SAN FRANCISCO — Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone consecrated the Archdiocese of San Francisco to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oct. 7, telling thousands of pilgrims packed shoulder-to-shoulder in St. Mary’s Cathedral that “her heart is the gate of heaven.”

The consecration combined the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 with the archdiocese’s annual rosary rally procession.

Just as Mary had a special role in mothering God’s son, she has a special role in mothering each of us into life in her son, the archbishop said in his homily.

We don’t need Mary to point us to Jesus, he said.

“We know where he is,” said San Francisco’s archbishop. “He’s in the tabernacle, in the sacraments, in his word. He is present in the church. Rather, what we need is someone to pick us up and carry us to him, because we are too weak to get there on our own.

“In her maternal presence, Mary is there to advocate for us,” he said.

Echoing the message delivered in a series of Marian apparitions a century ago near Fatima, Portugal, to shepherd children Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, Cordileone outlined Our Lady’s “threefold recipe for peace and salvation” and included a call to action.

He asked every Catholic in the archdiocese to pray the rosary daily, to observe Fridays as a day of penance with more serious and frequent recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation, and to participate in regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Soon after 8 a.m., buses carrying parishioners from churches throughout the archdiocese lined the parking lot as the faithful — many wearing the same shade of blue — streamed into the cathedral to pray the rosary’s joyful mysteries together.

More than 1,500 pilgrims from Mission District parishes arrived together on foot in matching T-shirts, led by the pastor of St. Peter’s Church, Father Moises Agudo.

Cordileone and more than two dozen priests entered the sanctuary for 10 a.m. Mass to a bilingual “Immaculate Mary” processional hymn.

In his homily, the archbishop said Fatima’s supernatural aspect has overshadowed the message Our Lady came to offer.

“For 100 years we ignored the message of Fatima,” he said. “This next century can be radically different from the last one, but only if we heed the message and respond to the requests.”

The archbishop linked war, genocide and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities with gun violence, abortion, euthanasia, addiction and moral depravity, saying they result from the “spiritual disease” of worshipping the self instead of God.

He noted the Oct. 1 massacre in Las Vegas.

“We are living in a time and place of intense spiritual battle, and only in taking up spiritual arms will we alleviate the spiritual disease that is at the root of so much of the physical and mental suffering in the world today,” Cordileone said. “It is time to leave the sensational aside, and respond to the requests of Our Lady at Fatima.”

Following Communion, with the archbishop leading, worshippers processed from the cathedral behind a three-foot statue of Our Lady, marching through neighborhood streets and reciting the Divine Mercy litany.

When the statue was carried back into the cathedral, a small crowd on the church steps waved white handkerchiefs after her — a pilgrim tradition.

Cordileone then went before the statue on the altar, incensed the image and prayed the Prayer of Consecration with the congregation responding in Spanish and English. The prayer was adapted from Pope Pius XII’s prayer in 1942 consecrating the world, especially Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the turning point of World War II.

“Queen of Peace, pray for us,” the archbishop said. “Give the world the peace for which all are longing.”

Afterward, Rosemary Battaglia, a member of Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Novato, told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper: “It was so impressive to see so many Catholics gathered here today. I felt like I was on the mountain where our Lord did the Beatitudes. And no one was jeering at us today.”

“I have obtained so much from praying to Mary and especially Our Lady of Fatima,” said Angelo Sequeira, who belongs to San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Parish. “She has meant a lot to humanity too even if everybody doesn’t realize that. I hope someday everyone will turn to Mary for help.”

Paul Venables, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Mill Valley, remarked, “Bringing the messages of hope our Mother Mary relayed at Fatima to life here in San Francisco, a very secular, modern city, and calling her to lead us through her Immaculate Heart to Jesus is a beautiful thing.”

– – –

Gray writes for Catholic San Francisco.