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The Consecration of Russia: One Year Later

Above: the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Annunciation, 2022. Photo by Diane Montagna. 

A year ago, Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Needless to say, the event triggered mixed emotions amongst Catholics of all stripes, and was particularly contentious amongst traditionalists.

Leaving aside traditionalists for a moment, it was interesting to see the reaction from the Novus Ordo crowd about the Consecration.

Novus Ordo Confusion

For many liberals and neo-cons, Ukraine became the new COVID, which is to say it became the “current thing” that inspired everyone’s social media avatars and bumper stickers. That alone made the event something of an international sensation.

The mainstream Catholic world has convinced itself that Pope John Paul II already performed the consecration of Russia the way that Our Lady requested in Fatima. While I am not as “dogmatic” about the minutiae as some traditionalists, I will still never understand how it can be argued that John Paul II sufficiently performed the consecration considering he never said Russia while doing so.

Nonetheless, this view was in a unique situation as it had to somehow juggle its undying support for Ukraine, while also reconciling with the fact that the bishops of Ukraine asked Pope Francis to finally perform the Consecration of Russia the way the Virgin Mary requested.

This request on behalf of the Ukrainian bishops was nothing if not an expression of the belief that John Paul II had not done the consecration properly.

It really was something of an existential crisis for those who held this view, as they were left with a major conundrum. “If John Paul II already did this, then why are the Ukrainian bishops asking for it again? If John Paul II already did it properly, then why didn’t it ‘work’? If John Paul II didn’t do it properly, then that would mean those crazy Trads have been correct for the last 4o years…”

I recall reading an article from a major John Paul II defender who has defended the Polish Pope’s consecration a number of times wherein the author tried his best to prove that it had already been done, but ultimately “only heaven knows” if it was valid.

One commentator said on a broadcast that there was nothing wrong with John Paul II’s consecration, but that maybe the effects had worn off and a new one was needed.

In some ways, this rhetoric was indicative of the conflicted nature of the Novus Ordo paradigm. On the one hand, Pope John Paul II clearly fulfilled heaven’s request and Russia was converted – not to Catholicism mind you – but on the other hand Pope Francis was going to do what the Ukrainian bishops asked as if John Paul II hadn’t done the job.

What was a hyperpapalist to do?

Trad Confusion

As confusing as things were in the Novus Ordo, things were equally as confusing in the traditionalist world.

Now, what I am going to say will likely offend some traditionalists, which is nothing new if you are familiar with my work, but I believe it must be said: there is a tendency in the traditionalist world to treat the Fatima Consecration of Russia in a superstitious way, as if a consecration is a talisman or lucky charm.

Before you start throwing tomatoes at your screen, please let me explain what I mean.

I worked for the Fatima Center, and have digested a metric tonne of Fatima literature in both my personal and professional life. As a result I am convinced that John Paul II’s consecration was not up to par, but I am also convinced that many so-called “Fatimists” take somewhat of a legalist view about what would make a consecration valid.

Aside from Sacraments where a consecration takes place, a sacramental consecration like that of Russia to the Immaculate Heart does not come with strict rubrics or stipulations of matter and form that render something valid or invalid. In the case of a sacramental consecration, it is ultimately the intention that makes or breaks the act, and quite frankly, the prayers can be said in any number of ways.

For example, a mother and father may consecrate their child to the Virgin Mary after the child is baptized, and they may do so by simply making their intentions known and singing the Salve Regina. Or, they may read a very specific prayer that has customarily been used for such an occasion.

A more specific prayer is arguably preferable, not for reasons of validity, but because greater specificity makes the intention more explicit which in turn makes a more specific act of faith possible.

Now, if a family were to consecrate a child at baptism, what evidence would the parents need to believe that the consecration was “valid?”

Would the child have to be holy from birth? Become a priest? Never commit a sin?

Ultimately, as we have said, the consecration is an act of faith, and only time will tell how things will play out. Also, even if the child was consecrated, it is not the case that the child loses his free will, which means he could reject any graces thrown his way.

With the Fatima consecration of Russia we do have some specifics, but not a whole lot. Ultimately, Our Lady requested the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with the bishops of the world. She said that it would be done too late but promised the consecration would bring about the conversion of Russia and that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph.

She did not give us rubrics to follow or explain how a given ceremony should take place.

Yes, there is a tonne of literature taking into account the words of Sister Lucy and even other mystics and visionaries about the consecration of Russia, but as far as what has been directly recorded as the words of Our Lady, we do not have much.

For the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart to be valid, it is simply necessary for the Pope of the Catholic Church to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart in union with the bishops. It would seem to me that if the Pope of the Catholic Church invites all the bishops of the world to take part in something, and then does something as the head of the bishops for the world to see, that this would constitute an act of the Pope in union with the bishops.

This is what Pope Francis did. That’s why I think this consecration last year was valid (and seemed to be instrumental in overturning Roe).

Ultimately, a consecration – any consecration – is an act of faith, and not a magic trick. What I mean to say is that a consecration is ultimately a prayerful act of entrustment under the patronage of Christ, Mary, etc. Even if the consecration was valid, it would be erroneous to expect immediate results, or to even expect results in the way that you have defined what the results would look like.

Did Our Lady say Russia would convert immediately? What would the conversion of Russia look like? Perhaps it would mean that the whole country had a major Catholic conversion and virtually everyone became a Rosary-praying Catholic. Or, maybe it just means that the Russian Orthodox Church comes into communion with Rome. Who knows!

How and when the promises attached to the Fatima Consecration will manifest themselves is a complete mystery, which is something we should be willing to accept. If we look to the Scriptures, we find that the patriarchs were consecrated to God and were promised magnificent things, but they virtually never got to see the results. It is because men like Abraham and Moses acted on faith and did not expect to see results – which they didn’t! – that we venerate them as the just men of the Old Covenant. As St. Paul says, all these being approved by the testimony of faith, received not the promise (Heb. xi. 39).

If we keep expecting or demanding a consecration of Russia that is “just right” or perfectly in line with non-binding interpretations of private revelations, then we won’t be any different than the Israelites asking Moses to strike the rock over and over.

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