By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — After Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Thomas Zinkula prayed the rosary with the faithful and then moved to a side altar to pray an Act of Consecration before a statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus in her arms.
The Act of Consecration of humanity and of Russia and Ukraine in particular to the Immaculate Heart of Mary took place March 25 on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The bishop joined Pope Francis and his fellow bishops around the world in the consecration.
Individuals and communities who consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary pledge fidelity to God and to God’s law, to the work that God calls them to in Christ, and to the care for others, theologian Corinne Winter says. “They also ask Mary’s intercession that they may have the grace to be faithful to their pledge.” (Read her reflection HERE.)
“As Pope Francis put it, we knock on the door of her (Mary’s) heart,” Bishop Zinkula said in his homily during the Mass that preceded the consecration. “The aim of the devotion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to unite humankind to Jesus through Mary’s heart.”
Bishop Zinkula wove the Scriptures of the feast day into his homily, during which he explained why Pope Francis asked Catholics to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. More than 3 million Ukrainians have fled from their homeland to other countries while 6.5 million Ukrainians have been displaced internally since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. “A quarter of Ukraine’s population has been forced to leave their homes. War has displaced more than half of the Ukrainian children,” the bishop said.
“Mary can relate to what the Ukrainians are experiencing. She knows about violence, how destructive it is to both the aggressor and the victim. She knows what it is like to be faced with the massacre of innocents and to flee as a refugee with her baby to a strange land to escape being killed by military action.”
He compared the effects of the brutal assault against Ukraine to the anguish Mary felt receiving the broken body of her loved one, assailed by forces beyond her control with no ability or strength to fight back. The bishop said that during the Act of Consecration, “we will pray that ‘at this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you (Mary), beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you, and through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.’”
In a hymn of praise called the Magnificat, Mary, “who lived in an occupied state under the heel of imperial Rome, speaks in support of all people who are lowly and oppressed. She intercedes on behalf of all who suffer violence at the hands of tyrants who wield power over them.”
Mary, who “proclaimed the ‘yes’ that saved us all by making possible the incarnation, also invites us to say ‘no’ when we need to,” Bishop Zinkula said. “We must seek ways to bring about the justice which results in peace.”
During the Act of Consecration after Mass, Bishop Zinkula prayed, “[W]e have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed people’s dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns.”
Beseeching Mary for her maternal help, the bishop prayed, “… Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war. Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation. Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world. Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness. Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons. Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love. Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity. Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.”
All participating in the consecration on March 25 asked through Mary’s intercession for God’s mercy to be “poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days.”