Monday, March 25, 2013
Totus Tuus Maria: My Marian Consecration Story
Happy Feast of the Annunciation! Today is, hands down, my favorite feast day in the Church, partly because Our Lady is the patroness of my alma mater (I love that in this sense, the "loving mother" meaning of alma mater means her love!) and I have such fond memories of singing my school's re-written version of "Immaculate Mary." I'm somehow both proud and ashamed to say that I only know the words we used, not the real ones!
For me, today also marks six years since I consecrated myself to Mary. During my freshman year, I joined a prayer group called Militia Immaculata, a Marian devotion group founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe (boss). Once a week, we'd pray the rosary together for each others' intentions and do a short spiritual reading, lectio divina, and discussion. We also spent hours playing volleyball and sometimes eating together before our meetings, played so many games of Mafia afterwards, and went on three amazing pilgrimage trips to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and St. Mary's City. Over those four years, the seminarians who led the group became wonderful spiritual brothers and friends to us college students, and it was amazing to see them progress all the way to their ordinations and celebrate their first Masses as priests! I carry those days in my heart.
Anyway, the best thing I took away from MI wasn't the trips or the games, but the process of completely giving myself to Mary. If you've never heard of Marian consecration, it's basically a period of spiritual preparation through reading and prayer that culminates in a promise to Our Lady that everything you are is hers, usually on a Marian feast day. If you have Catholic friends who wear a chain around their wrist or ankles, they're probably consecrated (St. Louis Marie de Montfort used the image of being "Our Lady's slave," and the chain is a visual reminder). There are a few different consecration devotionals, most notably by de Montfort and Maximlian Kolbe, that use slightly different language, but they each have the same end result, that you belong to her and that through you, she dispenses so many graces to the world and the people in your life.
If I'm being honest, I was terrified before I made my consecration. The book I was reading to prepare wasn't sensationalized, but several testimonies stated that people's lives had been completely changed and that nothing was the same for them. That scared me so much--I was happy enough with my life and didn't feel like I wanted or needed anything in particular to change. Was some huge test of faith about to happen? Also, I wondered if I was being selfish and wasn't good enough for this: I'd heard that through consecration, any graces you merit for yourself, through indulgences, the sacraments, and the like, belong to Mary, not to you, for her to dispense as she sees fit. I wanted to keep my own graces, thank you very much. I can remember praying in an empty chapel a few days before my consecration, though, looking up in tears at a statue of Our Lady, and suddenly being overcome with peace. I imagined her wrapping me in her mantle and holding me close. Even though I still had practically no idea what I was signing up for, I got the sense that this was good and that everything would be fine.
All these years later, I'm happy to report that everything is more than fine. It's only in hindsight that I can see the fruits of my consecration, not necessarily in only major ways, but I'm able to see how Mary's hand has guided so many of my decisions, and I have the sense that even my continued devotion to her and her major influence on my spirituality are graces in themselves, and are such a gift. Now that I understand it better, I think it's beautiful, not scary, that none of my graces or good works belong to me--she is so much smarter, so much more merciful, and so much more closely united to the Father's will than I'll ever be, so who better to entrust them to? St. Maximilian's consecration prayer that I still say every day contains the line, "I humbly implore you to take me, with all that I am and have, without reserve, wholly to yourself as your possession and property," and I've come to love not just belonging to myself.
Her possession. So happy to be hers. If you find this stirring your heart, I can say that I've never regretted my consecration, and it really has changed and shaped my entire life. Go for it. Check back on Wednesday for an amazing consecration preparation!