Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis and Lady Gaga

October 2017 - the month of the Most Holy Rosary, the culmination of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, and our latest opportunity to renew our love and fidelity to Our Heavenly Mother.  

4 October 2017 General Interest

By Steven Buhagiar
Life, Marriage and Family Team Leader
Office for Evangelisation

This coming 13 October, in the middle of the month in which we honour Our Lady of the Rosary, people from every corner of the globe will commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of the most striking miracles to have ever been witnessed by human eyes – the famous ‘miracle of the sun’.

On that day in Fatima Portugal, 100 years ago, no less than 40,000 people saw the sun dance in the sky and then seemingly hurtle down to earth in a manner akin to an apocalyptic event; a very real phenomenon widely reported in the secular press of the day.

This ‘miracle’ of course was the sideshow to something much deeper and much more beautiful; the heavenly visitation of the Queen of Heaven to the three shepherd children of Fatima. To these young children aged 7, 9, and 10 years, she confided a simple yet powerful secret that if heeded, would bring about peace in the world. She implored them on several occasions to spread this singular message: “Pray the rosary.”

Unfortunately, history plays testament to the fact that humanity has, in the main, failed to pay heed to this simple request. War, the pulverisation of the human person, and the plethora of problems which afflict the family unit, give evidence that we can do no worse than actually listen to a Mother who cares deeply for each and every one of her dear children.

Following are five reasons which can encourage us to take Our Lady’s request more seriously and make this prayer a daily part of our day for the rest of our lives.

1. Mary is truly our Mother
A most striking fact that should touch us at our very core, our heart, is that Mary should visit us on as many occasions as she has through the ages and in such varied places and situations. Some proof of this may be seen in the 2015 lead story of the November edition of National Geographic which notes over 2000 locations the world over which have a tradition or authoritative discernment that the Blessed Virgin herself had appeared at a specific geographic location and at a specific time in history. One of the most famous of these visits was that in Guadalupe Mexico and it is timely as well as thought provoking here to ponder Our Lady’s words to Saint Juan Diego… “Let not your heart be disturbed… am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection... do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.” This is the same relationship which each one of us is invited to have with our Mother and the rosary is a normative way by which we can enter into this grace-filled encounter with this Mother who reaches out to us in love. At Fatima, at each monthly visit to the shepherd children, Our Lady gently encouraged them to pray the rosary. Why? The rosary teaches us who Mary is and as we walk with her, we come to recognise the intimate and motherly role that she plays in the unfolding of salvation history alongside her son Jesus. To help us understand this aspect of Mary’s maternal role, we can place ourselves at her side during the crucifixion which is commemorated in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. Here, in the midst of Christ’s pain and desolation, we see Jesus presenting his mother not only to the disciple John, but to us as well. We hear Jesus personally inviting us, all of us, to take Mary into our own home, our heart. He invites us with these beautiful words which transcend all time and space… “Behold your Mother”.

2. “Do whatever he tells you” – Mary leads us to Jesus
Saint Louis De Montfort tells us that it is because Mary is still relatively unknown, i.e. her integral role in the whole scheme of salvation, that “Jesus is not known as he ought to be”. Unknown in terms of the realm of the heart and not just with reference to ‘head knowledge’. We often hear the saying that the longest journey is that from the “head to the heart” and it is in the heart that we come to know the living Jesus and his Mother. As an example, let us take a moment to focus our attention on the Third Joyful Mystery of the rosary, the Birth of Jesus, and be attentive to the movements of the heart which Our Lady invites us to share with her. This is what Saint John Paul II would call “sitting at the school of Mary”. As we start to ponder the face of the newborn baby Jesus, we look to Mary to present her son to us… to invite us to reach out and encounter the Lord Jesus in his infant flesh and humanity. If this is starting to sound a bit far-fetched and theoretical, think again of the actual reality of Holy Communion. This is the same Jesus Christ in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity whom Mary again presents to us. We hear her tell us, as at the marriage at Cana, “do whatever he tells you”… and we hear Jesus in response invite us to “take and eat this is my Body”. The rosary teaches us that what we ponder in the mysteries of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, are in truth, realities that we are called to enter into and experience in union with Mary at the celebration of the Eucharist and in the encounter with the living Word of God in scripture.

3. Intentional time for family prayer – Under Mary’s mantle
Pope Francis has on many occasions turned in explicit prayer to Our Lady of Fatima. In this, the Centenary Year of Fatima, he could not be more overt in his sense of Mary’s maternal role when he exhorted those gathered in St Peters Square with the following words: “Please! Let us pray the Rosary for peace, as the Virgin of Fatima asked us to do.” This turning of the heart to Our Lady has been a constant theme of his pontificate. In his recent synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, we find him

encouraging families to spend time in prayer conscious that their loving Mother is there with them. “A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family… and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle.” The rosary provides the reason and opportunity by which we can draw together as a family into this special time of prayer. It provides a practical focal point in time where the family come in from all the hustle and business of everyday life to a time of quiet and in a certain sense ‘rest’. Mary is truly Mother here and bestows on her children an abundance of grace as each member of the family presents to her in turn the immediate needs of their life and circumstance. In this intimacy of Mother and children, of children and parents, of brothers and sisters and grandparents and extended family and friends, we sense in a very real way the communion of saints and the genealogy of persons which the vista of the rosary’s mysteries invite us into and which is the lived reality of the passing ages of all family life in light of the natural ebb of joys and sufferings.

4. Teaches us the humility needed to be at peace with ourselves
The recently tweeted post of Lady Gaga clutching her rosary beads and crucifix in prayer and her personal admission that she is currently struggling with physical and mental health challenges, bring to the fore the universal desire for peace that sits at the very core of our being. St Augustine described this innate desire in his immortal words, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. Peace. Every human being looks towards and longs for this state of mind and heart. At Fatima, Our Mother holds out to us the answer. The Rosary. Why is it that so very often we shun what seems to be such a simple and uncomplicated way forward? Is it because we might see it as the prayer of the simple and uneducated? If so, we have missed the whole point of the Christian life. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens… and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart”. It is in humility that we approach the Lord and it is Mary, as the first disciple, who is presented to us in scripture as the unsurpassed model of trust and surrender to the will of the Lord. When she bestowed on us the gift of the rosary, she gave us the means by which we can find peace in our hearts, in our families, and in the world. It is only in humility and trust that we can come to believe that what she has presented to us throughout history is in alignment with the will of God and is in fact very pleasing to Him. It is in this state of humility that we learn to pray with the Blessed Virgin those pivotal words which marked the turning point in the story of our redemption; “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” Like Lady Gaga, it is often in our weakness, hurt and brokenness that we feel that inherent need to turn to our Mother, who we know instinctively, is always there for us her children and who only desires to draw us close to her son Jesus whom we will find in her Immaculate and maternal heart.

5. In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph – peace in the world
Mary’s motherly call to “pray the rosary” is a call from her who is the Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Queen of Angels and the Highest Honour of Our Race. It is in this context that we must allow this maternal plea to enter our hearts and minds. As children of this loving Mother and powerful Queen who dispenses the treasury of grace and who crushes the head of the serpent, we too play a key role in building up “the civilisation of love”. We must live up to the unique responsibility given us by our Queen to lead our families, our fellow brothers and sisters, and our nation in this call to propagate the influence and power which the recitation of the rosary can bring about. Yes we must believe that the rosary, which calls upon the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, truly does have the power to change the course of history. Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, reiterated the heart of the Fatima message when he wrote: “faith and prayer are forces which can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.” This is the peace which our Queen and Mother holds out to us when we trust in her intercession and pray the Rosary. Our proper response must be one of trust and humility where a belief that the Lord truly does hear and answer our prayer is still a reality in an age of incredulity and, often, open hostility to the message of Christian Faith. At Fatima Our Lady asked us to turn to her Immaculate Heart in which the Lord has promised victory over the wiles of the enemy. Her heart is that of a Mother and it is in drawing close to her, that we will discover and experience an intimacy with Him who is nothing less than the fruit of her womb, Our Lord Jesus.

October 2017 - the month of the Most Holy Rosary, the culmination of the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, and our latest opportunity to renew our love and fidelity to Our Heavenly Mother. Let us promise to carry the beautiful gift of the rosary in our pockets each and every day and through our pondering of the mysteries it contains, may we annihilate the sin and discord which holds us back from serving the Lord Jesus in union with Mary, and in doing so become the bearers of peace in a world so desperately in need of it.

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Broken Bay

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