(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
A statue of Our Lady of Fatima in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The statue is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal.
Consecrating the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
April 4th, 2017
By Father Charles Puthota
“Le Jongleur de Notre Dame” (The Tumbler and the Lady) is a story by Anatole France based on a 12th-century legend about a poor minstrel who becomes a monk in the Cistercian Abbey in Clairvaux, France. With no education or sophistication, the minstrel soon finds himself utterly unsuited for the life of work and prayer in the monastery. Despondent, he stumbles into the crypt one evening where he sees a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary seated on a throne. Her face is suffused with such gentleness and compassion that he feels comforted in his sorrows. He spontaneously takes his cowl off and begins to tumble, leap and dance, the only art he knows, and begs Mary to accept it as his unworthy offering of affection and veneration. This goes on for days until one day some monks quietly follow him down into the crypt and witness his antics of leaping and dancing in front of the statue. Exhausted, the minstrel falls to the ground unconscious. Lo and behold, the Blessed Mother descends from her throne and wipes the beads of sweat from his brow in a tender gesture of acceptance of his love and devotion.
On Oct. 7, 2017, when Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will consecrate the Archdiocese of San Francisco to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at St. Mary’s Cathedral, as part of the annual Rosary Rally, he will be spiritually uniting us all in a gesture of love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will accept and embrace us as her children, comfort us in our sorrows, strengthen us in our faith, and lead us to her son Jesus Christ. In his letter to priests of the archdiocese, the archbishop says: “In response to numerous requests from the faithful I will consecrate our archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. … For this act of consecration to bear fruit, I am convinced that we must prepare ourselves spiritually and with catechesis for this significant day.”
This year is the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal. We may be familiar that the Blessed Virgin during these apparitions in 1917 invited the church to take refuge in her Immaculate Heart which will be the way for us to Jesus, who leads us to the Father.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary together have become powerful symbols. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is open to manifest God’s love to humanity, inviting everyone to love and fullness of life. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the symbol of Mary’s love for Jesus and for the church as she invites us to do whatever Jesus tells us to do.
Many of us are aware of the meaning of consecration. The word comes from the Latin term “consecrare,” which means to make sacred. Consecration is an ancient tradition that goes back to the Old Testament and has always been part of Catholic tradition. We are familiar that consecration takes place at every Mass; that churches, bishops, and religious articles are traditionally consecrated, which means they are dedicated or made holy (hallowed) or set apart for God’s service; and that “Consecrated Life” is an expression we use to refer to those belonging to religious orders. Hence consecrating the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary would mean that the archbishop will solemnly dedicate the archdiocese to Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother. It is a way of consciously, deliberately, wholeheartedly, and ritually placing our archdiocese in the care and protection of Mary whose heart is on fire for Jesus and the whole humanity. (We may recall Abraham Lincoln’s use of the terms “dedicate,” “consecrate,” and “hallow” in his Gettysburg Address.)
The archbishop is rightly keen that the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary needs to be preceded by spiritual preparation and catechesis. The consecration needs to be placed within the context of the theology of Mary: her role in the salvation history, her closeness to Jesus, her preeminent discipleship, her role in the redemptive sufferings of Jesus, her total submission to the will of God, her longing for liberation in the song of Magnificat, her invitation for us to serve and heal others, her presence at the origin of the church at Pentecost, and her continuous role in leading us to discipleship of Jesus. The theology of Mary will necessarily lead us to spirituality and devotion. The tender affection we feel from and toward Mary is expressed in the various apparitions around the world, including at Fatima. The daily rosary (invitation to meditate on the divine mysteries), the five First Saturday Masses (providing more opportunities for participation in the Eucharist), the call and our response to conversion and reparation (“repent and believe in the Gospel”) – all are solidly based on Scripture, theology, spirituality and tradition.
The larger vision of the archbishop
When all the preparation and consecration are completed, the hope of the archbishop is that the archdiocese will have been renewed in faith; that our love for Jesus and desire for discipleship will have been rekindled through our love for Mary; that people may grow in their love of and fidelity to the church; that there is greater participation in the Eucharist; that there is a new energy for loving and serving others, especially those who are in need; and that the faithful of the archdiocese may embrace stewardship as a way of life, which is “the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
Father Puthota is director of pastoral ministry for the archdiocese and pastor of St. Veronica Parish, South San Francisco.
Prayer of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when you appeared in Fatima 100 years ago, you desired that the Church should take refuge in your Immaculate Heart as a means that leads to Jesus, who is the way to the Father. Heeding your call, we entrust ourselves, our families, and our Archdiocese to the care and protection of your Immaculate Heart. As we prepare ourselves, through humble expressions of devotion, for the Consecration of our Archdiocese to your Immaculate Heart, inspire in us the longing to know, love, and follow your beloved son Jesus Christ. We seek that you help us imitate your spirit of generosity in doing God’s will and your example of serving others selflessly so that, having found God’s abundant grace here on earth, we may one day be led to the everlasting joys in Heaven.
10 practical things we can do as preparation for consecration
1. Pray the rosary daily in families and churches.
2. Attend the First Saturday Masses as a way of devotion and love toward the Blessed Virgin Mary and participate in the Eucharist at weekends.
3. Spend a few minutes each day in silent prayer and read the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Pope Francis has been inspiring us to do this.
4. Make frequent use of the sacrament of penance. We could consider going to confession at least once a month.
5. Dwell prayerfully on the monthly themes proposed by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Committee as related to Mary and the consecration.
6. Recite the proposed prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as we prepare for consecration.
7. Meditate on the blurbs on the story of Fatima, which will be inserted in our parish bulletins.
8. Attend the Marian retreat (in English and Spanish) on Saturday, May 6, at the cathedral.
9. Encourage our students in both our Catholic schools and religious education programs to participate in essay, poetry, and art contests on the themes of Mary.
10. Attend the Rosary Rally and the ceremony of consecration with the archbishop presiding, at the cathedral on Oct. 7, the feast of the Holy Rosary.
From April 6, 2017 issue of Catholic San Francisco.