33Days to Morning Glory is a book that had been recommended to me in the past, but it took a while before I invested the time and energy into tracking it down. Last year as a family we consecrated ourselves to Jesus through Mary following the method of St. Louis de Montfort. This book is a sort of preparation for that consecration. Since the consecration isn’t necessarily supposed to be a “one and done” kind of endeavor, reading this preparatory book now still makes sense as a way to recall and recommit to the promises made.
This morning’s reading focused on an inspiration St. Louis had to build a monument to the Lord’s Passion. His vision to create a huge visual testimony led the peasants of Pontchâteau, France to dedicate 15 months of their lives to erecting the massive structure on the hillside. Imagine the love they must have poured into the planning and construction, volunteering countless hours of their free time to memorialize the greatest act of love ever displayed, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Being peasants, it is doubtful that extra money, supplies and time were luxuries in ample supply, but that didn’t stop them from the mission.
Considering how elated I feel when I manage to complete some small (far less meaningful) task, like painting my kitchen cabinets after seven years of wanting to, the people of Pontchâteau must have been brimming with well-deserved pride and satisfaction once they stepped back to admire the result of their labors.
Then on the day before the bishop was due to arrive for the dedication, word came down that St. Louis’ enemies had succeeded in convincing government officials that the memorial was actually a fortress in disguise. They connived so as to turn Jesus’ road to Calvary into a Trojan horse. Afraid of usurped authority, the officials opted to destroy it.
Standing before thousands of faithful on the day of dedication, with the knowledge that all was slated for demolition, St. Louis said, “We had hoped to build a Calvary here. Let us build it in our hearts. Blessed be God.”
Wow. Rather than incite the peasants to rail against the injustice, rather than call them to their knees in petition for protection, rather than grumble and complain against his detractors, St. Louis let go. He recognized God’s Will and accepted it, although it was probably far beyond his own understanding. Surely, if God had inspired the building of such a potential source of grace and devotion, He had a great purpose for doing so. Why then should He allow its destruction after only a day? St. Louis didn’t stir up that question, he simply detached himself from the physical work and taught the faithful to do the same.
Now sensitive me gets so annoyed when my children carelessly undo my hard work (like the dirty dishes and crumbs that appear five minutes after I’ve scrubbed the kitchen clean), I can hardly imagine the anger and hurt the peasants might have felt once they witnessed the deconstruction of their sacrificial toils.
But more than just detach, St. Louis blessed God. He blessed God. He blessed Him for all of it, for the inspiration, for the motivation, for the laboring and the final completion; and he blessed Him for the persecution and destruction. He blessed God.
Reading those words launched me back in time. Every summer when the birthday bonanzas begin here in Brelinskyville I am compelled to take an accounting of sorts. In June, we will celebrate the 18thbirthday of our eldest son, the one who grew in my heart and not under it. July would have marked the 19thbirthday of our firstborn son.
That July in 1995 when our firstborn passed through me into the world, I felt the joy of new motherhood. I wrote in a letter to family and friends that his birth felt like climbing a mountain. After nine months of sacrifice and waiting, plus seven hours of laboring, I pushed a perfect being beyond the safe harbor of my womb. The feeling of elation was truly overwhelming like that of a climber who has reached the utmost heights and is rewarded by an expansive view of creation. However, my vision, like that of St. Louis’, was limited. God’s Will was for my firstborn to lose his earthly life too soon after.
I would like to say that I blessed God, as St. Louis did, but at the time I couldn’t even begin to find that kind of strength and faith. But today, with nearly 19 years of clarity, I recognize that letting go of my firstborn son opened the doorway to the adoption of my second son and the conception of my third son (both in 1996).
Additionally, after my husband and I had converted our hearts and more fully dedicated our marriage and our fertility to Jesus through Mary, God’s Will would again challenge ours. Two years with four consecutive miscarriages, routine bouts of depression and the resurfacing of an addiction (in 2010-2011) stripped me bare. Perhaps similar to some of the faithful of St. Louis’ time, I felt as though God has inspired me to build up something (new lives) only to have it torn down again and again. However, if I hadn’t consented to the suffering, I wouldn’t have the reward of mothering my now 8 month old son.
St. Louis let go and in doing so he allowed God to build an everlasting memorial to love and faith which has continued through centuries, affecting the spirituality of so many popes and faithful alike. Had the physical structure remained, St. Louis’ lesson of detachment and obedience may have born less fruit both in himself and in the Church he served.
With Holy Week on the horizon, it seems the ideal time to scrutinize my personal attachments (to stuff, to comfort, to my will). What was easy to separate myself from for 40 days, may not be so readily left aside if I focus on the narrow picture. However, if I build a Calvary in my heart, I have the hope of creating something eternal (or perhaps more likely I will be allowing God to create something eternal in me).