St. Louis, Mo., Mar 24, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).
March 25 marks one year since Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Earlier this week, the pope encouraged “each believer and community, especially prayer groups,” to renew the consecration of the whole world every March 25 on the solemnity of the Annunciation. But what does all this mean? Here’s what you need to know.
What does consecration mean?
To “consecrate” is to set aside for a holy purpose. The word “entrustment” is often used synonymously with the word “consecration.”
The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship defines consecration to Mary as an overt recognition of the “singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage.”
St. John Paul II — who consecrated the entire Church and world to Mary three times during his pontificate — taught that by consecrating oneself to Mary, we accept her help in offering ourselves fully to Christ.
Colin Donovan, vice president for theology at EWTN, told CNA that consecration “is an entrustment and also an appeal to God. The entrustment here is the fact that we lay ourselves, our hearts, our prayers, our desires at the feet of Our Lady, and that serves God’s purposes because it elevates Our Lady in the mind of the Church, and hopefully in the mind in the world. And it’s an appeal to God for our particular needs.”
What is the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
The Immaculate Heart of Mary is an object of devotion, as it symbolizes her perfect will as expressed in her “fiat.” Mary’s heart is generally depicted with seven wounds and pierced by a sword. Early devotion to the heart of Mary was exemplified by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, but the modern devotion was founded by St. John Eudes, a French priest of the 17th century.
The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first observed by Eudes, and it began receiving papal approbation at the opening of the 19th century. The feast was placed on the General Roman Calendar in 1944, to be observed Aug. 22, the octave day of the Assumption.
What was Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine?
Taking place just over a month after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis said he wanted to entrust the nations at war to the Blessed Virgin Mary in response to the “numerous requests from the people of God.”
“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,” Pope Francis said in a letter dated March 21, 2022.
“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.”
The pope released another letter March 23 asking all Catholics to assemble in their parishes on that Friday to pray the act of consecration. Catholics around the world — including in every U.S. diocese — participated.
In his homily last year before praying the consecration, the pope said that the prayer “is no magic formula but a spiritual act.”
“It is an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother, reposing all their fears and pain in her heart and abandoning themselves to her,” he said.
What am I being asked to do now?
Here’s what Pope Francis said:
“Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace. I would therefore like to invite every believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may preserve us all in unity and peace. And let us not forget, in these days, troubled Ukraine, who is suffering so much.”
What is the prayer I’m being asked to pray?
The text of the prayer can be found here.
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Be with us O Mary along the way – Guide every step we take.