As we are in a Holy Year dedicated to St. Joseph, I want to conclude this series of articles with a reflection on consecrations. The last several months we have been considering several forms of prayer – the Mass and the Daily Office, lectio divina, and mental prayer, with a separate piece outside of this set on the Holy Rosary. Consecrations have ways of giving this spiritual work and devotion another dimension, an intimacy that hardly seems possible.
Consecrations are deeply personal. The term “consecration” can be a bit off-putting for some, as it can seem we are giving to saints what we ought to be giving to God. But such is not the case: one can consecrate oneself and one’s family to God the Father, to Christ the Lord (as in consecration to the Sacred Heart), to Our Lady, to St. Joseph, to the angels and saints. To consecrate oneself or something means to entrust it to the care of another, to surrender to the power and influence of another in the belief that only good will come out of it. The species at Mass are consecrated by the words of consecration – and in the words spoken by the priest in persona Christi, they become something they were not before, while retaining the appearance of what they were: simple bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. The consecration transubstantiates the bread and wine. It doesn’t transform it, because what has been changed still has the same form: the substance has been changed. Likewise, when we consecrate ourselves, our appearances are the same, and our hearts are changed.
Consecrations soften us towards others, and they strengthen us for our duties. Consecrations to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph put us in touch with the tenderness of Our Lord in his humanity; they create intimate conversation with His earthly parents, who exercise parental solicitude for all Christians and all peoples; and they give a tender confidence in the Father’s love and providence. Consecrations bring the graces and virtues of those to whom one consecrates oneself into one’s own life, along with wisdom as to how to make those graces and virtues one’s own. When we pray the litanies, we ask the saints’ prayer by appealing to their virtues as the bases for our petitions, and we take those virtues into our own lives to make them our own, helped by those who possess them perfectly. Our imitation of Christ is enhanced by our imitation of those who imitate Him better than we.
When we consecrate ourselves to God and the saints, we entrust ourselves to them. Now it’s not me as a member of the Faithful who prays to the Lord at Mass and in the Office, in the Rosary, and in the mental prayer: it’s me, David, personally making an act of entrustment and reliance upon the benevolence of those whom I know spiritually. Consider part of the text of a consecration to the Sacred Heart: “I believe in thy mercy, I believe in thy power, I believe in thy personal love for me…” When we entrust ourselves to Jesus, Mary, to Joseph, and to the angels and saints, we trust them to perfect whatever is lacking in our entrustment of ourselves to the Father, who longs to give Himself to us. The consecrations open the eyes to see the ways in which the Lord, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and the angels and saints are at work in our lives. Consecrations give us confidence to surrender to love and to act with love, as we see in the lives of the saints.
Consecrations are humbling and freeing. In the act of surrender, one lays aside one’s own prerogatives, placing them inside the prerogatives of one who is greater, confident that this one will know better what to do with me and mine than I ever could. We give to the saints, we give to Jesus Christ, all that we are and have, so that they can give all we are and have, purified by their prayers and merits, to God the Father and to others who need the value of our merits more than we. We do this because we believe that the one to whom we make the consecration really will take care of us. We do this because we know ourselves to be loved, personally.
The saints to whom we consecrate ourselves take care of our salvation, by praying for it with far more intensity, depth, and purity than we ever can; and they take care to safeguard us in this valley of tears. Consecrated to them, we go with them to Mass and Office, Holy Rosary, mental prayer, and all the duties of our states and stations in life, aided by them, sheltered by them, led by them to conform our wills ever more closely to the will of the Father, in which conformity alone we find salvation.
Many are finding in these times of danger that consecration to St. Joseph danger brings consolation, peace, and tempered power, along with greatly increased devotion to Mary, to Jesus, and to the Father. He teaches us how to approach them; he recedes from view after he has acted on our behalf. Patron of the universal church, protector of the Holy Family, the Provider, the Guide – to Bethlehem, to Egypt, to Nazareth –, he teaches us to act with diligence, decision, and discretion, and to recede from view so that God can act, so that God can be seen and praised, in which praise lies our salvation.
Conformity to the will of God as worship and praise of the Holy Name, in all the duties of our states of life: this is what consecrations teach us, and as we grow in the consecrations, so we grow in conformity to God’s will and in praise of the Name above all names, in which alone is found salvation.
David Carradini is a Knight of Malta, of the Holy Sepulchre, and of the Constantinian Order. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Yale Divinity School, and the University of Navarre, and resides with his wife in Virginia.