Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stone Walls do not Daunt the Immaculate Heart

Recently I was asked by Father Gordon if I would write a guest post for These Stone Walls. Though Father invited me to write about anything I wanted, he did suggest that I write about my Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and what it has meant for me.

It was reading that Father Gordon and Pornchai had begun and then completed the Consecration that initiated my direct interest in it, and that of many others as I have come to understand.  Soon after my interest was piqued, a conversation I had with my spiritual director, who at the time was in the midst of his own Consecration, was the final impetus I needed.

Now having read Father Gordon's Thanksgiving post on the tapestry that is being woven and has been woven in the life of Pornchai Maximilian Moontri, we see once again how marvelous our God is, and how grace filled his servant Our Blessed Mother Mary is and how that grace flows to us.

But also I saw something in this story I never saw before, that my life too has been a tapestry and I was reminded of the opening lyrics of Carole King's song of that name:
My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view.
The vision is everlasting since it belongs to God, but our view of it is ever changing as we grow closer to Him or further away from him.  And, of course the rich and royal hue is the wonderful threads of gold and royal blue that our God and His Queen Mary weave into our tapestry.

I was raised in a small Catholic family of 2 parents and 2 children in London Ontario. My parents were very Catholic in the context of the Catholic Church in Canada at the time, regular mass and confession, Catholic schools for the kids, Catholic Women's League for Mom, and Knights of Columbus for Dad.

When I was a child in the 50's Saturday night was bath night. My mother supervised my younger sister and I to ensure we were properly cleaned, and that our clothes for Mass on Sunday were set out for us. On Sunday we, as a family, attended Holy Mass. It was my mother who urged me to become an altar boy, and also every day in Lent and Advent we would go to Mass together. My father had served in the war, and was physically handicapped, so though he was present, the head of our home, and an important part of our formation, my mother was the heart of our home, and focused on matters of the heart with us.

It is only recently that I have come to understand how important my mother was in leading me to the Holy Eucharist, to Jesus. But, also importantly she gave me a model of the Blessed Virgin in her mothering of my sister and me. Having an earthly mother who loved me has helped me to see that I have a heavenly mother who loves me even more, and who like my earthly mother wants to clean me up, and dress me appropriately in spiritual and mental apparel to come with her to Her Son Jesus, in the Eucharist, and in personal relationship.

We Christians and even Catholic Christians have such a misunderstanding of the role that Our Heavenly Father has given to Mary in helping us on our journey of salvation.

Recently, I became aware of how authority and power were viewed in biblical times. It seems that the second most powerful person in the kingdom was the mother of the King. Queens tended to outlive their husband Kings, and so as mother of the then King, her son, were respected with special authority of their own. Subjects could petition the Mother of the King for help, and if she accepted their petition she would take them to her son the King and plead their case for and with them. It is said that the King seldom disagreed with His Mother in such matters out of his respect and love for her.

When I realized that I wanted to consecrate myself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus I downloaded books about Marian Consecration written by St. Louis de Montfort, seeking to understand in my mind what I believed my heart was instructing me to do.  St. Louis' True Devotion to Mary is available for download in a PDF format suitable for computer or an iPad or other electronic device here, and his book The Secret of Mary is available here as a PDF.

Father Gordon, Pornchai and their friends used  Fr. Michael Gaitley's book "33 Days to Morning Glory", which is available at your local Catholic bookstore or at Amazon here,   After reading and meditating on the above books by St. Louis, I purchased the Father Gaitley book and set out on a path to Consecration. I chose to do this on my own, and quietly, while Father Gordon and friends did it together.  Doing it is more important than who you do it with.

In my morning prayer time I set aside a part of it to read the book section for each of the 33 days, and contemplate what it said and meant for me. The model for this is really Our Blessed Mother who took all things in and pondered them in her heart, and I am certain that she provided me with the grace to do this, and ponder it as well.

St. Louis called Mary the easiest and surest path to Jesus, and I have come to believe that he was correct. Since I had a personal encounter with Jesus many years ago, I wanted to become holy, to live a life worthy of the calling I knew I had received that day.

But I failed miserably, though I had help as you shall soon see.  About a year after my personal encounter with Jesus my wife, three daughters and I were travelling up the interstate in Vermont heading to Stowe.  The girls, who were 2, 4, and 6 at the time were talking animatedly with their mother and me, as kids do.  Suddenly, I noticed it was quiet, and looked around to see that the 4 of them were asleep.  As odd as this seemed, what I heard next was disturbing.  I heard a voice I knew immediately to be that of St. Michael the Archangel say to me words that are etched in my mind to this day, 23 years later: "Satan has asked for permission to sift you and your family.  And, God has granted it."

Then a few moments later, my daughters and wife were carrying on the conversation that had stopped moments before.

That evening we decided to rent a cottage at the foot of Madonna Mountain, which should have been a clue for me, but was not until recently.  It was a two bedroom cottage and we put our youngest down in a crib in the living room.  As the two older girls and I headed for their bedroom, they stopped in the hall and pointed to one of the beds.  They both said that there was a bad man sitting on the bed and refused to enter.  I prayed for it to leave and knew that it was the devil making himself known.  After he departed the girls went to bed peacefully.

Later as my wife and I were asleep in our room, with two windows open for air, I was aware of the light from the moon filtering into the room.  After being asleep for some time, I was awakened to a presence at the foot of the bed.  I also noticed that all light that had been present before was sucked out of the room, and that this presence was evil.  I knew it was the devil again, and prayed for him to leave.  2 more times that night he appeared at the foot of our bed.  And so it began.

What I had missed then, and did not grasp until recently, was that Mary (the Madonna) would have been happy to help me if I had only consecrated myself to her care at that time.

So, though I prayed often, the ensuing years saw the end of our marriage, the loss of our business, and much emotional, and spiritual pain for us and particularly for our children.  Our children still bear the effects of all that happened in those years.

But, consecrating myself to Mary has brought about much change already. The tapestry of my life has been altered and is being rewoven with "rich and royal" threads.  Slowly and calmly Mary has been breaking down the stone walls of my heart, the sins and tendencies that separate me from her Son, Jesus. These sins/stone walls in my life were very instrumental in how the devil was able to disrupt my focus from my family during our most serious trials.  But, now these stones are being replaced with beautiful, but strong threads, and those threads connect me to her Immaculate Heart and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As Mary has reached into These Stone Walls to touch her sons in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, so she wants to reach into the stone walls in each of us, cleaning us up, instructing us, and preparing us to stand with her at the foot of the Cross and worship and adore her Son, Jesus. That is what Mary is all about. She is all about Jesus, in the Love of the Father, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we can contemplate how she was chosen from the beginning of time to be the Mother of God made man, and so was herself made perfectly clean and free of original sin in her Immaculate Conception.  Then we can ponder how Mary wants to teach us to do as she told the servants at the wedding feast at Cana in John 2:5:
Do whatever He tells you.

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