The Theology Of Entrustment

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The Theology of Entrustment

A question that has been asked in recent decades, both for its own sake and to avoid ecumenical misunderstandings about Catholic practices, is what does it mean to be consecrated to a person other than God? Does such consecration detract from the worship of Christ? Indeed, can we be consecrated to someone other than God? Perhaps to avoid misunderstandings the Holy See usually speaks of Entrustment, even though as we shall see both terms seem appropriate, depending on circumstance.

What is Consecration

To consecrate something is to make it sacred. The English term is derived from the Latin consecrare, the root meaning of which "to make sacred," as in cutting something off from profane or ordinary use so that it will be available for Divine Service alone. This "setting off" or "dedicating" of a thing, or a person, to worship is accomplished by ritual prayer. We see this in Scripture with the ceremonies performed for the dedication of the Temple and its furnishing (Num. 7; Ezra 6:16-17), as well as for the Ordination of the priests of both the Old and New Covenants (Ex. 29:1-9; 1 Tim 4:14; see Acts 6:1-6 for Deacons).

The Catholic Church continues to "consecrate" things and persons to God. However, since the Second Vatican Council a distinction has been made between more solemn liturgical consecrations and less solemn blessings. Churches, church bells and individuals, given over entirely to Divine Worship by solemn rites, are said to be consecrated. Pious objects, which are set apart for the devotional use of individuals by a simple rite, are said to be blessed. Finally, there is the recent use of Entrustment for individuals and communities who, whether by a solemn or simple rite, are placed under Mary's protection. As Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has recently explained, entrustment acknowledges our need fro help from God and is a plea for Mary's intercession for that aid.

In the case of the Entrustment of the Third Millennium to the Blessed Virgin Mary the Holy Father would seem to be dedicating this world of space and time to Jesus through Mary, to the Sacred Heart through the Immaculate Heart. It is thus both an act of homage to Jesus through Our Lady, recognizing their sovereignty over the Third Millennium, as well as a prayer that mankind will correspond to that Kingship and Queenship.

Baptism: the Foundational Consecration

The essential, and foundational, "setting apart for God" of the human person is the Sacrament of Baptism. By Baptism we are delivered from subjection to the devil and joined to Christ. The catechism of the Catholic Church states,

CCC 1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a kingdom, priests for his God and Father." [Rev 1:6; 1 Pet 2:5, 9] The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be ... a holy priesthood." [Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 10]

Thus, as far as persons are concerned Baptism is the basis upon which all other uses of the term consecration must be founded. Even in the case of things, expressions such as "the baptism of the bells" to refer to the consecration of Church bells, brings us back to this reality. The Sacrament of Confirmation then becomes for the Christian the deepening and confirming of their baptismal consecration, enabling them to exercise the Gifts of the Holy Spirit sealed in them, for the good of the Church.

Why Mary?

An entirely logical question then follows from the nature of consecration. If our baptismal consecration to the Lord is basic, what reason would we have for consecrating ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary? To understand this it is necessary to understand the special role which Mary has in the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption. Everything derives from her office as the Mother of the Redeemer, giving Him, as she alone did, the human nature in which He died for us and which was the instrumental means of our salvation. Hers was not merely a human maternity, but a predestined full participation in the Incarnation and Redemption. The Catechism tells us,

CCC 501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formulation she cooperates with a mother's love."

CCC 725 Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God's merciful love, into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples.

From the beginning of the Christian era the Fathers of the Church saw in Marry the New Eve, the Mother of All the Living in the order of grace, as Eve was their mother in the order of nature. Mary is the New Woman (Gen. 3:15), whose entirely faithful and fully graced discipleship enabled her to perfectly cooperate with her Son in the salvation of the world.

CCC 968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace."

CCC 969 "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation .... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix."

CCC 970 "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men ...flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it." "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."

The Church is insistent, as well, that Mary's maternal role in the order of grace is not complete until each member of the Mystical Body, and the Body as a whole, comes to the full stature of Christ (Eph. 4: 13).

CCC 829 "But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary": in her, the Church is already the "all-holy."

CCC 972 After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own "pilgrimage of faith," and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, "in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity," "in the communion of all the saints," the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.
In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.

Mary's role is, of course, a role with and in Christ. Her total dependence upon Him, and total confidence in Him, is the reason we may safely and legitimately entrust our Christian lives and eternal destiny to her care.

CCC 964 Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. "This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death"; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son."