Archbishop consecrates Archdiocese of Denver to Immaculate Heart of Mary

Therese Bussen

On the centennial of Our Lady’s final apparition to the Fatima children and the Miracle of the Sun on Oct. 13, hundreds were gathered in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and thousands more gathered in parishes across the archdiocese as Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila consecrated Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Watch the prayer vigil here

The event, which was live-streamed across the world and into participating parishes in the archdiocese, began with a procession and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After some moments of silence, Father Ryan O’Neill, vocations director at the Archdiocese of Denver, led the congregation in the rosary, followed by an exhortation.

Father O’Neill called attention to the day of Friday, the 13th, which is typically considered a superstitious, unlucky day to some. But instead, the archdiocese was gathered on such a day for sacred blessing.

“We are here in the darkness on an unlucky day to celebrate a beautiful, holy thing, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima,” Father O’Neill said. “Today is a very lucky day for us, any by lucky, I mean blessed. In the midst of our fears comes a woman dressed in white.”

After some time of silent adoration before the Eucharist, Archbishop Aquila also addressed the faithful before the final prayer of consecration, recalling the miracle that occurred 100 years ago to the day.

“Our Lady said, ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “And in that, we see the heart of Mary and her love for Jesus. Her last recorded words were, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ She constantly reminds us of her son and her deepest desire is that we be as pure in heart as she is pure of heart.”

Archbishop Aquila reminded the faithful that Our Lord “promises to give us a new heart,” and that Mary wants us to open our hearts to salvation and to Jesus.

He went on to emphasize four themes that will lead us deeper in intimacy with Jesus: The gift of faith, conversion, praying for peace and remembering Our Lady’s message of hope.

“Mary invites us to put our faith in God, to believe in his love for the world and to put our trust and confidence in him,” Archbishop Aquila said. We also need to pray for our own conversion, as well as the conversion of the whole world, he continued.

“She also reminds us to pray for peace in the world,” Archbishop Aquila pointed out. “We may not be in a World War today, but there are many small wars going on. We see threats of war with North Korea and there’s that angst — but how often do we ask the Lord, grant our world peace?

The Consecration of the Archdiocese of Denver to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on October 13, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“The peace the Lord gives is not without suffering or the cross,” he added. “But it is strong. It is the peace Mary knew at the foot of the cross…so, we are praying for that peace today.”

Archbishop Aquila concluded by reminding the archdiocese that with Mary’s apparitions always comes a message of hope — that life has meaning, and that there is eternal life.

Father O’Neill also highlighted three events in Mary’s life that offered us an example of her virtues to imitate: The Annunciation, the wedding feast at Cana, and her love of the cross.

In the Annunciation, Father O’Neill said, “Mary receives the gift God wants to give her,” and that, often, we wish for things other than the great blessing God is trying to give us.

At Cana, Mary exhibited humble confidence. She points out a need and is very confident that Jesus will answer it the way he wants, Father O’Neill said.

“St. Therese prayed like that,” Father O’Neill said. “She said that even if things don’t go the way you want, remember that Jesus loves you so much that if you could see it, you would die of ecstasy. It’s not about what he gives, it’s about who he is.”

The third example of her virtue is at the cross.

“It didn’t feel good, but there was a choice. She chose the cross,” Father O’Neill said. “Every cross is a preparation for a greater blessing, a ripening of our soul for greater grace. I want you to see the cross as something really good coming your way.”

As the archdiocese joined the Archbishop in prayer of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the faithful prayed, “May every country and every person in the world come to know your maternal love for them…through your intercession, may every human being encounter you son, Jesus Christ, and become the person he desires them to be.” ­­

Hundreds of faithful were gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on October 13, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

“As we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us pray for faith… to love Jesus as Mary loved Jesus, and pray for peace and let us pray for hope, rooted in the promise of eternal life,” Archbishop Aquila concluded. “It is only by keeping our hearts fixed on Jesus that this will come about.”

COMING UP: Celebrate and support the sacred gift of life

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Editor’s Note: This column is adapted from Archbishop Aquila’s remarks to the 2018 Celebrate Life March, which took place on January 13th in front of the Colorado State Capitol building.

As we gather today to celebrate life, we must remember three things: 1) life is a gift, 2) life is sacred, and 3) rebuilding a culture of life requires joy.

We are here today to celebrate our joy over the gift of life. Every minute and every day we live presents us with an abundance of gifts that seem mundane and are often overlooked: our health, the gift of creation, or something as simple as having food on our plates. Above all, we should give thanks for the gift of life!

As people involved in protecting life at every stage, the challenge we face is not just one of providing resources to mothers and fathers in need or ensuring people battling a terminal illness have good palliative care. Our challenge is to also communicate to them that they are loved, that their unborn child or their own lives are gifts, no matter the circumstances.

Many of us fought in 2016 to prevent doctor-assisted suicide from becoming legal in Colorado, and one person who helped in that effort was a courageous man named J.J. Hanson. J.J. was a Marine veteran and father of two young children who was working for a real estate investment firm in Florida when he found out he had glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. His doctors told him that it was a very aggressive cancer that meant he only had four months to live.

Despite his odds, J.J. resolved to fight. His motto was: “Every single day is a gift, and we can’t let that go.” What’s even more remarkable is the fact that J.J. dedicated his time and energy to fighting the legalization of assisted suicide around the country, all while undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments. There was hardly a speaking engagement or trip to testify before a legislature that J.J. turned down. His conviction that life was a gift propelled him to defend that gift however he could. As pro-life people, we need to have that same conviction.

Just about two weeks ago, on December 30th, J.J. was called home to the Father – three years beyond what doctors told him to expect. St. Anthony of Padua church in upstate New York, where his funeral was held, was filled with people who paid tribute to how J.J. inspired them to embrace every moment of life, no matter its difficulties as a gift, not something to be thrown away.

All of us are called to embrace life as J.J. did, and in doing so we will help recover the culture of life that is being neglected or forgotten as people cast God and truth aside.

I have said that life is a gift, and while that is true, it’s more than that. Life is also sacred. Life is sacred because it comes from God, the God who is love and who has loved us first. Our lives are also sacred because our beings are made in God’s image and likeness.

We are called to participate in the love of God and to see that every human being, from the moment of conception until natural death, is invited into relationship with God. We are called to ensure that life is set aside for God, that it is honored and recognized as sacred.

The struggle for so many today is that they do not even believe in a god; their only god is themselves. They truly do not believe in the God who is love. And because of this limited worldview, a person’s life can lose its value if their “quality of life” declines.

In the words of Pope Francis to participants in the 2013 Day for Life, “All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

When Jesus speaks about the Judgement of the Nations in Matthew 25, he tells us that life is always sacred by saying that when we love the weak and vulnerable, we are loving him.

The more that we can love the sacred gift of life and celebrate it with joy, the more we will contribute to building a true culture of life in the U.S.

A wonderful example of concretely loving the sacred gift of life is a story I recently heard about a 15-year-old Colorado teenager named Missy, who showed up with her parents at an abortion clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Missy was a sophomore in high school and was in her second trimester of pregnancy. As they approached the clinic, some pro-life volunteers who were parked nearby in a mobile crisis pregnancy van saw them and invited them inside. The volunteers learned that Missy wanted to complete high school and that this desire was pushing her to consider an abortion. One of the volunteers told Missy about how she was faced with the same choice as a teen and chose to keep her child. “It wasn’t easy, but it was amazing,” she reassured Missy.

Missy also worried about the father of the child not being around, to which her dad responded by taking her hand and saying, “I’ll be that man in your child’s life.”

This kind of accompaniment and willingness to heroically support the gift of life is vitally important to forming a culture that welcomes the unborn, the elderly, the disabled and the dying as a gift.

Building a culture of life begins by first receiving the love of the Father, who loves each of us as his sons and daughters. He never abandons us, even though we might abandon him or reject his love.

A culture of life grows when we share his love with others, helping them to embrace life as a gift and a joy, rather than a burden.

Life is a gift, it is sacred and our celebration of the joy of life helps build a culture of life.

I encourage you to be those who are unafraid to give witness to life. Be not afraid to give witness to life. Even though people might ridicule you, yell at you, or reject you, know that Jesus experienced it all so that you might have life, and life abundantly.

May God bless you and help you celebrate life in 2018!