| The word “consecrate” originated in 14th century Middle English from the Latin word “consecratus” which translates “to make sacred” (Merriam-Webster, 2009).
This term has been, and is used in a number of ways by the Catholic Church to label and describe a number holy acts that are performed. Both people and objects can be consecrated. A different perspective to take on these acts is that they are “the setting apart for the service of God of both persons and objects” (Wikipedia, 2009).
The consecratory act that Catholics are probably most familiar with, and the one that is most important, is the consecration of the host, during Holy Mass, into the Body of Christ and that of wine into His Blood. This act is further defined by the Church as “transubstantiation” (Catechism, 1994, Para. 1376). By this, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, not only makes these substances sacred, but literally turns them into the Body and Blood of our Lord. The Council of Trent, in the 16th century reaffirmed “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His Body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood” (Catechism, 1994, Para. 1376).
For centuries prior to the Second Vatican Council the ordination of bishops was referred to as an act of consecration. Of course, the act remains unchanged today, however, semantics being what they are, the act is now known as “episcopal ordination” (Wikipedia, 2009). Any person who enters religious life through the acceptance of religious vows are said to be living a “consecrated life” (Wikipedia, 2009). An example of a group of women leading a consecrated life are those living under the rite of consecrated virgins. In fact, there is the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins. This rite dates back to the 4th century (Wikipedia, 2009).
As mentioned, objects besides bread and wine are also consecrated. Water is blessed through an act of consecration to make Holy Water. The altar, the chalices, just about any object used in the celebration of the Holy Mass is consecrated (Wikipedia, 2009). In addition, objects distributed to the faithful, including rosary beads, scapulars, and bibles can also be consecrated by a priest upon request.
In essence, any act of consecration is a special blessing handed down by God, through his ministers, that provides graces for those receiving this blessing or using any object having been blessed.
Catechism of the catholic church. (1994). New York, NY: William H. Sadlier, Inc.
Consecrated. (2009). Retrieved March 18, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consecrated
Consecration. (2009). Retrieved March 18, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consecration