By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

With ongoing crisis in the world from medical, social and political standpoints, a group from St. John the Baptist Church in Zachary is seeking the Blessed Mother’s intercession through Mary’s Mantle consecration.  

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Jennifer Johnson, organizer at St. John, pointed out that the 46-day consecration is based upon an ancient tradition called “El Manto de Maria” that started in barrios in Mexico.  

Forty-six individuals and families participated in praying the rosary in each others’ homes. They chose 46 because that is the number of stars on the mantle in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A woman of the barrio would sew Mary’s mantle from a piece of green cloth and cut out 46 stars from gold fabric.  

Those who accepted the invitation would gather at the first home, carrying the cloth mantle, the stars and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Those present prayed the rosary and the resident family or individual, who fasted that day, would attach a gold star to Mary’s mantle. The mantle was then draped over the members of the household. This continued for 46 days until Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  

Gradually, pastors adopted this tradition and encouraged people at Mass to participate in this devotion.  On the closing feast day the 46 families and individuals gathered in the church kneeling before the image of Our Lady as the priest pronounced the words of devotion and consecration.  

A group at St. John began this devotion Aug. 23. They pray for the needs of the other participants and their loved ones, for peace, reconciliation and conversion in the country. They also pray for God’s will in the presidential election. Each person is asked to pick a day to fast and pray, and the other members of the group pray for that person. 

Participants also meet weekly on Thursdays in the St. John parish activity center.  

Additionally, the past and future converge through weekly videos and follow-up questions. Topics include: what the meaning is of consecration to Mary, the power of the rosary and how to pray it effectively, the untapped power of fasting to change lives, why extraordinary virtue is needed in these difficult times, confession and joy, why virtues are so hard and vices so easy and Mary as the model of discipleship and how she can help everyone. 

All of these and other resources can be found on the website queenofpeacemedia.com/marys-mantle.  

According to Johnson, the response to the retreat has been overwhelming.  

“I got a text message (from a participant) and she loves the Scripture passages and she loves the videos,” Johnson said.  

“People are excited to pray; we’re coming together. People are really growing through this.”  

Johnson’s journey with Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe began years ago when she was drawn to a statue of her at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. She was further inspired when she took a trip to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and saw the tilma the Blessed Mother gave to Juan Diego. She said she is learning more about virtues and Mary’s mantel has brought her closer to Jesus.  

“Each day has brought me closer to her. She’s drawing me closer to her and she’s drawing me closer to Christ. It’s a transformational experience,” said Johnson.  

Likewise, St. John member Dot Dickinson said the consecration has been a time of growing in virtue.  

“I have been a Catholic since my RCIA experience when I was 31 years old.  I never had what I could call a solid relationship with Mary,” said Dickinson. “This retreat’s reflection on virtues of Christianity and recitation of the rosary on a daily basis has already strengthened my faith and appreciation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”   

“On my fast day, I expected to be ravenous,” she added. “Instead I felt uplifted by the prayerful support of the others in the group.  My faith has been bolstered and renewed.”