Tuesday, 05 April 2022 17:01

Acies Address 2022

acies2022 01 250It’s providential that we have our Acies, our annual reaffirmation of our Legionary Consecration to our Blessed Mother, at this very time when Pope Francis and the Bishops of the world are making this great Consecration of the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Providential, though not entirely coincidental, because both these events are timed for the Solemnity of the Annunciation: the celebration of Mary’s supreme ‘Yes’ to God and (at that very moment, as we understand) the Incarnation taking place – God coming into our world as man. The Legion Handbook tells us that our individual and collective Acies Consecration should take place as close to 25th March as possible. And although the various papal consecrations of the world and of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary have taken place on different dates over the decades, both St John Paul II’s 1984 Consecration and Pope Francis’ present Consecration – the two consecrations that truly fulfil the requests of Our Lady of Fatima – were both placed specifically on this Feast.

So we have this happy synchronisation of dates between our Acies Consecration and the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart that we prayed in union with the Holy Father at the end of our Mass. It might make us reflect on a deeper connection – a connection between Fatima and the Legion. We can sometimes separate the various designs of God or actions of Our Lady into different compartments – almost as though, for example, ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’ did this, ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ did that. It sounds silly when we put it like that, but it reminds us that in reality all these parts of the divine plan fit together. So when Our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917, of course at that very time her prayers were preparing Frank Duff for his foundation of the Legion only four years later. When Mary was speaking to the children of Fatima, the Legion that would be pre-eminent in ‘praying the rosary every day’ was already in her mind.

So is it just a coincidence that Pope Francis’ Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart – the completely explicit fulfilment of Our Lady’s wishes in this regard – is taking place in the centenary year of the Legion? Under God’s grace, those hundred years of prayers and apostolic activities of legionaries have surely been one crucial part of what spiritually opened the way for this renewed Consecration to take place.

All these things fit together. God didn’t want the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart to be just an isolated formula, but to be in a larger context. That’s why Pope Francis invited not just the Bishops to take part in the Consecration, but all the Priests and Faithful. So we had a great wave of prayer from the whole Church, flowing from the east of the world early on Friday morning, as bishop after bishop, church after church, fell on their knees in trust before Our Blessed Mother; building by the evening to its highpoint in Rome with the Holy Father himself; and now passing into the western hemisphere as the Feast draws to its close there.

That’s why the Act of Consecration isn’t just the one core sentence but is a thousand words long – because there are so many other spiritual realities that combine with the core of the Consecration and are facets of it. And that’s why Our Lady said at Fatima that she would come to ask not just for the Consecration of Russia but also for the Communion of Reparation on First Saturdays – and those two things together would bring peace. The different Popes have eventually done their part by making and leading the Consecration, but have Catholics in general done their part with the First Saturday Devotion? Not so much maybe! And yet: by God’s grace and in his providence, maybe enough to now be acceptable to him.

But it makes us think – just how powerful the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart will be, depends on all these other spiritual realities as well. Just as our own Acies Consecration interacts with all our spiritual offerings and works that we make through the whole year.

Very especially, consecration in both cases is entrustment to Mary, an act of trust of children towards their Mother, as Pope Francis emphasises. When we make our Acies Consecration, it is also an act of entrustment of ourselves, an act of entrustment of the Legion, made with the love and confidence of children. And that word ‘entrust’ is used alongside the word ‘consecrate’ at the highpoint of Pope Francis’ Consecration: ‘Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.’

I got up early this morning to watch the Holy Father make the Consecration in St Peter’s Basilica, and he added one expression to the official Italian text of the final sentence: ‘per favore’…guidaci sui sentieri della pace – ‘please’, lead us now on the paths of peace. That simple but heartfelt word seemed to sum up the longings of the Church and humanity, weary with war and crisis, but now looking to our Mother, with the trust that our prayer will at last be heard.

- Fr Justin Ford

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