Pope Francis hosted a two-day Marian celebration with more than 100,000 pilgrims and consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday, Oct. 13, the anniversary of the final apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima provided the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima for the occasion.
In Fatima, Mary appeared to three children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, and warned them of the trouble that would come if the world did not repent. She requested deeper devotion through the daily Rosary, daily sacrifices, world devotion to her Immaculate Heart and the first five Saturdays devotion.
In the prayer of consecration, Pope Francis beseeched Mary on behalf of the world:
"Hold our life in your arms:
bless and strengthen every desire for good;
revive and nourish faith;
sustain and enlighten hope;
awaken and animate charity;
guide all of us along the path of holiness.
Teach us your own preferential love
for the little and the poor,
for the excluded and the suffering,
for sinners and the downhearted:
bring everyone under your protection
and entrust everyone to your beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus.”
In his homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis outlined three lessons we can learn from Mary's example of faith: "first, God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength."
When our lives do not go according to plan, our first instinct may be to balk. But Mary did not. She responded to the shocking announcement from the angel with a trusting, resounding "yes." And we are called to do the same.
"God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans," said Pope Francis. "And he tells us: trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!"
Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to avoid the "safety zone[s]" in our lives, whether "in the form of material, intellectual or ideological security" and instead let God work.
The pope went on to describe how faithfulness "demands" fidelity every day. We have to "remember Christ always — to be mindful of Jesus — and thus to persevere in faith," even in the face of difficulty. Mary gives a compelling example in her life, saying "yes" in joyful moments and at the Cross.
"Often it is easy enough to say 'yes,' but then we fail to repeat this 'yes' each and every day. We fail to be faithful," said Pope Francis. "And I ask myself: am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time?"
And, finally, Pope Francis shared how we must acknowledge that God is our strength. The key is thankfulness and realizing that everything is a gift, like Mary, who, following the Annunciation, hastened to Elizabeth and proclaimed the goodness of the Lord in what we know as the Magnificat.
"All too often we take everything for granted!" said Pope Francis. "This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord and ask for something, but to go and thank him: 'Well, I don't need to.'"
Mary can teach us, guide us and bring us ever closer to her son, as Pope Francis shows. Just as Pope Francis consecrated the world to her Immaculate Heart, we can take that step as individuals and devote ourselves to our heavenly mother.
"Totus Tuus: A Consecration to Jesus through Mary with Blessed John Paul II" is a beautiful consecration that combines the classic structure from St. Louis de Monfort with the teachings and insights of Blessed John Paul II. It is a 33-day exercise that will open your heart to the life of the Holy Trinity.
From "Totus Tuus":
"By going through Mary to Jesus, we 'attach' ourselves in a familial way to her perfect fidelity and devotion. We actually increase and expand our capacity to be devoted to Jesus and the Blessed Trinity. The one who consecrates himself to Jesus and Mary will find himself going to Jesus more directly and more fully.
The more you give of yourself — the more generous you are — the more you will find that have actually lost nothing, but rather gained everything. God is never outdone in generosity. The new life of total consecration will lead you to greater holiness, peace of heart, love, virtue, happiness, and freedom."
Find more information about "Totus Tuus."
Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.