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Explainer: Why is Ireland being consecrated to ‘the Immaculate Heart of Mary’?

The people of Ireland were today consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary. What does that mean, exactly?

A nun holds Rosary beads at a procession in Knock last May
A nun holds Rosary beads at a procession in Knock last May
Image: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

TODAY, THE PEOPLE of the island of Ireland were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a mass in Our Lady’s Basilica in Knock.

How was it for you?

In truth, not many people know just what impact this will have on the country, but it sounds like good news, right? Come with us as we break it down.

What is the consecration?

Simply put, the consecration is the entrusting of oneself or a group to a sacred service or separating a place or thing from normal use to sacred use. Catholics have been practicing consecration to the Virgin Mary for many centuries as part of Marian devotions, the act of gifting all or part of oneself to the Virgin Mary. Today at a special mass, the Irish public was  entrusted to the Virgin Mary, says the Catholic Communications Office.

The Prayer of Consecration entrusts families, homes and the dioceses of Ireland to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary and call on her to watch over the young people of Ireland.

So it is a public declaration of faith?

A very public one, yes. Cardinal Seán Brady led the mass today, with Archbishop Eamon Martin delivering the homily. Martin outlined that attendees should leave the mass with a “renewed commitment to God’s will”. He called the consecration a “solemn and beautiful act” and urged worshippers to say “yes to the values of the Gospel”.

Why is Ireland being consecrated?

It depends on who you ask. The Steering Committee for the National Consecration of Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (SCNCI) began a campaign two years ago that asked Catholics to pledge their rosaries to the campaign for a year. They signed up over 37,500 devotees. SCNCI chairman Simon Galloway says that the consecration is needed to “renew the faith life of Catholics in Ireland”.

The Irish Society for Christian Civilisation says that the country is in “a moral crisis” and the consecration was the “only tried and tested solution” to “get us out of this mess”.

However, one source says that the move is merely an attempt to bolster “old-fashioned” Catholics in the wake of abortion legislation. The source, who did not wish to be named, added that the move is part of a “throwback to early 20th century Catholicism” vanguarded by the Papal Nuncio, Charles Brown.

Why Knock?

Knock is probably Ireland’s most famous religious site and is an internationally recognised Marian shrine. The nine-day Knock novena, which commemorates the apparition of Mary, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist at the site, started yesterday. Each Irish diocese makes a pilgrimage to Knock every year, attracting 10,000 visitors.

What changes?

In reality, not much. In fact, the entire human race was consecrated by Pope Pius XII in 1942.  The church hopes that the consecration will lead to a new level of devotion to the church, but in terms of going to mass and day to day life, nothing effectively is changed.

What next?

We get consecrated again. Seriously. Pope Francis will consecrate the entire world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart on 13 October as part of the Marian Day celebration. There will be an Irish connection to this mass, as the statue of Our Lady which is currently in the shrine in Knock will make the trip to the Vatican to be consecrated.

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