Today, Sunday, October 13, 2013 Pope Francis Consecrates the World to Mary’s Immaculate Heart
At some point during your day today, I hope you make time to pray the Rosary in honor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and her intentions at Fatima. The Church calls today, October 13, 2013 “Marian Day”…it’s theme…”Blessed are you for believing”. This year’s celebration will include a special guest: The Original statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be flown into Rome. To view the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis from St. Peter’s Square tune into EWTN’s 4:30am broadcast of HOLY MASS ON THE OCCASION OF THE MARION DAY.
It is my pleasure and with great joy I share with you today the following reflection from a dear friend on the Apparitions of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (Fatima: May 13- October 13, 1917). His reflection beautifully written is not only enlightening and insightful but heartfelt…truly an expression of his love for Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. May his work inspire you to honor Our Blessed Mother through a deeper understanding of her as a gift who desires each and every one of us to turn our hearts toward her Son.
An African shepherd boy’s reflection on Fatima…
Today, Sunday, October 13th, 2013, the Holy Father, Pope Francis in a beautiful ceremony and in the footsteps of his predecessors will consecrate the world to the patronage of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Today also marks the final apparition (October 13th, 1917) of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to the three rural shepherd children in Fatima. It is only right then that we her children, disciples of her Son recommit our hearts to the very message she offered the world on this day. A message of peace, of fervent prayer for one another, but most especially love of which she is the model par excellence. This day reveals virtues for every Christian life, innocence, trust, faith, love, obedience and most of all the fact that God continues to journey with us in the most simplest of ways.
Thoughts: May 13th – October 13th 1917.
I have always wondered why the war in Europe between the allies and the central powers is referred to as World War I (1914-1919). First of all, it took place in greater Europe, only a handful of countries were involved (Germany, France, Russia, Britain, Belgium, USA, etc) even though some of these countries (Britain and France) drew forces from their colonies. The vast majority of the world was oblivious to what these powers refer to as the World War. Africa particularly for the most part was grappling with the evils of colonialism and how to achieve self-determination. In spite of the upheaval around the world, there was much more going on during this period of human history than just a war between the strong and the willing.
Whiles Europe was being ravaged by war, God was present in the most simple of ways on the same soil where hatred, bloodshed and viciousness was the order of the day. God spoke in the Mother of His Son, He spoke, not through the allies who sorth to avert the impending catastrophe on humanity, not through the military generals of the powers that be, but through the least of European society, three Shepherd children.
I remember my first thoughts after a catechism class as I was preparing for the sacrament of confirmation when the catechist I felt tried a bit too hard to make real the story of Our Lady at Fatima. Continuing to ponder over the lesson, I realized how much this story sounded like “one of those tales in scripture”. As a child, my world of the supernatural, the world of the bible, of Saints was up in the clouds and no matter how much my catechist tried, my childhood thoughts simply could not grapple with the mystery surrounding such an event. God, Saints, Scripture stories remained far removed from my human reality. I was so wrong.
We all grow up with dreams and fantasies, the belief in Santa, the world of guardian angels, and tooth fairies. Some of these dreams we shed on our way to adulthood, some of them remain and actually shape our lives and faith journey. They help form a discerning mind and ultimately define and mark a spot on everyone’s journey. These dreams when we make time to explore can actually unravel us. In the midst of our “busyness” and the unending noise of the world, a person when time is made can find true direction and discover deep within ones heart, that ones’ childhood dreams can be a key to unlocking a wealth of emotional encounters and secrets hidden within that one never knew existed.
May 13th meant for me, no more than my birthday until my quest to explore a little more for myself the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. My mother always told me, they considered naming me Fatima if I were a girl. Of what relevance is the story of Our Lady and three little shepherd children in Fatima got to do with a little innocent boy in a village in Africa? Little did I know it had a lot to do with me. These events remained cherished and hidden in my heart. A dream to be explored and I did, forty years down the road.
We as finite people always want signs to help our faith. As much as Fatima remained a dream in my heart, I also realized I needed to see so as to believe. But before I could see, I had a journey to make. A faith journey. Into my teen years and subsequently adulthood, 13th May took on a whole new meaning in my life. It became a reality, not because I visited Fatima, but because I made a conscious effort to search. I believe my personal relationship with my own mother, a very loving and caring woman made this search about Our Lady much easier for me. An encounter with God, a journey with God often takes its roots from our ordinary human experiences of life, our experience of human love, but sometimes it does take rejection and pain to bring us to the essentials of God’s love too. Mine happened to be through a loving mother.
Trying hard as I could, one thing was clear to me, That God’s encounter with his people is always strange and supersedes our human understanding of what and who is important and worthy. Combing through scriptures, I realized all too well how God chose His messengers. He did not choose the wealthy, the wise, the pride-filled or the powerful. He chose the READY. There is a fine thread that weaves through every chosen vessel of God: which is an open heart, obedience, innocence, meekness, and humility. God communicates love according to His unique standard and not our worldly standard. Could that be the reason why He chose children to communicate one of the most important messages in our life time?
What’s in a name?
Fatima is an Arabic name by origin. The little Portuguese town was named during the Islamic empires rise (The empire extended all the way to the Iberian Peninsula) in honor of a Moorish Princess who later converted to Catholicism during the “Reconquista”. Fatima, a name chosen for the favorite daughter of the prophet of Islam (Fatima Zahra) means “the shining one”. Considered in Islam as the Muslim counterpart to Mariam (Mary) the Mother of Jesus is held as the ideal model for all women. She is revered for her purity and love of the Muslim community (The Ummah). Is this then a coincidence that the Blessed Mother will choose Fatima (the shining one)? We never can fully understand God’s ways. Call it coincidence, call it divine providence, I call it God’s hand at work. Fatima was a simple, rustic, poor, farming village. Yet in the midst of this tiny sleepy village, God finds His most worthy instruments, Lucia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Children brought up in a simple family in an atmosphere of genuine piety as many Christian families try to do today. They were simply brought up to pray, armed with the one most powerful weapon in Christian living, the rosary, which they never forgot even if they did not understand the full implications of its might. They were simply driven by obedience to their faith and love for God.
As they tendered their flock in the open fields, they also tendered the little fire lit in their hearts and they expressed it in their love for the one woman that in many children’s minds remains so far removed. They recited the rosary daily and desired to know her.
“When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
In the secret of their hearts, they sought God in the open fields, in the most unusual places, in the Cova da Iria, and they found Him.
Sunday, May 13, 1917, the first of the ‘impossible’ happened. A flash of lightning drew the attention of the children, and there they saw the brilliance and beauty of a Lady (the shining one) over the treetops of the Cova da Iria. The message was simple from the beautiful Lady: Pray for the conversion of sinners and an end to the war. The beautiful Lady asked that they visit her again on the 13th of the coming months. I am not sure how anyone else at age ten would have reacted to this encounter, but I do know what my reaction would have been, Turn and run and come back no more. But that is a human response. Remember these children had already cultivated a healthy response to things spiritual and in fact yearned for a deeper understanding of their faith. I am not sure at age ten I fully separated biblical stories and places from fiction. It is why the response of these children is very significant for me. It is very easy to give the rational excuse of; they stayed and returned because God had prepared them and given them the courage and grace to do so. That could be true but we need to keep in mind that every Godly encounter has always been a two-way affair, God giving and a human heart receiving willingly. No one is forced by God to respond and that is why the receiving of these little children is very significant and stands out as a valued Christian principle I hold on to: Openness, cultivating a receiving heart in spite of my unworthiness.
13th of the subsequent months (June/July) became special and beautiful encounters between the beautiful Lady and the three children. When God calls, it is because he desires to edify us and this edification leads to discipleship. Sharing this beautiful encounter however led to so much pain for the children and their families and skepticism among the listening public. Before the rest of the world could grasp what these little children believed to be true, doubt set in. The civil authority deemed the encounters a nuisance to the peace of the community and sought to end the ‘ridiculous’ stories beginning to make rounds in the public squares of Fatima. The children are prevented from visiting on the 13th of August, setting the scene for a War of Wills. An obvious show of power on the part of the authorities and the strong will of the children who held on to their faith.
Corrupted power, remember is the most preferred weapon of Satan. It is a false sense of self-sufficiency, a sense of foolish pride and a sense of independence. The Jewish scribes in the time of Jesus exhibited it when they struggled in their minds with the fact that God could not have spoken to his people through the son of a carpenter when they, masters and keepers of the law stood by. This self-righteous attitude does continue to persist all through out human history. The authorities in Fatima could not fathom a God that will choose children to communicate his word especially at that point in human history, while World War I was ragging, a time when only the strong, the wise and the powerful had the right to speak and to be heard.
Note to self: Selfish power and pride can never break the spirit of a determined and persevering heart. The children made their visit to the Cova on the 19th of August and indeed the beautiful Lady was there, waiting.
By this time, the community was about had enough of the “antics” of these little children. They had questions they curiously needed answers to. On September 13th Our Lady makes her request of humanity; Recite the Rosary for an end to the war. On October 13th, (the final apparition), The beautiful Lady reveals her identity “Our Lady of the Rosary” asking once again, Pray and repent for world peace.
God authenticates Our Lady’s encounter with His chosen with a sign, a celestial phenomenon never seen before. The bright Sun that seemed to be tumbling from the sky to the earth. This sign was not to satisfy the three children; it was for the many curious skeptics, it was for the ridiculing adults that had already labeled the Dos Santos and Marto families as ‘weird’.
“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).
Child-like exudes beautiful qualities that we as adults often times miss. Child-like evokes youth, the potential to grow and to change. Children teach us the age-old value of trust, they are straightforward, and they have a keen sense of wonder. Parents who have observed their children open up their presents on a Christmas morning understand this value of wonder. We as adults are invited to let ourselves experience that same sense of wonder, let our hearts be overwhelmed by the wonder of God’s love. Like these three little children, they came with open hearts, not expecting a sign to save themselves from a possible lynching, but a sign for humanity, a gift for ready hearts, an openness to recognizing and receiving God’s abundant gifts of Salvation that often times come wrapped not in “hallmark” wrapping paper with ribbons, but in the most ordinary gestures of kindness of the human heart.
The “world” got what it wanted; the curious witnesses saw the sun dancing in the sky (an estimated crowd of about 30,000). They came away astounded. Journalists had a field day. In the frenzy of the ‘celestial phenomenon’ many came away pondering God, many still doubted, but God sowed a potent seed in many hearts on that day. Our faith is a difficult one especially in our world today where a lot competes for our attention. We are drawn more easily to the most phenomenal rather than the simple. Often times we need to be able to simply stop, take a step back, strip our lives of all the fluff the world promises in TV commercials to simply ordinarily experience the depth of our encounters with each other and with God. What happened at the Cova da Iria from May 13th – October 13th, must translate in one sentence, God’s love for us His children. His continued presence in the day-to-day existence of this world must not be lost to chance, or coincidence, or a big bang theory, but to the breath taking sights of a baby’s smile, the rising of the sun, a beautiful flower, a bird in flight, and the simple breath we take every single day of our lives without even noticing. That is God and He is among us.
Mary at Fatima communicates one thing, God’s continued journeying with His people. Pray for world peace includes the will for hearts that care, a world where the pain and suffering of others is recognized, a world where the unborn child has a welcome home and is given a chance at life, a world where the vulnerable find acceptance and a listening ear, a world where we do not solve all the problems but we do offer our best in our most simplest gestures such as a smile, offering a prayer, a word of hello, a simple pat on the back or the caring words “are you ok?”
Being at Fatima on October 13th, 2011, did not only satisfy a childhood dream, it sealed a deep yearning in my heart to know Our Lady a little more. It confirmed for me an important encounter I always cherished in my heart. My dream and wonder came full circle on this visit. Walking in the footsteps of those little children, sharing in the awe and the sighs of the many young, and old, sharing in the smiles of gratitude on the many faces from all walks of life, seeing the very little human acts of kindness from one to another, a child pushing a grandparent in a wheelchair, a baby holding on to its mother in peaceful slumber, the sharing of a drink of water on the way by complete strangers, the beautiful smiles on faces that simply ask the question “where do you come from?” all these seeming insignificant or ordinary gestures reminded me of the fact that God is so close to the human heart if only we will dare to look.
Did the sun dance as it did on the 13th October 1917, NO, did I see lightening, NO. Not the same physical encounter as happened on that October 1917 afternoon, but I came away with a much deeper gift; that God all along has been in my heart and the hearts of the many pilgrims that gathered in Fatima. We came from far and wide but our hearts were in union with the ONE. No matter the language we spoke, no matter the color of our skin, no matter our different ages, no matter our status in society, we all embraced and spoke the ONE divine language, LOVE.
Mary’s message was simple, yet remains relevant in our world today. We are not at the brink of World War III, we are not in a starving world, In fact there is abundance all around us, we live in a world that offers so many options in life more than humanity has ever experienced before, but we are also in a world that is so broken, a world that thirst for the truth, a world that is hurting by the choices we have made as a people, a world that needs a little more love. Love between father and son, between mother and daughter, between brother and brother and between sister and sister. We are a world starved of humanity and love. A little more love, a little self-sacrifice for the other goes a long way.
My take home message.
“I have come to exhort the faithful to change their lives, to avoid grieving Our Lord by sin; to pray the Rosary. I desire in this place a chapel in my honor. If people mend their ways, the war will soon be over.”(13th October 1917).
In this rustic rural setting, thousands and millions of pilgrims from the world over continue to hear the same message that Mary spoke to the little shepherd children.
We hear those same words today as Pope Francis consecrates our world once again to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let our every prayer and our every gesture on this day be a sign-post to Christ Our Lord.
After Fatima, one thing I do know to be true is that; No one returns from Fatima the same.
(Refs: from the Dictionary of Mary, Catholic Book Publishing Company).