Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades leads at least 12,000 Catholics in the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, in the Marian consecration as part of the New Evangelization effort. In Part 1 I will primarily lay out the “what” of the consecration, and in Part 2 I will focus on the “how” of this very significant event.
The New Evangelization only changes the “who”—the baptized who have left the Church or who don’t know their faith—and the “how”—the methods used to get out the old message of the Gospel of God’s mercy. The New Evangelization seeks to deepen the faith of the baptized, to cultivate “a personal encounter with Christ.” A particularly well-known archbishop from Krakow, Poland, would call it “the enrichment of faith” and claimed that it was “the purpose of the Vatican II” and is “the basis of any realization of the Council and any renewal of the Church” (Sources of Renewal, p. 16). In case you missed it, he says even more emphatically: “This is the direction which should be followed by all pastoral action, the lay apostolate and the whole of the Church’s activity” (p.18). Vatican II was to address the duplicity or hypocrisy of Catholics not living out their faith well. The enrichment of faith should focus on “What does it mean to be a believing member of the Church?” (p. 17) and on forming “attitudes springing from a well-formed conscience” (p. 19). If we were to say it in everyday language, the purpose of Vatican II was to move our faith from our heads to our hearts so that we can live it out fully. It is a profound conversion and transformation, “making all things new.” Somehow I missed the memo on this purpose of Vatican II until Fr. Michael Gaitley pointed it out at the TOB Congress last month.
So how does a diocese get 12,000 to consecrate themselves to Mary to deepen their friendship with Christ? Certainly the answer is through the Holy Spirit! But he always works through people. It was our spiritual father that led, but in a theologically appropriate “detail,” the diocesan-wide consecration was suggested by a woman! So it all starts with a woman in the diocese named Ida List, a youth minister who also works for Lighthouse Catholic Media who felt called to ask Bishop Rhoades about doing the consecration diocese-wide.
What Is Marian Consecration to Jesus?
I’ll get back to that story line, but first, what in the world is Marian consecration? As Father Gaitley says in his book 33 Days to Morning Glory, “Marian consecration basically means giving our full permission [to Mary]…to complete her motherly task in us, which is to form us into other Christs” (p.26). Mary has been given a new spiritual motherhood over all the children God has created and is in charge of bringing them home to her Father, her Spouse, and her Son. Bishop Rhoades, at the Mass on the feast of the Assumption, said the Marian consecration is “our saying ‘yes’ to the beautiful gift Jesus gave us from the Cross when He said to John: ‘Behold your mother.’ We are responding with faith to Our Lord’s gift of love, the gift of His mother, and to our Mother’s love.” St. Louis de Montfort says Marian consecration is the “surest, easiest, shortest and the most perfect means” to becoming a saint.
A Problem and Solution
Back to Ida List’s story. Some of you may be familiar with consecration to Jesus through Maryin Preparation for Total Consecration or in True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. Ida List made this consecration for the first time in 2011. (I, too, have made this consecration, and it is difficult to get through, with English grammar and vocabulary that at times seems 100 years old. There are many prayers and litanies, but not a lot on what the consecration actually is, at least from my memory.) The next year she used Fr. Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, and “understood the reason for the consecration so much better & a fire was lit in me to share the book, which I did with family & friends.” The 33 Days book, written in a conversational tone, is packed with major insights. Lighthouse Catholic Media has teamed up with Father Gaitley to teach about the Marian consecration to a wider audience at extreme discounts.
Last year Ida went on the retreat led by Fr. Gaitley, and he challenged them to spread the word about the consecration. I am sure he did it in the tradition of St. Maximillian Kolbe, who wanted “to win the entire world…in the shortest possible time.” So she started leading or least initiating five different Marian consecration retreats at her parish in Warsaw, Indiana.
Let’s take a brief look at Fr. Gaitley’s heavy-hitting quartet of Marian saints to guide us: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa, and St. John Paul II. He highlights what each of these Saints has to say and how each develops the consecration further.
The Marian Saints: Rich Insights
St. Louis de Montfort emphasized that consecration is a renewal of our baptismal vows and that we give the gift ourselves—all our merits—to Mary to do whatever she most pleases. We release to Mary our say over how our merits are applied. De Montfort’s devotion to Mary is affirmed by no less than six popes since 1846.
St. Maximillian Kolbe had looked for the one “great idea” to which to consecrate his whole life. What he found was the consecration and his Militia Immaculata, an organization to spread the consecration. His development of the consecration was seeing the Holy Spirit as the uncreated Immaculate Conception and Mary as the created Immaculate Conception. “[T]he Holy Spirit is a ‘conception’ in the sense of being the Life and Love that springs from the love of the Father and the Son…,” and it is like the love between husband and wife. Much to ponder here!
Mother Teresa’s contribution was a kind of exchange of hearts—we give Mary our hearts, and she gives us hers. Mother Teresa had two prayers that illustrate this: “Lend me your Heart” and “Immaculate Heart of Mary, keep me in your most pure heart, so that I may please Jesus through you, in you, and with you.” Fr. Gaitley published one of Mother Teresa’s letters to her charges in which she wants them to know how much Jesus loves them and longs for them, which is part of the meaning of “I thirst.” She shows some deep psychological insights. “The Devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes—to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you…” “You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you—but in this letter Mother wants to touch your heart instead.” To me, this not knowing in our hearts that Jesus loves us, which can become the Devil’s foothold through our hurts and mistakes, is really the crux of every problem that shows up in my line of work.
I also found it fascinating that in her third vision of “a call within a call,” Mother Teresa saw herself as a little child standing in front of the Cross with Mary touching her. It was only then that Jesus asked her to fulfill her mission. It seems that in order to fulfill her mission, her child self needed to learn the love of Jesus on the Cross through the loving touch and presence of his Mother. I recently learned that her father died when she was age 8 or 9 and there is some mystery surrounding his death—some say he was murdered. I suspect that this was a part of her “hurts of life” that needed to be healed or simply affirmed so that she could accomplish her mission which was all done with a smile—taking care of the poorest of the poor and staring down death itself in her homes for the dying. We could adapt the main line of famous fictional bad-boy Catholic, Elwood Blues (from The Blues Brothers movie), and say, “We are all on a mission from God.” We have a mission, but the “hurts of life” can keep us from experiencing Our Abba’s deep, abiding love and from accomplishing our mission to “become who you are,” as St. John Paul II would say.
Speaking of St. John Paul II, he is the last Marian Saint to be discussed in the book. He reflects on a number of scriptures that he says develop Mary’s role as our spiritual mother. An example is in Mark, when Jesus says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” and answers, “Whoever does the will of God.” Some, like Von Balthasar, have suggested that these scriptures are humiliations of his Mother. But JPII would say that although Jesus is putting his mother in her place, that place is not down but is rather an elevation of her status to spiritual motherhood—since who on earth ever followed the will of God more perfectly than Mary?! The finale is at the foot of the Cross where Mary is to be John’s mother, or as Bishop Rhoades said, she is to be our mother. If it is possible to top bringing Jesus into the world, it would be becoming the new Eve, the Mother of all the living, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all the gods, i.e., us (CCC 460). Since Mary’s spiritual motherhood expands and builds on her physical motherhood, her spiritual motherhood might be called the summit of her life. I think that it points to the whole purpose and meaning of life: to be spiritual mothers and fathers. Some of you have physical children, and that is beautiful, but we all need to have spiritual children—those we are helping get to heaven by helping them to do the will of God!
Two things about “entrustment,” which is JPII’s word for consecration: 1) He says, “Entrusting is the response to a person’s love, and in particular to the love of a mother”; 2) Fr. Gaitley states that you can entrust someone to Mary without their knowing it. This makes sense because John Paul entrusted the whole world to Mary in the 1980’s. Now I add, “I entrust this person to you Mary, my Mother” to my prayers. So do you have spouses, children, parents, or friends that need Our Lady’s assistance? Entrust them to her motherly care!
Hopefully this is just whetting your appetite to read more. It is deep stuff, worthy of much contemplation! Make the consecration! It is appropriate to consecrate yourself on a Marian Feast day. The next one is October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. So you would start the 33-day preparation on September 4, today. In part two, I will explore what was done to help involve 12,000 people participate in the Marian consecration.