“Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them.”
– Saint Jacinta of Fatima
Three years ago, we celebrated the Centenary Year of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, where She had shown Herself on six occasions to three young children. Her purpose was to call us back to the message of the Gospel through sorrow for our sins, a life of prayer and the Sacraments, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way of achieving this.
Two of the three seers of Fatima, brother and sister Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had been declared Saints by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the centenary day of the first apparition. Speaking by video the pilgrims in Fatima on the centenary of the final apparition, the Holy Father had said –
“Never be afraid, God is infinitely greater than all of our problems. He loves us very much. Go forward in your journey without losing sight of the Mother; like a child who feels safe when close to his mother, we too are safe when close to Our Lady.. Never put the Rosary aside, but continue to recite it as She asked”.
Shortly after the appearances of the Blessed Virgin, little Jacinta had said – “Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them”. Many would take these words to heart and would place great confidence in them. And so it was perhaps not surprising that in that Centenary Year, a great focus was placed on Our Lady of Fatima and Her Immaculate Heart – and various events took place in response to the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima.
One such event took place here in Scotland, where the people and the Bishops gathered together at our national Marian Shrine at Carfin Grotto; there, under pouring rain, we consecrated ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The date was 3 September 2017.
The day of Consecration had been preceded by various other events across the years, and which had contributed to the events which would take place at Carfin that day.
In 1946, Pope Pius XII had sent his legate, Cardinal Masalla, to Fatima in Portugal, where he was to crown the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Speaking about the coronation, the Pope had said –
“The faithful Virgin never disappointed the trust put on Her. She will transform into a fountain of graces, physical and spiritual graces, over all of Portugal, and from there, breaking all frontiers, over the whole Church and the entire world.”
Here, then, the reasons for such a coronation were made very clear.
Returning to 2017, Cardinal Nichols had presided over a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on 18th February that year, where he solemnly crowned the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In the course of the ceremony he re-consecrated the nations of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. England had long since been dedicated to the Mother of God, because of which the nation has historically been called ‘the Dowry of Mary’. The Cardinal had previously expressed his thoughts on all this –
“Devotion to Mary is not an optional ‘add-on’ to Catholic belief, but an expression of what is at the heart of our faith. To draw close to Mary is to draw close to Jesus. As the earliest Christian witnesses often taught, Mary was open to receiving Jesus in Her mind and in Her Heart before She gave birth to Him in her flesh. For this reason, She is the first of all the disciples of the Lord as She is the most faithful of all the Lord’s followers. In Her maternal love of us, She continues to assist us in our following of Him; a consecration to Her Immaculate Heart gives expression to this in a simple way.”
Cardinal Nichol’s consecration was a renewal of a similar consecration in 1948, undertaken by Cardinal Griffon.
Ireland also undertook a similar national Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, performed by Cardinal Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 15th August, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.
On 20 May 2017, Bishop Toal had consecrated the Diocese of Motherwell, Scotland, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a Mass in the Cathedral, which was exceptionally well-attended. In his homily, Bishop Toal had spoken very beautifully on the message of Fatima, noting that it centres on conversion, prayer, reparation and, in short, ‘a change of heart’. This is what the Blessed Virgin calls us to.
Bishop Toal spoke about his own experiences of visiting the shrine at Fatima, where there is a strong sense of penance and reparation. He also spoke about the newest Saints of the Church, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who had been canonised the previous week. He said these two children remind us of the very special place which children occupy in life generally and in the Church specifically – adding that it is to children that we must hand on the fullness, beauty and sanctity of our Faith. At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Toal made the solemn Act of Consecration of the Diocese.
In June of that year, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley had announced the intention of the Bishops to undertake the Act of Consecration on ‘National Pilgrimage Day’ at Carfin. He had also announced a period of forty days of preparation prior to that day, inviting the faithful to join him spiritually throughout those days.
Two days beforehand the Scottish Parliament had announced that it would include itself, by means of ‘a motion of recognition’, in the collegial Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Bishops of Scotland, which the Bishops were about to undertake. The Parliament issued an announcement to that effect –
“That the Parliament recognises that Scotland’s Catholic bishops will consecrate the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 3 September 2017; understands that the Bishops will pray for Scotland at the Marian Shrine at the Carfin Grotto, near Motherwell, asking that Scotland be energised with a renewed desire to seek the truth, and understands that at the same time they will pray for all parliamentarians and government, so that they will play their part in building a true civilisation of love and strive to create a place where all people are valued, a place where poor, lonely and marginalised people are not forgotten, and a place where people are free to practise their faith.”
For a very secularised nation, and one with a noted anti-Catholic bias in many respects, this was really something. But it was also extraordinary for another – and far greater – reason. By means of this self-inclusion of the Scottish Parliament, the two strands of Scottish life and identity, the Church and the State, had come together in unity for an explicit purpose – and a spiritual one at that.
The day before the Consecration at Carfin, a Vigil was held as final preparation; this consisted of Adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the holy Rosary was prayed every hour, and it concluded with Benediction.
On the day of Consecration, all of Scotland had truly come together.
Parliament – representing the State – had given notice of it’s alignment with what was to take place; the entire Scottish Hierarchy were present and took part; many Religious had come to the Grotto to take part; and the faithful were greatly represented by the thousands of laity who had travelled to the Grotto from all over Scotland and beyond.
And so, the Act of Consecration was truly collegial – and national – in every possible sense of those words.
The Sacrifice of the Mass was offered by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and the Scottish Bishops, together with a large group of Priests and Deacons from the various Dioceses of Scotland.
In his homily, Bishop Brian McGee of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, spoke about the rain and quipped that it had been much the same on 13th October 1917, when the great Miracle of the Sun took place at Fatima. On that day, of course, the rain stopped; on our day of Consecration, the Lady of the Rosary gave us an opportunity to offer something up for the acceptance of the Consecration.
Bishop McGee also spoke about the children of Fatima, who constantly said ‘yes’ to the invitation of the Lady and so became ever more united to the will of God for them; in this, they echoed the life of the Blessed Virgin, who so perfectly and constantly said ‘yes’ to God. The Bishop invited those present to make this same commitment, growing in holiness by our correspondence to the will of God for us in our own lives.
At the Conclusion of the Mass, the solemn Act of Consecration was read aloud by all present, led by Archbishop Tartaglia. He had noted that the original intention was that he alone would read the Act, but he felt it more appropriate that all present should take part vocally.
Hearing the Bishops and the people of Scotland consecrating themselves and our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a great and swelling array of voices rising up from the Grotto like incense, was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever heard and I was deeply moved to be there and to a part of it all.
I had no doubt then, as I have no doubt now, that all of Heaven was listening intently, too; and I prayed that this Consecration would be found pleasing and acceptable by God.
At its conclusion, Archbishop Tartaglia noted how moved he, too, had felt, and how historic this moment had been; he spoke of his pride at the people of Scotland coming out to honour the Blessed Virgin, and he added that the Bishops and Priests of Scotland love the people of this nation very much. It was deeply heartening to see so many of the Priests of Scotland coming together in a public show of devotion to the Mother of God.
More than anything, it was wonderful to see so many thousands of ordinary people who braved the typical Scottish rain that day to pay homage to the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.
At the time, I had written that I was certain Our Blessed Lady had listened to the Act of Consecration offered to Her, that She accepted it, and that great graces would flow as a result of our offering ourselves and our Nation to Her. Three years later, I remain completely convinced of that.
Text of the Act of Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of all people, in accordance with Your ardent wish, made known to the three children at Fatima, we consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart our beloved country of Scotland.
We stand confidently before You today, O holy Mother of God. Inflame us with the same divine fire which inflamed Your own Immaculate Heart. Reign over us and teach us how to make the Heart of Jesus reign and triumph in us and around us, as It has reigned and triumphed in You. Make our country and it’s people, Your shrine, O holy Mother of God, so that we may be Yours in prosperity and adversity, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in life and in death.
We consecrate Scotland to You; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To You we give our minds and hearts, our bodies and souls. We willingly place at Your service our homes and families, our parishes and schools. We desire that everything that is within us and around us, amuy belong to You, O Mary.
That this Consecration may be truly efficacious and lasting, we renew this day the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation – to be faithful witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We pledge ourselves to foster a true love of the Mass, and devotion to the Real Presence of Your Son in the Blessed Sacrament. We pledge ourselves to keep the Commandments of God and His holy Church. We undertake to promote in our homes and parishes a virtuous life. We pledge ourselves to recite ether Rosary more frequently, and to make reparation for the coldness and indifference of so many human hearts.
Finally, we promise, O glorious Mother of God, to devote ourselves whole-heartedly to the service of Your blessed name, in order to assure, through the sovereignty of Your Immaculate Heart, the coming of the Kingdom of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in our hearts and in our country of Scotland.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.