On some level, everyone I know is feeling the strain of the coronavirus quarantine. It’s a challenge to make decisions for own family—balancing basic needs and less urgent desires, physical health and emotional well-being, the fear of endangering someone’s health and the cry of our hearts for flesh-and-blood interaction—so I am grateful not to have the burden of deciding for churches, cities, states or nations.
I am also blessed to be busy with both work and family projects. But lately I find myself oscillating between excitement about the good things that are happening at our parish and home and feelings of futility when faced with an unknown future. Great things are happening at St. Michael Catholic Church and School; the Thorps are installing a long-awaited second shower and, God willing, new floors in our house; and we are preparing for our first granndchild and our third graduate leaving the nest—but what about this virus, the economy and the upcoming election? Can the parish maintain its positive momentum? Should Jodi and I be saving the money we’re investing in our home? What will the fall bring for our children and our grandbaby?
As it happens, it is May, the month of Mary, and Jodi, Lily and I are working our way through 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Michael Gaitley’s guide to Marian consecration. I reconsecrate myself annually, so this is my fourth time. This is Jodi’s second journey through the book, and our 8-year-old daughter’s first. Lily gets up at 7 AM, just after Jodi and I have finished our morning prayer time. I read the day’s reflection and prayer from Fr. Gaitley, then ask her questions to see what she understood and explain what she didn’t. It’s amazing to see how much she absorbs even on the first reading, and our question-and-answer time really makes Jodi and I focus on the fundamentals of the book: Who the Blessed Mother is to us, why she matters, and how she brings us closer to Jesus.
Our reading this morning sparked a deeper reflection in me throughout the day. Several years ago I was privileged to give a scripture reflection at Camp Lebanon, a summer camping excursion parish families used to take annually together. The gist of that reflection was that, when Mary uttered her beautiful canticle of praise to God before her cousin Elizabeth, she had little to be grateful for in a worldy sense. She was young, poor and pregnant; she was betrothed to a righteous man who was not the father of her child and could have had her stoned for adultery; and her people seemed no closer to deliverance than they ever had.
All she had going for her was the promise of God, that she was chosen by Him to do this thing, and that if she said yes, she would be blessed for eternity. No terms or timeframe; no additional reasurrance—Mary offered her fiat, and the angel departed from her.
God makes the same promise to all of us: He has chosen us to do this thing (whatever this thing is), and if we say yes, we will be blessed for eternity. We may have to wait a bit. We may have to suffer. But we will be blessed.
The saint we are studying in Fr. Gaitley’s book is a favorite of mine: the martyr of Auschwitz, St. Maximilian Kolbe. In previous readings, what struck me most about St. Maximilian, aside from his beautiful martyrdom, was the audacity of his mission and his sense of urgency: The goal of his Militia Immaculata was to bring as the entire world under the generalship of Mary Immaculate, and to do so as quickly as possible.
But this morning, a smaller detail struck me: St. Maximilian spent much of his life pondering what Mary’s title “The Immaculate Conception” truly meant … and he did his most important writing on this great mystery mere hours before the Gestapo arrested him and sent his to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
He likely knew it was just a matter of time before he would be captured. His religious brothers urged him to go into hiding. But he stayed where he was and did the work that was before him. His writings on the Immaculate Conception were not too late—indeed, they continue to draw people to Christ through His Blessed Mother even today.
I don’t know what tomorrow, or this summer or next year has in store—and I don’t want to simply get back to normal. But I can see good things happening despite this virus and everything else, and I have good work to do. I hope that, on some level, the same holds true for you. Whatever the future holds, let’s act with the decisiveness and absolute trust of Mary, and the audacity and urgency of St. Maximilian her son. Totus Tuus Maria! Ave Christus Rex!