Bishops around country consecrate U.S. to Mary amid COVID-19 pandemic

Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory leads a liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington May 1, 2020. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON—Bishops throughout the United States reconsecrated the country to Mary as the nation continues to struggle in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishops in Canada also used May 1 to rededicate their country to the Blessed Mother.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led a “Renewal of the Consecration of the United States of America to the Blessed Virgin Mary” May 1. The sparse, 37-minute ceremony at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles was livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and the websites of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Alternating between English and Spanish, Archbishop Gomez said: “In this difficult time we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of the church. She intercedes with her Son for all are affected in this way by the pandemic. … We implore her maternal care for her children.”

Archbishop Gomez noted Mary’s history in the United States. “The first missionaries came to this country under the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Later, the bishops consecrated her as patroness of the United States of America,” he said. “The Virgin Mary has accompanied this great nation since our beginnings,” he added. “Now in this difficult hour, we renew our consecration to her.”

The United States has been hit harder than any other nation in deaths connected to COVID-19, with 62,547 known coronavirus fatalities as of April 30, with about 2,000 more people dying each day. Although federal and state health officials have been advocating strict measures to “flatten the curve” of infections and fatalities, none have said that deaths have yet reached their peak. Some Americans have loudly grumbled about the slow pace of “reopening” states to travel and commerce, while health officials fear a second wave of infections.

“Mary was the first person to consecrate herself to Jesus, the first to offer her whole heart to do his will, to set his beautiful plan of redemption,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We ask God to give us that same faith, that same courage … the strength to follow Jesus, to seek his holiness and his kingdom.”

The ceremony featured Marian hymns including “Regina Coeli,” “Hail, Holy Queen” and a contemporary English-Latin setting of the Magnificat. It also featured the recitation of two decades of the rosary: the fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the crucifixion and death of Jesus, followed by the fifth Glorious Mystery, the coronation of Mary as queen of heaven.

At its conclusion, Archbishop Gomez said, “Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is encouraging us to rediscover the beauty of praying the rosary at home in the month of May. We are still in quarantine in our homes.” He noted that “one of the many saints in Los Angeles was the venerable (Father) Patrick Peyton, who coined the “family rosary” and the phrase “The family that prays together stays together.”

“Maybe we can dedicate ourselves,” Archbishop Gomez said, “to find time to come together as a family to pray the rosary in our homes.”

A similar liturgy of consecration took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington May 1, led by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, who prayed: “In this time of pandemic, we come to you, our sign of sure hope and comfort. Today we renew the act of consecration and entrustment carried out by those who have gone before us.”

Because of local and federal social distancing and self-isolation mandates in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19, the rededication liturgy at the basilica was not open to the public, but livestreamed on social media platforms.

The Diocese of Charleston also live-streamed its rededication ceremony, which followed Mass on Saturday, May 2. You can catch it here if you missed it:

This consecration reaffirms the bishops’ previous consecrations of the United States to Mary. In 1792, the first bishop of the United States, Bishop John Carroll, consecrated the nation to Mary under the title Immaculate Conception, and in 1846, the bishops unanimously chose Mary under that title as the patroness of the nation.

In 1959, Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington again consecrated the United States to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was the year when construction of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington was completed. The national shrine was elevated to minor basilica status by St. John Paul ll Oct. 12, 1990. This was renewed by the U.S. bishops Nov. 11, 2006.

Archbishop Gregory prayed for Mary’s “intercession for the needs of our country, that every desire for good may be blessed and strengthened, that faith may be revived and nourished, hope sustained and enlightened, charity awakened and animated.”

By Mark Pattison

Contributing to this story was Richard Szczepanowski, managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.