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United With the Holy Father

United With the Holy Father

“I saw the Holy Father in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language. Poor Holy Father, we must pray very much for him.”

– Saint Jacinta Marto

EDITORIAL

One of the dangers of social media in our day is that we run the risk of believing everything we read. Of course, not everything we read online is actually true, and so we need to exercise a degree of discernment – checking facts and the (apparent) sources of quotations and of claims made, and placing things in context rather than simply accepting them at face value.

We also need to exercise prudence in our online responses; it is all too easy to read something and immediately respond to it. I know from bitter personal experience that this is often the wrong thing to do, and can be regretted at a later moment. If this is a danger for the average person, how much more of a danger can it be if we present ourselves as ‘Christian’ or ‘Catholic’ to the online community.

A particular feature of the present day is the tendency to criticise the Pope; whilst the Holy Fathers have always been sport for the written and spoken barbs of others, those others were generally – in days past, at least – outside of the Catholic Faith.

In the present time, the real danger is coming from some who profess to be Catholic.

No doubt, most of these are well-intentioned  – but that does not lessen the damage they are capable of producing. While most of those who criticise and castigate the Holy Father may be well-intentioned, even if they get things wrong, we should be aware that there are also some whose intentions are decidely dark and nefarious, and others who will be used by those with dark intentions. Remember, our battle is – above all else – a spiritual one.

The damage caused by attacks on the Holy Father takes two forms.

The first form is the damage to the unity of the Church – how can we say we are members of the Catholic Church whilst our words and our hearts are openly in combat with the Shepherd who has been given the task of leading the Church? And when these people are Cardinals, Bishops, Priests or Deacons, or organisations describing themselves as ‘Catholic’ – what message does this send not only to those outside of the Church, but to her own members? Where is the unity? Where is the loyalty? Our Church is ONE, holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

The second form is the damage to ourselves – to our spiritual life and to our soul. Walking the path of criticism of the Pope carries with it the danger that, unchecked, we will eventually find ourselves distancing ourselves from the Church herself. After all, how can we remain in the Church if we believe she is heading in the wrong direction and is being led astray by the one whose very task it is to lead and govern her?

Have we no faith in the Lord, whose promise to Peter means that a Holy Father can never err in matters of faith or morals? Regardless of our thoughts on the person who is Pope at a given moment, still he is the Pope – and this demands our loyalty and the submission of our will and our religious intellect to his teaching magisterium – this includes not only his officially promulgated documents, but also the teaching he gives day after day. We might think a particular Pope has ‘got it wrong’ in some way – and if we do, we need to stop, take stock, check our ‘facts’ and then ask ourselves what is more likely: that the Pope is indeed wrong as we believe, or perhaps that our understanding is at issue. Or simply that what is being reported is either inaccurate or just not true. Stop and think for a moment – do you honestly believe that you know better than the Pope when it comes to the Catholic Faith? It takes docility, humility and charity to do this; but the effort will be well-rewarded.

How do we resolve this situation?

We need to pray and we need to TRUST in the Lord; it is His Church and His Mystical Body – and He has already promised that she will not go astray and will never be overcome by evil. That is our starting point – trust in the Lord. And the Holy Father of any given moment has been placed there by the Lord, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for a very good reason – regardless of whether or not we know (or understand) that reason. Again, we must TRUST the Lord. His divine will shall always prevail.

We also need to be prudent and discerning, as noted already. We should not automatically believe something that is reported as fact, nor should we be too quick to deliver a judgment, especially where this is negative. We ought also to remember the sin of calmuny, which is the damage to the reputation of another. This is a serious sin and one that is not always easily undone.

As Catholics, we are aware that our first aim is to make use of this life in order to reach Heaven, our true home – and to do all in our power to ensure we don’t arrive there alone, but assisting other souls to reach there too. Charity is, as the Lord said in the Gospel, something which covers a multitude of sins – and which may well tip the balance for us, one way or another, depending on how we have exercised it.

Our hope of reaching Heaven lies in our membership of – and communion with – the Church; she is designed precisely to get us to Heaven, her Sacraments assisting us greatly along the way, especially at those times when we fail in one way or another. But in order for this to happen, we need to be part of the Church – united to her in our will, our heart and our mind; and that means remaining united to the Holy Father.

So what do we need to do?

If you ‘like’ (for want of a better word) this particular Holy Father (or the next one, or the one after), then pray for him. Pray for him every single day – he needs our prayers.

And if you do not ‘like’ this (or any future) Holy Father – pray for him every single day. And if you find yourself in this latter category, these prayers will have greater merit because they will require a greater degree of charity, humility, docility and TRUST in the Lord.

May the Lord greatly bless our Holy Father Pope Francis. And may the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, smile upon him and keep him always close to Her Immaculate Heart.

 

 

Lucia and the First Saturdays

Lucia and the First Saturdays

“What is the Secret? I think I may reveal it, because I have permission from Heaven now.. Well, the Secret is comprised of three different parts, two of which I will go on to reveal. The first is the vision of Hell.. The second part of the Secret refers to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

– Sr Lucia

Sister Lucia in the Carmel at Coimbra, Portugal

On the second occasion on which she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Lucia asked the Lady to take her and her cousins to Heaven; the Lady replied –

“Yes. I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make Me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.”

As promised, the Blessed Virgin took the two younger children to Heaven within a short time; Francisco died on 30 April 1918, less than a year after the Appearances in the Cova, and Jacinta died on 20 February 1920. But Lucia had been told she would remain on the earth ‘some time longer’ – and that ‘some time longer’ mentioned by the Lady eventually turned out to be 88 years. Clearly, Lucia had a lot of work to do.

Lucia’s role upon the earth had three broad aims – to deliver the full and authentic Message of Fatima to the Church and to the world; to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart in the twin forms of the consecration of Russia  by the Church, and the establishment of the Five First Saturdays for everyone; and to live the life of a religious, in this way offering her life as one of prayer and sacrifice as her personal response to the Message.

For the purposes of this piece, I will confine myself to looking more closely at one of these points – the establishment of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, also known as the ‘Communions of Reparation’.

It is well known that Lucia would later write a series of Memoirs, recounting her experiences at the Cova and beyond, and these Memoirs are the primary and principal sources of information of the Appearances of Our Lady and of all that took place afterwards. Each Memoir was written under strict obedience to Lucia’s Bishop.

The first Memoir, written in December 1935, assumed the reader knew the basics of the story of Fatima, and so it did little more than mention the Appearances, focussing instead on the person of Jacinta.

The second Memoir was written two years later, in November 1937; it revealed – for the first time – the appearances of the Angel in 1916, but again said little about the Appearances of Our Lady.

The third Memoir was written in August 1941 – the Bishop had been convinced there was still more which Lucia had not yet revealed. It is in this Memoir that Lucia finally reveals much of the detail of what took place in the Cova, including the first two parts of the ‘Secret’ revealed by Our Lady. At the beginning of the Memoir, Lucia wrote –

“What is the Secret? I think I may reveal it, because I have permission from Heaven now.. Well, the Secret is comprised of three different parts, two of which I will go on to reveal. The first is the vision of Hell.. The second part of the Secret refers to the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Having witnessed the vision of Hell, Lucia then recounted in her Memoir what happened next –

 Shortly afterwards, we raised our eyes to Our Lady, who said with goodness and sadness: ‘You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart.. I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays’..”

Reading this third Memoir, Bishop Correia da Silva was even more convinced there was still more to be revealed, and so he commended Lucia to write a fourth Memoir, which she completed on 8 December 1941. It is this Memoir which provided the fullest information regarding the Angelic appearances and those of the Blessed Virgin.

Although the Memoirs are the primary source of material regarding Fatima, Lucia was also a prolific letter-writer and the majority of these letters are preserved. Many of these letters provide little nuggets of gold regarding particular aspects of the Appearances of Our Lady at Fatima and in the years afterward. Within a number of these letters, Lucia makes reference to the devotion of the Five First Saturdays.

The earliest mention of this devotion is in a letter from 1926 – just nine years after the Appearances – in which Lucia, living amongst the Sisters of St Dorothy in Pontevedra, writes to a Priest, Monsignor Lopes. She recounts that on three occasions, she had seen a very young boy, with whom she spoke, and to whom she taught a short prayer. At their third meeting, Lucia asked the boy a question; in response, he replied –

“And have you spread throughout the world, that which the Heavenly Mother asked you to?”

Lucia realised the child was Jesus. They spoke about the Five First Saturdays and Lucia explained about some difficulties, including the limitations experienced by Lucia’s Mother Superior – to this the Lord replied that although alone she could do nothing, “with My grace, everything will be achieved”. Lucia also mentioned that her confessor said many souls already did something similar, receiving Communion on fifteen Saturdays in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Jesus responded –

“It is true, daughter, that many souls begin them, but few finish them. And those that do finish them, do so with the intention of receiving the graces that have been promised. Those who do the five with fervour and for the intention of making reparation to the Heart of their Heavenly Mother are more pleasing to Me, than those who do the fifteen, lukewarm and indifferent.”

Lucia then asked about the difficulties some souls had in being able to go to Confession as part of the devotion, asking the Lord’s permission to extend the time for the Confession, which He very kindly granted, on the proviso that when receiving Him in Holy Communion on the Saturday, they are in the state of grace.

The following year, 24 July 1927, Lucia wrote to her mother and with the letter, she enclosed a holy card on which were written the details of the Five First Saturdays devotion. Referring to this, Lucia wrote –

“I would also love that my mother would give that consolation of embracing a devotion that I know is pleasing to God, and that was asked for by our dear Heavenly Mother.. I hope, moreover, that my mother will reply to me, saying that you have done so, and are going to get all the people who go there (to Fatima) also to embrace it. You could not give me a greater consolation than that.. Console our Heavenly Mother in this way, and try to get many others to console Her also. Then you will be giving me profound happiness.”

It is clear, then, that from very early on, Lucia is focussed on beginning to establish this devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the form of the Five First Saturdays.

In November of the same year, 1927, Lucia wrote to her Godmother, who had recently returned home from Lourdes –

“I don’t know if you are as yet aware of the devotion of reparation of the Five Saturdays to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But since it is as yet something new, I thought of informing you about it, as something asked for by our dear Heavenly Mother, and on account of Jesus having shown a wish that it be embraced. For this reason, I think that my Godmother will be so happy not only to have got knowledge of it, so that she can give Jesus the consolation of practising it; but also to get it known and embraced by many other people. It consists of the following..”

One month later, Lucia wrote a letter at the command of her confessor, Fr José da Silva, giving detail on how she had asked if she had heavenly permission to reveal more about the origin of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart, or if was to remain part of the Secret. Praying before the Tabernacle, Lucia heard these words from the Lord –

“Daughter, write whatever they ask you; and everything that the Most Holy Virgin revealed to you, in the apparition in which She spoke of this devotion. Write about that also. As for the rest of the Secret, continue in silence.”

It is in this letter that Lucia describes the vision  which had been promised at Fatima in July 1917. Lucia describes it in this way, whilst writing about herself in the third person –

“On December 10 1925, there appeared to her the Most Holy Virgin, and by Her side, on a luminous cloud, a Child. The Most Holy Virgin, putting a hand on her shoulder, showed her, at the same time, a Heart ringed with thorns, that She held in Her other hand. At the same time, the Child said: ‘Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, that is covered in thorns, which ungrateful men at every moment stick in It, without there being anyone t make an act of reparation to take them out’.

Then the Most Holy Virgin said: ‘Look, My daughter, at My Heart surrounded with thorns, which ungrateful men at every moment pierce Me, with blasphemies and ingratitude. Let you, at least, strive to console Me, and tell all those who during five months, on the first Saturday, go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, say a Rosary and keep Me company for fifteen minutes, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, for the intention of making reparation to Me, I promise to assist them at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.”

This same letter goes on to note a further heavenly revelation, two months later, on 15 February 1926 –

“The Child Jesus appeared to her again. He asked if she had spread the devotion to His Most Holy Mother.”  

Writing to Fr Gonçalves four years later, on 29 May 1930, Lucia once more explains the requirements for the devotion of the Five First Saturdays and she wonders if “in compliance with this little devotion the graces of forgiveness will be given to the souls who have had the misfortune to offend the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

Responding to her, Father Gonçalves wrote asking her some very specific questions about the devotion of the Five First Saturdays – the occasion and circumstances in which the devotion was requested; the specific requirements of the devotion; the graces attached to the devotion; why it is ‘five’ Saturdays; and any exemptions to the specific requirements. Lucia was asked to reply in writing. She did so on 6 June 1930, noting that –

“I am going to answer, as far as I am able, Your Reverence’s questions, regarding the devotion of the Five Saturdays”.

Lucia then gave the details of the visions she had been granted – these took place on 10 December 1925 in the cell of her convent in Pontevedra, being repeated later in the yard, near the gate. She explained the reasons for the request for five Saturdays –

“Remaining in the Chapel, with Our Lord, part of the night of the 29th-30th of that month of May, 1930, and talking to Our Lord about the fourth and fifth questions” (of those posed by Fr Gonçalves) “I suddenly felt possessed more intimately by the Divine Presence; and if I am not mistaken, the following was revealed to me: ‘Daughter, the motive is simple: there are five kinds of offences and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary; blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception; against Her virginity; against the Divine Maternity, refusing, at the same time, to receive Her as the Mother of mankind; those who seek publicly to implant, in the hearts of children, indifference, disrespect, and even hate for this Immaculate Mother; those who revile Her directly in Her sacred images.

Here, dear daughter, is the motive that led the Immaculate Heart of Mary to petition Me to ask for this small act of reparation. And, out of regard for Her, to move My mercy to pardon these souls who have had the misfortune to offend Her. As for you, seek endlessly, with your prayers and sacrifices, to move My mercy in regard to these poor souls’.”

This letter provides not only the earthly origin of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, but also the heavenly origin of the devotion – it was at the express request of the Blessed Virgin to Her Son; ever mindful of the task given Her at the foot of the Cross, She proves Herself the sweetest and most loving of mothers, even seeking the forgiveness of those who offend Her directly. This motherly concern is a practical reflection of the look of intense sadness upon Her face as She showed the children the vision of Hell, into which the souls of so many poor sinners fall.

Lucia wrote again to Fr Gonçalves on 28 October 1934. In this letter, she noted that the Bishop of Leiria “has promised me to begin, in the coming year, promoting the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.

Just to be sure that she was fulfilling the task given to her, Lucia wrote this in a further letter to Fr Gonçalves, on 26 May 1935 –

“..I wrote to His Lordship the Bishop, reminding him of the promise that he had made initiating, this year, the publication of the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.. If, in order to give some kind of impetus to the devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you wish to discuss some point with the Rev. Fr. Aparicio, feel completely free to do so.”

Fr Gonçalves later wrote to the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, in 1937. In his letter, he noted the request of Lucia that he do so and he outlined both the request for the Consecration of Russia and for the approval and recommendation of the devotion of the Five First Saturdays, giving the requirements of the devotion and the reasons for it.

On 2 December 1940, Lucia wrote – under religious obedience – to the Holy Father, Venerable Pope Pius XII. In her letter, Lucia spoke explicitly about both the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and also the Five First Saturdays devotion, noting that –

“..this remained a secret until 1926 according to the express will of Our Lady. Then, in a revelation She asked that the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months be propagated throughout the world..”.

Having considered all of this, a number of facts have become clear to us.

In July 1917, during the ‘public’ appearances at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin spoke of the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and She promised to return later to request the two acts of which this devotion was essentially comprised – the Consecration of Russia and the reparative devotion of the Five First Saturdays. At that time, however, everything relating to this was to remain part of the Secret.

Appearing again in 1925, the Blessed Virgin announced the time had come for Her to request the devotion of the First Saturdays. The following year, the Lord also called for the devotion.

It is most noteworthy that it was revealed by the Lord that the original request for the devotion came from the Blessed Virgin Herself, concerned for those unfortunate enough to directly offend Her in the ways already mentioned.

It was only after receiving the explicit permission from Heaven that Lucia began to make reference to the devotion, gradually fleshing out the detail regarding the requirements of the devotion and also the reasons behind it. Her references to the devotion became more explicit as time passed and she did all in her power to encourage those with whom she had contact to embrace the devotion and also to encourage others to do likewise. Bearing in mind that she was living a religious life enclosed in a convent, her interactions with others outside the convent were necessarily limited – however, she did have contact (mainly by letter) with her family and with various Priests, and so these become the first recipients of the news about this devotion, and they would become it’s first apostles.

Sister Lucia, shortly after her death in 2005.

Now, the devotion of the Five First Saturdays is very well known, at least by those who known the essentials of the Message of Fatima; however, it needs to be better known, and by far more people.

Even now, this devotion – intended to save souls from the fires of Hell and to lead them on the path of sanctity – is practised only by a few souls and in only a few places, even though the ideal would be for it to be well-established and well-practised in every Catholic parish. Until then, the warnings of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima should remain of great concern to every one of us, for they are of great concern.

Throughout the 88 years of that ‘some time longer’, Lucia did all she could to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; this was the task given to her by the Blessed Virgin. Sister Lucia completed her earthly life in 2005.

And now, the rest is up to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If What I Say Is Done

If What I Say Is Done

“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

– Our Lady of Fatima, 13th July 1917

The Blessed Virgin, throughout the history of the Church, has always been solicitous for our eternal salvation. The first seeds of this maternal care are seen at the Wedding at Cana, recounted in the second chapter of the Gospel of Saint John. In this account, the Lord and His Mother attend a wedding celebration and Mary notices that the wine had run short. With great economy of words, She says to Her Son, “They have no wine”. These words lead to the first public miracle performed by the Lord. For this to occur, She then says to the servants – “Do whatever He tells you”. She invites their co-operation in order that the miracle might take place.

Similarly, in all Her appearances upon the earth which have been approved by the Church, She does precisely the same thing – She invites our co-operation so that miracles of grace and of nature might take place.

At Her third appearance at Fatima in 1917, the Blessed Virgin told the children –

“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

What had She said, that She wished done?

Moments before, She had shown the three children a brief vision of Hell, where they witnessed the poor souls of the damned and, alongside them, the demons tormenting them, all wailing in horror and despair. Then, looking very sad, She told the little ones –

“You have seen Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

Note that Her words are conditional – “if”.

God has given humanity the gift of free will and He never oversteps this divine gift. We are free to follow His commandments or not, as we choose – but must acept the consequences of our choices. In the same way, they Mother of God also entirely respects our free will. She invites our co-operation but She does not force it.

Here at Fatima, She outlines what will happen if we follow Her motherly advice and She tells the children what will happen if we do not heed Her warning –

“If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church, The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”

‘If’. It is such a little word, and yet so very much depends upon it.

Looking back from the present day to that summer day in 1917, it is patently clear that we – humanity – have responded so poorly to this motherly call. As Our Lady predicted, Russia – representing atheistic communism – did indeed spread so many of her errors throughout the world, and those wars and persecutions occurred; even now, we live with the effects of them, although that regime of atheistic communism has gone, since the requested Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was eventually made by the Holy Father in 1984. But it took 67 years for the Consecration to be made – and how much happened in those intervening years!

People ask why the predicted Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has not yet taken place. The answer is very simple. That Triumph was dependent on two things, which together form the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady spoke explicitly about this –

“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communions of Reparation on the First Saturdays.”

‘And’. Another very small word, but with much dependent upon it.

So we see there are two distinct aspects to properly undertaking this Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The first was the Consecration made by the Holy Father in union with the Bishops, done in 1984 – this was the response required of the Church, and that response has been given and has been accepted by Heaven.

The second is the Communions of Reparation, more commonly referred to as the ‘Five First Saturdays’ – this is the response required of every single one of us. And when sufficient numbers respond to the request of the Mother of God, then the Triumph will follow.

As at Cana, the Mother of the Lord asks us to do as She requests; She does not demand, for we are free to accept or to reject Her requests. But as we have seen, each particular choice of ours carries with it a consequence.

 

The Angel of Fatima

The Angel of Fatima

“Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High! .. the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications”

– the Angel of Fatima, 1916

The events of Fatima did not begin in May 1917, but in the Spring of 1916, more than a year before the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During that year, an Angel appeared to the children on three successive occasions. The Angelic appearances were designed to prepare the children for the great mission which the Lady of the Rosary would later give them; these appearances would serve to develop within Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, a sense of the divine and a great love of prayer and sacrifice – all of which would be required later on. And so, from the earliest days of the events at Fatima, the themes of prayer and penance were already forming a core element of what would eventually become the Message of Fatima, developed by the Blessed Virgin.

The Angel of Peace appeared to the children in the Spring of 1916, teaching them how to pray with great reverence; the prayer he taught them had as it’s foundation the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, so-called because these particular virtues relate directly to God Himself;

“My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.”

As well as these virtues, the prayer had as it’s focus both the adoration of God and supplication for those who do not adore Him; in other words, the prayer had a distinct reparative focus.

Appearing again to the children during the summer, the Angel told them –

“Pray! Pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High! Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”

What is clear from these first two appearances is that the Angel focussed on our primary duty – to love and adore God; and then on our secondary duty – to love our neighbour as ourself. And, as pointed out by the Angel, we can do this by offering prayers and sacrifices on behalf of our neighbour. This is an echo of the words of the Lord in the Gospel when asked what is the greatest commandment.

The third appearance of the Angel, in the autumn of 1916, reminds us very explicitly to Whom we are offering our prayers and sacrifices, and the reasons for doing so. The Angel taught the children this prayer –

“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the most precious Blody, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners”.

Now we have come to the crux of the matter. God, Who is entirely deserving and desirous of our love and adoration, is not always loved and adored; and He is particularly mistreated in the Holy Eucharist – sometimes through direct actions, and at other times through sheer indifference. And because of this, the Lord seeks reparation from us – not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others. He desires that we atone and ask Him for the grace of conversion for sinners – mindful always that we, too, are sinners who are in need of on-going conversion.

In case there was any uncertainty about what was being sought, the Angel then gave the children Holy Communion, telling them as he did so –

“Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men and women. Repair their crimes and console your God”.

 Writing about all of this many years later, Sister Lucia offered her reflections on this part of the Message of Fatima, and especially the theme of offering sacrifices on behalf of sinful humanity –

“Sacrifice is the bulwark of our prayer, it is the power that sustains it. First, the sacrifice of ourselves, of our illegitimate pleasures, the renunciation of our sinful appetites derived from our sensuality, egoism, self-indulgence, ambition. Then, the sacrifices voluntarily accepted and sought in order to offer them to the Lord as a humble offering of our love and gratitude. It is to this prayer and these sacrifices that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive, in order to carry them to the Father, as the on-going fruit of His redeeming work, for the salvation of the whole of humanity”.

When we think about it carefully, these words provide something of a masterclass on what the Second Vatican Council would later refer to as ‘the universal call to holiness’ – a theme echoed by all of our recent Popes. It also gives us very clear directives on how best to respond to the overall Message of Fatima given by the Blessed Virgin. During Her appearances in 1917, She would tell us about the results of doing as She requested – and She would also warn us about the effects of not heeding Her requests.

‘Sacrifice’ is a word that often scares us – how on earth can we make sacrifices? Of what should they consist? For all of us, the most fundamental form of sacrifice is our acceptance of our daily duty. This will be different for each of us, depending upon our state in life; but the lives of so very many Saints show us that our daily duty is the simplest path to true sanctity, for it contains all we need to become holy.

One great example of this is Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who lived a perfectly ordinary life within an enclosed convent doing ‘nothing very much’ (as some of her fellow sisters described it) – and yet, doing all things, even the least, with great love of God and of souls. By doing so, she developed her ‘Little Way’ and became a great Saint. So can we.

Our acceptance of our daily duty, carried out with great love in even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant of acts, is the way of holiness. Some of us will be called to do great things, certainly – but most will be called to do very little things, but we must do them with great love. Remember those three theological virtues of faith, hope and love; and the greatest of them is love. At the end of our lives, love is what we will be judged on, as the Saints remind us. God desires that we show our love for Him and for our neighbour, as the Lord tells us in the Gospel.

Another way of describing our embrace of daily duty is encapsulated in some other words of the Lord which we read in the Gospel –

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mt.16:24).

Is this not the embrace of our daily duty? Is this not what made the little Thérèse so great? Is it not precisely the secret of how Jacinta and Francisco advanced so greatly in sanctity in such a very short time, and were raised to the honours of the Altar despite their very tender ages? Is it not the very example lived out by Sister Lucia from the days in the Cova to her death in Carmel in 2005? Is it not, then, exactly what is asked of us, too? Like these holy ones, we should continually and faithfully take up the little crosses which form our daily duty, as this provides us with a means to great sanctity.

Pope Francis comments on this idea at some length in his beautiful document ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’ (‘On The Call To Holiness In Today’s World’). In this, he speaks not only about ‘the Saints who encourage and accompany us’ but also about ‘the saints next door’. We are all called to be those ‘saints next door’. The Holy Father gives us excellent examples of ways of achieving this even in the midst of the most ordinary and mundane of lives – the same lives that many of us lead day after day.

The Message of Fatima, begun by the Angel in 1916, then developed and refined by the Mother of God in 1917, and lived out heroically by the children of Fatima as an example for all of us, is addressed to each and every one of us.

How, then, will we respond to this Message?

 

At Her Request

At Her Request

“Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and to bear with submission the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?”

– Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 1917

It is a curious thing that on coming to Fatima in 1917, the Blessed Virgin did not make any demands of the three children to whom She appeared. Rather, She made certain requests of them – and, by extension, these requests are addressed to all of us, since Her message was for the entire world.

The three Angelic apprearances the year before had prepared the children for the visits of Our Lady – these visits were something like a farmer tilling the unfurrowed earth, preparing it before the seed is laid, that the harvest might be bountiful. The visits of the Angel opened the hearts of the children to the grace of God, making them understand the need, the nature and the value of prayer and of suffering; and in this way, he began to prepare them for the message the Mother of God would bring. In the course of these Angelic visits, the children progressed rapidly along the path of holiness – that same path to which each and every one of us is called. They began to practice the love of God and submission to His will – expressed through prayer, sacrifice and charity – to an heroic degree.

At the first apparition, in May 1917, the Blessed Virgin told the children She was ‘from Heaven’ and then asked if they were willing to offer themselves to God, to willingly accept whatever sufferings He chose to send them, as an act of reparation and in supplication for sinners. Having received the initial consent of Her chosen ones, the Blessed Virgin promised that the grace of God would be their comfort amid all that would follow. She then opened Her hands and communicated to them an intense light, allowing them to see themselves in God, Who was that light.

As the next few months progressed, the Lady from Heaven would explain more about the reasons for coming to earth – She showed them the reality of Hell, asking the children to pray for the conversion of sinners so that they might avoid the punishments of Hell; She gave the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, promising that by this means, many souls would be saved and there would be peace; and She promised to return later on, in order to say more about the two forms which devotion to Her Immaculate Heart would take. These two forms were the Collegial Consecration of Russia by the Holy Father in union with the Bishops; and the Communions of Reparation, commonly known as the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. She also promised that “in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph”. And throughout every single appearance, She requested the prayerful recitation of the Rosary.

As Queen of Heaven, sent on behalf of Almighty God to Fatima, why does She request our co-operation rather than demanding it? The short answer is this – She does so for precisely the same reason that in the Gospel, the Lord – Her Son – requests us to “repent and believe the Good News” rather than demanding that we do so.

God gives us free will and He absolutely respects our use of it. This is why the Blessed Virgin, speaking to the children at Fatima about Hell, and showing them a vision of it, said that “many souls” go to Hell. God has not condemned these souls to Hell; rather, they have condemned themselves by means of the choices they have made in life and by being outwith the friendship of God in their last moments. God desires the damnation of no-one – He made us “to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and to be with Him forever in the next”, as the Simple Catechism once put it. And it is precisely because God desires the damnation of no soul that He sent the Blessed Virgin to Fatima, with Her message of prayer, sacrifice and reparation. And in the same way that people were free to accept or reject the words of the Lord during His earthly life, so we, today, are similarly free to accept or reject the message of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima.

People ask why the world continues merrily on it’s way of sin, and the answer is very simple, whilst also very sad – it is because not enough people have taken to heart the message of Fatima; not enough souls are living that message given to us by the Mother of God.  The Church was asked by the Mother of God to make the Act of Consecration, and this was finally done by the Holy Father  in union with the Bishops, in March 1984, and it was accepted by Heaven, as Sister Lucia attested firmly and clearly on a number of occasions. And so the Church has done her part.

But the Blessed Virgin also asked us – each and every one of us – to do our part, too. Knowing this, why are so few people making the Communions of Reparation each first Saturday? Why are so few praying the Rosary every day? Why are so few people visiting the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament and making acts of reparation to Him? Remember, She promised that the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart would be a means of salvation for many souls and would bring peace. And so now, it is up to all of us.

Still, God respects the free will He gave us; as noted already, we are free to accept or to reject the message brought by the Mother of God, who requests us to pray, to make sacrifices, to amend our lives and to cease offending God.

The choice is ours. But we need to be clear – there are consequences to whatever choice we make.

 

The Thorns in Her Heart

The Thorns in Her Heart

“Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment; and there is no-one to make an act of reparation to remove them”

– Our Lord to Sister Lucia of Fatima

One of the most painful things a child can hear is for a loving parent to express disappointment; to feel we have in some way let down the one who loves us, and whom we love in return, is a heavy burden upon the heart. It is far worse than a parent simply being angry with us – anger usually passes quickly, once the emotions cool down and rational thought returns. Disappointment, however, tends to linger – it is not the result of a single moment, but a realisation whose cut ever deepens as the moments pass. It is a wound upon not one heart, but two.

How much worse, then, when the one complaining to us is none other than the Lord – and the Heart to which He refers, the wounded Heart, is that of His own Mother. I can only begin to imagine how painful it must have been for Sister Lucia to listen to this pitiful complaint from the Lord. Sister Lucia was deeply devoted to the Lord and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the events at Fatima in 1917 instilling within her a love of that Immaculate Heart which would remain with her in every moment of her earthly life.

Of course, the words of the Lord regarding this wounding of the Heart of His Mother are really addressed to every single one of us – to those of us who profess to love Him and the Blessed Virgin; to those of us who have no sense of love towards Them; to those of us who – directly or indirectly, deliberately or without thinking, offend Them in whatever way by our sins.

Every sin is a thorn piercing the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Why? Because She knows full well the price Her Son paid for our ransom from those sins. It cost Him everything, giving His life for us upon the Cross; and She stood there beside that Cross and watched Him die for us. As surely as His Sacred Heart was pierced by the lance in the order of nature, so was Her Immaculate Heart pierced by the sword of sorrow in the order of grace, such was Her mystical union to His Passion and Death.

Coming to Lucia in 1925, the Blessed Virgin complained of the offences committed against Her Immaculate Heart –

“Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude.”

Returning four years later, She would say to Lucia –

“There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I have come to ask reparation; sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.”

How then, are we to make reparation to this motherly and Immaculate Heart, so outraged by the sins of humanity?

The full message of Fatima gives us the answer.

Firstly, we need to stop offending God, recognising that our sins gravely offend His holiness. We need to improve the way we live, so that our lives reflect our belief in God and the values of the Gospel. Our Blessed Lady will help us in this, if we ask her assistance.

Secondly, we need to live a sacramental life – making frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion as often (and as worthily) as possible.

Thirdly, we need to pray as much (and as well) as possible. Prayer is the key that unlocks the Heart of God, the bridge that connects the human to the Divine. Above all, pray the Rosary every single day – the prayer of the Rosary is unbelievably powerful; this is why the Mother of God constantly asks us for it’s prayerful recitation.

Fourthly, we need to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament – follow the example of Saint Francisco, who spent hours before the Tabernacle, praying hard for souls. In Eucharistic Adoration, the Lord grants us innumerable graces – for us and for others.

Fifthly, we need to expressly make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – sins comitted against Her are the cause of the loss of a great many souls. We also need to encourage others, by our example, to come to Her, to know her better and to love Her with the pure love of little children. She has already given us the particular way She recommends in order to do this – the devotion of the Five First Saturdays. Undertake this devotion over and over again.

Sixthly, we need to embrace our particular lives, and the daily duty this demands, as a path to holiness; it is where we are, that we will find the way to Heaven, for here the Lord has prepared for us all the graces we need. Offer everything as a sacrifice in reparation for sins and to beg God’s mercy and grace for souls, and especially for poor sinners – that is, every single one of us.

In doing all of this, day after day, in humility and with great love, may the Lord bless us and may His Mother grant us the sure refuge of Her Immaculate Heart in life and at the moment of death.