Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette’s Parish, Fall River, MA
Feast of Our Lady of Fatima
May 13, 2014
Rev 21:1-7, Judith 13:18-20, Jn 19:25-27
To listen to an audio recording of this homily please click below:
The following points were attempted in this homily:
- Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady Fatima who on this day 97 years ago appeared to the three young shepherd children in the Cova da Iria in Portugal. The Church teaches that we don’t have to believe in private revelations, but affirms that those that are approved by the Church as worthy of belief don’t contain anything fundamentally new that was not contained in the “public revelation” of Scripture and Tradition, but do contain reminders of that public revelation or means by which we can live more fully by it. In the God-permitted appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta in 1917, she came to remind them, and through them all of us, of several of the things revealed by her Son and communicated to us through the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures and tradition.
- She came to remind us of what we heard in today’s first reading, that “God’s dwelling is with the human race,” that her Son wants to “make all things new” and wants us to “thirst” for the “gift of the spring of life-giving water” flowing from his pierced side into the fonts of baptism and into the chalice on the altar. Mary wants to help catalyze the renewal of our baptismal promises, to recognize that her Son wants to abide in us full-time, and that he thirsts to give us what alone will quench our thirst. She did all of this and more in Fatima.
- It’s in Fatima as well that she revealed herself in a particular way to be a Mother concerned for the spiritual growth and health of all her sons and daughters. In the Gospel for this Mass, we see how Jesus gave her to us as our spiritual Mother and gave us to her as her spiritual sons and daughters. Jesus wants us, like his beloved disciple at the foot of the Cross, to take her into our home, to allow her to enter into our whole life, to permit her to raise us to fulfill God’s will just as she helped Jesus according to his humanity, and to learn from her how to be docile to the Holy Spirit’s work of making ourselves a Temple of God’s presence by echoing her prayer to let all things happen to us in accordance with God’s holy word.
- In Fatima, Mary appeared with a word of conversion, the same word with which Christ began his public ministry (“repent and believe in the Gospel”) and the same message with which he sent out his apostles at his Ascension (to proclaim “repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem”). With great maternal solicitude, she wanted to help us to mature, to see things as they really are, and to use the freedom her Son gave us to choose aright — and that involves seeing sin for what it is and turning away from it and turning toward her Son and living by the Gospel he is and announced. She specifically called them and through them the whole world to penance and conversion, asking these children to pray for the conversion of poor sinners and to offer up sacrifices, voluntary and involuntary penances, and sufferings for sinners’ conversion. Why did she appear to children ages 7, 9 and 10? Obviously part of that answer is mysterious, but it’s likely because most of her older children — then and still now — routinely ignore this summons of her Son. It’s very moving how Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia immediately acted on this summons. They prayed the Rosary for sinners. The recited between the mysteries of the Rosary a prayer Mary herself taught them that most Catholics continue to pray to this day: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy!” From the beginning of the apparitions, Francisco began to pray almost constantly to “console Jesus for the sins of the world.” One night, when his father discovered him sobbing in his room, Francisco gave the reason: “I was thinking of Jesus who is so sad because of the sins that are committed against him.” Jacinta was so convinced by the vision of the reality of Hell of the importance of saving sinners from it that she began to pour herself into prayer and practice various corporal mortifications. “Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners,” Mary had told her. “Many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.” Jacinta responded, as did her brother, by prostrating themselves in prayer for hours, kneeling with their heads humbly bowed to the ground. They made all types of physical sacrifices, wearing tight cords around their waist, scourging themselves with stinging nettles, abstaining from water on hot days and other penitential practices. When both caught the terrible 1918 flu that took the lives of tens of thousands, they offered all of their sufferings for sinners. Having been told by Our Lady that she would take him to heaven soon, Francisco declined hospital treatment, bearing enormous pain with a smile and without complaint. Our Lady appeared to Jacinta and asked if she wanted to stay on earth a little longer to convert more sinners. She said yes. So the little girl allowed herself to be dragged from clinic to clinic, to have two of her ribs removed without anaesthesia, valiantly sacrificing herself as a victim for the conversion of sinners and for the Holy Father, whom she knew from the vision would suffer much. When Saint John Paul II beatified them in Fatima 14 years ago today, he lifted them up as an example to the whole world of what Christ-like and Marian love for the salvation of others looks like. He stressed that their lives demonstrate that children can be heroically virtuous and reach “the heights of perfection” at a very young age, and if they can so can all of us. Echoing the words of our Lady, the Pope reminded all children of God, however young, “Our Lady needs you all to console Jesus, who is sad because of the bad things done to him; he needs your prayers and your sacrifices for sinners.” This isn’t a new message. This is the Gospel. And our Lady was calling us to live it!
- The second thing our Lady revealed were the stakes of taking this prayer and sacrifice for sinners seriously. The Blessed Mother showed the three pastorinhos three different visions of the consequence of sin. The first vision was of hell, where Mary told them “the souls of poor sinners go.” They saw, as Lúcia recounted, “a great sea of fire” with “demons and souls in human form… amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair,” which made them tremble with horror. Had Mary not promised them that she would help them get to heaven, Lûcia said, she thinks they would have died of fear and terror. The second image conveyed to them that World War I would soon end, but Mary said that if people did not stop offending God a worse one would erupt in which God would “punish the world for its crimes.” She warned that unless Russia were converted, the communists would spread their errors throughout the world, causing war, annihilating nations, persecuting the Church and martyring millions. The third was a prophetic vision. An angel with a flaming sword cried out “Penance, Penance Penance!” as the children beheld a steep way of the Cross through a city laden with the corpses of martyred bishops, priests, religious and lay people, at the top of which was a “bishop in white” who likewise was shot and killed, an image of what would happen to Saint John Paul II 33 years ago today on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. But he didn’t die. He himself said, in his first public comments after the assassination attempt, that “A Mother’s Hand” guided the bullet so that even though it was shot at point black range by a trained assassin, even though it pierced five vital organs, he didn’t die. By means of the three visions, the children saw the real consequences of sin — hell, a world through in total turmoil, and a Church persecuted to the point of martyrdom. This is what Mary was calling them to pray could be avoided.
- And Mary also revealed to them the means to overcome sin and all the evil to which sin leads. It is initially a very intriguing response. If I were to ask you — and even give you 100 guesses to come up with — the remedy for sin and all its effects, we would probably reply “prayer” or “confession” or “Eucharistic adoration” or “Returning to the Sacraments” or “Reading the Gospel” or “charity,” or something somewhat obvious like that. Mary said, however, that it would be consecration to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. She told the children that the remedy for all these ills would be a heart like hers, a pure heart that “sees God” in all situations, says “fiat” to Him at all times, treasures His word and acts on them. This type of heart is a stronger weapon that all the earth’s bullets, bombs and hijacked airplanes put together. Consecration to her Immaculate Heart is not a substitution for following Christ, because when we enter into Mary’s heart through consecration, we enter into her own participation in her Son’s consecration to the Father for our sanctification (Jn 17). The children took up the arms of prayer and sacrifice and heroically put them to use.
- This consecration she asked to be done personally, ecclesially and nationally. She was asking it of each of us, but she was also asking that Russia be consecrated to her by the Pope united with the Bishops of the world. Such actions of consecration, she was indicating, are quite valuable. It leads us to wonder whether we’re still following what she asked for and consecrating Russia, consecrating Syria, consecrating China, and North Korea, and Cuba and Venezuela and our own country, our state, our city, our neighborhood, our family to her maternal love, protection and example. Such consecration matters! At a personal level it also matters and shouldn’t be looked at as a one-time thing. Saint John Paul II taught us all how to consecrate ourselves each day to Mary’s immaculate heart. He would pray, using St. Louis de Montfort’s consecratory formula, “I am all yours, O Mary, and all I have is yours. I receive you into the whole of my life. Give me your heart!” We should similarly constantly renew that consecration, which helps us to become fully a disciple of Christ of which Mary is the greatest example. It’s through living with a heart like Mary that we fulfill the Gospel announced by her Son.
- Today at Mass on the 97th anniversary of her appearing to the Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, we ask their intercession and hers so that we might respond to her summons just like they did and pray and sacrifice for the conversion and consecration of the world as we into Christ’s consecration in the Mass to the Father for our sanctification.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Rev. 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” 5 The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me, “They are accomplished. I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. 7 The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.
Responsorial Psalm — “You are the Highest Honor of our Race.”
Judith 13:18 Then Uzziah said to her: “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies. 19 Your deed of hope will never be forgotten by those who tell of the might of God. 20 May God make this redound to your everlasting honor, rewarding you with blessings, because you risked your life when your people were being oppressed, and you averted our disaster, walking uprightly before our God.” And all the people answered, “Amen! Amen!”
John 19:25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.