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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.

 

 

Apostle of the Two Hearts

Apostle of the Two Hearts

“You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary.”

– St John Eudes

(Statue depicting Saint John Eudes in the central nave of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome)

In her writings and memoirs, Sister Lucia of Fatima records that in the years following the ‘public’ appearances of Our Lady at Fatima, she received a number of further messages and revelations. Amongst these was one in 1932, during which the Lord Jesus told her that He wished the Church “to place devotion to this Immaculate Heart alongside devotion to My Sacred Heart”

This was not, in fact, a new call – as far back as the middle of the Seventeenth Century, one man had been making precisely the same request, with varied degrees of success. That man was Father John Eudes, a French Priest who would later be declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925; and since then, there have been calls to have Saint John Eudes declared a Doctor of the Church. Indeed, in 2017, a dossier compiled by the Eudists and supported by the Episcopal Conferences of seven different nations, was given to our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Father Eudes was initially a Priest of the Congregation of the Oratory of Jesus and Mary Immaculate – the Oratorians– who were founded by Cardinal de Bérulle and influential in the French Schoolof spirituality. He preached numerous missions and tended to the victims of plague. Father Olier, founder of the Sulpicians, later called him “the prodigy of his age”. Father Eudes was very concerned at the need for spiritual improvement for Priests, because of which he founded a number of seminaries, where future Priests could be appropriately trained. He also founded a number of confraternities in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, receiving Papal recognition and blessing in the process.

As his work progressed, he saw a need to work with prostitutes and so in 1641, he founded a religious congregation called the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, receiving diocesan approval and, finally, Papal approval in 1666.

In 1643, Father Eudes left the Oratorians and established the Congregation of Jesus and Mary – not a religious order but a ‘society of apostolic life’– later to become known as the Eudists, whose principal works are giving missions and the training of Priests.

His spirituality was greatly influenced by the French school, by the writings of St Francis de Sales, and by the revelations given to St Gertrude and St Mechtilde by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This devotion to the Sacred Heart was, at that time, very much a private devotion; Father Eudes wanted it to become an established part of the Church as a whole. To this end, he wrote several Masses in honour of the Sacred Heart, and these were eventually accepted and became widely known. It was for this reason that proclaiming his heroic virtue in 1903 as part of the process leading to canonisation, Pope St Leo XIII called him the“author of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the holy Heart of Mary”.

At his beatification in 1908, Pope Pius X said –

“But his services to the Church received a vast increase when, burning with a singular love for the most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, he was the first to think, not without some divine inspiration, of offering to Them liturgical worship.”

During the course of his life, Father Eudes wrote widely on devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and his view was always that these two devotions were essentially one, and should always be together. His book, ‘The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God’, was the first work to address this. Hias written works gained some prominence during his life and much more afterwards, leading Cardinal Vives to note –

“I was acquainted with the Doctors of the Order of Saint Francis; I was acquainted with Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, the mystical writers of my own country, Spain; but I was completely ignorant of the writings of Father Eudes. As a member of the Sacred Congregation of Rites it was my duty to study his life and his works, and I am in admiration. Blessed John Eudes must be ranked with the great lights of the Church. His spiritual doctrine is profound and of wonderful exactitude. He is one of the writers who has best propounded the doctrine of the Gospel.”

In 1930, an anonymous Oblate of Mary Immacualte wrote a short book entitled ‘Devotion to the Immculate Heart of Mary’, in which there is this –

“It was reserved for Saint John Eudes to be the apostle and chief organiser of this special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must remark here, however, that in this holy man’s mind, the two Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were ever inseparable. For almost thirty years before the revelations of Saint Margaret Mary took place, Saint John had been an apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By word and work, he had laboured to spread that devotion throughout the Church of France..

As, in the divine plan, Mary prepares the way for Jesus, so also in the Church of God, devotion to the Heart of Mary prepared the way for devotion to the Sacred Heart. In Saint John’s view, the ultimate object of all devotion and love is the adorable Heart of our Saviour, but, the best means of attaining that object is the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. Wherefore, he first set to work to preach and organise devotion to the Heart of Mary. And of that devotion he is the apostle par excellence, for when he began in 1641 it was scarcely known, but when he died (1680), it existed in a flourishing condition in most of the dioceses of France.”

The feast of Saint John Eudes is celebrated today, 19th August.

Saint John Eudes, apostle of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, pray for us.

The Light From Her Hands

The Light From Her Hands

Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask Her for them.”

– Saint Jacinta Marto

The story of Fatima is a broad catechesis of the Catholic Faith.

The Angelic appearances in 1916 taught the children the reality of the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; of His desire for reparation for the sins committed against Him; of the value of penance and what it can achieve; and of the intense need for prayer.

The appearances of the Blessed Virgin emphasised the need for prayer, especially that of the Rosary; the revelation of the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart as a refuge for sinners, as expressly willed by God; of the effects of sin, in the order of nature as well as in the order of grace; and the reality of Hell with the subsequent the loss of many souls.

One of the details of Fatima, which we can easily overlook, reveals something else – another aspect of the Catholic Faith which, although not yet proclaimed dogmatically, nonetheless is a belief held by a great many of the faithful and also taught from time to time in the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. And it is this – that Mary, the Mother of God, is the Mediatrix of Grace. But how is this evidenced in the Fatima appearances?

The Blessed Virgin appeared to the three children in the Cova d’Iria on six different occasions, once each month.

Lucia tells us that She –

“was more brilliant than the sun and radiated a light more clear and intense than a crystal glass filled with sparkling water, when the rays of the burning sun shine through it”.

Lucia wrote that she and her two little cousins –

“were so close, just a few feet from Her, that we were bathed in that light which surrounded Her, or rather, which radiated from Her“.

During four of those monthly appearances, the beautiful Lady did something which – by nature of it’s repetition – was clearly important and held great meaning – She opened Her hands and transmitted a heavenly light.

On Her first appearance, on 13 May 1917, She told the children She was ‘from Heaven’, asked them to return monthly, and then asked if they would willingly suffer in reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners; the children gave their consent and the Lady said they would have much to suffer but would be comforted by the grace of God.

Lucia tells us the Lady then opened Her hands and, for the first time, She communicated an intense light which penetrated the children to their very souls, allowing them to see themselves in God, Who was that light. The experience was overwhelming and they fell to their knees and began to pray in praise of the Most Holy Trinity. The Lady then asked them to pray the Rosary every day and She disappeared.

At the second appearance, on 13 June 1917, the Lady promised to take Jacinta and Francisco to Heaven soon but added that Jesus wanted Lucia to remain on earth a while longer, to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Saddened to think she would have to remain alone, without her little cousins, the Lady told Lucia –

“Do not lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”

As She said this, She again opened Her hands and communicated the heavenly light for a second time. In this moment, the children saw themselves ‘immersed in God’- Jacinta and Francisco in the portion of light which rose toward Heaven, whilst Lucia was in the portain that was poured out upon the earth. Lucia noted afterwards that as this was taking place, they saw a Heart encircled by thorns which pierced it, and they understood this to be the Immaculate Heart of Mary, outraged terribly and seeking reparation.

On the third appearance, on 13 July 1917, Lucia asked the Lady to cure some people; She then said this –

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice, ‘O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary’.”

And then, for a third time, She opened Her hands and communicated the heavenly light. This time, it penetrated the earth, revealing a sea of fire which is Hell, in which there were both demons and human souls, the latter shrieking in pain and despair. The children looked to the Lady, who said –

“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..”

She went on to predict the end of the War but also the arrival of a second one if people did not listen to Her, and She then promised that in the end –

“My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

Finally, on the sixth appearance, on 13 October 1917, the Lady revealed Herself to be the ‘Lady of the Rosary’ before speaking one last time –

“Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already too much offended.”

 She then opened Her hands a fourth time, the light streaming from them and onto the Sun. And in the minutes which followed, the great Miracle of the Sun took place.

The entire message of Fatima is an echo for our times of the message of the Gospel – it is a call to believe in God and to adore Him; to see our sins and their effects; to do penance and to make reparation for them – not only for our own sins, but for the sins of others; and to this end, to pray – especially the Rosary – and to offer sacrifices; and all of this to be done as a mark and a means of interior conversion and of our turning back to God.

This Lady brighter than the sun who came to Fatima in 1917 radiated and transmitted a heavenly light, each time communicating graces to the three children. The Lady was not the sourceof the light, for the light is the Light of Christ, Her Son – He alone is the Light of the World (cf. John 8:12). But She is the purest Mirror of Divine Grace and so She reflects this heavenly light without blemish or spot, for She is entirely immaculate. This heavenly light is the grace of God and She is it’s Mediatrix.

As noted, this role of Mary as ‘Mediatrix of All Grace’ has not (yet) been declared a dogma of the Catholic Faith; however – and this is very important – it does already feature as part of the Ordinary Magisteriumof the Church. There have been calls since at least 1896 for this title to be declared dogmatically, and in 1921 the Holy See approved an annual feast to be celebrated in Belgium honouring the Blessed Virgin as ‘Mediatrix Of All Graces’. At the Second Vatican Council, the proposal was discussed but the decision was made not to proceed at that time and the Fathers noted clearly – and rightly – that “This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator”, which is perfectly correct. Calls for a dogmatic definition continue to this day.

It is worth noting, too, that when She appeared in 1830 to Saint Catherine Labouré to give the world the Miraculous Medal, the Blessed Virgin explained the streams of light radiating from Her hands and down upon the globe representing the world –

‘This is the symbol of the graces which will be poured out upon the persons who ask them of Me.’

Clearly, then, Heaven desires that graces be distributed by the Blessed Virgin according to Her good will and She has the freedom to dispense them as She wishes. If we ask Her for graces, She will obtain them for us.

Saint Jacinta Marto continued to see the Blessed Virgin after the public appearances at Fatima and she later said to Lucia –

“tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask Her for them”.

 This very young – and deeply holy – child had grasped clearly the meaning of the light radiating from the Blessed Virgin.

Other Saints before Jacinta also grasped this role of the Mother of God, including Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote –

“Jesus is the Mediator of justice; Mary obtains for us grace; for, as St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Germanus, St. Antoninus, and others say, it is the will of God to dispense through the hands of Mary whatever Graces He is pleased to bestow upon us. With God, the prayers of the saints are the prayers of His friends, but the prayers of Mary are the prayers of His Mother.”

 Pope Leo XIII had this to say in his 1891 encyclical on the Rosary, entitled ‘Octobri Mense’

“With equal truth may it also be affirmed that, by the will of God, Mary is the intermediary through whom is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ.”

 And Pope Paul VI, writing in April 1965 in his encyclical letter ‘Mense Maio’, said this –

“He (God) has appointed Mary most holy as the generous steward of His merciful gifts”.

Pope John Paul II spoke at some length on the subject of the mediation of Mary in his General Audience given on 1st October 1997 –

“Among the titles attributed to Mary in the Church’s devotion, chapter eight of Lumen Gentium recalls that of “Mediatrix”. Although some Council Fathers did not fully agree with this choice of title (cf. Acta Synodalia III, 8, 163-164), it was nevertheless inserted into the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church as confirmation of the value of the truth it expresses. Care was therefore taken not to associate it with any particular theology of mediation, but merely to list it among Mary’s other recognized titles. 

 Moreover the conciliar text had already described the meaning of the title “Mediatrix” when it said that Mary ‘by Her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation’ (Lumen gentium, n. 62). As I recalled in my Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: ‘Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with Her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures’ (n. 38). From this point of view it is unique in its kind and singularly effective.”

And so at Fatima, the Blessed Virgin used the imagery of the light streaming from Her hands as a reminder to us of Her particular role in God’s plan of Salvation; She mediates His divine graces to us as She chooses, for the Lord has willed that this be so. Her Immaculate Heart is moved with love for us and in this way reflects the love of the Sacred Heart of Her Son, with which Her own Immaculate Heart is singularly and intimately acquainted. And in doing all this, She reveals something of the desires of Heaven, and echoes the thinking and mind of the Church upon earth, which does indeed consider Her to be the Mediatrix of grace, even if that role has not – so far, at least – been dogmatically proclaimed.

Knowing all this, let us ask the intercession of this Immaculate Heart in obtaining for us all the graces we need.

 

 

Pray For Sinners

Pray For Sinners

The Mother of God has a definite love for poor sinners – which, of course, includes every single one of us.

At Her appearances at Lourdes in 1858, sinners were on Her mind – “Pray for poor sinners”, She told Bernadette. In the course of focussing on Lourdes as a place for the sick and for healing, we have perhaps lost sight of this particular message to some degree.

And again at Fatima, there was a very explicit focus on praying for sinners – indeed, it was to save them, She told the children, that God wished to establish the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

So why this focus on sinners? Why not the Holy Souls in Purgatory?

There is no doubt the Holy Souls are in need of our prayers in order to lessen their sufferings and to facilitate their entry into Heaven as soon as possible. But there is one crucial difference between the the Holy Souls and sinners; the eternal salvation of the Holy Souls is already assured – it is a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ they will reach Heaven. Sinners, on the other hand, have no such assurance – their ultimate end is not yet certain.

And this applies to all of us – for every one of us is a sinner in some way or another, and in need of prayer.

Our own prayer is necessary – prayer is the air that lets the souls breathe, and without which it will suffocate; but we also need the prayers of others, for these prayers draw down a torrent of divine graces. And in this way, we can be both the subject and the object of such prayers. Further, it is a work of mercy to pray for sinners – so long, of course, as we do so in humility and always with the reaslisation that we, too, are sinners and in need.

At some point today, may all of us offer even a brief prayer for a sinner somewhere. And somewhere, may a kind soul be offering a prayer for us.

 

A Century of Devotion

A Century of Devotion

Sister Lucia prays silently in front of a statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary given to her convent in Portugal.

In the grand scheme of things, one hundred years is really nothing at all – no more than a blink of an eye – although to us, it is more than the length of most human lives. During these past one hundred and two years, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has become well established in the world. That isn’t to say that it is as established as it should or could be, certainly, but it is definitely more so than before that point of time.

This devotion was already present in the world long before the events of Fatima in 1917. In fact, the devotion has gradually been gathering momentum over the last four hundred years or so, aided by various holy souls and a few great Saints, including St John Eudes in France.

But there can be no doubt that the apearances of the Mother of God at Fatima gave this devotion a very strong impetus; similarly. Her later appearances to Sister Lucia in the convent, at Pontevedra in Spain, gave much more detail about what the devotion consists of – the twin aspects of consecration to the Immaculate Heart by the Pope in union with the Bishops, and personal devotion in the form of the Communions of Reparation. And then the vision of the Most Holy Trinity, given to Sister Lucia in the convent in Tuy, Spain, was the moment in which Heaven announced it’s desire that the Consecration be made by the Church. Ever slow, we did not respond until 1984, when the Consecration was finally made by Pope Joihn Paul and accepted by Heaven.

Nowadays, many local Churches practice the Communions of Reparation, also kown as ‘the Five First Saturdays’. However, these Churches are the exception rather than the rule – there is a long way to go yet before we can claim to have done what Our Lady asked us to do. And I think this is perhaps a large part of the reason why we have not yet seen the triumph of the Immculate Heart of Mary, which She promised to Sister Lucia. I think, too, that the moment for this triumph, well-planned by Heaven, has not yet come. Our Lord told Lucia that He wanted this triumph to be clearly attributable to His Mother – while that moment draws ever nearer, it is not yet here quite yet.

And so, all we can to is to live out this devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and encourage others to follow our example. We may never see the triumph, but we will have done as She asked of us, and this will draw down a great many graces for souls and will help with our sanctification.

 

 

In Her Honour

In Her Honour

One hundred and two years ago today, on 13th July 1917, Our Lady appeared for the third time in the Cova d’Iria at Fatima, Portugal.

On this occasion the beautiful Lady from Heaven revealed several things to the three children, which were then referred to as ‘secrets’.

Amongst these, was the revelation of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary –

“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 so today, this website is inaugurated and is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that it might play a little part in what She described all those years ago at Fatima.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.