When I was in the seminary, I took an elective class on the anthropology of Pope John Paul II before he became pope. He was a professor and a very smart man, so his writings were very good, but very long and deep. When the teacher covered things in class, I loved it and had all types of ideas and input. But with 4 other classes and a full schedule, the reading for this class fell to the bottom of the list. I could do that because the only grade for the class was a final theme paper.
Anyway, as the end of the year – and the theme paper – got close, I went to the professor and said, “I have to say, that I haven’t been able to do really any of the reading, and I’m thinking of dropping the class.” He said not to worry, that most hadn’t done too much reading. So I went ahead with my topic that I was inspired with from what we covered in class and my own life: consecration to Mary as the source of knowing Pope John Paul II.
I was so inspired to write, and I put a lot into the paper, drawing from everything I could from the sources from the course, from the highlights of the parts we covered in class. I wrote about what I saw in the work, the key to understanding john Paul’s anthropology: his constant invitation to follow him, beginning with consecration to the Virgin Mary.
On the last class, each student got to share a short summary of their paper. When I was thinking about it, I had an inspiration that I prayed about: to invite others to do the consecration to Mary as I have, that I’d accompany them. I really felt that God wanted me to do this. So my turn came around, and I summarized what I wrote, and then I shared with everyone who I had done this consecration some years ago, and I would be willing to accompany anyone who wanted to do it not. Polite silence, thanks, on to the next person.
No one responded.
A little later, I don’t remember if it was the same day or the same week, but I was in the exercise room at the seminary and I was so dejected. I was complaining in my heart to God and to Mary, like someone who missed the bus because they had an outdated schedule, or missed a sign from the coach in baseball, or when you get rejected by a woman you thought was interested in you, something like that. “I really thought you wanted me to share that, I thought you were going to do something with that.” Just then, in that very moment, one of my friends Jason, who was riding the stair master machine, took out his earbuds and said to me, “Jerome, you know that offer you made in class? I’d like to do that.” Well, that changed everything.
We got a little group together, and eventually got the spiritual director of the seminary on board. On the feast of the Presentation, all five of us made the consecration at the chapel of Our Lady at the seminary, each with our own unique prayer of entrustment, with the spiritual director of the seminary assisting.
And the following semester, all 80 of the seminarians were entrusted to Mary in a short ceremony by the seminary spiritual director.
I got an A on that paper. I got an A in that course. Me and my “yes” to God.
I’ve given some presentations about Our Lady of Lourdes to my ministry. Now, there’s a whole lot your can say about that apparition and everything that’s happened since. You can talk about all the little details of Mary in the visions, the yellow roses, her rosary beads, her voice, the secrets. You can talk about her request to pray the rosary and do penance. Then, you can talk about the Immaculate Conception, I am the Immaculate Conception, what does *that* mean? You can talk about all the healings with the water from Lourdes and the pilgrimages and all the volunteers and workers and the sheer size of the Shrine. You can talk about all the negativity from both the Church and the public.
Those are all great, and I’ll give an overview of a lot of that. But in the end, I always have a final slide. I get to the point. There’s a picture of the cave before the apparitions, an old dumping ground and animal shelter. Then, there’s a picture of the same cave today, with the gigantic church and plaza built on top of it, filled with pilgrims and prayers and healings. It is like night and day, the two pictures. And then there is a final one that comes in the middle. It’s Bernadette.
What was the catalyst for this place going from the town dump to the most visited place on earth, where there are 67 confirmed miraculous healings and countless undocumented more miracles, where millions of people every year are loved and their hearts are renewed, whose water goes throughout the earth as a an instrument of people’s faith? What was it that made turned it all upside down?
This poorest, sick, illiterate, unknown young woman.
And her “yes” to God.
Never forget how powerful and valuable and treasured your “yes” to God is. Don’t forget how powerful and valuable and treasured Mary is. The greatest transformations imaginable in the world can happen, through you and Mary.
Through you and your “yes” to God.
“Be it done to me according to your Word.” (Lk 1:38)