Besides interior practices, which we have just mentioned, this devotion has certain exterior practices which must not be omitted or neglected.
The first is to choose a special feast-day to consecrate ourselves through Mary to Jesus, whose slaves we are making ourselves. This is an occasion for receiving Holy Communion and spending the day in prayer. At least once a year on the same day, we should renew the act of consecration.
The second is to give our Lady every year on that same day some little tribute as a token of our servitude and dependence. This has always been the customary homage paid by slaves to their master. This tribute could consist of an act of self-denial or an alms, or a pilgrimage, or a few prayers. St Peter Damian tells us that his brother, Blessed Marino, used to give himself the discipline in public on the same day every year before the altar of our Lady. This kind of zeal is not required, nor would we counsel it. But what little we give to our Lady we should at least offer with a heart that is humble and grateful.
The third practice is to celebrate every year with special fervour the feast of the Annunciation of our Lord. This is the distinctive feast of this devotion and was chosen so that we might honour and imitate that dependence which the eternal Word accepted on this day out of love for us.
The fourth practice is to say every day, without the obligation of sin, the prayer entitled "The Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin", which comprises three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Marys, and to say frequently the Magnificat, which is the only hymn composed by our Lady. In the Magnificat we thank God for favouring us in the past, and we beg further blessings from him in the future. One special time when we should not fail to say it is during thanksgiving after Holy Communion. A person so scholarly as Gerson informs us that our Lady herself used to recite it in thanksgiving after Holy Communion.
The fifth is the wearing of a small blessed chain either around the neck, on the arm, on the foot, or about the body. Strictly speaking, this practice can be omitted without affecting the essential nature of the devotion , but just the same it would be wrong to despise or condemn it, and foolhardy to neglect it. Here are the reasons for wearing this external sign:
(1) It signifies that we are free from the baneful chains of original and actual sin which held us in bondage.
(2) By it we show our esteem for the cords and bonds of love with which our Lord let himself be bound that we might be truly free.
(3) As these bonds are bonds of love, they remind us that we should do nothing except under the influence of love.
(4) Finally, wearing this chain recalls to us once more that we are dependent on Jesus and Mary as their slaves. Eminent people who had become slaves of Jesus and Mary valued these little chains so much that they were unhappy at not being allowed to trail them publicly like the slaves of the Muslims. These chains of love are more valuable and more glorious than the necklaces of gold and precious stones worn by emperors, because they are the illustrious insignia of Jesus and Mary, and signify the bonds uniting us to them. It should be noted that if the chains are not of silver, they should for convenience' sake at least be made of iron. They should never be laid aside at any time, so that they may be with us even to the day of judgment. Great will be the joy , glory and triumph of the faithful slave on that day when, at the sound of the trumpet, his bones rise from the earth still bound by the chain of holy bondage, which to all appearance has not decayed. This thought alone should convince a devout slave never to take off his chain, however inconvenient it may be.