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Consecration of Canada to Mary

St. Joseph Basilica, Edmonton

July 1, 2017

Homily for the Mass of Consecration of the Archdiocese of Edmonton
to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This is an historic day. Across our land we are marking the 150th anniversary of confederation, of the birth of this country that we call home, and that we love dearly. It is an occasion to consider the many blessings that are ours and to offer our thanks to Almighty God for his goodness to us, past, present and future.

It is also an historic day in a second manner. This weekend, the Bishops of Canada are consecrating their respective dioceses, and thus the whole of our country, to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Bishops will also gather together in Ottawa in September, to make the consecration collectively. In this solemn act, we entrust Canada to Mary’s maternal prayers and protection.

The joining together today of these two moments - the anniversary of Confederation and the consecration of our country - is deliberate. While we acknowledge the wonderful blessings that characterize our country, we are also aware of shadows that worry us.

We are gratefully cognizant of our religious heritage, our political freedom, our advanced economy, our openness to the immigrant and refugee, the natural beauty of our environment, our educational opportunities, and so on.

At the same time, we are preoccupied with momentous change that is severing the common life of citizens from its Christian roots: the change in the civil definition of marriage; the proposed fluidity of gender; and the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, which, together with unfettered access to abortion, demonstrates clearly the lack of communal respect for the dignity of every human life.

Neither are we blind to the impoverishment of many families, to the homeless in our streets, to the presence of domestic violence and to the present threat to freedom of conscience. We are in great need of help; profound need of healing.

Therefore, as the Church has always done, we turn to our heavenly Mother for her assistance and protection through the act of consecration.

How might we best understand what is meant by consecration to Mary?

When I was a seminarian, I would often visit the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. There I befriended a nun who at the time was in her nineties: Sr. Rita Marie.

One day I had a chance to ask her what advice she would give to someone discerning the Lord’s call.

She smiled, and without hesitation said, “Just stay close to Jesus and Mary.”

I was struck as she said those words by the simplicity of the instruction. I also remember noting how she placed the two together - Jesus and Mary - in a way that made clear she understood them to be inseparable. I took the advice to heart, and must say it is the best advice I have ever received. As I look back, I can see that following Sr. Rita Marie’s counsel has shaped the way I have lived my priesthood and continue to live now the call of the episcopate.

Stay close to Jesus; stay close to Mary. The intuition that they cannot be separated from one another lies at the heart of our act of consecration to Our Lady.

Jesus is first, of course. As Mary herself said at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary always deflects to her son. She is his mother, yes, but also his first and perfect disciple. Jesus is the world’s one and only Saviour, the Son of God who alone has the words of eternal life (cf. John 6:68). With him we must live in closest union, and, as he himself teaches in the Gospel, love him above all else. Yet, we stray. We separate from him, we eclipse him from our deliberations and even from our consciousness, when we follow not his infinite divine wisdom but our limited human logic, a path that leads to darkness and sorrow.

Mary seeks tirelessly to bring us back to Christ. She is, after all, our mother, ever since that moment when Jesus, speaking to John from the Cross, gave her to his Church: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27).

We know from our own human experience that mothers do not give up on their children. When they stray, their mothers are never satisfied until they are right again. Although children may be physically distant, or they may sadly turn away, nevertheless they can never leave the mother’s heart. Well, Mary does what mothers do. We are her children, made so by our union with her son through Baptism. She holds us in her heart, wraps us in her mantle, and hears our every prayer, our every plea, that we raise up to her. Her intercession is of great power, since she brings her incessant plea before her son, who will not refuse her prayers. Mary can be trusted to bring us back to Christ, if we but entrust ourselves to her.

That is precisely what our act of consecration is: an act of entrustment. At all times, but especially in moments of need such as we experience now in our beloved country, we need to entrust ourselves to her protection and intercession, asking that she bring us all back to the teaching of Christ. By staying close to Mary, we are able to stay close to Jesus. She brings us back.

This evening, as I solemnly consecrate our Archdiocese to the Blessed Virgin, I shall kneel at the same statue of our Lady before which our first Bishop, Bishop Vital Grandin, knelt when he consecrated the new Diocese of St. Albert to Mary’s protection. As we turned to her before, we direct ourselves once again to our heavenly Mother, confident that she hears our every prayer and brings them before the infinite power and steadfast love of her son, Jesus the Christ.

✠ Richard W. Smith
    Archbishop of Edmonton

July 1, 2017