When I entered the seminary on August 24, 1984, one of the first seminarians I met was Peter. From Chicago but studying for one of the dioceses in Minnesota, Peter was generous and helpful. We recited the Holy Rosary together. More than once, we walked along the highway to an ice cream parlor a few blocks away. We discussed many things and laughed a lot. He even told me that his grandmother came to the United States on a ship from Italy with Mother Cabrini.
Peter was serious about spiritual matters. And in a short time after our friendship began, he introduced me to the “Total Consecration” Ad Iesum Per Mariam—“To Jesus through Mary”—advocated by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
With a copy of A Treatise on True Devotion to Mary by Saint Louis Marie along with a slender book that offered recommended prayers and readings for the thirty-three days period of preparation, I started to ponder just what is this way of going to Christ through the Ever-Virgin.
Thirty-five years later, I understand better that what this inspiring missionary proposed requires a lifetime of continual effort. To know, love and serve Jesus Christ via the mediation of Mary is an awesome privilege—and a sacred responsibility.
This encounter with a revered method of drawing closer to the Son through His Mother remains a significant event in my life. In fact, it was pivotal. It opened an inviting horizon for me, and it taught me how Saint John Paul II himself related to the King and the Queen of the Universe.
That was not my initial contact with Our Blessed Mother. At home, we had a large painting of “Our Lady of the Grapes” in the dining room. My parents, five siblings and I honored Mary every evening during our night prayers with a decade of the Holy Rosary. One of my own sisters is named “Mary.” The Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary were our teachers in our parish’s school. Mary was all around us, and we were glad.
Our Lady’s importance was reaffirmed for me when I, then as a priest, was sent by my Bishop to Rome to study Mariology. Now, I contemplated in-depth the Marian truths that before I knew experientially. What a treasure to have whole semesters dedicated to investigating the Divine Maternity, the Perpetual Virginity, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, not to mention other facets of the Marian mystery!
And, as if that were not enough, my current assignment allows me to work in the diocesan Office of the Marian Apostolate, encouraging the veneration of Mary and noting how she is present in the hearts of the Faithful.
The day-to-day interaction with my Spiritual Mother, however, is “where it’s at.” No amount of books, classes, presentations or pilgrimages can substitute for the consistent, needed receptivity to the love of Christ that Our Lady mystically models for me. She is the best human template of charity and mercy that I possess.
What more magnificent gift can I give to Our Lady other than my sincere conformity to Jesus Christ the Great High Priest? This is her desire. And, despite my weakness, I know that it must be mine, too.
That spirited, zealous Peter of decades ago? He was eventually ordained in another diocese in the Midwest. His death only a few years after his ordination was tragic, shrouded by uncertain circumstances. I will never forgot Father Peter’s kindness in ushering me into a fresh manner of venerating Our Lady. May his soul rest in peace.