The other day, my seven-year-old son read the title of a book I had on the counter: True Devotion to Mary: with Preparation for Total Consecration.
“Is that St. Louis de Montfort?” my son asked.
“It sure is,” I told him.
His answer? A delighted, “Ooooh!”
I was delighted, too. I had no idea who St. Louis de Montfort was when I was twenty, never mind seven! But his work on devotion and consecration to Mary is a gift to the Church and the world, and I’m grateful for a new way to share it with my growing family.
At the start of 2018, I felt called to renew my consecration to Mary on a daily basis. I’d consecrated myself to her some years back and renewed it once (both via 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Michael E. Gaitley). I’d recognized Our Blessed Mother’s graces in each instance and knew that it would please her if I invited her into my life more consistently. I wrote the consecration prayer in the front cover of a daily reflection book I intended to use and was off and running.
A few weeks into the year, a friend (who had also used Fr. Gaitley’s book) told me she’d just consecrated her family to Mary. I didn’t know that was a thing, but when my sister-in-law told me a week or two later that she’d done the same, I noticed this as a prompting of the Holy Spirit. A few weeks later, what appeared in my mailbox but a copy of Marian Consecration for Children by Dr. Carrie Gress, new from TAN Books. All right, Lord, I hear you!
I looked through the first few pages and decided to share the book with my kids. My oldest is a voracious reader and the fact that the book opens with connections to the Chronicles of Narnia helped get him hooked. I set up a schedule for us to make the consecration on the feast of the Visitation, modifying it from the book’s suggestion, because I knew it would work better for us to only read on weekdays on the way to school (with the aforementioned child reading while I drove). I couldn’t remember the date of my first consecration or my renewal — and if I wrote it down, I’d forgotten where! — but this date was coming up soon and it’s a feast I already loved to celebrate.
As I prepare this post, we’re two-thirds of the way through the preparation and I certainly recommend it. The subject matter is sometimes over my younger kids’ (ages 5 years, 3 years, and 3 months!) heads, but they are at least learning the discipline of devoting some time each day to reading and reflecting on our relationship with God and the Virgin Mary. They’re learning new prayers too. My middle son surprised me the other day by reciting a prayer to my mother-in-law that he never responds to with us in the car. They are listening even when it doesn’t look like it!
In the book, secular stories are used to make points about Mother Mary. We read a lot at our house and often refer to stories our family is familiar with to make points about appropriate behavior, virtues, and the like. Even when we don’t know the stories used, enough background is given to make the necessary point. Plus, we’re learning that God is in all things. To my mind, pulling out the lessons from books not originally intended to share Christ’s love is a great exercise both spiritually and academically. I think this is a great approach for kids.
I had the opportunity to ask the author, Dr. Carrie Gress, some questions about the book, and I’m grateful to share her replies here.
I love the references to other stories included throughout the book. Opening with Narnia helped to engage my children. What made you choose this approach?
Carrie Gress: I spent a lot of time thinking about how to engage children. I thought of different approaches, but I was worried that children would find explanations or catechetical language dry and uninspiring. And then it occurred to me (while praying the Rosary, of course) that we all love a good story and that there are plenty of stories children either already know or will come to know that could help them understand in concrete terms some of the abstract ideas of Marian Consecration. I tried to have each day include either a story from children’s literature or a story about a saint that would spark their imaginations and help plant ideas in their heads.
Why do you think Marian Consecration is important for children?
CG: When I wrote The Marian Option, it became crystal clear to me how important Marian Consecration is. I know my consecration changed the trajectory of my own life and I can honestly say, I have never encountered or read about someone who said they regretted their Marian Consecration.
But I think that children in particular have been singled out by Our Lord — “Let the children come to me” (Mt 19:4). We can see this in the number of amazing child saints, or the saints whose devotion to the faith was planted as children, even if they didn’t die as children. And Mary too has shown them favor by the number of children she has appeared to, such as the three at Fatima, St. Bernadette at Lourdes, or the four children who witnessed her at the apparition of Pontmain, France. Their humility, purity, and trust are the perfect ground for real seeds of faith to be planted.
We also know that our children face almost insurmountable obstacles to their faith today. Marian Consecration is a type of spiritual Kevlar that can help them navigate their way through terrible temptations and pitfalls.
What makes Marian consecration particularly relevant at this time and place in history?
CG: There are several reasons why Marian Consecration is particularly timely. First, the last century truly has been a Marian one — with popes speaking of her much more than in previous centuries, also there has been a significant uptick in the number of reported Marian apparitions.
But we also know that God sends saints who are the antidote to whatever plagues Christianity. For example, St. Francis — the Little Poor Man — came when the Church was choked by riches; the Jesuits arrived when the Reformation was in full swing. Our age is characterized by a crisis of womanhood. Women are the soil from which all good fruit grows, but we have been convinced that we can only be successful if we deny our life-giving capacities — and what’s worse — we have been taught that if life should be conceived, then it is okay for us to kill it. That is how we have ended up with 3K abortions a day in this country alone. This ideology rests on the false belief that women can only be happy if they are separated from their children.
Mary and Marian devotion is the antithesis of this and the true way back to a healthy culture. The saints of our age will be Marian, living as a reminder of these timeless truths about life. Consecration, the Rosary, Mass, truly are the best ways to fight the darkness and lies that surround us today.
What image of Mary do you personally connect with the most?
CG: I have to say I am most drawn to Our Lady of Czestochowa from Poland. Although I am not Polish, there is something about the stories connected with her that resonate deeply in my heart — the battles, the occupations of Poland, all the obstacles that Poland has overcome because of her intercession are just amazing. I also love that Poles continue to love her and honor her. As recent as last year, the Polish Parliament honored her by recognizing her 300 years of serving as the Queen of Poland. This is a country that knows what it means to have a real relationship with Our Lady.
I ask for your prayers as my family and I continue our preparation and consecrate ourselves to Mother Mary at the end of this month. Blessed Mother Mary, pray for us! St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us!
Have you considered consecrating yourself to Mary? What compels or hinders you to do so?
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Copyright 2018 Lindsay Schlegel
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