This Sunday, July 13th, we begin our spiritual journey of 33 days in preparation for our consecration to Jesus through Mary. So many people throughout our diocese have shared with me their joyful anticipation of these days when we will prepare as individuals and communities to make the Marian consecration on August 15th. I think it is a beautiful thing that we will be meditating on the same spiritual reflections during these 33 days, creating a real “spiritual communion” among us. We will together be guided by the lives and examples of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II.
You may wish to view the audio-visual introduction that I have prepared for the beginning of the 33 Days. It can be found on our diocesan website’s homepage.
Why does Father Gaitley (whose book we are using) speak of the 33 days until our Marian consecration as 33 Days to MORNING GLORY? He explains on page 20: I chose this part of the title (Morning Glory) because I think it best captures what Marian consecration is all about: A new way of life in Christ. The act of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new morning in one’s spiritual journey. It’s a fresh start, and it changes everything. Father Gaitley then goes on to explain how making his own consecration to Mary was an experience of a gloriously new morning in his own spiritual journey.
My hope for the Marian consecration we will make is precisely this: a new impetus for all of us in our journey of faith. From my own experience, our mother Mary truly does help us grow in Christ and to live more fully our baptismal promises. As Father Gaitley writes: The whole goal of true devotion to Mary is our ongoing, post-baptismal transformation in Christ (page 109).
In the second week of our 33 days of preparation, we will be guided by the wisdom of a great apostle of Marian consecration, Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe. You probably know about his heroic death as a “martyr of charity” in Auschwitz. While he was imprisoned in Auschwitz, at the end of July 1941, three prisoners escaped the concentration camp. The Nazi SS picked ten men to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the ten cried out for them to spare his life since he had a wife and children who needed him. Father Kolbe stepped forward and asked that they take him in place of the man who had cried out. And so they did.
Father Kolbe led the other condemned prisoners in prayer and songs as they lay starving in an underground bunker. He encouraged them in faith. After two weeks, they were all dead, except for Father Kolbe. The guards then gave him a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Witnesses say he died praying the Hail Mary. His body was cremated the next day, August 15th, 1941, the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption.
In Auschwitz, a place of unspeakable hatred and evil, Father Kolbe brought goodness and love. He made himself like Christ by laying down his life for a brother. Throughout his life and to the very end, Father Kolbe experienced help and inspiration from Mary, whom he affectionately called “the Immaculate.” He had a lifetime devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and let himself be led by her hand. He established little “cities of the Immaculate” in Poland and Japan. These were centers of great apostolic and missionary work, under the banner of the Immaculate Conception.
Like Father Kolbe, we can find in Mary Immaculate a support in difficult times and a sure guide to holiness. We allow ourselves, like Father Kolbe, to be led to Jesus by the hand of Mary. The day before we make our consecration, August 14th, is the feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. It is the day he was killed by that lethal injection. We know that his life was not a defeat. His death was a victory, a triumph of love over hate, of grace over sin.
My brothers and sisters, Saint Maximilian Kolbe teaches us that when we welcome Mary into our lives, she brings us to a deeper knowledge and love of the Gospel. And when we consecrate ourselves to her, we become instruments of divine love and mercy in her hands. So let’s let Mary take us by the hand and lead us on our pilgrim way to heaven!
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, pray for us! O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
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