The first time I heard about someone consecrating themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary was well over 10 years ago. I was in a book club with a group of Catholic moms, and we had just finished reading a book on Mary. I don’t remember the title, but after our discussion that day the leader suggested we consecrate our children to the Blessed Mother. Though I’d been Catholic my entire adult life it was a completely new idea to me. To be honest, it sounded a little strange. But then I thought, “Why not?…” After all, Mary was the mother of Jesus and the mother of the Church. I certainly wanted my children to stay close to Jesus and embrace their Catholic faith. I was a busy mom and knew I could use all the help I could get!
But it would be many years before I would consider doing the same for myself – consecrating my own life to Mary. Since my conversion to Catholicism during my time in university, I’ve discovered that a woman’s relationship with Mary isn’t always so straightforward. At least it wasn’t for me. Relationships between women, in general, can be pretty challenging at times. Rather than relishing in each other’s accomplishments, sometimes we become jealous and envious; there can be an unhealthy competitiveness or rivalry. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. Maybe we want someone else’s life – their good looks or great figure, their nice house or obedient children. Or, perhaps, we dwell on hurts and slights that are better forgotten. Either way, Satan certainly likes to twist and distort our friendships! How much more so does he want to destroy our friendship with God – even tempting us to see our Heavenly Mother as some kind of “rival.”
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but there was a time that I definitely felt that way. Some of you may have read about my journey with Mary and how long it took me to open my heart to her. I realize now that it was just misinformation and misunderstanding on my part, a lot of worry and anxiety about how Mary might lead me away from Jesus. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth! Experience tells me just how wrong I was.
When I read St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary1 two years ago, I finally understood why Catholics love Mary so much. Mary loves us with a mother’s love, exceeding even that of the mother who gave us birth and raised us. With her free and generous ‘yes’, the Blessed Virgin bore Christ into the world and will continue to do so until the end of time. She gave birth to Divine Grace and wants to bear Him into each of our lives – if we let her, that is. In fact, the only thing Mary wants to do is lead us to Jesus; she desires nothing for herself.
On the very first day of that first year of consecration, she gently touched my heart. It suddenly occurred to me that Mary and I had something in common: a name. My middle name is Marie – after my grandmother on my Dad’s side – and though I never particularly liked the name when I was growing up, I came to see it in a new way. In that moment, I understood that our Heavenly Mother has great affection and care for all her children, especially those who bear her name. It was such a simple thing, almost a passing thought. Yet it gave me great consolation and inspired me to want to know her better.
I completed the consecration that year (all 33 days!) and felt I grew so much. I had gained so many insights into who Mary is and how she continues to intercede for us in heaven. I realized that if Jesus were my brother, we must share something else: a mother. Catholic writer and apologist, Scott Hahn, puts it best: “Divine motherhood is the place where God wants Christians to meet Christ, their brother… adelphos means ‘from the same womb.’ What establishes brotherhood, then, is motherhood. For Mary to have given us her Son is remarkable. But for Jesus to have given His mother to us – the very people who crucified Him and sinned against His Father – that’s something great beyond imagining! After giving us His mother, we can be sure that there’s nothing He would withhold.”2
Interestingly, it was only in consecrating myself to Mary – in binding myself to her – that I learned to truly love and trust her. Somehow that sealed the deal. Here’s what I wrote on Day 28 in my journal:
“Mary, for so much of my life you weren’t in my sight… In fact, you were totally off my radar! Even after you made my acquaintance, I kept you at arm’s length. I walked behind you and somehow sorrowed at being in your shadow, like sisters often do. It took me so long not to feel worried or anxious or inferior around you. But slowly, you won my heart – and my friendship.
Now I desire nothing more than to be bound to you, Mary – to be inseparable from you. When I speak, let it be your words. When I act, let it be with you and through you. Inspire my every thought. Be my model and guide. Soften my heart so that I reach out in kindness and compassion towards those in need. Help me to show others your tender, motherly affection and that our love for you is not misplaced – that it does nothing to displace the love we have for Jesus. Show me what must be stripped away and then clothe me in your virtues: humility, faith, patience, obedience, constant prayer, detachment, purity, charity, sweetness, and wisdom.”
I can’t say that I love Mary perfectly yet, but I know that she walks beside me and wants to be my constant companion. I have failed so many times over the years, trying to do it on my own – wanting to grow in my faith and learn to love the way Jesus does, but failing miserably. The only thing that has worked time and again without fail, is to cling to Mary and allow her to lead me.
Next week, on November 5th, we have an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus through His Blessed Mother by beginning the 33-day consecration of Saint Louis de Montfort. Each day there are prayers and suggested readings to help you, among other things, reflect on Mary’s life in relationship to Jesus and your own. Then on December 8th – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – we will conclude by offering our lives to our Blessed Mother. As Fr. Jerome explained, “Consecrating ourselves to Mary is a way to cast off the spirit of the world, in order to acquire fully the spirit of Jesus Christ through the Blessed Virgin. It is a prayerful and focused method of drawing closer to Jesus, to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord.”
We live in a world of radical independence and autonomy, so the idea of binding ourselves to anyone or anything might not sound very appealing. But it isn’t about “bondage” at all; it’s about the bonds of love. When we bind ourselves to another, we come to know who we are; we experience connectedness and belonging. In the life of a Christian, this happens countless times. Through Baptism, we are bound to God, becoming His child. Through Confirmation, we commit to the Church and become Her defender. In the Eucharist, we are united to Jesus intimately, as we consume His very Body and Blood. And in the bonds of marriage, we are joined as husband and wife, becoming one flesh.
While there is no sacrament to bind us to our Blessed Mother (so great is her humility in God’s plan) we can willingly take her into our hearts and put our lives into her care. Consecrating ourselves to Mary, then, is nothing more than an act of love, a sign of our trust and affection. We needn’t worry about our relationship with Mary, for she is the Mother who places us in the centre of God’s family. She’ll never take over or steer us down the wrong path. Becoming her son or daughter can only do one thing: lead us directly to the heart of Jesus. And that’s the surest way to heaven!
– Kelley Holy
1 Saint Louis-Marie De Montfort, Treatise On The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin (London: Baronius Press Limited, 2006).
2 Scott Hahn, Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God, (Doubleday, 2001), 135-136.