . . the members of this Head must also be born in her by a necessary consequence . . . The Head and members are born of the same Mother." He explains that, as in the natural order a head cannot be born without the members, and vice versa, so also is this true in the supernatural order. Thus, then, by consenting to the Incarnation and thereupon physically conceiving Christ the Head through the power of the Holy Ghost, Mary by that very fact spiritually conceived all those who with His form but one Mystical Body. This is also the teaching of St. Pius X in Ad Diem Ilium. Montfort's explanation shows how justified Mary is in claiming our total surrender of ourselves to her and how logically should follow our Total Consecation to Jesus through Mary.
In addition to the foregoing, Montfort also brings in the Co-Redemption, that is, Mary's total union with the Divine Redeemer in the act of the Redemption. Just to take one example of this union, look at this beautiful description, in one of Montfort's numerous hymns (nearly all still only in French), of the total union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the act of the Redemption: "Their Hearts, united by strong and close ties, are offered both together to be two victims to hold back the chastisement which our sins merit." It is, then, also because of Mary's unique share in the work of Redemption that she is entitled to claim us, the redeemed, as her own, just as her Divine Son, the Redeemer, does. It is therefore to them together that we should consecrate ourselves without reserve-to them together as Redeemer and Co-Redemptrix.
The only logical conclusion from all the foregoing is that, as the Saint says, we should "call ourselves and make ourselves the loving slaves of the Most Holy Virgin, in order to be, by that very means, the more perfectly the slaves of Jesus."
The Total Consecration of ourselves to Jesus and Mary, which means making us their "loving slaves," obviously demands a careful preparation for such a decisive act, which is in reality a renewal of our baptismal vows whereby we rejected an "unholy slavery" to Satan. Montfort himself tells us, in his Treatise on True Devotion, how one should prepare for Total Consecration. He goes into great details, insisting that we should "enter into the spirit" of this act and not merely recite empty words or perform lifeless actions. It is true that all the details are not absolutely essential for a genuine Total Consecration nor are they obligatory, since the manner of preparation and the length of time to be given to it, as Montfort himself acknowledges, will depend upon each individual, yet a longer and more thorough preparation is highly recommended for the average person.
A booklet entitled "Preparation for Total Consecration According to St. Louis de Montfort" has been provided as an aid by the Montfort Fathers. Among other things this booklet outlines six suggested schedules of 33 days each, during which one can follow daily program of preparation. Thus, e. g., one schedule suggests beginning the 33-day preparation on April 28, Feast of St. Louis de Montfort, and concluding on May 30, with the Total Consecration taking place on May 31st, the day that Pius XII originally designated as the Feast of Mary, Queen of the Universe. Or, according to another suggested schedule, one could begin the preparation on July 13th and conclude on August 14th, with the Total Consecration taking place on August 15th, The Feast of Our Lady's Assumption.
Though this article has brought out a few of the salient features of the Montfort way of devotion to Our Lady, and of devotion to Jesus through Mary, nothing of what is written here can compare with the reading of the actual words of St. Louis de Montfort in his Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. And we can do not better than to give the last word of St. Pius X, quoting once again his words cited at the beginning of this article: "We eagerly recommend the Treatise on True Devotion."
This article prepared by a Traditional Catholic Priest.