Consecration to Mary brings Catholic diocese closer to Christ

On Aug. 15, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., was scheduled to lead members of the diocese — those who prepared and wished to do so — in making a personal consecration to Jesus through Mary.

The same day, Bishop Rhoades was to rededicate the diocese to Mary, placing it under her care and protection.

Also frequently called entrustment, consecration involves the act of giving one’s entire life to Mary, acknowledging her as “the spiritual mother of humanity and the advocate of grace,” as Pope St. John Paul II described her in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (“The Mother of the Redeemer”). The practice of Marian consecration can be traced back to at least the seventh century.

One of the most well-known Marian saints, however, is St. Louis de Montfort, who died in the early 18th century. He emphasized Marian teaching and developed a 33-day preparation for consecration in his book “True Devotion to Mary” (Tan Classics, $11.95).

“Basically, Marian consecration means giving ourselves totally to Mary and letting her take us to her Son,” explained Ida List, Marian Specialist for Lighthouse Catholic Media. “It’s not something you can easily give up, that control. The 33-day preparation helps you along that journey.”

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is preparing for the consecration with a different 33-day preparation from the book: “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Father Michael Gaitley (Marian Press, $14.95).

A “do-it-yourself retreat,” the book examines the Marian teachings and spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort, along with three other saints deeply devoted to Mary: Pope St. John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata and St. Maximilian Kolbe.

“When I was introduced to ‘33 Days to Morning Glory,’ I found it to be such a treasure,” List said. “It not only leads you into the consecration, but why you do the consecration and what it’s going to do for you.”

Father Gaitley, a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, said the book, published in December 2011, has nearly 2 million copies in print. In addition to the book, the Congregation of Marians has also developed helpful discussion booklets and DVDs to aid in facilitation of the preparation within parishes and small groups, which can be found through their website.

The feedback for the program “has been really, really powerful,” Father Gaitley said. “A bishop came up to me last year and said, ‘do you know what your programs are doing to our diocese? They’re transforming it.’”

While it’s difficult to estimate the total number making the consecration in Fort Wayne-South Bend, Sean McBride, the director of communications for the diocese, said the diocese has distributed more than 10,000 copies of the book and the response has been “exceedingly favorable.”

“The effect we are really hoping for is a true understanding of the consecration. We want the faithful to bring everything to Jesus through Mary,” McBride said.

Last year, Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on Sept. 8. Stephen D. Minnis, the college president, said that devotion to Mary has been “really strengthened since the consecration” with many students choosing to make individual consecrations as well.

Participants of the consecration joined in a campus procession: “1,100 people showed up on the hottest day of the year to walk our campus, because they love (Mary) so much,” Minnis said. “I think that having that public display was very important.” He said he would love to see other institutions take part in something similar.

“The process itself really isn’t difficult,” McBride said. In putting together a diocesan or parish-wide consecration, strong organization and supportive priests are key. “The diocese has to ask itself: Can we effectively, on a daily basis, do our best to keep this consecration present and fresh in the hearts and minds of the faithful?”

A sign of the significance of Marian consecration, Pope Francis entrusted the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during a Mass in St. Peter’s square on Oct. 13, 2013.

The effects of consecration can be far-reaching, said List, who believes she would not be where she is today without it. “The closer you get to Jesus, the more joyful you are,” List said.

“It sort of oozes out of you and affects other people. That can’t help but change the diocese, and then that can’t help but change the world.”

Hannah M. Brockhaus is an OSV intern.