The core message of Fatima: An urgent call to holiness
One of Our Lady of Fatima’s requests was the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Its primary purpose was not only the conversion of Russia or the prevention of wars and other calamities, but to draw all mankind back to God. In fact, the key message that Our Blessed Mother repeated incessantly was to pray the Rosary and do penance for the conversion of sinners.
When Pope St. John Paul II visited Fatima on May 13, 1982 to thank Our Lady for preserving his life, he shared a similar conclusion, “If the Church has accepted the message of Fatima, it is above all because that message contains a truth and a call whose basic content is the truth and the call of the Gospel itself. … ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’” (6). Thus, the meaning and purpose of Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions was the salvation of souls, an urgent call to holiness.
Like the threats that humanity faced a century ago when Our Lady appeared in Fatima, today our world is plagued with an aggressive secularism and materialism that aim to exclude God from our lives, where blasphemy, religious indifference and enslavement to the addictions of alcohol, drugs or pornography proliferate in the hearts of so many. In short, in these uncertain times, Our Lady’s summons to return to God continue to be relevant even as it is counter-cultural. It reminds Christians of our Baptismal call to holiness.
During the third apparition at Fatima on July 13, 1917, Our Lady showed the three children a terrifying vision of hell and stressed the urgency to establish throughout the world devotion to her Immaculate Heart, promising that through it God would restore peace and many souls would be saved. But why are Marian devotion and consecration to her Immaculate Heart effective instruments to bring about greater love for God and ultimately help us reach eternal salvation?
Mary’s unique role in God’s Plan of Redemption
Consecration to Mary has been a traditional practice of the Church for hundreds of years — by individuals, religious orders, the laity and the clergy. However, to understand this consecration, it is helpful first to recall the significant role that Mary plays in God’s plan of salvation; and in light of that to consider our own role and vocation. In His plan of salvation, God does not simply redeem us, leaving us only a passive role. He calls us to collaborate in the work of redemption and be a mutual help for one another.
God has given Mary the most singular and significant role among His children: the mission of being the Mother of all believers. As Mary stood at the foot of the cross, Jesus said (Jn 19:26f), “Woman, behold, your son” and to the Apostle John, “Behold, your mother.” When Mary accepted John as her son, in John she accepted all of us. At that moment, the Mother of Jesus became our Mother too. Just as once her earthly mission was to give birth to Christ, to feed, nurture and help Him develop and mature as a man; in a similar way, until the end of time, Mary’s mission is to assist Christians in their spiritual birth and in their need to be fed and nurtured with grace so as to grow to the full stature of Christ. In short, this is her mission: to be our spiritual Mother collaborating in God’s work of transformation in holiness, “until Christ be formed in [us]” (Gal 4:19). In his letters to the Christian communities, St. Paul repeatedly reminded them that the work of sanctification aims at conformity to the likeness of Jesus Christ. The example of this saving conformity is found in our spiritual Mother.
Consecration is our ‘Yes’ to the vocation of holiness
The word “consecration” means to set aside for an exclusive purpose. For example, the chalice used in the Holy Mass is consecrated; it is solely dedicated to containing the Blood of Christ and nothing else. In a similar way, consecration to Mary means exclusively allowing our Blessed Mother to accomplish her mission within us. Placing ourselves totally at Mary’s disposition, we give her our consent to mold us, to change our way of thinking, our actions and words, our hearts and sentiments, into the likeness of her Son.
When we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are placing ourselves and our families under Our Lady’s protection and guidance. At the same time, we are collaborating with her through our prayers, sacrifices and merits from good works to save souls, including our own. This is the reason why St. Louis de Montfort affirmed that consecration to the Blessed Virgin “is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus” (“Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” 55).
On Oct. 13, 2017, marking the 100th Anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, I will consecrate our Diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Along with this diocesan consecration, I also encourage our priests to consecrate their parishes and our families to consecrate their homes to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Through this consecration, I pray that our Diocese will grow in our love for Jesus through Mary and steadfastly commit to intentional discipleship and evangelization; that people’s faith may be strengthened in these uncertain times; and that there be a renewed vitality for loving and serving others, especially those in most need.
Every day we witness the spread of human suffering and of evils that threaten us personally but especially the family. Now more than ever, consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is meaningful and necessary. Marian consecration always leads to a fuller consecration to Jesus, the fount of infinite holiness, whose love is more powerful than evil. Together, as sisters and brothers, let us walk this pathway to Mary, Our Mother, thanking her for her unique love and praying through her intercession for the grace of perseverance in faith until the glorious day of fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead is the Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix.