One of the most moving moments for me since the election of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, occurred on the day after his election. Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major. There he prayed before the image of our Lady under her title “Protectress of the Roman People” an image very dear to the faithful of Rome.  What was Pope Francis’ first instinct upon his election as supreme pastor of the universal Church? To run to our Blessed Mother for her motherly love, guidance and protection!

I shared a very similar instinct as I began my time among you as your Archbishop in western Oregon.  It is an instinct that has been with me since my first days as a seminarian 28 years ago.  I consecrated my vocation to Our Lady at my first seminarian retreat. Then, before I was ordained a priest, I consecrated my priesthood to her.  I repeated that consecration upon my ordination as a bishop and when I was transferred here to the Archdiocese of Portland.  I renew this consecration each year during my annual retreat.

It is with this devotional sentiment deeply planted in my heart that I will consecrate, as your shepherd, the Archdiocese of Portland to Our Lady on June 28th, the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I am making this consecration to Our Lady under the title of “The Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima.”  I am also asking for a renewal at this time of the traditional practice of the First Saturday Devotion in honor of Our Lady and as requested by her during her apparitions at Fatima.  I would like to explain my reasons for these actions at this time.

Again, I take my lead and inspiration in this regard from our Holy Father.  Within the very first months of his pontificate, Pope Francis personally asked the Patriarch of Lisbon in Portugal, Cardinal Polycarp, to consecrate his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima.  Also, in October of 2013, Pope Francis had the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima brought from Fatima to Rome and there he consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before this image of Our Lady.  

As the Holy Father has seen fit to entrust his pontificate and indeed the whole world to the loving and maternal care of Our Lady, so I think it appropriate that we follow his lead and entrust ourselves in western Oregon to her special care and protection.  Our Archdiocese already has as our patroness the Blessed Mother under her title of the Immaculate Conception.  It seems timely and fitting that we renew our consecration to her at this pivotal moment in history.

We face many challenges today as we seek to live our faith in the world.  Not the least of these is the rapid disintegration of marriage and the family in society.  We are quickly losing what has always been seen as the bedrock of civilized society and the community of the Church.  The divorce rate, even among Catholics, has grown to alarming levels.  Many choose to live together before marriage.  Others cohabit with no intention to marry at all.  The number of children born out of wedlock or raised without an intact family, including a mother and father in the home, is way too high.  And now we see in Oregon and all across the country efforts to redefine the very nature of marriage itself as being between one man and one woman.

These threats to the dignity, sanctity and stability of marriage and family life should not be underestimated by any of us.  We must do everything we can to promote, support and strengthen what God has designed for the human family in terms of the covenant of marriage and the essence of family life.  Pope Francis has certainly placed his strongest emphasis on attention to the family.  But our efforts in this regard must not rely solely on human effort and strategy.  We must also turn to our God for spiritual help in this struggle for the soul of our society.  

And so in this consecration to Our Lady, we will be asking her to especially intercede with God for us for the protection and strengthening of marriages and families in our archdiocese.  We will also certainly seek her help to obtain the graces necessary for the works of evangelization, service to the poor, and our communal growth in faith, hope and love.  But without strong and committed families, our efforts in other areas will be severely if not fatally compromised.  Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words in his homily which opened the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization in 2012:  “There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. …”  

So we turn to Our Lady, Mother of the Holy Family, to help us.  We place ourselves, our Church, and especially our families, under the loving mantle of her protection and care.  I ask you all to join with me in this consecration.  I would love to see the Cathedral filled to overflowing on Saturday, June 28 at 2 p.m.  I realize most of you will not be able to join with me in person.  That is why I have asked every priest of the archdiocese to join with me on the weekend of June 28 and 29 by praying the prayer of consecration with me in the local parishes.

We will have a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima present at the Cathedral for the consecration.  This particular image of Our Lady was blessed by Pope Francis himself and will remain in the Archdiocese through the first Saturday of July.  We will also have present with us one of the priest chaplains from the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal as a special delegate from the shrine for this consecration.

May Our Lady pray for us and obtain for us all the graces necessary for living our faith in challenging times.  With confidence let us place ourselves under the mantle of her maternal love, care and protection!