Every year since I've been a Catholic (five years and counting!), I've really loved coming up with different challenges for Lent. One year I gave up eating any meat, last year I read the bible for 30 minutes straight each day no matter what, you get the picture . . . Over the years I've come to realize that it's not just how much we give up or what extra stuff we do, but it’s about the quality of your sacrifice and what you decide to do.
How about giving up some of your time and using it for prayer? In fact, let me make the ultimate suggestion . . .
To Jesus Through Mary
It's no secret that saints in every age have loved Mary, but have you ever stopped to think about why? Have you ever wished you had the perfect Mom? Exactly!
Now in the gospel of St. John we read the following:
'When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏWoman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏBehold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home' (John 19:26-27).
Who is the disciple that Jesus loved? Well, in the gospel it's John, but every disciple of Jesus is really 'the disciple Jesus loved' since He loves every one of us, including you and me! Jesus has given Mary to us to be our mother also, and who could be better to get to know than our mom? And who better to lead us to Jesus than the woman who lived with Him for 30 years?
If there's anything that we can do to get to know Mary better, we should do it. She's God's most perfect creation, His masterpiece … no one compares. And she's really looking forward to getting to know you better too.
Total Consecration to Mary
Now, if you've never heard of the Total Consecration, let me fill you in. St. Louis Marie de Montfort was a priest who lived about 300 years ago in France, and is well known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Advocating daily recitation of the rosary and loving devotion to Our Lady, he wrote a book combining passages from Sacred Scripture, and various other classic Catholic devotions and prayers. This little devotional book is what we now commonly call The Preparation for Total Consecration According to St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and it could be just the thing that you've been looking for.
The devotion lasts 33 days (one for each year of Jesus' life) and has four different sections … let's take a quick flyover so we can see what we're looking at!
- Spirit of the World and Examination of Conscience
The first section focuses on the spirit of the world and examination of conscience. The spirit of the world is just another way of saying 'the things that the rest of the world thinks are important,' and an examination of conscience is simply a realistic look at who you are on the inside.
In order to know who you want to be and where you want to go, you have to realize who you are and where you're coming from. The world is full of sin and temptation that we have to cut ourselves off from. A lot of the world is opposed to Jesus and the sooner we realize it, the better.
- Knowledge of Ourselves
The second section focuses in on knowledge of ourselves, more specifically on how sin has affected each and every one of us, and that Jesus wants to free us from it! What's the most sure way to do this? By letting Mary be our model.
- Knowledge of Mary
The third section focuses on knowledge of Mary, and striving to attain all the virtues that she possessed. St. Louis gives the example of Mary as a perfect mold that we can strive to be more and more like, becoming more perfect in the process.
- Knowledge of Jesus Christ
The final section is coming to knowledge of Jesus Christ, both in the great mystery of the Incarnation and in the mysteries of His life on earth.
Along the way you'll find different prayers, different passages of scripture, and different ideas to think about for the rest of the day. At the very end you'll make your consecration to Jesus through Mary, and you'll be done!
What better way to prepare for Easter than to get to know Jesus and His mother? I would suggest starting the consecration on Ash Wednesday so that you'll finish up just in time to make Holy Week something special this year.
Bonus: JPII Loved It.
One final note. If you're still not convinced or if you need one more incentive to take up this devotion, here's what Blessed John Paul II had to say about St. Louis' work:
'Reading this book (St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary) was to be a turning point in my life . . . This Marian devotion . . . has since remained a part of me. It is an integral part of my interior life and of my spiritual theology.'
So there you have it. If it's good enough for the pope, it just might do you some good!