As I've been thinking about how to get grounded in my Catholic faith, I've become very interested in learning more about the traditional aspects- why did people believe what they did for so long & why has this changed in modern times? Were they just living a fairy tale? Have we moderns finally woken up & joined the real world? Or have we lost something valuable? I'm not about to run off to buy a chapel veil & memorize the Mass in Latin, but one of my goals this summer has been to get to know Mary better. On July 13th, I began a book called “Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary, according to St. Louis De Montfort by Fr. Hugh Gillespie, SMM. Total Consecration is a 33 day “course” (for lack of a better word) that takes one through 12 days of preparation & 3 consecutive weeks of looking at one's self, the role of Mary & the role of Christ.
Mary & Traditional Catholicism
I can understand why its difficult for many Protestants to grab a hold of Mary as anything more than Mother of Jesus. I certainly never gave her much thought beyond Christmas & Easter. Compared to Abraham, Moses or Jesus Himself, she's a passing character as far as Biblical history is concerned. It seems grossly unnecessary that she should be given the attention Catholics afford her. But in my limited observance, she doesn't appear half as prominent as she used to be. Every church has a statue of her tucked away somewhere, but it seems more a nod to tradition than anything. Ever since Vatican II, many believe the church has sacrificed its heart & soul to try & remain relevant. On a side note, I've yet to hear much about traditional theology such as purgatory, indulgences, or the eternal danger of mortal sin "preached" anywhere but the Catechism. I'm told in reality, these things are archaic & passing away. I've also gathered that many people don't really believe that kind of stuff anymore. I was astonished to learn that a considerable number of Catholics don't even believe in the Real Presence of Christ. As for Mary, she's hardly mentioned except briefly in the Creed or a Eucharistic Prayer (unless of course, its a Holy Day like Christmas or the Assumption, where she gets more specialized attention). Why is Mary important? How can getting to know her reveal anything more about the Source of my salvation? She is mentioned precious little in the scriptures... What can I possibly derive from those crumbs to make my participation in the life of Jesus more substantial?
As a recent convert, I have to admit that Mary is still something of an enigma to me. I don't really hear much about her role in my life in the here & now. When she was on this earth, we're told she was wise & thoughtful. And yes, she was a virgin. Every Christian knows that. But Catholic theology teaches she was also immaculately conceived -without sin- as a grace from God. It teaches she remained a virgin after bearing Jesus & that she was assumed- body & soul- into heaven when she passed on. She didn't actually “die”. Since she was unstained by sin & death is a wage of sin, she just “fell asleep” & was taken to heaven. In heaven, she was crowned as a Queen by virtue of Jesus' kingship & joins her intercessions for us with His before the throne of God. At least, this is how I understand it (Please, any wise Catholics out there, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!).
Consecration Is Biblical
Is consecration to Jesus through Mary biblical or is it some wild idea thought up by Fr. De Montfort a few centuries ago? The common definition of consecration is the act of making or declaring something sacred, to devote one's self to holiness in the service of a deity. Consecration itself is absolutely Biblical. Even Jesus did it (see John 17: 19)... Remember the Nazarites who couldn't cut their hair, get near a dead body or drink the fruit of the vine for as long as their vows stipulated? And what about the Levites? They had some pretty strict rules for serving in the temple. In the Catholic Church, our buildings, priests & rituals are consecrated. At the Mass, the priest consecrates the ordinary bread & wine which become the Holy Eucharist. These things are holy because they've been devoted to the service of God. Even within the spectrum of Protestantism, ministers, worship, the preaching of the word & other such “rituals” are often set apart for God through prayer. What of me, am I not consecrated, made holy & set apart for service to God by virtue of my baptism & confirmation? Aren't these things enough? The Church doesn't require an individual to consecrate themselves in private devotions. Then again, It doesn't discourage such acts either. In a similar way, God didn't require all to become Nazarites or priests. The Catholic church acknowledges that Mary was a human vessel, a dwelling place, a temple, if you will, of the Holy Spirit. She was the first disciple, the first Christian saved by grace, but contrary to popular misconception, she has never been elevated to the status of deity. Hence, consecration to Jesus...