23. What is the meaning of consecration?
Consecration (nowadays also called dedication or entrustment) is a well-known term in the history of spirituality. It has biblical roots, and became the quest of many saints and spirituals through the centuries. Martyrs, virgins, monks are so-called consecrated persons. Consecration can be both personal and communitarian. It was promoted as oblation in Spain (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) and became the object of special attention in France in the seventeenth century. Famous names attached to the Consecration movement are St. Louis Grignion de Montfort, St. John Eudes, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI lent their voices to the movement. So did the Legion of Mary, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and his Militia of the Immaculate, and the various Fatima groupings. During this century entire nations were consecrated to Mary (Portugal, Italy, Poland...) and, based on the message of Fatima, the consecration of the whole world was requested. This consecration was made by John Paul II on March 24, 1984, in union with the bishops of the world, and considered by Lucia as both sufficient and efficacious. On October 8, after the celebration of the mass, bishops united with the Holy Father in an "Act of Entrustment" to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But what is the meaning of consecration (dedication or entrustment)?
1. God consecrates
In a strict and primary sense, there is room only for one type of consecration, the one made by God himself. Only God can appropriate a human being and make him/her sacred. God communicates his holiness to us; he gives us participation in his holiness. He is our creator and wants us to be in his image. This transformation into his likeness is the foremost meaning of consecration.
2. Consecration is a response
Our consecration is therefore essentially a response to his call. In acquiescing, we bind ourselves to a consecration that comes from God. We consecrate ourselves to belong to the Lord in a new way. In fact this new way is the only way by which we truly become who we are. The foremost example of God-human consecration is Jesus Christ himself. He is the "Anointed," meaning he totally belongs to God. When, by a free act of his person (intelligence, will, affection), he accepts the mission for the salvation of the world (Jn 17, 19; 30) he consecrates himself. This is what we call his subjective consecration in response to the objective consecration of his being which occurred in his humanity at the moment of the Incarnation.
3. Consecration in Christ through baptism
Christ imparts to his disciples and followers a very special belonging to God. He gives us his own life by making us participants in his own consecration. This happens in baptism. Baptism is our first and most important consecration. Baptism is our objective consecration. With Christ and through him we are destined and commissioned to the glory of God and the salvation of the world. There is a radical meaning to this mission: through baptism we do not belong to ourselves anymore but to Christ who imparts his life to us.
4. A consequence of baptism
What we commonly regard as consecration--our subjective consecration through promises, renewal of baptismal promises, confirmation, and vows--is consecration by voluntary adherence to what baptism has made of us. We promise to live as sons and daughters of God, and thus fulfill subjectively our objective consecration. All consecrations which follow baptism are rooted in this primary act of our Christian vocation.
5. Consecration to Mary
Can we consecrate ourselves to Mary? Mary is not the Creator, she is not the Redeemer. She is the opposite of a Goddess; she never substituted herself for God. But it was God's will that Mary had something to do with our Christian life, with our sanctification. It is a role assigned to her by God. In perfect union with her Son and subordinate to him, the Vatican II Council calls her "our mother in the order of grace" (LG 61). Let us not forget that Mary is the prototype of perfect consecration at the beginning of the New Testament. She was chosen to help us in our consecration through her intercession and by her maternal care, which disposes us to receive the gift of God we receive in baptism. She is the perfect example of the Church, and the model of all faithful. In her extreme spiritual sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's inspiration she is God's creaturely masterpiece.
All consecrations to Mary have this Spirit-oriented (meaning Christocentric and theocentric) meaning. Consecration to Mary is consecration to the "perfect means" (Montfort) which Jesus chose to unite himself with us and vice versa. Consecration to Mary heightens the depth and truth of our commitment to Christ. Consecration to Mary must explicitly state that our ultimate goal and end is God (Holy Spirit; Christ our Lord). Consecrations to Mary where one pledges to perform all actions "through Mary, in Mary, and for Mary" are in fact a pledge to perform them more perfectly through Jesus Christ, with him, in, and for him. Dedication to the Heart of Mary must therefore maintain the vital unity between the Heart of Mary and the Heart of Jesus. We must confide ourselves to the Heart of Mary in view of our consecration to God. We offer ourselves to this divine consecration through Mary, for she points the way to the heart of Jesus.
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