DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics across the world are being called to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Feast of the Annunciation, with prayer initiatives for protection against the Chinese virus springing up in several countries.
Faithful Polish laity are calling for an "Act of consecration of Poland and ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" on March 25.
The consecration can be done without "breaking any quarantine — all that is required is a common spirit of faith and a confident heart, no matter where we find ourselves," reads a statement the organizing group released.
One of the coordinators, Dr. Wojtek Golonka, explained to Church Militant the motivation for launching the initiative: "So many Catholics deprived of Mass at the same time in great parts of the world — this is why ... we launched a supernatural answer from Poland."
It is launched for "the dangers which lay ahead for Poland, as well as the entire world, [that] go far beyond the crisis of the coronavirus," he said.
Dr. Golonka personally invited all American Catholics to join the initiative, saying: "Let's everybody turn ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Annunciation Feast."
The group's Facebook page confirms that in Polish history, "periods of public calamities, disasters and threats were always treated as a period of asking God for help and protection."
The group cites the 1656 victory of a small force of monks from Poland's Jasna Góra monastery and local volunteers who fought off the Swedish Protestants to save their Church and sacred icon, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. Faced with the overwhelming odds, the monks are alleged to have said: "It is better to die worthily than to live impiously."
They point to the "Miracle on the Vistula" of 1920, attributed to the brilliance of General Józef Piłsudski and the many processions and prayers of the faithful, which routed the Soviet army's reputedly unstoppable attack on Warsaw.
They also reference Polish Cdl. Stefan Wyszyński's appeal to Our Lady at Jasna Góra in 1956 — 300 years after the Siege of Jasna Góra:
O Queen of Poland! We renew today the pledge of our ancestors to you as our patron and we recognize you as the Queen of the Polish nation. Both ourselves and all the Polish lands and all the People we commend to your special protection and defense. We humbly call for your help and mercy in the struggle to remain faithful to God, the Cross and the gospels, the holy Church and its shepherds, our holy fatherland — which is the advanced guard of Christianity dedicated to your Immaculate Heart — and the Heart of your Son.
"That is why we receive and reproduce the call of Abp. Stanisław Gądecki, chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference," the group's Facebook page says, "for daily Rosary prayer in this special situation in which Poland and the world find themselves."
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of Ireland, is also calling for the people of his country to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for protection against the pandemic on the Feast of the Annunciation at noon local time.
The archbishop is joining with bishops and priests from across Ireland in consecrating the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for strength and protection from the virus.
People are invited to join the consecration in a moment of prayer with their families or individually. The consecration coincides with Pope Francis' invitation to people all over the world to pray the Lord's Prayer at Angelus time on March 25, according to the Irish bishops' website.
Archbishop Martin said,
As a Church now, more than ever, we are committed to offering prayer, solidarity and compassion in our society. Social distancing cannot be allowed to create social isolation and, through prayer, as Pope Francis said on Sunday, we can overcome. In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven.
In a promotional video, the archbishop says "to pray for help to Jesus through Mary during this ... emergency."
In response to the global pandemic, the Episcopal Conference of Portugal announced last week it would reconsecrate Portugal to Christ and Mary on the evening of March 25 with the Spanish bishops' conference requesting that their country also be consecrated in the same liturgy.
Cardinal Manuel Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, alongside Cdl. António Marto, diocesan bishop of Leiria-Fátima, will lead the Rosary before consecrating the Iberian Peninsula, along with any other countries joining the initiative, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Portugal said any other country can join the initiative simply by having their own bishops' conference send it a request.
Of the international initiatives for consecration to Our Lady, Dr. Golonka said: "I am not surprised that similar actions are taking place in different parts of the world. I think it's a natural, general, worldwide Catholic reaction to the actual circumstances [of the pandemic]."
"If one remembers what Our Lady said in Fatima, it's normal to turn oneself to Her Immaculate Heart," he added. "There's also a long tradition in the history of the Church and Christian nations to proceed to such consecrations and entrustments during public perils."
"Wherever the consecration is happening, the most important is that it happens," said Dr. Golonka.