My toddler daughter is the busiest person that I have ever
met. Not only is she busy, but she has an agenda for every day. She wakes up
and briefs us on her morning plan. “Yogurt! Juice! Me! Candy…after…later.”
And, after clarifying that she can not actually eat candy for breakfast, we set
out to try and keep up with her for the next twelve hours.
Recently, we went to daily Mass at our beloved seminary. My strategy for managing Mass with toddlers has always been to set a realistic goal for how long we can stay in the pew, and then retreating to the vestibule. My current toddler’s goal is to make it to the homily, and then we can leave the pew and she can move around in the back of the church. During this particular Mass, we made it to our goal (or at least close to our goal) of the homily, and then we went to the back of the chapel. I set her down and she took off running. She ran in circles around me. I was feeling tired and anxious that morning, so I decided to just sit on the floor and watch her. Because it was a challenging morning, I decided to offer up the day’s sacrifices and sufferings to Jesus, with the help of Mary. I prayed, placing my offering in her hands, and asking her to help me to give it to her Son.
My husband and I prayed the Marian Consecration several years ago (Louis de Montfort’s writings were a bit overwhelming for me, but I highly recommend this book which breaks down the devotion into manageable steps) but I find that it is a devotion that I am still growing into. I am always looking for ways to better connect with and understand my relationship to Mary.
While I was praying this prayer, my toddler was running laps in the vestibule of the seminary chapel. She would run to the holy water dispensary, dip her little fingers in the (dry) font, and then run back to me to pretend to smear holy water on my face. When she tired of that, she turned to me and instructed, “Mommy, close eyes!” When I obeyed, she took off running back to the holy water font, then would run back to me. When I heard the pitter-patter of her little steps, I would make sure that my eyes were open. Because, at the end of her running that lap, she would throw herself into my arms.
I have never had a toddler as active as this one, and so I have never experienced such a small child capable of forcefully throwing herself into my arms. She did it repeatedly, and before each time she would instruct me, “Mommy, close eyes!” Of course, I didn’t keep them closed, but I was amused by her implicit trust in my ability to catch her (even with my eyes closed).
As she threw herself in my arms, over and over again, there
was no fear on her face. It wasn’t difficult for her to trust me. She didn’t
doubt that I loved her and longed to hold her. She knew, each time, that her
mother would catch her, embrace her, and love her. She felt completely safe and
secure in this knowledge.
And suddenly, I could see — that was exactly what I was doing in my prayer of entrusting my sufferings to Mary. I was running to her, flinging myself into her arms, and trusting that not only would she catch me, but she would be delighted to do so.
Marian consecration (and Marian devotion, in general) is one
that both Catholics and non-Catholics struggle to understand. I know that I
have struggled with it over the years. I love Mary, but how much devotion is too much devotion? Is it possible to
love Mary too much? I once asked a
priest friend a variation of this question, and he answered, “You can never possibly
love her more than Jesus did.”
Little Jesus loved his mother the way that my toddler loves
me. In fact, he probably played the very same game that my little girl and I were
playing the other day. He probably told Mary to close her eyes, and then barreled
into her arms with a running leap. He trusted her to catch him, to hold him,
and to receive him with love.
Marian consecration isn’t a divergence from our love for Jesus. Marian consecration is nothing less than imitation of the toddler Jesus, who threw himself into her arms over and over again. In this beautiful devotional practice, he invites us to share in the love and comfort of his own mother, knowing that she will always lead us back to him.