Why I’m Doing a 33 Day Self-led Retreat

I’m currently on a self-led retreat known as 33 Days to Morning Glory.  It is a form of ‘Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.’  When I initially agreed to undertake this journey with my friend Ryan, I didn’t have a particularly deep reason for doing it.  I knew I wanted to, but to be honest it was partly a cry for community and brotherhood, and partly a desire to check the box for another Catholic devotion.

However, as I sat in adoration (a prolonged time of prayer just sitting in the presence of the Lord) two compelling reasons struck me and those are the ones I wish to offer.

Spencer, son of Michael, do you love me?

As I sat in adoration I prayed with the passage from John 21:15-17 where Jesus asks Peter three times “Peter, do you love me?”  In my prayer I allowed the Lord to ask me that question.  My answer rocked my boat of complacency.

I found in my heart of hearts a small, honest, and vulnerable voice was whispering with head down, “I don’t know.”  By the Lord’s grace I grabbed onto this response and laid it before Him, asking what it meant.  The Lord led me through the three ways to love someone.

I can love what someone does for me or I can love the idea of someone or I can love someone for who the person is.  As he walked me through this I realized that I love the Lord for what He has done for me and continues to do for me.  I also love the idea of Him, the theology and philosophy that surrounds Him.  However, I struggled to say with confidence that I loved the Lord just for who He is.  This was especially convicting because, as a father, I now know what it means to love someone for who they are.  I love my kids with that kind of love, and as best I can, I love Bess with that kind of love.

Then I felt the Lord reminding me that someone, a mere creature, has had the unique privilege of loving Him as child, that would be Mary.  Suddenly, I found myself with a petition for my journey, that the Lord would help me know how to love Him with the same unconditional love of a parent, the love Mary has for Jesus.

How Can I Know This?

From there I began to pray a litany I wrote.  One of the responses is the line from the Gospel, “Help my unbelief.”  Immediately the Lord brought forth another concern in my Spiritual life.  As I read those words, “Help my unbelief” I realized that it is so easy for me to replace “believe” with “know”.  The temptation to confuse knowledge and belief is one of my greatest.

That temptation brought me back to two of my favorite parallel passages in scripture, the annunciations of John the Baptist and Jesus.  These passages are fascinating because, out of two similar responses there are two very different responses.  Zechariah is made mute when he asks “how can I know this?” and Mary is given an answer when she asks “how can this be?”  I think the difference between these responses is Zechariah has confused knowledge with belief and Mary knows that belief far surpasses knowledge.  Thus, I found myself with the second half of my petition for this retreat.

Why am I doing it?

So I’m undertaking this journey ultimately to grow closer to Our Lord.  I’m seeking this through two petitions, both of which I am making to the Lord, but both are inherently Marian.  First, I am asking the Lord to help me Love Him the way a parent does, the way he graciously allowed Mary to love Him.  Second, I am imploring the Lord to take my Zechariahan faith and transform it into a Marian faith so that my tongue may never be silenced, but may always proclaim the greatness of the Lord.

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