For Catholics, the word consecration brings to mind a few ideas.
There’s the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Men and women who join a religious community are consecrated. Then there’s the act of making a personal consecration.
Students at The St. Austin School made an act of consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary at a Mass and consecration in September. The consecration is a constant reminder of the school’s mission to help students grow in their Catholic faith as they seek holiness, said Elizabeth Houser, a kindergarten teacher at St. Austin School.
“The mission of our school is to form these students to understand how much God loves them and to lead them deeper into that,” she said. “There’s good days and challenging days, but it’s helpful to have that reminder of the ultimate purpose why we are here.”
What is consecration?
The Church teaches that consecration is to seek holiness through setting ourselves aside for a specific service and dedication to God. Personal consecrations may take place through different devotions; other examples include the Holy Family and the Brown Scapular.
In teaching that concept to kindergarteners, Houser said she explained that “consecration is a special way to dedicate ourselves to Jesus’ love.”
Benedictine Father Dominic Lenk, who celebrated Mass at The St. Austin School on the day of the school’s consecration, shared the example that religious priests are “setting ourselves apart for a particular mission. As a monk we follow the saying, ‘ora et labora,’ or prayer and work. I am not above anyone, but set apart for a particular reason.”
Likewise, Father Lenk said that a Catholic school is distinguished as a place that provides a faith-based education to children. A church’s specific purpose is a place to celebrate the sacraments and as a gathering place for the faith community.
St. John Paul II has said, “Consecrating ourselves to Mary means accepting her help to offer ourselves and the whole of mankind to Him who is holy, infinitely holy; it means accepting her help — by having recourse to her motherly heart, which beneath the cross was opened to love for every human being, for the whole world — in order to offer the world, the individual human being, mankind as a whole, and all the nations to Him who is infinitely holy” (May 13, 1982).
“Consecration to the Mother of God,” said Pope Pius XII, “is a total gift of self, for the whole of life and for all eternity; and a gift which is not a mere formality or sentimentality, but effectual, comprising the full intensity of the Christian life — Marian life.” This consecration, the pope explained, “tends essentially to union with Jesus, under the guidance of Mary.”
A covenant of love
Several years ago, Rita Jo and Chris Horan and their children consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The family participated in an enthronement, or special placement, of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart images in a prominent place in their home. After moving to a new home in House Springs, the family had a re-enthronement ceremony of the images in October.
Through their consecration, Chris and Rita Jo Horan explained that they’ve made a covenant of love with Jesus and placed all of their daily activities under the influence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
As part of their devotion, the Horans, who attend the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine, pray a nightly family Rosary and litany and make a weekly adoration hour. Their three children, Anna, 7, Benedict, 5, and Lucy, 18, months are included in those moments of prayer.
“While they don’t yet fully participate, we hope through our example, they will continue this important habit throughout their lives,” said Rita Jo Horan.
The Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart are the only two perfect, sinless hearts that God has ever created, said Chris Horan. “What better hearts would you want to consecrate your family to and enthrone in your home than Our Lord and Our Lady?”
He said that making an act of consecration is humbling and a daily reminder to strive for holiness. “We’re not meant for this world, but meant to be with Him in heaven someday. Right now we’re on an earthy pilgrimage.”
>> Sacred Heart resources
• Marian Catechist Apostolate: Offers a Sacred Heart home enthronement book, published by Cardinal Raymond Burke, and other devotional materials. Visit www.mariancatechist.com and click on bookstore for ordering information.
• Sacred Heart Shrine: Located in the west transept of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, it is open to the public during normal visiting hours. The cathedral bookstore also has copies of a Sacred Heart novena booklet for sale.
• Alliance of the Two Hearts: The St. Louis chapter promotes the devotion to Jesus’ Sacred Heart and Mary’s Immaculate Heart and monthly First Friday/First Saturday Vigils of Reparation. The apostolate also schedules home enthronements. For more information, see www.ath-stl.org.
“A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” by Father James Kubicki, SJ
“The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: How to Practice the Sacred Heart Devotion,” by Father John Croiset, SJ
“Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat — Inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius,” by Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC
>> Origin of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary
Christ revealed the devotion to His Sacred Heart through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a nun of the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in France, in a series of apparitions from 1673-75. He revealed to her the great mystery of His infinite love for us, represented by His Sacred Heart.
Specifically, as part of the devotion, He asked for the faithful to:
• receive Communion on the first Friday of each month (Jesus asked St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to make a reparation on the nine first Fridays to His Sacred Heart, which was hurt by the sins of humanity);
• participate in eucharistic adoration during a Holy Hour on Thursdays;
• celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, which occurs 19 days after Pentecost on a Friday;
• consecrate His Sacred Heart as a sign of His living presence with us in the Church, especially through the Eucharist.
The Sacred Heart image is depicted as a flaming heart that is pierced, bleeding and wrapped in a crown of thorns, and radiating from Jesus’ chest. The imagery represents His human suffering and death, but also the transformative power of His divine love.
The devotion was especially popular during the first half of the 20th century, when many Catholic families displayed images of Jesus and His Sacred Heart in their homes. Families today still participate in the home enthronement, a solemn placing of the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart of Jesus in the home to signify that the home and the lives of all who live in the home belong to Him. Another important part of the enthronement is the consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart.
In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima’s revelations included a request to make reparation to her Immaculate Heart on five consecutive first Saturdays because of the blasphemies against her Immaculate Conception, her virginity and motherhood, and the sins and sacrileges of others.
Our Lady indicated to Sister Lucia, one of the three Fatima visionaries, that “if my requests are heard, my Immaculate Heart will triumph … and an era of peace will be granted to mankind.” By 1925, Sister Lucia revealed Jesus’ desire to have the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary be coupled with the devotion to His Sacred Heart.