‘To Jesus through Mary’ to culminate on feast of Immaculate Conception
Story by S.L. Hansen
NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) - Dozens of people at St. Benedict Parish in Nebraska City are preparing to be consecrated to Jesus through Mary in the way of Saint Louis de Montfort on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
A French priest who died nearly 300 years ago, Saint Louis de Montfort is primarily known for his devotion, “Total Consecration.”
This 33-day spiritual exercise includes daily prayers and readings from Scripture, “The Imitation of Christ” by Saint Thomas à Kempis, and Saint Louis de Montfort’s own, “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Dotti Easter of St. Benedict Parish said the practice was organized this year through the Legion of Mary Our Lady of Guadalupe Praesidium as a way for the parish to grow closer to Jesus during the Advent Season, as well as to help foster a deeper devotion as 27 students prepare for Confirmation Dec. 14.
Father Mark Cyza, pastor at St. Benedict Parish (members of St. Mary Church in Nebraska City are also participating in their own parish), said that Total Consecration is something that anybody can do at any time.
“As the Church says,” he noted, “Mary has an essential role in our spiritual lives and in our faith and in the Incarnation. So everyone is called to understand that role more deeply.”
He continued, “When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and presented her with God’s plan, it wasn’t until Mary gave her consent — until Mary said yes — that the Incarnation took place. And so just as Mary had an essential role in the incarnation… God incorporates her ‘yes’ into the plan of that incarnation…What this consecration really does is it helps us to understand and appreciate on a more explicit level what God has done in the Incarnation.”
“For me, this preparation time provides a format to help me grow spiritually,” she said. “Learning to be more self giving, so that in turn I can be more like Jesus; putting my wants and desires on the back burner, so to speak, and learning to listen to and respond, like Mary, to what God is calling me to do.”
The parish provided 50 copies of a book for parishioners who wanted to prepare for Total Consecration this year. The book is a self-guided devotional that equips a person to ready his or her heart, mind and soul for the consecration.
“Saint Louis de Montfort separates [the devotional] into three different preparation periods,” Father Cyza said. “Knowledge of self, knowledge of Mary and knowledge of Christ.”
The first phase of the preparation helps participants understand themselves and their sins on a deeper level. Prayers include the Litany of the Holy Ghost, the Litany of Loreto and the hymn “Ave Maris Stellis.”
The next phase brings participants closer to the Blessed Mother by adding prayers to Mary written by St. Louis de Montfort and the Holy Rosary. In the final days of preparation, one’s understanding of Christ is enhanced through specific meditations and prayers that included the Litany of the holy Name of Jesus and St. Louis de Montfort’s prayers to Christ.
Total Consecration culminates on a Marian feast day.
“St. Louis de Montfort recommended that people would do the consecration on a special Marian feast day so they would always remember when they did it,” Father Cyza explained.
This helps facilitate an annual renewal of Total Consecration, something that Father Cyza has been practicing himself every Feast of the Immaculate Conception since before he went to the seminary. A friend invited him to do Total Consecration, and he thought it sounded like a good challenge.
Father Cyza has grown to love this devotion and has led numerous groups through it in various parishes.
“Each time, I gain a deeper understanding of the grace I received in my own baptism,” he said.
Participation in the parish has been enthusiastic. Easter said members have been busy texting, emailing and sharing via word of mouth as well as traditional means of getting the word out (bulletin blurbs and pulpit announcements) for “this awesome opportunity.”
On December 8, each member of St. Benedict Parish who has been preparing for Total Consecration will gather at the church for a series of events leading up to the actual consecration.
Father Cyza said the day will include confessions, Mass, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before an evening session where everyone will make the consecration together.
In his previous parish assignments, Father Cyza has seen a significant impact when people consecrate themselves to Jesus through Mary using this devotion.
“When people begin to understand more deeply Mary’s role in our salvation, it helps to elevate the level of discipleship, of stewardship, all these good fruits you see from that,” he said.
He encourages all Catholics to find some sort of Marian devotion to enhance their spiritual growth, whether it’s Total Consecration as developed by Saint Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe’s Marian spirituality or something else.
“It’s such a powerful means of growing in holiness, and Mary plays such an essential part,” Father Cyza said. “Mary is a beautiful means that God has given us to know Jesus more deeply. For anyone who would like to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, if you grow in your relationship with Mary, that comes about as part of that.”
Copies of “True Devotion to Mary with Preparation for Total Consecration” are available from Catholic bookstores and online retailers, including locally-owned Gloria Deo.
Individuals who would like to begin their own Total Consecration devotion can start 33 days prior to any upcoming Marian feast day. The next opportunity will begin Jan.9 for consecration on the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes Feb. 11. To expand this to a parish-wide devotion, please consult your pastor.
St. Benedict Church in Nebraska City is oldest in state
NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) – St. Benedict Church at 411 5th Rue in Nebraska City is the oldest continuously active Catholic church in Nebraska.
The parish originated in 1956, and the church was built in 1861. The ornate oak altar, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was installed in 1898. A new altar of sacrifice was consecrated in 1997, and other updates and maintenance has been performed on the church.
The church was first served by the Benedictine priests of Atchison, Kan., until 1910. The Fathers of the Precious Blood served the parish until 1981, when Father Lyle Johnson was named the first diocesan pastor.
The parish comprises 122 families. Weekend Masses are celebrated at 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday. A Mass is celebrated in Spanish at noon on Sunday.