Over the past six years, people — particularly other moms — have asked me how I’ve handled being a military mom. Most of the time, I just chuckle. I don’t feel like I’ve handled it at all. Basically, I’ve let our Blessed Mother handle it for me, and I merely go along for the ride.
Our oldest son, Matt, joined the National Guard a year into his college career. That summer he went through basic training, after which he was deployed to Kuwait for a little more than a year. After his first tour, he was home for another year before being deployed again — this time to Iraq, where he spent just under a year. It all adds up to six years of being a military mom.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Matt’s contract with the Guard is ending, and it has given me reason to reflect on our experiences as a military family. By no means do we hold a monopoly on strife and sacrifice; there are military families who have seen far, far more fear and suffering than we have. But we have had a taste of the military life and know something of the gumption and dedication that it requires — and we’re glad to have offered it.
There were definitely times when I was worried about Matt. There were times when I thought the separation and not knowing would kill me. Our other children missed their brother terribly, and I know my husband did his share of grieving and worrying. Every goodbye cost me anguish and a flood of tears, nearly to the point of dehydration. Every American flag got me choked up. I felt compelled to greet and thank every single person in uniform. If they were receptive, I’d offer them a hug in honor of the son who was too far away for me to embrace.
So, what’s my secret for getting through these past six years? It’s the “Little Consecration” I learned in Catholic grade school. The Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary taught at our school, and Morning Prayer consisted of a consecration of self to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a kid, I took it for granted — it was just part of the routine. As I grew older, the consecration grew on me, and I adopted it as my personal morning prayer. When I married and had children, I taught it to the kids, and it became our family’s daily prayer.
In later years, I learned from a wise priest that one could consecrate another person to the Blessed Mother in the same way (by replacing the personal pronouns with their own name). It became an incredible tool of consolation for me in any case where I was worried or distressed about someone. It goes like this:
My Queen, My Mother, I give myself entirely to you. And to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my entire self without reserve. As I am your own, my good Mother, guard me and defend me as your property and possession. Amen.
When Matt entered the Guard, the Little Consecration became my mantra. I’d pray it for him every single day and during those hours when I felt particularly worried or missed him especially much. There were a number of times I’d wake in the middle of the night with Matt on my mind and in my heart, not really knowing why. Each time, I’d take a few deep breaths and settle myself down by praying the Little Consecration. Once in a while, I’d have to pray it several times through before I could finally fall back to sleep. I guarantee that it was more an act of helplessness than heroism, but it brought me a profound sense of peace, calm, and assurance that our Blessed Mother would indeed guard and defend him physically, mentally, and spiritually in a way that I never could — even if he were standing right beside me. The credit for handling my role as military mom goes not to me, but to Our Lady.
My little secret works well in all kinds of situations. I pray it for all of our kids as they take on the responsibilities and decisions of adulthood. I pray it for our entire family every day so that we may always remain close to our Mother’s heart. I pray it for those who’ve offended me and for those who concern me for any reason. And, of course, I pray it for our men and women in uniform, especially those who have no one to consecrate them.
It’s a “little” consecration, but it has a big impact.