Advent is a season of preparation, and for those of us making the consecration to Jesus through Mary, Advent is a season of double preparation. Just as the Church gives us Advent to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus, so too she recommends the 33 days leading up to a Marian feast as a period of preparation for Marian consecration. And just as Advent never seems long enough to get ready for Christmas, spiritually or materially, so 33 days has not seemed long enough for me to get ready for my total consecration.
I’ve decided, though, not to worry about my feelings. If I waited until I felt ready to do things, I might not do much at all, and I figure one big reason to consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary is so that she can help us, like a mother helping her very little child. I’ve decided, then, not to let a tiny thing like having no idea what I’m doing (despite all the readings and encouragement provided in 33 Days to Morning Glory) stop me from going to Mary for everything.
Last weekend I spoke to a friend who’s also doing the total consecration, and she made me laugh with her honesty about a snag she’s run into, namely the consequences of giving everything to Mary. She told me (I paraphrase), “It seems like it will be awkward saying to people, ‘I’ll offer a Rosary for you – if Our Lady doesn’t decide to use it for someone else!’”
I remember when, many years ago, I first did St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Jesus through Mary. I don’t know if St. Louis made a huge deal out of it or if I did, but I too was struck by this problem of giving Our Blessed Mother everything, even my merits. I was (after the consecration) really careful to NOT say I was offering up any particular prayers for anyone (say good-bye to spiritual bouquets, was my thought) because I figured, “If all my merits belong to Mary, how can I ‘dispense’ them?”
When I did the consecration last year, the Holy Spirit inspired a whole different attitude in me. I realized that we can offer all the particular prayers we want to (spiritual bouquets included) and know they won’t be diminished by passing through Our Lady’s hands, but quite the opposite: they will be increased.
I think St. Louis de Montfort had a story about this (the peasant offering a fruit to the king, and the queen first puts it on a gold platter)—but it doesn’t quite solve the problem, for while it illustrates that all offerings given through Mary are worth more to God, it doesn’t show how we are allowed to “use” them or “give” them to people for whom we want to pray. In the spirit of St. Louis, then, I have another story to illuminate how Mary will always help us when we’re trying to help those we love.
When I was a child, there was a girl in my class at school, and I loved this girl very much. Well, when we were in 2nd grade, her father died suddenly (the car he was in got hit by a train). My mom made a cake (or a casserole, or something) and popped me into the car and off we went to the other side of town to visit my friend’s family. I couldn’t have baked a cake or made a casserole, and I certainly couldn’t have driven across town, and I wouldn’t have known what to say when we got there, but my mom did, and she brought all the love I felt to fruition in one beautiful, multi-faceted act of mercy.
I’m sure it’s the same with Mary, and I think especially of plenary indulgences. Did you know you can get a plenary indulgence every day – though only one a day except on the day you die – and you can offer it for someone in purgatory to send them straight to Heaven? Some actions that gain plenary indulgences (like visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead in the first week of November) are connected to certain days of the year, but there are other “indulgenced acts” that can gain a plenary indulgence any day of the year, for instance:
+ reading the Bible for 30 minutes
+ praying before the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes
+ saying the family Rosary
+ praying the Rosary in church with the mysteries announced aloud.
Any of these gain you a plenary indulgence, as long as you receive Communion that day, go to confession within 20 days before or after (it used to be a week before or after but was extended during the Great Jubilee of 2000 and hasn’t been shortened since), say prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be are sufficient), and have a freedom from attachment to sin.
Well, this last week or two, I heard about three people I knew who had died—Steve, a former classmate; Rosemary, a generous benefactor of Thomas Aquinas College; and Louise, a literature professor who taught some of my friends. I wanted to gain plenary indulgences for them, but I had a dilemma.
Let’s say I fulfilled the conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence for my friend Steve (I think I did). But being a good daughter of St. John Paul II, I’ve also told Mary, “Totus tuus” or “Everything I have is yours,” which could be taken to mean, in this case, “Here’s a plenary indulgence – apply it where it will best serve the interests of Jesus.” Maybe Mary has another poor soul in mind! Maybe she will apply Steve’s indulgence to someone else!
The good news is that this is the Queen of Heaven we’re talking about, and she’s also our loving Mother, loving beyond anything we can imagine. So I am SURE that even if she wanted to use “my” indulgence for someone else right then, she wasn’t going to leave my friend Steve stuck in purgatory. I know she will always make MORE not less of anything I give her. Like when I was a girl, my mom didn’t look at what I could do (make a phone call to my friend when her father died, or mail a card I made for her), but she took things into her very capable hands, and did much more (with me along for the ride) than I could have done as a child on my own. I’m sure our Mother Mary is even more wonderful than my mom was!
So if you’re thinking of making the consecration to Jesus through Mary, or if you just like the idea of imitating good St. John Paul II with his “Totus tuus” this Advent, don’t worry a bit about promising special prayers for your friends’ particular needs. Having given all to Mary, you can offer spiritual bouquets with even more confidence, and you don’t need to explain, but if you did, the explanation might go like this: “I’m so sorry to hear you’re sick. I hope you get well soon and I’m offering a novena to St. Therese and three Rosaries for you. Oh, and by the way, I made the total consecration to Jesus through Mary last week, so you might be getting more than that, depending on what Mary decides to add.”
Can you imagine our Mother giving less to those we love? Inconceivable!
Let’s trust her with everything, and that includes everyone we feel inspired to pray for, and every season of preparation that finds us wanting. She’ll take care of it all—the people and the time—but I think she must also delight in any little offering we add to her powerful intercession.