Matter, Form, and Intent of a Consecration

Since the faithful do not have a “hotline to Heaven,” we cannot judge with absolute certainty if Pope Francis’ consecration on March 25, 2022 was accepted by Heaven as the Consecration requested by Our Lady of Fatima. We can, however, use some basic principles of common sense, philosophy, and theology to arrive at a morally certain answer.

Sacramental Theology Provides a Helpful Analysis

When most Catholics hear the word “consecration,” the first thing that typically comes to mind is the Holy Eucharist – one of the seven Sacraments. In fact, each Sacrament serves as a kind of consecration. Now while Our Lady’s requested Consecration of Russia is not a sacrament, we can draw some parallel analogies.

Basic knowledge of the Sacraments can be helpful in evaluating the efficacy of Pope Francis’ recent consecration. For a sacrament to be properly confected, three elements must be properly present: matter, form, and intention. These three elements are actually present in all human acts. Thus, although Our Lady of Fatima’s request is clearly not the same thing as the seven Sacraments, Catholics can agree that matter, form, and intention for such a solemn and sacred act are of utmost importance. Indeed, if these three elements dictate the reality and validity of the most precious gifts that Christ has given us on earth, then would they not be very important for the proper Consecration of Russia?

On June 13, 1929, when Our Lady made Her request to Sr. Lucia, Her words were: “The moment has come when God asks the Holy Father to make, in union with all the bishops of the world, the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means…” Thus, from Our Lady’s words we can deduce matter and form. The matter of the consecration is “the Holy Father in union with all the bishops of the world” doing an action. She did not specify the exact words needed, but Our Lady makes clear Her request: “consecrate Russia to My Immaculate Heart.” Therefore, these words are essential to the proper form. For a proper intention, we must review the overall messages given us by Our Lady of Fatima.

(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

The Matter – Pope in Union with All the Bishops

While examining the matter of Pope Francis’ recent consecration, we must look to the participation of the Holy Father and all the Catholic bishops of the world. From what I have read, only about one quarter of the more than 5,000 bishops announced that they would join Pope Francis. It is certainly possible that more bishops joined Pope Francis that day. But, it is likewise known that many bishops did not. 

Our Lady requested “all.” Many accuse this line of thinking to be nitpicking. But why would anyone consider it ‘nitpicking’ to simply, humbly and obediently follow the exact instructions of Our Lady? There are several Biblical examples of punishments for not following precise instructions. 

Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land because he struck the rock one extra time (Numbers 20). Oza was struck dead simply for touching the Ark of the Covenant, even though he was trying to keep it from falling (2 Kings 6:7). Naaman would only be cleansed by washing seven times in the ‘insignificant’ Jordan River (4 Kings 5). Why not a greater river, why not more or less times? Because God said so.

The Form – Consecrate Russia to My Immaculate Heart

To evaluate if the proper form was used, we must understand the terms “consecrate” and “Russia.” I think all can agree that the consecration of March 25, 2022 was verbally directed towards the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Fr. Gregorius Hesse wrote: “A consecration has to be specific; it also has to be individual. At Baptism, which is the first consecration of a Christian, the child has to be baptized individually.” The same is true of the consecration of priests. At the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the men are ordained (with their hands consecrated) one by one, and never multiple ordained in the same sentence. It is my understanding that altars and churches must be consecrated specifically and individually. To my knowledge, there is no such thing as a consecration of multiple churches or multiple altars within the same sentence. The concept of a consecration that is both specific and individual is a fundamental precept of God’s ordinance, already present even in the Levitical priesthood (Ex. 28:3, 38, 41). 

While Pope Francis did indeed mention Russia, he did not mention Russia alone. The primary consecration was directed to ourselves (the Pope), the Church, and all of humanity. This in itself is a problem because if all humanity is ‘consecrated’ then how exactly can anything else be “set-apart”? Pope Francis even went on to “consecrate” the future, needs, expectations, anxieties, and hopes of all people. This is a bizarre formulation which I have yet to hear anyone adequately explain. 

Now Pope Francis did say: “especially Russia and Ukraine.” Yet, does that not mean Russia and Ukraine are specific examples of the consecrated humanity, as opposed to the sole and proper object of the consecration? Moreover, it was not Russia singly but Russia and Ukraine. Many are saying these details are not important. I am convinced they are important, especially since I note the exact opposite pattern in salvation history. 

To simplify matters, I simply turn to what Sister Lucia herself said after John Paul II’s consecration in 1984. She said it was not the consecration awaited by Our Lady because “Russia does not appear clearly as the only object of the consecration.” Her words are equally applicable to Pope Francis’ recent consecration.

The Intention

It is always most difficult to know another person’s intention, because that is an interior reality of man’s soul. We do, however, gain insight into a man’s intentions by his words and deeds. A man can explicitly speak his intention, and his external actions frequently indicate his intention. For the Sacraments to be valid, the minister can certainly not volitionally oppose what Holy Mother Church purposes to do in the Sacrament. In fact, the minister is supposed to intend what the Church intends. For this consecration, we could analogously say that the Pope should intend what Our Lady intends.

The intentions required of the Holy Father and the bishops can be divided into the objective intentions Our Lady desired and the subjective or actual intentions of the Pope and bishops. 

Our Lady of Fatima’s Intentions

The objective intentions desired by Our Lady are evident from the beginning of the Fatima apparitions. It is important to remember that the Angel of Fatima (St. Michael) appeared to the three children on three occasions before Our Lady visited them. He specified the theme and intentions of Our Lady of Fatima. In the summer of 1916, the Angel said, “Offer up everything within your power as a sacrifice to the Lord in an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended.” 

Our Lady reiterated Heaven’s desire almost verbatim during Her first apparition. Then again on July 13, 1917, Our Lady said She will, “come to ask for the conversion of Russia to [Her] Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturday.” (This Communion of Reparation strikes me as another integral part of the Message which must be completed to fulfill Our Lady’s requests, but that issue is the topic of another article.) 

Reparation is an explicit intent linked to this consecration. Man must cease offending God and make reparation for past offenses. Sister Lucia explained the consecration would be done on a day dedicated to reparation all over the world. Also explicitly intended is the establishment of a worldwide devotion to the Immaculate Heart. Although there are many sacred and mysterious aspects to Our Lady’s Heart, one which stands out above all, given the term we use (i.e., “Immaculate”), is the purity of Her body and Her soul. This worldwide devotion to Her will therefore necessarily also involve a worldwide practice of the virtue of purity.

We could simply state that reparation and an intent to fulfill Our Lady of Fatima’s requests seem to be dual necessities of intention for a valid consecration of Russia.

The Intentions Expressed by the Prayer

While we cannot judge the interior heart of Pope Francis and the bishops that did join him (i.e., subjective intentions), we can look to the words spoken by him to give us some indication of his intention. While sorrow for our sinfulness is mentioned, the word “reparation” was never spoken. How odd that reparation was never called for. To one who knows the Message of Fatima, and wants to be faithful to Our Lady’s request, this is a glaring omission. Specific aspects of Her “Immaculate Heart” – foremost among them being purity – were also conspicuously absent from the prayer. Nor was there any mention of sins against the Sixth Commandment, of abortion, or of the grave violations of the Natural Law and diabolical attack upon Holy Matrimony.

Stranger still is the globalist, new age, and conciliar spirit of the consecration prayer itself. The Pope spoke of the “community of nations,” of “fraternity” (a freemasonic buzzword), of “stockpiling weapons,” and of references to environmental negligence. These intentions seem far from the Fatima theme of reparations for sins, especially against God, of saving souls from hell (there was no mention of hell), of sacrifice, and of penance. 

These are the things Our Lady emphasizes. She calls man to have a supernatural view with eternity in mind (Judgment, Heaven and Hell), whereas Pope Francis’ prayer was dominated by a purely natural perspective, focused upon and limited to things of this earth. This is precisely the problem which plagues mankind and Our Lady came to remedy. We have forgotten about God. We have neglected our immortal soul. One would think a proper consecration would call man back to these truths, instead of simply succumbing to the errors so prevalent in the modernist heresy.

Yet, the most concerning aspect of the intention is that there is no mention at all, of the intention of fulfilling Our Lady of Fatima’s request or the expectancy of the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart. Missing was the call for worldwide devotion to Her Immaculate Heart. It seems to me that obedience to Our Lady of Fatima’s request (and intents) are among the most important aspects of a valid Consecration of Russia. Again, we cannot subjectively judge anyone’s internal heart, but we may make objective judgments concerning the external words used in a public consecratory formula.

Human Reason and Catholic Principles Indicate This Is Not the Consecration

As much as I would love to be wrong about the validity of this recent consecration, I do not think the contrary opinion is reasonable. Matter, form, and intentions are very important to God. An absence of ANY of the three criteria invalidates a Sacrament. It appears that in this most recent consecration (in a long line of eleven papal consecrations which have not fulfilled Our Lady’s request) every one of the criteria is, at best, doubtful. This is highly concerning. 

Conclusion – What Can We Catholics Do?

While we cannot change the past, we can control the present to create a better future. As Catholic faithful, I believe it is a mistake to spend too much time focusing on the validity or invalidity of this consecration. After all, in His due time God will reveal the truth for all to know the answer to this question with certitude. (We already know the tell-tale and certain signs: Is Russia converted? Is there peace in the world? Is there worldwide devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart?) Even less should Catholic faithful get into acrimonious disputes with other Catholics and allow a lack of Christian charity to foster spiteful divisions. 

Instead, we would all do better to focus all our efforts on fulfilling Our Lady of Fatima’s requests for all of us including – but not limited to – praying the Rosary, making the First Saturday devotion (every month!), praying for the Pope, wearing the Brown Scapular, offering up our sufferings (particularly by praying the Fatima Sacrifice prayer), stop offending God by our sins, and spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima to as many of our family and friends as possible. 

There is a reason to be hopeful. As Our Lady said, “In the end, My Immaculate heart will triumph.”

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