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. 

Adore 24

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