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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?

 

New Marian Feast

New Marian Feast

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has today instituted a new Marian feast day – the optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto, to be celebrated on 10th December each year.

The text of the official promulgation of the new feast is given below and the official Notification is available on the Vatican website.

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Prot. N. 404/19

DECREE

on the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto
to be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar

Since the Middle Ages veneration for the Holy House of Loreto has been the origin of that particular shrine which still today is visited by many faithful pilgrims in order to nourish their faith in the Word of God made flesh for us.

This shrine recalls the mystery of the Incarnation, leading all those who visit it to consider “the fullness of time”, when God sent his Son, born of a woman, as well as to meditate both on the words of the Angel announcing the Good News and on the words of the Virgin in response to the divine call.  Overshadowed by the Spirit, the humble handmaid of the Lord so became the dwelling-place of divinity, the purist image of the holy Church.

Closely bound to the Apostolic See this shrine, praised by Popes and known throughout the world, has, over the years and no less than Nazareth in the Holy Land, been able to illustrate powerfully the evangelical virtues of the Holy Family.

In the Holy House, before the image of the Mother of the Redeemer and of the Church, Saints and Blesseds have responded to their vocation, the sick have invoked consolation in suffering, the people of God have begun to praise and plead with Mary using the Litany of Loreto, which is known throughout the world.  In a particular way all those who travel via aircraft have found in her their heavenly patron.

In light of this, Pope Francis has decreed, by his own authority, that the optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on 10 December, the day on which the feast falls in Loreto, and celebrated every year.  This celebration will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of that perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the Head of the Church also accepted us as her own.

Therefore the new memorial must appear in all Calendars and Liturgical Books for the celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the relative texts are attached to this decree and their translations, approved by the Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.

Anything to the contrary nothwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 7 October 2019, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary.

Robert Cardinal Sarah
Prefect

          + Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

 

Those Two Moments

Those Two Moments

If men only knew what eternity is, they would make all possible efforts to amend their lives”

– Saint Jacinta Marto

Human life in the 21st century often tends to focus on the ephemeral, the transitory, and those things which we are entirely powerless to control in any way whatsoever. For example, we often find ourselves focussed on what has already been and gone – the past; and on what is still to be – the future. We are constantly worrying about the past and all it once contained, even though we have no way to bring it back or to change so much as a moment of it. All we can do is try to learn from it – understanding it as far as we are able to, and seeking to learn from what we have already done, so that we don’t repeat any mistakes we may have made in it. And we fret so greatly about the future, even though we have no idea whether or not we will still be alive tomorrow – or even by the end of today.

For Catholics, we mention these two specific moments every day, asking for help in them, but it may be that we don’t actually think about them, nor consider why they are important for us. What are they? In the prayer of the ‘Hail Mary’, we ask the Blessed Virgin –

“Pray for us now and at the hour of our death”

These are the two moments, and they are the only ones that really matter – ‘now’ (this very moment we are living in) and that final one, the ‘hour of our death’.

They are the only two moments in all of time that we can do anything about, which we can alter or change in any way. But to do the very best with these two moments, we need the help of the Mother of God, and so we pray to Her and ask Her to ‘pray for us now, and at the hour of our death’.

It is in this present moment that we can choose to accept or reject God and His divine will for us; we can choose God over ourselves, or ourselves over God (the other word for this latter choice is sin). If we consistently make a choice in either particular direction, it is likely that this will become something of a habit for us, so each and every moment – and all the opportunities for grace which it contains – is really, really important. Once this moment has gone, it will never, ever be repeated. And so as Catholics, we appreciate the great import attached to the right now; and not least of all, because any one of these present moments may be our last.

And that final moment, the ‘hour of our death’, is the most crucial one of all. Everything depends on that last moment, and on the state of our soul at that moment – that is, whether or not we are in the friendship of God. Our eternity depends upon it. In that last moment, we have the final chance to make a choice – for or against God. Also in that final moment, all the powers of darkness will bear down upon us, seeking to influence our choice so that we do not choose God, that we do not ask His mercy and grace, or that we despair of receiving it. And it is for this reason that we confidently entrust our final moment to the Mother of God, whom the Church calls ‘the Star of the Sea’, for She leads us safely home.

When next we pray the Hail Mary, let us take a moment, pause, and deeply consider why it is that we ask Her motherly help ‘now and at the hour of our death’. And then, let us ask for that help with real conviction.

 

The Daily Rosary

The Daily Rosary

“But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery .. it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become ‘genuine schools of prayer’. The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation.”

– St John Paul II, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’

Saint John Paul was greatly concerned that our communities as Christians should be founded and nourished by prayer, to such an extent that they might become “genuine schools of prayer”.

His reasons for this were fairly straight-forward.

It is easy to become knowledgeable about the Catholic Faith – anyone can pick up a book and learn what it is we believe as Catholics. Equally, it is just as easy to pick up any theological book and learn something about God. But knowledge is not the same as Faith. Knowledge is something we gather – it is information about a particular subject, whether the subject is God or anything else. But Faith is something quite different to this.

First and foremost, Faith is a gift, given freely to us by God. He desires that we know Him and so love Him. It is not something we get but something we receive.

Secondly, Faith is not about knowledge – it is about relationship. It is about a real person – Jesus Christ. It is about getting to know Him on a deep, personal and intimate level.

In other words, Faith is a living thing. It is like a little plant, which we need to cultivate carefully, tending the soil, adding nutrients, watering the plant, so that it might gradually grow and develop and bear good fruit for us.

This Faith is nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments and by prayer; these are the primary means by which we come to know the Lord, Who reveals Himself to us by these means. In the Word, we begin to learn Who the Lord is, what He tells us about Himself, and about the Father. The Catechism tells us –

“Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In Him He has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.65)

And in the Sacraments, the same Lord comes to us – through the particular graces of several of the Sacraments of the Church, and uniting Himself directly to us in the greatest Sacrament of all, Holy Communion, which the Church tells us is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (‘Lumen Gentium’, quoted in the Catechism, para.1324).

Prayer is the bridge that connects God and man, the human and the divine. Prayer is the opening of our hearts to God and to the action of His divine grace, and to His divine mercy. Prayer, which may seem like our approach to God, is actually our response to His approach to us.

Pope John Paul tells us that –

“Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon Her Heart, were always with Her, leading Her to reflect on the various moments of Her life at Her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which She recited uninterruptedly throughout Her earthly life.” (Rosarium, para.11)

The Holy Father then encourages us to imitate this contemplative quality of the Immaculate Heart of Mary –

“The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary’s own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer.” (Rosarium, para.12)

Explaining what he means by this, Pope John Paul goes on to say that –

“Mary’s contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance (zakar) as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation.”

Our own contemplation, then, is also this same type of remembering – we are making present in our hearts all the works and actions and revelations of God, and in remembering them in this way, we are giving thanks to God for them. Applying this sense to the prayer of the Rosary, the Holy Father goes on to add this –

“Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from Her to ‘read’ Christ, to discover His secrets and to understand His message. This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that She teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as She offers us the incomparable example of Her own ‘pilgrimage of faith’.” (Rosarium, para.14)

If Faith is about knowing God, about developing a deep and meaningful relationship with Him, then the Holy Father has proposed to us a most excellent means of doing so – the prayer of the Rosary; there, with Mary, we remember the works of the Lord in our contemplation; we make them present in our hearts and learn from them, following Our Lady’s own example.

All of this, we do in union with Mary –

“If Jesus, the one Mediator, is the Way of our prayer, then Mary, His purest and most transparent reflection, shows us the Way. ‘Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the Holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in His mysteries’. At the wedding of Cana the Gospel clearly shows the power of Mary’s intercession as She makes known to Jesus the needs of others: ‘They have no wine’ (Jn 2:3).” (Rosarium, para.16)

And so, remembering Christ with Mary, we are then led a step further –

“The Rosary is also a path of proclamation and increasing knowledge, in which the mystery of Christ is presented again and again at different levels of the Christian experience. Its form is that of a prayerful and contemplative presentation, capable of forming Christians according to the heart of Christ.. Our Lady of the Rosary continues Her work of proclaiming Christ.” (Rosarium, para.17)

If the prayerful recitation of the holy Rosary can achieve all these things, then truly it is capable of forming us into those ‘genuine schools of prayer’ to which Pope John Paul referred.

Imagine, then, how powerful that prayer might be if prayed every single daily and if prayed in our local communities – our families and our Churches.

Throughout this month of October, the Church can consistently asked us to pray the holy Rosary – and many will have responded to this noble call. It is not a new call – for centuries, the Church has asked us to take up our beads and to pray, particularly for special intentions in the Church and in the world as they have arisen and as they have threatened the peace of the world.

At Lourdes, the appearances of the Blessed Virgin began with the recitation of the Rosary and continued with it, and even now, so many years later, there are constant Rosary processions through the Grotto.

And at Fatima, the Mother of God asked over and over again that we “pray the Rosary every day”.

Let us take up our beads and respond wholeheartedly to Her heavenly call.