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: John Paul II, youth minister

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Pole that he was, Karol Wojtyla had a well-developed sense of historical irony. So from his present position in the Communion of Saints, he might be struck by the ironic fact that the Synod on “Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” currently underway in Rome, coincides with the 40th anniversary of his election as Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978. What’s the irony? The irony is that the most successful papal youth minister in modern history, and perhaps all history, was largely ignored in Synod-2018’s working document. And the Synod leadership under Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri seems strangely reluctant to invoke either his teaching or his example.

But let’s get beyond irony. What are some lessons the Synod might draw from John Paul II, pied piper of the young, on this ruby anniversary of his election?

1. The big questions remain the same.

Several bishops at Synod-2018 have remarked that today’s young people are living in a completely different world than when the bishops in question grew up. There’s obviously an element of truth here, but there’s also a confusion between ephemera and the permanent things.

When Cardinal Adam Sapieha assigned young Father Wojtyla to St. Florian’s parish in 1948, in order to start a ministry to the university students who lived nearby, things in Cracow were certainly different than they were when Wojtyla was a student at the Jagiellonian University in 1938-39. In 1948, Poland was in the deep freeze of Stalinism and organized Catholic youth work was banned. The freewheeling social and cultural life in which Wojtyla had reveled before the Nazis shut down the Jagiellonian was no more, and atheistic propaganda was on tap in many classrooms. But Wojtyla knew that the Big Questions that engage young adults — What’s my purpose in life? How do I form lasting friendships? What is noble and what is base? How do I navigate the rocks and shoals of life without making fatal compromises? What makes for true happiness? — are always the same. They always have been, and they always will be.

To tell today’s young adults that they’re completely different is pandering, and it’s a form of disrespect. To help maturing adults ask the big questions and wrestle with the permanent things is to pay them the compliment of taking them seriously. Wojtyla knew that, and so should the bishops of Synod-2018.

2. Walking with young adults should lead somewhere.

Some of the Wojtyla kids from that university ministry at St. Florian’s have become friends of mine, and when I ask them what he was like as a companion, spiritual director, and confessor, they always stress two points: masterful listening that led to penetrating conversations, and an insistence on personal responsibility. As one of them once put it to me, “We’d talk for hours and he’d shed light on a question, but I never heard him say ‘You should do this.’ What he’d always say was, ‘You must choose’.” For Karol Wojtyla, youth minister, gently but persistently compelling serious moral decisions was the real meaning of “accompaniment” (a Synod-2018 buzzword).

3. Heroism is never out of fashion.

When, as pope, John Paul II proposed launching what became World Youth Day, most of the Roman Curia thought he had taken leave of his senses: young adults in the late-20th century just weren’t interested in an international festival involving catechesis, the Way of the Cross, confession, and the Eucharist. John Paul, by contrast, understood that the adventure of leading a life of heroic virtue was just as compelling in late modernity as it had been in his day, and he had confidence that future leaders of the third millennium of Christian history would answer that call to adventure.

That didn’t mean they’d be perfect. But as he said to young people on so many occasions, “Never, ever settle for anything less than the spiritual and moral grandeur that God’s grace makes possible in your life. You’ll fail; we all do. But don’t lower the bar of expectation. Get up, dust yourself off, seek reconciliation. But never, ever settle for anything less than the heroism for which you were born.”

That challenge — that confidence that young adults really yearn to live with an undivided heart — began a renaissance in young adult and campus ministry in the living parts of the world Church. Synod-2018 should ponder this experience and take it very, very seriously.