Above: Photo by Getty Images/DragonImages
When I was in elementary school, the pastor of my parish church replaced the old, under-the-weather altar table with a new one. Technically, upon arrival to the church, the new piece was nothing more than a fancy table. However, after a special service and blessing, the table became a proper altar for the holiest of purposes: sanctifying the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. This process of turning something ordinary into something extraordinary is called consecration.
Simply put, to consecrate something means to make it holy. Just like a table becomes a holy altar, we, too, can consecrate ourselves for holy purposes. The Church encourages us to undertake such a personal dedication to God. In this process, we commit our complete lives to living in service of the Lord. We entrust our thoughts, words and deeds – in fact, our total being – to God’s will for us in building up his kingdom. St. John Paul II chose as his personal motto a phrase from St. Louis de Montfort’s book True Devotion to Mary: Totus Tuus, which means “Totally Yours.” This is a perfect way to define the act of consecration, of giving ourselves completely to Christ.
Consecration can be done with others in small groups or on your own. It takes a bit of discipline, as the preparation period is usually 33 days leading up to a special feast day. Each day, you set aside some time for guided prayer and reflection that helps you think more deeply about your faith and strengthen your relationship with God. To culminate the process, you usually are asked to consecrate yourself by going to Mass and confession. There are many books and resources that can help structure your self-guided retreat.
The most popular devotions are Marian consecrations, where you consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. You entrust yourself to Our Lady’s protection and trust that she will intercede for you and bring you closer to her Son. Recently, consecrations to Jesus through Joseph have also become popular, especially for young men seeking a role model for being a good father and husband.
Consecrating yourself to God in this formal way brings you closer to him. It also can help clarify doubts, heal hurts and discern big decisions. As Catholics, we are already striving to live our lives in his name. Consecration gives us the opportunity to do so even more deeply.
Veronica Szczygiel, Ph.D., is the assistant director of online learning at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education