By Becky Aubut, Anchor Staff
EAST SANDWICH, Mass. — Inspired by Pope Francis’ declaration that a Year of Consecrated Life should be celebrated (Nov. 30, 2014 – Feb. 2, 2016), Patricia Stebbins helped bring a “do-it-yourself” retreat to Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich. Beginning February 20, parishioners will participate in a 33-day retreat for the Consecration to Mary.
Using the book “33 Days to Morning Glory,” by Father Micahel E. Gaitley, MIC, “the 33 days itself is a Spiritual individual retreat,” explained Stebbins. “Each day has its own readings and they’re taken from St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II. They’re very meaningful. You do it at home and as you want to — it doesn’t take long to do it. Each day there’s a reading and a meditation.”
The consecration retreat had been held at Corpus Christi Parish a few years ago and a parishioner “had experienced a great deal of comfort and Spirituality because of it,” said Stebbins, who had also experienced the retreat three times in the last couple of years. “There’s so much in it; I find every step of this takes you a step closer to Jesus. It’s wonderful.”
Having the retreat held during the Year of Consecration seems fitting because “we need to consecrate more people to Mary, get more of the Church militant out and involved in our Church,” said Stebbins.
With the full support of the pastor, Father George Harrison, the parish will be holding the consecration retreat four different times this year: “[The final retreat] will culminate on December 12 on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On that day, Father is going to call forth everybody from the congregation to come forward and consecrate and re-consecrate us all over again because you really shouldn’t do it every year.”
The MIC after Father Gaitley’s name stands for Marians of the Immaculate Conception, and he has stated in past interviews he chose to become a priest in an order that has a special emphasis and devotion to Mary. During a difficult time, Father Gaitley said he was experiencing a “Spiritual dryness and Spiritual distance from Mary” and while giving a talk, he asked those in attendance to pray for him. Weeks later, Father Gaitley awoke with the idea for the book and felt reconnected to the Blessed Mother.
Father Gaitley stated he chose the “morning glory” as part of the title because he felt “it best captures what Marian consecration is all about — a new way of life in Christ. The act of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new journey. It’s a fresh start and it changes everything.”
Stebbins is particularly drawn to Maximilian Kolbe, a saint who dedicated his life to bringing the whole world to God through Christ under the guidance of Mary Immaculate.
In 1894, St. Maximilian Kolbe was born to a poor Polish farming family and given the name Raymond. He was a difficult and exasperating child until Mary appeared to him one day holding two crowns in her hands. She offered them to him: one was white — representing chastity, one was red — representing martyrdom. He accepted them both and the boy was transformed.
He entered seminary, and in 1917 he formed the “Militia Immaculata.” Taking the name Maximilian, he sacrificed everything to work in obedience to God’s will and in union with Mary — transforming hearts and minds throughout Poland and Japan.
His hard work and obedience to God’s will meant that he became a target for those intent on spreading evil. In 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. There, he volunteered to take the place of a prisoner who had been condemned to death by starvation and died a martyr of charity on Aug. 14, 1941.
“He was totally devoted to the Blessed Mother,” said Stebbins. “The readings aren’t boring, and they’re something you want to think about. A lot of questions come up, and one that comes up a lot is, ‘What is the Immaculate Conception?’ and Maximilian goes into that a great deal and so does John Paul II. That’s sort of a mystery and that’s what people will discuss.
“Mary is a mother and she stayed with Jesus to the end. You go to your mother when you need something; it’s her motherhood — her loving, pure, beautiful motherhood of Jesus — that she brings to us and you begin to feel.”
Every Saturday morning after Mass, the parish will host an informal gathering of participants, past and new, said Stebbins: “It’s not obligatory but we share when we come; we ask questions, and a lot of the people who are there will be mentors because we’ve done it before. Our goal is to build up a militia of Mary.”
The readings and meditations will “make you think and draw you closer to Mary, and [see] how close she is to Jesus and how close she is to us,” she added.
Each 33-day consecration ends on a Blessed Mother’s feast day. The full schedule for the four times the parish will host the 33-Day Consecration is: February 20 and ends on March 25 (feast of the Annunciation); July 13 — August 15 (feast of the Assumption); September 4 — October 7 (feast of Our Lady of the Rosary); and November 9 — December 12 (feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe).
Stebbins encourages others to bring the consecration retreat to other parishes, but anyone can come and participate at Corpus Christi Parish. “They are welcome. We would love to have anyone join us who wants to,” she said.
For more information, Stebbins can be reached at 508-833-8432.