Lisa Arth remembers 17 years ago, when she and her husband, Mike, consecrated themselves and their four children to Mary.
"We knew it was for the whole family," said Arth of South Lake, Texas. "It involved the entire domestic church, my home."
The Arths, who belong to the apostolic movement of Schoenstatt, a Marian movement founded in Germany, are among families who are bringing Mary into their homes in a deeper way by consecrating themselves to her through a variety of devotions.
"There seems to be a spirit moving in peoples’ hearts — wanting to learn more and draw closer to our Blessed Mother," said Father Michael Gaitley, author of the Marian consecration guide 33 Days to Morning Glory.
Father Gaitley’s book, inspired by St. Louis de Montfort’s well-known devotion "Consecration to Jesus through Mary," expands on the classic work in which participants consecrate themselves completely to Jesus through Mary.
"Mary really seems to be at work, and she loves her children very much. And the consecration is a very powerful means of growing in holiness and also developing a deeper relationship with Jesus through our Blessed Mother," he said. "It seems that she really wants to get her children formally entrusted to her so she can use her full motherly mediation with them."
When Dan and Deb Selner of West St. Paul, Minn., were inspired to make the St. Louis consecration last year, there wasn’t a question of whether they would include their daughters Micaela, now 11, and Kathryn, 8.
Said Deb, "Whether or not [the girls] can completely grasp it, we are going to do it together as a family because it’s a beautiful, valuable treasure, and the grace will come to the family as a whole."
Bob and Kelly Roper made the St. Louis de Montfort consecration 20 years ago, and the eight children they’ve raised in Platt City, Miss., have grown up with the devotion, which the family renews annually.
Bob believes the consecration has been foundational in increasing their faith: "I have to get up every morning and go to work and work hard at my faith and being faithful. I have to learn my faith, live my faith, share my faith at home and outside."
"With Schoenstatt, the Blessed Mother actually provides a home, so to speak," Arth explained. "She provides a community of the fathers [priests] and the [religious] sisters, who guide us in that spirituality as servants of Mary under the protection of this consecration with Mary."
Along with meeting in community, Schoenstatt families set up home shrines containing an image of Our Lady, where the family prays regularly.
According to Schoenstatt member Shelley Walton of Aurora, Texas, her six children take turns keeping up the family shrine: "It’s a really beautiful sign, a tangible symbol of her presence in our family and her care."
Father Gaitley says that parents can find creative ways to help their children pray for Mary’s intercession. Children who are too young to fully participate in vocal prayer can color the Rosary mysteries as their parents pray.
The Roper children take turns leading the prayers. Bob Roper says the devotion gives parents opportunities to discuss and teach the faith, he said. "There’s always instruction involved. Sometimes it could be very short. Sometimes there could be a big conversation that comes out of that. They have questions, and we answer them."
After making the Marian consecration, Catherine Sienkiewicz, her husband and her four school-age children consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus last year — and both devotions have resulted in a deepening of faith, said the Atchison, Kan., resident: "I just see the grace that came about through that consecration, because that was sort of our pledge when we did that: We would pray our family Rosary every day."
For Deb Selner, a fruit of the consecration has been a more conscious awareness of Mary and Jesus during the day, while Dan Selner said he better recognizes Mary’s role.
Their daughter Kathryn said it has made her feel closer to Jesus and Mary, while her sister Micaela said, "Mary just grew a lot bigger in my life. Now I feel that I can give Mary my thoughts and actions, and she’ll take them to Jesus."
Making a Marian consecration as a family helps prepare children and adults for God to use them for his glory through Mary, Father Gaitley said.
"I think the earlier that we formally ask Mary to watch over us and guide us as our spiritual Mother through the consecration, the greater work she can do," he said. "The more people deepen that by consciously going to Jesus through Mary and accepting her loving care in their lives, (the more) she’s able to do great things in the glory of her Son."
Our Lady wants to accompany families, Arth said. "She’s been waiting for that moment for you to open your heart and your home for that," she said. "She will give you what you need for your state in life."
Susan Klemond writes from
St. Paul, Minnesota.