Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pope Francis and Consecration

As part of my mother's birthday extravaganza this summer, my sister-in-law had neon orange t-shirts made, with "Rettapalooza" emblazoned on the front.  (Retta is what the grand kids call our dear Loretta June.)  As our entire clan was shuffling through the airport wearing the t-shirts, someone approached my witty wife and asked, "What is Rettapalooza?"  Without breaking stride, Tracy responded, "It's a movement!"

On Sunday, October 13th, Pope Francis consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Around the world--including in the Diocese of Joliet--countless Bishops consecrated their dioceses to the Immaculate Heart as well.  I was reminded, once again, that the Church is not some arcane institution:  It's a movement.  Moreover, it's a movement big enough to wrap its arms around the whole world.

For those who have been "reading" Pope Francis as a Holy Father intent on breaking from tradition and leading the Church down a radically new path, this day of consecration must have been befuddling.  After all, if Francis is just reaffirming the common secular virtues of our day (e.g., tolerance, empathy, simple living, etc.), such traditional piety must seem unnecessary or irrelevant. 

But what if Pope Francis is best understood in terms of creative continuity with the great tradition of the Church, rather than discontinuity?  What if our temptation to resort to worldly labels--such as, liberal or conservative, progressive or traditionalist--simply don't fit?  Another way to put it is to ask whether our new Holy Father is best understood not in terms of an either/or, but a both/and.  As the Gospel puts it, what if “every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt 13:52)? 

In keeping with the miraculous revelations of our Blessed Mother at Fatima, the Holy Father consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary because he knows--along with St. Louis de Montfort--that the surest, safest, and quickest route to Jesus is through Mary.  After all, it is through Mary that the Father sends us his Son, and it is through Mary's intercession that Jesus draws us all closer to his Sacred Heart.

At its root, consecration is about being made holy--literally, "to make sacred, together with."  Consecration ultimately describes Jesus' gift of himself to the Father on our behalf, for the life of the world.  Lord knows we can't make ourselves holy, and yet our Heavenly Father longs to have his entire family around the eternal banquet table.  So Christ makes us a sacred people together with the rest of his body, the Church.  He also makes us holy through the intercession of his Mother.

Marian consecration comes to us from Jesus, when he announces from the cross, "Woman, behold your son," and to all of us in the person of the beloved disciple, "behold your mother" (Jn 19:26-27).  On a personal level, I can say that Marian consecration is like a renewal of baptismal vows which opens the flood gates to ongoing personal conversion (the process unfolds gradually over time, of course, depending on the receptivity of the soul in question!); Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory is a modern-day masterpiece, which is as accessible as it is insightful in bringing this treasure forth from the storeroom of the Church.

On a global level, I predict that Pope Francis' consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary will have the impact of a spiritual tsunami.  Thought the initial shifting of tectonic plates, deep under the sea, may be barely discernible on the surface, it is destined to produce a reaction whose power and dramatic results will seem unbelievable. 

This is the work of the Church, the in-breaking of the Kingdom.  This is the Movement for which the whole world longs!

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us--

P.S.  If you haven't seen and heard the best commentary on the Pope Francis interview in the Jesuit magazines, please check out Fr. Barron's ten-minute gem; and if you haven't seen the coverage of Pope Francis in Assisi, check out the coverage on the Vatican News homepage.