Feast of St Thomas of Malea
ON MAY 25, 1899, Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical Annum Sacrum, what he called “the greatest act of our Pontificate.” In it, he declared that he intended to consecrate the entire world, including the ‘infidels’, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 11th. The encyclical was especially extraordinary for two reasons. First, Leo responded so quickly to the consecration, which was inspired by a nun from Portugal, whom he had never met. Second, it was the first such consecration to extend to the whole world. In June 1897 Maria Droste had a vision that Jesus told her to write Pope Leo and tell him to consecrate the world to His Sacred Heart. Maria said the result would be that “…heretics and schismatics will return to the Church. And those who are yet unborn but are already destined to form part of the Church, namely pagans, will the sooner receive this grace.” She sent her first letter to the Pope in April of 1898. He did not respond to that one, but did respond to her second one, which reached him on Epiphany the following year. On Palm Sunday he had one of his Cardinals find a theological justification for the consecration, which was found by the end of Holy Week in St. Thomas’s distinction between ‘quantum ad executionem potestatis’, those who willingly obey God’s laws, and ‘quantum ad potestatem’, those who cannot help but obey because God is ultimately at the helm of all lives. My paper will consider the ecumenical intentions of Annum Sacrum and its Thomistic justifications, the immediate response to the encyclical in the non-Catholic world, and the impact it left in the Church and later Christianity.
Angie Gumm recently graduated from the Newman University Theology M.A. program with her thesis on Pope Leo XIII and his encouragement of women. She has a Ph.D. in history from Iowa State University. She teaches K-8 enrichment and 6th grade religion at St. Mary Parish Catholic School in Derby, Kansas.