In his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei Pope Benedict announced a time of grace for the Church and the world—the Year of Faith which runs from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013. He called for this Year of Faith “because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”
During his General Audience of November 14, 2012, Pope Benedict said that this crisis was the result of a “strong process of secularization under the banner of the absolute autonomy of the human being.” It has led to the “dangerous phenomenon” of “practical atheism,” which is not the denial of God’s existence but a superficial belief in God. The “truths of faith or religious rites are not denied but are merely deemed irrelevant to daily living, detached from life, pointless.” People end up living “as though God did not exist.”
The crisis of faith is not so much a lack of faith as misplaced faith. A secularized world that deems God “irrelevant” places its faith in science and technology, believing that these will solve its problems. The world believes that material goods will bring happiness and satisfaction. People have faith, but in the wrong things—in human good will and human ingenuity.
Such secular thinking has grown, but it is not new. Listen to the words of another Pope who wrote that the disregard of:
the authority of sacred and divine law … almost tends to the removal of the Christian faith from our midst, and, if that were possible, of the banishment of God Himself from the earth. When men’s minds are raised to such a height of insolent pride, what wonder is it that the greater part of the human race should have fallen into such disquiet of mind and be buffeted by waves so rough that no one is suffered to be free from anxiety and peril? When religion is once discarded it follows of necessity that the surest foundations of the public welfare must give way.
These are the words of Pope Leo XIII from his 1899 encyclical Annum Sacrum announcing his intention to consecrate the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Leo did so to teach, in a bold way, that humans are not God, not autonomous beings who can decide for themselves right and wrong. Human beings come from God, belong to God, and are ultimately going to return to God.
As the first teachers of their children, parents have the primary responsibility to pass on this truth. However, this truth must not only be taught but lived. One very practical way in which this can be done is through the practice of family consecration. Pope Leo XIII called the act of consecrating the human race to the Sacred Heart “the greatest act” of his pontificate. As he saw in this act an antidote to secularism, so individual families can confront the secularism of our time by means of family consecration.
What is the origin of this practice of family consecration?
In 1907, Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, met with Pope Leo’s successor, Pope St. Pius X. Fr. Mateo shared with Pope Pius his dream of fostering the reign of Christ the King through the consecration of families to His Sacred Heart. Since the family is the basic unit of society, the secularization of the family leads to the secularization of society and the exclusion of God from the world.
He wanted to dedicate his life to family consecration but he wanted to make sure he had the pope’s approval. What was Pope Pius’ response? He said: “No, no my son. I do not permit you. I command you, do you understand? I order you to give your life for this work of salvation. It is a wonderful work. Consecrate your entire life to it.” Thus began Fr. Mateo’s life work which continued after his death in 1960 at the age of eighty-five.
Every papal successor to Pope St. Pius X has encouraged family consecration or enthronement.
When a family places an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a prominent place in its home and consecrates itself to Him, it is declaring its intention to live with Christ as the King, Center, Head, and Heart of the family. The consecration can involve a period of preparation leading up to the actual ceremony which is led by a priest, parish representative, or the head of the household. A Scriptural enthronement ceremony is available from the Apostleship of Prayer.
But just as a marriage is more than the wedding ceremony, so family consecration is more than the enthronement ceremony. The consecration must be lived out in daily life.
What does this mean and how is it done?
It means that all the family’s decisions regarding its life together—finances and purchases, entertainment and vacation, prayer and work—are made in light of Christ, the family’s King and Head. With the image of the Sacred Heart representing His presence in the home, what does Jesus think about this particular decision? And when conflicts arise they are settled in the context of prayer in front of Christ the King.
Each member of the family will daily renew his or her consecration by praying the Morning Offering and giving the entire day—with its thoughts, words, and deeds; its prayers, works, joys, and sufferings—to God. This daily offering is the practice of the Apostleship of Prayer. Then, at the end of the day, when the family gathers for a meal or for prayer, each may share with one another the day that was offered to God.
Through family consecration each member of the family will counteract the practical atheism of secularization and live with God at the center.