[The following reflection, which I present here on the occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is excerpted from “Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” from the Rosary Center of the Dominican Fathers of Portland, Oregon.]
“‘Consecration to the Mother of God,’ says Pope Pius XII, ‘is a total gift of self, for the whole of life and for all eternity; and a gift which is not a mere formality or sentimentality, but effectual, comprising the full intensity of the Christian life—Marian life.’ This consecration, the Pope explained, ‘tends essentially to union with Jesus, under the guidance of Mary.’
“…Since she is our Mother, she knows our needs better than we; and since she is Queen of Heaven, she has immediate access to the infinite treasury of graces in the Kingdom of her Divine Son. Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father; she is also Mother of all the Father’s adopted children. As their Mother, she has been given the role of molding them into the likeness of Jesus.
“Every work of grace, every increase of grace, is a work of the Holy Spirit; but as in the Incarnation of the Divine Word God used human instruments, so does He in the sanctification of each individual soul. As He chose Mary as the instrument through whom He would come to us, so He chose Mary as the instrument through whom we should go to Him. And both the mystery of God coming to us through Mary, and our being led to God through Mary, is a work of the Holy Spirit. So when we speak of Mary’s unique role in our sanctification, she is but the instrument the Holy Spirit uses in sharing with us the divine life of grace. It is in this sense that Mary fashions us into the likeness of Christ.
“However, that this transformation—through Mary’s help—be accomplished in a notable degree, there must be an awareness of her role in our sanctification, a confidence in her maternal concern and in her power under God, a surrender of oneself into her hands, and a fervent, frequent and confident seeking of her aid. This usually comes through some form of consecration to the Mother of God.
“At Fatima Our Lady asked for consecration to her Immaculate Heart… It involves a striving to fulfill her requests for prayer and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for offenses against the Divine Majesty. In a word, it involves a striving to fulfill all that she asked for at Fatima, and trying to bring others to heed her requests.
“Living that consecration means becoming an apostle of Mary, striving to imitate her virtues, and to place in her hands the flowers of little sacrifices of reparation for the salvation of souls, so that we might strengthen her hand against the attacks of the Evil One, and hasten the day of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. To everyone who makes that consecration and sincerely tries to live it, the words of Our Lady to the child Lucia at Fatima would also apply: ‘I will never leave you; my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge, and the way that will lead you to God’ …
“Our Blessed Mother’s great concern is the salvation of the souls of her children, many of whom are being lost. She looks for generous souls among her children, who are willing to let her lead them close behind her Son, sharing more fully in His redemptive mission, filling up what is wanting in other members of the Body of Christ. Little by little they are transformed to see as Christ sees, and to desire what He desires. God wants to draw us closer to Himself, sharing more fully His Divine life; but we must understand what the fulfillment of this requires.
“Consecration to Mary, then, requires a childlike simplicity and confidence, letting her lead one by the hand, trusting—regardless of what lies ahead—that she knows better than we what contributes most to God’s glory, our sanctification and the salvation of souls…
“In the course of his work at Fatima, Fr. [Thomas] McGlynn had several long interviews with Sr. Lucia, the last living witness of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. Sr. Lucia knew that Father McGlynn was going to write a book on Fatima as soon as he completed his work on the statue. ‘In your writing,’ Sr. Lucia said to Father, ‘please stress the spiritual meaning of things, in order to raise minds which today have become so materialistic to regions of the supernatural; so that they may understand the true meaning and purpose of the coming of Our Lady to earth, which is to bring souls to Heaven, to draw them to God.’
“…As Msgr. William McGrath has pointed out: ‘When all is said and done, our primary responsibility is not the conversion of Russia or the prevention of world wars, but the salvation of that little world within ourselves over which, with God’s help, we must exercise control, and for which we shall one day have to render an account to God in judgment. What will it profit us, even if Russia is converted and an era of peace be granted to humanity, if we have failed in the great task for which we were created, the salvation of our own immortal souls?’
“Fr. McGlynn pointed out in his book Vision of Fatima, that Fatima is, first of all, a dreadful warning to the world to stop sinning. The enormity of mankind’s rebellion against God, and God’s infinite aversion to sin, form the foundation of the Fatima message. It is a warning that the time of God’s justice will come to pass, if men do not take advantage of this time of His mercy, this special opportunity of making reparation through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“Our Lady showed the three children a vision of hell. That vision was not for their instruction and warning, but for ours. The Blessed Virgin had assured them that they were going to be saved. Yet, as Fr. McGlynn pointed out, ‘All the bleeding, dying and despair of a thousand wars cannot equal the disaster of a single soul being damned. We miss the spiritual meaning of things if we think Our Lady came to Fatima to tell us how to keep out of a third world war, or how to convert Russia, or how to achieve tranquility in our earthly existence. She came to tell us how to keep out of hell.’
“Lest there should be any misconception about the place of devotion to Mary in Catholic piety, we honor in a special way the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of Jesus, i.e., the person of Mary in her eminent sanctity and glorification by God, because it is the wish of her Son—as Our Lady revealed in her second apparition at Fatima. Jesus knows well that true devotion to His Mother leads souls to Him. As Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical celebrating the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes: ‘Everything in Mary leads us toward her Son, our only Savior, by whose foreseen merits she was preserved immaculate and full of grace; everything in Mary lifts up our hearts to the praise of the Holy Trinity.’
“The Church sees Mary, then, not as the goal, but as the guide, who always leads souls who honor her with true devotion—to her Son, especially to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament…”