by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Topeka — For five weeks prior to the solemnity of the Annunciation, it was not uncommon to see copies of Father Michael Gaitley’s book, “33 Days to Morning Glory,” being carried to Mass and adoration chapels everywhere throughout the archdiocese.
The book is a personal retreat that guides readers toward a day of Marian consecration using the teaching of four great Marian saints.
Hundreds of Catholics throughout the archdiocese accepted Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s invitation to read Father Michael’s book and consecrate themselves to Jesus through Mary on the solemnity of the Annunciation.
More than 500 Catholics in Topeka alone completed the retreat, and the Mass of consecration at Most Pure Heart of Mary on April 8 was packed.
In his homily, the archbishop reflected on the lives and teachings of each of the Marian saints in the book.
He talked about St. Louis de Montfort’s theme of baptism, reflecting on the miracle of our own baptism remembered during this Easter season.
“As the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus through the waters of baptism,” he said, “Mary always leads us to her Son.”
He spoke of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s desire to give glory to God with and through Mary, and his longing to draw others to Jesus through Mary.
“He wanted to mobilize the whole world to give God this glory,” he said.
The archbishop reminded the congregation of the call to all lay Catholics to evangelize.
“We are called to be driven to bring others to Jesus through Mary,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann then reflected on the teachings of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her desire to unite with Mary so she could love Jesus.
“We see the fruit of her striving to be in an intimate union with Mary. And, through Mary, with Jesus,” he said.
He encouraged everyone to imitate Mother Teresa’s practice of a daily examination of conscience.
Finally, the archbishop reflected on the teachings of Blessed John Paul II.
He recalled how the pope often pondered the moment on Calvary when Jesus said to the disciple John, “Behold, your mother.”
He said Pope John Paul especially loved the sentence, “From that hour, the disciple took her into his own home.”
The archbishop told the congregation that “when we take Mary into our home, it inevitably brings us to the cross of Jesus.”
He called the pierced heart of Jesus the “fountain of mercy” and said, “Mary wants us to experience the merciful and unconditional love of her Son.”
Reflecting on the title of Father Gaitley’s book, the archbishop said the Marian consecration would bring about a new dawn in each person.
“A brand-new morning in one’s spiritual journey, a new vitality and freshness to all our lives as disciples to the Lord,” he said.
“May each of us be able to say with St. Paul,” the archbishop concluded, “that ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’”