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Of the many titles of Mary, "Morning Star" best seems to capture her guiding role in our personal and ecclesial lives as the one who lights the way to the Way. She is our sure and steadfast beacon of hope, because she leads us to the only way to happiness, which is Jesus Christ.

Mary is a great connector. The familiar scene at the foot of the cross ("Woman, behold thy son....Behold thy mother," Jn 19:26-27) can be interpreted both literally -- Jesus notices His mother and wants to show His loving concern for her -- and symbolically, in that Mary becomes the mother of Christians, personified by John, the beloved disciple.

Jesus is not only the savior of Christians, however, but of everyone who seeks the truth, which inevitably leads to Him who is "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). In this sense, Mary (addressed as "woman") may be seen as a representative of all those seeking salvation. She is supported by the disciple John, who interprets the revelation of Jesus.

Mary and John represent different facets of our personal and ecclesial lives. We are always "on the way," as it were, toward our future, which is eternal life and happiness in and through Jesus Christ. Mary accompanies us along that way.

We are not alone. In supporting one another along this way, as the Church of Jesus Christ under apostolic leadership (which John symbolizes), we have the assurance that we will never lose our way.

All of this is something we can actually experience in very real and spiritually-beneficial way: Each year, I lead all the people of our Diocese through a path of spiritual renewal known as consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Since Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our Diocese, it is most fitting that we should make the consecration together at the 5:15 p.m. Mass on Dec. 8, the solemnity that celebrates her under this title, in the Cathedral in Albany that is dedicated to her under this name. I invite you to join me.

The preparation for the consecration begins Nov. 5. I personally follow the process through which Rev. Michael Gaitley, MIC, leads us in his up-to-date and easy-to-follow book, "33 Days to Morning Glory."

Based on a method developed by St. Louis de Montfort, Father Gaitley walks us through not only de Montfort's own spiritual journey, but also that of three modern saints who also followed this path to spiritual growth: St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa) and Pope St. John Paul II.

The bonus is that Father Gaitley also offers a way of doing this consecration together with family members or friends who can accompany one another on this path to spiritual renewal. If you can gather a small group together, you will find this an even more incredibly powerful faith-enriching experience that will make the words of Jesus to Mary and John, at the foot of the Cross, come alive.

You will experience not only a personal transformation, but a new awareness of the reality of what it means to be a member of the body of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ. It will deepen your love for Christ and His Church.

Remember, the entire focus of Mary's life, both on Earth and in heaven, is Jesus Christ. In this way, she represents what the Church is all about: lighting the path of everyone's life to Jesus, our way to happiness and salvation.

John also represents the listening and evangelizing Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who "teaches and reminds" us (Jn 14:26) of what we need to hear and follow from the mind and heart of Jesus.

Since Mary's heart and mind are always focused on Jesus, she is the most direct way to His heart. In following the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary together, we are led to Jesus not only personally, in and through the unique experiences of our lives, but with and through one another, united in the Holy Spirit, on our journey of faith to heaven.

With Mary, the Morning Star, our mother and sister in the faith, let's walk with one another and encounter the real Jesus, who lives in our midst.

(Learn more on the Marian consecration page at www.rcda.org or contact Renee Morgiewicz, diocesan coordinator of parish services and respect life ministry, at 518-453-6609 or renee.morgiewicz@rcda.org. Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)