The Marian consecration: as members of the Emmanuel Community, we seek to live out this consecration everyday when we pray St Louis de Montfort’s prayer of consecration to Mary. But what does it mean in our everyday ordinary lives? Why do we consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary?
I have been Catholic for thirty-one years. Seven years ago I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary. I remember being really uncertain and hesitant about making my consecration the first time I did it. It’s not that I didn’t love Mary at the time, it’s just that I didn’t understand her. I felt really intimidated by Mary. She seemed so perfect and holy and beautiful and out of reach for the likes of me. I could see saints consecrating themselves to Jesus through Mary but not people like me. Most times I couldn’t get through a Rosary without starting to doze off or wander into some distraction and I was anything but good or holy all of the time. Why would Mary want to be my mother? Wouldn’t she be disappointed in me?
As a result of all these fears, for years I kept Jesus and Mary at a distance from me. I loved my faith and I still sought to live it out but deep down there was a continual sense of deep inadequacy and fear of rejection by the Lord. No matter what I did, I was never good enough. I wanted desperately to receive the love of the Lord but was too afraid to ask for it. So instead of asking I tried to earn it by being perfect. I was determined nobody would find fault with me. I would be the most responsible, hardworking, disciplined person you would ever meet. My finances, my health, my relationships and my faith life would be perfect. Maybe then the Lord would love me. Maybe then I would find peace.
So I set about trying to create my perfect life and the Lord, in his mercy, allowed things to fall apart. After six years of university, I walked away with a degree but I wasn’t even sure I could find a job with it having failed out of the lab program I was in. My health was a wreck and my financial state was frightening. A financial advisor told me that I would be paying my loans back for some time between fifteen and twenty-five years. I was crushed. I had been hoping to pursue religious life after college but now everything seemed out of reach.
It was then that I finally turned to the Lord and told Him “Lord I’ve done everything I can to do things right and the end result has been a disaster. I have nothing to give You but I want to follow You. Please lead me. I don’t know where to go anymore.” I started to go to adoration and daily Mass on a regular basis and take time to be still before the Lord and, as I did so, the Lord began to speak. I had a strong sense that He wanted me to make the Marian consecration. I didn’t understand why but I decided to take a risk and let the Lord lead.
As soon as I made my consecration, grace flooded in. I felt the Lord say to me “Therese, I want you to stop putting off discerning consecrated life.” I said ‘Lord what about my loans and health issues?’ but He said, “Don’t worry about that, just get up and follow Me.” I tried putting it off for a little bit but it got so uncomfortable resisting the Lord that I finally gave in and, despite my fears, started to contact various religious communities about discerning a vocation. In 2012 the leader of my archdiocesan discernment group introduced me to the Emmanuel Community.
I started to attend a household gathering (maisonnée) and community weekends. Slowly I began to walk with the Community. I must admit that I was scared to discern Emmanuel and even more scared to consider discerning consecrated life in Emmanuel. I think Jesus knew that about me because He kept showing up as the little one all through my walk with the Community. He knew that I would be too scared to let Him close if He showed up as someone big so instead He came as the small one.
Step by step, little by little, He led me until I finally decided that I needed to seriously consider whether I should take the next step in discerning consecrated life in the Community. I went to Paray-le-Monial in December 2015/January 2016 to visit the consecrated sisters of the Community and attend the Fraternity of Jesus retreat to discern further. I left the retreat with the sense that the Lord wanted me to take the next step to discern consecrated life in Emmanuel.
I didn’t know what to do. I still had my educational loans from university. How would I ever be free to go for formation for two years to discern if I were still paying my loans? How available for mission would I really be carrying the weight of a 15 to 25 year loan payment?
I went back to Paris with the sisters to spend some time at the house of formation before going home to the US. While there one of the women took me to rue de Bac where Mary appeared to St Catherine Labouré and gave her instructions to make the Miraculous Medal. Up until that point I had never asked Mary for help with anything important in my life. I still thought that she wouldn’t have time for me, that she was to high above me to even care. But that day, in the chapel,something was different. I felt a little voice within me say “Ask for Mary’s help with the loans, entrust your vocation to her.” So I did. I entrusted my vocation to Mary and asked for her help with the loans and went home to the US.
Within a few months of coming home two different people who knew about my vocation told me about a nonprofit organization called the Labouré Society. The Labouré Society helps men and women discerning consecrated life and priesthood and overcome the obstacle of educational debt so they can enter formation. They do this by training men and women seeking to enter consecrated life how to fundraise and then as a group over the course of six months they work together to raise what is needed to mitigate their educational loans so they can enter formation. Both people encouraged me to apply to Labouré and ask for their help.
I did so and in July of 2016 I began my first 6-month fundraising class with Labouré. I am now in my third 6-month fundraising cycle with Labouré. Fundraising is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I have to ask for help and it is scary sometimes. It means trusting in the goodness of the Lord and letting Him lead. It means trusting in the answer that was given and believing that Our Lady watches tenderly over those who have entrusted themselves to her care. There are days when I feel like I will never get there that I will never succeed in raising what I need to in order to enter formation. But I think that the Lord wants it that way. He wants me to learn to trust Him and to stop trying to do everything by myself but instead learn to be His child. To learn that I was never meant to walk alone and that I was always meant to be holding onto the hands of Jesus and Mary. To trust that she really is our ‘Little Mother’ who loves us tenderly in all our joys and sorrows If we let her, she will help lead us be ever closer to her Son.