The first time I completed the Preparation for Total Consecration According to St. Louis Marie de Montfort (when I was an overzealous young adult), the concept of becoming a slave to Mary was quite scandalous to me. I could accept the challenge of surrendering all to her, of uniting my will, senses, and intellect to hers to that I could be more closely united to her Son, but slavery? Slavery connoted extreme subjugation, a type of bondage that would suffocate and imprison, rather than liberate. Never in my life had I heard of the concept of slavery in a favorable manner, but only through the descriptions of horrific maltreatment of humans throughout various historical events.
Could I be a slave to Mary? I thought as I read the daily reflection. What does it mean to enslave myself to her? The words were too extreme, even for my uber-conservative perspective. Even in Scripture, Jesus speaks of setting the captives free and releasing prisoners from their spiritual chains. I couldn’t imagine that God would want us to consciously choose any form of slavery…or would He?
First of all, St. Louis de Montfort describes consecration to our Lady as a type of “holy slavery,” which seems incredibly oxymoronic and confounding. In True Devotion, he explains that we can call ourselves “slaves of Mary,” “slaves of the Holy Virgin,” or “slaves of Jesus in Mary,” which is his preferred and most accurate description of this type of holy slavery (number 244). The two principle means of consecration, which is to say, total abdication of ourselves to Jesus and Mary, further clarify this beautiful metaphor of holy slavery:
The Mystery of the Incarnation
St. Louis describes the Incarnation as a mystery of the Faith in which “Jesus is a captive and a slave in the bosom of Mary, and depends on her for all things” (number 243). If we ponder this, we acknowledge the profound humility and humiliation in this truth. All babies are captive in their mother’s wombs. Unborn children exhibit this innate and constant dependence on their mothers for nourishment, protection, and love. In order to become a slave of Mary – or of Jesus through/in Mary (since Jesus is our end, and Mary is our means to Him) – we must return to that psychological and spiritual infancy that includes unabashed abandonment, a total trust in her mystical womb that encases us with her motherly protection, intercession, and mercy.
If we long to imitate Jesus, then we must contemplate the details of this beautiful mystery and ready ourselves to reenter the womb of Mary with Him. The safety and assurance that all of our needs will be cared for is certainly a type of enslavement, but it is one that all of us have already experienced when we were in our own mother’s wombs.
Resorting to mystical slavery may, at first, appear repugnant to most of us, who have adopted the societal mindset that autonomy is the highest form of freedom. But as children of God, we know that the pull toward independence must be tempered by humility, and humility requires total dependence on God rather than self-sufficiency. Holy slavery, then, is a type of radical abandonment into the care of Jesus through Mary. It is an uncompromising, possibly diehard, form of trust, which is so contrary to our drive for independence.
Consider the necessary vulnerability required for holy slavery: a heart that is open and empty, ready and willing for God to fill it with His very essence, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. We cannot complicate our lives with frivolous and peripheral thoughts or activities. Instead, we must somehow discipline ourselves to be delicate babies in the womb of Mary so that we can learn this radical form of trust.
In the Incarnation, we can “see Jesus only in Mary,” as St. Louis reminds us (number 246). Therefore, her womb must become ours in a mystical sense so that we can belong entirely to Jesus.
Mary was chosen to be the mother of God
St. Louis further states that we should “thank God for the incomparable graces He has given Mary, and particularly for having chosen her to be His most mother, which choice was made in this mystery” (number 243). Here is where we learn to approach Jesus through His mother. The more we practice the first principle, the more we begin to understand more deeply that the hearts of Jesus and Mary are so inextricably intertwined that to know, love, and honor Mary with this total slavery, or abandonment of trust, is to know, love, and honor Jesus more fully.
We can participate in this “throne of mercy” (number 248), because Jesus is more lenient on us when we appeal to Him through His mother. This liberality, or mercy, is what draws us to recognize that neither Jesus nor His mother can be separated, except in substance. Their hearts, their intentions, their mission is the same. If the idea of this indelible communion between mother and Son is still difficult to accept, try practicing the devotion to the United Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Over time, you will discover that you cannot love Mary too much, only too little. She will always lead you toward her Son and closer to Heaven.
Holy slavery to Jesus in Mary is one of the highest spiritual devotions, because it requires persistent self-abasement, a deliberate choice to relinquish control over the details of your life, and a radical trust that they will care for everything you need. A soul who becomes enslaved to Jesus and Mary is a soul who loves them so deeply, so entirely, that it cannot fathom the bizarre, postmodern notion of abhorrence to such an act.
If you allow Jesus and Mary to shackle you in this slavery, it is because you know and trust them so intimately that it is impossible for them, out of love for you, to harm you in any way. There is no thought that slavery equates imprisonment, unless you are imprisoned to unitive love. And unitive, or perfect, love with Jesus liberates the soul through its desire to belong to Him.