People have always consecrated themselves to Our Lady. For example in his Traité de la vraie dévotion à la Sainte Vierge, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort teaches why and how to consecrate oneself to the Holy Virgin. However, the first request from Heaven concerning a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was not made until 1836. On the 3rd of December that year, the priest at Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris - Abbé Charles-Eléonore Dufriche Desgenettes, heard an interior voice saying, « Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.» (See Newsletter n°18) This very first request concerning a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary shows that Our Lady wishes, firstly, the consecration of parishes. Unfortunately, such a consecration often comes up against two difficulties.
First difficulty : A few people have remarked that many churches, especially in France, are already consecrated to Our Lady. So, are those which are already consecrated to Mary, not consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart as well? Consequently, for them, the parishes whose church is consecrated to Our Lady would have no need to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Holy Virgin replied to this objection Herself, because in expressing Her desire to see parishes consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, She chose a parish … already dedicated to Our Lady !
The Discalced Augustinians disposed of a convent in Paris, between the Porte de Montmartre and the Porte de Saint Honoré, but which had no chapel. So, they pressed Louis XIII for grants to build one, which the king finally granted on one condition : that the chapel bore the name of Notre Dame des Victoires. He had just won the battle of La Rochelle against the Protestants, thereby preserving the unity of the kingdom. This victory had been obtained thanks to the Rosary, as on the express demand of the king, the Rosary had been recited in the presence of the whole Court by the Dominicans of the convent of Faubourg Saint Honoré. Then, the King asked the Dominicans to drill the army : 15,000 Rosaries were distributed. Every evening, the troops sang Hail Marys and hymns around the town of La Rochelle, bearing a statue of Our Lady (see the article The temporal victories of the Rosary).
On Saturday the 8th of December 1629, feast of the Immaculate, or, the Sacred Conception of the Virgin Mary (which later became the Immaculate Conception, after the dogma was proclaimed in 1854), the Archbishop of Paris, Mgr. de Gondi, blessed the church foundations in the presence of thirty religious from the convent. The next day, the king solemnly laid the foundation stone, in the presence of the lords of the Court and the town Magistrates. Thus, since its beginning, Notre Dame des Victoires has been consecrated to the Holy Virgin.
It was in this convent, eight years later, in 1637, that Brother Fiacre had an apparition of the Holy Virgin, asking him to say three novenas, one at Notre -Dame de Grâces (at Cotignac), one at Notre-Dame in Paris and one at Notre-Dame des Victoires, to obtain the birth of an heir apparent, as Louis XIII and Anne of Austria were childless. Between the 8th of November and the 5th of December, Brother Fiacre did just that, and on the 5th of September 1638 Louis XIV was born.
In 1832, when Abbé Desgenettes was nominated parish priest at Notre-Dame des Victoires, it was a working-class neighbourhood ravaged by the Revolution and where religious activity had been practically abandoned. Although dedicated to Our Lady, it was one of the sorriest parishes in Paris. For four years, Abbé Desgenettes celebrated Mass in a church that was practically empty. Suffering from discouragement, he was ready to give up his ministry when, on the 3rd of December 1836 (a first Saturday of the month !), whilst celebrating Mass, an interior voice asked him to conscecrate his parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Given the history of his church, he would have been perfectly justified in saying to himself « But the parish is already consecrated to Our Lady. » He did no such thing and, after a few legitimate hesitations, he decided to make the consecration. That same day he laid down the statutes of an association in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the conversion of sinners. The consecration was approved by Mgr. de Quelen, the Bishop of Paris, and the announcement was made from the pulpit the following Sunday, the 11th of December 1836, in front of a dozen or so parishioners, for the same day, during Vespers. That evening, more than four hundred people attended the ceremony. And, in a few years, Notre-Dame des Victoires became the most frequented parish in Paris.
Thus, a church which was dedicated to the Holy Virgin since its foundation, was chosen by the Holy Virgin to request, for the first time, the consecration of a parish to Her Immaculate Heart, thereby showing Her will that Her Heart be explicitly invoked, even if the church was itself already dedicated.
Second difficulty : The reaction of people convinced by the previous argument who often suggest to us « You should contact the priest of this or that parish. I know him very well. He is sure to be most receptive ! » And sometimes they give the names of several parishes. Experience has shown us that doing this has practically no chance of success. Apart from the fact that the small team which runs Cap Fatima 2017 does not actually have the time necessary to undertake all these recommendations, even if this happened, nine times out of ten the proposition would go in the waste paper basket, because the recipient does not personally know the sender. Already overly solicited, he will not make any distinction between the thousand and one different propositions he receives, and send ours to the common lot : the dustbin !
On the other hand, a short visit from a parishioner, or a friend, sharing his own conviction, has a thousand times more chance to win his support, touched as he will be that one of his own parishioners or friends shares the same concern for the salvation of his parish.
So then, dear friends, if you are convinced, which path will you choose to take ? That of facility, or that of efficacy ? Re-read the story of Notre-Dame des Victoires ; then, make an appointment with your priest and suggest that he consecrate his parish (or renew the consecration) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. You’ve always wanted to do something for your parish (without going overboard, that is) ? Here is a simple deed which will only take a little time and which is sure to bear fruit.
The last Council was fond of encouraging lay people to be more active in the Church. This is your chance to respond to the call : are you hesitating ? Perhaps Our Lady is just waiting for your little gesture to inundate your parish with the graces that Her Divine Son confided to her.
In union of prayer in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Yves de Lassus,
President, Cap Fatima 2017.