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Model of the Church

Model of the Church

“Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from Her union with Christ and flows directly from it.. After Her Son’s Ascension, Mary ‘aided the beginnings of the Church by Her prayers’. In Her association with the Apostles and several women, ‘we also see Mary by Her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, Who had already overshadowed Her in the Annunciation.”

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.964-965

 

It is a beautiful scene to contemplate – the beginnings of the early Church being supported by the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Apostles are gathered around Her and they are all united in prayer, this union giving great efficacy to the prayers they are offering, for they are one single body – the Mystical Body of Christ. They are asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit – He is the movement and power behind the Church, His breath it’s very life. And He comes. For Mary, this descent of the Holy Spirit has already happened previously – He has overshadowed Her at the moment of the Annunciation.

Mary is the ‘lightning rod’ of the Holy Spirit.

When Mary and the Holy Spirit are intimately uinited, miracles take place; on the first occasion, at the Annunciation, the Christ Child was conceived; and now, in prayer at the Cenacle, the Spirit will descend once more – and this time, the Church will be born. In this way, Mary is both Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

Beautiful though this scene, occurring two thousand years ago, certainly is, we should remember that the same scene is, in a sense, re-enacted every time the Church prays; the Mother of the Lord is still with us, uniting Her prayers with ours and giving them great efficacy. The Catechism tells us –

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which She loyally gave at the Annunciation and which She sustained without wavering beneath the Cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to Heaven She did not lay aside this saving office but by Her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” (para.969)

This good Mother hears the prayer of the Church and adds Her own supplication to ours. This ‘saving office’, as the Church refers to it, will continue until the last day.

To have prayed in the company of the Blessed Virgin was most certainly a great joy for the Apostles in those early days. And yet, we share the same joy, even though we do not physically see the Mother of the Lord, whenever we pray. Perhaps this is especially so in the praying of Her holy Rosary, that prayer so greatly loved by Her, and for which She often asks us, promising great graces to those who embrace this devotion.

When we take up our beads, even though we might be physically alone, still the Mother of God is with us and is listening to us. Our concerns are Her concerns – and above all, She is concerned with obtaining for us the great grace of eternal salvation once this life is complete for us.

In ‘Christi Matri’, Pope St Paul VI encourages us to weave the prayers of the Rosary into mystical garlands for the Mother of Christ”. He goes on to write –

“Nothing seems more appropriate and valuable to us than to have the prayers of the whole Christian family rise to the Mother of God, who is invoked as the Queen of Peace, begging Her to pour forth abundant gifts of Her maternal goodness in midst of so many great trials and hardships. We want constant and devout prayers to be offered to Her whom we declared Mother of the Church..” (CM, para.8)

 In praying our beads, let us join with the supplication of Pope Paul – “look down with clemency, Most Blessed Virgin, upon all Your children”.

 

The Dowry of Mary

The Dowry of Mary

“the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry’.”

– Pope Leo XIII

I remember, as a child at school in the south of England some fifty years ago, that we were particularly dedicated to Our Lady of Ransom, and to the idea of England being the ‘dowry of Mary’. Even as a young child in those days, I thought this was a beautiful thing although I had very little sense of what it really meant. Of course, it expresses the notion that the Blessed Virgin regards England with a particular fondness, that She is our special protectress and patroness.

The notion that England is the ‘dowry of Mary’ goes back as far as 1051 according to some sources, even though there is no certainty over the actual origin of the title. In 1381, King Richard II dedicated England to Mary, setting it apart for Her. And the title finds itself written down around the year 1400, when Archbishop Thomas Arundel noted that –

“we English, being ..  Her own dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions..”

As the Archbishop described the title as being ‘commonly’ used, it is not surprising that the imagery associated with the title can be found in a several religious artefacts of that period, including the Wilton Diptych; in this, King Richard is seen kneeling before the Virgin and Child, while an Angel bears a staff upon which is the flag of Saint George – patron of England – and a map of the country.

In 1893, the title received Papal recognition when Pope Leo XIII addressed English Catholics on pilgrimage to Rome; he said –

“the wonderful filial love which burnt within the heart of your forefathers towards the great Mother of God … to whose service they consecrated themselves with such abundant proofs of devotion, that the kingdom itself acquired the singular and highly honourable title of ‘Mary’s Dowry’.”

The Wilton Diptych: image © National Gallery

Mindful of this very long history of a particular devotion to the Mother of God, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have determined that this year, England will be re-dedicated as the Dowry of Mary.

The dedication will take place on Sunday 29 March 2020, in every Cathedral in England and Wales, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in all the parish Churches taking part and in the homes of many of the faithful.

A 3 day triduum of prayer will take place immediately prior to this, between 26 and 28 March, consisting of prayers of reparation and the Litany of the Saints and Martyrs of England, together with the prayer of the holy Rosary.

This will see the conclusion of two years of spiritual preparation – a nationwide Novena of prayer for England and a tour of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham to every Cathedral in England.

At the personal level, the Catholics of England and Wales are being encouraged to begin their own period of spiritual preparation, starting on 21 February and ending on the feast of the Annunciation with a personal consecration to Jesus through Mary using the formula of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. Written materials supporting this personal consecration have been made available by the organisers, Behold2020, who note –

“History shows us that when people pray this prayer of absolute surrender to God’s will for their lives, society is transformed. By taking up this personal dedication in 2020, you can be a part of the renewal of this nation, drawing ourselves closer to the will of our loving God, through Mary.”

More information is available on the Diocese of Westminster website.

 

 

Address of the Holy Father

Address of the Holy Father

“Today we invoke the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers.

O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to You we entrust this year. Keep it in Your Heart.”

– Pope Francis

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 1st January 2020


 

“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Born of woman: Jesus came in this way. He did not appear in the world as an adult but, as the Gospel tells us, he was “conceived in the womb” (Lk 2;21). It was there that he made our humanity his own: day after day, month after month. In the womb of a woman, God and mankind are united, never to be separated again. Even now, in heaven, Jesus lives in the flesh that he took in his mother’s womb. In God, there is our human flesh!

On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.

Born of woman. The rebirth of humanity began from a woman. Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body. How often are women’s bodies sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography, exploited like a canvas to be used. Yet women’s bodies must be freed from consumerism; they must be respected and honoured. Theirs is the most noble flesh in the world, for it conceived and brought to light the love that has saved us! In our day, too, motherhood is demeaned, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth. There are mothers who risk difficult journeys desperately seeking to give a better future to the fruit of their womb, yet are deemed redundant by people with full stomachs but hearts empty of love.

Born of woman. The Bible tells us that woman come onto the scene at the height of creation, as a summation of the entire created world. For she holds within herself the very purpose of creation: the generation and safekeeping of life, communion with all things, care for all things. So it is with the Mother of God in today’s Gospel. The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God.

In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.

As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them. And if we want a better world, a world that will be a peaceful home and not a war field, may we take to heart the dignity of each woman. From a woman was born the Prince of peace. Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes. Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.

Born of woman. Jesus, newly born, was mirrored in the eyes of the woman, in the face of his mother. From her, he received his first caresses; with her, he exchanged the first smiles. With her began the revolution of tenderness. The Church, looking at the Baby Jesus, is called to continue that revolution. For she too, like Mary, is both woman and mother. The Church is woman and mother, and in Our Lady, she finds her distinctive traits. She sees Mary immaculate, and feels called to say no to sin and to worldliness. She sees Mary fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Gospel and to give birth to it in people’s lives. She sees Mary a mother, and she feels called to receive every man and woman as a son or daughter.

In drawing close to Mary, the Church discovers herself, she finds her centre and her unity. The enemy of our human nature, the devil, seeks instead to divide, to highlight differences, ideologies, partisan thinking and parties. But we do not understand the Church if we regard her by starting with structures, programmes and trends, ideologies and functions. We may grasp something, but not the heart of the Church. Because the Church has a mother’s heart. And we, as her sons and daughters, invoke today the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers. O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to you we entrust this year. Keep it in your heart. We acclaim you, the Holy Mother of God. All together now, for three times, let us stand and acclaim the Lady, the Holy Mother of God. [with the assembly] Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!

 


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Heart and the Manger

The Heart and the Manger

“The time came for Her to have Her Child and She gave birth to Her firstborn Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

– Luke 2: 6-7

There is someting very humble and pure about the thought of that little wooden manger in Bethlehem. A manger within a stable, the only place that was ready to hold the Lord of All Creation, the One who created all that is. This same Lord is now placed very gently in a manger by His Mother.

There are three broad themes worth thinking about whilst considering this scene, described so simply in Saint Luke’s Gospel – emptiness, preparation and simplicity.

Emptiness

Before the Divine Infant can be placed in the manger, it must first be emptied of all that it contains – the food of the animals, the detritus that gathered there, any sharp pieces of straw. This little Child needs space, He requires an emptiness that only He can fill. A single-minded sense of purpose is ideal – in fact, much later He will say something similar, when He speaks about putting the hand to the plough and not looking back; it is the same sentiment. He alone must fill that emptiness; He alone can fill that emptiness.

Preparation

I have no doubt that before laying Her Son in the manger, the Blessed Virgin prepared it for Him as best She could, removing from it anything that might harm Her little baby Son and taking out any detritus from the animals who grazed from that manger. For that is what a manger is – a feeding trough, filled with food. Of course, considering that this same Lord remains with us even now in the form of the Blessed Sacrament – our spiritual Food – this is entirely appropriate. Equally, it should come as no surprise that the word ‘Bethlehem’ translates as ‘House of Bread’. This same Child, lying here now in the manger, placed there ever so gently by His Mother, will become for us the Bread of Life, broken for love of us.

Simplicity

This Child is truly the King of Kings; and yet His first throne is not of gold but of wood; filled not with jewels but with straw. He is not wrapped in silk and fine raiment, but in swaddling clothes. He who is above all of creation takes the form of this little Baby. And He is recognised and adored first of all not by the nations, but by simple shepherds.

Now, if we read all of this again, but replacing the word ‘manger’ with the words ‘human heart’, the story and the message are the same – our little hearts are just like that manger; they need to be emptied of self and of all attachments; they need to be acrefully prepared to receive the Lord of Lords; and they need to be – and to remain – simple and pure.

There is no-one better placed to help us to achieve all of this than the one who achieved it with the original manger – the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of this Divine Child whom we are now adoring.

She can remove from our hearts all that takes the place of Her Son; She can prepare our hearts to receive Him and to make Him truly welcome; and She can ensure that we are at all times simple, like little children, in His divine presence.

In these last few days before Christmas, let us gaze with awe upon the Nativity Scene in our home, our Church or our town, and let us ask the holy Mother of God to obtain this great grace for us – to prepare our hearts for Her Son, as She prepared the manger in Bethlehem, that He might find within us a place where He is pleased to dwell.

I wish all of you the miracle of Christmas – the peace and the joy of the Christ Child.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?