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I spent the summer of 2002 in Harlem, working with the Missionaries of Charity. After a semester spent desperately trying to figure out my vocation, eight weeks with the Missionaries of Charity seemed like a pretty good way to discern if I was being called to religious life.
So off I went, ready for a summer of discernment (but really hoping that one of the other volunteers would sweep me off my feet in a Catholic version of the romantic comedies I loved so much). When I got there, I discovered that many of the young people I was working with were planning to do a Marian consecration on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption.
I had never heard of Marian consecration. Having been raised with very Protestant sensibilities, I was wary of anything that smacked of Mariolatry, and making oneself a slave of the Blessed Mother certainly fit that category. But I respected the relationship these new friends of mine had with Jesus (and wanted them to like me), so I gave it a shot.
We used St. Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary, and after 33 days of reading and prayer, I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Mother of God to bind my heart to Jesus. This consecration was about him, after all; Mary was there, as always, to lead us to her Son.
I wish I could say that my life changed dramatically that day. It didn’t. I still struggled with Mary. I was willing to consent to the Marian dogmas, but I was no champion of Mary’s role in the lives of believers. I accepted what I had to and cringed at the rest, trying to find my way through centuries of Marian devotions that just struck me as pagan.
But the consecration to Jesus through Mary never claims to be a magic trick, some paper you can sign and find your heart enflamed with love of the Blessed Mother. Instead, it’s a plea that Mary continually draw your heart back to Jesus. It’s more a relationship to develop than a switch to be flipped, and it’s more about Jesus than it is about Mary. Though many refer to it as consecration to Mary, the consecration really happens through Mary’s hands; it’s a consecration to God that our Mother strengthens by her example and intercession.
So she worked slowly. Later that year, I found myself reading Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn, and finally understanding Church teaching on Mary rather than just grudgingly accepting it. As the years went by, I read more, understood more, loved more. I was surrounded by friends who loved Mary with a passion I couldn’t understand but began to appreciate. More than anything, I was drawn deeper into love of Jesus. I let go of my plans more than I ever would have though possible and embraced his instead. I found peace and joy in the arms of Christ, and I think that in many silent ways I have Mary to thank for that.
Fourteen years after that first consecration, made largely in ignorance and motivated more by imaginary peer pressure than true devotion, I renewed my consecration. This time I was compelled by a certainty that I couldn’t go wrong imitating St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montfort and Venerable Teresita Quevedo and JPII and Mother Teresa and nearly every one of the living people I most admire. More importantly, this time it felt like a recognition of what has become true in my life: Mary is always leading me back to Jesus.
Consecration to Jesus through Mary is a way of offering your heart to the Lord, whether you fully understand it or not. It’s a way of gradually being drawn into a deeper love of God and the Mother of God. It’s a way of giving the Lord your life and telling him to do what he likes with it.
If you’ve been considering making the Marian Consecration, now’s a good time to decide. The feasts of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas, and Mary, Mother of God are all coming up, making November a month full of options to begin the 33-day preparation. You can use St. Louis de Montfort’s traditional book or check out Fr. Michael Gaitley’s simpler version.
You can even spend the 33 days preparing and then choose not to make the consecration in the end—it certainly can’t hurt to spend a month focused on loving the Blessed Mother better and being more united to her Son.
But don’t let your uncertainty keep you from exploring the matter further; in the end, the Blessed Mother can work through uncertainty just as much as she can through conviction. Making the consecration just gives her permission to do it.