Questions on Making the Act of Consecration
What The Consecration Means and What it Does For A Person Who Makes It
by Monsignor Roger J. Scheckel
Spiritual Advisor to the Marian Catechist Apostolate
Gathering each summer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe for our annual days of reflection with His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, we have the opportunity to renew friendships as well as to renew our commitment to the Marian Catechist Apostolate. The high point of this time together is the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday when the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary will be made for the first time by some and renewed for another year by others. You are encouraged before your Act of Consecrationto meditate on the consecratory prayer that was formulated by Servant of God Father John A. Hardon, S.J., so that it will be a prayer professed with heart-felt conviction.
I wish to address some questions that have been raised concerning the nature and the efficacy of the consecration. The questions have centered primarily on what the consecration means and what it does for a person who makes it.
It may be helpful to begin by identifying what a consecration is within the life of the Church. A consecration is a blessing that has the authorization of the Church and is conferred on persons, places and things. It sets apart for special service to the Church who or what is consecrated. For example, a thing to be consecrated would be the bells in a church, used for the purpose of calling people to worship. A holy place to be consecrated would be a church building set apart for worship, or a cemetery set apart for the burial of those who have died and await the resurrection of their bodies. A person that is consecrated, for example, could be a Bishop who is set apart to participate in the apostolic ministry or a lay person who is set apart to participate in a particular service to the Church, such as catechesis. Consecration of persons, except that of a Bishop, (which strictly speaking would be integral to the Sacrament of Holy Orders), is understood as being a sacramental.
Father Hardon defines a sacramental as “objects or actions that the Church uses after the manner of Sacraments, in order to achieve through the merits of the faithful certain effects, mainly of a spiritual nature. They differ from Sacraments in not having been instituted by Christ to produce their effect in virtue of the ritual performed. Their efficacy depends not on the rite itself, as in the Sacraments, but on the influence of prayerful petition; that of the person who uses them and of the Church in approving their practice” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 477).
As Father Hardon’s definition makes clear, unlike the Sacraments, a sacramental is instituted by the Church, not by Christ Himself. The effect of the consecration made by a Marian Catechist is dependent upon the spiritual disposition of the person making it. A sacramental such as the Marian Catechist consecration is able to confer actual graces provided the consecrated person is in a state of grace. Father Hardon defines actual grace as “temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to Heaven. Actual grace is therefore a transient divine assistance to enable man to obtain, retain, or grow in supernatural grace and the life of God” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 11).
The Marian Catechist consecration presupposes the supernatural grace already received in the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Holy Communion and Confirmation. The graces given in these Sacraments are lasting over time. The grace given through the consecration is temporary and transient, made available when the situation requires it.
When a Marian Catechist faces a particular situation that requires, for example, knowledge of the Faith to evangelize or to catechize, their consecration brings to the catechist’s mind and heart a knowledge and conviction for what is needed at that moment in that situation for the Faith to be explained and presented. We should not understand this to be some kind of magical intervention but the consequence of having disposed one’s soul for this possibility through an ongoing study of the Faith and faithfully carrying out the daily spiritual exercises of a consecrated Marian Catechist.
Some Marian Catechists have asked if the Marian Catechist Apostolate is the same as belonging to a Religious Order where vows are professed, such as Third Order Carmelites. They have also questioned if it permissible to use initials after one’s name to designate membership with the Marian Catechist Apostolate as do the Carmelites with OCDS (Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites) appearing after their name.
Father Hardon did not seek to found a Religious Order nor did the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to which he belonged provide him the possibility to found a secular order associated to the Jesuits as allowed by the Carmelites. The Marian Catechist Apostolate is a Public Association of the Faithful that is canonically established with the permission and blessing of the Church. To best understand what this means for members of the Apostolate, I refer you to the article written by Cardinal Burke entitled, “The Blessings of Being a Public Association of the Faithful.” This article clearly delineates the canonical nature of the Apostolate. While the consecration is sanctioned by the Church there is no canonical permission that has been granted whereby a Marian Catechist would use initials after his or her name to designate membership in the Apostolate. The identification of Marian Catechists is made known by the lives they live and the service they give to the Church rather than initials placed after their name.
As Marian Catechists we do not take vows as do members of a religious congregation. We are consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, dedicating our lives to bringing the love of Jesus and Mary to our world through catechesis. We renew our Act of Consecration each day by praying the Morning Offering and we renew annually the consecration in a solemn manner before the Church and her representative. It is this annual public consecration that differentiates the Marian Catechist consecration from the consecration to Mary originating with Saint Louis de Montfort, which is personal and private.
I am hopeful that the above commentary will assist those Marian Catechists who have forwarded questions to the International Office concerning the Marian Catechist Act of Consecration. Just as our world needs Marian Catechists to teach the Faith with their lives and their knowledge, so the Marian Catechist needs the consecration for those graces that will assist them in their good and holy work.
June 24, 2016, Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist