Prudence and Discernment

Prudence and Discernment

“The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights …  He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils.”

– St John of the Cross 

I have read a number of messages recently on social media where the poster is sharing information from alleged locutions, visions and revelations – in all of these cases, the supposed events have not been approved by the Church, and in some of the cases, they have been condemned by the Church. Why, then, would a Catholic, share or promote such things?

The danger with apparently heavenly revelations is that they appeal directly to our human senses – and our human senses are very easily fooled, which can result in us being led astray in one way or another.

Saint John of the Cross writes –

“The devil often purveys objects to the senses, affording to the sense of sight images of saints and most beautiful lights . . . And to the sense of smell, fragrant odors; and he puts sweetness in one’s mouth, and delight in the sense of touch. He does all of this so that by enticing persons through these sensory objects he may induce them into many evils.” (‘Ascent Of Mount Carnel’, 133)

How often do we do something on the basis of emotion, only to regret it later on!

Those who promote such things are, in most cases, free of malice or evil intent – but they may be subject to deceipt regardless of that. It may be that they have read a particular ‘message’ and are moved by it’s content, which seems good on the face of things; however, a broader reading of other ‘messages’ from the same source may reveal that this is not the case.

Such was the case in one post I read a few days ago – someone posted a ‘message’ which in itself seemed innocuous; others from the same source, unfortunately, claimed the Blessed Virgin had warned the alleged ‘seer’ that the Holy Father was in opposition to the Faith and would shortly install the Antichrist. Now, surely, any Catholic with even a little sense of discernment would go and check what the Church has said about such a ‘seer’ before promoting them further? Surely it would occur to them that perhaps what seems to be heavenly may in fact be the product of a deceived or deluded mind, or the end result of spiritual blindness and pride?

To be abundantly clear on this one point – in any authentic heavenly revelation, the Blessed Virgin will never ever set the faithful in opposition to the Church of Her Son nor to His shepherd, the Holy Father. You have the guarantee of Christ Himself on this – in matters of faith and morals the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, cannot err. Trust the Church. Trust the Holy Father.

In another case at the moment, many are promoting messages from an alleged ‘seer’ who has now been condemned by more than one Bishop. These Bishops have noted that a number of the general claims made by this person are simply not, in fact, true; also, that the content of the ‘messages’ is not in accord with authentic Catholic thought and teaching. And yet despite this, the promotion goes on. Those most closely involved in the promotion wrote all sorts of reasons why the judgement of these Bishops should be ignored – and yet, for any Catholic in good standing, it should be enough that a Bishop, the authority who is competent to judge, has spoken negatively. In this case, nothing more is needed. And those who seek to seduce the faithful into ignoring those judgements are wolves in sheeps clothing who will surely lead others astray.

For those tempted to promote alleged visionaries which have not received the approval of the Church, be critical and use your discernment and prudence in the first instance – check what (if anything) the local Bishop has said in their regard, and check not just one message, but all of them before promoting them. And if condemned already – do not promote them any further. You place not only yourself in spiritual danger, but also those who will later read what you have promoted or forwarded. And if you are not sure either way – then do nothing further.

Anything that is authentically from God will succeed, no matter what.

It may be worth noting here that even at the hallowed Grotto of Lourdes, the Deceiver was busy trying to fool the faithful and by means of this, to destroy the credibility of the authentic appearances of the Mother of God which had been taking place there. I have written about this previously –

‘From the start of time, God had warned Satan that there would forever be enmity between him and the Woman. Lourdes was to be no exception to this rule.

The Satanic manifestation had begun during the fourth Apparition, when Bernadette had heard the cacophony of dark voices rising from the waters of the river, until silenced by the glance from the Virgin.

Now, toward, the end of the Visions, he would once more commence his assault. A young lady of Lourdes named Honorine, had been at the Grotto one day when she heard voices coming from within the empty Grotto – she said these voices produced a strange effect on her senses. This was repeated the next day, when Honorine again heard sounds – this time, savage howls and sounds like wild beasts in combat. The girl was terrified, and did not return to Massabieille for a number of weeks. The People of Lourdes said she was simply hysterical.

At the same time, a young man from Lourdes was passing the Grotto one day on his way to work before dawn. He crossed himself as he passed the rock, in honour of She who had been present there. Instantly, strange globes of light surrounded him and he felt unable to move. Terrified, he made the Sign of the Cross once more – as he did so, each of the globes of light exploded loudly around him and he was able to leave the place. As this was occurring, he could hear from within the Grotto, maniacal laughter and blasphemies.

Jean Baptiste Estrade witnessed some of the assaults of the father of lies. A lady from the Rue des Bagneres in Lourdes, named Josephine, was experiencing apparitions in the niche – this lasted for two days. Estrade watched what was happening, but said that while Bernadette was in ecstasy, he felt “transported” – with Josephine, he merely felt “surprised”.

And whereas Bernadette during her ecstasy was “transfigured”, Josephine was simply beautiful. The girl in question related to Estrade that she had indeed seen strange figures within the niche, but that she had felt suspicious of them since they appeared to her to be evil in nature, not Heavenly.

One day a young boy named Alex returned to his home in Lourdes screaming and shouting, but so paralysed with fear that he could not tell his poor mother what was the matter. After several days, he calmed down sufficiently to relate the cause of his terror –

“When I left the house I went to walk with some other children by the side of Massabieille. When I reached the Grotto I prayed for a moment. Then, while waiting for my companions, I went up to the rock. Turning toward the hollow of the rock, I saw coming towards me a beautiful lady. This lady concealed her hands and the lower part of her body in an ashen coloured cloud, like a storm cloud. She fixed on me here great black eyes and seemed to wish to seize me. I thought at once that it was the devil and I fled”.

Many other similar events occurred around this time.’

This should be a clear warning to every one of us – not everything that seems to come from Heaven, actually does so.

In some cases, our spiritual pride produces what we would like to be true; for other cases, the mind is being deluded or deceived in one way or another; and in certain cases, it is the Deceiver hard at work for reasons known only to him.

All of us need to listen very carefully to the Church and to the voice of her shepherds, the Bishops – they alone can judge authoritatively, and our viewpoint in this area never supercedes theirs.

The obedience of any alleged seer is one of the first indicators of the true source of any seemingly heavenly manifestation – we should immediately shun any who are not entirely obedient.

And for ourselves as observers, placing ourselves outwith the authority and judgement of the Church and her Bishops is generally a very clear sign that such an event is not Heavenly, and that our response is taking us along the wrong path.

The Church has very careful and comprehensive ways of judging the authenticity of any supposed heavenly revelation, which she has used consistently over the centuries and which are both tried and tested. It would be very surprising – and quite revealing – if any Catholic should seriously imagine that their personal judgement in such a matter is better than that of the Church.

May God grant all of us the grace and the light to remain obedient and docile to the voice of the Church, and to submit ourselves always and entirely to her, that we might never be led astray by ourselves, by others or by the Tempter.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows

“..And a sword will pierce Your own Heart, too..”

– the Prophecy of Simeon

Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ goes back many centuries. She is also known as ‘Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows’ and those sorrowful events are as follows – the prophecy of Simeon; the flight into Egypt; the loss of the boy Jesus; the meeting with Christ on the Way of the Cross; the Crucifixion; the piercing of the Heart of Jesus on the Cross; the burial of Jesus.

In Christian art, the Sorrowful Virgin is often depicted with Her Heart pierced by seven daggers, representing each of the Sorrows listed above. This is a visual representation of the verse in Scripture which forms the basis of the devotion. In Chapter 2 of the Gospel of St Luke, Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus to be presented in the Temple. The holy man Simeon is there and he recognises the Child as the promised Messiah; taking the Child into his arms, he utters the words of his now famous canticle, the ‘Nunc Dimitis’. And then the Gospel says this –

“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His Mother – ‘You see this Child, He is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce Your own Heart, too – so that the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare.” (Lk.2:34-35)

The great proponents of the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows are the Servites, (the Order of the Servants of Mary), who were founded in the Thirteenth Century. They adopted this devotion as the principal one of the Order, and would go on to develop the three main forms of the devotion – the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, the Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Black Scapular of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is the sign of membership of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows.

A localised liturgical feast was established in Germany in the fifteenth century, initially under the title of ‘Our Lady of Compassion’ and later renamed ‘Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows’. There were various changes to the feast over the next few centuries and it is now celebrated each year on 15th September, the day following the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

At the start of the Twentieth Century, the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows took on a new aspect following the alleged revelations to a Belgian mystic called Berthe Petit. Now, it is important to note that these revelations have never received the formal approval of the Church, but neither have they received any condemnation by the Church – simply put, there was never any formal investigation into them. A number of representations were made to the Holy Father, Pope Pius X, and later to his successor, Pope Benedict XV, asking for the devotion to be approved and spread – however, neither Pope felt it was a good time to begin to the work of establishing a new world-wide devotion. These alleged reveltations are mentioned here only because their content touches on our focus here, that of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Berthe Petit is said to have experienced visions of the Lord and His Mother, and on one occasion, she attributes these words to the Lord –

“The Heart of My Mother has a right to be called Sorrowful and I wish this title to be placed before that of Immaculate because She has won it Herself. The Church has defined in the case of My Mother what I Myself had ordained—Her Immaculate Conception. This right which My Mother has to a title of justice is now, according to My express wish, to be known and universally accepted. She has earned it by Her identification with My sorrows, by Her sufferings, by Her sacrifices and by Her immolation on Calvary, endured in perfect correspondence with My grace for the salvation of mankind.” (8 September 1910)

The essential basis of this supposed message is in accord with what the Church has always taught – that, by means of Her intimate co-operation with the Passion and Death of Her Son, She occupies a singular place in the work of salvation. What is interesting is that the Blessed Virgin, according to the supposed revelation, has ‘won’ for Herself the title of ‘Sorrowful’.

The alleged revelations to Berthe Petit focussed on the devotion to the ‘Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary’ and was interwoven with a series of prophecies of events shortly to occur, and which were heavily focussed on particular circumstances that would eventually lead to the First World War. 

Although, as mentioned above, these alleged revelations were never formally investigated and, so, did not receive any official approbation, it is true that various Bishops and Cardinals clearly accepted them as being heavenly in origin. The two main figures here were Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, and Cardinal Bourne of England.

In the Spring of 1916, Cardinal Mercier announced that on Good Friday of that year, he intended to consecrate his diocese and the whole of Belgium to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Across the water in England, Cardinal Bourne was also taking forward the devotion as best he was able to. In the Autumn of 1916, he wrote a Pastoral Letter which included these words –

“Nowhere in Christendom should honour be paid more readily to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary than here in England.. Throughout the realm, Our Blessed Lady, God’s Mother, were terms and titles dear to every English heart. England was, in very truth, Our Lady’s dowry. It is, therefore, not with the idea of introducing any new devotion, but rather in order to give fresh meaning and greater force to thoughts long cherished by us all and deep-rooted in the history of our race that we desire to consecrate with renewed effort the prayer, which the special circumstances of the moment so urgently demand, to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary…

For these reasons, we desire and enjoin that in all the churches and public chapels of our diocese, Friday, September 15, the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Lady, or on the following Sunday, during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Stabat Mater be sung, to be followed by the recitation of three Hail Marys and the invocation (repeated after each Hail Mary) “Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us,” in order that, by this public homage, all our dioceses, and, insofar in us lies, our whole country and empire may be solemnly consecrated and dedicated to Our Blessed Lady under this special title..”

The image of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary used as the front cover of St Louis de Montfort’s book, ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’.

Cardinal Bourne went on to renew this Consecration on Christmas Day on that year, and again on the feast of the Queenship of Mary the following year, 1917.

It is notable, too, that despite declining to work for the formal spreading of the devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pope Benedict XV sent a letter to Cardinal Venutelli, Dean of the Sacred College, on 3 May 1915; and that letter ended with a recommendation made to all the Bishops of the world –

“Let us send up our prayers, more than ever ardent and frequent, to Him in whose Hands lie the destinies of all peoples, and let us appeal with confidence to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, the most gentle Mother of Jesus and ours, that by Her powerful intercession She will obtain from Her divine Son the speedy end of the war and the return of peace and tranquility.”

Perhaps one of the most famous images of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary of the recent era, is one which has a connection to Berthe Petit. It was found in the basement of the convent of the Bernardine Nuns in Ollignies, where one of the nuns had been sent to clear out rubbish. The image was found hidden under cardboard and it depicted the Blessed Virgin holding a lily in one hard, the other pointing toward Her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart; this Heart was pierced by a sword, crowned with roses and surrounded by flames. The image became very famous and was used on the front cover of the book of St Louis de Montfort’s ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. It is now referred to as ‘Our Lady of Ollignies’. 

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.


Our Lady’s Martyr

Our Lady’s Martyr

“If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.”

– St Maximilian Kolbe

Some Saints of the Church seem to really stand out from the crowd – the crowd of normal and everyday humanity, but also the ‘crowd’ of the blessed in Heaven. Maximilian Kolbe is such a Saint and he occupies a notable place in the history of the Twentieth Century. His death is something of a point of reference for that age, and it is also a contradiction to that era and to the terrible events which came to characterise it. His story is now very well-known but it bears repeating, even if in a brief and simple form here.

It is interesting to note, too, that three of the greatest Saints of the Twentieth Century all came from Poland – Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II, and Maximilian Kolbe.

He was not always called Maximilian – at birth and throughout his earlier years, his name was Raymond (‘Rajmund’ in Polish). He was the son of a weaver and a midwife, one of five sons. Even in childhood he was devoted to the Mother of God and he told the story of something which happened when he was 12, an event which was to become a foundation for all that would follow in his later life. Here is how he himself described it –

“That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then She came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

A year later, Rajmund and one of his brothers joined the Conventual Franciscan seminary in Lwow. Three years alter, he was permitted to enter the noviciate and he received his new religious name – Maximilian. He made his final vows as a Franciscan in 1914. By that time, he was already in Rome studying for the doctorate in philosophy which he gained the following year. He went on to earn a doctorate in theology, also.

More importantly for our story here, however, in something which took place in 1915. Along with a few friends, Maximilian formed a group which they called the ‘Militia Immaculatae’ – the Knights (or Army) of the Immaculate. The aim of this group was to encourage consecration to Mary Immaculate. Part of the inspiration for this were events Maximilian had witnessed in Rome – demonstrations organised by Freemasons where they raised the ‘black standard’ showing Saint Michael being trampled by Lucifer, while giving out little pamphlets attacking the Holy Father. Part of the spiritual goal of the new Militia Immaculatae, then, was the conversion of sinners – and especially Freemasons. In fact, this was such an important goal to the young Friar that he amended the prayer given on the Miraculous Medal, so that it read –

‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee – and for all those who do not have recourse to Thee, especially the Freemasons, and all those recommended to Thee.’

Maximilian had a great devotion to the Miraculous Medal, named in honour of the Immaculate Conception, and he believed conmpletely in the power of the Woman depicted upon it, distributing all of God’s graces as She chooses. He would give away thousands of these and would say –

“Even though a person be the worst sort, if only he agrees to wear the medal, give it to him…and then pray for him, and at the proper moment strive to bring him closer to his Immaculate Mother, so that he might have recourse to Her in all difficulties and temptations .. This is truly our heavenly weapon, a bullet with which a faithful soldier hits the enemy, i.e. evil, and thus rescues souls.”

St Maximilian Kolbe

He returned to Poland after ordination to the Priesthood and was assigned a teaching role in the seminary at Krakow. However, his health was already deteriorating because of the tuberculosis from which he was suffering and so his teaching role was dotted with long absences. At it’s completion in 1922, he began publication of a new magazine which he called ‘Knight of the Immaculate’, having taken inspiration from the similar French magazine, the ‘Sacred Heart Messenger’. Over the next few years, his publishing operation would grow and it’s spread would reach far and wide. He also travelled to the Far East, where he founded monasteries and began work on localised versions of his magazine, before returning to Poland and starting work on a new radio station.

By this point, all the pieces were in place for what would be the outstanding event of his life. His work had been entirely dedicated to the Immaculate Mother of God and he was using every means at his disposal to bring souls to Her, so that She might lead them to Her Son. He even founded a ‘City of the Immaculate’, called Niepokalanow. He knew perfectly well that the Blessed Virgin is the one most able to lift souls to the heights of sanctity and to bring them closest to Her Divine Son, and his part in all this was to lead those should to Her.

Through the printed media, through radio, by travelling – everything was for Her. He had already given everything – but soon, he would be asked to complete the sacrifice.

The Second World War was underway and Maximilian had remained at the monastery, using it as a hospital to treat the sick and wounded; he also sheltered many refugees including many Jewish people, whose lives were in terrible danger because of the atrocities of the Nazi regime. It was perhaps not surprising that in February 1941, the Nazis closed the monastery and arrested Maximilian and his confreres, sending them first to a local prison before having them transferred to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he would spend the remaining two and a half months of his life.

In the camp, he continued his priestly role – and particularly by hearing the confessions of the prisoners, many of who would shortly face death one way or another. It is also said that he made Rosaries for the prisoners, using bread dough on pieces of string.

Visiting Auschwitz, Pope Francis prays in the cell where St Maximilian Kolbe died.

Toward the end of July, there had been a successful escape from the camp; in response to this, the deputy camp commander chose ten other prisoners who would be sent to the bunker and left there to starve to death. Amongst the ten was a man named Franciszek Gajowniczek, a sergeant in the Polish army who had been caught and sent to Auschwitz the previous October. Hearing his name called out, Gajowniczek broke down, calling out the names of his family, whom he feared he would never see again. Watching and listening, Maximilian instantly stepped forward and spoke directly the deputy camp commander – 

“I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children”.

Although astonished, the switch was permitted and Gajowniczek stepped back. The chosen ten were taken away.

Staff alter reported that in that bunker, Maximilian remained serene, leading his companions in prayer and encouraging them to trust in God and the Blessed Virgin. After two weeks starvation, only Maximilian remained alive and so the gfirard injected him with carbolic acid, and this ended his life. The date was 14 August 1941. He was cremated the following day – the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

Maximilian Kolbe was raised to the honours of the Altar and declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II, a fellow Pole, on 10 October 1982 – at the same time, he was unofficially declared a ‘Martyr of Charity’ – having given his life freely, as an actor charity. He had already been declared a ‘Confessor’ when beatified by Pope Paul VI eleven years earlier.

Maximilian composed a beautiful prayer of consecration to Mary Immaculate, and it is reproduced here –

O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to You.

I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at Your feet, humbly imploring You to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to Yourself as Your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases You.

If it pleases You, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of You: “She will crush your head,” and “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.” Let me be a fit instrument in Your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing Your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For wherever You enter, You obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through Your hands that all graces come to us from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

V. Allow me to praise You, O Sacred Virgin.

R. Give me strength against Your enemies.



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.”