Prayer/Spirituality

Marian Consecration

Today I began 33 days of preparation to consecrate myself to Mary, following St Louis de Montfort’s instructions, and ending with consecration on the feast of the Presentation of Mary. I’ve done the consecration before on the same feast, and am renewing the consecration this time. Please pray for me, that I will give myself fully and hold nothing back.

Marian consecration is one of the most beautiful of all the devotions in the Church. It is perhaps the summit of all true spirituality.

We consecrate ourselves to Mary, because she is perfectly consecrated to God, and we wish to be united to Mary in her consecration. I once wrote the following:

‘God gave Himself to us by giving Himself to Mary. We are saved through God giving Himself to Mary in Jesus Christ, and through Mary’s “yes”, her giving herself up to God in Jesus Christ. God gave Himself through Mary, and we must receive God, be given up to God, through Mary’s “yes”.’ (https://asalittlechild.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/marys-teaching/)

I really want to double down on this point. We are saved through Mary’s fiat to God. When she said yes at the annunciation, she said yes on behalf of the whole universe, welcoming Jesus into creation. To be saved is to be united to Mary in saying yes, in surrendering and consecrating ourselves to God and welcoming Jesus to be conceived in us.

And this yes, this surrender and consecration and welcome, are simply who Mary is, through and through. From the first moment of her existence, her Immaculate Conception, she was claimed wholly for God. And at every moment following she gave herself wholly to God. We can see this in the annunciation, but also in every single Marian feast: God has claimed her entirely for His own, and she gives herself entirely to Him. The entirety of her being is caught up in loving God back. She is love returning love. To be saved is to be united to Mary.

Please pray for me to make this consecration well.

God bless you

Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth

Is prayer a form of escape from the world? Is that the ultimate aim of Christian life – to leave this world behind and instead to dwell with God in heaven? Are we to live for the next life, and not for the present life?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, because we are made for God and for eternal life, and we must renounce all finite distractions that would keep us from Him. Our destiny is the fullness of life in God Himself and nothing less. We are told again and again to deny ourselves, to renounce the world, and to live for God alone. We must not fall into thinking that prayer or spirituality or the Christian faith are concerned primarily with improving this world and this life. The Christian faith has a far larger vision.

‘If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.’ [Colossians 3:1-3]

But no, because Jesus came to save the world. He didn’t come to save us out of the world, He came to redeem the entirety of creation with us in it.

‘For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.’ [Romans 8:20-21]

So then, how can we have both yes and no? We save the world with Jesus, but only in renouncing it with Him. ‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it shall preserve it.’ [Lk 17:33] In the same way, whoever seeks to save the world will lose the world, but whoever shall renounce the world will save it.

Jesus saves us and saves the world by the sacrifice He made upon the cross, present at every mass. In this sacrifice, He renounces absolutely everything, His life, His body, His soul, everything He loves and cares for (including you and me), offering it all to the Father. It is in this offering that we are saved. We are sinners, and do not have the purity of heart to truly offer ourselves to God, except by being united to Jesus’s own self offering.

This is the goal of Christian life and the heart of Christian prayer and spirituality. We renounce ourselves and the whole world, and offer it all up to God, united to Jesus’s offering upon the cross. Or to express it differently, we let go of our selves, of every finite thing, of every desire to control and possess and consume, and we entrust it all to God, to Him who is eternal love, uniting ourselves and all the cosmos to the holy sacrifice of the mass.

So then, what does this renunciation and salvation look like? For now, it looks like loving the world, but refusing to grasp at it, even in thought. It looks like placing ourselves and everything in our lives into Love’s everlasting hands. And in the end, it looks like the resurrection of the entire universe.

God bless you.

After sin

I’ve decided that, following on from my post, On Gluttony, I’ll try to write something for each of the seven deadly sins. But before I go on talking about sin, I thought it best to first say something about mercy.

In the event of committing a sin, I think the majority of us a) hide ourselves from God in shame, and then b) attempt to justify ourselves with excuses. Both of these are a denial of God’s mercy and a refusal to repent, and must be avoided like the plague. You can see both approaches in the account of Adam and Eve after the fall:

And when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise. And the Lord God called Adam, and said to him: Where art thou? And he said: I heard thy voice in paradise; and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. And he said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And Adam said: The woman, whom thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

Genesis 3:8-12 (DR)

Note that Adam was not hiding his sin, but his nakedness. We become afraid for God to see us as we are and so we hide ourselves from Him, avoiding His presence in our conscience, in silence, and in prayer. We hide ‘amidst the trees of paradise’, distracting ourselves with the various pleasures of creation. Then when He finally finds us, we hide again, this time behind excuses and the sins of others. We are afraid to let God see us naked, because we think He won’t like what He sees.

How can this fear which keeps us separated from God be overcome? I will tell you: He Himself overcomes our shame by getting naked first. At Jesus’s birth and upon the cross, in His incarnation and His death, He gives Himself to the world completely naked, withholding nothing, revealing the deepest depths of Himself. We can reveal ourselves to God, we can trust Him with ourselves, because He has given Himself entirely to us in perfect love, He has placed Himself into our hands. He has said, ‘I am yours’, or rather, ‘This is my body, which is given for you.

So if and when we next sin we must not hide, but without hesitation turn directly to God, ask for His mercy (I recommend saying an Act of Contrition), and trust Him to provide it. There is no use in hiding from God, attempting to justify or save or punish yourself. You will never escape God’s judgment except by surrendering yourself to His mercy. As St Therese of Lisieux wrote:

‘For those who love Him, and after each fault come to ask pardon by throwing themselves into His arms, Jesus trembles with joy.’

God bless you!

The beauty of Mary

She was beautiful, even most beautiful, as Richard of St. Victor asserts, and also St. George of Nicomedia, and St. Dionysius the Areopagite, who, as many believe, once had the happiness of enjoying the sight of her beauty, and said that if faith had not taught him that she was a creature, he should have adored her as God. And the Lord himself revealed to St. Bridget, that the beauty of his mother surpassed the beauty of all men and angels, allowing the saint to hear him say to Mary: “Thy beauty exceeds that of all the angels, and of all creatures.” She was most beautiful, I repeat, but without injury to those who looked upon her, for her beauty put to flight impure emotions, and suggested even pure thoughts, as St. Ambrose attests: So great grace had she, that she not only preserved her own virginity, but also conferred a remarkable gift of purity on those who beheld her.

-St Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary

‘The Lord will fight for you, and you must be silent’

Those who still fear the war against the passions and dread the assaults of invisible enemies must keep silent in their struggle for virtue they must not enter into disputes with their enemies but through prayer must entrust all anxiety about themselves to God. To them apply the words of Exodus: ‘The Lord will fight for you, and you must be silent’ (Exod. 14:14). Those, secondly, who have been released from the enemy’s attacks and who genuinely seek instruction in the ways of acquiring the virtues, need only to keep the ear of their mind open. To them Scripture says, ‘Hear Israel’ (Deut. 6:4). Thirdly, those who as a result of their purification ardently long for divine knowledge may commune with God freely. To them it will be said, ‘What is it that you are calling to Me?’ (Exod. 14:15. LXX). Thus, he who is commanded to keep silent because of his fear should seek refuge in God; he who is commanded to listen should be ready to obey the commandments; and he who pursues spiritual knowledge should call ceaselessly to God, beseeching Him for deliverance from evil and thanking Him for communion in His blessings.’

[St Maximus the Confessor, ‘Two Hundred Texts on Theology and the Incarnate Dispensation of the Son of God’, no. 30]

I will look at just the first point, because I know I’m not one of those who have been released from the enemy’s attacks, so this is probably the most important for myself.

Many spiritual writers have written about how, in the battle against sin, we must not trust in ourselves at all but trust entirely in God, and never argue with the devils that are tempting us. In fact, some say that we fall precisely because we begin to trust in ourselves, and so God allows us to fall so that we will learn to distrust ourselves and trust in Him.

Through prayer we must entrust all anxiety about ourselves to God. The truth is that we are not strong enough in ourselves, but He is more than strong enough. It is absurdity for us to try to be self sufficient, self supporting, self made, when God desires to be our all. We should entrust all to Him, and let Him take care of us, especially in the spiritual battle.

We have to learn to let go. We have to learn how to fight by not fighting. We have to learn silence. We have to learn to trust in God alone, and not in our learning or our trusting or our virtue or our strength or our systems. Trust in God alone.

Saints are not people who have mastered themselves or their own lives, they are people who entrust all anxiety about themselves to God.

God bless you

To love Mary is to love Jesus; to love Jesus is to love Mary

I previously wrote,

‘God gave Himself to us by giving Himself to Mary. We are saved through God giving Himself to Mary in Jesus Christ, and through Mary’s “yes”, her giving herself up to God in Jesus Christ. God gave Himself through Mary, and we must receive God, be given up to God, through Mary’s “yes”.’

(https://asalittlechild.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/marys-teaching/)

Mary is the one who accepts Jesus, into her soul, into her womb, and into the universe itself, and it is through her accepting Jesus that we accept Him. She is the one who surrenders her entire life and soul to Jesus, and it is by her surrender that He has taken possession of the world. She is the one who loves Jesus perfectly, giving Him everything and withholding nothing, and it is by her gift that we have been given to Him. She is truly Janua Coeli, the gate of heaven. The salvation of the world was achieved on the cross, but it was received, in all its fulness, in the heart and in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why do we love Mary? Because she is the one who loves Jesus Christ our Lord like no other. She is the mother of God. Her love for Him contains within itself all of the love, in all of creation, for all of time. It is all summed up and perfected in her humble fiat, “let it be done unto me according to your word”, the words that express her entire life. She is the one who gives Him everything.

So when we love Mary, we are loving the one who loves God. And in loving her, we become one with her, and are joined to her, so that she loves God in us, and we love God in her.

And when we love Jesus, we wish to be one with Him, we wish to welcome Him completely into our lives and our hearts, we wish to surrender ourselves perfectly to Him. That is, we wish to be one with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In short: to love Mary is to love Jesus, and to love Jesus is to love Mary.

God bless you :)

P.S. I was inspired to write this after reading a chapter of ‘Let Yourself Be Led By The Immaculate’ by St Maximilian Kolbe. This is one of the very best books I’ve ever read, and I strongly recommend it, even if you didn’t like what I’ve written here. You can find it on Amazon kindle here

Merry Christmas! (sorry it’s late)

Sorry for the recent radio silence. There’s no particular reason for it.

I just thought I’d deliver the yearly reminder that on Christmas day, approximately 2,019 years ago, God was born amongst us as a teeny tiny baby. Almighty God hid Himself in the Blessed Virgin’s womb. The Lord God of Hosts was wrapped in swaddling bands. The creator of the universe was nestled up in Joseph’s arms.

It’s true that this post has missed the big day, but the magi are running later still! The divine babe is still newborn, and hasn’t even received His name yet.

We shouldn’t shy away from the absurdity of the Incarnation. Who in their right mind would ever worship a newborn (or even, unborn) baby as the omnipotent creator of all? What kind of God would genuinely become a human, with all of our weakness and suffering and vulnerability? The God who is love would.

Love unites the lover to the beloved. Love condescends. Love is vulnerable. Love is weak. Love is small. Love is dependent. Love is almighty.

God is not a philanthropist, trying to better everyone’s lives from the outside: He is the lover of us, and desires to give Himself to us entirely. He loves us!

Can you imagine if we loved Him like He loves us? Can you imagine how differently we would live? Can you imagine how happy we would be?

May the Christchild bless you!

Jesus is the answer.

The difficulty of being a Christian is learning to really believe the above sentence. Jesus is the answer. It is not morality and it is not clever words and it is not any programme of action. It is not hidden from the masses and it is not available for a price. It is not something we earn or accomplish or even discover. It is not hard work and it is not natural gift and it is not good luck.

Jesus is the answer.

How am I meant to live? How can I make any sense of the chaos of my life? How am I to face my problems? Jesus.

By Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, I am to live in this world. Accepting Him as my life, and following Him as best I can, and above all else, trusting Him, I am to face the world, with all of its confusion, indifference, and death.

And what’s more, we must reject every other attempt at an answer. No “Jesus + X”, whether it be a politics or a theology or a good work or anything else. Nothing else will do. Nothing else will ever save you.

As insane as this may sound, this, and nothing else, is Christianity. Hold on to this one truth no matter what.

Jesus is the answer.