Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Message of Fatima and the Year of Faith: I Am My Brother's Keeper

Our Lady of Fatima
We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?”
Pope Benedict XVI  
May 13, 2010

Today is the 95th Anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal.  It was on October 13, 1917, when Mary, the Mother of God, appeared for the last time at Fatima, Portugal to three small shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.  Our Lady first began to appear to the children in May of 1917, giving them messages that resonate to our day and, in fact, are more relevant to our time than when she first appeared at Fatima.  Many at that time began to believe in the apparitions, but there were still many skeptics.  Our Lady promised the children that there were would be a great miracle to prove that she was appearing to them.  True to her promise, the Sun "danced in the sky" on October 13, 1917 at noon time, the day and time she predicted, in front of 70,000 people who had gathered at the apparition site.  From Mystics of the Church:
On October 13th a crowd of 70,000 gathered at the Cova da Iria in response to the children’s claim that a miracle would occur on that day “so that all may believe.” At the appointed time, in the middle of a rainstorm the clouds broke up and the sun was seen as a disk spinning in the sky, throwing off great rays of fantastic colours. As one columnist reported, “Before the astonished eyes of the crowd the sun trembled and danced.” Suddenly it seemed to fall until it almost reached the earth, but then it stopped, slowly making its way back into the sky. Many of those present “wept and prayed” in recognition of the miracle they had awaited. The phenomenon was witnessed by people 40 kilometres away, proving that mass hysteria could not be held responsible.
Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917
Our Lady of Fatima said the following to the shepherd children at this final apparition:  "I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day."  She also warned us, "Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended."  If our Lord was much offended in 1917 when much of the world still believed in God and at the very least recognized His laws and authority in their lives, how much more offended must our Lord be now when we condone homosexuality, promote same sex "marriage", legalize the killing of our unborn children and sick and elderly, promote artificial birth control and fill our entertainment with lewd and immoral images?  And that's just for starters on how evil and godless our world has become.

The World's Answer to God
The message of our Lady of Fatima was all about bringing people back to God through penance and reparations.  At one point Our Lady showed the children a vision of hell and said many poor sinners go there because they have no one to pray for them.  She told us that our prayers are not just for ourselves but for others as well.  Our Blessed Lady told us that we are our brother's keeper.  Part of the blame for the evil in the world must be laid at the feet of those of us who were given the great gift of faith at our baptism, but like the worthless servant spoken of by Christ, we buried this gift instead of using it to help others.  The result is the evil world we see around us.

Below is a clip from the movie, "The 13th Day" which explains the prophecies given by our Lady of Fatima and the consequences of rejecting our Lord:

Here in the United States, our own government feels free to tell the Catholic Church how to practice their religion. The government is forcing Catholics to promote the use of artificial contraception, and the Church rightly rejects this and fights against it. But at the same time most Catholics, in direct disobedience to the Church, use this same contraception.  We were told back in 1968 by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae:
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
If we had listened to the message of our Lady of Fatima and had been praying the Rosary daily and making reparations, our government would have never felt empowered to move against the Church as it has done.  But in the last 50 years, Marian devotion in general and the practice of regularly praying the Rosary in particular have fallen significantly in the Church. The Rosary has been forgotten by the vast majority of Catholics, as shown in the poll taken by Georgetown in 2008:
Eight percent of Catholics report that they pray the rosary at least once a week.

Another 8 percent of Catholics pray the rosary at least once a month, but less than weekly. One in five do so a few times a year and about one in six (16 percent) do so less than once a year.
Nearly half of Catholics (48 percent) report that they rarely or never pray the rosary. In a 2001 CARA poll, more than four-tenths of Catholics (44 percent) reported that they pray the rosary at least a few times a year. This compares to 36 percent in the present survey.
Our Lady asked us to pray the Rosary daily, and only 8 percent of Catholics pray it even weekly.  Is it just coincidence that at the same time as devotion to our Blessed Mother has faded, the faith of many Catholics has grown either lukewarm or completely died?   It is through her that Christ first came to earth, and it is through her that we must go to Christ. There can be no renewal of faith without the Blessed Mother, and now our Holy Father seeks to remind us of that.

Pope Benedict has declared October 2012 through November 2013 to be the Year of Faith.  The Holy Father is encouraging all Catholics to use this year to rediscover and deepen our faith and to share our faith with others.  This is desperately needed as only 20% of Catholics in the United States attend weekly Mass, and the numbers are dismally lower in Europe and Britain.  Far too many Catholics are woefully ignorant of the teachings of their own Church.  Pope Benedict XVI seems to be trying to remedy this tragic development with the The Year of Faith, which is all about renewing and revitalizing the faith of Catholics, and I find it highly significant that he is putting our Blessed Mother at the center of this.

This past Sunday, on the Feast of our Lady of Victory, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Angelus address after Mass, urged us, in connection with the Year of Faith, to dedicate ourselves to "renew the prayer of the Rosary".

Vatican News gives us the transcript of the Pope's remarks:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We now turn in prayer to Mary, whom we venerate today as Queen of the Holy Rosary. At this time, at the Shrine of Pompeii [see below], the traditional "Supplication"  is being elevated to which countless people throughout the world are joined [this prayer is traditionally said at the Shrine and around the world right at the time the Pope was speaking.  Click on link for prayer]. While we associate ourselves spiritually in this choral prayer, I would like to suggest to everyone to renew the prayer of the Rosary in the upcoming Year of Faith. With the Rosary, we allow ourselves to be guided by Mary, model of faith, in meditating on the mysteries of Christ, and day after day we are helped to assimilate the Gospel, so that it shapes all our lives. Therefore, in the wake of my predecessors, especially the Blessed John Paul II, who ten years ago gave us the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I invite you to pray the Rosary personally, in the family and in the community, learning at the school of Mary, which leads us to Christ, the living centre of our faith.
The icon of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii 
presents the image of the Madonna with 
Jesus in her arms, and at her feet are
St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena

Mentioning the Shrine of Pompeii shows even further the emphasis that our Holy Father is placing upon the importance of the Blessed Mother in the renewal of faith.  The Shrine of Pompeii is considered the most important Marian shrine in Italy, visited by four million people every year.  From Wikipedia:
Bartolo Longo started restoring a church in disrepair in October 1873 and promoted a festival in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1875, Longo obtained a painting of Our Lady of the Rosary from a convent in Naples and raised funds to restore the image so as to locate it in the church.
Miracles began to be reported and pilgrims began flocking in droves to the church. Bartolo Longo was encouraged by Giuseppe Formisano,Bishop of Nola, to begin the construction of a larger church—the cornerstone being laid on the 8 May 1876. The church was consecrated on the 7 May 1891 by Cardinal Raffaele Monaco La Valletta, representing Pope Leo XIII.
Notice, too, that the Pope is not talking about only individual prayer but prayer with others "in the family and in the community". The Rosary can bring us together and revitalize our faith. No one has ever gone astray when they draw close to our Blessed Mother. From the time of her Immaculate Conception she has been at one with the Holy Trinity. We can always find our Lord when we find Mary. Her motherly love for us is all about bringing us to her Son.

Below are the 15 promises given to us by our Blessed Mother if we will regularly and consistently pray the Rosary. Each and every promise made here will change the world, driving out the evil that surrounds us:
1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.

2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.

3. The Rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.

4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

5. Those who recommend themselves to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.

6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.

7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.

8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.

9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.

11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.

12. All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.

13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.

14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

We are all wringing our hands and wondering what to do about the oppressive government in our country.  The answer will not be found in politics or science or the humanities.  With all due respect to our bishops, the answer is not even in campaigns about "religious freedom."  Three small children at Fatima knew the answer that the best minds of our time haven't been able to figure out.  We are our brother's keeper. It is our Christian duty to pray for others and do penances and reparations on the part of others.  That is what the "community of saints" is all about.  Our Blessed Mother holds her loving arms out to us and longs to give us the answer if we will only turn to her.  The Vicar of Christ has pointed the way to her.  Let us turn to her in prayer and supplication and allow her to lead us to her Son.

Below is the trailer to the movie, "The 13th Day" about the story of Fatima.  I think this trailer speaks volumes about the answers to the evil we face in this world.

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