On May 13, 1917, Mary, the Mother of Jesus our Lord, appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She had admonitions for the world to be in prayer with God so to gain strength to fight versus oncoming difficulties in the world. Those difficulties came to be known as World Wars 1 and 2, along with the threat of Communist expansion in the world. The children received a message that God was sad for all our sins. The seer named Francisco said: “More than anything else, I want to console Our Lord.” So he lived a life of child piety. The seer named Jacinta said: “I want to suffer very much for love of Jesus.” This little girl knew that loving Jesus does have a cost, and it’s the heart’s cost of a surrender to God’s love, keeping away from a fallen world’s enticements to sin.
During the world wars and the communist pushes into nations, millions of lives were lost in those times. Faith was suppressed when the invader force came in. The Fatima message called for faith and hope from Catholics and believers world-wide to bear God’s light to vanquish the darkness.
The Portugese people mostly heeded Mary’s message and thus they had less harm come upon them from the wars (at least than others did), but the message wasn’t just for their present time, or to them, but for the future and to many others. The Fatima call has spread around the world, in fact, and for a century.
The 3 visionaries were all shepherd children. Their names were Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The latter two died as youth, as even foretold by Mary, but on this weekend Pope Francis comes to their Fatima village to canonize them, as Saints Francisco and Jacinta. Lucia lived through most of the 20th century, even into Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, the one she says she saw in a vision. She had seen a suffering pope, and it JPII indeed who was the victim of an assassination attempt, but he survived, and JPII came back to Fatima to thank the Blessed Virgin personally and did so quite dramatically too. All near the end of Lucia’s life.
The Fatima visionaries trio saw angels, Our Lady, Heavenly sights, and hell too. They came to realize, even in all their innocence, of the profound nature of the spiritual life that takes place everyday. They realized their need to be with God and to become holy. They saw the great need of all the world to come to Jesus. And they saw that Mary was there to help that come about. That’s always her role. To lead people to her son, The Son of God.
Our Lady of Fatima’s message was to pray for conversion of the world to God, and to offer prayerful reparations for the sins of humankind, the sins so heaped up in offense in the 20th century. A prayer for sinners in most need of God’s mercy was added to end all of the decades of the rosary prayer, in request by Our Lady in her Portugal apparitions, and she added a call for new 1st Saturday devotions, as in 5 of them done annually, in prayerful union with her Immaculate Heart. This call by Mary has been taken fairly seriously in places and by people. Thousands of people did witness a so-described spinning of the sun as a Fatima sign of God’s part in sending Mary to help the world. That sign still appears to people in some effect. The best sign, though, is that lasting one of a hundred years of the most faithful flock in Europe, that being the Portuguese, who remain more steadfast to the Church than all of their neighbor nations.
Pope Francis has come to Fatima yesterday and pointed to Mary as a person in grace and a model to us. He quipped: “Which Mary do you know? The plaster statue or the woman full of grace, so blessed because she believed?” Francis tells us that when we believe, we give God more ground for His favor to work in us. He says that we need to be open to a merciful God Who still wants to work in our lives, so as to perfect us. Yes, we need work done in our souls. Jesus, the Gardener, once seen by Mary Magdalene on that first Easter Sunday, has tilling to do in us. I have suggested to you more than a few times that it is to serve in evangelism efforts, outreach to the communities around us, and proclaim a Jesus of Faith, Who welcomes people home. This shall be the home for many, if we but reach out to them. The June 3rd Life in Christ seminar that we are having that Saturday from morning to evening is our gathering place for renewal. We come to learn how we can let our own hearts beat with love for others, and then later in the year, invite other people to a day retreat, those whom we see or know around us that look to need Christ.
In my decade among you, we have reached out a bit, to add new members– but not to the point of replenishing the 900 households we once had. We are under 700 now, and our religious ed. and Catholic school student numbers are lower than before. Our new neighbors need to meet the Christ we proclaim and serve. Our Lady of Fatima tells us that she is a patron of conversion. Get to know her story if you need to. I put introductory videos on our website to that end. Mary wants to help us.
When our statue fell and was beyond repair in the backyard devotional area on the hill, I wondered which type of Mary statue could go up there this time. Our Lady of Fatima, with the three children who became saints, gathered at her feet– that is what I ordered. We’ll dedicate it on a weekend ahead.
The Scriptures today in Acts 6 say that “a man named Stephen was filled with grace in the Holy Spirit,” and along with six other named men– came forward to serve under the apostles to help advance the mission of the Church– the Way of The Lord Jesus. It says how the apostles prayed and laid hands on them. (And that) the word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples (there) in Jerusalem increased greatly.” We could adjust that message to Bowie, that via persons in grace and the Holy Spirit and the apostolic church, did help the Word of God to continue to spread, and that the numbers in the fold increased greatly. Are you looking to serve that mission in some way? Come on June 3rd. Give an rsvp to the office that you’re coming.
What can we expect from God? That He will use us for His calling the sheep home. That He will appreciate our cooperation, for the Psalm today says how “the eyes of the LORD are upon those who revere and respect Him, upon those who hope for His kindness.” I propose that His kindness is to help St. Edward parish to renewal and more numbers. It’s in your trust in His kindness, your priority.
Hear the invitation on this Lady of Fatima day, via the epistle proclamation which Peter makes: “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house!” Does that not sound like a call to renewal and strength as a spiritual house of St. Edward for the Lord?
Last weekend, the presenter for Live Christ Share Christ appealed for people to not to be afraid to be in a renewal with God, and that this Catholic program, based first on an all-day seminar experience, is meant to show people how to stoke faith renewal, just in case one wants to help the parish grow, and its people within. We take a question that Philip once said to the Risen Jesus in front of him, in questioning if the apostles really knew the way to do things, as Jesus was calling to them: Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” Jesus was gently reminding Philip that God was among them, not just up there with the Father in the Heavens, Jesus said: I Am the Way, on this journey with you, brethren!”
Yes, indeed He is. We need to believe it.
Photo: I co-led a Fatima Pilgrimage in 2003. Group picture in the Fatima square.