In 2010 in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Fatima, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated all priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. To be perfectly honest I felt a leap of joy when I first heard this and I recall feeling deeply grateful to 'my chief' for doing this. The words of his prayer are finely sculpted, most beautiful and most thoughtful.
Now you may be wondering why I would choose to speak of this six years later on the feast of Pentecost so I'll explain.
There has spread throughout the contemporary Church a deadly pandemic called the 'we-can-fix-it' virus. This virulent pest has escaped into the house of God from the mind of a godless individual, we won't bother mentioning his horrible name, and infected good people everywhere. The 'we-can-fix-it' virus causes sufferers to imagine that there is no human problem, material or spiritual, for which the solution cannot be found somewhere in the cleverness of human beings. This, of course, is why we have so many programmes, meetings, bureaucratic structures in our parishes. We are searching for the idea or the individual who will 'fix it all' for us.
Politicians (have you ever listened to Donald Trump?) understand all this very well and make enormous capital out of it. They present themselves as 'Mr Fixit' - and 'it' includes most, if not all, the problems which beset us. And strangely enough, it doesn't seem to matter how often they let us down, we stubbornly go on believing that somewhere in the human genome, or somewhere in here, in our mind or heart, lies the cure to the human dilemma.
Within the Church there are enormous problems reported among priests - disobedience, dissent, abuse of power, defections and all sorts of other misbehaviour.
And what does the Pope do? What does the Pope do when he raises his head and tearfully surveys poor struggling priests and bishops? Does he hold an inquiry, assemble a 'think tank', develop a plan, produce a glossy brochure? No, he consecrates them all to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Why? Because he is humbly admitting that he can't fix it.
Immaculate Mother ... we consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart.We are mindful that,
we can do nothing good. (cf. Jn 15:5)
Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit
that overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
Through the same power of the Holy Spirit that overshadowed you.
The Holy Spirit of God is the only power which can transform us - the Church and the world - and it is a power to which Mary not only entirely surrendered herself but which she can now, through her intercession, obtain for us all.
Last week we marvelled at the ignorance, passivity and helplessness of the Apostles who merely 'look on' as God's plan unfolded before them in the Ascension of his Son. This week we marvel at what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in powerless human beings when they are willing to wait for him in prayer and open their hearts to receive him.
When it comes to transformation into Christ humans cannot but the Holy Spirit can. This lesson so badly needs to be re-learned in the Church today. Young men and women struggling to remain chaste, couples in difficult marriages, people facing drugs, pornography, addictions of all sorts find their lasting help only in the power of the Holy Spirit. Above all, a priest can remain faithful to the Church and her Master only in and through the power of God's Holy Spirit. Without him we can't; with him we can.
The clearest expression of the incapacity of the Apostles was their obedience to Jesus' command to stay in Jerusalem and wait there for what the Father had promised. The Holy Spirit came to them when they 'met together'. First they heard him, then he appeared to them, then he came to rest on them. All was gift, none of it was achievement.
It was only when they were filled with the Holy Spirit that they began to speak and even now, Luke hastily adds: as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. The miracle of tongues caught them all by surprise. If the Apostles had been asked later how it had all happened they would have shrugged their shoulders and answered, 'We don't know.' And those who heard them speak in their own language wondered, 'How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own language?'
Obedience, gathering in prayer, waiting on the Holy Spirit - all these are the special competence of the Blessed Virgin, and Pope Benedict implores that she obtain these gifts for us priests. In the Holy Father's prayer in Fatima all of us, priests and people, can find the blueprint for the way ahead. Let each of us consecrate himself, herself to Mary and ask that she obtain for us the beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit who alone can transform us into her Son.