The Act of Consecration Is An Act Of Hope in Light of Terrible News
By Bishop David J. Malloy
T he Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25. He will do so in the context of a penance service to take place at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Holy Father is also sending one of the cardinals to Fatima on that same day so that that same act may be carried out at that famous shrine of the apparitions of Mary.
The act of consecration is motivated by the terrible news of the atrocities flowing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and what Pope Francis has termed “unacceptable armed aggression” and a “massacre.” The Pope is reportedly responding as well to a letter written to him by the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in early March asking for this consecration.
Of course the act of consecration flows from the apparition of Mary in 1917 to the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. From that series of appearances have come private but important revelations. From the beginning, the appearance of Mary has come to be seen and accepted as a message to the modern world. It has had such impact that Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have shown their devotion and spiritual attention to the words of Our Lady of Fatima.
Perhaps most famously, the three children of Fatima reported that Mary told them in the apparition on July 13, 1917, “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” 
However, the message of Our Lady was ultimately one of hope and not fear. She went on to say, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
It is important to place Mary’s words in the context of her various apparitions at Fatima. Mary spoke to the children on various occasions and constantly urged them to pray for sinners and for the conversion of the world. It was the modern sinfulness and the turning away from God that Mary said was at the root of the evil of communism and what Mary called the errors of Russia.
In other words, we need to repent of our own sins as we think about the wide consequences of sin even when they occur elsewhere. We can look at our own lives and at our American society and see how the rejection of God is becoming widespread and alarming. That is why Pope Francis is renewing the consecration of Russia in the context of a penance service.
Here in Rockford, I will be joining the diocese to the action of the Holy Father. On March 25 at 11 a.m. from the Cathedral of St. Peter, I will renew our own consecration to the Immaculate Heart as we pray for peace in Ukraine and for the reparation for sin. I have asked our priests to try to do likewise in their parishes.
Please make this act of penance and reparation to be part of your Lenten practice this year. And please make a Lenten confession of all your sins. You can take part in confession through our diocesan-wide Be Reconciled Day to take place on April 6 throughout the diocese when our churches will be hearing confessions from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Holy Father’s act of consecration and the message of Fatima reminds us of the wide reach and consequences of sin. But it reminds us also, that in the end, God and His mercy will prevail. But first we must repent and be done with our sins. That is how we draw closer to Him.