There is a story about a little boy who was afraid of the dark. His mother came into his room to comfort him and reminded him that God is always with him. The little boy said, “I know that God is always with me but sometimes I need skin.” As I was meditating before Christmas, it struck me that this is what Our Lady does for us. Her “yes” brought us our Savior in the incarnation (which means “to take on flesh”) and, as our mother, she comforts us and stays with us.
During this New Year I’m making a resolution to journey closer with Mary and invite you to accompany me, so that like her we may ponder and treasure the wonderful mysteries of our Lord in our hearts (see Luke 2:19). Here are a few ways to kindle devotion to the Immaculate Heart of our Mother.
- Ask Mary’s intercession through simple daily prayers. Begin your day with Our Lady and she will help you be “all in” for God. It is increasingly difficult in our culture to cultivate the virtue of chastity. A simple yet fruitful practice recommended by several spiritual authors is to offer three Hail Mary’s when waking and three before bed for purity of heart. Another powerful prayer is the Memorare. Offering nine Memorares was St. Teresa of Calcutta’s “emergency novena.” A priest recently shared with me that–when you are distracted in prayer–you should “invite Our Lady in” to help you by praying the Memorare. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus.” (Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14) Sometimes I think of the prayer Ven. Fulton J. Sheen liked to say which began: “Lovely Lady dressed in blue, teach me how to pray! God was just your little Boy, tell me what to say!”
- Consecrate yourself to Our Lady. My mother has always kept a little porcelain image of the Kitchen Madonna hanging near our coffee maker. It depicts the Blessed Mother sweeping and the Christ Child embracing her. Jesus showed great honor to his mother and we are called to imitate Him. An efficacious way of growing closer to Jesus through Mary is to consecrate yourself to Our Lady. Numerous Saints have recommended the total consecration to Jesus through Mary and there are several forms available. At one time of my life or another, I have made them all, some several times. St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration is the oldest and, perhaps, most widely known. If you have not already made the St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration, and find it too difficult with time constraints, St. Maximilian Kolbe also provides a consecration to Jesus through Mary. More recently, Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC offered another form of Marian Consecration titled 33 Days to Morning Glory. This year I will be using the book Total Consecration Through the Mysteries of the Rosary: Meditations to Prepare for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary, by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV. I am very excited about this book because the reflections are based on Ignatian spirituality and provide a powerful guide for deepening one’s prayer. When we consecrate ourselves to Our Lady, we invite her to lead us closer to her Son. It reminds me of the new song “Permission.” It was through the docility and receptivity of Our Lady that the Flame of God’s Love entered the world. “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) She invites us to open our hearts to receive and share His Light with others too. Especially in these times, it is imperative that we entrust ourselves to our Blessed Mother. Invite your family members and friends to join you in consecrating yourself to Our Lady. Ask your parish priest to lead the whole parish in Marian Consecration.
3. Pray the Rosary daily. Then, you are invited to go with Our Lady on a missionary adventure! When she learned that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary “arose” and went “in haste” to help her. (Luke 1:39) Sometimes when I’m doing daily tasks, whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or the myriad of other little duties I find set before me, I try to imagine how the Blessed Mother would lovingly do these things for her Son. If I try to imitate her dispositions, then my tasks become lighter and I am less likely to grumble or become impatient when things don’t go as planned. Making time for formal prayer makes it easier to enter into these moments of recollection. In many of her apparitions, Mary asked us to pray the Rosary for peace in our hearts, families, and world. As Pope Pius IX proclaimed: “If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, in your country, recite the Rosary.” If you’re not already saying the Rosary daily, make a commitment to start. Pray with your family, people at Church, virtually, or independently. Say it after dinner or during your commute, while walking, or as part of your daily prayer time. One of my favorite new books on the Rosary is by Servant of God Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo, whom St. Padre Pio called a saint. Fr. Dolindo’s Meditations on the Holy Rosary are written in a conversational style and excerpted from letters to his spiritual directees. The book also features a beautiful painting for each mystery.
4. Let the Blessed Mother teach you how to adore her Eucharistic Son. “They found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him.” (Matthew 2:11) Ask Our Lady to help you prepare to receive her Son in the Blessed Sacrament. St. Therese used to imagine that she was a child whose dress became dirty while playing and asked Our Lady to help prepare it to be beautiful so that she could worthily receive Jesus in Holy Communion. St. Padre Pio said that we should always remain near Our Lady when assisting at Holy Mass and, by doing so, pray with the fervor of her heart. The great apostle of the Holy Eucharist, St. Peter Julian Eymard, wrote a prayer asking the Virgin Mary’s intercession to become “true adorers of our Eucharistic God.”
5. Be enrolled in the Scapular. This past year, I read the new book A Journey to Mount Carmel by Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STD. It is an excellent portable “retreat” to prepare for the precious gift of this enrollment under Mother Mary’s protection and a great evangelization tool to share the baptismal promises of our faith with others. People have experienced many miracles and conversions through the blessed scapular. A friend told me that she left blessed scapulars in the trunk of her brother’s car. He had been away from the Church and she was praying for his conversion. When he came back to the Church, she attributed it to the intercession of Our Lady and the blessed scapular. Numerous saints were devoted to the scapular; some of their fascinating stories are mentioned in Fr. Edward Looney’s book How They Love Mary.
6. End your day with Mary by offering Night Prayer. Our lives today are filled with so many concerns, whether loved ones who have fallen away from the faith, our own personal health or financial concerns, the suffering of family members or friends. One of my favorite prayers has become the “Salve Regina” (Hail, Holy Queen). When we ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for us with the simplicity and confidence of children, her merciful gaze rests upon us and she shows us “the blessed fruit” of her womb, Jesus. Many people invoke Our Lady in this way following Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. If you are looking for a form of liturgical prayer that only takes a few minutes, try adding Night Prayer to your daily schedule this year.
When we walk with the Virgin Mary–or allow her to carry us in those difficult times–she keeps us in the mantle of her protection. Our New Year’s resolutions often change from one moment to the next. Mother Mary’s always remains the same: to guide us closer to Jesus her Son. As this New Year unfolds, may we rest securely in Our Lady’s maternal embrace and pray with her: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Luke 1:46).