“I am the Lady of the Rosary. I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord anymore, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day…Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say often, especially when you offer some sacrifice, ‘O my Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”
The above mentioned quote from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three children at Fatima in 1917 reminds us once again what the purpose of our Catholic faith is meant to do, or more properly, how our faith is meant to serve. The most important anniversary that we celebrate this year is the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance in Fatima, Portugal. At that time, many nations were engulfed in a World War, and God sent His mother to remind the world what the purpose of our life is truly about. In an age focused on amassing more land, wealth, power, and cultural domination, the Blessed Virgin’s message stood in stark contrast to the world then, and her message is as relevant now as it was a century ago because mankind seems to learn so little. God’s desire is that we listen to His mother and follow her counsel.
As we see even from this short selection from Fatima, Mary clearly explains that our Catholic faith is not something meant to lie dormant, and it is not some casual exercise in ritual which so many have currently cast aside. Catholicism is meant to be a robust, strong, healthy means to our salvation and the salvation of our loved ones as we are united as perfectly as we can be in this life to God through His Church. The essence of the Blessed Mother’s message is two-fold: prayer and sacrifice. Without either of these, we are lost. It truly is as simple as that.
Unfortunately, however, there are too many Catholics today who fail to connect with God in any meaningful way as evidenced by the lack of attendance at the most basic of practices such as Sunday Mass. Catholics with weak faith or practically nonexistent faith will recoil completely at the notion of sacrifice or redemptive suffering freely offered for one’s own sins and the sins of others. Indeed, sacrifice is not something anyone particularly looks forward to because our wounded, fallen human nature prefers to surround itself with the greatest amount of comfort and ease.
That is precisely the problem. By practicing no substantive penances in our life, spiritually, we become soft and quickly live for the world according to the dictates of the worldly. Prayer itself is a discipline we enter into, but we do not enter into it easily very often because prayer requires God to be the prime mover in our life. People can look upon the time spent in prayer, for example, as a complete waste because we do not produce anything in a utilitarian way that is considered useful according to the world.
However, we are not made for this world ultimately. Jesus Himself explicitly told His disciples—and by extension to us—at the Last Supper that “[i]f you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, the world hates you” (John 15:19). We are re-made in Baptism for a destiny greater than this world. So often, we settle for the least when God daily offers us the most. How readily do we see that?
How are we able to see what God offers? The Blessed Virgin’s message points to everything we need: prayer and penance (sacrifice). We read through all four Gospels that Jesus Himself lived a life of sacrifice on our behalf. As His followers, because no servant can be greater than his master, we are also meant to follow in Jesus’ life by prayer and penance. He was always united to His Father in prayer, and that is why St. Paul teaches us that we should “[p]ray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-8).
As Catholics, we are most privileged to have the perfect prayer offered to us every day: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We also have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament available 24-hours in our Chapel. Moreover, we have the life of Christ available for us to meditate on whenever we desire through the Rosary, just as Our Lady requested for us to pray each day.
There are several ways that we can live our particular devotion to the Mother of God and her Immaculate Heart as she requested at Fatima. The first way is to practice the First Saturday Holy Communions with the intention of making reparation for the outrages against Mary’s Immaculate Heart. This First Saturday devotion consists of:
- Going to Confession.
- Receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace (hence, going to Confession).
- Praying 5 decades of the Rosary.
- Keeping the Blessed Virgin company for at least 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary.
Our Lady promised that she would assist anyone who practiced this devotion for five consecutive months with all the graces necessary for salvation at the moment of their death.
Second, our parish continues to offer the Children’s Rosary monthly every third Friday at 3:30 pm in the Church. This is the perfect opportunity for children (and their parents) to come together and honor our Blessed Mother.
Third, Pope Francis has granted three different opportunities to gain a plenary indulgence in this Jubilee Year of Fatima until 26 November 2017. The faithful may obtain this indulgence (a remission of all the punishments due to their sins) under the three usual conditions: go to Confession and receive Holy Communion, be detached from sin interiorly, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (one Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Mother of God). The three ways to gain this Jubilee indulgence include:
- Make an actual pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal.
- Visit a statue of Our Lady of Fatima solemnly exposed for veneration of the faithful in any church or chapel during the days of the anniversary of her apparitions, that is the 13th of each month from May to October, and participate in some celebration of the Virgin Mary. Here at St. Marguerite, we will have a statue of Our Lady of Fatima exposed in our Chapel during the daily Mass on the 13th of each month from May to October and celebrate the votive Mass of Our Lady of Fatima on those days (with August exempt because it falls on a Sunday; we will have the statue in the Church with a public Rosary offered instead).
- For the aged or infirmed who cannot travel easily, pray in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and unite themselves spiritually to the celebrations occurring on the 13th of each month from May to October, always offering to God through Mary’s intercession their prayers, sufferings, and sacrifices in their life.
Fourth, our parish will again offer two opportunities in October to honor the Blessed Virgin as we do every year, and we particularly encourage everyone to join us in this special Jubilee Year.
- On Saturday, 7 October (the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary), we will have the Living Candlelight Rosary in the Church at 5:30pm with a dinner immediately afterwards. Each person is a “bead” of the Rosary while the darkened Church becomes illuminated with candlelight as we recite together each prayer associated with the Rosary.
- On Saturday, 14 October, we will have the Outdoor Rosary Rally at 12noon at the outside traffic circle in front of the statue of Our Lady. The public recitation of the Rosary, as we know from Mary’s apparitions in Lourdes, is always very pleasing to God.
This new year, therefore, is indeed a most privileged Marian Jubilee, and we pray that each of us will heed Our Lady’s words and conform our lives to God by including prayer and penance so that we will be united perpetually within the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate of Mary!
May you have a most blessed and holy week.
Fr. Shawn William Cutler