Bishop J. Mark Spalding joined Pope Francis and bishops around the world in praying to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Friday, March 25.
It also marked the celebration of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the patronal feast of the Cathedral.
Bishop Spalding was joined by 14 priests, religious and hundreds of laity, both in person and watching via livestream, for the special Mass.
“Truly we have gathered in this cathedral to offer up prayer. Prayer for our world, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Prayer for peace on earth,” said Bishop Spalding at the beginning of Mass. “May she intercede to her son, the Prince of Peace. May that peace come to the world and to each one of us.”
Pope Francis had called for bishops and priests around the world to join him in praying to consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. During his homily, Bishop Spalding acknowledged the importance of responding to the call of Pope Francis by all the people.
“We have responded to this call by Pope Francis to gather as a people around the world, the universal Church, to ask and beg, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, for peace on the earth,” Bishop Spalding said. “This is an anxious time. There are many times in the history of the Church that times have been anxious, and each time we come as a people. We come around word and sacrament, we come and experience the ministry of the priests and deacons and religious of our parishes and of our dioceses, and we cry out ‘God help us. Jesus be near us. Blessed Mother intercede for us,’ and that’s what we’re doing today.
“There is a peace that God can give us, but we have to be open to it, willing to receive it in all humility,” he said.
Then, referring to the Gospel reading from Luke, which told the story of the angel coming to Mary during the Annunciation, Bishop Spalding continued.
“Mary, humble as she was, presented by an angel, ‘Here is a great destiny, here is a dream God has. Are you willing to say yes to it? If you say yes, then God is with us. The word made flesh will dwell among us. And his presence will change the world for the better,’” Bishop Spalding said. “And because that simple young woman said yes, look how we have gathered this day.
“All of us, every time we gather for Mass, we have a proclamation before us that we must say in all humility ‘yes’ to, and whenever we say ‘yes’ to the will of God in our life, we are bringing about the presence of Christ in the world,” he added.
“If anything, we know as we gather this day, the world needs more of the presence of Jesus within it,” Bishop Spalding said. “His words, his deeds, his life, so when we make this prayer today for our world, for ourselves, please through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, God help us change for the better, starting with myself.”
“As much as we’re praying for peace in the world as a whole, we’re praying for peace in our own hearts, and I promise you, if you say, ‘yes’ to the will of God, pray in each and every day of your life, saying ‘God show me your way, show me your will, and I’m going to say yes to it,’ there will be a peace that shall come,” he said.
“It will not be an easy life though. There will be sacrifice, at times even suffering for that yes. But because of that yes, the presence of Christ comes into the world,” Bishop Spalding said. “Those yeses we say to the will of God makes us apart of something beyond ourselves, bigger than ourselves.”
Then, pointing to the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that stood on the altar, asked, “Who could have imagined what God had planned when this woman said yes to him? And he has a great dream and destiny for each of us and for our world. ‘God help us. Show us your will. Give us each the strength and humility to say ‘yes’ to it and in following you, we make your son present evermore.’”
Following the homily, the congregation stood as Bishop Spalding prayed the papal prayer directly from the Vatican.
Along with the Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, at 12:30 p.m., to align with the Holy Father in Rome, St. Henry Church hosted a service to pray the consecration prayer. The prayer was led by Father Schinto Padinjaredathu, associate pastor of St. Henry, with the assistance of Deacon Mike Catalano. Nearly 800 people, including the students of St. Henry School, were in attendance.
More than 50 members of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Cookeville, led by Father Christiano Nunes da Silva, also prayed the prayer of consecration during the noon hour in unison with Pope Francis and the Diocese of Nashville.
Papal Prayer to Consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Mary, Mother of God and our mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our mother, you love us and know us: No concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the prince of peace.
Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns.
We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbor’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war, and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!
Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.
We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.
That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help!
Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.
Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.
Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.
Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge and teach us forgiveness.
Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.
Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.
Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.
Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.
O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your sorrowful heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.
Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (John 19:26). In this way, he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (John 19:27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history.
At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.
Therefore, 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. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The “fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.
Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “fiat,” on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope,” water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.
Photo gallery by Rick Musacchio and submitted