In the mid-1980s, I taught a Business Law class at Illinois Central College (ICC). One of the areas of law that was covered in the class was contract law. I taught my students that there are four conditions that are necessary in order for a contract (or agreement) to be legally valid and binding. The four conditions are:
1. Offer – An offer must be made by an individual or company to sell goods or services to another individual or company;
2. Acceptance – The individual or company that receives the offer has to accept the terms and conditions of the offer;
3. Consideration – The individual or company that accepts the offer must agree to exchange something of value for the goods or services; and
4. Capacity – The parties to the agreement must have the legal and mental capacity to enter into an agreement.
As an example, let’s say that my 17-year-old daughter Christine agrees to buy a 1996 Chevrolet Impala from her 18-year-old friend. The friend offers to sell his car for $2,000 as long as Christine agrees to pay him within 7 days. Christine agrees to pay the $2,000. In order to memorialize their agreement, the friend takes out a sheet of paper and writes down what they’ve agreed upon and both of them sign the paper.
After signing the agreement, Christine comes home and tells me that she agreed to buy the car. The next day I stop by her friend’s house to take a look at the car and conclude that it’s a pile of junk. When I get home, I tell Christine that I don’t want her to buy the car. Christine tells her friend that she doesn’t want to go against her dad and refuses to pay for the car. A week later, Christine’s friend files a lawsuit against her in small claims court.
Is the signed contract between Christine and her friend legally valid and enforceable? The answer is “No.” Only three of the four required conditions were met. There was an offer, acceptance and consideration, but Christine did not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract. In Illinois, a person has to be at least 18 years old in order to legally enter into a contract. Now, if it had been my 20-year-old daughter Mary who signed the agreement with the friend, all four conditions would have been met and he would win his case against her in small claims court.
In a sense, the same basic conditions for a valid and binding agreement apply in our dealings with our Creator. For example, when we receive the sacraments, we are subject to the same four conditions. There is an offer that is made by God; there is an acceptance on our part of the offer (in the baptism of a baby, it is the godparents who speak on behalf of the baby and accept the offer); there is consideration because we are giving up something of value (to us) in exchange for something of value from God; there is the capacity to accept provided the person receiving the sacrament has knowledge of what is being agreed to and is mentally capable of making rational decisions.
Prior to the time I taught Business Law at ICC, I read about a special agreement that I could enter into with the Mother of God – an agreement that was written by one of the greatest of all of the Marian saints, St. Louis de Montfort. I learned about the agreement when I read Montfort’s book, True Devotion To Mary. The actual agreement was at the end of the book and was titled: Consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, through the Blessed Virgin Mary. For purposes of discussion, I’ll refer to the agreement as a “consecration agreement.”
In his book, Montfort recommended that one of the feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary be chosen for the signing of the consecration agreement. The day I chose was August 15, 1985, the feast day for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. On that date, after attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion, I knelt down and read the consecration agreement. I then followed Montfort’s instructions and dated and signed the agreement.
This coming Wednesday (August 15, 2012) I will again read and sign the consecration agreement, as I have done every year on August 15 for the past 26 years. I consider this particular agreement more important than any agreement I have ever signed. What I initially agreed to and have renewed every year has transcended time and reached into eternity.
The greatest Pope of modern times, Blessed Pope John Paul II, signed the same consecration agreement when he was a young man. Here’s what he had to say about St. Louis de Montfort, the author of the consecration agreement:
At one point I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
There I found the answers to my questions, Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ. The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
So what was the main “offer” that was made in Montfort’s book that I eventually accepted by signing the consecration agreement? The offer was that in exchange for committing to the terms and conditions of the agreement, the Mother of God would provide me with the guidance and grace that was necessary to develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship with her Son, Jesus Christ.
A year after I signed the consecration agreement, while I was at an out-of-town event, I met a priest from Dallas, Texas. We ended up talking for about 45 minutes. During our conversation, he asked me if there were any perpetual adoration chapels in Peoria. I didn’t know what a perpetual adoration chapel was so he explained it to me and encouraged me to get to work on establishing a perpetual adoration program in Peoria. It was the only time I ever saw or talked to that priest. I don’t remember his name and I would not know how to contact him, yet it was my conversation with him that compelled me to look into and eventually start the perpetual adoration program at St. Philomena.
In reality, it wasn’t the priest that compelled me to move forward. It was the Mother of God working through the priest. She was simply keeping her end of the bargain by providing me with the guidance and grace that was necessary to develop a more meaningful relationship with her Son.
The book True Devotion To Mary can be purchased from Amazon.com for $11.95. What’s in that book is the best-kept secret in the universe.