The Holy Father will make a historic gesture on March 25, 2022, the feast of the Annunciation. While the Russian offensive on Ukrainian territory begins its 2nd month, the Pope will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He has invited all bishops and priests around the world to join in the consecration.
To consecrate means “to dedicate to a sacred purpose.” The term is often used in the vocabulary of the Church for places (churches), persons (consecrated religious or lay persons) and liturgical objects, and, at the heart of the Christian faith, for the consecration of the Eucharist.
One can also consecrate oneself personally to Christ through Mary, to Mary, or to other saints. From the Middle Ages onwards, this personal process was extended to cities and then to countries. Thus, Louis XIII consecrated France to Mary in 1638, a process that was later imitated by bishops and popes, for specific countries and places, and even for the entire world. The first consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was made by Pius XII, during the Second World War, on October 31, 1942.
Many countries have already been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Portuguese bishops consecrated Portugal on May 13, 1931. Poland was consecrated in 1946 and Australia in 1948. More recently, Congo consecrated itself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on February 4, 2017, in the presence of Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See. On February 18, 2017, England and Wales were consecrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. A few months later, the bishops of Scotland also consecrated their country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on September 3, 2017. Two years ago, on March 25, 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, 24 countries were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Fatima to invoke the protection of the Lord and the Virgin Mary in the face of the epidemic. The countries consecrated (or renewing their consecration) were: Albania, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and East Timor.
To Jesus through Mary
How can an entire country be consecrated when not all its inhabitants are believers? The consecration of a country is indeed a votive consecration: it is not a formal consecration (which requires consent), but an intercession for the country.
In his apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et poenitentia, John Paul II explained the process:
Into the hands of this mother, whose fiat marked the beginning of that “fullness of time” in which Christ accomplished the reconciliation of humanity with God, to her immaculate heart-to which we have repeatedly entrusted the whole of humanity, disturbed by sin and tormented by so many tensions and conflicts-I now in a special way entrust this intention: that through her intercession humanity may discover and travel the path of penance, the only path that can lead it to full reconciliation.
This implies, as John Paul II emphasizes, being supported by a path of conversion.
Taking Mary as mother, a “double” protection
Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, a great lover of the Virgin Mary, explained that consecrating oneself to Mary is like taking the Virgin as one’s mother: “To consecrate oneself to Mary is very precisely to choose her as one’s Mother, not only for the physical protection of our persons, but even more so, and first of all, to confer upon her in her own right the fullness of maternal power over our soul. The mother, in the human family, has power over her children. She protects them in two ways. By warding off perils and threats, sometimes without their even knowing it. By advising them and guiding them, so that they make good use of their freedom.
“Do not undertake anything that might displease him”
While respecting the freedom of each person, an act of consecration calls for a conversion of hearts. In a radio message addressed to Belgium, Pius XII specified: “By placing your personal, family and national activities under the aegis of Mary, you invoke her protection and her help in all your endeavors, but you also promise not to undertake anything that might displease her and to conform your whole life to her direction and desires.”
Therefore, if we wish to support the act of consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it is undoubtedly good to begin by converting our souls and acting as men and women according to the heart of God.