On March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Mary, many of the world’s Catholic Christians gathered in their respective places to pray for Russia and Ukraine, specifically for the consecration of those two countries, and all humanity, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The word “consecration” here recalls a time in 1917 when the Blessed Mother appeared, on several different occasions, to three shepherd children in Fátima, Portugal. Without conversion, she said, war would pervade, and Russia would spread its errors throughout the world.
This recent Friday’s effort was a spiritual response to that long-ago request, along with the recent war in Europe, using prayer as our only weapon, appealing to heaven for help.
That morning, I slipped into a front pew at St. Mary’s Cathedral downtown Fargo to pray with local faithful, hoping to settle my weary mind and heart through joining the refrain of begging God for peace.
After leading the consecration, Bishop Folda knelt before a mosaic of Mary, a young Jesus in her lap holding a globe representing the world, and guided a Rosary recitation, followed by midday Mass.
During the homily, he reiterated the day’s dual significance, expounding on both the consecration and the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a humble Jewish teenager, who consented to bearing the Son of God.
It was Pope Francis who had called the faithful together on this day to beg God to restore peace, Bishop Folda reminded, “asking for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and protection.”
“This consecration is a kind of entrustment,” he said, “a placing of these wounded nations under Mary’s mantle, entrusting them to her maternal love and care,” and it seemed fitting to pair the consecration with the solemnity on which we celebrate God’s Son coming into the world.
The Annunciation recalls the mysterious plan of God to save humanity by taking on flesh, he noted. “And of course, this beautiful moment could not have happened without the willing cooperation of one very important person,” that being Mary.
In her “yes,” he said, Mary became “the hinge for God’s plan, the vessel for the outpouring of his love,” and as Mary’s trust, faith, hope, humility, obedience and love all converged in her response to the angel, the world was changed.
“God’s plan took a great leap forward, and our redemption grew closer,” Bishop Folda asserted, referencing St. Thomas Aquinas, who called this moment “the condescension of (God’s) love.” “It truly was a moment of God’s love for us, every one of his children,” he said, that our wounds might be healed. “And oh, how we need this healing right now.”
Alone, we cannot overcome this present darkness, Bishop Folda said, so we turn to our Lord and his holy mother. “Mary is never a better model for us than at this moment,” he remarked. “Her ‘yes’ brings Jesus Christ into the world. And our ‘yes’ to him will allow him to fill us with God’s grace, if we’re willing to receive it.”
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on April 4, 2022.]