My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This past March 25th, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Pope Francis carried out a solemn Act of Consecration of humanity, and Russia and Ukraine in particular, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, entrusting the nations at war to the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way. In response to the Holy Father’s request that bishops join him in this act with the clergy, religious, and lay Christian faithful, I led people in praying the Act of Consecration in our Cathedral in Springfield that same morning.
In his March 21st letter to Catholic bishops around the world, Pope Francis wrote, “Nearly a month has passed since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine that is daily inflicting immense suffering upon its sorely tried people and threatening world peace. At this dark hour, the Church is urgently called to intercede before the Prince of Peace and to demonstrate her closeness to those directly affected by the conflict. I am grateful to the many people who have responded with great generosity to my appeals for prayer, fasting, and charity … .This Act of Consecration is meant to be a gesture of the universal Church, which in this dramatic moment lifts up to God, through his Mother and ours, the cry of pain of all those who suffer and implore an end to the violence, and to entrust the future of our human family to the Queen of Peace.”
What does it mean to consecrate? Consecration makes something or someone sacred or holy by dedicating that object or person to God. An act of consecration is made ultimately to God with the understanding that our consecration is a serious commitment on our part to respond faithfully to God’s grace at work in our lives.
When a church or altar is consecrated, it is dedicated for divine worship and therefore is not to be used for a profane or secular purpose. When a priest is ordained, his hands are anointed with sacred chrism, thereby consecrating them for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration of the sacraments. When consecrating a country to Our Lady, we are consecrating the nation and its people to Jesus through Mary, imploring her maternal protection. As Pope St. John Paul II explained, “Consecrating ourselves to Mary means accepting her help to offer ourselves and the whole of mankind to him who is holy, infinitely holy; it means accepting her help — by having recourse to her motherly heart, which beneath the cross was opened to love for every human being, for the whole world — in order to offer the world, the individual human being, mankind as a whole, and all the nations to him who is infinitely holy” (May 13, 1982).
During the third apparition at Fatima, on July 13, 1917, Our Lady said to the three little shepherds that God wishes to establish the devotion to her Immaculate Heart in the world in order to save souls from hell and bring about world peace, and also asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Thus, we pray together with Pope Francis, “Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world.”
May God give us this grace. Amen.