This is a story about a Marian feast day, its significance; a saint and what he did with it; and what all this meant for yours truly.
Today is February 11th, the 160th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition to St. Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto near Lourdes, France in 1858.
The apparition was significant in several respects: the most important was that Our Lady identified herself with the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Not that she was “immaculately conceived,” but rather she was the essence of the immaculate conception. As St. Maximilian Kolbe later pointed out (this is a paraphrase) “To be white is one thing, to be whiteness is another.”
For another, it seemed as if Heaven was endorsing the definition of the Dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus:
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”
And one more: that Mary’s self-identification as the Immaculate Conception was utterly fascinating and mysterious to St. Maximilian Kolbe, who meditated and pondered on it his entire life. It inspired his “Militia of the Immaculata” and associated media enterprises and friaries.
I discovered St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Militia of the Immaculata in 2002, after I had sobered up sufficiently to search online for what the Catholic Church has to offer me in recovery. As I had stated in my Reversion story, “I had been going to AA meetings, but I knew early on that the brand of spirituality offered there was not going to do the job.” And so I explored the religion of my childhood and never looked back. That St. Max was a patron of addicts helped. When I learned that, I explored more about him.
So I found out about St. Max and the M.I. The M.I. calls for consecrating oneself to the Blessed Mother as her “possession and property” so she can “make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases” her. That she will use me as “a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your (note: God’s) glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” I figured if that’s true (and I never doubted the Blessed Mother) then this may help in my recovery. I doubt that remaining a drunk would be of use to her.
And so on October 7, 2002, on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, I gave myself to Mother Mary. I joined the M.I. which “is a universal and international public Association of the faithful, erected by the Holy See. The MI was founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFMConv., in 1917, is open to Catholics, of all walks of life, and encourages all people of good will to develop a trusting relationship with Our Lady. The aim of the MI is to win the whole world for Christ through the Immaculata, Mother of God and of the Church.
“The MI is a global vision of Catholic life under a new form, consisting in the bond with the Immaculata, our universal Mediatrix before Jesus.” -St. Maximilian Kolbe.
The MI offers programs that:
-Provide formation in the teachings of the Catholic Church
-Foster love for Jesus in the Eucharist and for the Sacramental life
-Promote a deep understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role in the plan of Salvation and of the gift of consecration to her in the spirit of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
-Ignite with the zeal to become generous instruments of evangelization in one’s own environment, giving witness to the Truth and promoting the sacredness of human life.
M.I. members, mindful of their call to evangelize, strive to give witness to the Faith everywhere. They seek to reach out to their own families, friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, the sick and elderly, youth, adults, and whomever they meet, in order to lead every individual with Mary to Christ, Our Savior and Our Hope.
(Above quote courtesy of M.I. You can also visit that link to learn more about the MI and St. Maximilian Kolbe, along with possibly joining yourself!)
I think Mary started using me right afterwards. She strengthened me against what I perceived as attacks against my Faith in my AA Home Group as well as giving me the courage to stop attending meetings regularly in 2004. Not that I am advocating everyone should stop going to meetings; on the contrary, if you enjoy and need regular meeting attendance, by all means do it. It just wasn’t for me.
Once I drifted from AA, I began looking into what recovery resources the Church offers. You can read about that here: “About this blog.” After a whle I just decided to start Sober Catholic; I mentioned in some earlier post that I believe the Blessed Virgin Mary “inspired” me to do it. A “fruit,” if you will, of of my M.I. Consecration. Not that I received any interior locution or some such thing, just a desire that since no one else was doing this at the time, I might as well. I doubt I’d have the courage on my own.
So there’s the story: A apparition of the Blessed Mother; a saint’s taking that apparition and message and developing it; and a marginal ex-drunk finding a personal mission in it – Trudging the Road of Happy Destiny and taking whoever bothers to read this stuff along with him.
So that’s that! The sanctuary or Our Lady of Lourdes in France is famous for miraculous healings wrought there. Because of that, Pope St. John Paul II also declared today to be the “World Day of the Sick” in 1993. We alcoholics, even though we may be sober, are still “sick.”
(To be continued…)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"