PORTLAND — Using the very words being said by Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, Bishop Robert Deeley stood before over 300 people in the pews of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as well as thousands more participating via livestream and joined in making an Act of Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters,” said the bishop. “We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!”
Consecration means “to make holy.” When one makes an act of consecration, it is made ultimately to God with the understanding that our consecration is a serious commitment on our part to respond faithfully to God’s grace at work in our lives. While there is a long history of consecration to Mary, the practice of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is closely linked to the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. During the third apparition, on July 13, 1917, Our Lady said to the three little shepherds: “God wishes to establish the devotion to her Immaculate Heart in the world in order to save souls from hell and bring about world peace, and also asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.”
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and responding to a request particularly from Ukrainian bishops, Pope Francis asked bishops around the world to join him in the consecration on Friday, the Solemnity of the Annunciation (March 25), which celebrates the coming of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the special mission God had chosen for her in being the mother of His only son and the salvation of all mankind. Two examples that highlight the importance of this feast are the joyous mysteries of the Rosary and the Angelus, which Bishop Deeley also prayed with those gathered on Friday.
During the Act of Consecration, Bishop Deeley described the Immaculate Heart of Mary as “a refuge for the Church and for all humanity” and reminded participants that even in the most troubled times, the Mother of God is there to guide us with tender love.
“We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children,” said the bishop. “In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort.”
In a time in which many have squandered the gift of peace, the bishop asked for Mary’s “maternal help.”
“Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love. Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity. Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.”
In addition, prayers were offered to soothe those who suffer and flee, to embrace those forced to leave their homes, and to inspire all to “open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.”
“The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty,” prayed the bishop. “Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world.”
Many parishes around Maine held prayer services on Friday to pray for the innocent and for peace. Some participated as groups via livestream with the gathering at the Cathedral, while others held their own times of prayer, including churches in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Bar Harbor, Benedicta, Bridgton, Brunswick, Camden, Caribou, Dexter, East Millinocket, Ellsworth, Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent, Greenville, Houlton, Jackman, Jay, Kennebunk, Lewiston, Limerick, Lincoln, Norway, Old Town, Portland, Sanford, Scarborough, Waterville, and Westbrook.