Statue of Our Lady from
Our Lady of Victories, Pascagoula, MS
I heard Fr. John Randall, a pioneer in the Charismatic Renewal of happy memory, share these words many years ago:
“I consecrated myself to Our Lady as a very young person. Then, as life moved on, I forgot about it. However, Mary never forgot about it. She never forgets!”
Recently, I was thinking that my own experience with Our Lady was somewhat similar – not exactly the same – but similar. Let me share a bit about my journey with Mary.
“I DEDICATED YOU TO THE BLESSED MOTHER”
My Aunt Thelma, my father’s older sister, was my godmother. She never tired of telling me how she took me as an infant on the day of my baptism and carried me up to the main altar in Our Lady of Victories Church, my home parish. In those days, a large statue of Our Blessed Lady stood above the main altar…the very one pictured here. My aunt would relate how she dedicated me to Our Lady in a special way. I admit that I never gave it a great deal of thought, but I heard the story often enough that it stuck with me.
In my elementary school days, I was taught by the Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament. I remember a great emphasis on the Rosary and other devotions to the Blessed Mother. We were thoroughly instructed about the Fatima apparitions and messages (wondering what the third secret could possibly be!). Along with First Friday devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we were encouraged to make the First Saturdays in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our parish had weekly prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and May Devotions every night during May. I grew up in an “atmosphere” in which I lived and breathed devotion to Our Lady. So much so, in fact, that I tended, sadly, to take it all for granted.
My high school and college years were spent in the seminary, followed by post-graduate studies in theology and work toward a doctorate in religion. There was, obviously, a great emphasis on academic formation – much reading, study, research, writing papers, etc. Of course, at the same time there was also very valuable liturgical and spiritual formation included as well. The temptation in the academic study of theology, of course, is that the Lord Jesus and Our Lady can tend to become “abstractions” rather than living persons in one’s life. And one of the effects of Vatican II, now widely admitted, was a general “cooling” of Marian devotion in the Church at large. Perhaps this was unintended, but there is little doubt that it happened.
CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
My first few years after being baptized in the Holy Spirit – 1968 into the early 1970s – I think I was still influenced by what I would call the “post-Vatican II effect” in my Marian devotion. It may have waned or cooled somewhat, but never went away, thank God. I continued to pray the Rosary, though sometimes it was rather “hit and miss.”
WHAT CHANGED THINGS?
I would say that three things changed, or better… three men of God helped change me!
I worked with Fr. Harold Cohen, SJ, from 1970 until 2001 when the Lord called him. Fr. Cohen had a very strong Marian devotion and emphasized consecration to Our Lady long before it became as popular as it is today. I saw a Benedictine monk, Fr. Andrew Becnel, from 1984 to 1994 for spiritual direction. Fr. Andrew was steeped in the so-called “French school” of spirituality and had a deep, filial love for our Blessed Lady. He taught me two prayers to Our Lady and told me to say them every day, which I continue doing to this day. St. John Paul II was elected pope in 1978. I was blessed to have met him twice. His motto was “Totus Tuus, Maria” – All Yours, Mary. I think it is fair to say that he reversed the “post-Vatican II effect” regarding Mary – not only for me but for the whole Church.
OTHER GAME-CHANGERS FOR ME
In 1979 I used Fr. Cohen’s little Chevette for a week when he was away on a trip. It had a cassette tape deck (which my old car didn’t have!) and I put in a tape by Fr. Francis Martin on Our Lady in Scripture. That teaching had a profound effect on me. It put my relationship with Our Lady into fast-forward! It was indeed a game-changer!
I would also have to say that my wife Patti’s experiences and relationship with Mary have also deeply affected and influenced my own relationship with Our Lady. We made the De Montfort Consecration together and renewed our consecration to Mary on August 14, 1990, vigil of the Assumption at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Shrine in New Orleans. In truth, Our Lady has always been an integral part of our marriage and family and continues to be so ever more intensely.
SHE NEVER FORGETS!
So I can identify with Fr. John Randall’s observation, that once we entrust ourselves to Our Lady, we may forget, ignore, or neglect that – but she never forgets! Like any good mother, Mary is constant in her loving concern and protection for all her children against the enemy of our salvation. Let us always pray, “Show me that you are my mother.” And, as Msgr. Robert Guste was fond of reciting, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
The Memorare, attributed to St. Bernard, is a powerful prayer to Mary. Click here for a Prayer Card.