A Nation Given To Mary

A Nation Given To Mary

“Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them.”

– Saint Jacinta of Fatima

Three years ago, we celebrated the Centenary Year of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, where She had shown Herself on six occasions to three young children. Her purpose was to call us back to the message of the Gospel through sorrow for our sins, a life of prayer and the Sacraments, and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way of achieving this.

Two of the three seers of Fatima, brother and sister Jacinta and Francisco Marto, had been declared Saints by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the centenary day of the first apparition. Speaking by video the pilgrims in Fatima on the centenary of the final apparition, the Holy Father had said –

“Never be afraid, God is infinitely greater than all of our problems. He loves us very much. Go forward in your journey without losing sight of the Mother; like a child who feels safe when close to his mother, we too are safe when close to Our Lady.. Never put the Rosary aside, but continue to recite it as She asked”.

The faithful join the Bishops in Consecrating Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Shortly after the appearances of the Blessed Virgin, little Jacinta had said – “Tell everyone that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that they are to ask Her for them”. Many would take these words to heart and would place great confidence in them. And so it was perhaps not surprising that in that Centenary Year, a great focus was placed on Our Lady of Fatima and Her Immaculate Heart – and various events took place in response to the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima.

One such event took place here in Scotland, where the people and the Bishops gathered together at our national Marian Shrine at Carfin Grotto; there, under pouring rain, we consecrated ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The date was 3 September 2017.

The day of Consecration had been preceded by various other events across the years, and which had contributed to the events which would take place at Carfin that day.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII had sent his legate, Cardinal Masalla, to Fatima in Portugal, where he was to crown the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Speaking about the coronation, the Pope had said –

“The faithful Virgin never disappointed the trust put on Her. She will transform into a fountain of graces, physical and spiritual graces, over all of Portugal, and from there, breaking all frontiers, over the whole Church and the entire world.”

Here, then, the reasons for such a coronation were made very clear.

Returning to 2017, Cardinal Nichols had presided over a ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on 18th February that year, where he solemnly crowned the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In the course of the ceremony he re-consecrated the nations of England and Wales to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. England had long since been dedicated to the Mother of God, because of which the nation has historically been called ‘the Dowry of Mary’. The Cardinal had previously expressed his thoughts on all this –

“Devotion to Mary is not an optional ‘add-on’ to Catholic belief, but an expression of what is at the heart of our faith. To draw close to Mary is to draw close to Jesus. As the earliest Christian witnesses often taught, Mary was open to receiving Jesus in Her mind and in Her Heart before She gave birth to Him in her flesh. For this reason, She is the first of all the disciples of the Lord as She is the most faithful of all the Lord’s followers. In Her maternal love of us, She continues to assist us in our following of Him; a consecration to Her Immaculate Heart gives expression to this in a simple way.”

Cardinal Nichol’s consecration was a renewal of a similar consecration in 1948, undertaken by Cardinal Griffon.

Ireland also undertook a similar national Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, performed by Cardinal Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 15th August, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.

On 20 May 2017, Bishop Toal had consecrated the Diocese of Motherwell, Scotland, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a Mass in the Cathedral, which was exceptionally well-attended. In his homily, Bishop Toal had spoken very beautifully on the message of Fatima, noting that it centres on conversion, prayer, reparation and, in short, ‘a change of heart’. This is what the Blessed Virgin calls us to.

Bishop Toal spoke about his own experiences of visiting the shrine at Fatima, where there is a strong sense of penance and reparation. He also spoke about the newest Saints of the Church, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who had been canonised the previous week. He said these two children remind us of the very special place which children occupy in life generally and in the Church specifically – adding that it is to children that we must hand on the fullness, beauty and sanctity of our Faith. At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Toal made the solemn Act of Consecration of the Diocese.

In June of that year, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley had announced the intention of the Bishops to undertake the Act of Consecration on ‘National Pilgrimage Day’ at Carfin. He had also announced a period of forty days of preparation prior to that day, inviting the faithful to join him spiritually throughout those days.

Two days beforehand the Scottish Parliament had announced that it would include itself, by means of ‘a motion of recognition’, in the collegial Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Bishops of Scotland, which the Bishops were about to undertake. The Parliament issued an announcement to that effect –

“That the Parliament recognises that Scotland’s Catholic bishops will consecrate the nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 3 September 2017; understands that the Bishops will pray for Scotland at the Marian Shrine at the Carfin Grotto, near Motherwell, asking that Scotland be energised with a renewed desire to seek the truth, and understands that at the same time they will pray for all parliamentarians and government, so that they will play their part in building a true civilisation of love and strive to create a place where all people are valued, a place where poor, lonely and marginalised people are not forgotten, and a place where people are free to practise their faith.”

For a very secularised nation, and one with a noted anti-Catholic bias in many respects, this was really something. But it was also extraordinary for another – and far greater – reason. By means of this self-inclusion of the Scottish Parliament, the two strands of Scottish life and identity, the Church and the State, had come together in unity for an explicit purpose – and a spiritual one at that.

The day before the Consecration at Carfin, a Vigil was held as final preparation; this consisted of Adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the holy Rosary was prayed every hour, and it concluded with Benediction.

On the day of Consecration, all of Scotland had truly come together.

Parliament – representing the State – had given notice of it’s alignment with what was to take place; the entire Scottish Hierarchy were present and took part; many Religious had come to the Grotto to take part; and the faithful were greatly represented by the thousands of laity who had travelled to the Grotto from all over Scotland and beyond.

And so, the Act of Consecration was truly collegial – and national – in every possible sense of those words.

The Sacrifice of the Mass was offered by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, and concelebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and the Scottish Bishops, together with a large group of Priests and Deacons from the various Dioceses of Scotland.

In his homily, Bishop Brian McGee of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, spoke about the rain and quipped that it had been much the same on 13th October 1917, when the great Miracle of the Sun took place at Fatima. On that day, of course, the rain stopped; on our day of Consecration, the Lady of the Rosary gave us an opportunity to offer something up for the acceptance of the Consecration.

Bishop McGee also spoke about the children of Fatima, who constantly said ‘yes’ to the invitation of the Lady and so became ever more united to the will of God for them; in this, they echoed the life of the Blessed Virgin, who so perfectly and constantly said ‘yes’ to God. The Bishop invited those present to make this same commitment, growing in holiness by our correspondence to the will of God for us in our own lives.

At the Conclusion of the Mass, the solemn Act of Consecration was read aloud by all present, led by Archbishop Tartaglia. He had noted that the original intention was that he alone would read the Act, but he felt it more appropriate that all present should take part vocally.

Hearing the Bishops and the people of Scotland consecrating themselves and our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a great and swelling array of voices rising up from the Grotto like incense, was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever heard and I was deeply moved to be there and to a part of it all.

I had no doubt then, as I have no doubt now, that all of Heaven was listening intently, too; and I prayed that this Consecration would be found pleasing and acceptable by God.

Archbishop Tartaglia

At its conclusion, Archbishop Tartaglia noted how moved he, too, had felt, and how historic this moment had been; he spoke of his pride at the people of Scotland coming out to honour the Blessed Virgin, and he added that the Bishops and Priests of Scotland love the people of this nation very much. It was deeply heartening to see so many of the Priests of Scotland coming together in a public show of devotion to the Mother of God.

More than anything, it was wonderful to see so many thousands of ordinary people who braved the typical Scottish rain that day to pay homage to the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima.

At the time, I had written that I was certain Our Blessed Lady had listened to the Act of Consecration offered to Her, that She accepted it, and that great graces would flow as a result of our offering ourselves and our Nation to Her. Three years later, I remain completely convinced of that.

 

Text of the Act of Consecration of Scotland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of all people, in accordance with Your ardent wish, made known to the three children at Fatima, we consecrate to Your Immaculate Heart our beloved country of Scotland.

We stand confidently before You today, O holy Mother of God. Inflame us with the same divine fire which inflamed Your own Immaculate Heart. Reign over us and teach us how to make the Heart of Jesus reign and triumph in us and around us, as It has reigned and triumphed in You. Make our country and it’s people, Your shrine, O holy Mother of God, so that we may be Yours in prosperity and adversity, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in life and in death.

We consecrate Scotland to You; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To You we give our minds and hearts, our bodies and souls. We willingly place at Your service our homes and families, our parishes and schools. We desire that everything that is within us and around us, amuy belong to You, O Mary.

That this Consecration may be truly efficacious and lasting, we renew this day the promises of our Baptism and Confirmation – to be faithful witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We pledge ourselves to foster a true love of the Mass, and devotion to the Real Presence of Your Son in the Blessed Sacrament. We pledge ourselves to keep the Commandments of God and His holy Church. We undertake to promote in our homes and parishes a virtuous life. We pledge ourselves to recite ether Rosary more frequently, and to make reparation for the coldness and indifference of so many human hearts.

Finally, we promise, O glorious Mother of God, to devote ourselves whole-heartedly to the service of Your blessed name, in order to assure, through the sovereignty of Your Immaculate Heart, the coming of the Kingdom of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in our hearts and in our country of Scotland.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

 

Her Little Gifts

Her Little Gifts

“O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of Hell, and lead all souls to Heaven – especially those in most need.”

– Our Lady of Fatima

Like all good mothers, the Blessed Virgin Mary cares very deeply for Her children. She is concerned for our welfare – in the physical realm, certainly; but particularly in the spiritual realm, as this is where our welfare is most important.

And like all good mothers, She wants to give us little treats and gifts which are pleasing to the eyes and the hearts of us, Her children.

All the while, She knows that we are poor and fickle, forgetful and inconstant, even despite our very best intentions. And so, She makes Her little gifts as pleasing to us as possible, so that we might more earnestly embrace them and so that they might do us the most good.

One such gift is the little prayer She taught the children at Fatima in July 1917 –

“When you pray the Rosary, say after each Mystery – ‘O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need’.”

Our Blessed Lady knows that we are supposed to pray, as this ‘connects’ us directly to the divine; and She knows that we would like to pray – but She knows, too, that very often, for one reason or another, we simply do not pray.

There are a great many prayers which we could choose in order to pray – the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Gloria, spring immediately to mind, along with numerous other short prayers.

There are also the ‘official’ prayers of the Church such as the Liturgy of the Hours – often seen as being only for the clergy, this prayer is actually for all the faithful. But it takes time, practice, dedication, perseverance – and how often we lack those!

Seeing our weakness, the Blessed Virgin suggests something very short, very beautiful and very simple – this little prayer which She gave us through three very young children. She asked us to pray it after each decade of the Rosary, so it must be an important prayer – otherwise, once for each full Rosary might have been sufficient.

In this little prayer, we acknowledge that we are sinners and deserving of Hell. We might not like to acknowledge this, but that is the reality – we are all sinners, who can rely on nothing except the mercy of God. And having acknowledged it, we can then ask for that forgiveness of which we are so desperately in need – and which is always poured out upon us so very liberally by the Almighy, time after time after time.

But this little prayer adds one further dimension.

It asks for the mercy of God not only for ourselves, but for all other sinners, too. And in asking this of God, we are performing a spiritual act of charity by praying for others. Our Blessed Lady has, then, not only encouraged us to be a little bit more prayerful, but also a little bit more charitable.

Mother are very well practised at being able to get their wayward children to do what they should have been doing already – and this is particularly the case when the mother in question is none other than the Mother of God.

Let us do as She asks.

 

 

 

A False Devotion

A False Devotion

For all who profess a devotion to the Mother of God, it is a salutary – in fact, a necessary – task to stop from time to time and to compare the practice of our devotion to those descriptions given by the Church, by the Popes and by the great Marian saints such as Louis de Montfort.

In his great work, ‘Treatise On The True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary’, Saint Louis Marie de Montfort takes time to describe the signs of that devotion which can properly be called ‘true’.

To begin with, St Louis tells us that “I must now state in what this devotion consists. This I will do, with God’s help, when I have laid down certain fundamental truths, which will throw light on this great and solid devotion which I desire to disclose” (TD 60). He then expounds on five articles, describing his thoughts on each of them. The five articles are that Jesus Christ is the ultimate end of devotion to Our Lady; we belong to Jesus Christ and to Mary as their slaves; we must empty ourselves of what is evil in us; we need a mediator with our Mediator, Jesus Christ; and it is very difficult for us to preserve the graces and treasures received from God.

After this, our Saint tells us that it is crucial that we are able to recognise false devotion to the Blessed Virgin so that we can avoid it; and to be able to recognise true devotion, so that we can embrace it. He adds that it is equally important that we know which practices are the most pleasing to the Blessed Virgin, the most perfect, the most glorious for God and the most sanctifying for us. Saint Louis then moves on to describe seven characteristics of false devotees of Our Lady and of false devotions. He gives these as being critical; scrupulous; external; presumptuous; inconstant; hypocritical; and self-interested. As before, he adds much detail to each of these categories to explain his thinking.

Concluding his thinking in this area, he explains the characteristics of a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin – he describes it as being interior; tender; holy; constant; and disinterested.

For all who think themselves to be devoted the Mother of God, or who feel drawn to practice that True Devotion described by Saint Louis, it is important to think critically about the nature and purpose of our devotion, comparing our intentions and resolutions objectively to the descriptions offered by the great Knight of the Blessed Virgin, whose writings have been so lauded by the Church and by so many of the Popes.

In this present time, this is perhaps especially pertinent.

The reason I say this is that I see some souls who profess to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin and to practice the devotion of our Saint – and yet who, at the very same time, place themselves in direct opposition to the Holy Father and to the Church. Such souls are either deluding themselves or being deluded. I say this not as a judgement upon such souls but as an observation which I am noting increasingly often these days.

One of the most common expressions of this seems to be those who profess to be devoted to the Mother of God under the title of ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ – and who, at the same time, state with no evidence and with no sense of critical thinking, that the Church, in the persons of the last few Popes, has deceived and lied to the faithful, has had an ‘imposter’ nun squirrelled away in a convent over several decades, occasionally appearing to give false statements which are designed to lead the faithful astray and in this way, to perpetuate the lies of the Church hierarchy. In my experience, such souls are not at all open to discussion – and so making any attempt at this is entirely fruitless – and do not recognise that their views can only exist if certain other conditions are met. In the case of Sister Lucia, they presuppose that the ‘real’ nun is where – dead? Silenced in some other way? And for the lie to hold, it is necessary that the upper hierarchy of the Church has put out a lie which they have maintained over many, many years. The evidence to the contrary – the repeated statements of Sr Lucia, the documents and statements of the Church and of the various Holy Fathers – mean nothing and are simply discarded and excluded from their critical thinking and from any sense of objective judgement.

A second example concerns the third part of the ‘secret’ of Fatima, revealed by the Blessed Virgin to the three seers in July 1917. Notwithstanding the very clear and consistent documents of the Church and, in particular, the document released in 2000 which revealed the contents of the third part of the ‘secret’, these souls proclaim, instead, that the Church has lied and deceived the faithful – and simply reject outright the testimony of Sr Lucia herself, who said repeatedly that the document was an accurate description of what she had seen.

Similarly, for the consecration made by the Holy Father Pope John Paul in March 1984; Sr Lucia made it perfectly clear this consecration fulfilled the request of the Blessed Virgin and had been accepted by Heaven. But these souls do not accept this, as though they are in a position make a judgement on the matter and to tell Sr Lucia – and the Pope – that they were wrong.

So why does all of this matter enough that I write about it here? There are several reasons.

Firstly, such an attitude does great damage to the Church and to its unity – the work of these souls is divisive and does nothing for the good of the Church.

Secondly, it does damage to the reputation of the Blessed Virgin; for other souls, She will become ‘tainted’ in a sense, so that souls who would otherwise have developed a strong and healthy relationship with Her, will perhaps not do so now. Often these days, for example, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is equated to a caustic view of the Church and the world, to a ‘fringe element’ within a particular corner of the Church – and this is diametrically opposed to the authentic message and purpose of the Fatima appearances.

Thirdly, it places these souls in danger. Certainly, Fatima is part of ‘private revelation’ and no matter how good and holy, the faithful are not obliged to accept or practice the devotion – the Church notes only that it is ‘worthy of belief’ and leaves the rest to us, even while recommending the devotion strongly to us. But for such souls, Fatima is raised to a level above the public revelation to which we are required to submit. And for such souls, how can it be possible to believe the Church and the Popes to be liars and deceivers whilst at the same time professing unity with them and allegiance to them? And so the great danger for these souls is that their misguided and deluded views place them, inch by inch, outside the Church and ever further from the submission to the Vicar of Christ which is one of the great marks of the Catholic Church.

To be very clear – the Mother of God will never, ever, distance any soul from the Church nor from her true Shepherd. In life, Mary and Peter were very close – and in eternity, it is no different. And to be just as clear again – if our ‘devotion’ to the Blessed Virgin places us at enmity with the Church or with the Holy Father, then it comes not from God, but from the Deceiver, the Father of Lies.

Proclaiming to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin is not, in itself, a guarantee that one is so devoted, nor that one is ‘on the right path’.

As Saint Louis notes so very carefully, there are particular characteristics of any such devotion which will let us know – if our hearts and minds are open to it – whether or not we are walking the right path.

Earlier in his work, Saint Louis makes the point that an authentic and true devotion in the form he is describing is not something we take upon ourselves – rather, it is a grace to which we are called and to which we may (or may not) respond.

As for the Church herself, she too gives us a description of authentic Marian devotion – this is found in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution On The Church), from the Second Vatican Council. Together with this, we have so many beautiful Encyclicals and other documents written by so many of the Holy Fathers – and in more recent years, particularly those of Saint John Paul II.

For all who profess a devotion to the Mother of God, it is a salutary – in fact, a necessary – task to stop from time to time and to compare the practice of our devotion to those descriptions given by the Church, by the Popes and by the great Marian saints such as Louis de Montfort. Please God, we will find that our devotion aligns with what we read there – and if not, may the grace of God enlighten us and open our hearts and minds in all humility, so that we might change and address whatever is remiss.

 

 

God Grants Graces

God Grants Graces

“Tell everyone that God grants graces
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
and they are to ask Her for them.”

– St Jacinta Marto

Almost two years after the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Jacinta Marto lay very ill in hospital. She had already succumbed to the Spanish Flu which had killed so very many people across the world, including her brother Francisco. She had then developed purulent pleurisy, which caused a large open sore in her chest and would soon lead to the removal of ribs without the benefit of anaesthesia, for fear it would kill her.

Jacinta was not at all concerned by any of this – indeed, she welcomed it with a spirit of heroic detachment, because she was ever mindful of what the Mother of God had told her at the Cova da Iria; that she would go to Heaven ‘soon’. And so Jacinta accepted everything that God was pleased to send her, whether joys or sorrows, sufferings or little acts of kindness from others. And everything, she offered up to God in reparation for poor sinners and for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Jacinta died, aged nine years, on 20 Fenruary 1920 – alone, as she had said she would.

A little while before leaving to go to the hospital, Jacinta had told her cousin, Lucia –

“It won’t be long before I go to Heaven. You are to stay here to make known Our Lord’s desire to establish in the world the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When the time comes to speak, you mustn’t hold back, but tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that we must ask Her for them; that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be honoured together with the Immaculate Heart beccause God has entrusted peace to Her. Oh, if only I could put into everybody’s heart the burning fire I have inside me which makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so much!”

From the time of the apparitions at Fatima, she was consumed by an intense love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a love she desperately wanted others to share in. She was acutely aware of the power of devotion to this Immaculate Heart – it had the power to save souls from Hell, and to raise souls to the heights of sanctity; she herself was a living example of this sanctity. And she knew that the devotion to the Immaculate Heart was the express will of God, Who desired that this devotion be established throughout the world.

Jacinta had said that “God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. And while this could ultimately raise the soul to great sanctity, still those graces begin in lots of little ways. In the case of Jacinta, her brother and her cousin, one change was the frequency of the recitation of the holy Rosary. Whereas they had always prayed it from time to time, from the days of the appearances, they began to pray it communally – just the three of them together – several times each day and always again in the evenings.

Her devotion to the Mother of God led to other changes, too – previously a wilful little girl who could be tempestuous and quite stubborn, her character developed and she was able to overcome herself in many small ways. As time went on, she became more and more detached from everything around her and sought only God and the Blessed Virgin, clinging to Them alone.

Such a path is indeed what we refer to as ‘sanctity’ – and for Jacinta, it was lived to an heroic degree. This is even more astonishing when one considers her very tender age.

God sets the Saints before us as models for the spiritual life. We may never entirely replicate what they have done, for each of us is different and we all walk our own path; but regardless of that, the Saints are our mentors, our teachers. We look to them, read or learn about their lives, we are touched by their story and we emulate what we see in them to be good and true, noble and holy.

Looking at Saint Jacinta Marto, we see that holiness – real, deep and authentic holiness – is possible for everyone. If it is possible for a child aged nine, it is possible for you and for me. How do we achieve it?

In beholding the life of little Jacinta, we see the steps on the path – frequent prayer, especially that of the holy Rosary; the living of the Sacramental life of the Church and faithfulness to that Church and to it’s Shepherd, the Holy Father; humble and docile submission to the will of God in all things, offering up everything for love of Him and in reparation for our sins and the sins of others; and a deep and abiding relationship with the Blessed Virgin and devotion to Her Immaculate Heart.

In doing all these things, perhaps we – like Jacinta – will begin to walk that same path of genuine sanctity and discover along the way that God does indeed grant graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

 

 

Establish This Devotion

Establish This Devotion

“God wishes to establish in the world
the devotion to My Immaculate Heart”

– Our Lady of Fatima

If you ask a child who it feels most close to, there is a very strong likelihood that it will be their mother, unless there are very good reasons to the contrary. There is something deeply intimate about the bond between mother and child, a bond which lasts throughout life. Even in the very elderly, this seems to be retained and those nearing death will often think about, speak about (and even ask for) their mother.

Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. It should be no suprise, therefore, that His relationship with His own Mother was profoundly deep. He responded immediately to Her requests; He had Her always nearby, from the Crib to the Cross, and beyond; and as He was dying, He shared Her with every single one of us – “Behold Thy Mother”.

And in the heavenly appearances which took place in 1929 and 1932, following the ‘public’ appearances at Fatima in 1917, the Lord spoke in a way that clearly indicated the infinite love He has for His Mother. His comments had to do with the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In Her appearances at Fatima in 1917 – and also in those later appearances – the Blessed Virgin spoke about the devotion to Her Immaculate Heart. From the outset, She made it very clear that the establishing of this devotion throughout the world was the express will of God –

“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 She made it clear what the outcomes of this devotion would be – salvation for many who, otherwise, would not attain it. Without this devotion, such souls would be lost forever.

This fits very well with the words of many Saints over the years who have noted – accurately – that Mary is able to obtain the eternal salvation even of souls whom the Divine Justice would rightly have condemned. The Saints have also noted that whatever the Blessed Virgin asks of God, He grants out of love for Her. What a huge relief that is to us!

Speaking to Sister Lucia in 1932, the Lord told her –

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

Clearly, offences against the Immaculate Heart of Mary are deeply offensive to Her Son.

Our Blessed Lady then added this, concerning reparation by means of the Five First Saturdays devotion –

“Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.”

This, then, was a devotion specifically intended to make reparation for those offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Later on, Lucia asked the Lord why ‘five’ first Saturdays; He replied –

“Daughter, the motive is simple. There are five kinds of offences and blasphemies spoken against the Immaculate Heart of Mary – against Her Immaculate Conception; against Her perpetual virginity; against Her divine maternity, refusing at the same time to to accept Her as the Mother of mankind; by those who try publicly to implant in the hearts of children an indifference, contempt and even hate for this Immaculate Mother; and for those who insult Her directly in Her sacred images.”

God loves the Blessed Virgin Mary very much indeed. He also loves all of us very much indeed. And He is deeply offended by us whenever we offend Her. And yet, in His infinite mercy, the Almighty provides us with a way to make reparation, whilst potentially saving our souls in the process.

Wonderful though that certainly it, it could be viewed as being driven by a motive of fear – the fear of damnation and Hell. While that is perhaps a good motive for change, it is not the best motive – the best motive is always driven by love.

In this instance, to be driven by love means to look upon the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, surrounded by those piercing thorns, and to feel compassion for this most tender Heart – and to desire to do whatever we can to remove those thorns. And we desire this not only from ourselves but from others – and for them as much as for ourselves.

And so, we now have some very good reasons for loving the Immaculate Heart of Mary –

  • She loves us. She is our heavenly Mother and She deserves to be loved.
  • God desires that we do so, for He also loves Her.
  • He wishes us to make reparation to Her Immaculate Heart for sins – our own, and those of others.
  • In doing so, we may well attain salvation even if Justice would have otherwise condemned us.
  • In this way, we can help attain salvation for others, too.

There is also one further reason.

The more we love the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we encourage others to love Her also. And as more and more of us love Her, listen to Her and respond whole-heartedly to Her requests, so we help to bring about what She has promised –

“In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

 

 

Fatima and the Eucharist

Fatima and the Eucharist

“This is My Body, given for you;
do this in remembrance of Me.”

– Luke 22:19

The Eucharist is the beating heart of the faith we profess. It is a living heart, for it is Christ Himself, Who remains with us and with the Church sacramentally, truly present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Eucharist is Christ among us.

The Church tells us this about the Eucharist –

“At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This He did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.1323)

And so it should be no real surprise that at Fatima, which has been called ‘the altar of the World’, the Eucharist was central.

Now, this may seem at odds with your general impression of Fatima – was it not about the Mother of God? Was it not about secrets? Was it not about the Rosary? Yes, it was these things; but above all else, it was about the Eucharist.

Let me explain.

Prior to the appearances of Our Blessed Lady, the Angel visited the children one year beforehand. He appeared three times and gave the children a profound catechesis of the Faith. At the first angelic appearance, around the Spring of 1916, the Angel invited the children to pray; bowing with his forehead touching the ground in a gesture of great reverance toward God, he taught them this prayer –

“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.”

And so this prayer contained two elements – faith and reparation. This was the first lesson of the catechesis – God exists, and our sins offend Him, so that His divine justice demands reparation.

The Angel then told them – “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications”.

These words added to the Catechesis – God desires and accepts the prayerful reparation of one soul on behalf of another.

Lucia would later write about the effects of this first apparition, which was profound on the three children and which left them enveloped in the very real sense of the supernatural, so much so that they were almost unable to speak with each other about what they had experienced.

The second angelic appearance took place a few months later, in the summertime of 1916. Finding the children playing the Angel asked them – “What are you doing? 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!”.

The catechesis was continuing – God should be our first consideration, and we express this through prayer in the first instance. Prayer should be very important to us, a bridge to God which we cross often. It is interesting, too, that from the very first moments of the events of Fatima, there is an explicit focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which were spoken about by the Angel during both apparitions. Asking the Angel how they were to do all this, he replied –

“Make of everything you can a scarifice, and offer it to God for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.”

This elaborates further on the catechesis. There are innumerable opportunities for us to pray and offer sacrifices, and we should do this firstly to ask pardon for the offences against God, Whhose justice is offended; and secondly, to repair for the sins of humanity. But even more than these opportunities which we are asked to seek out for ourselves, we are asked to be submissive in all things to the will of God, to humbly accept whatever He deigns to send us, especially suffering.

How all this flies in the face of what the world tells us!

In the same way that little children make long preparations prior to receiving their First Holy Communion, so these first two visits of the Angel were a heavenly preparation for what was to follow next, at the third apparition.

Returing a final time in the autumn of 1916, the Angel appeared above the children, and in his hands he held a Chalice, with the Eucharist above it – drops of Blood were falling from the Host into the Chalice. Leaving the Host and Chalice suspended in the air, the Angel came and knelt beside the children, and then all four bowed deeply before the Eucharist, their heads touching the ground. The Angel then taught them another prayer –

“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; I adore You profoundly and I offer You the most precious Body, 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.”

This last prayer teaches us that the three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity deserve and desire that we make reparation to Them for the sins of humanity – and the most perfect means of doing so is through the Eucharist, the very means given us by Christ as a perpetuation of His sacrifice on the Cross, that greatest and most perfect act of reparation to God on behalf of humanity.

This was the culmination and ultimate purpose of the Angelic appearances – the catechesis of these three children (and, through them and their account of it, our own catechesis), all serving to prepare them for what would happen next. The groundwork was now done and the children were ready to shortly meet the Mother of God in the Cova da Iria. There, She would explain more.

During the first appearance of Our Lady, on 13th May 1917, the beautiful Lady from Heaven communicated to the children a heavenly light which penetrated their souls and left them with an impulse to pray this prayer –

“O Most Holy Trinity, I adore You; my God, I love You in the Most Blessed Sacrament”.

The catechesis was continuing. The date of this first appearance was itself also a sign – at that time, 13th May was the feast of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.

At Her third appearance, in July 1917, the Lady asked the children to “sacrifice yourselves for sinners” and then immediately showed them a brief vision of Hell. Hell is the final outcome “for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love” God. It is not God Who condemns to Hell, but the soul itself – every choice we make in life leads us either closer to our further away from Heaven, which is eternal life in the Presence of God. And so Hell is simply the eventual outcome of our choices in life; for the soul standing before the Almighty at then moment of Judgement, this is clear to the soul, who realises it has already – in life – made it’s choice. All the Angel and the Lady had taught the children so far confirmed this.

This was the moment when the Lady announced God’s desire to save sinners by means of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, promising to save many souls by this means. This devotion would take two forms – a Consecration made by the Holy Father on behalf of the entire Church, and a devotion She called the ‘Communions of Reparation’ (we often refer to it now as ‘the Five First Saturdays’), to be made by every one of us. The Communions of Reparation involve prayer, devotion, acts of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and – above all – the offering of Holy Communion for these intentions; it is the very real expression of that earlier prayer directed to the Holy Trinity.

At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin had told Lucia She would return later to request these Communions of Reparation – and in Dececmber 1925, She did so. Appearing once more to Lucia, the Mother of God was accompanied by Her Son in the form of a young Child, elevated on a cloud. Our Lady was holding Her Immaculate Heart. The Christ Child said –

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

Our Lady then spoke –

“Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console Me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.”

The required and requested form of the participation of the faithful had been given.

Building on all the catechesis that had already been given by the Angel and by the Mother of God, we had learned how we can participate in responding to the Message of Fatima. That only left what was to be asked specifically of the Church.

Our Lady would return to Lucia in June 1929 to request of the Church the Consecration She had mentioned in 1917.

Lucia was given a vision of the Most Holy Trinity, with the Lord nailed to the Cross, the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit above the Cross; to the right stood Our Lady as She had appeared at Fatima, holding Her Immaculate Heart. In the air next to the Lord was a Host, dripping Blood into a Chalice suspended beneath it. At the other side of the Cross, suspended in the air, the words “Graces and Mercy” appeared as though formed from crystal clear water. Our Lady then spoke –

“The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I have come to ask for reparation; sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.”

 And this requested Consecration would be made, finally, in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.

The Church, then, had done what was asked of her.

And so that leaves each and every one of us.

We are asked, as much as the Church herself was asked, to respond whole-heartedly to the messages of the Angel and the requests of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. It is a message of belief in God, of the recognition of our sinfulness and our associated need to make reparation, through devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by means of prayer, the joyful acceptance and offering-up of suffering, and by the practice of the Communions of Reparation, the ‘Five First Saturdays’.

And as we have now seen, all of this is focussed very explicitly on the Eucharist, the beating heart of our Church and of our faith.