She Has Always Been There

By Br. Michael Baker, MIC

I still remember the night that I made my first consecration to Mary: the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Oct. 7, 2005. I prayed one of the most honest prayers I have ever prayed. I said to Mary, "I don't know what I am doing, but I know that I need to do it, so help me!" Things slowly began to change.

Within six months, I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy House in Loreto, Italy. Three months later, I was invited to go to Mexico City, Mexico, to make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On these pilgrimages, I grew in my devotion to Mary and came closer to her, especially through her miraculous image at the base of Tepeyac Hill.

Later, I contemplated the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego and applied them to myself. She said to him, "My youngest and dearest son ... Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed ... Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you."

That same year I moved from Southern California to Birmingham, Alabama, to discern a vocation with the community of the Franciscan Friars founded by Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, PCPA - the same Mother Angelica who founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Mother Angelica gave me the religious name Giovanni (Italian for "John") Maria of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This name spoke of my relationship to Jesus and Mary at the foot of the Cross. I knew Jesus was asking me to take Mary as my mother, just as He asked the Apostle John (see Jn 19:27). In turn, Mary took me as her son.

Although I was not called to join the Franciscan Friars, I had the opportunity to work at EWTN. There, I received the call to my vocation with the Marian Fathers. In early October, a week before my birthday, I was praying in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at EWTN. In front of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, I heard Mary's voice. She told me, "I'm going to give you a gift on your birthday, but you're not going to figure it out right away." The gift was my vocation. Since then, Our Lady has continued to walk faithfully with me throughout my journey. One of my greatest joys as a Marian has been learning to trust in Mary's maternal guidance. Having just recently returned from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and Fatima, where I encountered a deep peace and the realization of Mary's motherly presence, I've continued to grow deeper in my devotion to her and see even more clearly just how necessary a relationship with her is.

Like St. Paul, I've come to realize that often times I don't do what I want to do and do the things that I don't want to do (see Rom 7:15). In other words, I have great intentions and desires to grow in the spiritual life, but often times I fail to carry those intentions all the way through. As I grow in my relationship with Christ and take more seriously His call to become perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect (see Mt 5:48), I recognize just how much I need His grace and the help of the Mediatrix of All Graces - the Blessed Virgin Mary - to get me to Heaven. And because she's my spiritual mother, I depend on her to obtain the graces I need. Like any good mother, she has always been there.

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