Repeating an act of consecration that had been made by both Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II (each on two occasions), the Holy Father prayed: “Protect our lives in your arms; bless and strengthen every desire for goodness; revive and nurture faith; sustain and illuminate hope; rouse and invigorate charity; guide us all on the path to holiness.”
The Marian Day had begun on Saturday afternoon, when over 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a procession venerating the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which had been brought to Rome from the shrine in Portugal for the occasion.
Later the statue was brought to the Shrine of Divine Love in Rome, where a Rosary vigil was held Saturday evening. By video links, the participants in the vigil in Rome were connected with other groups at the Marian shrines of Lourdes, Nazareth, Lujan, Vailankanni, Guadalupe, Akita, Nairobi, Benneux, Czestochowa, and Marian Valley.
Speaking at the Saturday-afternoon event, Pope Francis said that the Virgin Mary “unties the knot of sin.” He cited the words of St. Irenaeus, quoted by Vatican II: “the knot of Eve’s disobedience as untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”
The Pope went on to say that just as Mary gave flesh to the child Jesus, all Christians today are called to “give Him our flesh.” He explained:
It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially to offer our hearts to love and to make choices in accordance with God’s will.
On Sunday, St. Peter’s Square was again filled with over 100,000 people as the Pope celebrated Mass and performed the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In his homily the Pontiff asked the congregation to consider three points: “God surprises us, He asks our fidelity, and He is our strength.” He used the life of the Virgin to illustrate each point.
At the Annunciation, informed that she is to be the Mother of God, Mary “does not hide her surprise,” the Pope remarked. Her open astonishment is a natural reaction to God’s stunning plan. “God always surprises us, he overturns our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans,” the Pope said, adding that the challenge for the faithful is to “let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was.”
But Mary did not only say Yes to God at that one moment, the Pope continued: “Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt ‘Yes’ at moments of both joy and sorrow, culminating in the ‘Yes’ she spoke at the foot of the Cross.” In imitating her, the Pontiff said, Christians should be willing to persevere in faith. He spoke of the necessity for “remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have taken on,” such as the commitment to marriage. The Pope suggested that every follower of Christ should examine himself: “Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time?”
Finally the Pope spoke of Mary’s actions immediately after the Annunciation: going to help her cousin Elizabeth, and praising God in the Magnificat— “not only for what he did for her, but for what he has done throughout the history of salvation.” She recognizes that God is her strength and all her blessings come as his gifts. “If we were able to understand that everything is a gift from God, how much happiness there would be in our hearts!” the Pope remarked