Marian Consecration

The more we honor the Blessed Virgin, the more we honor Jesus Christ, because we honor Mary only that we may the more perfectly honor Jesus, since we go to her only as the way by which we are to find the end we are seeking, which is Jesus.

St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary

I sought out Marian devotion when I was feeling helpless. I was spiritually drowning by things that don’t matter now, and I was desperate for Faith. I had a priest bring me a scapular (from Rome), and enroll me in the Brown Scapular*. I found a copy of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and devoured it. I started the 33-day Preparation for Total Consecration, and consecrated myself to the Blessed Mother on August 15, 2006 (the Feast of the Assumption of Mary).

I think in our modern struggles to be ‘ecumenical’, many Catholics overlook Marian consecration in fear that it might take away from Jesus. They couldn’t be any more mistaken. And they’ve obviously never read St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary. Marian devotion is something essential to Christian faith because how we view Our Lady defines how we think about Our Lord. I’ve been in ‘debates’ about Marian doctrines where the other person has retorted that Mary “was merely a vessel for the birth of the Savior” as though God just uses people and then throws them away after He’s accomplished His designs. That’s not how God has revealed Himself to us. Mary was not a vessel, she was (and is) a mother. She became the mother of Jesus Christ the instant the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived, in her womb, the Son of God. Thus, Mary is the Theotokos (the God-bearer)… the Mother of God (“Mother of my Lord” cf. Luke 1:43). And she followed her Son to the Cross, where her own soul was pierced as Simeon the prophet had foretold (cf. Luke 2:35). Clearly, she was not forgotten in the plans of God…

… all generations shall call me blessed

Luke 1:48

But what is consecration to the Blessed Mother?  In short, it is the way “to Jesus, through Mary”. As St. Louis de Montfort opens his True Devotion, it was through Mary that Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world and so it is through her that we ought to go to Him. The great truth of Catholic Marian spirituality is that Mary always leads to her Son, Jesus. Always.

Whatsoever He shall say to you, do

John 2:5

Consecration is about conformity to Jesus Christ. We find our perfection in Him. To this end, and our growth in perfection, St. Louis de Montfort proposes a method of preparation and consecration that is 33 days of preparation + the day of consecration, or about 5 weeks. You can find various books and preparations for consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort that vary slightly. The preparation included in True Devotion to Mary consists of a preliminary period (12 days) to free ourselves from the “spirit of this world”, and then a second period of 3 weeks wherein the first week is devoted to knowledge of ourselves, knowledge of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and knowledge of Jesus Christ which is then crowned by our consecration. It is admitted that this preparation is flexible, and Fr. Helmuts Libietis has done a fine job of compiling a good preparation based on St. Louis de Montfort’s that is divided into 5 weeks, and 4 short meditations for each day followed by the prayers which St. Louis de Montfort suggests for that week titled Consecration to Mary. Slightly different, and perhaps a bit more time consuming than the basics which St. Louis offers in True Devotion, but nonetheless I have personally found Fr. Libietis’ preparation to be doable, and of great assistance in truly getting into the spirit of preparation that St. Louis de Montfort sought. It’s a good help.

So in offering and consecration ourselves to Mary, we seek conformity to her Son. Who was the perfect disciple? Mary. There’s a part in the Sacred Scriptures (which many often mistakenly view and use as an anti-Mary tract) where a woman cries out from the crowd after Jesus has exorcised a demon, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck” and Jesus responds, “Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28). Anyone would have to agree that Mary fulfilled this blessing in a very singular way: she received the Annunciation of the coming of the Savior through the Angel Gabriel, and she responded that the will of God should be done unto her, and then she conceived the Word of God and kept Him, in her womb for 9 months, and thereafter in her Immaculate Heart. Yes, Mary was indeed Blessed to be the Mother of God; but she is blessed even moreso in hearing and keeping the Word of God.  Our Lord’s response to the woman in the crowd was in no way a degradation of Mary as His mother.

Imitation of Mary is imitation of Christ.

Jesus Christ our Saviour, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, else they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, of all things. We labor not, as the Apostle says, except to render every man perfect in Jesus Christ; because it is in Him alone that the whole plenitude of the Divinity dwells together with all the other plenitudes of graces, virtues, and perfections. It is in Him alone that we have been blessed with all spiritual benediction; and He is our only Master, who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepherd who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us. There has been no other name given under Heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection or our glory, than Jesus Christ. Every building which is not built on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or later infallibly will fall. Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him, as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither, and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire. Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation. But if we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is in us, we have no condemnation to fear. Neither the angels of Heaven nor the men of earth nor the devils of Hell nor any other creature can injure us; because they cannot separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things; we can render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost; we can become perfect ourselves, and be to our neighbor a good odor of eternal life (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

If, then, we establish solid devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ, and to provide an easy and secure means for finding Jesus Christ…

St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, #61, 62

Good Reads about the Mother of God:
True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort
The Secret of Mary by St. Louis de Montfort
The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort
The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Consecration to Mary by Fr. Helmuts Libietis

*The Brown Scapular

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My Anniversary… belated.

Ugh, this is like a bad joke about husbands forgetting their wedding anniversary! I’m usually so good (exacting, even!) at remembering dates. Yet, without fail, I always remember the “anniversary” of my reconciliation to the Catholic Church a few days AFTER the fact. It’s such an important anniversary, and I could kick myself for failing to remember even a few days before! Somehow I am going to make myself a reminder for next year.

Anyway…

As of July 1, 2010, I have officially been reconciled (and a fully practicing Catholic) for 8 years! Deo gratias!

I try to keep track of my anniversary so that I can not only remember and give thanks to God for the grace He has given me; but also to give myself a little hope. I have come a long, long way. If ever I look back and discover my faith hasn’t grown, I’ll know I’m headed in the wrong direction.

One thing I can witness to as being true: you ask God for grace and He will give it to you, without fail. Give Him the smallest opening, and the Holy Spirit will flood your soul.

“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8

I have come a very long way in 8 years. I am intensely grateful for the grace that God has given me, and I pray that He will continue to bless me and keep me open to His will and Divine Providence.

In thanksgiving, please pray for the priest who heard my Confession that day 8 years ago.

O Jesus, Eternal High Priest, live in [Fr. E], act in him, speak in and through him.
Think Your thoughts in his mind, love through his heart.
Give him Your own dispositions and feelings. Teach, lead and guide him always.
Correct, enlighten and expand his thoughts and behavior.
Possess his soul; take over his entire personality and life.
Replace him with Yourself.
Incline him to constant adoration and thanksgiving; pray in and through him.
Let him live in You and keep him in this intimate union always.
O Mary, Immaculate Conception, Mother of Jesus and Mother of priests, pray and intercede for [Fr. E]. Amen.

For what it’s worth, I updated the “About” section to include my (not so sensational) “conversion story”. Or at least the beginning of it. Enjoy.

Understanding the Sacraments

It’s unfortunate that our (human) understanding of the Sacraments of the Catholic Church has morphed so far from what the Church teaches. The great crisis of faith, why so many are fallen away Catholics, is because no one understands (properly) the Faith.

Many times in my experience with Religious Education and/or apologetics I hear people speak of the great Sacrament of Confirmation as being “one’s personal acceptance of the faith in which they were raised” (i.e., a teenager finally embraces Catholicism as his religion). While that sounds nice, it’s simply not true. The Sacraments are not dependent upon our understanding, they are entirely dependent upon God’s grace. Confirmation is about receiving the GIFTS of the HOLY SPIRIT. Not personal conversion.

Don’t get me wrong. Personal conversion is a wonderful necessity, but it needn’t precede the Sacraments. In fact, waiting on such a conversion could be a means of unnecessarily prolonging the reception of the Sacrament; when, the Sacrament is designed precisely to pour grace into the soul (a necessary precursor to conversion). Especially in our time, when the faith is constantly attacked on all sides, young Catholics NEED the graces of Confirmation (especially those wonderful gifts of the Holy Spirit) to guide and aide their faith and protect it from the world.

New Project

Sometimes people get a bad reputation for being unwaivering in conviction.

After a bit of studying (of which more is also needed), I am of the opinion that Fr. Leonard Feeney has an unfair reputation. Fr. Feeney was excommunicated, yes, BUT (and that’s a BIG “but”) Fr. Feeney was reconciled to the Church WITHOUT having to recant his position on the doctrine of Extra Eccelesiam Nulla Salus. This discovery has left a large nagging in my conscience that cannot be quieted except but to further study what Fr. Feeney really said (and his followers, in good standing with the Church, still maintain) rather than only listening to his critics.

I am forced to admit thus far that Fr. Feeney is correct about EENS. It makes so much more sense now, and my attachment to the Sacraments of the Church finds good company among Fr. Feeney’s explanations of the doctrine. I have also recognized that Fr. Feeney was a prophet of sorts. I can only imagine what Fr. Feeney would’ve had to say about the scandal at Notre [Sh]ame… Fr. Feeney saw the decline in Catholic identity at Harvard and spoke out relentlessly against the loss of the Faith. Fr. Feeney was not contending in a battle of wits to be “right”. Fr. Feeney was contending in a battle for souls to be saved. His harsh words and unapologetic convictions are evidence of his love for souls, not pride of mind.

But I title this a “new project” because it involves further, deeper study into the matter in a very academic manner. I have Conciliar texts to read (Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II), St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, and other Magisterial texts, etc. and I am very grateful for having already come across Robert Sungenis’ How Can I Get to Heaven? because it gives one of the best (and most concise) overviews of the Church’s teaching on Salvation (and justification) from a solidly biblical perspective, which is the necessary prerequisite for understanding Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.

I am open to suggestions/comments/questions on this sensitive, but very necessary topic.

Why I Attend the Traditional Latin Mass

I was asked the other day for my reason(s) for attending the Tridentine liturgy instead of the Novus Ordo, so here is my reply, which I tried to keep short (but hopefully did not sacrifice clarity for the sake of brevity).

Basically, I started going to the TLM because I wanted to avoid liturgical abuses, and because the celebration of the Novus Ordo that I had experienced did not match up with my reading of the documents of the Second Vatican Council (especially Sacrosantum Concilium), and the documents regarding the liturgy that followed. I was frustrated by needless ad-libbing and what I would describe as a loss of the idea/sense of the sacred; my experience of the Novus Ordo seemed too casual and I could not connect such an experience with the Church’s bold teaching on the Eucharist. I was (and still am) a firm believer that the celebration of the liturgy affects the life of the Church… or as Fr. Z says, “Save the liturgy, save the world!” http://wdtprs.com/blog/2007/01/save-the-liturgy-save-the-world/

Upon first attending the Tridentine liturgy I was enchanted by the deep sense of mystery and awe. I (admittedly) was also completely lost, and gave up trying to follow along in the missal; but in doing so I realized a few things: while I think language is important (and Latin is more properly suited to the liturgy)… the prayers and the language of the Mass are less important than the action of the Mass (indeed, “liturgy” is defined as a “work”) and I think this emphasis on action is highlighted in the TLM. I had no idea what the priest was saying, but I knew what he was doing. There is a kind of continuity and universality present in the TLM that is much harder to find in the current celebration of the Novus Ordo (especially since Novus Ordo Masses, unfortunately, tend to vary from parish to parish and from priest to priest). Active participation has an entirely deeper meaning… I once probably would’ve suggested that active participation meant something like “being involved” in some vague sense: joining the dialogue, exercising some quasi-clerical role, etc. But I now see that active participation—in its highest form—is the reception of the Eucharist. We actively participate in the Mass by joining ourselves to the action of the Sacrifice on the altar.

So while I started out merely going to the Tridentine liturgy to avoid liturgical abuses, I keep going because the Tridentine liturgy is something worth preserving and, as it now stands, seems to be a better safeguard of the Faith. I don’t reject the Novus Ordo… and in some ways, the Tridentine liturgy has given me a better appreciation of what the Council was trying to accomplish, and so I continue to pray for a “reform of the reform” as our Holy Father as often called for.

Lenten Disciplines

During those especially holy penitential seasons of the Church’s liturgical year (namely, Advent and Lent) I try and limit my reading to spiritual works. Though I like the classics, there is something about the Lenten season which demands one’s whole person be engaged– this, I think, is really the meaning behind the Lenten tradition of “giving up” something for Lent. The deprivation will force us to seek something to fill its place and the goal is to find an activity that builds virtue and focuses our attention on the great gift of Redemption in Christ.

This Lenten season my goal is to posses a better understanding of grace. Though I graduated with a degree in Theology, grace is one of those subjects that one could spend a lifetime cultivating and deepening in knowledge. I admit that I have a very basic and elementary understanding of grace that extends only so far; however, I think grace needs more attention in theological studies. How else are we to cling to the authentic teachings of the Magisterium? (not to mention enter into dialogue with those who seek to undermine the Catholic Church by pretending that grace is not an all-important element of Catholicism.) Now that I am free (i.e., graduated and still jobless), I plan to devote much of my reading this Lenten season to grace.

Because I have some form of attention deficit disorder when it comes to reading– I pick up one book, read several chapters or perhaps a vast majority of it and then the next day pick up a completely different book and do the same thing, etc. and so on, so that by the time I come back to finish the first book, I have to re-read and skim parts of it to recall those intimate details I need to enter back into the mindset of the author– I chose two books for my study on grace: Fr. John Hardon’s (SJ) History and Theology of Grace: The Catholic Teaching of Divine Grace and Robert Sungenis’ How Can I Get to Heaven? The Bible’s Teaching on Salvation Made Easy to Understand. Both seem to be worthy works up to the task. (Note that I will also make recourse to the Sacred Scriptures, the Catechism, and any other reference which either book might make reference to that would help round out my understanding… probably another aspect that adds to my Reading-ADD of sorts).

Other Lenten reads I recommend:

The Gospel According to Mark- Yes, the Scriptures themselves are a great Lenten read, and I think Mark lends itself well because of its focus on the passion of Christ. Everything points towards the Cross (and the confession of the centurion).

The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ (St. Alphonsus Liguori)- This is what Lent is all about. (and St. Alphonsus Liguori rocks!)

Frequent Confession: It’s Place in the Spiritual Life (Fr. Benedict Baur)- A good read to remember even after the season of Lent is over… You’ll look at Confession in a whole new light.

Heliotropium (Fr. Jeremias Drexelius)- Talks about conformity of the will to God (like the flower (gentle Christian) that turns itself towards the Sun (Son)). I think it’s a good Lenten read because when we examine where we need to conform our will to the Lord’s Will, it demands some serious sacrifice. It’ll give you good ideas to harp on for Lent the next year!

Christ: the Life of the Soul (Bl. Columba Marmion)- a great work on the spiritual life that’s been praised by all sorts of Popes and theologians… very rooted in the Bible, the Liturgy, and the writings of the Saints. Very Christocentric throughout (I think even non-Catholic Christians would love it).

The Soul Sanctified (Anonymous)- Lots (i.e., 90 to be exact) of small meditations– just a few pages in length– on a variety of topics pertaining to Christan faith and life. Each meditation is unto itself, so you can pick and choose which topic interests you  in whichever order you choose. It’s handy to just carry around and use whenever you have a few moments to turn your thoughts to God.

There are numerous other good reads for Lent, but there is my two cents for this Lent. Happy reading and may you have a most dolorous Lent!