By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY
Totus Tuus Maria: Personal Consecration to Our Lady Following the Spiritual Teaching of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, by Msgr. Florian Kolfhaus (Gracewing Publishing, 168 pages, $14.91, www.gracewing.co.uk; also available at amazon.com).
The author is a priest of the Diocese of Regensburg in Germany. He works in the Secretariat of State in the Vatican, and has taken Pope St. John Paul II’s Marian motto, Totus Tuus, Maria, “Totally yours Mary” as the theme for this book, which is a companion to the Marian consecration program of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort.
The book comprises chapters with material for twelve days of preparation for the Montfortian consecration to our Lady. The author starts with the contention that we are all supposed to be striving for sanctity, and that the world needs saints.
This idea, however, is for most people somewhat off-putting, and that includes most Catholics. But as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) said, in a letter to her sister, “By the way, it is my conviction that it is not necessary for a saint to renounce all wishes and hopes of the world. Quite the opposite: Man is in this world to live, and he is supposed to accept all the beautiful things that are given to him with gratitude.”
So perhaps the task is not as impossible as we might imagine.
St. Louis certainly didn’t think so, and for him it was a question of living the grace of Baptism following the guidance of our Lady, our spiritual mother: that is, saints are formed in Mary, since all graces come through her mediation. And Pope Benedict did say: “Being Catholic means being Marian.”
The author denies that Consecration to Mary is “Catholic Kitsch” or a “questionable form of piety,” but rather insists that it is the “imitation of Christ through the hands of His mother, who safely guides anyone who entrusts himself to her.”
Msgr. Kolfhaus has reduced the usual thirty-three day preparation for the Montfortian consecration to a more manageable twelve days, and after an initial period of preparation, lasting three days, each day of the “novena” leading up to the consecration is partly devoted to prayer and partly to readings.
The first three days are devoted successively to an examination of our lives in relation to God, our neighbor, and ourselves, and each day, after a Scripture passage, there are “thoughts for contemplation,” which are certainly very thought-provoking. For example on the second day, in relation to love of neighbor, we are told, “It is about dedicating ourselves and giving ourselves in service to others,” and also that, “True Christian charity is always the fruit of a true love of God.”
The author recommends a thorough Confession at the end of this period, and he provides examinations of conscience to this end. As he says, “The firm will to repent and concrete resolutions for the spiritual life are the fruit of the first three days.”
At the start of the novena proper, Msgr. Kolfhaus counsels that, following the forgiveness of our sins and a new beginning, “It is ever more important to begin our ‘new’ life with magnanimity, without any compromises or half-measures,” and that is actually the purpose of the novena. To this end he recommends that some small sacrifice should be made each day.
The prayer sections of each novena chapter, for each day, have traditional Marian prayers including the rosary, while the readings include a Scripture passage, followed by a reflection, and then a section from St. Louis’ True Devotion to Mary. This is followed by some biographical information about a saint associated in one way or another with our Lady, including individuals such as St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Bosco, St. Bernadette, and St. Louis himself. These mini-biographies are a very useful way of illustrating the points made by St. Louis, and show how the saints became devoted to Mary in practice.
What also comes out is that they had a far from easy time, and it is astonishing to be reminded about how much they actually accomplished in the face of the obstacles they had to surmount, sometimes due to poor health, but often, sadly, due to their fellow Christians. As St. Bernadette said, the only thing she feared was bad Catholics.
What also comes across in this book is the author’s own deep devotion to our Lady, expressed particularly in his reflections on the grandeur of her role in the economy of salvation, as in this example: “Mary only desires to bring Jesus to all men. Whoever calls to Mary for help, honoring her and consecrating himself to her, can be sure that she will draw him closer to Christ. Mary and Jesus are inseparable! Where the Mother is there too is the Son!”
Or in another passage, in a commentary on the text about the marriage feast at Cana, he writes: “We call upon Mary when we have run out of wine, that is when we have a lack of strength to do good, or of true love and joy, because then we have only to offer our murky water, and she will ask her Son to change it into excellent wine.”
It is also good to see that in concluding the ninth day of the novena, which is entitled, “Mary — Queen of Heaven,” Msgr. Kolfhaus focuses on Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco of Fatima, and the importance of this Marian apparition for the Church. He makes the point that they were not beatified just because they had seen our Lady, but because they allowed themselves to be formed by the Blessed Virgin in her school of sanctity.
As the author says: “Fatima is the urgent appeal of heaven for everyone to generously answer the call to holiness and to follow the steep path that leads to life, step by step, day by day, in the hands of Mary.”
The book ends with the Consecration prayer of St. Louis, and a final section stressing the importance of the daily rosary.
An Excellent Read
A slight criticism is that the English translation contains some spelling errors and a few typos, and at times the style comes across as an overly literal translation from the German. But having said that, the freshness and urgency which the author manages to impart to the text mean that these points do not, in any significant way, detract from the very positive aspects of the book.
In sum, it is an excellent read, and bound to be of great spiritual benefit for anyone who reads it slowly and prayerfully.
And as the author says: “It has no other goal in mind than consecration to Our Lady according to St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort: namely the quickest and most secure way to sanctity.”
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(Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, and maintains a related website at www.theoto