Having laid out what the devotion is in Part I, the most important thing to understand is that this devotion is nothing new, nor was it in Montfort’s day, but it in fact goes all the way back to Apostolic times for it is nothing other than a perfect renewal of ones baptismal promises..
I have said that this devotion could rightly be called a perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism. Before baptism every Christian was a slave of the devil because he belonged to him. At baptism he has either personally or through his sponsors solemnly renounced Satan, his seductions and his works. He has chosen Jesus as his Master and sovereign Lord and undertaken to depend upon him as a slave of love. This is what is done in the devotion I am presenting to you. We renounce the devil, the world, sin and self, as expressed in the act of consecration, and we give ourselves entirely to Jesus through Mary. We even do something more than at baptism, when ordinarily our god-parents speak for us and we are given to Jesus only by proxy. In this devotion we give ourselves personally and freely and we are fully aware of what we are doing.
In holy baptism we do not give ourselves to Jesus explicitly through Mary, nor do we give him the value of our good actions. After baptism we remain entirely free either to apply that value to anyone we wish or keep it for ourselves. But by this consecration we give ourselves explicitly to Jesus through Mary’s hands and we include in our consecration the value of all our actions. (True Devotion, #126)
And we see that Montfort here draws upon the greatest of all Doctors of the Church: Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine of Hippo, and it is interesting to note that Montfort was a Third Order Dominican…
“Men” says St. Thomas, “vow in baptism to renounce the devil and all his seductions.” “This vow,” says St. Augustine, “is the greatest and the most indispensable of all vows.” Canon Law experts say the same thing: “The vow we make at baptism is the most important of all vows.” But does anyone keep this great vow? Does anyone fulfil the promises of baptism faithfully? Is it not true that nearly all Christians prove unfaithful to the promises made to Jesus in baptism? Where does this universal failure come from, if not from man’s habitual forgetfulness of the promises and responsibilities of baptism and from the fact that scarcely anyone makes a personal ratification of the contract made with God through his sponsors? (True Devotion, #127)
And this devotion can be found in the Holy Councils of the Church…
This is so true that the Council of Sens, convened by order of the Emperor Louis the Debonair to remedy the grave disorders of Christendom, came to the conclusion that the main cause of this moral breakdown was man’s forgetfulness of his baptismal obligations and his disregard for them. It could suggest no better way of remedying this great evil than to encourage all Christians to renew the promises and vows of baptism.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent, faithful interpreter of that holy Council, exhorts priests to do the same and to encourage the faithful to remember and hold fast to the belief that they are bound and consecrated as slaves to Jesus, their Redeemer and Lord. “The parish priest shall exhort the faithful never to lose sight of the fact that they are bound in conscience to dedicate and consecrate themselves for ever to their Lord and Redeemer as his slaves.”
Now the Councils, the Fathers of the Church and experience itself, all indicate that the best remedy for the frequent lapses of Christians is to remind them of the responsibilities of their baptism and have them renew the vows they made at that time. Is it not reasonable therefore to do this in our day and in a perfect manner by adopting this devotion with its consecration to our Lord through his Blessed Mother? I say “in a perfect manner”, for in making this consecration to Jesus they are adopting the perfect means of giving themselves to him, which is the most Blessed Virgin Mary. (True Devotion, #128-30)
Of course Montfort himself was one of those great fruits of the glorious Council of Trent which was the most authoritative and broad ranging Council in the history of the Church, and which gave us so many of the wonderful things the Church has had in the last five centuries. But so too can we thank this great council for bringing out clearly the importance of this ancient devotion of total consecration to Jesus through Mary and the making of oneself a willing slave of Jesus and Mary.
In Part III we will conclude the explanation of the essential points of this devotion with a discussion on a point central to the devotion that many struggle with, and which can often lead one never to practice the devotion or at least not well if the difficulty is not explained.