DAY OF CONSECRATION: A Glorious New Morning
DAY OF CONSECRATION: A Glorious New Morning
By Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Consecration Day. Now get ready for a gloriously new morning in your spiritual life. Of course, you’re already ready. You’ve been faithfully preparing for this moment for the last 33 days. So here are just three things I recommend by way of final preparation: (1) Make a good confession — but if you don’t have time to do so before the consecration, then from your heart tell the Lord you’re sorry for your sins, and make a resolution to go to confession as soon as you reasonably can. (2) Write out or print up the prayer of consecration, so you can sign it after you’ve recited it. (3) Get a miraculous medal to wear around your neck as a sign of your consecration — or at least keep one in your purse or wallet. (See explanation of the miraculous medal in Appendix Two [available in the book 33 Days to Morning Glory].) Again, these three things are recommendations. They’re not essential to the consecration.
Prayer of Consecration
Okay, so you’re ready to make your consecration. Now you’ll need the right prayer. You can use either the one that follows, one from the saints, or one that you write yourself. Whatever prayer you use, I recommend that you recite it after attending Mass or even after receiving Holy Communion (if there’s time). If you can’t get to Mass, you can still make the consecration — Mass is highly recommended but not essential. With or without Mass, after you recite the consecration prayer, I suggest that you sign it, date it, and keep it in a safe place. (When I renew my consecration annually, I like to recite the prayer from the original copy and then sign and date it again.) Anyway, once again, here’s the 33 Days to Morning Glory Prayer of Consecration that summarizes the main ideas of our four Marian giants:
I, ____________, a repentant sinner, renew and ratify today in your hands, O Immaculate Mother, the vows of my Baptism. I renounce Satan and resolve to follow Jesus Christ even more closely than before.
Mary, I give you my heart. Please set it on fire with love for Jesus. Make it always attentive to his burning thirst for love and for souls. Keep my heart in your most pure Heart that I may love Jesus and the members of his Body with your own perfect love.
Mary, I entrust myself totally to you: my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions. Please make of me, of all that I am and have, whatever most pleases you. Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for bringing the greatest possible glory to God. If I fall, please lead me back to Jesus. Wash me in the blood and water that flow from his pierced side, and help me never to lose my trust in this fountain of love and mercy.
With you, O Immaculate Mother — you who always do the will of God — I unite myself to the perfect consecration of Jesus as he offers himself in the Spirit to the Father for the life of the world. Amen.
What comes after we make our Marian consecration? Lots of grace and a gloriously new morning! But as morning turns into day, we may begin to wonder how we should live out our consecration. Do we just make it once and then forget about it? No. The following three points will help us live it out to the full: renewal, attitude, and devotion.
Saint Louis de Montfort recommends that we renew our consecration at least once a year on the same day, though he would encourage us to renew it even more frequently. Pope John Paul renewed his consecration to Mary every day. For daily renewal, we can use the same full formula that we recite on Consecration Day or we can pray a shorter version such as this one:
Mary, my Mother, I give myself totally to you as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all that I am and have, whatever most pleases you. Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for bringing the greatest possible glory to God.
Another way to renew and even deepen our Marian consecration is by making this retreat, 33 Days to Morning Glory, with a group (or groups) from your parish. The group retreat, which includes a retreat companion and accompanying DVD, is a great way to enrich our understanding of Marian consecration. The group retreat also happens to be the first stage of an evangelization and faith-formation initiative called Hearts Afire: Parish-based Programs from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. To learn more about this group retreat, see the information pages at the end of this book .
How should we live out our consecration? What kind of “Marian attitude” should we have? This is difficult to explain fully, and it will vary from person to person. Even our four saints differ in the way they express it. Still, they share the essentials.
Saint Louis de Montfort says that it’s not enough to give ourselves to Mary just once and then be on our way. He believes we need to enter into the spirit of consecration, which requires an interior dependence on Mary. In other words, he explains that we should do everything “with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary”119 so as to do it all the more perfectly with Jesus, in Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus. De Montfort homes in especially on the “with Mary” idea and describes it using language that St. Maximilian Kolbe will later adopt:
The essential practice of this devotion is to perform all our actions with Mary. … We must have habitual recourse to our Lady, becoming one with her and adopting her intentions … . In other words, we must become an instrument in Mary’s hands for her to act in us and do with us what she pleases, for the greater glory of her Son; and through Jesus for the greater glory of the Father. In this way, we pursue our interior life and make spiritual progress only in dependence on Mary.
While Kolbe describes his consecration to Mary in a way similar to this citation (“instrument in Mary’s hands”), he believes that “no fixed formula exists” for living the consecration. He thinks that Mary herself needs to teach us what it means: “I don’t know anything, either in theory and still less in practice, about how one can serve the Immaculata … . She alone must instruct each one of us at every moment, [and] lead us … .” To receive Mary’s instructions, we need to turn to her “through humble prayer” and reflect on “the loving experience” of her intercession in our daily lives. In sum, for Kolbe, we learn the attitude of consecration by relying on Mary’s powerful intercession, experiencing her tender care, speaking to her from our hearts, letting ourselves be led by her, having recourse to her in all things, and trusting her completely. Also, Kolbe would say that our consecration to Mary should give us an apostolic spirit that seeks to inspire others to make the consecration. For, as we learned earlier, Marian consecration is not just the quickest, easiest, and surest way to holiness for you and for me but for everyone, and thus, it’s the most efficient way to bring the whole world to God in Christ.
For Saint Mother Teresa, the living out of Marian consecration is essentially an attitude of the heart. More specifically, it’s a living with and in Mary’s Immaculate Heart. This attitude is described in detail in her “consecration covenant,” which we read earlier. Moreover, the context for her entire consecration is found in a kind of compassion on Jesus who thirsts for love and for souls. So, for Mother Teresa, the attitude of living the consecration is one of allowing Mary to bring us to the Cross of Jesus, of letting her quiet us so we can hear Jesus’ painful thirst, and of asking her to teach us to console Jesus with her own pure love.
Pope John Paul II finds the core of how we should live out our entrustment to Mary in words from the Gospel of John, “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn 19:27). In other words, he understands the attitude of entrustment as bringing Mary into everything that makes up one’s inner life. As the “Pope of Suffering,” he also gives a “co- redemptive” emphasis to his theology of Marian entrustment. He does this when he points out that she who was most fully united to Christ in his redemptive consecration of himself on the Cross helps us to unite ourselves to this same consecration. In other words, Mary helps us to “offer up” our own crosses; she reminds us not to waste our suffering; and she gives us the courage to be “co-redeemers” with Christ (see Col 1:24) — of course, in a way that is subordinate and united to Christ. What we see in all these saints and blesseds, however they express it, is that we should draw close to Mary, lovingly depend on her, speak to her from our hearts, have confidence in her powerful intercession, and share with her our joys, sorrows, and sufferings. Having said this, being consecrated to Mary is not based on feelings or even a constant mindfulness of Mary, as beautiful as such mindfulness is. According to St. Maximilian Kolbe, the proper attitude of those who are consecrated to Mary flows not so much from reason or emotions but from the will:
[I]t is not at all necessary that the thought of the Immaculata should occur to [one’s] mind … for the essence of our union with her does not consist in thought, memory, or sentiment, but in our will.
I continue to say: we belong to her even if we do not constantly repeat this concrete offering [of a particular action to her], because we consecrated ourselves to her once, and we have never taken back our consecration.
[E]ven when we are not thinking of it … [Mary] directs every one of our actions, prearranges all the circumstances, repairs the damage of our falls and leads us lovingly toward heaven, and through us she is pleased to implant good ideas, sentiments, and examples everywhere in order to save souls and lead them to the good Jesus.
So, while St. Louis de Montfort says, “We must never go to our Lord except through Mary,” Kolbe teaches us that this going through her does not always have to be a conscious act. He would surely say that it’s a good thing to explicitly turn to Mary, but it’s not necessary to do this every time we turn to Jesus. He believes that once we’ve consecrated ourselves to Mary and develop an habitual dependence on her, we always do go to Jesus with her, even if we’re not thinking of it. It’s like this: Let’s say a husband loves his wife and has to leave for a business trip, far from home. While he’s travelling, meeting with clients, and filling out reports, his wife is still with him, in his heart, even if he’s not explicitly thinking of her. So it is with us when Mary is in our hearts.
When we’re fully consecrated to Mary, when we’ve developed a relationship of childlike dependence on her motherly care, she’s always with us whenever we pray, just as Jesus is always with us whenever we pray to the Father. This latter point is true, for example, even if we don’t explicitly turn to Jesus when we say, “Our Father.” Kolbe’s main idea here is that the Father, the Son, and Mary, who is always united with the Holy Spirit (while remaining a creature), do not live along parallel lines. Rather, Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit are always united together in one movement “upward” to the Father, and whenever we turn to one of them, we join all of them in their one upward movement. In other words, they’re not in competition; they don’t take away from each other. Rather, they form a unity and work as a team — though with different roles — to bring all back to the Father.
I’d like to emphasize one important point before we conclude: While it’s true that the effects of Marian consecration hold even when we’re not thinking about Mary, living the consecration does require some effort. After all, deep relationships require communication and work, and this definitely applies to our relationship with Mary. The “communication” part refers to developing a loving dependence on her and turning to her in prayer, which we’ve already learned about in this section and about which we’ll learn even more in the next. The “work” part refers to avoiding sin, which breaks both Jesus’ and Mary’s Hearts. Let me be clear: To be fully consecrated to Mary does not mean we won’t still sin. However, it does mean that we should have a sincere resolution to avoid at least all mortal sin and that we should truly strive to grow in virtue and holiness. This is such a crucial part of Marian consecration that, as you’ll recall, de Montfort begins his prayer of consecration with a renewal of our baptismal promises to reject Satan (sin) and follow Jesus Christ more closely.
In conclusion, if we’re fully consecrated to Mary, then she works in our lives, augments our good works, and cares for us and our loved ones even when we don’t have recourse to her. Moreover, with the Holy Spirit, she leads us to Jesus regardless of whether or not we’re thinking of her. Such is the power of her motherhood. Such is the power of Marian consecration! Because of the greatness of this gift, we should strive all the more to unite ourselves with Mary and aim to do everything through her, with her, and in her. At least out of gratitude, we should make it our aim to have an attitude of growing mindfulness of and dependence on her. Yet there should be more at work here than just trying to be grateful to Mary. For the more we belong to her, the more she can use us to accomplish God’s most perfect will. Indeed, the more we unite ourselves to Mary the more she can bring us into the deepest possible intimacy with Jesus. This is a mystery that she herself will teach us, a lesson we’ll learn more from the experience of her loving care than from studying it in books.
To help us deepen our attitude of loving dependence on Mary, it’s a good idea to practice Marian devotions, especially those that are most connected to Marian consecration. Preeminent among these is the Rosary.
The Rosary fosters in us the attitude that I just described in the previous section. When we pray the Rosary, our focus should be on the mysteries of the life of Jesus. Yet the “Hail Marys,” which faithfully flow in the background, foster in us the habitual attitude of being with Mary even as we’re going to Jesus. In other words, even if we aren’t thinking of the words of each Hail Mary, the words are still there, helping us to contemplate Christ.
Other Marian devotions treated in Appendix Two are the scapular, miraculous medal, Chaplet of the 10 Evangelical Virtues, and the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows. Marian devotions not treated in Appendix Two but that deserve mention and a brief description are novenas, icons, pilgrimages, feast days, confraternities, and spiritual reading.
From the Latin word “novem,” meaning nine, a novena is typically a nine-day period of prayer to obtain special graces or to implore particular petitions. Novenas tend to convey a sense of urgency. Prayed every day for nine days, the prayer can be as simple as a single Hail Mary or as elaborate as the Litany of Loreto. Sometimes, an intention is so urgent that we don’t have nine days beforehand to pray. For instance, maybe you’ve just been granted a job interview, but it’s scheduled for this afternoon! Well, you might try Saint Mother Teresa’s “flying novena,” whereby one prays nine Memorare’s in a row. Mother Teresa would often pray this novena whenever big problems or difficulties arose that needed an immediate dose of great grace. It’s reported that she often experienced miraculous effects by praying it.
Icons, or any tasteful images or representations of Jesus, Mary, the angels, or the saints, serve to turn our minds and hearts to God as they remind us of his presence and the loving intercession of Mary, the angels, and the saints. In 787, the Second Council of Nicea declared that holy images (including those of Mary) are to be used and venerated. When we venerate an image (be it a picture, statue, etc.), we’re showing a sign of reverence toward the person whom the image represents. In our busy lives, placing pictures of Mary in our homes and even in our cars can remind us that she is always with us. We can also keep our favorite prayer cards in a pocket or purse.
Pilgrimages lead us from the everyday rhythm and distractions of life to a graced place of prayer and encounter with the Lord. There are many Marian shrines and pilgrimage destinations around the U.S. and the world.
Those who are consecrated to Mary should celebrate her feast days with particular fervor and love. According to one of Pope Benedict XVI’s favorite philosophers, Joseph Pieper, man’s true lack “would be his inability to celebrate a feast in a truly festive fashion.” He goes on:
To [celebrate a feast] requires, as everybody knows, that the reality of our life and our world be first wholeheartedly accepted and that this acceptance, then, on special occasions, be expressed and lived out in exceptional ritual: this indeed is what it means to “celebrate a feast”!
For those of us who are consecrated to Jesus through Mary, a big part of the “reality of our life and our world” is our consecration, our belonging to God through the Mother of God. Therefore, because we “wholeheartedly accept” this, on “special occasions,” such as Marian feasts, we should express our joy in belonging to Mary and live it out in an “exceptional” way. We should truly celebrate Mary’s feasts as occasions to express our joy in belonging to God through her.
A confraternity is typically a voluntary association of the faithful joined by a common spirituality and cooperation in certain good works. Confraternities were established in the Middle Ages when many lay people wished to participate in some way in the spiritual life of religious orders. The Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary that exists with the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception promotes devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, so her motherly love might strengthen, comfort, and fill hearts with joy, the source of which is her Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. The external sign of belonging to the Confraternity is the blue scapular.
Saint Theresa of Avila once wrote that for 18 years she would never go to pray without a spiritual book. Spiritual reading can be of great benefit to our life of prayer and help us to deepen our relationship with Mary; for it’s often the case that the more we know someone the better we’re able to love them. Prayerfully reading good Marian books can be a great way to get to know Mary. In fact, we might want to get into the practice, as some saints did, of reading Marian books at least on Saturdays. (Saturdays are traditionally dedicated to Mary.)
Here are some books on Mary (or Marian saints) that I recommend:
Apostoli, Fr. Andrew, CFR, Fatima For Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010).
De Montfort, St. Louis, True Devotion to Mary.
Frossard, André, Forget Not Love: The Passion of St. Maximilian Kolbe (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991).
Hahn, Scott, Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God (NY: Doubleday, 2001).
John Paul II, Pope, Encyclical Letter: Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer, 1987).
John Paul II, Pope, Apostolic Letter: Rosarium Virginis Mariae (Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 2002).
Langford, MC, Joseph, Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady: Sharing Mother Teresa’s Mystical Relationship with Mary (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007).
Laurentin, René, Bernadette Speaks: A Life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous in Her Own Words (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000).
Miravalle, Mark, Meet Your Mother: A Brief Introduction to Mary (Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2014).