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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.

 

 

Assumed Into Heaven

Assumed Into Heaven

“And a great sign appeared in the Heavens, a Woman clothed with the sun”

– Rev.12

Each year on 15th August, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven. In fact, the Church declared the Assumption to be a Dogma of the Catholic Church only fairly recently, with the proclamation of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Munificentissimus Deus’ by Pope Pius XII on 1st November of the Great Jubilee Year of 1950.

But what is the meaning of this feast and what does it say to us?

The preparatory work before the proclamation of the Dogma included a letter, Deiparae Virginis Mariae’, sent by the Pope to all the Bishops of the world in 1946. He sought their opinion on whether or not this event was truly worthy of being proclaimed dogmatically and whether it was indeed contained in the Deposit of Faith. He noted the calls from the Fathers of the First Vatican Council, and of many others in the years since then, and commented on the almost unanimous affirmative response” from the Bishops – and the faithful – that the Dogma should be proclaimed. And so he wrote –

“Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven – which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned – is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church.”

Pope Pius wrote his Apostolic Constitution just five years after the end of the Second World War, referring to this period as one weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue”; and yet despite this, he notes that the Faith was strong and devotion to the Blessed Virgin was flourishing.

He referred to the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854 – just four years before the Blessed Virgin would appear at Lourdes and declare Herself to be ‘the Immaculate Conception’. In this way, Pope Pius XII linked the one to the other, speaking about how “all the privileges and prerogatives (God) had granted to Her in His sovereign generosity were to shine forth in Her in a kind of perfect harmony”. And so, in the mind of the Church, there is indeed a clear link between the two events – the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. As Pius writes – “these two privileges are most closely bound to one another”. He speaks about the ‘general rule’ that in death, our bodies suffer the corruption of the tomb, but with the expectation of the resurrection of the body at the end of time. However –

“God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by Her Immaculate Conception, and as a result She was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and She did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of Her body.”

Later in his document, the Holy Father quoted the words of Saint John Damascene on why it was fitting that such a privilege should be accorded to the Blessed Virgin –

“It was fitting that She, who had kept Her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep Her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that She, who had carried the Creator as a child at Her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the Spouse, whom the Father had taken to Himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that She, who had seen Her Son upon the Cross and who had thereby received into Her Heart the sword of sorrow which She had escaped in the act of giving birth to Him, should look upon Him as He sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to Her Son, and that She should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”

He also added that –

“the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that Woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.”

Adding the thoughts and arguments of many great and illustrious Saints and Doctors of the Church across the centuries (among them, St Anthony of Padua, St Bernadine of Sienna, St Peter Canisius and St Francis de Sales) the Holy Father wrote –

“Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination,(47) immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.”

Pope Pius concluded with his solemn proclamation –

“After we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished His special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of Her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of Her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”

As Catholics, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into Heaven represents one thing further – it is a sign of hope for the Church generally and for each member individually.

Mary is often referred to as the ‘typus’ or ‘model’ of the Church, so that as the pre-eminent member of this Church, what is accorded to Her own person is reflected in some way in what is accorded to the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, in the future if not at the present moment. And so if Mary enjoys the glory of Heaven in both body and soul, then one day, at the end of time, so shall the Church live fully and completely in the Presence of God. And so shall we, as the members of that Church; for in the Creed, we profess our belief that we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”. In other words, what the Blessed Virgin Mary enjoys presently, we hope to enjoy also, one day.

And so, in summary, this great feast of the Assumption tells us three things –

Firstly, that this is a unique privilege accorded to the Blessed Virgin by Almighty God; it is closely linked to – and flows from – Her Immaculate Conception and so can be thought of as the last fruit of that divine privilege.

Secondly, it is a truth acclaimed not only by the Pope and the Bishops, but also by the faithful of the Church – this unity is itself a testament to the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

And thirdly, it is a sign of hope for each of us – that one day we, too, will enjoy the beatific vision and that at the end of time, God will reunite our souls and bodies and we will live in His Presence forever.

Our Lady, Queen assumed into Heaven, pray for us.

The Light Of A Candle

The Light Of A Candle

“As our whole perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ, it follows that the most perfect of all devotions is clearly the one which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, as Mary is of all creatures the most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that of all devotions, the one that most consecrates and conforms a soul to Our Lord, is the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, His holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it will be consecrated to Jesus Christ.”

St Louis Marie de Montfort

‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’, n.120

Recently, an online acquaintance messaged me about the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, in response to my noting that I would ask Her prayers. He asked why I would do so, adding that his preference is to go straight to the Lord rather than to Him by way of His Mother. He is not Catholic and so it was difficult to explain the theology behind my position in a short reply. I said simply that this is what the Lord intended when, upon the Cross, He gave His Mother to us with the words addressed to Saint John – ‘Behold thy Mother’.

Two things occurred to me afterwards.

The first thing that occurred to me is that we need to accept that much as we might like to be able to convert souls, to change minds and hearts, we are not always able to do so – not least of all because this is not within our power; only the grace of God can achieve this. St Bernadette once described herself as nothing more than a broom which the Lord used to sweep the floor, placing her back behind the door once the floor was swept. And she was right. We have a particular task to attend to, given us by the Lord – our job is to complete that task as perfectly as possible, expecting nothing back in return, and aware that we are nothing more than an instrument in His hands. And so at times like the moment described above, we should do what little we can in that moment, and leave the rest to God.

The second thing that occurred to me is that often, it is not our words which will bring about change in the heart of another – it is our example. People will forget what we may say to them, but they will remember what they see in us. A candle does not explain itself or it’s purpose – it simply provides light. When we see another acting in an authentic manner, their life reflecting clearly and with constancy what they profess to believe, then the grace of God may well act upon our hearts and effect change in one way or another. Perhaps this is what the Lord asks of us most often – not to say, but simply to be.

Conversely, to profess to live a Catholic or Christian life and to manifestly not do so, risks alienating those who look upon us or who listen to us. Simplicity, authenticity, charity, humility and interior poverty give out a very powerful and enticing message; they are like the roses in the garden which exude a pure perfume which we perceive even before we see the flower itself, and whose fragrance lingers with us long afterwards.

In being devoted to the Blessed Virgin, let us do so in a way that is quiet and simple and pure, in perfect conformity to the mind of the Church so that our devotion is authentically Catholic. And let this be the little flame which draws in others to share that heavenly light.

 

The Power Of This Prayer

The Power Of This Prayer

“The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to it’s choral recitation and to it’s constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, it’s deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation.”

– Pope John Paul II, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’

The story is told of a young businessman travelling on a train. In his train cabin, there was an elderly gentleman, gently moving the beads of his Rosary through his fingers as he quietly prayed. The younger man was horrified that in the Age of Reason, such superstition was still to be seen. He chided the elderly man, telling him that science had made religion outdated and unneccessary. “Really?”, asked the older man, “and how did you come to learn that?”. The younger of the two was not properly able to answer his travelling companion, but suggested that he might send the elder man some reading material later, once home. The older man smiled. The younger man asked for an address to which he could send the material promised, and the elder gentleman, Rosary still in his hand, took a business card from the pocket of his overcoat. His companion read the name inscribed upon it – ‘Louis Pasteur, Paris Institute of Scientific Research’.

We tend to see things in a very short-sighted way; we often believe (quite erroneously,of course) that we have suddenly come upon the answers to all the great questions of life, that our opinion trumps the wisdom of the ages; in short, that we know best. Believing this is almost always a sign that we are in error.

The Church, on the other hand, tends to take a much longer look at things, and she sees situations, events, currents and trends, with the wisdom she has accumulated over the last two millenia – ably assisted, of course, by the light and grace of the Holy Spirit.

For a very long time now, and in a perfectly consistent manner, the Church has continusouly recommended to us the prayer of the Rosary – a seemingly simple but deeply profound prayer; one suited to all the situations of life, encompassing as it does the various joys, sorrows and glories of the Lord and His Mother. The payer of the Rosary is also enormlously powerful – powerful enough to secure victory in temporal matters, powerful enough to prevent and to shorten wars, and powerful enough to touch the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to whom the prayers are addressed, asking Her, in turn, to touch the Heart of Her Son on our behalf.

The Rosary is also the prayer which She Herself continually asks us to pray – it is, therefore, within the grasp of all, rich or poor, simple person of faith or great theologian, Priest or lay-person, adult or child.

Knowing this, then, how could we refuse to meet Her request?

 

Our Everyday Acts

Our Everyday Acts

‘Our everyday acts, which are offered up in union with Mary, those acts which form the woof and warp of even the most humdrum existence – these can be made to surrender unspeakable spiritual worth for the salvation of souls and for the relief of the souls in Purgatory.”

– Fr Patrick Fannon, SMM

‘The Message of Montfort’

One of the primary desires of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, expressed very clearly at Fatima, is that we unite ourselves to Her and then offer up all we can in reparation for sins – our prayers, good works, penances, and daily duty.

These last two words – daily duty – are the key to a path of sanctity. 

It may be that we read the lives of the Saints and all the great things they achieved in their lives, often against seemingly insurmountable obstacles – and then fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to them and, as a result, doing very little to imitate the example they give us.

Thankfully, many of these same Saints remind us of an important truth – our path to sanctity lies in the life we are presently living, in the things we are presently doing, in the relationships we are presently a part of. It is in the humdrum of our every day life that we are given so many graces and numerous opportunities to advance along the way of holiness.

In other words, we do not necessarily need to be in a cloister or convent, or in a far off land, in order to seek God’s will for us. For the majority, the way of holiness is in the office, the school, the home, the kitchen – it is where we are right now. And in this present moment, the Lord gives us all we need.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is a good example of this truth – She who was to become the Mother of God did not live in a palace but in a simple home; tradition tells us that She had very little of material worth, but what She did have, She used for the glory of God. She sanctified Her life by the grace of God in precisely the place where He had put Her – the home.

On First Saturdays such as today, the Five First Saturdays devotion reminds us of this – that we are called to sanctity wherever we may happen to be, using what is around us to do the will of God, giving all out of love for Him and for His Mother.

She, in turn, promises us Her maternal assistance and intercession.

And if we do all this well and to the best of our ability, with constancy and with perseverance, then what is at first a devotion on one single day each month, will gradually take root in our souls and become a part of who we are and a mark of that path of sanctity upon which we walk.

 

A Visit Home

A Visit Home

The Lady Chapel in Saint John’s Cathedral, Southsea, Portsmouth

A recent last-minute decision to visit Southsea allowed me the opportunity to spend a little time at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Portsmouth.

This magnificent Church, opened in 1882, is not the world’s largest Cathedral, certainly – but it is very beautiful and it is very dear to me. For many years, it was my parish Church and so I have many happy memories of the place. Consequently, returning to Saint John’s is – for me – coming home.

I think the Lady Altar in the Cathedral is probably the first place I ever saw which was specially set aside in honour of the Mother of God. I prayed at this Altar with my mother, now long gone.

As my life has moved forward, this little place has essentially stayed the same, untouched by the years. And here I prayed again, thinking of all those who have been dear to me as the years have passed, all those who have contributed to making me the person I am now. I know that the Cathedral parish continues to have a strong filial devotion to the Mother of God, and I have no doubt that She smiles upon this place and upon all who come here to honour Her.

It’s amazing how the Church – whether a grand metropolitan Cathedral or a small rural parish – influences us and becomes a part of us, as much as we become a part of it. Our memories and our affectuons are so often tied irrevocably to particular places, such as this Cathedral; returning to them, even many years later, seems to gently wipe away those years and take us back.

On the Saturday evening I went to Confession in the Cathedral, listening very carefully to the words the Priest offered, then attended Mass afterwards, which was very beautiful. It was a little moment of grace and I was very thankful for it.

At the little Blessed Sacrament Chapel, I laid out before the Lord all the intentions which fill my heart, asking His graces for many souls and also for myself.

And then, the visit was all over.

I came away grateful for this moment of grace, but I also came away just a little bit lighter – I had left a little piece of my heart there in that Lady Chapel.