A student once asked me in the middle of class why do I wear the chain that I do around my wrist. The rest of the students snickered as if the question was nonsensical. “Who cares?” Seemed to be the collective attitude. “It’s just a chain.” “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”
Ah, but the concrete always has a deeper meaning for a Catholic. This student noticed something apparently simple that gave me an opportunity to share with the class what it represented, particularly how some years ago I “chained” myself specifically to Mary in an act of prayerful consecration.
No, it didn’t involve animal sacrifices or blood oaths (to my students’ disappointment). No, the chain isn’t intended to cut off my circulation or an act of mortifying my flesh. And no, it’s not an act of “Mary worship.” Quite the opposite, in fact.
In times of great evil, we are in need of great grace. While God is the source of all grace, there is no great fountain of grace than Mary and many, many saints of the Church have recognized this. In the late 17th century, St. Louis de Montfort formalized a method of prayerfully entrusting one’s life to Jesus through Mary; he called it “the surest, easiest, shortest, and most perfect means” to becoming a saint. It’s been updated in a few methods since then, most well-known perhaps by Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. Whatever the method, to consecrate yourself to ask Mary to receive, intercede for, and transform you.
What son doesn’t love his mother? To show a friend’s mother honor and respect is a great gift to that friend. Jesus is no different. To honor Mary is to honor Christ, and she knows that to God be all the glory and ceaselessly points our attention to Him:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:46)
In fact, Mary’s role–now more than ever–is to nurture us with grace through the power of her spouse, the Holy Spirit, to form us into “another Christ” for the world. Mary’s task is to bring us to always bring us to the foot of her Son.
St. Louis recommended (not required) the wearing of a small chain somewhere on the person’s body to signify the simultaneous freedom from the slavery of sin and willingly chaining of oneself in love to Christ. The external sign could also be the wearing of a Miraculous Medal but it’s secondary to the internal change that we undergo in becoming new creations in Christ.
Both Jackie and I consecrated ourselves to Mary in the same year, well before we met and were married. Separately we both entrusted our lives to Christ through her and, in retrospect, it’s amazing to see all the little “Mary moments” that have happened that brought us together.
You don’t need a fancy chain. Go to Home Depot and find the one that calls to you, even if it’s a toilet bowl chain. It’s not supposed to be a showy Super Bowl Ring, but a sign of humility.
Sometimes I look out at my class and can’t help but see future ex-Catholics. The apathy and indifference can suck the energy from even the most energic teacher. But there are always the few engaged souls who “get it” and are open to being surprised by God (and who just might benefit from a tangent on Marian consecration). If a 14-year old Robert Barron was so moved by his teacher’s lesson on Aquinas’ proof of God’s existence based on contingency, who am I to shy away from matters of high theology, challenging church teaching, or testifying to what Christ (and Mary) have done in my life.
“It is the Virgin Mary who invites us to consider history as an adventure of love in which God keeps his promises and triumphs with his fidelity. ” -St. John Paul II