By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Over 12,000 men and women of all ages throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend entrusted their lives to Mary on the solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption, Aug. 15. And many of those making that consecration gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne for the 6 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. At the Mass, Bishop Rhoades rededicated the diocese to Mary.
The faithful not only filled the pews and narthex of the cathedral, but brought chairs and blankets and assembled on the plaza and lawn of the cathedral where large screens and a sound system brought the Mass outdoors to the overflow. Nearly 2,000 faithful assembled for the Mass.
“Like the Apostle John, we welcome the Mother of Christ into our home, into our hearts,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily.
He said the Marian consecration is “our saying ‘yes’ to the beautiful gift Jesus gave us from the cross when He said to John: ‘Behold your mother.’ We are responding with faith to Our Lord’s gift of love, the gift of His mother, and to our Mother’s love.”
“She wants to act in our lives, to share with us the joy of her faith, to help us to know and follow her Son,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “She invites us, as she invited the servants at the wedding feast of Cana, to do whatever Jesus tells us. She wants to lead us to know the height and depth … of Christ’s love for us. And she wants us to be with her in the glory of heaven, in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we say ‘yes’ to her. We say ‘yes’ to the truths of our baptismal promises.”
The bishop said, “We say with her: ‘Behold the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your Word.’ And so we are able to rejoice with her in God our Savior and to repeat her words in the Magnificat: ‘the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His Name.’”
Those preparing for the consecration used “33 Days to Morning Glory” written by Father Michael E. Gaitley, a priest of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. The faithful participated by reflecting upon daily readings and some gathered in groups at their parishes to discuss and reflect upon the readings.
“In these past 33 days, we have been united in our prayers of preparation for today, for our Marian consecration, guided by the wisdom of St. Louis Marie de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“These spiritual giants, heroes of our faith, reached the heights of holiness, powerfully aided by their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he said. “They learned from Mary, and they teach us to learn from Mary, the way of perfection. They learned from Mary’s example to be faithful disciples of Jesus, to be steadfast in faith, persevering in hope and abounding in love. They learned, in a word, to follow Jesus. They learned to be authentic Christians, to be saints.”
“That’s what Mary teaches us,” Bishop Rhoades said. “And she not only teaches us, she helps us. Through her prayers, she fills our hearts with the light of Christ’s holiness.”
The beauty of Mary’s virtue and holiness came from the Holy Spirit, the bishop said. She was adorned with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Mary was present in the upper room with the Apostles at Pentecost, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had already descended upon Mary at the Annunciation, when she conceived the Son of God by His power, when she became the Mother of God. At Pentecost, that outpouring of the Holy Spirit was repeated and reinforced in her because of the new motherhood she had received at the foot of the cross. At Pentecost, she received a renewed gift of the Spirit for the fruitfulness of her new motherhood as Mother of the Church, as our Mother.
Bishop Rhoades said, “Just as Mary prayed for the disciples in the upper room, she also prays for us today. She prays that we too will open our hearts to the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. In her motherly love, she implores the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us in the way of her Son.”
After the homily, while the faithful knelt in prayer, Bishop Rhoades also entrusted the Diocese of FortWayne-South Bend to Mary’s intercession “so that the Holy Spirit may descend in abundance upon us, filling the hearts of all the faithful and enkindling in us the fire of His love.”
As the bishop continued his homily, he invited the faithful to think about the “woman clothed with the sun” in the Book of Revelation.
This woman, the bishop said, represents both Mary and the Church. The moon is the “image of death and mortality.” On her head is a crown of 12 stars that represent the people of God — the 12 tribes of Israel and the Church founded on the Twelve Apostles. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, wanting to devour her child, but he couldn’t. “Her child was caught up to God and His throne” and “the woman fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”
The dragon, Satan, evil, is present throughout human history, the bishop noted.
“The struggle between the woman and the dragon, between God and the evil one, between the Church and the enemy, is perennial,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We see it in the world and world events. St. Maximilian Kolbe saw it dramatically in Auschwitz. Pope John Paul experienced it when he was shot in St. Peter’s Square.”
“We see it today in wars, violence, persecution, hatred and destruction of innocent human life,” the bishop continued. “The struggle between good and evil is one that we as disciples of Jesus must also confront, in our own lives and even in our own hearts. All the disciples of Jesus must face this struggle. Pope Francis teaches us that we do not face this struggle alone, that ‘the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us. … Mary has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory’ — that’s what we celebrate on today’s feast of the Assumption — ‘but this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil.’ Pope Francis especially recommends the holy rosary to sustain us in this battle.”
“The Marian consecration is a powerful way for us to be on the winning side in this battle,” Bishop Rhoades said. “In Mary, Christ’s victory over Satan shines.”
The woman who escaped the dragon fled into the desert, the wilderness. “We live in that desert, that wilderness,” he said. “This time on earth is a like the desert, a time of anguish, persecution and trial. But it is not an indefinite time. Liberation and the hour of glory will come. And during this time in the desert of the world, God nourishes us with the bread of His Word and of the Holy Eucharist. And He has given us the help of His mother.”
The solemnity of the Assumption celebrates the joy that Mary is free from any shadow of death and totally filled with life. “She shares in her Son’s victory. And she deeply desires that we do too,” Bishop Rhoades said.
The faithful participating in the “33 Days to Morning Glory” made their individual consecration after the homily.
After Communion, Bishop Rhoades bestowed the papal blessing with a plenary indulgence.
Stanley Liponoga IV, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, told Today’s Catholic he has a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and says a rosary almost every day. Reading about the consecration in Today’s Catholic he said motivated him to want to participate.
Recently appointed the principal of Most Precious Blood School in Fort Wayne, Liponoga delivered “33 Days to Morning Glory” to the staff of the school in early summer.
“I wanted to make sure we would do a summer read together,” he said, so he hand-delivered the book to each staff person’s home. Some of the staff met once a week, watched the DVD and had a small prayer group through the 33 days of the retreat preparation. Several of the teachers, the schoolchildren and their families were in attendance at the cathedral Mass.
After Mass, led by the Knights of Columbus and the Franciscan Brothers Minor, many joined a Marian procession — totalling 1,200 faithful — through the downtown streets of Fort Wayne to Headwaters Park, where the Festival of Faith was launched with food, drinks and square dancing. Choir members from Bishop Luers High School and Bishop Dwenger High School and other musical groups from across the diocese led Marian hymns during the procession.
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