Frequently Asked Questions
Total Consecration FAQ
Total Consecration to Our Lady may be expressed in many different forms, and can be understood, explained, and lived in many different ways, although the doctrinal basis and the substance are the same. By consecrating yourself to Mary you pledge to become her instrument, performing all your actions through, with and in Mary, for she points the way to the heart of Jesus. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, calling upon Mary's intercession "does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ, but on the contrary fosters it" (Lumen Gentium 60). Therefore, coming "To Jesus through Mary" through our Marian consecration is not an extraordinary way of worshipping God and bringing about our sanctification; rather, it is the best way.
Q. Why should we consecrate ourselves to Mary?
A. Mary is not the Creator; she is not the Redeemer. She never substituted herself for God. But it was God's will that Mary would have a special role in our Christian life and sanctification. It is a universal role assigned to her by God. In perfect union with her Son and subordinate to him, the Second Vatican Council calls her "our mother in the order of grace" (Lumen Gentium 61).
Mary became the prototype of total consecration when, at the beginning of the New Testament, she said "yes" to becoming the mother of God. She was chosen to help us in our consecration through her intercession and maternal care, thus disposing us to develop the gifts of God that we received in Baptism. She is the perfect example of the Church, and the model for all the faithful. In her perfect spiritual sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's inspiration, she is God's creaturely masterpiece.
The ultimate goal of the MI and Marian consecration is to bring about the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and hasten the conversion of individuals, families, society and the whole world into the "civilization of love" as called for by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.
Q. What exactly is meant by
consecration to Mary?
A. Consecration to Mary is conformity to the "perfect means" which Jesus chose to unite himself with us and vice versa. Consecration heightens the depth of our commitment to Christ. It explicitly states that our ultimate goal and end is God. By consecrating yourself to Mary, you pledge to become her instrument to perform all your actions through, with and in Mary, for she points the way to the heart of Jesus.
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Q. What are the fundamental distinctions between the de Montfort and Kolbean consecrations?
A. St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montfort have very different ways of presenting this total offering and its goals, because of their different historical, cultural and spiritual backgrounds. Yet we can affirm that there is a complementary originality between the two saints' doctrines of consecration to Mary.
De Montfort developed the teaching of Holy Slavery or Bondage to Mary, which has nurtured the spiritual life and Marian devotion of numberless souls, including Pope John Paul II. De Montfort clearly and properly states that the purpose of this consecration is to possess Christ as the Eternal and Incarnate Wisdom. His devotion is heavily based on "expropriation" (emptying oneself of one's possessions and oneself) until one's personal point of Calvary is reached. De Montfort viewed Holy Slavery or Bondage as a most "perfect renewal of the vows and promises of Baptism."
Kolbe on the other hand, emphasized consecration to Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception, and gave it a specific apostolic purpose: "to gain the whole world for the Immaculata so as to bring about, as soon as possible, the kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus". His view of consecration was that of incorporating oneself into the mystery and mission of the Immaculate Mother of God for the conversion and sanctification of all souls, beginning with oneself.
Kolbe also wanted Marian consecrants to collectively join themselves to one another in a spiritual solidarity by enrolling into an authorized spiritual movement and corporately becoming Our Lady's instruments---her maternal presence and activity---within the Church and throughout the world.
Q. Was St. Maximilian aware of
St. Louis de Montfort's writings?
A. There is no doubt that Kolbe was aware of the great Marian apostle, St. Louis de Montfort. Kolbe had written with great enthusiasm about his treatise "True Devotion," an incomparable systematic doctrinal work on Marian spirituality. In one article he commented on St. Louis' insights by highlighting the interesting history of de Montfort's treatise and then quoted various passages concerning the future apostles of Mary in light of the MI's ultimate purpose.
It should be noted that in "True Devotion," de Montfort himself predicts an age to come where consecrated apostles---"servants, slaves and children of Mary"---would emerge "who, like a burning fire, shall kindle the fire of divine love everywhere." St. Maximilian seems amply to fit this description. Besides the written evidence, Friar Paul Moratti, one of Kolbe's more intimate disciples, affirmed that he knew St. Louis de Montfort through St. Maximilian. It is also known that the rector of the Seraphic College in Rome, during the final years of St. Maximilian's ecclesiastical studies, was Father Stephen Ignudi, an ardent follower of de Montfort.
It was Father Ignudi who granted Maximilian and the six other friars permission to gather together in the spirit of total consecration and launch the Militia of the Immaculata movement.
Q. How is this different from the St. Louis de Montfort consecration?
A. The MI has an apostolic thrust, i.e., each person is encouraged to find some way, no matter how simple, to bring others to Our Lady. The MI has as its goal the consecration of every person. MI consecration is at heart a simple act of the will. St. Louis de Montfort has a much more detailed preparation and his was primarily focused on one's personal sanctification.
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Q. I have consecrated myself to Mary and am an MI member;
can I consecrate my children as well?
A. Membership in the MI (which, of course, presupposes that one has totally consecrated himself to the Immaculata), is open to all Catholics over the age of reason (approximately age seven). A person can consecrate himself only, as the act of total consecration must proceed from the individual's free decision. Therefore one person may not enroll another person; it is a SELF-consecration. This does not mean, for example, that parents cannot consecrate their children in some way, but there is a difference between consecration and total consecration according to St. Maximilian.
Q. What does it mean to become an MI?
A. It means to become Our Lady's instrument in her most loving hands. Only in this way can we expect to reach our ultimate purpose, which is not only the greater, but also the greatest glory of God. Hence, all our efforts must be directed to this: that we allow ourselves to be led, that we do nothing of ourselves, but only in the way she wants and in the way she wants it.
To accomplish this we must unite our will with Mary's, whose will was perfectly conformed to God's will. St. Maximilian once wrote: "One who cannot bend his knees and beg in humble prayer to know what she is, let him not expect to learn anything more intimate about the Immaculata." And again, "You will draw more knowledge about her and will be more inflamed with her love directly from her heart than from all human words put together."
Knowledge and understanding of the Immaculata, and hence of her Militia, comes through humble prayer which is the indispensable condition for all spiritual growth.
Q. What is enrollment in the MI?
A. It is the step of joining the MI and becoming a recognized member of the MI movement. This can be done by any Catholic above the age of reason who willingly consecrates himself and registers himself at a local canonical center of the MI or at the National Center of the MI for the U.S. at Marytown.
Q. How does one enroll?
A. Select a day on which you consecrate yourself to Mary and request that your name be recorded in the official MI register. This is preferably done on a Marian feast day.
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Q. Must it be done on a Marian feast day?
A. This is not required but clearly preferred as almost every month has a Marian feast day. This makes it easier for you to keep track of the date you made your total consecration.
Q. Is wearing the Miraculous Medal required?
A. Absolutely; this is in accord with the wishes of the Immaculata that she expressed during the Miraculous Medal apparition. On that occasion she promised great graces to all who would wear this medal and pray the prayer inscribed on the medal with great confidence.
Q. What is the position of the MI on private revelation and reported apparitions?
A. The MI movement is closely associated with four Marian apparitions. First, the appearances of Mary to Bernadette at Lourdes had a profound effect on St. Maximilian Kolbe and his development of the theology of the Immaculate Conception.
Second, Our Lady's appearances to St. Catherine Laboure resulted in the promulgation of the Miraculous Medal - the "spiritual bullet" that MIs wear or carry and promote.
Third, the Marian apparition to Alphonse Ratisbonne, leading to his sudden and profound conversion, convinced St. Maximilian of the power of the Miraculous Medal. Finally, Mary appeared to St. Maximilian himself when he was just ten years old (and possibly again while he was a missionary in Japan).
However, the MI as a movement does not endorse or advocate any visionaries or locutionaries who do not have the explicit approval of the Catholic Church. Until such incidents are thoroughly investigated and approved by the proper Church authorities, MIs should view such matters with extreme caution. In expressing personal opinions on alleged apparitions and the like, MIs should take care not to leave the mistaken impression that they are expressing the position of the MI.
This is especially important because, as an international public association of the faithful under the Code of Canon Law, we received a mission to pursue the goal of the MI - the conversion and sanctification of all souls - "in the name of the Church" (Canon 313). In addition, the MI comes under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See.
For these reasons MIs have a special responsibility to be faithfully obedient and deferential to the proper Church authorities in all matters, including apparitions or locutions that have not yet been investigated or approved by the Church. We must be careful not to use the name of the MI to lend credence to such apparitions or locutions.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Throughout the ages, there have been so-called 'private' revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. . . . Christian faith cannot accept 'revelations' that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment." [no. 67].
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Q. Are there any restrictions on joining the MI?
A. Enrollment in the MI is open to all Catholics - laity and clerics - over the age of reason, which is approximately seven years of age. A person must enroll himself in the MI, since the act of total consecration must proceed from an individual's free decision. One person may not enroll another.
Q. May non-Catholics join the MI?
A. Membership is restricted to Catholics only, since the original charter explicitly calls for MIs to pray and work for the conversion of non-Catholics. As St. Maximilian writes, "[The object is] to work for the conversion to God of all men, be they sinners, or non-Catholics or unbelievers, in particular the Masons. . . ."
This does mean that we should not encourage non-Catholics to consecrate themselves to Our Lady. Through this openness to her love and maternal mediation, she will certainly impart to them graces for leading a better Christian life, and encourage them to be open to the fullness of the truth found uniquely in the Catholic Church.
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Q. May I become a member of the MI
through a "group" consecration?
A. Consecration to Mary of parishioners by their pastors, of children by their parents, of couples by the priest officiating at their wedding, of religious by their superiors, or of priests by their bishop at their ordination, is not "total"- and therefore not MI - unless the individual through his or her own free will pledges Totus Tuus, "I am totally yours Mary," or the Kolbean equivalent. If they indeed make this personal pledge or consecration, then they must formally enroll themselves at a canonical MI center.
Many Catholic parishes have undertaken consecration of the parish to Mary, through a group ceremony whereby individual members of the parish consecrate themselves totally to Mary. This is to be encouraged and the National Center offers a "Parish Consecration Kit" to make such undertakings as simple as possible for busy parish priests.
In these cases, the parish might distribute enrollment forms for completion by the individuals and might even mail them to the National Center as a group on behalf of the individuals. In such cases, because the individuals consecrate themselves through their own free will - albeit in a group ceremony presided over by a priest (or deacon) - their consecrations are indeed "total" and MI.
Q. Do MI members have to fast?
A. This question comes up from time to time in telephone calls received by the national center, and has been the subject of discussion by the MI crosstalk group at CatholiCity's web site (www.CatholiCity.com).
The answer is not to be too cute, but yes and no.
Yes, MIs as Catholics must observe the required fasting and abstinence rules of the Church. These are the general rules:
1. Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by those from the ages of 18 and 59 (in the United States).
2. Abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent.
3. Fasting for one hour before receiving Holy Communion.
It is appropiate that Catholics abstain from meat, or observe some other form of self-denial, on all Fridays (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1438).
No, MI members have no obligation to fast or abstain beyond those that apply to Catholics in general. This is not say that fasting or some other expression of penitence isn't highly recommended!
In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas commends fasting as a virtue when directed to a virtuous purpose. Fasting is practiced for a threefold purpose, he says: (1) to "bridle the lusts of the flesh"; (2) to permit the mind to "arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things"; and (3) to "satisfy for sins" (2nd part of 2d part, question 147, Art. 1).
But bear in mind that a wrongful purpose (or end) renders fasting (the object) corrupt. "An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting in order to be seen by men')" (CCC, no. 1755). Jesus pointed out this same thing when he denounced hypocritical public displays of self-denial (Mt 6:16-18).
St. Maximilian Kolbe is, of course, a heroic model of self-sacrifice. Consider the words of our patron: "Penance for the sake of penance would have no value; but it can be a helpful means in striving to love God" (Will to Love, p. 101). St. Maximilian cautions against taking on free-will mortifications when they "may well favor self-love" (p. 107) instead of love of God. However, "It would be good if everyone took upon himself each day at least two or three small, insignificant penances or mortifications, but regularly, especially say, throughout Lent, in such matters as restraint and custody of the eyes, control of the tongue from some lighter humor and the like. None of these practices will hurt one's health, because after all, health we must maintain to work for the glory of the Immaculata" (p. 103).