The Immaculate Conception’s presence

"Jesus gives you the gift and you have to distribute it to each according to their needs, weaving the garment of love, making Our Lady, the model of the Church, beautiful by your love when she wakes up from her holy dormition and sees a loving son who wants to please her."

Welcome to article 13 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

It was August 2, 2023, and my pre-vows Ignatian retreat was under way. Father Kazimierz “Kaz” Chwalek, MIC, the former provincial superior of Marians in the United States, was my novice group’s retreat director. 

I was sitting in the residence’s upstairs chapel at 6:00 a.m, the full moon and rosy dawn shining through the window. 

Ignatian retreats are a profound experience of intimacy with God. He often speaks to people through their imaginations and retreat director during these special prayer periods.

Fr. Kaz gave me a special assignment for this meditation. He told me beforehand, “Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and summarize what He’s been giving you in the retreat, how it’s leading you into another part of your life following the Lord, and how He’s guiding you into vows and ministry.”

On this joyous Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, some things can be shared about my prayer experience.

“You are my treasure”
As I looked at the moon and dawn outside the chapel, I heard a voice in my mind say, “I am beginning. I am your new life.”

The Bible readings for the day’s Mass were open in front of me, and in the first part of the day’s Gospel (Mt 13:44-46), a man joyfully sells all he has and buys a field after he finds a treasure ("a pearl of great price") in it. 

I heard Our Lady say, “You are my treasure. You are mine.” 

I thought of Jesus joyfully raising a huge, precious stone, shimmering with white light. “Look what I found!” He exclaimed.

He was the merchant who found a precious stone, and I was that stone.

An inspiration came to me, and I prayed to Jesus, “That is too big and heavy for Our Lady to wear as it is now. I have a suggestion. Take it, and get a huge sledgehammer, and smash it into tiny bits. Then go, sneak into Our Lady’s room at night while she is asleep, and find one of her white gowns of finest linen. Take it, and merge all the fragments of the precious stone into the fabric. Then bring it back, before Our Lady wakes up, and lay it out at the foot of her bed. She will be very, very happy when she wakes up and sees it.”

In my mind, I saw the gown shining with brilliant light, the Holy Spirit reflecting on the precious stones.

Ennoble the Church
When I shared the prayer experience in spiritual direction, Fr. Kaz got excited. 

The silvery-haired, gentle priest listened with his eyes closed as I spoke, but he wasn’t falling asleep. He explained that he felt the Holy Spirit drawing him into my meditation and he experienced it as I spoke.

Suddenly, his eyes opened and he said, “The Holy Spirit is telling me: Ennoble the Church, make it beautiful, which means teach, guide, share all the ‘pieces’ of your life for this precious friend of yours [Mary]. The Church and Mary are one. Ennoble all the institutions, every area where you serve, and that will be the delight for her and the Church. That will be her garment.”

He cited what the Marian Constitutions say about Mary’s Immaculate Conception. “In  this mystery, above all, Mary seeks for confrères to trust the unlimited fruitfulness of the Redemption, to avoid all sin, to love purity of heart, to imbue life with divine grace and charity, and to so build up the Church in unity that it be holy and immaculate.

“The Immaculate Conception is the gift God gave you in that stone, a creative, salvific, joy-giving mystery. She is the image of the new man capable of profound relationship, intimacy. She shows us how to be holy and immaculate. We, in turn, make the Church holy and immaculate, precious, covered with precious stones. That is how we can see a garment, gilt, filled with the most precious stones, diamonds, jasper, gold, silver.”

The gift
“This is the instruction you receive from Jesus,” Fr. Kaz concluded. “He gives you the gift and you have to distribute it to each according to their needs, weaving the garment of love, making Our Lady, the model of the Church, beautiful by your love when she wakes up from her holy dormition and sees a loving son who wants to please her. Jesus wants you to receive that love from her.”

In this meditation, the Immaculate Conception flooded me with God’s love pouring through her.

Next: "Contemplating Christmas at the End of the Semester"
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