I asked for it. I really did.
I knew that I would never find peace until I got down on my knees and begged for humility. Real humility.
I was successful in what I thought were important ways. I was a daily communicant. At the time, I had been married to my wife, Karol, for 28 years (now 42 years), and we had four beautiful adult children. I had a job running a social service agency that did wonderful things for the poor and disadvantaged.
My spiritual director suggested that I make my total consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, through the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was according to the method developed by St. Louis de Montfort, a 17th-century French mystic. I had been a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) for many years, and my closest friends had already made their consecrations. I had even read the four-volume text of Venerable Sister Mary of Jesus of Agreda’s Mystical City of God. I believed that the Blessed Mother was the Mediatrix of All Grace, but I had never made the total consecration. I had held back out of pride, thinking the practice archaic and old-fashioned.
I was experiencing tremendous turmoil in my family life, and had found spiritual direction to be paramount in addressing my anxieties and brokenness. I had just hospitalized my 26-year old son for severe depression and threatening to kill himself. I did not know where else to go than to Mary. I knew I could not go wrong in following my spiritual director and the practice of SOLT and her holy Founder, Father James H. Flanagan, who had totally consecrated his life and work to our Blessed Mother.
I immediately spent the 33 days of preparation before making my total consecration on October 7, 2002, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Thirty-five days later, my troubled son was shot by police as I stood by helplessly watching. One hour later, my wife had a vision where she saw our son being held in the arms of Jesus in the midst of blindingly beautiful and inexpressible light.
I sunk into a deep but unrecognized depression. I felt like I had lost everything.
Little did I realize that I was living my total consecration to reconstruct me of my vanity, pride, and anger.
We sought to meet privately with the police to forgive them, but had to settle for meetings that took a year to arrange with police administrators and board members. In the process, we helped to change police procedures in interacting with mentally ill citizens.
The Humility to Admit Needing Help
Despite my absolute denial, I finally realized I had the same mental illness as my son. I sought clinical treatment and pursued spiritual healing through the Charismatic Renewal. I realized I had been bound in despair and brokenness all of my life, and became so ill that I thought an evil was fighting for continued control of some hidden part of my being. I experienced two deliverances, but found an aching hole in my life that I still could not fill.
I had a profound experience of being called to a deeper life of holiness. I knew that I had to live in a life of intimate communion with Our Lady and the Most Holy Trinity.
I traveled from Kansas City to Texas to ask my spiritual director, Father Flanagan, if SOLT would sponsor me to become a permanent married deacon. Father Jim delightedly exclaimed: “Jimmy, ordination is forever! I am sure God is pleased with this desire of yours!”
I decided to step down from my job, even though I was at least ten years from being able to retire. I no longer found satisfaction in the limelight and admiration of others for my vain attempts of being a proud advocate for the poor.
The continued shame from my son’s very public death continued to haunt my family. Each of our remaining three children decided to move as far away from home as possible. My wife finally wanted to leave as well. I secured temporary lodging with SOLT to complete my formation for the diaconate while “commuting” over four years to spend small “vacations” with them.
Two years after serving as a consultant for the agency I had run for 27 years, I began to disagree with my replacement. I had my salary drastically reduced and was threatened with immediate termination. I could not believe that I had gone from the top to the bottom so dramatically in my career.
One year before I hoped to be ordained, I was called into the diaconate director’s office based on an accusation from a classmate’s wife. I was humiliated, but quickly vindicated.
Several months before ordination, I publicly confronted a professor for questioning the Church’s stand on artificial contraception and natural law. I apologized but was humiliated by my anger and self-righteousness.
After ordination, I relocated to where my family was living. I lost all employment, and had to begin to take early withdrawals from my modest retirement account. I finally found a temporary job serving in a public school as an autism aide. I had no assurance of continued employment as a temporary employee, no benefits and very modest pay.
But I loved the work! Instead of being a well-paid administrator recognized as an innovator with several advanced degrees, I was simply “Mister Jim” to the three wonderful children whose needs I served for a semester. I was respected for the love I had for children, not for my career accomplishments. I was “valued” for my humility in the diverse culture of that far-away place where I was living.
I recently found the Lord calling me to a deeper level of humility through my Dad’s illness. He was hospitalized at the end of 2016 and I flew back to the east coast to care for him and my Mom. After his release, I decided to remain with Mom and Dad for an indefinite period of time. I bathe my Dad and take him frequently to daily Mass and to run errands. He really needs me at this point in his life. When I clean his feet and the parts of his body that he finds hard to reach, I recall all of the tendernesses he gave me throughout childhood and into my adult life. I believe I am following our Lord in washing the feet of my dear Dad. I love caring for him and Mom.
Hope in Humility
I have renewed my Consecration every year since 2002. Each year, I make the full 33-day preparation preceding my Consecration. I have usually made it on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. But I have occasionally used other days, such as December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception or January 1, the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
I have used other forms of Consecration to Jesus through Mary, such as the excellent one developed by Father Michael Gaitley, MIC (33 Days to Morning Glory) as well as St. Maximillian Kolbe’s nine-day preparation of Total Consecration to Mary. But I always return to the de Montfort form. For me, it is simply the best and most appealing. Yes, it is somewhat old-fashioned and archaic, but it has brought me great peace and serene humility!
Each and every day, I renew my Consecration by praying the formula of “Consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, through the Blessed Virgin Mary,” as composed by St. Louis de Montfort.
As a deacon serving the people of God, the poor and humble, I find significant joy in my preaching. I have my detractors, who think I am a proud and vain deacon. They are right, though! I have a long way to go to attain real humility, but I am on the road with our Blessed Mother and my Lord and the Most Holy Trinity, the family of God.
Lord knows how long it will take. Eternity, I guess. But like my late spiritual director and saintly founder, Father Jim Flanagan, SOLT, noted of ordination: It’s “forever”!