Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. As Pope Paul VI notes in his encyclical, Marialis Cultus, this feast “is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother.” And so, as we begin the new calendar year, we look to Mary.
It is easy to grow complacent in our relationship with the Blessed Mother; to pray mindlessly and not actively strive to grow closer to her and Jesus. So, let’s take a moment to look at different ways—some which may be new to us—in which we can further deepen our devotion to Mary.
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Pray the Rosary.
Time after time, when Mary appears in apparitions, she has a consistent request: Pray the Rosary. It’s easy to make excuses for not praying the Rosary—we have work, families to care for, and sometimes we just don’t feel like praying—but this prayer is very important. In fact, St. Josemaria Escriva states: “The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”So, this year, why not commit to praying the Rosary? If you can’t manage a whole Rosary, even one decade is an amazing way to offer your day to God and ask Mary for her intercession.
Meditate on the virtues of Mary.
St. Louis de Montfort, in his Preparation for Total Consecration, mentions ten particular virtues of Mary: Ardent charity, profound humility, universal mortification, continual mental prayer, blind obedience, divine wisdom, surpassing purity, angelic sweetness, lively faith, and heroic patience. During each month, contemplate one of the virtues in particular—or, if you want more of a short-term project, meditate on a different virtue each week. In doing this, we can think about how Mary lived virtuously, and how we can develop habits in our lives to practice those virtues as well.
Become familiar with the approved Marian apparitions.
Many people may know about Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, or Our Lady of Fatima, but what about Our Lady of Good Help, which refers to Mary's appearance in Wisconsin? Or Our Lady of Kibeho, the title given to Mary when she appeared in Rwanda just a few decades ago? Discover the different Marian apparitions (especially those you do not know much about), and if you’re able, make a pilgrimage to one of the apparition sites.
Consecrate yourself to Mary.
In True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, St. Louis de Montfort writes that, “of all devotions, that which most consecrates and conforms the soul to our Lord is devotion to His holy Mother…the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it is consecrated to Jesus Christ.” Many saints consecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary; one of the most famous, perhaps, being St. John Paul II. While there is a variety of methods of preparing oneself for consecration, two very accessible and well-known resources are: Preparation for Total Consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort and 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-it-Yourself Retreat, by Fr. Michael Gaitley.
Learn about the devotion of veiling at Mass.
For centuries, women covered their heads when in the presence of the Eucharist. Around the time of the Second Vatican Council, this practice began to subside, and the requirement of headcovering was lifted. However, in recent years, this practice has been growing. While all women have different reasons behind their headcoverings, some women connect this practice with a Marian devotion. In fact, “Wear a Veil to Mass Day” takes place on December 8 each year, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Even if you have no desire to wear a veil, by learning more about this devotion, you may be able to better understand and respect the women who do choose to veil in church.
Participate in the First Saturdays devotion.
In 1925, Our Lady of Fatima revealed the devotion of the Five First Saturdays to Lucia dos Santos. This devotion is done for five consecutive months, in reparation for the offenses done to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. To participate in this devotion, the faithful should go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, pray the Rosary and spend fifteen minutes meditating on one or more of the mysteries of the Rosary. Learn more about the Five First Saturdays.
Read about Mary.
If we want to know Mary better, we should learn about her. There is a wealth of books, articles, prayers, and devotions about the Blessed Mother. We can learn about Our Lady of Sorrows and pray the accompanying chaplet. We can read spiritual classics on Mary, like World’s First Love, by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, or True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, by St. Louis de Montfort. We can read one of the many papal encyclicals on Mary, like Redemptoris Mater, by St. John Paul II. There is so much amazing material out there, but don’t feel like you have to read everything at once. Begin by picking just one small book or document. One easy-to-read, practical, and insightful book is Under the Mantle, by Fr. Donald Calloway.
There are so many ways to cultivate Marian devotion; these few suggestions do not cover the wide range of practices and information! As we learn about different ways to grow in Marian devotion, it can be so easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. So, instead of thinking that you have to do everything, try to just pick one or two tangible ways in which you can actively seek to grow closer to Mary. Even the smallest “baby steps” that we take in growing closer to Mary will bear fruit.
What are other ways in which can we bring Mary into our lives this year?
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller
About the Author
A bibliophile, wife, mother of young children, and lover of the Liturgy, AnneMarie Miller enjoys exploring the manifold—and quirky—ways in which God speaks. She can often be found reading books to her kids, burrowing her toes in the red Oklahoma dirt, or sipping black coffee. Her reflections on Catholicism, literature, and hope can be found on her blog, Sacrifice of Love.