by Fr Eunan McDonnell SDB

“I love you.” If you were the one to utter these three words, surely you would hold your breath as you wait for a response. You have taken a risk. You have made yourself vulnerable before the person you love. You would wait expectantly, hoping that the other person will reply with the words: “I love you too.”

Can you imagine God holding his divine breath as he waits for Mary’s response at the Annunciation? Surely all of humanity held their breath as they awaited her response on our behalf!

When Mary utters her ‘yes’ she is simply declaring to God “I love you too”, offering herself as a gift to the God who first loved her. She chooses to allow God’s plan unfold in her and through her: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me” (Lk 1:38).

This consent at the Annunciation is also sustained without wavering beneath the cross and later still when she intercedes on our behalf and bears witness to the birth of the Church at Pentecost. Mary cooperates in a special way in God’s plan for salvation and intercedes to her Son for humanity.

The act of Consecrating ourselves to Mary, the Mother of God, is, quite simply, to enter into her response of love, so that we join ourselves to her ‘yes’ as we proclaim to God, “I love you too!”

Saint John Paul II remarks, It must be recognized that before anyone else it was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own son in the mystery of the incarnation. (Redemptoris Mater, n.39) It is also true to say that on the cross Jesus entrusts his mother to humanity when he declares to John, the beloved disciple: “Behold your mother! Mother behold your son!” (Jn.19:26-27).

The whole purpose of why we entrust ourselves to Mary is so that, like the beloved disciple, we can “welcome” her “into our own home.” In this way, she can mother us into Christ through her powerful prayers and motherly intercession. She can help us to make a reality of the prayer of her Son, Jesus, and in that prayer he will come with the Father to “make our home in you” (Jn.14:23). ‘Consecrating ourselves to Mary means relying on her motherly intercession to help us offer ourselves more fully to Christ in his own consecration for our redemption’ (Fr Michael Gaitley).

When we entrust ourselves to Mary there is an exchange of hearts: we give her our sinful selves and she gives us her immaculate heart. In the giving, we become empty, but she fills us with the Spirit of God. In her entrustment to Mary, Mother Teresa prayed: “Immaculate heart of Mary, keep me in your most pure heart, so that I may please Jesus through you”. In so doing, she was acknowledging that Mary’s heart is not only in us, through consecration, but we are in Mary’s heart. Such an act of consecration to Mary was carried out for St John Bosco and St Francis de Sales, on their behalf as babies, by their mothers. And this very act of consecration to Mary was renewed personally by each one of them throughout their lives.

In his dream of nine years old, where Don Bosco receives his mission, the Lord entrusts him to Mary as ‘mother and teacher.’ As Shepherdess, she shows him how to lead the young to her Son, the Good Shepherd. This explains why Don Bosco always believed that Mary was the foundress of our congregation, The Society of St Francis de Sales (Salesians). He would repeatedly say, “have confidence in Mary, and you will see what miracles are!”

An interesting secret lies hidden in the foundations of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians (Turin), constructed by Don Bosco. As you enter, the statue of Mary Help of Christians is prominently displayed to the left of the main altar and sanctuary. Unknown to most people, however, is the curious fact that the statue is deliberately positioned over the ‘cornerstone of the Basilica,’ as Don Bosco had requested.

There is a bit of a difference between the use of a cornerstone in the time of Don Bosco and the way it is used in modern construction today. In his time, the cornerstone was the key stone. It was the first stone set during the building process. Careful measurements were needed and taken to ensure the proper alignment of the building. Without the perfect positioning of the cornerstone, the rest of the building would be thrown out of alignment, leading it completely off-track in relation to the drawing-plans. This speaks for itself in terms of Mary’s role not only in the construction of the Basilica, but as the watchful mother of the whole Salesian enterprise.

Anyone who has experienced back pain may be surprised to discover that it is often connected with their shoulder and legs. Our body can be out of alignment and we need to ask for help. We can also be spiritually out of alignment.

Mary is honoured within our Salesian tradition as our help. Through our consecration to Jesus, with Mary, we entrust ourselves to her. We freely ask for her help and give her permission to help us. As our spiritual mother and Help of Christians, Mary spiritually re-aligns us, her children, making sure that we have “no other foundation than Jesus Christ” (1Cor 3:11). With Jesus as our cornerstone, she helps us, his body, to ‘grow up into Christ’ (Eph 4:15). As she did at Cana, Mary, servant of the Word, turns to us and says: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), encouraging us to become servants of his love. Let us live the prayer that we recite daily as Salesians: We entrust ourselves to you, Virgin Mary, the humble handmaid in whom the Lord has done great things, that we may be signs and bearers of the love of your Son for young people. Amen