They resemble each other, for both are a renunciation and a surrender. When the little child comes into the world, he is the slave of satan. The toils of Adam’s sin, original sin, envelop him and soil him. Sanctifying grace, that is, a participation in the life of God Himself, has no place in his soul. But at Holy Baptism, through the union of water and the priest’s words, he is filled with grace and animated with the divine life, he is a Christian, a child of God, an heir to the promises of the kingdom. And at the moment of this wonder, the child by the authorized lips of others has made a great statement, done a great act. He has said: ‘I renounce satan, his pomps and his works, and I desire to belong to Jesus Christ.’
A very grave and sacred promise this, which, conscientiously speaking, pledges the whole life of the new Christian. This promise, the child of ten or twelve, on the unforgettable evening of his first Communion, renews freely with his own lips. A child’s promise, sincere and certainly touching, but in practice often forgotten, misunderstood, broken, sometimes even denied.
The Consecration of the Holy Slavery renews this promise and renews it freely after a serious preparation at a mature age and of one’s own accord. And the newly consecrated one knows well that this surrender to Jesus through Mary is a new and definite renunciation of the devil, and a new and formal protestation of eternal fidelity to Jesus Christ.
In this way we see then how the baptismal vows and the Consecration to Mary resemble one another. They also complete each other in this sense, that at Holy Baptism the child speaks through the lips of another, whilst at his Consecration he himself pronounces his act, personally, freely and voluntarily. We said too that the baptismal vows and the surrender to Mary were different. They differ in three ways:
(a) In baptism, as we have just remembered, we do not speak ourselves. We are officially represented by a godfather and a godmother, who before the Church and before God formally pledge our future, that is to say, our Christian life.
In the Consecration of the Holy Slavery we speak ourselves, in full knowledge of what we are undertaking, and we intend to give to our act, as is stressed by Montfort, the value of a renunciation of the infernal powers and of a total submission to the sole lordship of the King Jesus.
(b) In the baptismal vows, we are alone; we do not surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ by the hand of Mary, at least as a general rule, unless one is an adult and explicitly does so.
For many years, it is true, it has been the custom in parish churches on the evening of the solemn Communion to make use of this sacramental formula which recalls the Montfortian doctrine: ‘I renounce satan, his pomps and his works, and I give msyself to Jesus Christ for ever by the hand of Mary.’ But the baptismal form of words does not imply the strict and exact sense of a surrender to Mary, as does that of Blessed de Montfort.
The renewal of the baptismal vows by the act of Consecration through Mary is a very different matter. The words here are explicit and complete: ‘Because we use in our Consecration to Jesus Christ the most perfect of all means, namely the Blessed Virgin.’
(c) There is yet another important difference between the baptismal vows and the Consecration through Mary. In the baptismal vows, ‘we do not give to Jesus Christ the value of our good actions; we remain after baptism entirely free to apply it to whom we will or to keep it for ourselves.’
The young Christian after his Baptism, the child after his First Communion, the faithful after that impressive ceremony of the renewal of these vows during a mission, remain free and have the absolute disposal of their good works, let them be what they will. They can if they like apply them to other souls, or they have the right to keep them for themselves. It is their right because these various works are their property and possession, a source of grace and of future bliss.
‘But by this devotion, we give ourselves expressly to Our Lord by the hands of Mary, and we consecrate to her the value of all our actions.’
(To be continued.)