by Michaelyn Hein –
When I was young, I desperately wanted to learn how to play the piano. I begged my parents for lessons, and they appeased my pleas. Soon enough, I was contentedly tapping out elementary tunes.
Within a year, though, I grew tired of the monotony of practicing. I yearned to be outside playing with friends. Somewhere in the tedium of reading notes and keeping time, I forgot the goal. The dream I had of one day soon playing “Memories” from Cats was, in reality, a far-off future date, and only after days and weeks of practice.
And so, I abandoned the piano and opted for fun over fortitude. As such, my musical talent never grew. My regret, however, did.
My family’s first attempt at a Marian consecration ended much the same way as my barely budding piano career. I had bought a book meant to guide families through 33 days of reflection and prayer. As soon as it arrived, I opened to the calendar that listed options for start dates, circled the next closest one, and imagined my husband, children and I, 33 days hence, all blissfully consecrated to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Just three days into the journey, though, our peaceful prayers said together at night sounded more like the grumbles and complaints I’d given my mother decades ago regarding piano practice.
After just a week of poor efforts, I abandoned the struggle to lead my family in nightly Marian meditations, and we never finished the consecration. Instead, we moved on with life, unconsecrated, as usual. But as the years passed and the state of the world continued to crumble around us, as obvious efforts to poison the souls of my children abounded, and as attacks on the family worsened, I sensed the need for us to start again.
With renewed vigor, I bought an engaging book to move us along the path toward Marian consecration. This one featured fanciful tales that connected my children’s favorite works of fiction with stories of truth, from the life of Christ to the experiences of our Blessed Mother to the witness of the saints. The book finished each day’s vividly written reflection with simple, doable prayers for my young children. And it worked—for almost 33 days.
This time, hectic schedules and unforeseen circumstances kept us from our nightly ability to gather as a family to pray. Before long, the finish line that had been just around the corner grew distant and we sat on the roadside watching other families break through the celebratory tape.
“How did you ever finish a consecration with six kids?” I asked a friend. “We can’t seem to finish one with only half that many children!”
My friend, a woman who is deemed a walking saint by everyone who knows her, answered in a way that reminded me even she is only human and her family battles the same struggles we all do.
“Oh, our first consecration didn’t take 33 days,” she laughed, “I think it took about 57.”
I was speechless. Until then, it had never occurred to me that the consecration could take more than 33 days. In my mind, if it wasn’t done perfectly, it wasn’t worth doing. But in that moment, I realized nothing could be further from the truth.
With one simple quip, my friend encouraged me to lift my family from the sidelines and get back on the path toward our destination. She helped me understand that even though we’d fallen behind, we weren’t finished; we were just resting. She relieved me of my self-criticism and instead reminded me of all the meditating and praying we had successfully accomplished. And she motivated me to pick that book back up and keep praying with my family—all the way to the final day of our family’s consecration.
My friend’s honesty was refreshing and inspiring. When we fell behind, I immediately figured we needed to start all over again from day one, a concept that made even me want to quit. How could I excite my children into beginning again from the top? But picking up with where we’d left off? That was doable.
It is sometimes said that to accomplish anything, the most important part is simply to begin. But experience tells us that while this is true, success depends even more so on our ability to persevere when we feel like quitting. St. Josemaria Escriva reminds us: “To begin is easy. To persevere is sanctity,” and, further, “Spiritual life is a constant beginning and beginning again.”
In an explanation of Marian consecration, Father Michael Gaitley echoes both my friend’s advice and St. Josemaria’s wise words. He encourages that though we might, “despite our good intentions and best efforts,” miss a day or more of the prayers, “we need not get discouraged, and we surely shouldn’t quit!” Instead, Father Gaitley suggests that we continue with the preparation for our consecration right from where we left off:
“The Lord knows what’s in our hearts,” he urges, “and if our desire truly is to make the consecration, we shouldn’t let any temptations stop us.”
And if those temptations come in the form of wailing babies, unenthusiastic teenagers or days on hiatus from our scheduled prayers? Then we have all the more reason to pick up our cross where we laid it down and together with our family, bear it across the finish line.
Because in the face of this increasingly anti-Christian world, our families desperately need to be consecrated to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And our world needs such families.
Even if it takes us 57 days.
Michaelyn Hein is a Catholic writer, wife and mother who resides in Hopewell, New Jersey. She wrote this article for the 2023 2nd issue of Soul Magazine.