The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 67: Consecration Basics
Well, hello friends. You may have heard that this past week, on March 25, at approximately 6:30pm Rome time, Pope Francis led the world in praying the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for Russia and Ukraine. This Consecration took place at the end of the Celebration of Penance liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Annunciation, and if you were born and raised Catholic, you know that it might be challenging to utter another sentence with more Catholic words than that one, but today, I thought we’d break down exactly what a consecration is, why we do it, and how consecration can be a part of how we live out our everyday lives, too.
To start, a definition might be helpful for us. Consecration means to declare or to set apart something or someone as sacred, as when a church or cemetery is set apart as holy ground. Consecration happens when a person takes vows and becomes a nun, a sister, brother, or monk, or when a person receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders and becomes a deacon or a priest. And we are all familiar with the consecration in the mass when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. So, it’s possible to consecrate ground, people, vocations, and objects – so you might be thinking, what is the thread that runs through them all?
Well, an act of consecration is intentional and serious, it lifts up something or someone in a humble posture, and it asks God to transform that person or space or place into something new, something which it was not before.
When Pope Francis led the world in consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary this week, he was gathering us all in as a Church to lift up our brothers and sisters to the heart of our Mother Mary. That’s powerful. Sometimes it helps me to envision what a communal prayer like this one looks like in Heaven, and here, it’s as though Francis led us all to the feet of Mary and held the pain and suffering of this terrible war in his hands and we all asked her to help, all at once. Those of you who are parents or teachers know how powerful something like that might be when all the kids gather around to ask for help, not for themselves, but for a sister or brother in need. If it were you, how would you respond to something like that?
Well, while we’re speaking about definitions, it’s important to note what a consecration is not. You may have heard in some branches of Catholic media or social media some divisive criticism of the specific text used in the consecration or read about the supposed invalidation of the prior consecrations from Popes Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul II because of the precise words that were used and not used in those consecrations, but oh, friend, I don’t know. The idea that the words would have to be said exactly according to a formula or else they wouldn’t “work” – well, that kind of puts Mary and God in the smallest of boxes, doesn’t it? And not to be disrespectful around the importance of language, truly, but forcing the Mother of God to act by the strict order of the words that are uttered by we little humans – well, that sounds less like a prayer and more like a magic spell, don’t you think?
As Pope Francis said in his homily during that liturgy, “This is no magic formula but a spiritual act. It is an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother, reposing all their fears and pain in her heart and abandoning themselves to her.”
Did you hear that, friend? Consecration is a spiritual act of humility. We lift up a person or a space or a thing or a place and we ask Mary to pray or God to transform, but don’t be misled here, friends – though an act of consecration is serious and intentional and requires an act of our will, it is never us that does the transforming. It’s only God.
We experience a consecration in the Eucharist every time we go to mass when simple bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We lift up these humble things and we ask God to change them for our good, and He does. If we’re lucky in our lives, we sometimes meet people who have given their whole lives over to something higher than themselves. I think here of Mother Olga of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, Martin Luther King Jr. in the struggle for civil rights. Each of them lifting themselves up and giving themselves away in an act of will as God transforms them into something new that makes this world better and holier. Consecration is serious business.
But maybe the most relatable story of consecration I can offer you today comes from the Biblical story of Hannah and Samuel. Hannah was childless and she was tortured on this account by her fellow wife, Peninnah, who did have children. Being barren at that time was a serious cultural and relational disadvantage, and Hannah felt this loss acutely. Well, each time she went to the sanctuary, Hannah poured out her heart to God and asked for a child. On one of those days, Hannah made a vow, and this is what she said:
“O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
The priest, Eli, interceded for Hannah, much as Pope Francis did for Ukraine and Russia, and God answered their prayers. Hannah had a son, and she named him Samuel, meaning “I asked God for him” or “God has heard”. And Hannah fulfilled the vow she made, loving her long-awaited child, and then bringing him after he was weaned, at about three years old, to live with Eli, consecrated to the Lord. The scripture that describes this drop-off to the temple makes me cry each time I read it. It says,
“…she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
Oh friend, can you imagine Hannah carefully packing up the flour and the wine and the bull and her precious baby boy, fully giving him to God along with all of her hopes and dreams and trust that there would be transformation, not only for Samuel but herself? I can, because Hannah’s prayer is what I prayed during the years of infertility that preceded the birth of my firstborn, ah but that’s another story, friend.
When we lift something up and set it apart and ask Mary to pray or God to transform, it can cost us, that’s true, and that is the heart of consecration. In trust, we can do that with our people, our vocations, our paths, and our places. Consecration is meek and humble, but it is also brave because it’s grounded in the truth that we trust a God we cannot see to act in ways we surely will witness, ways which are much better than ours.
So, I’m wondering, friend as you listen today, do you feel your heart being pulled toward consecration? What can you lift up consciously with your own will in humility to ask God to set it apart and use it for the good of His Kingdom here on earth? Because we’re here just for a short time, you know, and our lives are little, but God is big, and it is truly amazing what He can do with our trembling, open hands, I promise you. Maybe this week we could prayerfully consider lifting that thing up with intention and trust, and just see what our good God will do.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks for sharing, rating, reviewing, and subscribing to this podcast as all of that helps more people to find us and I truly appreciate that, so thanks. If you’d like to support Raised Catholic financially by throwing a few bucks my way, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with lots of resources about how to engage with this topic more deeply for yourself, so do check all of that out. For now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Oh God, we entrust to you our world and our Church, especially our sisters and brothers in Ukraine and Russia, along everyone who is suffering all over the world. We ask you to transform hearts, bring an end to war, and help us to offer our own lives in service to each other. We trust you, and we pray your protection over us and our dear ones today. Guide and guard us and keep us under the mantle of your mother, Mary, we pray. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.
Bless you, friend. Thanks so much for listening today, and I’ll see you next time.
In the wake of Pope Francis’s Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary this week, we discuss what a consecration is, why we do it, and how we can incorporate consecration into our own everyday faith lives.If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Video/summary of Pope Francis’s Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, from the Vatican
2. Song: Child of God (Live), by Capital City Music
3. A story of a life consecrated to God: Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, founder and mother servant of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth
4. Scripture: Story of Hannah and Samuel
5. Journal prompts: Have I ever felt called to offer God something of myself? How might I be set apart to serve God and His people? Have I ever met a person who was consecrated to God?
6. Song: Set Apart, by Citylight Worship
7. Song: Totus Tuus, by Henryk Gorecki, Voces
8, written in celebration of Pope John Paul II’s third pilgrimage to Poland. Pope John Paul II consecrated his life to Jesus through Mary8. Google art: Hannah and Samuel, Annunciation, Consecration
9. Podcast: Inside the Vatican
10. Text of the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 3/25/22 from the Vatican