Posted by: Thomas Richard | May 13, 2010

On the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

photo by Thomas Richard

Sr. Lucia was one of the three children who were visited by Mary in the apparitions of Fatima.  Late in her life she wrote a book, “Calls” from the Message of Fatima.  The book is remarkable, and is itself a call to repentance and conversion so greatly needed in our time.  The beginning chapters of her book are titled “Calls” – to Faith, to Adoration, to Hope, to love God, to Forgiveness, to Prayer, to Sacrifice, ….  The list and the chapters go on and on, calling this darkening world to the saving light of Christ.

Is anyone listening?  Is the Church listening?  Certainly some in the Church are listening, but it seems that many are content to live day to day as if tomorrow will surely come – like passengers on the Titanic, unaware of the giant iceberg dead ahead of them.  The world continues to find shelter not on the foundation of Rock, but in a house of cards – and the winds are growing.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a Papal Press Conference En Route to Portugal, spoke of the meaning of the message of Fatima for us today:

For us, Fatima is a sign of the presence of faith, of the fact that it is precisely from the little ones that faith gains new strength, one which is not limited to the little ones but has a message for the entire world and touches history here and now, and sheds light on this history. In 2000, in my presentation, I said that an apparition – a supernatural impulse which does not come purely from a person’s imagination but really from the Virgin Mary, from the supernatural – that such an impulse enters into a subject and is expressed according to the capacities of that subject. The subject is determined by his or her historical, personal, temperamental conditions, and so translates the great supernatural impulse into his or her own capabilities for seeing, imagining, expressing; yet these expressions, shaped by the subject, conceal a content which is greater, which goes deeper, and only in the course of history can we see the full depth, which was – let us say – “clothed” in this vision that was accessible to specific individuals.

Consequently, I would say that, here too, beyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in the first place refer to Pope John Paul II, an indication is given of realities involving the future of the Church, which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident. So it is true that, in addition to moment indicated in the vision, there is mention of, there is seen, the need for a passion of the Church, which naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope, yet the Pope stands for the Church and thus it is sufferings of the Church that are announced.

The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world. The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. Thus we see here the true, fundamental response which the Church must give – which we, every one of us, must give in this situation. As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice.

In a word, we need to relearn precisely this essential: conversion, prayer, penance and the theological virtues. This is our response, we are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, yet that the forces of good are also ever present and that, in the end, the Lord is more powerful than evil and Our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.

Thomas


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    How we need to ponder Pope Benedict’s words, especially on this Feast of Our Lady of Fatima:

    “…the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice.

    In a word, we need to relearn precisely this essential: conversion, prayer, penance and the theological virtues. This is our response, we are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, yet that the forces of good are also ever present and that, in the end, the Lord is more powerful than evil and Our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.”

    May we learn from the little shepherd-children, Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia to become humble and obedient children of God and Our Lady. May we take the message of Fatima seriously and give our whole-hearted response!

  2. Thomas,

    Your words, “Is anyone listening? Is the Church listening?” reminded me of a song with lyrics that pierce me to the heart. Lyrics that I quoted in a homily not that long ago – “Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see? Or does anybody even know she’s going down today? Under the shadow of our steeple, with all the lost and lonely people
    searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me. Does anybody hear her? Does anybody care?” (complete lyrics appear below)

    You have written so many times that WE are church. that WE are the hands and feet of Christ. Each of us, laity and clergy, have a responsibility as baptized members of the faithful to live out that call each and every day in the circumstances of our ordinary lives. Sr. Lucia’s call, echoed by the Holy Father this week on his pilgrimage to Fatima, remind us once again to focus on the essential: conversion, prayer, penance and the theological virtues. (I might add the sacraments to the “essential list.”) Sadly, society’s values are often at odds with living lives of virtue. This can lead many to a self-centered existence, a life devoid of objective truth, a life steeped in moral relativism.

    When the Angel of Portugal first appeared to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, he prepared the shepherd children to meet Our Lady. Understandably, they were afraid, shocked and confused. Many today are in this same state- those in our pews, those who used to be in our pews, and those who have never set their bottoms in a pew.

    If we are to be worthy of the name “Christian,” worthy of our baptismal call, each of us might consider reflecting on our own personal holiness, our lives of virtue, our ongoing conversion, and our lives of prayer and penance. Each day we face opportunities to grow in holiness, to grow in virtue, often right in the shadow of our steeples, with all the lost and lonely people.

    The Angel taught the seers this prayer, “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.” Begging pardon isn’t condemning, it is reaching out in love to those around us- under our steeples, on our block, in school, at work. May we be believers and adorers; people of hope, and people of love!

    Blessings,
    Deacon Mark
    (celebrating his baptism on May 13th long ago)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Complete lyrics to
    “Does Anybody Hear Her?”
    Artist:Casting Crowns
    She is running
    A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction
    She is trying
    But the canyon’s ever widening
    In the depths of her cold heart
    So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
    She’s another two years older
    And she’s three more steps behind

    Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
    Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
    Under the shadow of our steeple
    With all the lost and lonely people
    Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
    Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

    She is yearning
    For shelter and affection
    That she never found at home
    She is searching
    For a hero to ride in
    To ride in and save the day
    And in walks her prince charming
    And he knows just what to say
    Momentary lapse of reason
    And she gives herself away

    Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
    Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
    Under the shadow of our steeple
    With all the lost and lonely people
    Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
    Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

    If judgment looms under every steeple
    If lofty glances from lofty people
    Can’t see past her scarlet letter
    And we’ve never even met her

    If judgment looms under every steeple
    If lofty glances from lofty people
    Can’t see past her scarlet letter
    And we’ve never even met her

    If Judgement looms under every steeple
    If lofty glances from lofty people
    Can’t see past her scarlet letter
    And we’ve never even met her

    Never even met her
    (Never Even Met her)

    (OHHHHH)Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?
    Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
    Under the shadow of our steeple
    With all the lost and lonely people
    Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me

    Does anybody hear her? (Does anybody hear her?) Does anybody see? (Does anybody See?)
    Does anybody even know she’s going down today?
    Under the shadow of our steeple (shadow of her steeple)
    With all the lost and lonely people (Lost and Lonely people)
    Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
    Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?

    He is running a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

  3. Thomas,

    I just read the deacon’s reply and watched the music video. (I’m glad they used captions, since people with hearing loss are even more isolated.) I think a lot of teens/young adults can relate to that video, especially when there’s hypocrisy in their own church in their upbringing. I think the ecumenical youth group which included teens from both American High Schools in our area really helped me. I recall going into the first meeting with a friend wondering if they were going to be welcoming or judgmental–wondering if they were going to discriminate against Catholics like some other Christian denominations. They didn’t and they respected our traditions. They weren’t trying to steer us toward one particular denomination even though a few Catholic parents were concerned and showed up unannounced like a sting operation. It wasn’t that youth group that threatened my faith in the Church; that came from within the Church. In the youth group, we found common ground and they taught me some wonderful songs that I draw upon to this day in times of need. He who sings prays twice.

    The part where she crumples up some Christian literature makes sense. I think we’ve all experienced moments when we could relate to that scene. Most recently, I met a woman at the Y. She was so enthusiastic about sharing her faith. She talked about the Bible and she was impressed (for lack of a better word) with my knowledge about Hannah and Samuel and other parts of the Bible. We were having a good conversation until she said, “You know those Catholics believe . . .” I stopped her right there and let her know that I was Catholic. All the good news fell flat when she started condemning Catholics.

    The youth group didn’t divide and conquer. They provided the foundation for love of Jesus–the message of hope and mercy. I never felt that they were a threat to my faith. The lyrics to some of those songs were profound even though I didn’t appreciate them in depth until many years later.

    The part about lofty people judging the girl made a good point. I know there are many people that don’t dress appropriately for Mass, but how we treat that person or judge that person makes a big difference. Who knows how the woman who committed adultery looked when she was thrown at Jesus? Yet he didn’t turn her away.

    I watched a program last night called “What would you do?” They used actors and actresses to play a scene in a public restaurant where the boyfriend was abusive to his girlfriend. She had visible bruises & cuts on her arms and face. They used different variables to see how people would react when he started berating her. Some people got up to help the woman. Some tried to help her get away when the boyfriend went outside for a moment. Some confronted the boyfriend and tried to get him to calm down. One man took the boyfriend outside to calm him down while his wife spoke to the woman and asked her if she needed help. As a matter of fact, that couple approached the woman even before the boyfriend arrived because the wounds were so visible and they were concerned.

    They used a white actress and a black actress. Race didn’t matter. Then they decided to dress the women more provocatively. Few people helped. Some called police, but they kept their distance. A psychologist behind the project pointed out that when women dress more provocatively there is an assumption that she somehow deserves the abuse or they devalue her. A few women customers commented how she must have been a prostitute and he was a pimp. That doesn’t mean they don’t need help! Prostitutes are in even greater danger, since they are nearly imprisoned by their pimps. One couple in another booth said, “You’re embarrassing yourself as a couple.” They looked straight at the woman when they said it.

    It was terribly disheartening to see how those women were treated differently based upon their clothing.

    Anyway, what I’m getting at, is that we have to kindly approach those who aren’t already put together. They need our help more than the regulars sitting up front at Mass.


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