My Marian Consecration

Today is Monday, July 16, 2018.  Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a Marian Feast Day in the Catholic Church.  Today I have consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary after attending mass celebrating this feast.  Today I would like to share with you my thoughts and preparations leading up to this consecration, preparation that I made using the book 33 Days to Morning Glory by Michael E. Gaitley.

How did I learn about Marian Consecration?

Two years ago, my mother-in-law recommended that my husband and I read 33 Days to Morning Glory and by starting in November, we could consecrate ourselves on December 8 for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  She had heard a talk about it and had gone through the consecration herself with her husband and highly recommended it.  She said it would make a good devotional study, even if we decided not to consecrate ourselves.

As I am always down for a good bible study, my husband and I read the book together.  My husband did decide to consecrate himself at the feast.  At that time, I did not.  While I read the book with him, I did not feel comfortable consecrating myself because I did not understand what consecration was and I did not understand many of the Catholic dogmas about Marian theology.  33 Days to Morning Glory is not a beginner’s book to Marian theology.  For me, it was like trying to read a calculus book without knowing multiplication.  Since then, I have done further study into Marian theology and accepted the beliefs that were holding me back before.  Having moved past those barriers, I decided I wanted to give the book a second chance to learn more about Marian Consecration.  I didn’t start the book thinking I would consecrate myself, but wanted to use it as a good devotional study, one that I could more fully participate in this time around.

(If you do not know much about Marian theology, I recommend reading my posts: How Mary is Revealed in 3 Types in Old Testament, 5 Characteristics of Mary, and Mary’s 3 Roles in the Church Today)

What is a consecration?

The Catholic Church defines a consecration as “an act by which a person is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies.”  While it is similar to a blessing, it differs because the person is elevated to a new status to which one will never be changed back from.  For that reason, you can only be consecrated once; however, there are many different forms of consecration.  Should you decide to consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary does not inhibit you from consecrating yourself to Divine Mercy the next year or to the Sacred Heart of Jesus after that.  Since a consecration can only happen once, it is solemn and serious.

What is a Marian Consecration?

A Marian Consecration is when a person dedicates him/herself to the service and worship of God “by relying upon Mary’s powerful intercession, experiencing her tender care, speaking to her from his/her heart, letting him/herself be led by her, having recourse to her in all things, and trusting her completely” (126).  It is determining to be more like Jesus by depending upon Mary.  Jesus first depending upon Mary when He trusted Himself completely to her care within her womb and then again when He trusted her to nurture and teach Him in the Hidden Years prior to His active ministry.  Consecration to Jesus through Mary is acknowledging that when Jesus said during the “hour” of his Passion, “here is your son; here is your mother,” He was talking not only to John but to every disciple.  When you consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary, you are saying “Yes” to his request to take His mother into your home so that she can transform you into a model of Christ.

Why do I want to consecrate myself?

I want to consecrate myself for three reasons: (1) to fulfill my utmost desire to live a life that is pleasing to God, (2) to enrich my current spiritual life, and (3) for my prayers and sufferings to be offered up in the most appropriate manner to benefit my family or those in need.

It is my utmost desire to live a life that is pleasing to God and to follow His will in my daily actions.  I struggle with this desire because I feel like I am at a stage in my life where I am uncertain of what the Lord wants for my life.  In the past, I have felt capable of discerning where the Lord was calling me to be.  I have felt lead to do City Year, to become a Youth Group Director, to move into the City, and to marry my husband.  These calling led me to believe that I would live in Detroit, raise a family, while working for a nonprofit doing God’s work.  And while I am living in the city, raising a family, I am not working for a nonprofit.  While that doesn’t mean that I am not doing the Lord’s work, it means that I struggle with the confidence that I am doing the Lord’s work in the capacity He wants me to be.  By consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary, I am embracing Mary’s motherly devotion to me and allowing her to lead me into the Lord’s will for my life.

Raising two toddlers has taken a toll on what my spiritual life looks like.  I have less time to pray, read the Bible, and participate in Church life.  While I teach my children how to pray, I forget to pray.  Often times I find myself confessing to God of my fear to not be placing Him first in my life.  I desire that this Marian Consecration transforms my spiritual life.  By having Mary lend me her heart, I can better love Jesus.  As a mother, I know there is no creature who loves my children more than me.  As a creature, no one loves Jesus more than Mary, especially given her Immaculate Heart.  By asking Mary to keep me in her heart, I trust her prayers and spiritual guidance will led me to a better devotion to God.

Every day, I pray that the Lord bless my daughters and make them into saints, a task that is never accomplished until they arrive at Heaven’s gates.  I pray for my family and those who have fallen away from the church’s teachings.  By consecrating myself to Mary, I provide her the use of my prayers and merits.  While I still can pray for whomever I chose, I let her be the final say on where those blessings may be placed.  While this is terrifying, it is also reassuring in that, one day, I may have children who are suffering in faith and not feel comfortable to tell me about it.  But Mary knows their heart and can direct my prayers and merits over to them when I would not have for being oblivious to the pain they are feeling.  And should my family not need my prayers, Mary will be able to direct those prayers to those in most need.

What does it mean to consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary?

When I began writing this post, I almost saw me writing a book review summarizing all that Michael Gaitley discussed about Marian Consecration.  That would be a big disservice to you, as if you are interested, it comes much better from him for I am no Marian theologian.  Instead, I will merely state some of the things that stuck out to me, which influenced my decision in deciding to consecrate myself to Jesus through Mary, this time around.

⦁ Saint Louis De Montfort believed that the main reason why we sin is because we forgot our baptism vows, when we declared to reject Satan.  He has us renew our baptism vows to Mary to place this declaration in the forefront of our hearts and minds, as well as, enlist Mary’s support, because the Lord has “place[ed] an enmity between her and Satan.”  (36-37)

⦁ De Monfort’s prayer of consecration to Mary emphasizes a special and intimidate gift of self to Mary, where one offers her (1) his/her body with all senses and members, (2) our soul, with all its powers, (3) our exterior goods of fortune, (4) our interior goods of fortune (merits, virtues, and good works).  We offer up these to Mary so that she can make use of them to her best discretion, relying upon her will that is completely aligned with the will of God. (38)

⦁ Saint Maximillian Kolbe wished to “consecrate his entire life to a great idea.”  My freshmen year of college, my roommate told me she was out at a party talking to stranger.  Somehow they got on the conversation of roommates, and the stranger asks, “wait, you’re Detroit girl’s roommate?”  Upon hearing her story, I couldn’t be prouder that the one characteristic people knew me by was my passion for Detroit (or countless number of sweaters and wide brim hats displaying the Old English D).  I would like to consecrate my life so wholly to Jesus it becomes a part of my identity.

⦁ Kolbe pondered the phrase “I am the Immaculate Conception” for most of his life and determined there are two Immaculate Conceptions.  The uncreated Immaculate Conception (Holy Spirit) and the created Immaculate Conception (Mary).  While Mary was immaculate conceived, when she said “yes” to the Lord’s will at the Annunciation, and conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit, she became the spouse of the Holy Spirit.  As such, just as a woman takes a man’s name in marriage to represent that they have become one, she takes the name of her spouse. (52-54)

⦁ Saint Mother Teresa acknowledged De Monfort’s intimate gift of self to Mary and focused this gift on the exchange of hearts. Mother Teresa prayed that Mary would lend her heart so that Mother Teresa could better love Jesus. She also asks to be in Mary’s heart, creating an intimate union with Mary.  With this covenant comes rights and obligations to which Mother Teresa spells out for all interested. (76-80)

⦁ Mother Teresa mediated on the phrase “I Thirst” during the Lord’s Passion and realized his thirst was for love and it was her desire to take away the continual suffering of Jesus by bringing disciples to him to satiate his thirst.  Am I properly responding to Jesus’ proclamation of thirst and doing my best to take away his suffering? (70)

⦁ Saint Pope John Paul II explains that Mary’s role is unique in history as our maternal mediator.  While there is one mediator to God and that is Jesus, God is generous and wants all of us to share in this role, in cooperative and subordinate ways.  This consecration to Jesus through Mary is our “ongoing, post-baptismal transformation in Christ.” (101)

How will I consecrate myself?

For 33 days I have read, studied, and reflected upon the devotions to prepare my heart for saying yes to Mary.  I have done the three things Gaitley recommends (nothing is required): (1) gone to confession, (2) write and print out the prayer of consecration to sign and date after, and (3) got a miraculous medal to carry around with me.  I also attended adoration for an hour to reflect upon the serious nature of this consecration and my desire to consecrate myself.  I will attend the Feast of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s mass and say my prayer afterwards.  From there, I will try my best, with the help of Mary and the Holy Spirit, to live an attitude that brings me closer to the will of the Father and to mimic the life of Jesus.  What this looks like, I do not yet know.

 

Interpreting The Call of the Holy Spirit

It was close to midnight. There would have been stars if it wasn't so cloudy. It was silent except for the squeaking of my swing going back and forth. I always enjoyed swinging; it normally cheered me up to feel close to flying, but it wasn't working on this night. I was upset at the Lord, for He was calling me into a mission I did not want to do.

Six months earlier, I about to start my senior year and had finished all my college applications over the summer break. Now, begun the hunt for scholarships. One of the scholarships I found was a grant program in exchange for a year of service: AmeriCorps.  I printed out the information and tossed it into a pile of all my other scholarship possibilities and continued hunting.

Arriving at school, I found out one of my favorite teachers was starting a new club: a Debate Team. I decided to join because I enjoy public speaking and it was something new and different. The topic for the year was:
Resolved: The United States federal government should establish a policy substantially increasing the number of                                         persons serving in one or more of the following national service programs: AmeriCorps, Citizen Corps, Senior Corps,                                 Peace Corps, Learn and Serve America, Armed Forces.
Having no knowledge of debate or the topic, I randomly decided to join the affirmative team and so begun my year of extensive research into America's National Service programs and building a case for increasing participation within them.

Debate Team: for our first year, we walked away with some trophies. Not too shabby

By the time Halloween came around, my best friend Lindsay and I decided we would room together at the University of Michigan the following year. She had received her early acceptance letter and we were expecting mine to arrive shortly after.  My letter did arrive; however, it stated that they had not made a decision regarding my application at this point and they would return to it again with the general admission applications. I was heartbroken. I had applied to many other schools and gotten into others, but the University of Michigan was the only place I wanted to attend.

Unsure of my college plans, I continued forth with scholarship applications and deadlines. Going through my pile, the AmeriCorps print off surfaced to the top.  City Year Detroit was the specific program that was being advertised on my print off. They were holding an open house and I decided to go, for the sake of Debate Team Research.

My heart was strangely warmed while attending the City Year Open House. City Year Corps Members spent a year in the city, tutoring at-risk youth Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, they spent the day either in job training or doing large-scale physical service. Two year earlier, my brother had been categorized as an at-risk youth and sent to a boarding school miles away. Every kid in the pictures I saw reminded me of the pain of living at home without my brother and how badly I wanted to help him.

On the drive home, I decided that I would postpone college so that I could do a single year of national service with City Year Detroit. That way, I could take my ACTs and SATs again to raise my score and write a powerful essay and be accepted into Michigan the following year.  I told no one these plans.

The Broomball Tournament is a serious tradition of Spring Hill Winter Retreats

In January, my church Youth Group attended a youth retreat, as we did every winter, to Spring Hill. It's a weekend filled with praise bands and sledding hills and worship services and most importantly, a broomball tournament. The theme of the year was "Listening for God's Call" and it seemed every speaker was telling me that I should do City Year.  I felt called to start telling everyone I know about my plan.  So feeling on fire with the Spirit, I did.  I resolved that even if I was accepted into Michigan, I would defer enrollment for a year so that I could do City Year.  As soon as we got home, I told my parents my plan; they were not convinced. I told Lindsay; she was devastated and told me not to give up on my Michigan acceptance letter. She was sure it was coming.

Sure enough, a week after I told everyone my plan, my University of Michigan acceptance letter arrived. I was ecstatic! I could go! I could be roommates with Lindsay! Everything we had planned could occur as we had discussed. Two days later, at church, my pastor gave a sermon about Jonah running away from his calling. I felt like she was starring me down the entire time. The service finished by forcing me to sing "Here I Am, Lord" and I felt in my heart that I was singing the words yet refusing my service to God. But the acceptance letter had arrive, maybe I had misinterpreted what I felt at Spring Hill? Maybe God didn't want me to do City Year after all. But I could not shake the feeling that the acceptance letter was God's way of making me choose. He knew that I had agreed to City Year out of a lack of choice: I couldn't go to Michigan so City Year was a way of improving my application for the next year. God wanted me to serve with a service heart, not a reluctant, self-serving heart. I applied to City Year Detroit, because, who knows, maybe I wouldn't be accepted? One could hope...

In the Methodist Tradition, we focus on Lenten Studies to prepare for Easter. I have always done one. This year's Lenten Study studied the difficult road to discipleship. The fear disciples endure and the callings that they accept are not ones desired by secular society, such as imprisonment or martyrdom. When my City Year acceptance letter came, my Lenten Study suddenly became 40 days of discussing with a large group why I felt my calling of a single year of service was harder than the years Paul spent in a Roman prison leading up to his execution. So I reluctantly agreed to do City Year again.

Some moments of your life are ingrained on your heart. It's been 11 years since I told Lindsay in the hallways of our High School that I was deferring my enrollment to college but I can still vividly recall the look of devastation in her face. My heart ached as I felt like I was betraying one of my best friends.

It was this moment that led up to my silent mediation on the swings. I still had not sent in my acceptance letter to City Year and my deferral request to University of Michigan. I could still go to college next year and feel like a normal teenager. I could start planning out what my dorm room will look like and decide what is the best mini frig to buy with Lindsay. I felt so lonely not going to college. I wanted God to talk to me on the swing that night and say with a big and powerful voice, DO THIS. But the night was silent; I heard nothing. I walked home crying, unsure of what my future held.

Harvey Harris came up to me in church the morning after the swing set. He is one of those people you try to avoid if you are in any rush to get somewhere. The grandfather of the church who talks to all the visitors, shares the same stories with you over and over, and gives out his advice to anyone within range. He came up to me and once again, the memory is again engraved on my heart:

"Michelle, I want you to know, you changed your hair and I noticed. You cut it. And its a different color. You use to look exactly like your mom, but now you look different. You are grown up. Now, what? You're a senior, now, right? Yes, you'll be leaving home soon. But I am not worried about you. You have grown into a wonderful young lady who can hear where the Holy Spirit is calling her. You're different but your parents are proud of you because you are growing up. I am proud of you too.  I know the Lord will accomplish great things in you."

If that wasn't a big and powerful voice saying DO THIS, I don't know what is. It was the final cherry on the top of a whole year of the Holy Spirit leading me towards City Year. I mailed off my letters that afternoon and my life was forever changed for having listened.

I was the MC at our Opening Ceremony Celebration

One of our physical service days: Building a Playground in Detroit

Mary’s 3 Roles in the Church Today

Mary intercedes on behalf of the wedding couple

Today is my final blog post, in a three week series, reflecting upon Mary, the mother of God.  I am reflecting upon the mother of Jesus because I realized that I can learn so much about Jesus by getting to know his mother.  After all, Mary is the one who nursed him as a babe, who sang him to sleep, who taught him his first words and how to walk, who encouraged him throughout his childhood and teenage years, who saw him through his whole ministry and all the way to the cross.  Just like getting to know my mother, you will learn more about me, by getting to know Mary, she will teach you more about Jesus.  Mary is the fulfillment of three types in the Old Testament: Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen Mother.  She has five supernatural characteristics that describe her: she is the mother of God, she is sinless, she is a virgin, she is in Heaven, body and soul, and she is a mother to us all.  Finally, she has three roles in the church today: to be Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  Today, I will cover the Mary's 3 Roles in the Church today.  If you missed the other posts, you can read about her Mary Revealed in 3 Old Testament Types and the 5 Characteristics of Mary.  These insights come from Scott Hann’s Book Hail Holy Queen and Mark Miravalle’s Book Meet your Mother (or Love Her More), both Catholic books on Mary, because if we are going to learn about Mary, we should learn from the ones who have been getting to know her the longest.

Note: I will be quoting these two books throughout this post.  Scott Hann’s page numbers go from (0-150), while Miravalle’s go from (170-700) because I was using the Kindle version on my phone.  Therefore, I do not always say the author but you can tell who it is by the page numbers.  If you would like to learn more, I provide links for these books at the bottom.

Mary’s Roles in Today’s Church

We have covered where Mary was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and the five characteristics of Mary’s nature, which brings us to why is this relevant for today because there are three roles Mary plays in today’s Church: Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.

Mary as Co-redemptrix

Mary holds the role of Co-redemptrix because her suffering is used for the redemption of sinners.  All Christians are called to work with God in the redemption of sinners, which is why Saint Paul states we are “co-workers of God” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  This works because in our Baptism, we literally become members of Christ’s mystical body.  As a member, we can release spiritual graces to anyone we choose when we suffer and offer our suffering as prayers to God, with the intention of uniting the suffering to that of Jesus on the cross (641).  Here, the prefix “co-“ does not mean equal to God, but working with God, for all redemption comes from God only.  He does not need our help, but chooses to work with us, to help us become mature sons and daughters in faith (125).  Just as I do not need my daughter to wash dishes with me in order to accomplish the task, and honestly, I can do it faster without her, I choose to include her in the process to help her learn and grow, so does our Heavenly Father include us in the work of His redemption through our suffering/work.

While we are all called to be co-redeemers, there is no other co-redeemer like Mary.  For all of us sin—and as a result there is a gap between what we want and what God wants—with Mary, there is no gap.  The church then “ascribes to Mary an unlimited capacity to merit” (135) and through her consent to conceive Jesus, she consented to suffering while he suffered.  She followed Jesus’ to the cross, never once speaking out against the grueling crowds, quietly suffering and offering her prayers up for the redemption of us all (742).  So having merited the graces through suffering to offer up for us, she then is able to nourish us with those blessing as Mediatrix.

Mary as Mediatrix

While we can offer up our sufferings for the saving grace to whom we choose, Mary also offers her saving grace to any she chooses as Mediatrix.  These saving graces nourish and educate us spiritually; just as any maternal mother feeds and educates her offspring.  When Mary asks Jesus to perform his first miracle at the wedding of Cana, she is embarking on her role of Mediatrix.  She has chosen to provide a grace to the wedding couple, who do not even appear to be followers of Christ.  She has chosen to intercede for them even though they have not gone to her or Jesus to ask what to do.  She merely sees the need and goes to Jesus.  As such, we can assume that even today, Mary is “not restricted to Christian disciples of Jesus, but is active in all humanity, in the variety of our wants and needs… even the most seemingly mundane needs of our lives” (859).  This leads to insight on why Muslim’s also believe in Mary’s intercession on their behalf.  It is important to point out that while it is Mary’s will that decides how to distribute these saving graces, because her will is perfectly aligned with God the Father, all the blessings are used how He would want.

Mary as Advocate

Similar to how Mary provides graces to those she chooses, those who choose can approach Mary for requests to bring to Jesus, because of her role as Advocate.  This role was established with the Davidic Kingdom in the role of Queen Mother as Advocate for the people.  Of course, we do not need Mary to talk to God for us, for Jesus mediates as the High Priest between His Father and His children (1 Timothy 2:5).  Similarly, I do not need my church to pray for my husband when he deploys for God to hear my singular prayer, but I ask anyways and they pray anyways.  Saint Paul warns against any competing or parallel mediators to that of Jesus Christ, but he does not warn against participation in mediating, and in fact, often asks the congregations he is writing to pray and intercede for him and one another.  So, while I do not need Mary to be my Advocate, allowing her to assume this role brings great intercessory power, which there is no equal for even Solomon said to his mother, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you” (1 King 2:19).  When we approach Mary to be our advocate, we can do so with confidence and courage for she is not only the Queen Mother of Heaven, but she is also ours (123).  As I intercede for the benefit of my children, so will Mary on behalf of hers.

God is a Family

                Throughout salvation history, God has revealed to us that He is “not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love… God is not like a family, God is a family” (19).  As a family, He wants to reveal Himself not only as this love but to share it with all of us, first with Adam and Eve, and then in the covenants with Noah, Moses and David.  Unfortunately, while Adam was the first, he was not the only to fail to live up to the covenant promises.  Only God is capable of keeping his promises, so our ever loving God became man to form a new covenant with God, one that will never be broken.  By being baptized in the name of the Trinity, we are given our new family name and become sons of the Father and are adopting into the Heavenly family.  On the cross, Jesus provides us a mother for our family, one who suffers for us, nourishes us, and pleads for us, like any faithful mother does.  As such, Protestants and Catholics can give Mary respect and admiration as the fulfillment of Old Testament types, the greatest of saints, and her position in the church, while reserving adoration and worship for God alone.

I hope I was able to present Mary in a way that provides a deeper desire to get to know the Mother of Jesus, to invite her over for dinner and hear her thoughts and opinions.  To learn more about Mary, read my blog posts: Mary Revealed in 3 Old Testament Types and 5 Characteristics of Mary.  If this has sparked an interest for you, I recommend reading the two books that I have summarized here.  I will also be reading 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Michael Gaitley.  I will be starting on June 13, 2018, so that I can consecrate myself to Mary (if I so choose) on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16.  If you would like to accompany me on this Bible Study, I would love the company.  You can pick up any of the three books below using my affiliate links, which do not add any additional charge to your order but provide a small commission to me.  You can read more about that on my disclosure page.

 

 

5 Characteristics of Mary

Angel Gabriel greets Mary "full of grace"

Last week, I reflected upon how much I love meeting my friends' parents.  You can learn so much about your friend, but getting to know their parents.  I feel like I am constantly understanding my husband better, the more we hang out with his family, and we've been married almost four years now.  So I am almost embarrassed to admit how much I have neglected to learn about Mary, Jesus' own mother.   After all, Mary is the one who nursed him as a babe, who sang him to sleep, who taught him his first words and how to walk, who encouraged him throughout his childhood and teenage years, who saw him through his whole ministry and all the way to the cross.  Just like getting to know my mother, you will learn more about me, by getting to know Mary, she will teach you more about Jesus.  Mary is the fulfillment of three types in the Old Testament: Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen Mother.  She has five supernatural characteristics that describe her: she is the mother of God, she is sinless, she is a virgin, she is in Heaven, body and soul, and she is a mother to us all.  Finally, she has three roles in the church today: to be Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  Today, I will cover the 5 Characteristics of Mary.  You can read my blog posts about Mary Revealed in Three Old Testament Types and Mary's Three Roles in the Church today for more about Mary.  These insights come from Scott Hann’s Book Hail Holy Queen and Mark Miravalle’s Book Meet your Mother (or Love Her More), both Catholic books on Mary, because if we are going to learn about Mary, we should learn from the ones who have been getting to know her the longest.

Note: I will be quoting these two books throughout this post.  Scott Hann’s page numbers go from (0-150), while Miravalle’s go from (170-700) because I was using the Kindle version on my phone.  Therefore, I do not always say the author but you can tell who it is by the page numbers.  If you would like to learn more, I provide links for these books at the bottom.

5 Characteristics of Mary’s nature

Now that we have covered the three Old Testament types that foreshadow Mary, we can look to the New Testament to tell us five characteristics about her nature.

Mary is the Mother of God

Mary is the mother of God; here, Protestants and Catholics fully agree.  The naivety story clearly describes that Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully God.  It is something I have heard throughout my whole childhood and never really stopped to comprehend it fully or understand why there would be some debate on the matter.  Apparently, early in church history, there was a heresy going around that Mary was the mother of Jesus the man, but not the mother of Jesus the God; for a creature could not give birth to her creator (218).  This was a heresy because it separated Jesus’ divinity from his humanity.  What can be said on the matter is that “Mary is the Mother of God the Son made man, who is truly God” (235).  She is not Mother of God the Father, nor Mother of God the Holy Spirit.  As the Trinity is above our ability to fully comprehend as creatures, we must just accept this as what we know.  Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine.  She felt him grow in her womb, she felt him kick and hiccup, and she gave him his X-chromosome.  Jesus’ bones and muscles grew as a result of the oxygen and nutrients that Mary provided and she gave him “the appearance and character under which He should manifest Himself to the world.  He was known doubtless by his likeness to her to be her son,” states Hann (96).  Miravalle describes it this way:

“A mother is classically defined as a woman who gives to her offspring a nature identical to her                                   own… What did Mary give to Jesus?  His divine nature and divine priesthood came from His                                         Heavenly Father.  Mary gave to Jesus a nature identical to her own—in this exceptional one time in                           history case an immaculate (flawless) human nature.”

Mary is sinless

Catholics believe that Mary is sinless, which is the hardest concept for me to wrap my head around as I grew up believing that the only one who ever lived a sinless life was Jesus Christ.  So I found it interesting to hear that Muslims and most Protestant founders, such as Martin Luther, believe/d in the Immaculate Conception.  The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary was conceived without stain of Original Sin (brought forth from Adam and Eve).  I struggled with this because it seems to raise Mary to a level equal of that of God, but that is not true if you consider Adam and Eve before the fall.  God created mankind in his image and for a while, they lived in a state where they were both human and sinless.  For that moment in time, it was possible for Adam and Eve to be both human and sinless without equating them to being equal with God.  But sin did enter the world, and as such, we all need God’s salvation from sin.  Mary was saved by receiving grace at the moment of her conception, grace which was won to her by Jesus’ death on the cross.  It’s like the best back-to-the-future time-travel mind kick because “God, who is out of time, can apply the graces of redemption at Calvary to Mary at the moment of her conception.  Mary as a daughter of Adam and Eve, needed to be saved, and was saved by the grace of Jesus Christ—applied to her soul at the moment of conception” explains Miravalle (433).

But where in Scripture can the Immaculate Conception be revealed?  First, in Genesis, when the Lord promises to put “enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed,” it shows a parallel between Mary and Jesus being in total and absolute opposition (definition of enmity) to Satan (416).  In order for the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled, the woman could not participate in sin because she would not then have enmity between her and the serpent.  Second, comes when the Angel Gabriel greets Mary with the term “full of grace.”  Miravalle points out that the phrase used in Greek is “kecharitomene,” which is a perfect passive participle.  Explaining the grammar, he states that it refers to “an action completely entirely in the past, but with relevance to the present” (427).  So the Angel Gabriel is addressing Mary by stating her grace that was completed in the past (at conception) is relevant to the News he will deliver.  Then, when reflecting upon the meticulous instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant to contain the Word of God, I would image God being just as meticulous in the creation of the body and soul which contained the Word of God in flesh to ensure holiness.  For as Mary would pass along her physical likeness through pregnancy, she would also pass along the stain of Original Sin if it was within her soul.  Since Jesus is without sin, He could not have received the stain within in blood.

Mary is a virgin, forever

Similar to Mary’s soul being without blemish, her body remains in a state of innocence, as both Catholics and Protestants believe in Mary’s virginity during the conception of Jesus.  Scripture is very clear that Mary was a virgin, both in the Old Testament prophesies and in the Gospel accounts.  Christ needed to be born of a woman, in order to have a real body.  He was born of virgin to make clear His Divinity, so that there would be no question in the role of a man for His birth.  However, once He was born, Catholics believe Mary remained a virgin her whole life.  The Vatican teaches that “the body expresses the person” so Mary’s intact physical virginity is an outward expression of Mary’s complete devotion to God, body and soul (294).  Skeptics question her virginity as a result of the passages referencing Jesus’ brothers, such as in Mark 3:31, where it states “Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him.”  But the Hebrew word for brother is the same as cousin, near relative, or kinsman so it does not necessarily imply additional children of Mary (329).  Alternatively, in John 19:25-26, when Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, this is your son” and to John “This is your mother,” this depicts a scene where Mary has only one child, Jesus.  If she had other children, according to Jewish law, she would go to live with them, instead of John, a close friend (314).  Since Jesus came to fulfill the law perfectly, He could not break it while on the cross.

But why would Mary stay a virgin?  Because she took a vow of celibacy, which is revealed in her remarks to the Angel Gabriel.  Gabriel tells her that she will conceive and give birth to a son, to which she replies “how can this be, since I know not a man?”  This conveys again that she is a virgin, but reveals much more than just that.  Mary was engaged to be married.  Since Gabriel never provided a time table, Mary could have assumed that once married, she would conceive this child.  Except in her heart, she knew she never intended to consummate the marriage.  Furthermore, the verb tense used in Hebrew expresses a permanent commitment, rather than something that has not happened in the past (318).  So from this remark, it can be assumed that she had taken a vow of celibacy earlier in her life.  Perhaps Joseph had found out about it and it had become a vow of his too.  Either way, Mary was rightly confused of Gabriel’s news as she never expected to become a mother as a result of her vow.

Mary was taken into Heaven, body and soul

Catholics believe that Mary is that she is in Heaven, body and soul, which is referred to as her Assumption into Heaven.  Psalm 132:8 states “Arise, O Lord into your resting place, you and the Ark which you have sanctified.”  With Mary as the New Ark, sanctified by the Immaculate Conception given through the grace of the cross, Jesus can bring Mary into the resting place together (497).  John’s description of Mary in Heaven during Revelations (when describing the Ark) also supports the belief of the Assumption because of the details of what she and her clothes looked like.  In addition, because of her Immaculate Conception, and sinless life, it implies she was assumed into Heaven since death and disease entered the world because of sin (491).  Since Mary is sinless, she could not have died as a result of old age or disease.  Outside of Scripture, traditional leads to this belief as well, for there are no relics (bones) of Mary, unlike the many relics of the Apostles that were often fought over.  Finally, scripture does tell us that Elijah and Enoch were taken up to Heaven, because of their holiness and dedication to the law.  If I can believe that God can bring a person, body and soul, to Heaven, as in the case of Elijah and Enoch, why would I think he would not do it for His own mother?

Mary is Mother to all Christians

There is one more thing that Catholics believe and teach about Mary; however, it has yet to be declared a dogma (official, infallible belief by the Vatican): Mary is mother to us all.  We are all adopted sons of God the Father, a grace given to us at our baptism when we receive the Holy Spirit.  This is a real relationship with God, not a saying or a metaphor.  Divinization occurs because “the son of God became a son of man so that the sons of men might become sons of God” (119).  This was always God’s intention for mankind when he created Adam and Eve, who desired divine life without God, rather than the divine life that was already granted to them.  Therefore, Hann points out that “salvation is not only from sin, but for sonship—divine sonship in Christ” (120).

As such, right before Jesus died on the cross, He gave His mother to His disciple whom He loved.  While the disciple was John, his name is not included so that it applies universally to every disciple Jesus loves, past, present, and future.  How can we know that this message was one to apply to all of us, rather than just a logistical task for Jesus to check off His to-do list before dying?  Because on Calvary, everything Jesus did from the cross had a universal impact.  He died for everyone’s sins, past, present, future, and to them, He gave His Mother as their spiritual mother.  Just as one can choose to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and salvation or not, one can choose to accept Mary’s spiritual motherhood or not (588).  Hann encourages all believes to choose to accept Mary, for “if we are to know the brotherhood of Jesus Christ, we must come to know the mother whom we share with Jesus Christ” (91).

I hope I was able to present Mary in a way that provides a deeper desire to get to know the Mother of Jesus, to invite her over for dinner and hear her thoughts and opinions.  To learn more about Mary, read my blog posts: Mary Revealed in 3 Old Testament Types and Mary's 3 roles in the Church.  If this has sparked an interest for you, I recommend reading the two books that I have summarized here.  I will also be reading 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Michael Gaitley.  I will be starting on June 13, 2018, so that I can consecrate myself to Mary (if I so choose) on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16.  If you would like to accompany me on this Bible Study, I would love the company.  You can pick up any of the three books below using my affiliate links, which do not add any additional charge to your order but provide a small commission to me.  You can read more about that on my disclosure page.

 

 

How Mary is Revealed in 3 Types in Old Testament

The Holy Family: Mary, Joseph, & Jesus

In High School, I loved meeting my friend’s parents.  Really, this still holds true today.  I feel like my friend’s behaviors, gestures, common phrases used, beliefs, and personality suddenly made a lot more sense when I meet their mom and dad.  I could know my friend better by getting to know his/her parents and if it was a good friend of mine, I wanted to know their parents and have their parents know me.  I love getting to know parents so much that I attended a football game with my husband’s family, while he was deployed (and we were just recently dating at the time).  I had only met his parents twice previously, so attending a three hour football game with my boyfriend’s family (and much of his extended family was there too) without my boyfriend, seemed crazy to some of my friends, but I love meeting parents.

On the flip side, I love having my friends meet my parents.  My parents are very generous and often offered to take my friends camping or out to dinner.  I love having my friends come along to these outings because I think my parents are pretty cool people and I want my friends to know them like I do.  My father is very silly, which is where I get a lot of my silliness, but he’s very shy too, so you only see his silliness upon getting to know him.  Meanwhile, I not only look exactly like my mother, but I feel like I have her personality on many accounts too.  So by getting to know my parents, you are getting to know me.  On the rare occasion when a friend wants nothing to do with my parents, it hurts and it will cause a rift in our friendship.

Meanwhile, I have lived in my Protestant bubble where I have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and best friend.  I love that by knowing Jesus, I know the Father, for after all, Jesus tells us this precisely in John 14:7.  It’s that same parent-child bond, where you can learn about one by learning more about the other.  But just as all of us have a father and a mother, so does Jesus.  But most of my life, I have done almost nothing to get to know Jesus’ mother.  For some reason, us, Protestants, do not want to know Mary well.  We think she’s cool and brave for having said “yes” to the Angel Gabrielle’s announcement about being the one to bring the savior into the world, but outside of the naivety story, Mary rarely gets talked about.  She never gets her own sermon, we don’t name our churches after her, and we rarely write books about her.  In my 30-minute web search, I only found 4 books about Mary written by Protestants, but I found 365 books about her written by Catholics—these were only the ones being sold from Cokesbury, I’m sure there are more.  I feel like my whole life I have been picking Jesus up to go to a movie with me, staying in my car and honking our horn to let him know I am out front. I smile and wave to Mary, standing on the porch, as we pull out of the driveway, but I don’t invite her over for dinner.  As Protestants, we don’t want to know Mary as personally as we know her son.

But I wonder how this makes Jesus feel?  After all, Mary is the one who nursed him as a babe, who sang him to sleep, who taught him his first words and how to walk, who encouraged him throughout his childhood and teenage years, who saw him through his whole ministry and all the way to the cross.  Just like getting to know my mother, you will learn more about me, by getting to know Mary, she will teach you more about Jesus.  Mary is the fulfillment of three types in the Old Testament: Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen Mother.  She has five supernatural characteristics that describe her: she is the mother of God, she is sinless, she is a virgin, she is in Heaven, body and soul, and she is a mother to us all.  Finally, she has three roles in the church today: to be Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  Today, I will cover the Old Testament Types.  You can read my blog posts about 5 Characteristics of Mary and Mary's 3 Roles in the Church today.  These insights come from Scott Hann’s Book Hail Holy Queen and Mark Miravalle’s Book Meet your Mother (or Love Her More), both Catholic books on Mary, because if we are going to learn about Mary, we should learn from the ones who have been getting to know her the longest.

Note: I will be quoting these two books throughout this post.  Scott Hann’s page numbers go from (0-150), while Miravalle’s go from (170-700) because I was using the Kindle version on my phone.  Therefore, I do not always say the author but you can tell who it is by the page numbers.  If you would like to learn more, I provide links for these books at the bottom.

Mary is foreshadowed and revealed in the Old Testament

Hann defines a Biblical Type to be “a real person, place, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament” (23).  It’s important to note that the Old Testament type really existed or happened, not just a metaphor to accomplish a point.  It’s the beauty of the Bible showing that the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New, and each story has layers upon layers of meaning and purpose, for “God writes history like men write words, and that He is an author of supremely subtle artistry and meticulous craft” (89).  There are biblical types all over the Old Testament foreshadowing the savior to come, but there are also three that foreshadow his mother: Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Davidic Queen Mother.

Mary as the New Eve

Paul is the one who points out that Adam is a type foreshadowing Jesus.  He states that with the first Adam, death entered humanity, while in the last Adam, death was overcome and eternity promised to mankind (1 Corinthians 15: 22, 45).  As Adam had Eve by his side, Eve foreshadows Mary for they both were virgins when Eve “conceived the word of the serpent, while Mary conceived the word of God” (38).  Eve led Adam to the tree, to commit his first evil act in the garden; while Mary led Jesus to perform his first miracle at the wedding of Cana.  Twice, Jesus addresses his mother as “woman” in Scripture, at the wedding of Cana and while hanging on the cross, which is the name that Adam gave to Eve upon her creation.  Lastly, God himself foreshadows Mary when he curses the serpent and promises to put “enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Genesis 3:15).

Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant

The foreshadowing of Mary is depicted in the Ark of the Covenant.  The ark was the most Holy possession of ancient Israel because it represented the protection and power of God.  The first ark contained the Ten Commandments, written by God into stone, while Mary contained the word of God in flesh.  The first ark contained Mana to remind Israel of the bread from heaven that saved them in the wilderness; Mary contained the bread of Life for “all who eat of it will have eternal life” (John 6:51).  The Ark of the Covenant held Aaron’s Rod, the first ancestral priest; while Mary held the divine person of the eternal priest (61).  Scott Hann details in his book a fascinating parallel of how Luke’s gospel of Mary receiving her the news from the Angel Gabriel and then traveling to see her cousin, how this storyline parallels the description of when David brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem in the book of Samuel.  I won’t go through all the details here, but it’s worth a read.  Finally, and most compellingly, when John talks in Revelation 11:19, he describes that the Heavenly temple opens and within it is the Ark of the Covenant, which had been missing for centuries.  He proceeds to describe a woman, who is the ark and who is Mary.

Mary as the New Queen Mother

The final type is found in the Davidic Kingdom.  In 2 Samuel 7, God promised David that from his family line would come a king that would reign forever, which is why Matthew provides the ancestry that follows David’s descendents to Mary.  The Davidic Kingdom which foreshadowed God’s Kingdom had a very specific structure, which Hann points out was “neither incidental nor accidental” but monumental in God’s plan (76).  In the Davidic kingdom, you had a king and a queen, but the queen was the mother of the king, not the wife, as many kings had many wives.  The Queen Mother represented the royal succession as she was the wife of the previous king and the mother of the present king.  She also held a distinguished role, which is portrayed in 1 Kings 2:19, where the Queen Mother, Bathsheba, approaches her son in order to speak behalf of someone in the kingdom.  Solomon, the King, rises and bows to greet Bathsheba.  Anyone else—even the King’s wives—would bow before the King, while he remains seated, but here the King provides this honorable greeting to his mother.  He then places a seat for her at his right hand—the highest place of authority under the King—and asks “what is it you request—for I shall not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20).  As Jesus is the descendent of David and the King of Kings, Mary is then the Queen Mother in His Kingdom.  Just as Solomon’s power and authority were not threatened by his Mother’s role in the Kingdom as an advocate and could bow to her while remaining the monarch, Jesus pays respect to Mary and welcomes her into his Kingdom to be an advocate for us.

I hope I was able to present Mary in a way that provides a deeper desire to get to know the Mother of Jesus, to invite her over for dinner and hear her thoughts and opinions.  To learn more about Mary, read my blog posts: 5 Characteristics of Mary and Mary's 3 roles in the Church.  If this has sparked an interest for you, I recommend reading the two books that I have summarized here.  I will also be reading 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Michael Gaitley.  I will be starting on June 13, 2018, so that I can consecrate myself to Mary (if I so choose) on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16.  If you would like to accompany me on this Bible Study, I would love the company.  You can pick up any of the three books below using my affiliate links, which do not add any additional charge to your order but provide a small commission to me.  You can read more about that on my disclosure page.

 

 

Finding the Holy Spirit at the Three Crosses

The Mountain TOP Logo: found at www.mountain-top.org

Wacky Wednesday is a Mountain TOP tradition.  Every summer, for one week, St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church sent its high school youth group to Mountain TOP (which stands for Tennessee Outreach Project) and Wacky Wednesday is a looked forward to tradition.  In the morning, staff surprises all the campers with their craziest outfits during breakfast.  Campers are then encouraged outdo the staff for dinner.  Campers could use what they brought with them or hit up a local dollar store if they were able to get all the work done on their mission site that day.  I always brought a Pirate Custom, 'cause I was a cool kid.

After dinner, there were many additional fun activities outside the norm.  There was a dance party in the field or guitar playing and singing in the cavern.  There was always a long line for 9 square as competition in the game was fierce.  Wacky Wednesday always had a special art project one could participate in or cards to be played.  Pack the evening with activities because Wednesday was the day most campers get a little homesick, that was the theory.

I never got homesick.  My parents have been sending me to weeklong Christian camps since grade school.  I loved them.  But as I was heading over to the dance party, I saw a long line of kids at the pay phone and decided to just call home real quick to let my parents know how much I loved them and appreciated that they send me to camp every summer.

My work site team on my final year at Mountain TOP

I placed 50 cents into the slot and dial the only phone number that I still have memorized.  My dad picked up the phone because my mom was having a late night at work.  I intended for a quick hello, say my thanks, and an I-love-you-good-bye but my dad, who at the time, wasn’t the most talkative person on the phone, had a lot to say after my “how are you, daddy?”  He told my brother who was at a boarding school that specialized in at-risk teens had been acting up and would not be allowed to send me letters anymore.  He told me that my mom’s hospital had decided to merge with a bigger one and my mom was going to lose her job.  He finished with that my grandmother’s cancer was back, and after several years of battling it, she decided to stop receiving treatment.  When I asked what that meant, he told me blatantly, that she would die soon.

I remember hanging up the phone and walking through camp is slow motion.  It seemed that everyone was dancing or laughing or running around me in real time, but I was on a different plane.  I moved through camp in a fog, with no destination in mind, trying to wrap my head around the news.  I ended up at the worship area.  It’s a field, surrounded by forest, with logs as pews that face three crosses.  I sat down hoping the quiet would soothe me.  But it wasn’t quiet at all.  There were the loudest crickets I had ever heard and frogs croaking and some night birds chirping and buzzing of insects.  The roar of the forest seemed louder than high way near house back home.  And that’s when it all sunk in and I cried.

I cried that ugly cry, where you are weeping uncontrollably and can’t catch your breath.  It was the kind of cry that hurts your lungs and makes your shoulders shake.  Tears soaked my face and dripped off my chin unto my bare knees.  My hands gripped onto the log so that I would stay upright for fear of just falling on the ground into a fetal position.  I cried and cried and cried—until it stopped, my crying stopped.

I didn’t stop crying, it stopped.  I remember it so distinctly because I was in the middle of a sob when it stopped.  It stopped and the noise did too.  It was so quiet around me, I couldn’t hear a thing.  I remember opening my eyes hesitantly, and raising my head slowly, in fear that my Lord and Savior would be literally standing in front of me.  I saw the three crosses and a thought came into my head, “it will be alright.”  I wiped my eyes, I got up from the log, and I left that worship area forever changed.

I was born, baptized, and confirmed a United Methodist Christian.  I grew up reading Dr. Seuss alongside Children’s Picture Bibles.  We had CDs that played on car rides about GT and the Halo Express, where kids would embark on every day adventures and learn the righteous path.  I went to Sunday School and weekday Children’s Church.  I knew about and loved Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

That Wacky Wednesday night, I felt the Holy Spirit for the first time in my life.  I came back changed and took on more leadership roles at my church.  The biggest change was that I was more aware of where the Holy Spirit was calling me to be.  The Lord’s never since quieted the night’s sky for me, so I myself became more quiet in order to listen for the Lord.  He’s lead me to take a gap year before college in the city of Detroit, to pursue urban planning, to become a Youth Group Director, and to marry my husband.  Each of these has a great story where I can point and say “that was the Holy Spirit.”  Nowadays, the Holy Spirit is gentle movements in my heart leading me in the best ways to raise my children.  It’s less showy than quieting the whole night sky, but just as personal and comforting as it was all those years ago.

4 Ways to Find a Strong Christian Baby Name

 

As simple as it seems, there is often a great deal of thought that goes into naming your children.  Why else would there be books upon books of baby naming books.  Most likely, the name you pick will be the name of your child for the rest of their life.  In today’s world, many soon-to-be-parents contemplate how popular the name currently is, how easily mocked it could be, any meaning behind the name, or sentimental element the name brings.  Naming our children is something my husband and I take seriously because we want strong, Christian names that will inspire strong, Christian children.

Biblically, a name is extremely important.  It defines who you are and your character.  A name is so important that many important Biblical figures had their name changed after a life changing moment occurred.  For instance, Abram became Abraham after he made a covenant with God, which also influence his wife’s identity as she became Sarah from Sarai.  Saul became Paul after he met the risen Lord on his way to Damascus.  A name is so important that the Lord forbids us to use His name foolishly.  It’s his name “I Am” that links the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Jesus Christ, God in flesh, who came to suffer and save us all.  If a name holds this much importance in these teachings from thousands of years ago, I believe it holds the same amount of importance today.  So how do you pick a good name?

Christian Models

Miss Monster is named after a Catholic Saint.  She’s an early Saint that we don’t know too much about.  We know this Saint is from a religious family, father, mother, and sister all believed in Christ.  They lived in Rome, while the Roman government was still persecuting Christians.  Her parents were killed as martyrs and so her sister and she became orphans.  However, this suffering did not weaken the daughter’s faith.  The girls were asked to deny Christ and they refused so they were sent to a brothel and received almost no food or water.  Still they did not deny Christ.  Eventually, they were both martyred, as well, her sister, then her.  The Roman government left the corpse out in the elements to have wild animals tear into it, but no animals touched it.  Eventually, a Christian was able to take the remains and bury them.  Pretty morbid, huh?  I heard that story while pregnant with Miss Monster and was taken back by the kind of faith that whole family had.  I hope to be able to pass on to my children an unshakeable faith in God that doesn’t let up even through the worst suffering imaginable.  So while I hope Miss Monster will be inspired by the Saint she’s named after, her name is also a reminder to me of the faith I must model in hopes of passing it along to her.

There are so many great Saints in the Catholic Church.  These Saints are Christians that we can all learn from and try our best to eliminate, no matter our denomination.  I encourage everyone to learn about some Saints and consider them has heavenly role models.

Biblical Figures

We joke that Little Shark is our Old Testament Baby.  Her first and middle name are women who were great leaders for the Hebrews people.  They are great, strong leaders during a time that women did not have the status to lead anyone.  I picked two from the Old Testament, but the Bible is filled with names of people showing great faith, great courage, and great stories that could inspire anyone to be all that God wants them to be.

A Memorial

Another route for naming a child, instead of naming him/her after a famous role model, you may name him/her after a personal role model.  This is one of the most common ways to name a child, where the child takes the name of a parent, or grandparent.  Miss Monster’s middle name is a memorial to my husband’s paternal grandmother, who died when his father was in High School.  I obviously never met her, obviously my husband never met her either.  But I do know her.  When discussing our career goals and desires—prior to marriage—my husband shared this insight with me:

The life we build on this earth will pass away with our passing.  Regardless of the empire we build or the business legacy we create, it will all eventually fade into memory.  We only have one thing that will live on forever, which is our love, and the how we teach our children to love.  The love we pass on to our children, they will pass on to their children, and through the generations our love will live forever.  So while I never met her, I know her because she loved my father-in-law, who loves my husband, who shows me the best the love I have ever known every day of my life, and loves our children likewise.

A Feeling

When it comes down to it, after reading all the Baby Naming Books and contemplating famous and personal role models, naming your children comes down to a feeling you have with what is perfect for that child.  Maybe you just hear a name and it gives you a good feeling.  Naming Little Shark felt like a feeling from God.  Before I knew I was pregnant with her (I found out very late), I was taking a shower and randomly thought, “if Miss Monster were to have a sister, I would want to name her this.”  It was random as my husband and I were not contemplating having a second child yet.  But in that instant, it felt right and I could see the two girls playing together in my head.  I forget if I told my husband then, or a couple months later, when we found out I was pregnant.  It won't always be that obvious, but when you find the right name, it will just feel right.

Things To Consider When Marrying A Catholic

It’s funny that when I write this, my engagement seems so long ago, but I still vividly remember the joy, excitement, and bit of anxiety over my future wedding.  Within the first 48 hours of being engaged, I bought a wedding magazine so I could start reading about cake and dresses and all the details involved in planning a wedding.  While planning a wedding can be all-consuming, the best piece of advice I can provide for engaged couples is to make sure you put just as much effort into planning the marriage.  There are a lot of things you should discuss before walking down the aisle.  This is true for any couple, but especially, a couple that doesn’t share the same faith or same denomination of faith.  As a Protestant, here are a couple of things that I considered and discussed with my fiancé relating to our faith traditions and how they would play out in our marriage.

Requirements of a Valid Catholic Marriage

The most important thing to consider is knowing the three basic requirements for a valid Catholic wedding.  If your marriage is to be recognized by the Catholic Church (and your Catholic fiancé will want it to be), you must meet these three requirements.

  • You both must be capable of being married. Things that may impede one from being able to marry include (but aren’t limited to) age, previous marriage, being related, fear, or not mentally capable of knowing the significance of marriage.
  • The wedding ceremony must follow the canonical form for marriage. This means that it must be performed by a priest, in the presence of at least two other witnesses.  Also, for Catholics marrying Catholics, it must follow the Order of Celebrating Matrimony (which just lays out the order of service for the ceremony) but this can be dropped if one of the members of the couple is not Catholic.
  • The couple must give their consent to be married. For a marriage to be valid, the couple must freely give and accept from each other their whole selves, forever.  To establish this, three questions are asked right before the vows:
    1. Have you come here to enter into Marriage without coercion, freely, and wholeheartly?
    2. Are you prepared, as you follow the path of Marriage, to love and honor each other for as long as you both shall live?
    3. Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and the Church?

For my fiancé and myself, there were no impediments to marriage, we planned to have both a priest and pastor preside in front of all our family and friends who could attend, and we liked the religious traditions of the order of mass so we followed it as closely as possible, even though we didn’t have to.  But that third requirement really caused me to pause and think deeply about what I was committing myself to.

It sounds simple enough, “give consent to be married.”  Yea, of course, that’s what the famous “I do” is, right?  And yea, to enter marriage without coercion and honor that union for my whole life, I knew that part.  But that third one, to accept children from God (yes, I’m with ya) and bring them up according to the law of Christ (yes, I’m with ya) and “the (Catholic) Church” (uh.. hold on a second).  Protestants, take note: whenever Catholics use a big C with Church, they mean the Catholic Church.  So, in order for my marriage to be seen as valid in the Catholic Church, I had to promise before all my friends and family and God that I would raise my children Catholic.  As a lifetime Methodist, who daydreamed about having a big Methodist family, with six children filling up the pews in my United Methodist Church, that was a big requirement of my marriage to consider exactly what was expected of me and how that would look in my future.

Is it really that big of a deal?  Could one say yes to this question, and be agreeing to raise their children in the “law of Christ and the church*”?  (Note the small c on purpose, just the law of any Christian denomination).  When discussing this with my fiancé, we wanted to make sure that everything we vowed to each other during the wedding ceremony, in front of God and family, we fully intended to keep, no asterisks needed.  These vows would be the foundation of our marriage, and it is important to us that the words we said had meaning.  So for us to be married and have our marriage seen as valid in the Catholic Church, I would raise my children Catholic.  What this looks like for every couple (especially every interdenominational couple) will be different, but your intent is important.

Quick story:  The first time Kevin, my best friend’s husband, met my father, we were sitting around a campfire a week before my wedding.  He was asking about my wedding and different aspects of what we had planned.  I told him about the requirement to vow to raise my children Catholic.  My father, never having heard this and assuming I was going to raise them Methodist, was suddenly more alert to the conversation.  He said in a loud and boisterous voice, “so you’re going to lie?!”  Kevin thought it was the funniest introduction to my father there could be.  My father states he was just joking, and I suppose only God knows the truth.

My Wedding Ceremony: Saying Our Vows

 How will your weekends look?

Once you get past the wedding requirements, you begin planning the details of what an interfaith marriage looks like.

  • Will you attend services together or separate?
  • If you attend services together, will you go to the Protestant or the Catholic service?
    • Will you go to both each weekend? Or Protestant service one weekend and the next weekend a Catholic mass?
  • Once you know what you will do once married, what will you do once children enter the picture? Will it change?  How?

My fiancé and I originally agreed to go to each other’s services every other weekend.  We’d go one week to Catholic service, then the next to my Methodist service.  Then I found out that for him to miss a mass on a weekend is a sin and he’d have to go to confession, so he had no intention of missing mass.  Therefore, he’d be attending mass by himself (and attending two services the weekends we went to Methodist service).  I had already been attending Catholic mass and Methodist service during our engagement on my own so after our wedding, it was a smooth transition for me to attend both services each weekend.  We would go to early Catholic mass, come home for a big breakfast (as part of my husband’s family tradition), and then head out to Methodist service.

When Miss Monster entered the picture, we continued attending both services but the whole Sunday morning marathon fell during naptime or when her nap moved to the afternoon, provided not enough playtime to use all her excess energy.  We ended up moving our Catholic mass to Saturday night and worked our Sunday mornings around my Methodist service (which only had one possible time frame).  While this works currently, our weekend service/mass times will be something we evaluate and determine what schedule looks best for our family needs.  Prior to your wedding, you do not need to figure out all the details of what it would look like, but begin the discussion and come up with possible ideas.

Where will your children be baptized?

When I contemplated the third question of the consent questions, this wore heavy on my heart.  I love baptisms.  One of my favorite parts of baptism is when the whole congregation agrees to help raise the child in the faith.  This rings true to me because I feel much of my own personal faith was shaped by many of the adults at my childhood church.  Then one day, I came across a dedication.  The parents had adopted a little boy, who was already baptized.  Methodists and Catholics both agree that once a person is baptized, they are baptized, no matter the denomination, no matter how long ago, no matter what.  He couldn’t get rebaptized, but the new parents wanted him to be dedicated to God, so that they could profess in front of family and friends to raise the child in the church and for the congregation to agree to help.  This made perfect sense to me.  For all of our children, they are baptized in the Catholic Church and then they are dedicated in the Methodist Church.  We will raise them Catholic, they will go through First Communion, and at the time of Confirmation, they can decide if they’d like to Confirm Catholic or Methodist (or not at all, but hopefully not that).

Are there any Catholic beliefs held by your spouse that will affect your lifestyle?

When I was engaged, someone told me that the purpose of marriage is to get your spouse to Heaven.  The idea here is that if God should be the first and foremost important thing in your life, the hard work of marriage would impede on that, unless your spouse was actively trying to sanctify you and you vice versa.  I love this definition/purpose for marriage because it makes all the hard times worth something great.  I don’t think it will surprise anyone to know that the Catholic Church is more conservative in some moral beliefs than the Methodist Church.  One major one that comes up with marriage is that the Catholic Church believes that contraceptives are a sin.  And while learning and applying Natural Family Planning (a scientifically proven method of spacing children by planning intercourse around fertile and non fertile periods) has become a blessing in my life and marriage, it was not an easy thing to accept at first, probably because all the misinformation and lack of information out there about it.  It is important to know where your faith and your spouse’s Catholic faith do not line up and to have conversations about how this affects your life together in a practical manner and find a solution that honors both faiths.

Being in a interdenominational marriage and raising children in two faith traditions is more work than having one faith tradition for the whole family.  That being said, it is very doable as long as you and your spouse are able to have conversations about where the faiths diverge and how you will honor these differences.

Modeling Prayer Life for Toddlers and Babies

With children so young, the best way to currently pass on the faith is through modeling.  Children want to be like their parents, so they model every behavior they see.  In our Montessori household, we take advantage of this attribute of young children and prepare the environment so that they can do real tasks and develop these practical life skills, such as cleaning, cooking, self care, and so forth.  Very little is needed other than to model a desired behavior and invite the child to participate alongside you.

To model an active prayer life for my children, I have placed prayers into our daily routine.  Toddlers love routines because it gives them confidence and stability when they can predict what is to come next.  They are proud when they can correctly vocalize the next action.  I love my prayer life routine too, as without it, I may allow the busyness of motherhood to push out any time for prayer.

Miss Monster kneeling in prayer

Morning Prayer:

Each morning, Miss Monster picks out an outfit to wear.  She will then use the bathroom and change into her clothes.  She places her pajamas in her hamper.  We then make her bed together, some days she wants to do it by herself, but other days, I am invited to help.  Once the bed is made, we kneel on the floor, hands on the bed and pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Many mornings, Miss Monster will insist that Little Shark also kneel and pray with us.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallow be Thy Name.  Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thyne is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

*I realize the last sentence is not actually a part of the Lord’s Prayer, but is the Doxology that was added on to it.  During these morning prayers, I say it because in the Methodist tradition it is always said along with the Lord’s Prayer.

To keep the routine, anytime someone gets dressed for the day, the bed is then made, and I pray the Lord’s Prayer afterwards.  Therefore, I will say the Lord’s Prayer three times (Miss Monster’s bed, Little Shark’s bed, and my bed).  I always invite the children to pray with me, but if they are uninterested, I proceed with kneeling and praying outloud.  Often, even if there was the initial disinterest, Miss Monster will join by the Amen.

Mealtime Prayer:

Before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I will make the sign of the cross and say our Mealtime Blessing.

Bless us oh Lord and these Thy gifts for which we are about to receive from Thy blessing through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

*I also ask for blessings for Miss Monster and Little Shark, and I (or my husband when present) will make a cross on their foreheads before making the sign of the cross once more.

I always invite Miss Monster to make the sign of the cross with us, and occasionally, I will help her do so with her hands.  However, we usually say our blessing once food is on the table and has been divided out on plates so the girls are often too excited and engaged in eating to pray with me.  With age will come the expectation to participate fully and wait to eat until after prayers are said, but with toddlers, modeling the behavior now is the important part.  That said, Miss Monster LOVES to point out if in the middle of lunch she realizes that prayers were not said yet, which will happen if company is over or a distraction occurred before eating.

Before Sleep Prayers & Hymns:

Our sleep routine is important for helping Miss Monster drift off to sleep.  While naptime and bedtime are a little different (bedtime is a longer routine), for both, we always use the potty and brush our teeth.  Then we get tucked into bed, a hug and a kiss, and I walk Miss Monster through a prayer of thanksgiving.  Once completed, we say a Hail Mary, and sing two Hymns.  Miss Monster has always had a very hard time falling asleep, even as a newborn, so singing hymns has been a sleep time tradition since we met her in the hospital that first night.  At the height of her difficulty drifting off to sleep (9 months old to 2 years old), we would sing until she was asleep, which sometime resulted in 45 minutes of hymns.  Stephen and I usually sing different Hymns.  She now knows many of the hymns we sing and will ask for certain ones.  Nowadays, she gets only two hymns before bed or else she’d stay up all night singing.

For our Thanksgiving Prayer, I will start by saying “Dear Heavenly Father, we would like to thank you for the wonderful day and the many blessings you have provided us.”  Sometimes I will walk Miss Monster through some the activities we did, thanking God for each one.  Then I will open it up to her, asking “what would you like to thank God for?”  She always starts with Little Shark, then daddy, then mommy.  Once she has those bases covered, she will delve into whatever fits her fancy at that moment, from new puzzles to hot cocoa to her grandparents to cheese.  We end up thanking God for many edible things as Miss Monster likes to eat.  It’s such a joy to hear what she will thank God for each day.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the time of our death. Amen.

Attending Mass and Service:

In addition, to these prayer routines, it is also important to model prayer at mass.  We attend mass together as a family every week, usually during the Saturday night mass, as Stephen works Sundays.  I attend my Methodist service on Sunday.  I also try to aim for attending daily mass twice a week.  We attend once as a family, and once just the girls and I.  Daily mass has become a lovely tradition as it allows Miss Monster time to practice her attention span on service, in a more intimate setting, for a shorter period of time.  Our daily mass usually only lasts 30 minutes, has only two readings, along with a Psalm.  Miss Monster’s favorite part of mass is going up for a blessing during communion.

*My favorite memory at daily mass is when a new priest at our parish blessed me, but forgot to bless Miss Monster.  I tried to walk away holding her hand but she wouldn’t move.  Not yet vocalizing, she tugged on his garments and tapped her head.  He looked at me, and I stated “she would like her blessing, please.”

When to start:

When should you begin this modeling process?  I would recommend from birth for three reasons.  One, implementing a good prayer routine is just a good habit for anyone seeking to have an active prayer life.  Two, every child is different and they may surprise you on when they are ready to participate alongside you.  Even if they are not actively participating, they are observing and absorbing the behaviors and knowledge that you are presenting to them.  Three, if you wait to start when you think the child is ready, there might be some push back since you are requiring a new behavior that has never been modeled before.  A three year old will question why we must pray before lunch now, if it has never been done previously.

I would love hear about any prayer routines that you have in your house or if this post has inspired you to start your own!

Prayers for my Children

Faith in Our Hands

Scripted Prayer vs. Free Verse Prayer

As a Methodist, I favor unscripted prayer over versed recitation.  To me, it feels more like I am trying to be in conversation with God than when reciting words.  However, blessed by my Catholic marriage, I am beginning to understand the magnitude of growth that can come from having the words to say, such as our mealtime blessing and the gift of the rosary.  Scripted prayer can give you the words to say when you don’t know what to say.  It can give you the words to say when you’re too emotional (sad, angry, frustrated) to ask for help.  Routine scripted prayer even provides an avenue for prayer when you’re too tired to remember to pray.  If there were no need for scripted prayer, Jesus wouldn’t have given us His prayer.  So I am learning to find the beauty and grace in these prayers.  Furthermore, as a mother of two young girls, I now pray more scripted prayers than free verse because of the simplicity of it.  The following four prayers are my scripted prayer that I pray most often.

“Dear God, I ask that you raise my children up to be Saints in your kingdom.  May they feel your Holy Spirit stronger than I ever have or ever will.  May they follow Your will for their lives and bring You glory.  Amen.”’

This is the prayer I say the most.  I say it when I wake up each morning, every time I enter a church, every time the congregation is provided an opportunity for silent prayer, each night, and whenever I am reminded of it throughout the day.  As a mother, my main vocation is to try to get my children to Heaven: Saints in God’s Kingdom.  Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do to accomplish this.  While my husband and I can teach and model our faith, there is nothing we can do to make our children believe.  So I ask God to do it for me.  The Holy Spirit is the only avenue that people come to the Father and the Son.  I ask that the Holy Spirit presence be known in my children’s lives.

“Holy Mary, Mother of Toddler Jesus, give me patience.”

Young children can be trying.  Jesus, as fully human (and fully God), must have been trying as a toddler too.  After all, he did pull a Kevin McCallister Home Alone scenario and go MIA on his mother while on a family vacation when he was a young boy.  Catholics believe that Mary lived her whole life without sinning, and if that is true, she must have had a lot of patience with Toddler Jesus.  With or without sinning, she still raised Jesus in the Jewish faith and passed along the traditions.  As a mother, I find comfort by leaning upon another Heavenly mother for advice--or at least, empathy.

Heavenly Father, I feel angry and I am offering up this anger to you as a prayer for the Sainthood of my brothers.”

This is a newer prayer.  I have never been quick to anger.  But I found in the last year that when I am exhausted, and my children are suppose to be sleeping, I get angry.  I brought it to confession and my priest told me that anger is like electricity, “it can be used for so much good, but can also cause death--use it for good.”  So now, whenever I can feel my patience growing thin and my anger creeping in, I say this prayer.  It’s been a game changer because in offering it as a prayer for someone else, I instantly feel calmer as my emotion has purpose.  This allows me to handle the situation that made me angry in a more appropriate fashion.  And perhaps the way my children end up becoming Saints is by making their uncles Saints first.

“Jesus, bless my children, let them find happiness and raise their children—who are in their physical or spiritual care—in the faith.”

This is the newest prayer.  I realized that my initial prayers for my children did not cover the faith being passed on.  I assumed that if they were to become Saints, they would pass the faith on, but perhaps they become Saints later in life.  So I pray that they have a strong enough faith, that they pass it along, in any capacity that God blesses them with.

In addition to these, I will pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Mealtime Prayers with my children daily.  You can read more about these prayers in my post: Modeling Prayer Life for Toddlers and Babies.

What scripted prayers do you have for your children?  What value do you find in it?