by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Catholics believe that one avenue to a closer relationship with Jesus is through his mother.
That’s why Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann has been inviting everyone in the archdiocese to join him on a journey that will start on March 6 and will be guided by Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, through his book “33 Days to Morning Glory.”
Based on St. Louis de Montfort’s classic work “True Devotion to Mary,” Father Michael’s book will lead participants on a personal retreat as they prepare to make a total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
The consecration will take place April 8, the feast of the Annunciation.
“As you begin the consecration, it starts to create an awareness of a person blessed by God who can intercede for you,” said St. Michael the Archangel, Leawood, parishioner Rich Henry, who was consecrated last year.
“If you want a relationship with Jesus, use Mary,” he continued. “That’s why she’s there.
“And it’s all about grace; we don’t do this on our own.”
Immaculate Conception, St. Marys, parishioner Mary Ellen Reese, who completed de Monfort’s preparation to consecration in 2000, plans to reconsecrate using the new book.
“I was thrilled when the archbishop said he wanted to promote this,” she said. “The graces that come from doing this are going to transform our archdiocese.
“I believe that with all my heart.”
“33 Days to Morning Glory” is written in a less complex format than de Montfort’s work from centuries ago.
“I was leafing through Father Gaitley’s book,” said Reese, “and I understand that he is trying to help people find a way to complete this in a simplified manner.”
Simple yet enlightening, Father Michael uses the teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, Blessed John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa and St. Maximilian Kolbe to guide his readers.
Each week focuses on one of these holy people and how that person’s devotion to Mary enriched and strengthened his or her faith.
“I had done [de Montfort’s] consecration,” said Henry, “and the great thing about this one is it’s more user- friendly.”
The book is broken down into 33 short daily readings that conclude with a thought to meditate on during the day.
“Each section builds on the other one,” said Henry. “And by the time you get to the end of it, you really have a good feel for how we are connected to Jesus through Mary, and how other saints view this.
“In fact, for John Paul, it was a life-changing event in his vocation.”
Indeed, the process of consecration can be life-changing: As they retreat each day into the arms of Mary, participants come to understand her role in salvation history, her love for them, and her role in their life as intercessor, mediatrix of grace and conduit to Jesus.
When Reese began her journey to consecration 13 years ago, she had four children at home and the responsibility of caring for her mother.
“I was really busy,” she said. “I didn’t see how I had time.
“But I was so taken in by the idea of getting the help I needed to handle all this, that I just made the time.”
In today’s too-busy world, a 33-day commitment to anything may seem overwhelming.
But “33 Days to Morning Glory” allows retreatants to slow down and look to their Mother in heaven as a source of help for all that they want to accomplish.
Henry said that through his consecration, he learned to put his concerns in the care of Mary.
“If I just give my intentions to her and let her manage them,” he said, “that saves a lot of work for me.
“So selfishly I say, ‘Mary, you take it all.’”
The day of consecration calls for participants to make a confession, attend Mass and receive holy Communion.
It also encourages them to do something to honor Mary.
Reese went through the process with a group and recommends others do the same.
“We all had a red rose,” she said, remembering her day of consecration. “We put them in a vase and set it before the image of the Immaculate Conception.
“Afterwards, our friend had prepared a feast and we all were just glowing.
“I felt life — from inside and out. It was one of the most magnificent spiritual experiences ever.”
Many who have completed the consecration attest that it has amazing graces attached to it.
“Right after you do this consecration,” said Henry, “something generally happens that’s unusual.
“There’s a grace that comes — a wisdom, a knowledge or an awareness of something.”
The thought of people throughout the archdiocese experiencing this grace is an exciting prospect.
“If we can somehow lead groups of people to this total consecration,” said Reese, “I believe we’re going to move spiritual mountains throughout the archdiocese.”
‘33 Days to Morning Glory’ Marian Retreat
Hosted by St. Michael’s Men’s Group and led by Rich Henry, the retreat will be held at St. Michael the Archangel Parish from 7:15-8:45 a.m., on six consecutive Monday mornings, beginning March 4. There is no cost for the retreat. Materials available for purchase are the book ($15) and a workbook ($20).
To register, email Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org.