MARIAN CONSECRATION

Mary and the Saints

Faith

Everyday we will learn about a different Marian devotion, teaching or story as given to us by the saints and others.

This is a 33 day preparation to consecrate oneself to Jesus through Mary. Marian Consecration is a formal act giving Mary all of our prayers, works, joys and sufferings and asking her to lead us into a deeper love and devotion to her Son. St. Louis de Montfort calls Marian Consecration the “surest, easiest, shortest, and the most perfect means to becoming a saint.”

DAILY REFLECTIONS

Day 1: Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)

Fulton Sheen was born Peter John Sheen in El Paso, Illinois on May 8, 1895. As a boy he got the nickname Fulton (his mom’s maiden name) and it stuck. He was one of two boys from a devout Catholic family, who served as an altar boy as a child and discovered his vocation to be a priest as a teenager.

Throughout his life, he was known for many things: a brilliant and funny speaker who taught the Catholic faith in a fresh and clever way that his audience would understand, a teacher of Philosophy at Catholic University for over 20 years, a national radio host of the “Catholic Hour” for 20 years, an enormously successful television host that earned him 2 Emmys for Most Outstanding Television Personality (beating Lucille Ball one year), an author of over 60 books, and archbishop of New York. But perhaps what he would most like to be known for are his devotions to Mary and his daily holy hour.

Mary was the great love of Sheen’s life and it was his love for her that led him to a deeper devotion and love for Jesus, specifically Jesus in the Eucharist. We will see this is the case for a lot of the great Marian saints, that their love for Mary leads them to a deeper and more faithful love for Jesus. In fact, that is the point of Marian Consecration- a deeper and more faithful love for Jesus.

While he wrote a lot about Mary and her power and the importance of her intercession (including the book, The World’s First Love), we are going to focus on one of his teachings. Sheen explains that there is a gap between the person God created us to be and the person we are. The main reason for this gap is sin. The more we sin, the more we are pulled away from the person God created us to be. But, he says, there is no gap in one person, and that is Mary. Mary is exactly who God created her to be.

Mary wants to intercede for us and fill the gap between who we are and who God created us to be. And by filling it, Mary helps us turn away from sin and towards God and the mission He created us for. We can also ask Mary to fill the gap in our lives and hearts in other ways as well. We can ask her to fill the gap between the love we can give and the love that others need, and the love that we need and the love that others can give. Any time we feel we are in need or coming up short- in love, in time, in performance, in prayer- we can simply ask Mary to fill the gap and she will.

Fulton Sheen died on December 9, 1979, the feast of another great Marian saint, Juan Diego. Sheen’s cause for canonization was opened in 2002 and he is currently a Venerable, 2 steps away from officially being declared a Saint. Episodes of his show, “Life is Worth Living”, are on YouTube.

Mary, please fill the gap.

Day 2: Juan Diego (1474-1548)

Since we mentioned Juan Diego yesterday (Fulton Sheen died on his feast day), let’s talk about him and Our Lady of Guadalupe today. Juan Diego was a native of Mexico and lived at the same time as the Protestant Reformation. While the European Church was dealing with the loss of millions to Protestantism, Spanish missionaries weren’t having much luck converting the indigenous people of Mexico either.

The lack of success came from several things- the missionaries weren’t trusted by the indigenous people, they didn’t speak their language, and the people didn’t want to hear about the missionaries’ god. They already felt weighed down by their own cruel gods who they believed demanded human sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice of their children. So, after over 20 years attempting to convert the people, the missionaries had little to show for it. But among the few people they did convert was a poor man named Juan Diego and his wife, Maria Lucia.

One day in December 1531, 2 years after the death of his wife, 57 year old Juan Diego was on his way to Church when he was visited by Mary on Tepeyac Hill. She revealed herself as the Virgin Mary and asked that a chapel be built there in her honor to better serve the people who ask for her intercession. When Juan Diego presented this request to the Bishop, he was almost dismissed before the Bishop decided instead to ask for a sign from Mary to confirm that the request came from her. Mary agreed and directed Juan Diego to a field of roses, instructing him to pick them and place them in his tilma where she rearranged them and sent him to the Bishop.

Now, Mary is a lover of details. You see, the roses were flowers that were originally from a region near the Holy Land but were popular in the region of Spain that the Bishop was from. They definitely did not grow in Mexico and didn’t grow anywhere in the dead of winter. That was Mary’s detail for the Bishop. But when the roses fell, a beautiful image of Our Lady appeared on Juan Diego’s tilma. This image, now known as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, proved to be full of details that would lead over 9 million indigenous people to convert to Catholicism in less than 10 years. Why? Because Mary is detailed. In this image, she spoke the language of the people (they communicated mainly in hieroglyphics) telling them that there was one true God and that He was a God who loved them. This was proven to them in the first few days after the tilma was revealed, when a man was raised from the dead when his body was brought into the presence of the image. It was a shock for the people who were used to their gods demanding death, and here was a God, who through His mother, gave life.

Here are a few of the details of this image that converted millions back then:

  • The way her hair was parted down the middle indicated that she was a virgin, her black belt indicated she was pregnant, and the 4-petaled flower over her womb was their symbol for the divine, so Mary is telling them she is a virgin pregnant with God.
  • The color of her skin was the same as theirs, showing that she is one of them.
  • She is in the process of doing the indigenous people’s victory dance- with her hands together she is jumping on one foot (notice one of her knees is bent), indicating that she is victorious even over their most powerful gods- their sun god (whom she is standing in front of) and their god of darkness (symbolized by the moon, that she is standing on top of).

Some more recent discoveries include:

  • A baby’s heart rate of 115 is detected when a stethoscope is placed on the womb.
  • The tilma has a human temperature (maintains 98.6℉ no matter what the external temperature is).
  • Her eyes react to light like a human eye.
  • The stars on her tilma mirror the constellations in the night sky of December 12, 1531- the day the tilma was revealed. Amazingly, the perspective of the stars is from God’s looking upon the universe rather than us looking from Earth.

We have a mother who is detailed, powerful and always interceding for us.

Mary, take care of the details.

Day 3: St. Dominic (1170-1221)

 Today we will learn about St. Dominic. When talking about Dominic, it is nearly impossible to leave out the name of Mary. This is partly because Dominic is said to be the saint that Mary originally gave the rosary to and partly because he constantly called upon her intercession. 

Dominic was born in Spain, the youngest of three boys, and was the answer to his mother’s prayer (his mom is Blessed Jane Aza, who is one step away from being declared a saint herself). After her two older boys were grown and had left to become priests, Dominic’s mom asked God for another son. Shortly after her prayer, Jane had a dream where she saw a dog leaping forth from her womb carrying a torch in his mouth. She understood this to mean that her prayer was heard and her child would go forth and set the earth on fire. (A translation for Dominican is actually “Dog of the Lord.”)

When he was twenty-five, Dominic became a priest and preached for several years with great success before going to France to combat the heresies of the time, specifically the heresy known as Albigensianism. The Albigensians thought that spirit is  good and matter is bad, so they taught people that they were trapped in their bodies and that all things material were evil. They also denied the Incarnation and the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This proved to be devastating as thousands of people broke from the Church to follow this heresy. 

Now, insert Mary. Hearing the desperate prayers of Dominic, God allowed Mary to intervene. She appeared to Dominic and presented him with the rosary: the weapon that would end Albigensianism. So Dominic and a group of priests who called themselves the Order of Preachers (also known as the Dominicans) set out to re-convert the people and spread the message of the rosary. In his preaching Dominic converted over 100,000 people back to the faith, backing up his preaching with miracles like curing illnesses and raising people from the dead, always by invoking the name of Mary. Eventually they were successful in ending the Albigensian heresy and in spreading devotion to the rosary. 

Mary gave 15 promises to those who are faithful to the rosary, including the dispelling of heresy. The power of the rosary is one we can’t even comprehend. Lucia, one of the children who Mary appeared to in Fatima, sums it up like this: “There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.” 

Mary, give us the grace to be faithful to the rosary.

Day 4: St. Edith Stein (1891-1942)

Today we will focus on Edith Stein a.k.a. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Edith was born the youngest of 11 kids to a Jewish family in Poland in 1891. After serving as a nurse for the Red Cross in WWI, she became an academic by profession. Studying philosophy, she developed a particular interest in phenomenology, which at the time was in its beginning stages. By contributing significant insights to these fields, Edith is considered one of the most brilliant philosophers of the 20th century.

By the time she was 30, Edith had gone from Judaism to atheism to Catholicsm, following her search for the truth. The deeper she got in her studies, the more drawn she became to the Catholic faith. Following her baptism, she left the university world and, after delaying her decision to become a Carmelite nun out of respect for her Jewish mother, she spent the next 10 years teaching at an all-girls Dominican school while still continuing to contribute to the world of philosophy. Building off of her earlier work, but now looking through a Catholic lens, Edith wrote extensively on the role of women and the “feminine genius.”

She spoke specifically of 4 feminine traits and we will look at how Mary perfectly embodied them:

Receptivity: while women have a physical space for another in their womb, they also have a space for another in their very being. Women are created to receive others, but everyone (both male and female) is first and foremost to receive God and His gifts. Mary at the Annunciation is our example for perfect receptivity and Edith echoed St. Augustine when she taught that Mary’s fiat was the strongest act of free will and that each Christian is called to imitate her total yes to God.

Generosity: generosity naturally follows receptivity. In order to give to others, to be generous with our time and love, we must first receive from God. Mary at the Visitation shows us this when after the Annunciation she goes “in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth, ready to bring to her the God she had just received.

Sensitivity: the awareness that women have towards the needs of those around them, and the tendency to be more emotionally invested in others’ lives. We can look to Mary at the Wedding of Cana as the prime example of this trait. Mary was aware of the needs of the people even before the people themselves were!

Maternity: to be a mother (physical or spiritual), as defined by Edith, is “to nourish and protect true humanity and bring it to development.” Mary at the foot of the cross, receiving John (and in turn the whole Church) as her son, is our example here. Edith refers to Mary several times in her writings as the Mother of the Church, who nourishes, protects and intercedes for us, her children, so we can become the people that God created us to be.

Over this time, Edith was led to a deeper love for Jesus, especially present in the Sacraments. In fact, after she was able to reflect on her own life, she came to the conclusion that we will never become the people we are created to be outside of the Sacraments, something she took very seriously. Along with her commitment to daily communion, she also spent the first hour of her day with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, recognizing the importance of this time and the benefit it would have on everyone she encountered.

Then in 1933, after 11 years at the Dominican school, Edith was finally able to become a Carmelite nun, an order whose patron is Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She spent her time in the convent praying, writing, and teaching until the Nazis arrested her for the “crime” of being a Jewish Catholic convert in August 1942.

Edith Stein was killed on August 9, 1942 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz Birkenau, along with her sister Rosa (who had become a 3rd Order Carmelite who lived at the convent as well). Edith’s search for truth had eventually led her to the Truth, the greatest achievement of her life.

Mary, lead us to the Truth.

Day 5: St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

Today we are going to focus on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Usually we associate Francis with poverty or his love of animals (because when people wouldn’t listen to him, Francis would preach to the animals) but we don’t normally associate him with his love for Mary. However, St. Bonaventure tells us that Francis “loved with an unspeakable affection the Mother of the Lord.”

St. Francis was born in Assisi, Italy to a wealthy Italian man and his French wife in 1181 and given the name Giovanni. As a boy his dad used to call him Francesco, meaning French boy, a nod to his mother’s homeland, and the name stayed with him. Francis, who was very well-liked by the people of Assisi, spent his time socializing with his many friends and dreaming of the day when he could become a knight in Assisi’s army. 

As a young man, when Francis was battling a neighboring town with the Assisi army, he was captured and left in a dungeon for almost a year. During the cold and quiet imprisonment he got his first real taste of prayer, but shortly after his release he continued on with his old lifestyle. After several years of restlessness, with short spurts of prayer or meditation, Francis again went to battle. One night as he lay on the ground of the army campsite, he had a dream where he heard God ask him, “Francis, who is it better to serve, the Master or the Servant?” Francis answered, “The Master.” God then said, “Go back to Assisi and all this will be yours.” And so he did. 

As a contemporary and friend of St. Dominic, St. Francis also started an order that reinvigorated a Church in ruins. One night when Francis and a few of his followers were in Rome trying to get official permission from the Pope to begin their Order, he had a dream. In the dream he saw God about to unleash severe punishments on the world (in response to humanity turning away from Him) when Mary came and begged Him to show His mercy and forgiveness. She then presented Him with 2 men who would labor for the conversion of the world and bring countless people back to the faith. Francis recognized himself as one of the men, but it wasn’t until the next day when he was introduced to St. Dominic that he recognized the other man in the dream. Dominic recognized Francis as well because he had had the same dream. This began a lifelong friendship for the two, laboring together although physically far apart. 

As Francis’ love and devotion to Mary continued to grow stronger, he would often meditate on the Wedding Feast at Cana, specifically Mary’s instructions to “Do whatever He tells you.” Francis wanted to live by these words so wholeheartedly that when Jesus spoke to him from the crucifix and implored him to “Rebuild my Church,” Francis immediately began repairing the church he was praying in. It wasn’t until later that he understood that Jesus was asking him to rebuild (or reconvert) the Church at large. 

Years after the Franciscans were founded and were laboring hard for the Kingdom, Francis had another dream. Jesus was showing him 2 ladders reaching towards heaven. He watched as his friars tried to climb the ladder that was red and very steep, indicating a hard and treacherous climb ahead of them. After climbing a few rungs, they would suddenly fall back. Jesus then showed Francis the other ladder leading to heaven, white and much less steep, at whose summit appeared the Blessed Virgin, indicating an easier way to reach heaven and be with Him. Jesus said to Francis: “Advise your sons to go by the ladder of My Mother.” And so he did.

Mary, help us to “do whatever He tells us.”

Day 6: St. Clare of Assisi (1194- 1253)

Today we will focus on St. Clare and her deep friendship with our saint from yesterday, St. Francis of Assisi. Clare was born in Assisi, Italy in 1194 into a family of nobles and knights, the oldest of 3 girls, and destined for an easy life. That is until she encountered the preaching of a local man named Francis. Clare would sneak away and listen to St. Francis preach in the streets, totally captivated by his message. Her heart burned to follow him, but two major roadblocks threatened to stop her. For one, her father would never give his permission for her to leave home and renounce her inheritance and future. In addition, Francis had no females in his Order. But still she continued to listen to him preach and even confided in him about her desire to leave everything and follow in his footsteps. 

Finally, one night when Clare was 18, she felt so strongly the call of God to join Francis that she snuck out of her house and found him praying in his chapel. As she arrived at the door she could hear him praying the ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit, Veni Sancte Spiritus. She approached him and told him she was there to stay. Neither knew how to move forward, but both knew the Holy Spirit would lead. 

Even though her father was furious at her leaving everything, he could not convince her to return home. In fact, shortly after Clare left, her sister Agnes, only 18 months younger and her constant companion, joined her as well. Slowly more women followed Clare’s lead and eventually she founded the Order of Poor Ladies (renamed the Poor Clares after her death), the first female branch of the Franciscans. Clare became the first woman ever to write a Rule (in founding a religious order, the Rule is what governs and guides the members).

Through it all, Mary was Clare’s role model and inspiration. Clare looked to her when saying “yes” to something that had never been done before. Clare also felt a deep kinship with Mary because of her role in the life of Francis. Clare wanted to be for Francis what Mary is for Jesus, a follower who furthers his mission.

Clare is another saint whose love for Mary goes hand in hand with her love for the Eucharist. Her faith and trust in the Eucharist was so strong that one day when an army of Saracen soldiers were descending upon Assisi in attack, Clare took the Blessed Sacrament outside and faced It towards the army, unafraid and with total trust that Jesus would protect her order and the city. As the Saracens approached, they suddenly became terrified and fled the area leaving the nuns and the city in peace. 

Clare’s “yes” to an untrod path changed the lives of countless people after her, including the members of her own family. Along with Agnes (who is also a saint), her mom, Ortolana, and her youngest sister, Beatrice followed her into the Order as well- and both have been beatified, which makes each of them just one step away from sainthood themselves. 

Mary, help us to say yes to what God is calling us to, even if it hasn’t yet been done.

Day 7: St. Catherine Laboure (1806-1876)

Today we are going to start looking at events and saints that played a part in the Church’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (stating that Mary was conceived without original sin) and the events that furthered its development over the next 100 years.

We will start with St. Catherine Laboure, who was born in 1806, the 9th of 11 children, to a farming family in France. When she was only 9 years old, Catherine’s mother died and she and her sister were sent to live with their aunt. However, before she left home, Catherine went over to a statue of Mary and entrusted herself to her care, saying,“You are my mother now.” 

It was to this little girl that Mary appeared 15 years later, in 1830, in a tiny convent chapel in Paris, France. 24 year old Catherine Laboure was now a nun in her first year as a Daughter of Charity. When Mary appeared, she seemed to be standing on the world and crushing a serpent under her feet, with light streaming from jewels on her fingers. She told Catherine to have a medal made with that image on it, along with the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” The back of the medal was to have the images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and a cross with a large M surrounded by 12 stars.

 Catherine brought the request to her Spiritual Director and 2 years later the medals were made. Due to the words on the front, the medal became known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. But as the medals spread, stories of miracles began pouring in. People from all over the world were experiencing the power of Mary’s intercession through this medal. So many miracles, in fact, that the medal soon became known, no longer as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but the Miraculous Medal. 

One thing Catherine noticed when Mary appeared was that while light was coming from some of her fingers, it wasn’t streaming from all of them. Catherine asked why this was and Mary said that the light represented the graces she obtains for those who ask. The fingers with no light streaming from them represented the graces that were available but not given because no one asked for them. 

After this apparition, Catherine lived the next 47 years of her life in virtual anonymity. Only her Spiritual Director knew that she was the one Mary appeared to with the request of this medal. It wasn’t until the year that she died that she revealed this secret to the Mother Superior. Catherine’s body is incorrupt (meaning it has not nor will decay) and displayed in the chapel of the Miraculous Medal apparition. 

 

Mary, please obtain for us all of God’s graces.

Day 8: St. Bernadette (1844-1879)

Today our focus will be Mary’s apparitions in Lourdes, France to the teenage girl, Bernadette Soubirous. Bernadette was born in 1844 in Lourdes, a small town tucked away in the Pyrenees mountains of southwest France. She was the oldest of 9 kids in a family that was extremely poor, and while they were Catholic, their faith could be described as lukewarm at best. By the time she was 14, Bernadette hardly knew the Hail Mary and definitely did not know what had been unfolding in the Church for the last 28 years. 

In 1854, twenty-four years after Mary appeared to Catherine Laboure asking her to have a medal made with the words, “Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee,” the Pope promulgated the 3rd Marian dogma, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. (A dogma is a truth revealed by God that doesn’t change). This dogma states that from the moment of her conception, Mary was free from all sin. 

 Four years later on February 11, 1858 while walking with her sister and a friend, Bernadette suddenly saw a lady dressed in white. Though she was with the two other girls, Bernadette was the only one who could see her. This was the first of eighteen times Mary would appear to Bernadette, though our focus today will just be on two of these times. The first being when Mary responded to Bernadette when asked who she was, at the request of the parish priest. Mary replied to her, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette did not know what that meant, but repeated it to herself over and over until she reached the priest, then repeated it to him. The priest was shocked because while he knew of the recently proclaimed dogma, he knew there was no way Bernadette could have known. 

In another apparition two weeks after the first visit, Mary instructed Bernadette to “drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it and to eat the herb that grew there,” as an act of penance. These apparitions were happening on the side of a river, not a spring. Wanting to obey Mary’s request but not knowing how, Bernadette just started digging in the ground she was kneeling on. She began to eat the dirt, appalling those who had gathered for the apparition. Astonishingly, as she continued to dig, water began to sprout and over the course of one day, it became a constant stream of fresh water that continues to this day.

The spring of Lourdes is now known for its miraculous healing powers when accompanied by faith and prayer. Millions of people visit the shrine every year in search of healing, both physical and spiritual. So far, there have been sixty-nine approved miracles with thousands more still in the process of seeking official approval. 

Bernadette ended up becoming a nun with the Sisters of Charity, seeking to be hidden from the world. She did not want any recognition or credit and believed that Mary appeared to her because she was the lowest and the poorest of people. She simply sought to say yes to God, through Mary, even when she didn’t understand. We can see this both when she relayed her message to the priest about the identity of the woman and when she discovered the spring of healing waters. She died in 1879 at the age of 35. Her body was found incorrupt, and to this day, her hair and nails still grow.

 

Mary, please give us the grace to say yes to God even when we don’t understand.

Day 9: St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

Today we will talk about St. Maximilian Kolbe! Talk about a saint that loved Mary- he is known as the Apostle of Marian Consecration! Maximilian, whose birth name was Raymond, was born in Poland in 1894, the second of five boys (with only three surviving to adulthood). He was a pretty rambunctious boy, causing his mother to one day exclaim, “Raymond, what will become of you!” Raymond was 12 at the time and the statement really affected him. That night before bed when he repeated the same question to the Blessed Virgin, she came to him and presented him with two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked him if he was willing to accept either of the crowns. The white one meant that he would persevere in purity and the red one meant that he should become a martyr. He told her he would accept both of them. 

After that, Raymond developed a very deep love for Mary, and later became a Franciscan priest with his brother, Francis. It was when he joined the Franciscans that he received the name Maximilian, meaning “greatest.” He let that name constantly remind him that he wanted to be the “greatest” apostle of Marian consecration the world had ever seen. In 1917, he started the Militia Immaculata (MI), a movement that worked tirelessly for the conversion of sinners through consecration to Jesus through Mary. 

For the next 20+ years, Kolbe and the MI used every media outlet they could to spread the message of Marian consecration, and even founded monasteries in India, Poland and Japan to try to reach more people. While Kolbe was a brilliant theologian who wrote extensively on different aspects of theology and taught in the Polish seminaries, there was one thing that seemed to stump him. He could not understand why Mary would identify herself as the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette at Lourdes. He knew, of course, that she was immaculately conceived (conceived without sin) because of the 3rd Marian dogma proclaimed in 1854, but this seemed like she was trying to give a deeper understanding to her very identity.

Then, one day in the midst of WWII, he finally figured it out: Mary, being the spouse of the Holy Spirit, being “two in one flesh,” also takes His Name. The Holy Spirit Is the Eternal and Uncreated Immaculate Conception- the Love between God the Father and God the Son. Mary was so full of the Spirit from the moment of her conception- conceived without Original Sin in preparation for the Annunciation- that she is the human reflection of the Holy Spirit- i.e. she is the incarnate and created Immaculate Conception. 

This breakthrough has led to further insights about Mary and support in what could one day be the fifth Marian dogma- Advocate for God’s people and Mediatrix of all graces (God distributes His graces through her) since she is “one flesh” with the Holy Spirit, the advocate and giver of grace. 

While the breakthrough itself was incredible, the timing of this discovery made it even more so. Right after Kolbe finally understood what Mary meant, he was arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz. The Nazis had been warning him to stop his public ministry and he refused. Kolbe ended up dying in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941, as a martyr of charity, offering to take the place of a man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who had been chosen at random to be starved to death.  Gajowniczek, who had pleaded for his life because he had a wife and family, was present at Kolbe’s canonization on October 10, 1982. The Militia Immaculate continues to work tirelessly for Marian consecration. And the monastery in Nagasaki, Japan that was founded by the martyr? It was untouched by the atomic bomb.

 

Mary, help us become who God created us to be.

Day 10: Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)

Today we will talk about the Assumption of Mary, the fourth promulgated Marian dogma! This pronouncement actually stems from the third Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception and was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII almost one hundred years later, in 1950.

After the pronouncement of the dogma (truth) that Mary was free from sin from the moment of her conception, the Church was then led to the conclusion that she was free from “corruption of the grave” (a.k.a death) as well since that is a consequence of original sin. The Assumption of Mary states that once her time on earth was done, she was brought into heaven, body and soul. Let’s take a look at the Pope who proclaimed this dogma.

Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Maria Pacelli to a very devout family in Rome. He was elected as Pope and led the Church during the very challenging years of World War II. He accomplished many things in secret throughout his nineteen years as Pope. Among the many things he did, he recruited a group of priests to serve as spies during WWII which ultimately led the Church to save over 850,ooo Jews across Europe, including thousands of Jews in Rome that were hidden in either the Vatican or other Roman monasteries. He also spearheaded a secret archaeological dig to find the bones of St. Peter, the first Pope. In all this, he was very public about his devotion and love for Mary. 

Pacelli was consecrated an archbishop on May 13, 1917, the day of the first apparition of Mary at Fatima, a connection that he believed to be very important. He wanted to fulfill her request at Fatima to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. In addition to consecrating Russia to her, as the Holy Father he consecrated the whole world to her Immaculate Heart (1 year after the death of Maximilian Kolbe) and asked that every Catholic family consecrate themselves to her as well.. He was the first Pope ever to declare a Marian year (in 1953), and he installed several new Marian feast days including the Assumption of Mary, the Queenship of Mary and the feast day of her Immaculate Heart. 

Pope Pius XII was very instrumental in furthering the understanding of Mary’s role in the Church and for each of her children. He was also very careful in pointing out that a strong Marian devotion leads to a stronger love for and better understanding of Jesus. In proclaiming any Marian dogma, there is simultaneously a truth about Jesus being revealed as well, since her role is always to bring us closer to Him. 

 

Mary, lead us to a stronger love for and better understanding of Jesus.

 

Day 11: Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne (1814-1884)

Today we are going to start looking at events and saints that played a part in the Church’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (stating that Mary was conceived without original sin) and the events that furthered its development over the next 100 years.

We will start with St. Catherine Laboure, who was born in 1806, the 9th of 11 children, to a farming family in France. When she was only 9 years old, Catherine’s mother died and she and her sister were sent to live with their aunt. However, before she left home, Catherine went over to a statue of Mary and entrusted herself to her care, saying,“You are my mother now.” 

It was to this little girl that Mary appeared 15 years later, in 1830, in a tiny convent chapel in Paris, France. 24 year old Catherine Laboure was now a nun in her first year as a Daughter of Charity. When Mary appeared, she seemed to be standing on the world and crushing a serpent under her feet, with light streaming from jewels on her fingers. She told Catherine to have a medal made with that image on it, along with the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” The back of the medal was to have the images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and a cross with a large M surrounded by 12 stars.

 Catherine brought the request to her Spiritual Director and 2 years later the medals were made. Due to the words on the front, the medal became known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception. But as the medals spread, stories of miracles began pouring in. People from all over the world were experiencing the power of Mary’s intercession through this medal. So many miracles, in fact, that the medal soon became known, no longer as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, but the Miraculous Medal. 

One thing Catherine noticed when Mary appeared was that while light was coming from some of her fingers, it wasn’t streaming from all of them. Catherine asked why this was and Mary said that the light represented the graces she obtains for those who ask. The fingers with no light streaming from them represented the graces that were available but not given because no one asked for them. 

After this apparition, Catherine lived the next 47 years of her life in virtual anonymity. Only her Spiritual Director knew that she was the one Mary appeared to with the request of this medal. It wasn’t until the year that she died that she revealed this secret to the Mother Superior. Catherine’s body is incorrupt (meaning it has not nor will decay) and displayed in the chapel of the Miraculous Medal apparition. 

 

Mary, please obtain for us all of God’s graces.

Day 12 St. Simon of Cyrene (early 1st Century)

Today we are going to talk about Mary’s intercession and how it brings good out of bad and better out of good, using Simon of Cyrene as our example.

Picture this: Jesus, walking through the streets of Jerusalem, struggling as he carries His cross to Calvary alone. His cross becomes too heavy and He collapses (the Third Station of the Cross) prompting His mother to rush to His side (4th Station). Mary then looks around and summons a stranger, Simon of Cyrene, to help her Son carry His cross the rest of the way (5th Station). 

In the Scriptures we hear that Simon was summoned by the guards, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he comes right after Mary- I have a sneaking suspicion she may have had something to do with it. It should have been another Simon helping Jesus carry His cross. His closest friend, Simon Peter, had promised Jesus just the night before, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” But after his threefold denial, Peter is not there. So, Simon of Cyrene, a man who does not know Jesus, is summoned from the crowd instead. So, here we see Mary present in a bad situation (Jesus struggling to carry His cross on His own after being abandoned by his closest friend) and bringing some good (the summoning of Simon of Cyrene to help).

Now, let’s look a little further and see, in this same situation, how Mary’s intercession brings better out of good. If Simon Peter had been true to His word and had been there to help Jesus carry His cross, that would have been good. Instead, Simon of Cyrene is summoned, and after encountering Jesus, has his life changed forever. Tradition says that not only his life changed, but the lives of his whole family were converted after this encounter. So, once Simon Peter repented and reconciled with Jesus, we are left with a stronger relationship between Jesus and Peter AND an entire family of new followers whose hearts have been set on fire with love for Jesus (Simon of Cyrene and his family). A situation that could have been good is instead better. 

And we actually know that Simon of Cyrene and his family proved to be zealous and faithful followers through the gospel of Mark and the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. Mark 15:21 says, “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country…” At first glance, saying the names of his sons sounds like a weird and unimportant fact. However, with the knowledge that Mark’s main audience were the Gentile converts of Rome, these names were very important because they were now members of the Roman Church! In St. Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, he says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” Somewhere between the resurrection of Jesus and Paul’s letter to the Church of Rome, members of Simon’s family had gone to evangelize the Roman people and help establish the Church there. Mary’s intercession led one man to encounter Jesus. Then that one man’s life changed the lives of countless others and helped establish the holy place that still, 2,000 years later, is the central home of the Catholic Church.

 

Mary, please bring good out of our bad and better out of our good. 

Day 13: St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716)

Our saint today could have easily been the saint we started this entire Marian consecration with, considering how substantial his impact on promoting Marian Consecration in the Church was and continues to be.  St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort is best known for his preaching on Marian Consecration, and in particular for his books, True Devotion to Mary and Total Consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary. Popes over the last 150 years have urged the faithful to follow de Montfort’s guidance and consecrate, or give, themselves “to Jesus through Mary”, including Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II. 

Louis was born in 1673, the 2nd oldest of 18 children(!) in the small town of Montfort, France. He attended school at the local Jesuit College where his uncle was a priest. It was during this time that he developed a love for Mary, and for Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. After attending seminary in Paris, Louis felt a deep desire to minister to the poor and requested to become a missionary and evangelize in the Americas, but his request was denied and he was sent instead to travel and preach in his home country. 

As Louis preached, he noticed how poorly formed the people were, with some regions deep in heresy. In order to try and bring the people back to the truth, he began preaching about the effectiveness of Marian Consecration, the importance of devotion to the Eucharist (in mass and adoration) and the power of the daily rosary. He worked exhaustively, preaching throughout all of France, until his death in 1716. Upon his death, his writings were essentially lost. In fact, he had said that the devil hated this work so much that he would hide it for over 100 years. And that prophecy proved true. His writings weren’t found until 1842, the same year of the Marian apparition to Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne in Rome. After verification that it was free of doctrinal error, True Devotion was published in 1853 and has since been a catalyst in the conversions of a number of people who have become great saints in the Church. 

In True Devotion, De Montfort explains that Marian Consecration is the “surest, easiest, shortest, and the most perfect means to becoming a saint.” He teaches us that Mary forms us into other Christs, or rather in giving ourselves to her, she brings us closer to Him and He lives through us. 

 

Mary, form us into other Christs.

Day 14: Jan Tyranowski (1901-1947)

Today we are going to focus on Jan Tyranowski and how his knowledge and love for Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary affected one man’s life and eventually impacted the entire Church.

Jan was born in 1901 in Krakow, Poland and lived with his mother most of his life, never marrying or having children. He was known as somewhat of a recluse, and a little odd to those who encountered him.  There seemed to be nothing too special about Jan, who lived his days at his tailoring business and most nights at home. 

That is until the early 1940s, when during WWII, Jan was called upon to help at the parish. At this point, the situation in Poland had continuously gotten worse, especially for Catholics. The gestapo had started rounding up and arresting priests, leaving the people without the spiritual guidance they so desperately needed. People in the parish were asked to step in and help where they could, including Jan. 

While Jan had been Catholic all his life, he started to become more serious about his faith five years before, in 1935, when during his homily the priest said, “it is not difficult to become a saint.” That statement changed Jan’s whole life, and he began to devote more and more time to prayer and spiritual reading, creating a deep interior life. Still, when asked to help out at the parish by mentoring a group of college men, he struggled with the idea because he felt he had very little to offer them. But in the end, he reluctantly agreed, deciding to teach the group about what he knew and loved, specifically St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian Consecration. So he took in 15 young adult men and called them the Living Rosary group. 

One of the members of this group was a young man named Karol Wojtyla. Karol had moved to Krakow from Wadowice, Poland and by the time these two men met, Karol had already lost his whole family. Jan became Karol’s mentor, friend, and spiritual director in their time together. It was at Jan’s feet that Karol fell in love with Mary and became very convicted of the power of Marian Consecration. Jan introduced Karol to a deep spiritual life and walked with him as he sought to discover his life’s vocation. It was through the guidance of Jan that Karol realized his call to the priesthood and was ordained a priest just a few months before Jan died. 

Karol later became the beloved (and now saint) Pope John Paul II, whose papal motto, “Totus Tuus,” came from True Devotion to Mary. This book that was introduced to him by Jan Tyranowski, the mentor who proved to be instrumental in his early adulthood. Jan had no idea the impact his small “yes” would have on the Church for generations to come, but he gave his yes to what was being asked of him in that moment. He is a perfect example of giving what little we have to Mary and letting her bring it to her Son to bless and multiply it. 

Pope John Paul II officially opened Jan Tyranowski’s cause for canonization in 1997, and in 2007 he was named “Venerable” in the Church, only 2 steps away from sainthood.

 

Mary, bring what little we have to your Son and ask Him to bless and multiply it.

Day 15: Pope St. John Paul II (1920-2005)

Yesterday we learned a little bit about our saint today, Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II), through learning about his mentor, Jan Tyranowski. Karol Joseph Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Poland, the youngest of 3 children, and lived right next door to the parish church. His older sister died before Karol was born, and his mom died when he was just a boy, followed by his brother and dad, leaving him with no immediate family by the time he was 21 years old. His dad, a man in love with God, had a strong impact on Karol’s faith life, specifically in 2 ways. Shortly after his mother died, Karol’s dad brought him to a statue of Mary and told him, ‘this is your mother now,’ placing his child under the care of Our Lady. As an adult, Karol recalled another way his dad’s faith life deeply impacted his own: while growing up, Karol would wake up in the middle of the night and see his dad kneeling in front of a crucifix in prayer. Through his dad, seeds of love for his faith were planted as a boy that would grow into the great loves of his life. 

JPII, as he is commonly known, has arguably had one of the greatest impacts on the Catholic Church, and the world. He played a major role in the fall of communism, established Divine Mercy Sunday, and canonized more saints than any other Pope.  But it was his love for Mary that colored it all. When JPII was elected Pope in 1979, (the first non-Italian Pope in over 500 years!) he chose “Totus Tuus” as his papal motto. This is from Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and means “Totally yours,” coming from the phrase “totus tuus ego sum” meaning “I am totally yours and all that I have is yours,” a short Marian consecration prayer in itself.  

One story in particular portrays the strength of the relationship between JPII and Mary. On Wednesday, May 13, 1981, the 64th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, as JPII was greeting the people there for his Wednesday audience, trained assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca opened fire on the Pope from close range. With one bullet to the stomach, the Pope should have been killed almost instantly. However, Mary’s hand was in the details of what happened next. Rushed to the hospital in the brand new ambulance that he had blessed the day before (particularly blessing the first patient to ride in it), he arrived at the hospital in record time. Then, after surgery, the doctor said that as the bullet entered his stomach, it changed its course, narrowly avoiding any major arteries, and saving his life. JPII reflected on this later and said, “one hand pulled the trigger, another guided the bullet.” Seeing the significance of the date (Fatima anniversary), JPII knew it was Mary who had saved his life. To thank her, he flew to Fatima the next year and, repeating Pope Pius XII, consecrated the world again to her Immaculate Heart. Before he left Fatima, he placed the bullet that was supposed to have killed him in the crown of the Our Lady of Fatima statue, where it remains today (picture at bottom).

JPII’s relationship with Mary led him to a deeper love for Jesus, particularly in the Eucharist and in the people around him. He explained that becoming a son to Mary made him an even stronger disciple of Jesus. He would spend entire nights in his private adoration chapel and it is said that he could sense the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, even if it was behind an unmarked door. His great love for those around him attracted people to him, especially the young. And, like Mary, JPII always led them to Jesus. 

 

Mary, help us always lead others to Jesus. 

 

Day 16: Fatima Children - Lucia (1907-2005), Francisco (1908-1919), & Jacinta (1910-1920)

      The Fatima apparitions have been mentioned a few times in these reflections but since we have not talked about the actual apparitions, we will do that today. In 1917, Mary, who identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary (we now refer to her in these apparitions as Our Lady of Fatima), appeared in Fatima, Portugal to 3 shepherd children, Lucia (10 years old), and her cousins Francisco (8 years old) and Jacinta (7 years old). At the time, Fatima’s situation reflected most of Europe: their young men fighting in World War I, the rising of socialism and hostility towards the Church and almost everyone living in poverty and uncertainty. At the time Mary first appeared, the war in Europe had been raging for almost 3 years and the Portuguese government was doing their best to exterminate religion in the home. 

      In these apparitions, Mary begged the children to pray the rosary for peace, pleading with the world to change their ways and turn back to God. On May 13, 1917, the first apparition, she told the 3 children that she would return to the same spot on the 13th day of the month for the next 6 months. Throughout the next 6 months, the children faced persecution and suffering, specifically from the town’s atheist leaders. They consistently tried to pressure the kids into saying they were lying about the apparitions, and even had them arrested on August 13 so they were unable to make it to the field for the apparition (Mary ended up appearing to them August 19 after their release from prison). But as word spread about the apparitions, more and more people would show up. In one of her visits, Mary told the 3 children that the current war would end soon but if the world did not convert and change its ways, there would be a greater war in the future. WWI did end less than a year later but her prophecy of another greater war was realized in WWII.  

      Throughout the apparitions, Mary also asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart to combat the spread of communism. She always asked them to pray the daily rosary for peace in the world and the conversion of sinners, teaching them a prayer to say at the end of every decade of the rosary for these intentions: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.” 

      In the July 13 apparition, she showed the children 3 secrets that had to do with the world and its future. These were to be kept secret from the world until Mary said it was time to reveal them. While the first two secrets were revealed in 1941, the third and last secret was kept hidden from the public until 2000. Before that, only the Pope was allowed to read it. It was a vision of a persecuted Church: a bishop dressed in white (the Pope) being shot and killed along with other members of the Church. JPII believed that he was the Pope mentioned in the third secret and understood that the day he was shot (May 13, 1981) connected him intimately to that prophetic vision. He came to realize that it was through the prayers of the faithful and the intercession of Mary that he was saved from death, showing how prayer can change the course of history.  

      The last apparition in Fatima happened on October 13, 1917. By that time, word had spread that Mary promised a miracle on this date. The day started with torrential rain but still 70,000 people showed up: believers, atheists, journalists, etc. When Mary appeared, the 3 children could see that she was accompanied by Jesus and Joseph, who blessed the crowd that was gathered. Suddenly, the rain stopped and the sun started dancing, appearing to plummet to the earth before shooting back up into the sky. After about 10 minutes, the miracle ended and all 70,000 people were completely dry. 

      Only a year after the apparitions ended, both Francisco and Jacinta died from the flu pandemic that devastated the world beginning in 1918. Both were canonized on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition, in 2017. Lucia lived to be 97 years old, and was present when JPII made his pilgrimage of thanksgiving in 1982. She became a Carmelite nun and worked to spread the message of Fatima until her death in 2005. 

 

Mary, intercede with us for peace in the world and a conversion of sinners. 

 

Day 17: St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Today we will talk about the feast day of Mary Queen of Heaven, a feast established by Pope Pius XII in 1954. It is fitting to talk about St. Bernard of Clairvaux today because he had such a strong love for Mary, and especially under the title Queen of Heaven. Bernard is one of 36 Doctors of the Church and is known as the Marian Doctor. 

Bernard was born in France in 1090, the 3rd of 7 children with 6 boys and 1 girl. Growing up, Bernard was very well-liked by everyone and had a very charming personality, making people naturally want to follow him. After the death of his mom at 19, Bernard prayed that Mary would show herself as his mother, and one day when praying in the Church, he had a vision of her. Mary appeared holding the infant Jesus and gave him the gift of wisdom. At that moment he experienced the love of God in a very personal way and fully understood matters of the faith. This set his heart on fire for love of God. Not long after, while praying in Church, he felt God was calling him to leave the world, join the monastery and become a Cistercian monk. While telling the townspeople about his experience of God’s love for him through the intercession of Mary, their hearts were set on fire too. When he set out for the monastery, 30 men from his town went with him. All but 1 of his brothers joined, and the last one joined them a few months later with their dad. Talk about a good preacher!

Monasteries at the time were becoming very extravagant, and the clergy were becoming increasingly lazy towards their duties (think of Friar Tuck in the movie Robin Hood, which is based around this time). When Bernard arrived at the monastery, he immediately began to live differently: fasting from both food and sleep, living in poverty and caring for the poor. He preached the idea of a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus through Mary as intercessor, basing it off his own conversion experience. Not surprisingly, the other men followed his lead and pretty soon, the monastery was thriving. 

It was said that Bernard was so rooted in Scripture that he could not talk without quoting it. He used his preaching skills for many things regarding the faith, including being the “hype man” for the Christians in the 2nd Crusades, preaching to the soldiers before they set out to fight. But he is known primarily as the Marian Doctor because of his love for Mary and her intercession in bringing him to Jesus. Along with his preaching, he also wrote about her, including this beautiful meditation about the Annunciation, and this prayer to Mary as Star of the Sea. He also loved referring to Mary as the Queen of Heaven, a title rooted in Scripture. This fact was acknowledged 150 years later when Dante Alighieri included St. Bernard in his epic poem “Paradiso” in his Divine Comedy. In the poem, St. Bernard prays, “And the Queen of heaven, for whom I burn completely with love, will give every grace, for I am her faithful Bernard.”

Mary’s intercession transformed Bernard’s life, and his life goal was to show how her intercession always brings us to a deeply personal and more intimate relationship with Jesus.

 

Mary, intercede for us that we may have a deeply personal and more intimate relationship with Jesus.

 

Day 18: Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903)

Our focus of the day, Pope Leo XIII, was born Vincenzo Pecci in 1810 in Rome, Italy, the 6th of 7 boys. He is the oldest Pope (he died at age 93) and reigned for 25 years, the 3rd longest reign in history. Overall, he made a huge impact on the Church and the world at large. He encouraged schools, especially universities and seminaries, to teach the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, a practice still common today, and authorized the building of the Catholic University of America. He also played a key role in the lives of countless saints who were alive in his day, by personally meeting with and encouraging the vocations of: St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Katharine Drexel, St. John Henry Newman, Blessed Bartolo Longo, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. His work also affected his own family as he named his brother and fellow priest a Cardinal of the Church.

His great love for Mary began as a young adult when he read St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, not long after it had been discovered after being hidden for over 100 years(!) and then consecrated himself to Mary using de Montfort’s form. Along with de Montfort, Pope Leo XIII also supported St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s Marian writings, and he was actually the first Pope to refer to Mary as ‘Mediatrix’, a title derived from St. Bernard’s teaching. Pope Leo tirelessly promoted the rosary and its power, writing 11 encyclicals about it- a number unheard of for one topic by one Pope! (To put things in perspective, JPII wrote 14 encyclicals total throughout the course of his 26 year papacy; Pope Benedict XVI wrote 3) Because of this, Leo is most popularly known as the Rosary Pope and said in one of his encyclicals, “The rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.” 

There is one story in particular about Pope Leo XIII that happened on October 13, 1884, exactly 33 years before the Fatima miracle of the sun. That morning while the Pope was celebrating his private mass, he overheard a conversation between God and Satan. In it, Satan said if only he was given enough time and power, he could destroy the Catholic Church. In order to refute him, God permitted Satan to unleash his power in a span of 100 years, which is believed to have been the 20th Century. Hearing this conversation shook the Pope greatly, and immediately after mass he went into his office and wrote the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the angel leader of the heavenly army and the one who cast Satan out of heaven when he rebelled against God. The Pope requested this prayer to be said after every mass throughout the world. 

St. Michael is our great defender from Satan, but there is a great Marian connection here too. Mary, the crusher of Satan, is the Queen of the heavenly army. As St. Louis de Montfort says in True Devotion to Mary, “even St. Michael, though prince of all the heavenly court, is the most eager of all the angels to honor her and lead others to honor her. At all times he awaits the privilege of going at her word to the aid of one of her servants.” So we must call on Mary and she will send the great heavenly armies to defend us in our battles. 

Mary, send St. Michael and the heavenly army to defend us in battle. 

Day 19: St. Louis Martin (1823-1894) & St. Zelie Martin (1831-1877)

Our saints of the day, Louis and Zelie Martin, are the first married couple to be canonized saints together. Both were born in France in the mid-19th Century to devout Catholic families, and both attempted to join Orders (priesthood and religious life) as young adults, but were rejected. So each continued their strong faith life as they set out for the working world. Louis became a clockmaker and Zelie a lacemaker. Their paths crossed on a bridge in the small town of Alencon, France when Louis was 34 and Zelie was 27. While neither of them spoke to each other as they passed by, Zelie heard a voice say, “This is the one I’ve prepared for you.” Not long after that, they officially met and dated for 3 months before getting married at midnight on July 12, 1858 in the Basilica of Notre Dame in Alencon.

The Martins both entered their marriage with a great love for Mary and deep devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. Every day of their marriage they walked to 5:30am mass at the Church next door, and Louis went to adoration every afternoon. When setting up their home, they took their 3 foot statue of Mary as the Immaculate Conception and set it up in a prominent place, resolving to end their evenings by kneeling in front of it in prayer every night. All of their petitions and prayers passed through the hands of Mary. Whenever anyone they knew traveled to Paris, Zelie always requested that a candle be lit for her at the Statue of Mary in Our Lady of Victories Church. When her younger brother lived in Paris to attend pharmacy school, she requested he light a candle and say a Hail Mary at that statue everyday for his own conversion. (It ended up working and he became a devout Catholic with a special devotion to Our Lady of Victories.)

They prayed through Mary that God would give them children that they could raise up for Him and were blessed with 9-7 girls and 2 boys. They gave each child (girl and boy) the first name “Marie” and consecrated each of them to Mary in front of their family statue. While only 5 of their children (all girls) made it past childhood, they continued their habit of ending every night kneeling in prayer in front of Mary, and the children all kissed her hands before heading to bed. In the Marian month of May, they decorated the statue with lots of flowers from their garden. The children later said that in the eyes of their mother Zelie, nothing was too beautiful or extravagant for the Virgin Mary.

The Martins also turned to Mary in times of heartache and pain. When Zelie was diagnosed with breast cancer when her youngest was still a toddler, she traveled with her 2 oldest daughters to Lourdes to ask Mary to intercede for her complete healing. Even though she did not receive the physical healing she prayed for, she was given the spiritual strength to submit to God’s will. Zelie ended up dying when her youngest was only 4 ½ years old. 

Louis moved his family from Alencon to Lisieux, France after the death of Zelie and continued to instill in his children a love for Mary. All 5 of the Martin girls became nuns, and all entered Marian Orders, with 4 of them entering the Carmelites and 1 of them entering the Visitation Order. Louis and Zelie’s hidden and seemingly ordinary life gained recognition when their youngest daughter was canonized a saint. She is St. Therese the Little Flower. 

 

Mary, help our families turn to you as our intercessor. 

Day 20: St. Therese the Little Flower (1873-1897)

Yesterday our saints were Louis and Zelie Martin. Today we will focus on their youngest daughter, Saint and Doctor of the Church, St. Therese the Little Flower. Marie Francoise-Therese was born on January 2, 1873, and immediately became the delight of the family. She was always known as “little” Therese to her family because 2 years before she was born they lost their infant baby whom they had also called Therese. Her birth was cause for great celebration and thanksgiving, after the family suffered the loss of 4 children in less than 4 years. 

Therese’s love for Mary began early thanks to the Marian devotion shown in her family. In addition, through her experiences of Mary’s motherly and personal love, Therese developed her own special love for her. Seeing how Mary was honored in the Martin home, Therese could easily recognize Mary as Queen. Seeing the maternal heart of Mary, Therese realized that while Mary was Queen, she was mother first. Once Zelie died, Therese went to Mary, fully abandoning herself into her arms with the same love and trust as she had done with Zelie, knowing she would be safe in the arms of her mother.

When Therese was 9 years old, she became very sick, prompting her family to turn to Mary, as they always did, to pray for Therese’s healing. One evening, weak and scared, Therese turned to the family statue of Mary and uttered her own prayer to her heavenly mother. Suddenly, she saw Mary come alive and with such motherly love, smile at her. In that instant, Therese was cured and from then on, they referred to the statue as Our Lady of the Smile. After she was healed, Therese accompanied her dad to adoration as often as she could, deepening a devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist. On the day of her first communion, knowing she wanted to receive Jesus with as much love as she could, she consecrated herself to Mary, so when she received Jesus, He would feel like He was resting in the heart of His mother. 

By the time Therese was 14, her soul had been set on fire with love for God and she was determined to bring as many souls as possible to Him. Knowing her prayers alone could not save sinners, she relied fully on Mary to help her achieve this goal. The first person she decided to offer her prayers and sacrifices for was a convicted murderer, Henri Pranzini, who was on death row. After months of Therese’s prayers and offerings, the man showed no sign of remorse until the day of his death when Therese begged Mary to intercede. As he walked to the guillotine, he suddenly shouted for a Catholic priest to give him absolution for his sins, and when he received it, he kissed the crucifix repeatedly just before his death. This answered prayer increased Therese’s desire to pray and sacrifice more for sinners, and console the heart of Jesus with Mary. 

After being given special permission to enter the Carmelites at age 16 by the Carmelite superiors, she joined 2 of her sisters that were already in the Order (and would later be joined by another sister, Celine). Continuing to pray and sacrifice for sinners, Therese found in Mary the perfect model. Recognizing that no one did the will of the good God more perfectly than Mary, Therese followed her example and tried to love God in the hidden and humble ways of her daily life, trusting that Mary would help her. Therese lived as a Carmelite for 9 years before dying at age 24 from tuberculosis. She kept Mary as her constant companion throughout her illness, and took comfort knowing that when her time came, her heavenly mother would come, take her into her arms and bring her to heaven.

 

Mary, when our time comes, take us into your arms and bring us to heaven.

Day 21: Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841- 1926)

Bartolo Longo was born in Brindisi, Italy in 1841 to a wealthy and devoutly Catholic family, who prayed the rosary together every night. At the age of ten, his mom passed away and he began to drift away from God. When it was time for Bartolo to go to college, Italy’s leaders had begun an anti-Catholic movement in attempts to overthrow the Pope and destroy the Catholic Church, and “unite” Italy. This movement became increasingly popular among the young adults, specifically those in college. The majority of Bartolo’s professors at the University of Naples were ex-priests who openly spoke out against the Church. Having slowly drifted for so long, this proved to be the deciding factor in Bartolo’s departure from the Church. Bartolo was a smart and zealous young man; simply leaving the Church was not enough. Fueled by the hatred spewed by his professors, Bartolo began attending satanic rituals, and eventually was “ordained” a satanist priest, promising his soul to the devil. He spent his time speaking out against the Church and convincing others to join him. 

His family back home was devastated and continued to pray the rosary for Bartolo’s conversion. The more he practiced the satanic rituals, the more Bartolo experienced deep depression and darkness. He began to experience extreme paranoia, confusion and nervousness. Always on edge that he would suffer another vision of hell, something that happened to him periodically, his anxiety was continually escalating until he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. 

One night in his sleep, he heard “Return to God! Return to God!” He had reached his breaking point so he sought out a professor he knew was a practicing Catholic. The professor introduced him to a Dominican priest who listened to his story and helped him back to the Catholic Church, hearing his confession and absolving him of his sins. Bartolo was a new man- he had life again! But even though his sins were forgiven, the memories of the decisions he had made against God would still sometimes haunt him, and tempt him to believe that he had gone too far to be saved and truly forgiven. When expressing this to the Dominican priest, he was told to pray and promote the rosary, because Mary promises that those who do so will be saved. He developed a great love for Mary and gratitude that she would intercede for his salvation even after all he had done against the Church. With a newfound energy and determination, Bartolo began praying and promoting the rosary to all who would listen. He became a third Order Dominican and took the name Brother Rosary. 

For over 50 years Bartolo promoted the rosary and its saving effects. A friend of Pope Leo XIII, he encouraged the Pope to continue to write encyclicals on the power of the rosary. After moving to Pompeii, Italy, Bartolo was shocked at how little the people knew about their Catholic faith. He helped fund and restore a Church, rededicating it to Our Lady of the Rosary. Bringing the people back to Jesus through the intercession of Mary and her rosary brought life back to the town. Bartolo was given a picture of Our Lady of the Rosary, with St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena at her feet, which he restored and hung in the Church. Stories of countless miracles started coming from those who visited the Church, making it a place of prayerful destination for visitors. It is now known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. Bartolo Longo is known as the Apostle of the Rosary and is currently a Blessed in the Church, one step from sainthood.

 

Mary, give us confidence in the promises of the rosary.

 

Day 22: St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903)

Gemma Galgani was from Lucca, Italy, born in 1878, and the 5th of 8 children. Her early childhood was met with terrible heartbreak, losing her mother and 3 of her siblings to tuberculosis when she was still a little girl. At 16, she herself suffered from spinal meningitis but was cured thanks to the miraculous intercession of 2 saints whom she loved, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother. Gemma’s dad died when she was 18, leaving her to care for her surviving siblings. During this time she decided to become a housekeeper, turning down 2 different marriage proposals, with the dreams of becoming a nun in the Passionist Order.

By this time, Gemma had developed a great love for Jesus in the Eucharist and Mary, specifically under the title Co-Redemptrix, the same title Pope Leo XIII, loved to use. Gemma had a strong desire to save sinners through her prayers and would spend hours a day in her room in prayer, talking with Jesus and begging him to save souls. Gemma was a mystic, having frequent visits from Jesus, Mary and her guardian angel. Particularly, every Thursday night, the three of them would come to her and Jesus would allow her to feel the sufferings He felt the night before His Passion and death. She considered this a great privilege; to share in the sufferings of her Jesus whom she loved so much. But still, the pain would be too much, and Mary would stand behind her, wrap Gemma under her mantle, and lift her up in order that she didn’t collapse on the ground in pain. 

One night, Gemma was in her room, begging the Lord to give the grace of repentance to a young man in town. This man was in deep sin, although from the outside it looked like he was living a perfectly Christian life. For hours, Gemma begged with fervor for this man to be saved. She implored Jesus, again reminding Him of all He suffered in His Passion specifically for that young man. But, no matter how much she prayed, she felt like she was being met with Jesus, the Just Judge instead of Jesus, the Merciful Savior. Finally, after hours of exhaustive back and forth, Gemma was about to give up, when it occurred to her to go to Mary. She told Jesus that she would go to Mary and let her ask Him. Well, Jesus said, He could never refuse His mother anything. Gemma found out later that it was within the hour of her request to Mary that the priest received a knock at his door and the very young man whom Gemma had been praying for threw himself at the priest’s feet, sobbing and begging for him to hear his confession. Mary had obtained the grace from Jesus for that man to repent and change his ways, who from then on zealously served the Kingdom. 

Gemma died at the age of 25 from tuberculosis, the same disease that had taken so many of her family members. She was canonized a saint in 1940 and even though she was not able to become a Passionist nun due to her early death, she is known as the Daughter of the Passion.

 

Mary, please ask Jesus for the grace of repentance for us, for we know He can refuse you nothing.

Day 23: St. Padre Pio (1887-1968)

Today’s saint, Padre Pio, followed in the footsteps of some of the great Marian saints we have talked about up until now. Born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, one of 5 surviving children, he was named Francesco, after St. Francis of Assisi. His family attended daily mass together everyday and prayed the rosary as a family every night. He had a very strong Marian devotion his whole life and was one of those special souls that was able to see Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel. From the young age of 5 years old, little Francesco knew he wanted to become a priest. He eventually followed in the footsteps of his patron (St. Francis of Assisi) and became a Franciscan Capuchin monk, receiving the name Pio. 

Pio lived only a few hours away from the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii, Italy. He was only a boy when it was restored and he frequently visited it throughout his young adult years. His devotion to the rosary throughout his life was so great, that one day he was asked how many rosaries he prayed a day and he replied, “Thirty-five” (!!) Astounded, the person asked how could he pray that much, to which Padre Pio asked how could one not? Mary was his constant companion, and his love for her was reflected on the doorpost in his room where he wrote, “Mary is the reason of all my hope,” a quote by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. 

Six years after becoming a priest, Padre Pio was sent to San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy to the monastery called Our Lady of Grace, where he spent the remaining 52 years of his life. His schedule consisted of a 5am daily mass that lasted about 3 hours before dedicating the rest of his day to the confessional. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people left Padre Pio’s confessional over the years with a newfound encounter and love for Jesus. Word would spread of radically changed lives- people who were more joyful, peaceful, loving and patient- and others would then travel and wait days just for Padre Pio to hear their confessions. Seeing that Mary was always with him, there is no doubt that she, along with her spouse, the Holy Spirit, was with him in the confessional as well. The Holy Spirit gives many gifts, including those helpful in the confessional; the gift of illumination to know the sins, courage to confess them, true sorrow when asking for absolution and conviction to change. The Holy Spirit can then transform the sinner’s heart that was once filled with sin and fill it with His gifts- the first of which is always a deeper revealing of Jesus and His love for you. 

With Mary and the Spirit with him all day long, it is no wonder Padre Pio had many spiritual gifts as well. One of which was the ability to read souls, and prompt people to confess sins they forgot or were hiding. He was able to bilocate, and minister to different people in different places at the same time, with visits sometimes accompanied by miraculous healings. He had the gift of prophecy, and once while meeting with Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, who had traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to meet with him, he prophesied to the archbishop that he would be Pope one day. That prophecy proved true, and that man, Pope John Paul II, had the privilege of canonizing Padre Pio, declaring him a saint. 

It is suggested that we go to confession before our Consecration Day so that as we empty ourselves of our sins, the Holy Spirit will be able to flood us with His gifts and graces, specifically as we entrust our lives to his spouse, Mary. Together they will lead us to Jesus. Padre Pio’s witness and the countless lives changed in his confessional are good reasons to follow through on that suggestion. 

 

Mary, please come with me to the confessional and bring your spouse, the Holy Spirit.

Day 24: Maria Teresa (Teresita) Quevedo (1930-1950)

 Maria Teresa Quevedo, affectionately known as Teresita, was born the youngest of 3 kids to a very devout and loving family deeply rooted in their love for the Catholic faith. When she was young, her parents took great care to teach her the faith, including how to pray a morning offering, offering each day to Jesus through Mary. They talked about the saints and the martyrs of the Church, a topic very close to home in the early years of her life when the Spanish Civil War broke out and Communists came in and killed thousands of Catholics, including 3 of her dad’s brothers. But the family maintained their faith and each night they would gather to pray the rosary together as a family. 

      As a child, Teresita was stubborn and sensitive, but very sincere in her efforts to love Jesus, writing in her journal when she was 10, “I have decided to become a saint.” She decided to take Mary as her companion to ensure her success. 

      Teresita loved her faith and loved to share it with others. She specifically loved the rosary. In fact, she taught it to her cook and her nurse, and after making the promise to pray the rosary everyday after school in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, she taught many of her friends as well. While in school she joined a Marian Consecration group inspired by the writings of St. Louis de Montfort. She was encouraged to choose a motto when she became a member and she wrote a simple but beautiful prayer that she would repeat for the rest of her life: “Mother, grant that everyone who looks at me may see You.” 

       Teresita was well loved by her classmates and was very outgoing and fun. She also loved fashion, and when her friends couldn’t see the connection between that and her love for Jesus, she would say, “Jesus loves beautiful things too.” However, she knew it was her inner beauty- her desire for holiness- that Jesus loved more, and she vowed to leave her love of fashion at the convent doorstep the day she became a Carmelite nun.

      As she grew up, and even after she entered the Carmelites at the young age of 17, she continued to struggle with her faults, having been accused of being too dramatic and spontaneous and too impatient, even in her work. But she was determined to continue to give her soul totally to Mary, knowing that Mary would give it to Jesus, and Jesus, who never refuses His mother, would then make it ‘perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.’ She trusted totally that Mary’s intercession would fill the gap between who she was and who God created her to be, so she could become a saint. 

      Her life would prove to be a short one. In the winter of 1949, when Teresita became sick, she asked those around her to pray her short prayer to Mary if ever a time came when she couldn’t talk. In April 1950, one week shy of her 20th birthday, Teresita died. Her cause for canonization was opened 4 years later and she is currently considered a Venerable in the Catholic Church (2 steps from canonization).

 

“Mother, grant that everyone who looks at me may see You.” 

Day 25: St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)

St. Anthony was born Fernando Bulhoes in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195 into a wealthy family. As a young man, he joined the local Augustinian Order. After watching the bodies of 5 Franciscan men come through town after being martyred by the Muslims while trying to evangelize in Morocco, his heart was set on fire and he longed to go out and evangelize as well. Not having that option in his Order, he asked to be released from the Augustinians and set off to find the man who started this new Order, St. Francis of Assisi. 

From the time they met, Anthony and Francis were kindred spirits; they were both on fire with love for Jesus through their strong personal devotions to Mary. The two men inspired this strong devotion in their brother friars, and created the foundation for what is now a pillar of the Franciscan Order, preaching not only Jesus, but devotion to Mary as the way to Him. Throughout his life, St. Anthony strove to be another Mary in the world, a creature who constantly contemplated God and His heavenly things while also pointing others to Him. It’s only fitting, then, that St. Anthony is most often pictured holding the baby Jesus in his arms, an image inspired by the story told by a fellow friar who saw light coming from Anthony’s room late one night, and after peaking in, saw Anthony holding and talking to the infant Jesus.

Anthony’s deep insights on Mary led him to understand that she was immaculately conceived, assumed into heaven, and now serves as Queen of Heaven- truths that would not be infallibly declared by the Church for another 600+ years. It was these insights that led him to know deeper truths about Jesus and His Church- insights that he not only shared with his fellow friars, but would preach about publicly. His public preaching and teaching of his fellow Franciscans made him an extremely effective evangelist, earning him the title of Doctor of the Church. He is known as the Evangelical Doctor. 

Anthony died in Padua, Italy in 1231, just 5 years after St. Francis. He was declared a saint within the year. We remember him mostly as the saint who helps us find our lost things, but his impact in instilling a Marian devotion, alongside Francis, to the first Franciscans has continued on through the centuries and continues to bear fruit in our world today.

 

Mary, help me to be another you in the world.

Day 26: St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Ignatius of Loyola was born in Basque country, Spain and was the youngest of 13 kids. His older brother married the maid of Queen Isabella, the Queen of Spain (the Queen who financed the exploration of Christopher Columbus when Ignatius was only 1 year old). The Queen gifted the couple with a beautiful painting of the Annunciation, and in order to have a proper place to put it, the couple built a chapel at the Loyola Castle. Ignatius grew up with a chapel at home that housed this beautiful image of Mary, planting a seed for his devotion later in life.

As he got older, Ignatius’ interests turned more towards dreams of being a knight. He was vain in his image and strove to make a name for himself amongst the nobility of Spain. That changed when Ignatius was fighting in a battle and a cannonball landed right by him shattering his leg. Upon returning home, his sister-in-law nursed him back to health and provided him with spiritual readings that awakened a desire in him for a spiritual life. Although he had this awakening, Ignatius continued to struggle with his old vices until one day Mary came to him with the baby Jesus. This encounter changed his life, and gave him the grace to want to live a life for Jesus, being led by Mary. In order to show his seriousness in changing his life, Ignatius made a pilgrimage to a hermitage on top of a mountain near Barcelona and placed his sword at the feet of Our Lady of Monserrat, giving himself to her and begging her to form him into another Jesus.

Ignatius, taking Mary as his guide, began down this path of holiness at the age of 30, and decided to enroll at the University of Paris for formal education. It was there that he was roommates with 2 men in their early twenties, Francis Xavier and Peter Faber. Ignatius began teaching these 2 men about all he had experienced in his recent conversion and his powerful witness awakened in them a desire to join him on his quest for heaven. Together, the 3 of them, along with 4 other classmates, founded the Society of Jesus, popularly known as the Jesuits. These men asked Mary to be their main intercessor and together, at the statue of Mary at St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, made their official vows as Jesuits. 

Throughout his life, Ignatius constantly begged Mary to help him do God’s will, always turning to her in his discernment of what he thought God was asking of him. Born out of this were his writings known as the Spiritual Exercises, where he strives to help others discern God’s will for them while drawing off of his own experiences of what worked and what didn’t. Seeing the great power of Mary’s intercession through his life, he mentions her frequently throughout the Exercises, encouraging her intercession in contemplating God’s will for our lives. Ignatius teaches us that in order to stay faithful to our vocations and missions in life, which should always lead us closer to Jesus and help us lead others to Him, we must stay close to Mary. 

Ignatius, in doing the will of God, awakened that love in his roommates as well. In the end, all 3 of them became saints- Ignatius is patron of spiritual retreats, Francis Xavier is known as one of the greatest evangelizers of all time and baptized over 700,000 people, and Peter Faber was the Jesuits’ first priest and went on to teach the Spiritual Exercises to the new Jesuit men. By one man following God’s will under the guidance and protection of Mary, he was able to awaken God’s will in those around him too. 

 

Mary, help us as we discern God’s will for our lives. 

Day 27: St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Teresa of Avila was born in Avila, Spain in 1515, 2 years before the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and 16 years before Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego. She was one of 9 kids born into one of the wealthiest families in Avila and  was a very outgoing, lively and fun girl. This outer spunk was balanced by an inner awareness and love for God and natural affection towards Mary. As a young adult, Teresa decided to join the local Carmelite Order, a convent that was known for its lack of discipline and the go-to spot to get the town gossip. For the first 20 years that Teresa was in the convent, her relationship with God was like a roller coaster- she would sometimes enter deeply into prayer but then the things of the world would pull her away and cause her to be distracted. 

When she was 40, Teresa finally decided to take her role as a Carmelite nun seriously. She sought out the company of those who were striving to live for God first, and at the advice of her confessor, worked to blot out even the venial sins in her life, as these were the things that were keeping her from fully entering into her relationship with God. She started avoiding the gossip and instead took Mary as her confidant in a renewed way. She began praying the rosary with great devotion, a habit she acquired from her own mother. Over the next 20+ years of her life, Teresa followed the example of Mary and made herself available to God and the work He wanted to do in and through her. 

Teresa soon became a master of prayer, and was later named a Doctor of the Church and is considered the Doctor of Prayer. While she taught her fellow Sisters the different stages in the spiritual life, she always spoke of the deep riches that came from meditating on the rosary. She taught from her own experiences and spoke about lofty things in fairly plain language. She stressed the importance of developing the “heart relationship” with Jesus and Mary, a relationship of love, to further advance in the spiritual life. The intellectual side of the faith could better explain what is experienced in the heart, but cannot replace it. She explained that it is in the heart that someone encounters Jesus and their lives are changed. 

Teresa was specifically devoted to what is called the Brigittine rosary (from St. Bridget of Sweden), where there are 6 decades instead of 5. The first 5 decades are said like a normal rosary and the 6th decade is to be said for the poor souls in purgatory. When she set out to reform her own and other Spanish Carmelite convents, bringing them back to the focus of prayer and recollection, she even instituted the Brigittine rosary as part of their habit. (Fun fact: when Mary appeared to Bernadette at Lourdes, she appeared with the 6 decade Brigittine rosary.) 

Teresa’s impact on the Carmelites, and the Church at large, is evident in some of her fellow saints that came after her. St. Therese the Little Flower and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) were both named after her. Teresa’s deep theological insights mixed with her simplicity is the perfect image of the result of what devotion to the rosary can look like.

 

Mary, help us to develop a heart relationship with you and your Son.

Day 28: St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373)

St. Bridget of Sweden was born in the Middle Ages, in 1303, to a powerful knight and his wife, a distant relative of the King. Bridget was married at age 13 to a holy and devout man, and together they had 8 children (one of their daughters, Catherine of Sweden, is also a saint). After 20 years of marriage and shortly after they returned from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (“The Way of St. James”- a famous and ancient pilgrimage still popular today) her husband died. After his death, Bridget poured her life even more into prayer and serving the poor, raising her children and working towards establishing a new order of nuns and priests. 

From the time Bridget was a little girl, she was visited by Jesus and Mary. They showed her visions of the Nativity and the Crucifixion, along with visions of Purgatory. Her descriptions of these visions have largely influenced the Christian depictions of these scenes. Besides these visions, Bridget also received 2 very important devotions to Mary. The first, the Brigittine rosary, we heard a little bit about yesterday. It has 6 decades instead of 5 decades, with the poor souls in purgatory as the intention of the 6th decade. The Apostles Creed is prayed after each decade instead of the Glory Be, and the 63 Hail Mary’s are prayed in honor of the 63 years that Mary is said to have lived. 

But Mary also gave to St. Bridget another very important devotion: that of the 7 Sorrows of Mary. Mary explained that she longed for souls to keep her company, asking for an Our Father and 7 Hail Mary’s to be prayed while reflecting on each of the 7 major sorrows of her life: 

 

  1. The prophecy of Simeon when Jesus was just an infant
  2. The flight into Egypt to escape Herod’s attempt to kill the infant Messiah
  3. The loss of Jesus in the Temple
  4. Meeting Jesus on His way to Calvary
  5. Jesus’ Crucifixion and death
  6. Taking Jesus down from cross 
  7. Leaving His body in the tomb

 

Mary revealed to Bridget that people who practiced devotion to the 7 Sorrows would receive great graces, including peace in their families, consolation in their pains, Mary’s accompaniment in their work, and her visible presence to them at their death, bringing them right to heaven. Jesus later appeared to Bridget and confirmed these promises.

In the years since Mary gave St. Bridget this devotion, Mary has appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows in several apparitions, including at Fatima and Kibeho. The Church now dedicates the month of September to Our Lady of Sorrows, and her feast day is September 15, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (commemorating the day that St. Helen discovered the cross that Jesus was crucified on). 

 

Mary, give us the grace of devotion to your 7 Sorrows. 

Day 29: St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

Our saint today, St. Francis de Sales, was born in the year 1567 to a wealthy family who lived in a castle near Geneva, Switzerland. He lived in the midst of the Protestant Reformation, and died just 6 years before St. Louis de Montfort was born.

During his young adulthood, there was a huge debate going on between the Catholics and Calvinists (Protestants) over “predestination,” the idea that certain souls were predestined for heaven and certain souls predestined for hell, and no matter what they did on earth, they couldn’t change their destiny. Suffering terribly with scruples (thinking everything he did was a sin), Francis became convinced that he was not a soul chosen for heaven. This idea led him to almost complete despair. He loved God so much, and finally resolved that even if he was not destined for heaven, he would at least love God as much as he could during his earthly life. This thought of being destined for hell tortured him so much that one day he could not take it anymore. He ran to a statue of Mary and fell at her feet. He fervently prayed the Memorare prayer, begging her help, praying to know the truth in what he had come to believe. Immediately upon finishing his prayer, his mind was cleared and he realized that what he believed about his destiny was not true and did not come from God. His burden was lifted and he was free. He gained a renewed sense of love and vigor to serve Jesus. Seeing with clarity the tenderness of Mary’s intercession and the power of the Memorare, Francis vowed to pray it every day of his life, and later attested that Mary had never left him “unaided,” as promised in the prayer. 

Francis went on to become a priest and later a bishop, gaining for himself the reputation as a smart and gentle man. He never forgot what it was like to suffer so badly but also to experience the tenderness of the Mother towards her son. He became a renowned Spiritual Director and strove to treat others with patience and gentleness in their own interior struggles. His devotion to Mary was so great, that together with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded the Visitation Nuns, an order of women that live out the humility and gentleness of Mary, specifically shown in the Visitation with her cousin, Elizabeth. 

Throughout his life, Francis also devoted his communion every Saturday to Mary and offered her some sort of hidden sacrifice. While the tradition of offering your communion in honor of a specific devotion each day is not new, the Saturday devotion became more widely known when Mary requested the Five First Saturdays devotion in Fatima almost 300 years later. At Fatima, she asked that for 5 consecutive first Saturdays of the month, we go to confession, receive Holy Communion, pray 5 decades of the rosary and keep her company for 15 minutes, meditating on the mysteries of the rosary. For those who will do this, she promises to assist them at the hour of death with the grace necessary for salvation. 

Francis died due to a stroke in the year 1622 and was declared a Doctor of the Church. He is also known as the “Gentleman Saint” because of his humility, gentleness and patience towards all those he met.

 

Mary, grant us the grace to be humble, gentle and patient towards all those we meet.

Day 30: St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)

St. Alphonsus Liguori was born in 1696 near Naples, Italy and was the oldest of 7 kids. His parents were very devout Catholics, and even gave him the name Mary as one of his middle names, thus foreshadowing a future devotion of his to this Queen and Mother. Growing up, Alphonsus was a brilliant student, and graduated as a lawyer by the age of 16, quickly building his reputation as one of the best lawyers in the area. However, after about 10 years of practicing law, Alphonsus decided to leave the public world and become a priest. 

Alphonsus lived at the time of a devastating heresy in the Church called Jansenism, a heresy characterized by unforgiveness and extreme guilt that scared people away from approaching the communion rail. Alphonsus took on this heresy with great zeal, preaching gentleness and the importance of mercy in the Sacrament of confession, saying, “the penitents should be treated as souls to be saved rather than as criminals to be punished.” His battle for souls led him to write some incredible works on the power of devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and Mary as Our Sorrowful Mother and Queen. Alphonsus also started the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists), an order of priests founded to continue to fight the Jansenist heresy. 

Alphonsus’ love for Mary was evident in his life and in his work. He wrote a 600+ page collection of 5 books on the importance of Mary and her powerful intercession, stemming from his own experience and also from the writings of other Doctors of the Church. Mary seemed to reward St. Alphonsus for this when, a little less than a century after he died, the famous icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help miraculously found its permanent home in the Redemptorist Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, Italy. It was only natural that Mary under this title would choose to be placed under the care of the Redemptorists, whose founder loved her so much. 

This famous icon of Mary, as Queen and Sorrowful Mother, depicts her holding the frightened toddler Jesus. This image shows us that, as the Mystical Body of Christ, we also have this same Mother that we can run to when we need her. We are reminded of this in the Memorare prayer, “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.”

 

Mary, help us to run to you in our times of need. 

 

Day 31: Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Agnes “Gonxhe” Bojaxhiu was born in Albania in 1910, the youngest of 3 children into a loving and faithful family. Despite the turmoil her country was experiencing at the time, her family nurtured in her a deep devotion and love for Jesus and Mary. When she was still a girl she decided that she wanted to serve God through joining a missionary religious order, and at age 18, she left her family and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish Order of missionaries serving in India. Once a Sister, she took the name Teresa, after St. Therese the Little Flower, patron of missionaries.  

After living her vocation as a Sister of Loreto for over 20 years, teaching and serving as headmistress for the all-girls Catholic school in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa experienced what she described as a “call within a call” while on the train to her annual retreat in 1946. She felt that God was asking her to leave her Order and serve the poor of Calcutta, and allow them to experience the love God had for them. After several years, her request to do this was granted and in 1950, she left the safe walls of the Sisters of Loreto and began the Missionaries of Charity. 

Mother Teresa had a great love for Mary throughout her life. The Sisters of Loreto is a Marian Order, named in honor of the house of Loreto where the Annunciation occurred. When Mother Teresa received the call within a call, she said that it was Mary who was by her side, explaining to her what Jesus was asking. In the years after starting the Missionaries of Charity, a time that spanned almost 50 years, Mother Teresa suffered silently from what is known as the “Dark Night of the Soul”, and no longer felt God’s presence. Throughout this intense suffering, she relied heavily on Mary. 

Mother Teresa had 2 specific prayers to Mary that she would repeat throughout her days. The first one was “Mary, my mother, please be a mother to me now.” After having grown up with such an affectionate earthly mother, Mother Teresa felt that loss severely after she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto. In times of great homesickness throughout her life, she would ask Mary to allow her to feel her motherly love. 

The second prayer to Mary that was always on her lips was, “Mary, lend me your heart and keep me in your most pure heart.” This prayer stemmed from her overwhelming love for Jesus and the desire to love Him perfectly, even though she could not feel His love in return. Mary’s heart is perfect, so in asking her to lend it, Mother Teresa was asking to love Jesus perfectly. She is also asking Mary to keep her in her heart, so she may always remain close to Jesus. This short prayer summarizes the essence of Marian Consecration. We give ourselves to Mary in order to be led closer to Jesus and we ask for her heart in order to love Jesus perfectly.

 

Mary, our mother, please lend us your heart so that we may love Jesus perfectly, and remain close to Him always.

Day 32: St. John Mary Vianney (1786-1859)

      St. John Marie Vianney was born in 1786, near Lyon, France, just 3 years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, a time when the Catholic Church was heavily persecuted and priests were executed by the dozens. Growing up, John’s family remained faithful to their Catholicism, attending secret masses in the middle of the night and hiding priests to save them from death. John saw these brave priests as heroes, and deciding that he too wanted to become a parish priest, put his vocation under the care and protection of Mary. From a very young age, John had a great love for Mary. As a boy, he had to drop out of school to help his family work in the fields, but since he was still so young, he had a hard time keeping up with the pace of his older brother. After overhearing his brother complain about this to their mother, John had an idea. In order to keep up, he brought his beloved statue of Mary into the fields with him. John would kiss the statue of Mary and then throw it along the path he was working, motivating him to work as fast and as hard as he could in order to reach it. Then, once he reached it, he would pick up the statue, kiss it and throw it again. This process helped him to keep up with his brother in the fields. 

      Once an adult, John was almost unable to become a priest. Due to his poor education, he was going to be dismissed from the seminary until his mentor, Fr. Bailey, decided to speak to the bishop about John personally. At the end of their discussion, the bishop decided to ordain John, not based on his test scores, but because Fr. Bailey answered an emphatic yes to the following 3 questions regarding John: Is he a pious man? Is he consecrated to Our Lady? Does he pray the rosary? 

      After his ordination, the Bishop assigned him to be the curé (village priest) of Ars, France, a small town that had not had a priest in over 30 years. He arrived to find the people with little or no devotion, and overall a general ignorance of their Catholic faith. John immediately consecrated his parish to Mary and then proceeded to go door to door to every parishioner and invite them back to the Sacraments. The first several months, his pews were empty so he would preach with the doors to the Church wide open so all could hear his message. He invested in the lives of his parishioners with simple and direct words that ended up moving their hearts. John preached the power of confession, along with devotion to the Eucharist and the power of Mary’s intercession. More people began attending Sunday mass and then came to him for confession during the week. John always had Mary with him in the confessional, and took after her when receiving sinners with mercy. He often said that the greater the sinner, the more they should be treated with tenderness and compassion.  

      John’s reputation as a confessor spread to neighboring towns and soon he was spending up to 17 hours a day in the confessional! The devil did not like that John was taking these people from him and bringing them back to their Catholic faith. Almost every night the devil would do things to try and scare him, and one night he even set John’s bed on fire. But his attempt to keep John from bringing people to Jesus was unsuccessful. The devil once admitted that this was because John was consecrated to Mary, and when someone was under her protection, the devil was powerless. 

      Over the course of his time in Ars, John successfully brought every member of the town into the Catholic Church, and consecrated them to Mary. Now commonly known as the Curé of Ars, St. John Marie Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests, and his mentor Fr. Bailey’s cause for sainthood has been officially opened in the Church.

 

Mary, bring us under your protection. 

Day 33: Chiara Corbella Petrillo (1984-2012)

Chiara Corbella was born on January 9, 1984, in Rome, Italy. She was the younger of 2 daughters in a devout Catholic family whose faith and Marian devotion were greatly influenced by the Pope at the time, Pope John Paul II.

It was no surprise, then, that Mary would play a large role in Chiara’s life, specifically in her vocations as wife and mother. When she was just 19 years old, Chiara met her future husband, Enrico Petrillo, on a Marian pilgrimage to Medjugorje. After 6 years of on and off again dating, the couple became engaged while on a walking pilgrimage to St. Mary of the Angels Basilica in Assisi, Italy. This basilica became the place where they would frequently place their cares into the hands of Mary, consecrating themselves and all that they brought to her. It was here that they consecrated their engagement, their marriage and all 3 of their children to Jesus through Mary. 

Throughout their marriage, Chiara and Enrico turned to Mary in everything. Together, they began every day with their prayer of consecration, which ended with “totus tuus,” meaning “totally yours”. This was both St. Louis de Montfort’s prayer and John Paul II’s papal motto, by which one entrusted everything to Jesus through Mary. Not long after they were married, Chiara and Enrico found out they were pregnant. They were elated until their 20 week appointment when they were told their baby girl would not survive outside the womb. Chiara immediately thought of Mary. She, too, had a child she would watch die, but still said yes to God’s will without fully understanding it. Chiara knew that God was also asking her to trust Him, to stay in the present moment, and take the next small possible step. This grace of seeing Mary as her model gave Chiara joy in the midst of her great suffering. When their daughter was born, they named her Maria Grazia Letizia, meaning Mary of favor and joy. 

When their second child, David Giovanni, also died shortly after he was born, Chiara and Enrico again turned to Mary. They asked for her intercession for another baby and soon became pregnant with a healthy baby boy. However, during her pregnancy, Chiara was diagnosed with carcinoma, a deadly form of cancer. Even though she refused treatment while pregnant in order to protect her baby, Chiara and Enrico began to rely even more heavily on the intercession of Mary. They had always prayed the rosary together at night, but now began to invite some family and friends to join them. Chiara’s joy and peace when facing her imminent death touched everyone who came into contact with her. 

In April of 2012, with all medical treatments exhausted, Chiara and Enrico decided to return to Medjugorje not only to ask for healing but also to ask for the grace to continue to take the next small possible step God was asking of them. Even though they did not receive the physical healing they asked for, they did receive the grace they needed to continue on their path with joy and trust. Enrico later reflected that it was Mary who showed them the way, and told them as she tells us, “Do whatever He tells you.” Chiara died on June 13, 2012 and her funeral was celebrated on the feast day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

Chiara’s cause for sainthood was opened in September 2017, almost immediately after the required 5 year wait period was over. She is currently a Servant of God and 3 steps away from sainthood.

 

Mary, help us to take the next small possible step.

Consecration Day

Prayer of Consecration to Jesus through Mary

Oh Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I consecrate myself to you totally and completely. Mary, I give you all of my prayers, works, joys and sufferings. Please accept and perfect them by filling the gaps, and then offer them to Jesus on my behalf. 

Mary, bring me deeper into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Lend me your heart that I may love Him perfectly with it. Please obtain for me all of the graces He has in store for me and help me to experience His personal love for me in a new way.

Grant me the grace to become who God has created me to be and to follow Him even when I don’t understand. When others look at me, help them to see you, and help me to lead others to Jesus as you do.

If ever I am tempted to turn away from Jesus, I ask that you remind me of this consecration and help me to feel your motherly protection. 

Mary, be with me as I continuously strive to do His will by taking the next small possible step. 

Lead me to His heavenly Kingdom.

Totus Tuus. Amen.

Adore 24

March for life

FAITH FORMATION

CLASS RETREATS