Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Under Her Mantle

Written by a young person in discernment.

"Before, by yourself, you couldn't. Now, you've turned to our Lady, and with her, how easy!"
  --St. José Maria Escriva

The first time I really gave any thought to what it means to be consecrated was two summers ago. I was bracing myself for the coming academic year: my second in university. That summer, my life felt chaotic, with changes and struggles facing me everywhere I turned. I felt the need to do something concrete to respond to the chaos with faith.

I knew that certain spiritual practices, such as a daily rosary, had helped me through other challenging times in my life. But I felt the need to do something more radical: something that was proportionate to the need I felt for God's help.

One day, in an email, a friend shared with me how he had consecrated himself to Mary through a spiritual practice called "Total Consecration to Mary." He explained that, with the aid of a book written by St. Louis de Montfort, he had prayed and reflected in preparation, every day for 33 days. On the last day, which fell on a Marian feast day, he used St. Louis' prayer of consecration to consecrate his entire life to the protection and intercession of Mary.

My first reaction was: woah. That sounds intense. My friend shared that St. Louis used phrases like "sweet slavery" to describe his relationship with Mary! I was a little freaked out.

However, I couldn't get the idea of Total Consecration out of my mind. Doing a little research on the internet, I discovered that many saints and blesseds had consecrated themselves to Mary through St. Louis' method. In fact, Saint Pope John Paul II was inspired by the language of Marian consecration when he chose the phrase Totus Tuus Maria ("I am totally yours, Mary") as the motto for his pontificate.

I also learned that, in addition to St. Louis de Montfort's book, True Devotion to Mary, a book had been written in contemporary language to guide people through the process of consecration. Thirty-Three Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, is a guide to Marian consecration that is a more approachable read. There is also a free online guide (this website is an awesome resource). 

After thinking about it for awhile, I decided to read St. Louis' book and go through the 33 days of preparation. I decided that if things seemed to be getting too intense, I could always back out before the day of consecration itself.

I read True Devotion to Mary and my heart was won. St. Louis' gentle, but passionate love for Mary touched my heart, and I knew that it was her motherly help that I needed to help me through the hard season of life I was going through. Doing the consecration would mean that I gave Mary permission to intercede for me and so lead me to Jesus. I came to understand that in consecrating myself to Mary, I was taking a step towards consecrating my life to her Son. It still felt like a radical step, but it was one that I wanted to take.

And so I began my preparation. I looked at the calendar and found that if I began the preparation that week, I would finish on August 22, the feast of the Queenship of Mary. Using St. Louis' book as my guide, I spent some time each day praying and doing some spiritual reading. Mary, the powerful prophetess, the gentle mother, the Queen of Heaven, the woman clothed with the sun, began to occupy a new place in my heart: and she never stopped pointing, with incredible gentleness and love, to Christ.

My consecration day arrived. After preparing for 33 days, I felt ready. I asked my parish priest to receive my consecration (listen to me pray the prayer of consecration and witness my promise). I went to Confession and Mass beforehand, and then, in Father's encouraging presence, I prayed the prayer of consecration aloud, standing in front of the altar. We both signed our names in my book below the prayer, along with the date. Every year on the same date, I renew my promise of consecration.

Since that day, my relationship with Mary has been an immense reservoir of strength and grace for me. Her powerful intercession and peaceful presence have changed my life, because her help leads me always towards Jesus.

Total Consecration was an experience of consecration, which means to be set apart, to be made sacred, and to be declared holy. I set myself apart as a daughter of Mary. Her prayer helps me to grow in holiness, and to see myself as sacred, because I am a temple of the Holy Spirit and a daughter of God. 

Marian consecration is a devotional spiritual practice, not a sacramental one. Baptism and Confirmation are unique sacramental experiences of consecration that set us apart as Catholics — members of Christ's Body, the Church. In the Sacrament of Marriage, a husband and wife are set apart for one another. At every celebration of the Mass, bread and wine are consecrated to become the Body and Blood of Christ, which then transforms those who receive it to become more like Him whom they receive. 

Sacramental consecration is a part of every Catholic's life. Devotional forms of consecration are embraced by some who find them beneficial in the spiritual journey. Every Catholic is called to a consecrated life, though the ways of consecrating yourself differ according to your vocation. 

Consecration is "taken to the next level," so to speak, in consecrated life. Through the vows taken by consecrated men and women, their whole lives and their entire beings are set apart for God.

If you want to deepen your understanding of what consecration is, and deepen the consecration of your baptism, consider consecrating yourself to Mary. Her gentleness makes the process easier than you might think. Entrust your heart to the Mother of Mercy. Be not afraid!

"Take shelter under our Lady's mantle, and do not fear. She will give you all you need. She is very rich, and besides is so very generous with her children. So take advantage without fear and with complete confidence, whenever you need anything. She loves giving."
--St. Raphaela Mary

Have you consecrated yourself to Our Lady according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort? Share your experience in the comments below! 

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