Update: During the consecrations at Mass: permission granted. Of course, that means nothing if I don’t follow up with prayer…
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Requesting permission from Mary to carry the very dead body of Jesus from the Cross, from her arms, to His sepulcher is not the fruit of the retreat with the Diocese of Charlotte which I might have wished to glean this past week, but only because I am so very weak, all talk and no reality.
A priest friend reprimanded yours truly during the retreat for such weakness, the same weakness by which all the Apostles ran away from Gethsemane, from Calvary. John returned. Would I? The Apostles had exclaimed their dedication to the Lord – “Let us also go to die with Him” (John 11:16) / “‘Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you;’ and they all spoke similarly.” (Mark 14:31 et al.) – but they could not possibly keep their vows.
Paraphrasing and adding my own reflections: “What hubris, what arrogance, all these vows of yours to the Lord,” protested my friend about a lifetime of my offerings to the Lord, vows I had made in good faith for my good and the good of the Church, vows which our Lord took seriously, much more so than I: “It’s for you, Jesus!” or “It’s for your priests, Jesus!” And so on. Despite my superficiality, Jesus showed me His own priesthood in action countless times with miracles of grace for so many, putting my little offerings to Him into action. Although rejoicing in our Lord’s priesthood all these years, seeing His ministry in my priesthood ever so very plainly, I was not at all as close to Him as I knew I must be. “Take all your offerings and vows back from Jesus,” commanded my friend, leaving me quite aghast, my heart trampled on the ground, he not allowing me to fool myself with complacency any longer.
But then, of course, he picked me up a second later, telling me to give my all to Jesus once again, but this time through Mary, she being our mother. It’s not that I hadn’t made the Monfort consecration to Jesus through Mary as a seminarian, memorizing the long form of that consecration and repeating it so very many times in my life, a thousand times it seems. It’s not that I hadn’t preached and given retreats on ‘To Jesus through Mary’ throughout my priesthood all around the world. It’s not that I couldn’t provide an ultra-academic Scripture based explanation of ‘To Jesus through Mary’ perhaps even much better than most anyone anywhere. It’s just that when it came to making my particular offerings and vows to Jesus, I had done so without much thought being given to Mary, much like, I dare say again, the Apostles before the passion and death of our Lord. And that’s a mistake, deadly.
The task set before me was to present my vows and offerings anew to Jesus, but this time through Mary. During adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament I had tried to do this with words, but I was not satisfied and I felt quite lost, cut off, useless, not that an act of the will in our Lord’s grace was not enough. I know that. But then an image, a picture, a depiction of what this might mean analogously came to mind, making this ever more personal, at least to my weakness. Effectively, such offerings and vows are meant to be, I think, in some tiny way similar to what the beloved disciple did when our Lord, ever so dead, tortured to death, had just been taken down from the cross and was in the arms of His mother. John needed to carry about the dead body of Jesus to His sepulcher. Would he not, say, put a hand on the shoulder of Jesus and then look to Mary for her permission to take Jesus from her arms? Yes. And he would wait for seemingly interminable heart wrenching seconds for her to glance up into his eyes and then giving a nod and perhaps a word of encouragement…
“Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering” (Lamentations 1:12).
That moment of looking into her eyes would bespeak ten thousand offerings and vows to Jesus through her, “I promise to carry about the death of the Lord!” with this being reminiscent of 2 Corinthians 4:10, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”
I say “would bespeak” since I am so unworthy and yet await her glance. But this is the fruit of the diocesan retreat thus far.
Thanks everyone, for your prayers.