“God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph . . . and an era of peace will be granted to the world” (Mary’s revelation at Fatima on July 13, 1917).
St Maximillian Kolbe founded the Militia of the Immaculata (MI) in 1917. The MI is a worldwide ecclesial movement fully approved by the Vatican whose members – lay, clergy and religious, young and old alike – are dedicated to bringing the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Marian consecration, long advocated by the Church, is a means of presenting one’s self in service to God in imitation of Jesus who entrusted Himself to the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary to enter the world.
Those who are consecrated to the Mother of God entrust themselves to Her Immaculate Heart to be formed there in the likeness of Her Son for personal sanctification and the conversion of the world to Christ. My wife and I made our consecration to the Immaculata as husband and wife in 1997 on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Through the MI, as a person who suffered long-term depression and related infirmities, I also joined spiritual forces with other consecrated members as a Knight at the Foot of the Cross (KFC). The Church teaches that no suffering, be it physical, psychological, emotional, minor or severe, is meaningless, but rather, has supernatural power when united to the Cross. This is the theology of Redemptive Suffering. We take redemptive suffering to heart and live as present-day participators in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.
The life of one whose suffering is incidental has no less merit than the life of one whose suffering is intensely chronic. After all, my suffering has no merit if I curse God for all my infirmity and afflictions. The redemptive value of suffering is not derived solely from suffering but from my willingness to embrace and offer that suffering in my flesh [whereby]I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church COL 1:24.
This scripture passage does not imply that Christ’s atoning death on the cross was insufficient. Simply put, as a member of His Mystical Body, the Church, I recognize my baptismal union with Christ’s life, death and resurrection and I understand the reparational value of the slightest suffering united to His Cross.
Suffering well and heroically carrying my cross often seems an impossible mission. I’m a miserable sufferer. My wife and daughter endured the suffering of my chronic depression for a period of seven years. This knowledge was cause of more pain worth offering at the foot of the Cross than the pain and confusion of the illness itself. I had lost count of the number of times I slumped before our Lord, present in the blessed tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance for adoration, and pleaded that my family be spared the misery of my misery. Yet, it was this heart-piercing agony that the Lord so lovingly requested I relinquish at the Cross.
The spirit of my marriage was broken and the wounds were gaping and unsightly. Through Marian consecration, as a Knight at the Foot of the Cross, I united the suffering heart of my family with the Cross through the Hearts of Jesus and Mary on Calvary and placed my trust in the healing touch of Divine Mercy. I could not have endured this pain or placed it worthily at the foot of the Cross without our Heavenly Mother.
It is ONLY under the mantle of Mary that I muster the courage to dare approach the foot of the Cross. It is only like John, beside Mary, as her mystical son, that I am able to raise my eyes to the eyes of Jesus. It is only united to Mary, with her hands under mine, that the gift of my suffering is most worthy to be placed at the foot of the Cross. Alone, my misery could be found at the bottom of Calvary on a paper plate. With Mary, and through her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, my suffering is offered directly to Christ on a platter fashioned from the purest, celestial gold. In Mary, even in my darkest hour, there is patience, acceptance, resignation, abandonment, strength, hope and joy. And, yes, through Mary, at the foot of the Cross, there is healing by the mingling of my suffering with the inconceivable agony of Jesus. This is an astounding paradox of the Cross.
There is Healing
In March of 2006, I was one person among a small group of pilgrims visiting the Shrine of the Assumption of Our Lady, a Franciscan Monastery in Široki Brijeg where on February 7, 1945, Communist partisans martyred thirty Franciscans of the Herzegovina Province. The thirty Franciscans were taken out and slaughtered and their bodies burned in a nearby cave for refusing to remove their habits and renounce Christ.
Fr. Jozo Zovko, o.f.m. is a living member of the Herzegovina Franciscan Province.
It was on the holy ground of the Franciscan martyrs and in the presence of Fr. Jozo, a humble, holy priest and beloved son of our Heavenly Mother, as he led us in the prayer of the Most Holy Rosary, that I was miraculously healed of seven years of depression and emotional instability.
“For those who believe no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible” (Dominique Peyramale, Lourdes, 1858).
As a Knight at the Foot of the Cross I have learned that God is glorified by the gift of our suffering as much as He is glorified by our wellness, whether maintained naturally, or achieved medically or miraculously.
Our Heavenly Father desires and delights in our well-being. But, as we’ve learned on Good Friday, God also desires the free-will gift of our suffering, our dying-to-self, so that He would draw a greater good from it. That greater good is our personal sanctification, the conversion of hearts, the atonement of our sins and the sins of others, the deliverance of souls from Purgatory and the fulfillment of His Divine Will for mankind which is the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It seems to this little knight at the foot of the Cross that, even in my giving, the gift is truly mine.
“Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12-18
Visit www.consecration.com for more information on Marian consecration, the Militia Immaculata or Knights at the Foot of the Cross.
Special thanks to Lori Miller, CatholicMom contributor, whose courageous reflection, Finding Light in Depression, inspired me to re-examine the story of my battle with depression and share it with CatholicMom readers.
Copyright 2010 Brian K. Kravec