by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
“It was the end of the first semester of my freshman year in college. Earlier that semester, a friend had given me a copy of St. Louis de Montfort’s book, “True Devotion to Mary.” When I saw the words on the back cover, declaring that it presents a short, easy, secure, and perfect way to become a saint, I was sold. I thought to myself, ‘Hey, this is the kind of way I need!’”
Father Michael E. Gaitley makes this confession in the introduction to his book, entitled “Thirty-Three Days to Morning Glory.” Father Gaitley is a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, founded by St. Louis de Montfort, who originated the method for total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort was a gifted and energetic preacher. He spent a good portion of his priestly ministry giving parish missions. God used his talents as a preacher to inspire a renewal of faith in the hearts of many who had grown tepid in the practice of their Catholicism. St. Louis de Montfort, by his preaching, motivated many to consecrate their lives to Jesus through Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort authored what has become a classic on Marian spirituality, “True Devotion to Mary.” In this book, St. Louis predicted that his manuscript would disappear for many years, but eventually would be rediscovered and become an inspiration to an army of great saints. Both of these prophecies proved to be true.
The unpublished manuscript for “True Devotion to Mary” was lost for more than 100 years. Though he only lived 43 years (1673-1716) and was just a priest for 16 years, St. Louis de Montfort’s writings powerfully influenced several popes, e.g., Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XII, and John Paul II. Blessed John Paul described his reading of “True Devotion to Mary” as a turning point in his life. The importance of the influence of St. Louis de Montfort on Pope John Paul II was evidenced by the fact that the pope’s motto, “Totus Tuus” — “Totally Yours” — was inspired by “True Devotion to Mary.”
St. Louis was convinced that Mary’s role, as the spiritual mother of all the disciples of Jesus, was to help her children to become saints. St. Louis knew that Mary always leads others to her son Jesus. Thus, St. Louis mapped out a method for individuals to develop a close spiritual relationship with Mary. The total consecration proposed by St. Louis de Montfort is to Jesus, but through Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort developed a 33-day retreat to prepare a person spiritually to make this total consecration to Jesus through his mother. Father Gaitley adapted St. Louis de Montfort’s methodology in an effort to make it more accessible to Catholics today. For the 33- day self-administered retreat, Father Gaitley provides daily meditations drawn not only from St. Louis de Montfort, but also from St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed John Paul II.
This past summer, the Apostles of the Interior Life invited me to use Father Gaitley’s book to prepare to make the total consecration to Jesus through Mary on Aug. 22, the feast of the Queenship of Mary. St. Louis de Montfort recommended, if possible, that the consecration be made on a Marian feast.
As part of the Year of Faith, I am inviting Catholics throughout the Archdiocese to join me in making or renewing this total consecration to Jesus through Mary. The feast I propose for the day of consecration is the Annunciation, which is celebrated this year on Mon., April 8. Normally, the solemnity of the Annunciation is observed on March 25, precisely nine months before Christmas. However, this year, March 25 is the Monday of Holy Week. Thus, the feast is transferred to the first day after the celebration of the Octave of Easter. Our 33 days of prayerful preparation will, therefore, begin on Wed., March 6.
Father Gaitley entitled his book, “Thirty-Three Days to Morning Glory,” because he is convinced that the total consecration to Jesus through Mary is a life-changing experience. Indeed, this Marian consecration can bring us to a whole new level in our spiritual life. Recently, some friends from St. Louis wrote to tell me what a powerful impact Father Gaitley’s book and the total consecration to Jesus through Mary had upon their lives.
To join me in these 33 days of prayer, you will need to acquire a copy of Father Gaitley’s book. While it can easily be ordered online, I encourage you to patronize one of our local Catholic bookstores: Trinity House, 7287 W. 97th St., Overland Park, (913) 652-0080; Soul Supply and Hardware, 704 Cherokee St., Leavenworth, (913) 682-6868; Touch of Heaven, 119 S.E. 18th St., Topeka, (785) 232-2543; Lumena Books, 2201 W. 25th St., Suite G, Lawrence, (785) 842-1338; or The I. Donnelly Company, 6601 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 363- 2823. These days, it is good in general to support small businesses, but particularly to patronize these or other specifically Catholic enterprises.
If you have never had a very strong Marian devotion before, this will be a wonderful opportunity to develop a beautiful friendship with Our Blessed Mother. If devotion to Mary is already an important part of your spiritual life, this will be an opportunity to renew and deepen friendship with Our Lady.
I will be making this renewal of my own total consecration to Jesus through Mary for the intention for Our Lord’s continued blessing upon the Faith Initiative in the Archdiocese. I encourage you also to select a personal intention for your Marian consecration. I am convinced that the total consecration to Jesus through Mary is one of the best ways in which we can love, learn and live our Catholic faith during this special Year of Faith.