Local parishioners make consecration to Jesus through Mary in Foxborough

FOXBOROUGH -- As millions of people were viewing the solar eclipse that stretched across the U.S. on April 8, Father Ed Riley thought of "the beauty of God's plan."

Father Riley, spiritual director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, compares the eclipse to Jesus and Mary. Like the sun allowing the moon to pass in front of it, Jesus "let his mother be seen and known, and many hearts come to her before they come to him."

One such heart belongs to Sarah Alalam. After personal tragedies, she "needed something to hold onto," and that something turned out to be God. First, she found Mary, then Jesus.

"No matter what happens," she told The Pilot, "Whatever life throws at you, whatever you think you can't handle, God is there with you, and so is Mary, and they're helping you."

Through a religious sister, Alalam discovered the Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary, a devotion created by St. Louis de Montfort. On April 8, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Alalam reconsecrated herself to Jesus during a Mass celebrated by Father Riley at St. Mary Parish in Foxborough. (The Solemnity is normally celebrated on March 25, but if it falls during Holy Week, the observance is moved to Monday after the octave of Easter). Alalam was joined by over 50 people, including her seven-year-old daughter Gianna. They, along with Father Riley and Father Kevin Hickey, pastor at St. Mary's, knelt before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and sang a hymn dedicated to Mary. They then recited a lengthy prayer to Mary and Jesus, consecrating their lives to them.

"Mother most admirable," they prayed, "lead me into the presence of your divine son as one who is his slave forever so that he who redeemed me through you, may welcome me as his own through you."

Father Riley praised Gianna's "saintly" voice and her conviction.

"If we would all have that kind of pure consecration," Father Riley said, "the world would change overnight."

Speaking to The Pilot after Mass, Father Riley said he was heartened seeing a young person like Gianna at the Mass.

"You can see in her the natural joy when you bring children to Mary," he said. "They understand it. They just get it because they see her as a mother."

"It was a beautiful feeling for me as a mom," Alalam said, "because kids are innocent. "It was just beautiful for her to be there and be part of it. And I'm sure she loved the priest calling her name."

The full Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, as explained by St. Louis de Montfort, is 33 days of prayer and learning about Mary, one day for each year that Jesus lived. The 33 days can be done throughout the year, lined up with feast days dedicated to Mary.

"It's a few pages each day," Father Riley said, "so it's not a very quick, you know, 'say the prayer and you go on with life.'"

Father Riley compared the preparation for consecration to preparing for marriage.

"You don't just kind of show up and say you're ready," he said.

The consecration Masses are organized by Frank and Clare Barros, parishioners at St. Mary's. Starting in 1994, Masses were celebrated at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Holliston but have been celebrated at St. Mary's for the last several years.

"With this consecration, you offer everything you have -- past, present, everything -- to Jesus, but through Mary," Clare Barros told The Pilot. "She is the means. In other words, she's teaching them and showing us."

Barros discovered St. Louis de Montfort's Total Consecration when she read Pope St. John Paul II's 1987 encyclical "Redemptoris Mater."

"In reading it, I thought, 'This is something the faithful should do,'" Barros said.

She described consecration as a renewal of baptismal promises and Mary's way of making the faithful "more presentable" to Jesus. Consecrating herself has impacted her life "profoundly."

"I see so much how the Blessed Mother leads us to Jesus," she said. "I mean, we're just imitating him. He came to us through Mary, and when he died, he gave us to her at the foot of the cross. So I used to pray all the time to Jesus, and he was showing me and so many of the others here how much he wants us to let his mother show us how to draw close to him."

In his homily, Father Riley said that the consecration is a reminder of the many times that Mary has appeared throughout the centuries. Like Gianna, he said, the children who witnessed the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima were young and innocent.

"She's greater than the stars," he said. "She's clothed in the garment of stars. She stands on the moon, she's before all of creation, but with great humility. She's inviting us to take on this great consecration."

He said that the Annunciation represents "the fulfillment of God's plan" and that even before creation, God had chosen Mary to bear his son.

"Her gift of the intellect alone is far superior to ours, all of humanity, and quite honestly, all of the angels," he said. "And yet she just so humbly gives herself over to pondering the deeper mystery."

Father Riley said that when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, she asked questions, not because she doubted God's plan but because she was curious to learn more.

"We, too, have questions in our lives and our situations," he said. "And even though we follow sometimes to ask with demands or requests, or we boldly say 'God, how could you have done this?' Mary's calling us back to ponder whatever the situation is in our life, even if it's the most painful one, even if it's the most tragic one. She's exemplifying for us the mystery of pondering, of listening to what the Father wants to speak to us."