Getting ready for September 15, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
I admit it. I was a little bit weirded out by Marian consecration in the past.
I was never suspicious of Marian piety — but I could never really embrace Marian consecration, with its talk of “holy slavery” to Mary and becoming “her property.” Mary didn’t strike me as someone who wanted me to be her slave. “Slaveholder” does not seem to fit among her many titles.
But at its highest levels, the Church had made it clear that I was wrong on that, so I basically kept my head down and avoided the topic.
That had to change in 2013. Benedictine College was consecrated to Mary and many on campus joined in, at the invitation of Father Michael Gaitley, who gave us copies of his book 30 Days to Morning Glory.
I braced myself and went along. It took two years, but I finally see its beauty. Three events explain why.
First, I prayed about it in front of the tabernacle — and was interrupted.
“This language bothers me,” I prayed. “Help me understand how someone can give themselves to another as their ‘possession’ and ‘property,’ and that’s okay?”
At that moment a priest came in, genuflected, opened the ciborium in the tabernacle, filled a pix for the hospital, then locked it again.
I had been sitting. I dropped to my knees, and my prayer changed, “Thank you, Lord, for in your great humility, you gave your body, blood, soul and divinity to us as our ‘possession’ and ‘property.’ Help me learn to be a fraction as humble as you.”
For that, after all, is exactly what Jesus Christ is doing in the gift of the Eucharist: making a kind of Montfortian commitment of himself to us. And not just in the Eucharist. He gave his whole life, “taking the form of a slave … becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
And he wasn’t the first Person to “consecrate” himself this way. Said St. John Paul: “[B]efore anyone else it was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own Son.”
I was thinking of this all wrong. To consecrate yourself to Mary is to lovingly commit yourself to her lifelong project of “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The analogy isn’t chattel slavery — it is more like military service to a queen; or, better, family service, which would be slavery if not for love.
Second, I spoke with one of my children about their mother.
The next event was a conversation I had, after a season of tension and crackdowns, with one my children.
“Look,” I found myself saying, “your mother made you who you are. She knows your limitations, but she also knows your potential, and she never wants you to settle for less than who you are. She has always done everything in her power to make you the person you are supposed to be.”
Since consecration was on my mind, I realized that all of that is true of Mary, our mother, too.
She is the one whispering “They have no wine” to focus us on the needs of others (Luke 2:3). She is the one saying “Do whatever he tells you” and pointing to her son (Luke 2-5). When we doubt Jesus, she sends us directly to him (Mark 3:21,31). When we lose her in our life, she sends us to the tabernacle (Luke 2:46).
To consecrate yourself to Mary means to accept her perpetual help in your life.
The third realization came when my wife went away and I went into bachelor mode.
I didn’t put things away. I didn’t stay on task with what I had to do. I behaved as if I had no wife; and that was not a good thing.
This is not a new phenomenon for me, but since I was looking for answers about Marian consecration, it made me think of the ways women improve me, and wonder if Mary has a similar role.
My wife has improved me in dramatic ways. She made me ambitious; marrying her made me do more with my talents than I would have otherwise. Being married to her drove me out of my comfort zone into uncomfortable situations. Marriage brought some of my life’s biggest crosses — raising children, managing a household, constantly needing money — but they were sweet crosses, because I carried them for love.
Mary is not my spouse. Consecration is not marriage. But Mary is, significantly, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), and she communicates the Spirit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:41) and the apostles (Acts 1:14).
In Father Gaitley’s book, Maximilian Kolbe contemplates the full significance of Mary’s “marital” relationship with the Holy Spirit. So does St. Louis de Montfort. The book emphasizes how, for each, a relationship with Mary revived their baptismal partnership with the Holy Spirit.
By “magnifying” the Holy Spirit in their lives, she inspired them to use their talents ambitiously, drove them from their comfort zones into new tasks, and gave them bigger crosses, sweetened by love.
So as I looked at these three phenomenon, I realized that I was not discovering anything new. I was mastering the obvious: Mary is queen, mother and spouse of the spirit. But it finally made sense to me.
Here is the prayer I have begun praying to renew my consecration each day:
Blessed Virgin Mary, I put my life at your service as my queen. I ask your help and direction as my mother. And I hope to please you more each day as the spouse of the Spirit that I received at Baptism.
Give me your obedience to the Father, fellowship with the Son, and partnership with the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Tom Hoopesis writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.