Although I’ve been a Catholic for almost 30 years now, I confess I’m just not good with devotions. Other than daily Mass, which has always been a staple, things just fall through the cracks. Novenas are especially hard, as some sort of attention deficit kicks in mid-stream and my nine days go up in smoke. (I was relieved to hear about a nine-hour novena for emergencies, but even that proved too much!)
Last June, though, I quietly (and unexpectedly) resolved on my birthday to stick with the daily Rosary, and to my astonishment the year is almost complete — and has been a success. Not only did that become a part of my routine, but I decided to make St. Louis Marie deMontfort’s Act of Consecration to Mary this spring, and cobbled my way (almost intact) through 30 days of preparation to the Annunciation, wherein I signed my pledge to be “all hers.” And so I am.
What perplexed me, though, about the preparation was St. Louis’ admonition about how to pray to her, and I had to wrestle with his insistence that we submit to God’s will and Mary’s intercession in all things. Did that mean that we couldn’t ask for things? Did that mean that we shouldn’t nag her for certain outcomes — especially when others ask for our prayers? How could I say I would remember people’s intentions if I trusted her to take all things in hand according to the Divine Plan — I worried about quietism, or passivism.
The wrestling is done, and I must say that my faith has matured by having to sort through these questions. Of course God has a plan; of course Mary is the Queen of Heaven in whom we can place our perfect trust; of course anything of value that we request is closer to her heart than it is to our own — both because she understands each situation better and because she loves us passionately.
So over the year the Rosaries have gently morphed from daily duty to personal encounters. I do ask for less, because I realize that I don’t need to spell out for Mary — or God — what needs to happen. If this child has a test, or a friend is taking a long trip, they know. They are also aware of health concerns, world conflicts and upcoming decisions. Instead of “catching up,” like having a conversation with a friend who wants to know what’s going on since we last chatted, I assume Mary knows the details and we spend the time just aligning hearts over these matters.
When I say aligning hearts, of course, hers takes precedence. Hers is the one beneath which Our Lord nestled for nine months and which bore particular sorrows beyond all telling. Thus, my heart needs to become aligned with hers, which in turn holds me and all my cares securely. In this I trust.
There are many things that can be pondered as one prays through the decades. There are abundant books and meditations, which are tremendously helpful. For now, though, I am just spending time with a dear companion — one who has trusted in the promises of God, and has been entrusted with all grace in return. I don’t ask for anything except her help so that I may be faithful to our encounters. Beyond that, we just consider various things together — the ones we love, the obstacles to love, the love of God that has yet to be returned. In the end, she knows what we need and will see to it — my devotion to that steadfast principle remains firm.
[The Anchor 5.4.12]