The 66th gathering of the Living Rosary on October 8, so close to the 100th anniversary of our Lady of Fatima’s appearance to the three children and 70,000 others in Portugal on October 13, 1917, seemed an apt occasion for a special act of devotion. We had already had a wonderful outpouring of such devotion amid a public recitation of the Rosary and a moving Marian Mass with a procession of flowers and petitions on May 13 of this year at the Cathedral. On the same day at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Francis consecrated himself to God through Mary and entrusted to her intercession a suffering humanity. Thus, I was privileged on the 8th of October to “consecrate” the Archdiocese of Louisville to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Saint John Paul II had done to the entire world on March 25, 1984.
Before I explain what that consecration means, a word about the appearance of Mary. How mysterious was her appearance to three little children, two of whom Pope Francis just canonized in May, and her action in entrusting to them the message of peace and love and the call for conversion from sin and selfishness. The action on October 13, 1917, was accompanied by the “dancing of the sun,” which many of the crowd witnessed. When I heard that all 70,000 did not witness the event, I thought that only the believers did. But reports reveal that even some skeptics, coming to disprove the appearances, had their hearts touched by the events of that day.
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” provides a good explanation of this Church-approved shrine, as well as others through history. Making a distinction between public and private revelation, the “Catechism” teaches the importance of private revelations, such as the miracle and message of Fatima. Here is the distinction. All public revelation by God was completed with the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus but private revelation has a very important role. In no 67, the “Catechism” states: “It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.” Thus, the gift of Fatima makes present Jesus’ first words in the Gospel (repeated with ashes every Ash Wednesday): “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). These are joined to His final words in the Gospel: “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
So, what does it mean to “consecrate”? Literally, consecrate means to make holy, and only God can make holy. When we use the word consecrate, this verb indicates the response we humans can make to the work of God’s grace. Thus, to consecrate the Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to join ourselves to the perfect response of the Blessed Mother, who never fails to lead us to her Son, Jesus. From the cross, Jesus consecrated (made holy) the world and all of us and gave us a Mother through Saint John.
To learn more about this consecration, please read my letter and the pastoral letter of Bishop James Vann Johnston at www.archlou.org/consecration. You will find how our Blessed Mother can lead us to holy and fruitful lives, protected by her Son, Jesus.
Join me in living this consecration, as we respond to God’s invitation and grace through Mary to turn from sin and seek God’s peace. Her being “full of grace” means “no room for sin and selfishness!” Recall the words of Father Peyton who spoke in Louisville at the first Living Rosary in 1952, calling families to pray the rosary. At this event he reminded us, as he is famous for preaching, that “the family that prays together, stays together.”