In Catholic tradition, May is the month when we offer special devotion to our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. As Christians we honor Mary as the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church.
We look to her as a timeless example of faith and trust knowing that she will always lead us to Christ her son. And we seek her intercession and protection in our lives as we travel through the “valley of tears.”
One of the spiritual highlights of May is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13. It is a day that inspires devotion and joy in all those who love our Blessed Mother. I’m sure you are very familiar with the story of Fatima.
Beginning on May 13th, 1917, our Blessed Mother appeared to three young Portuguese shepherd children, Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta. The appearances took place each month for six months. While Mary’s message had several requests and warnings, perhaps the heart of her message is found in these words:
I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and to ask 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 say it everyday!
While the call to repentance and holiness was certainly important for its time, when the world was engulfed in the flames of World War I, the message is just as relevant today.
When so many people around the globe still suffer the terrible consequences of war, injustice and political oppression, we need the message of Fatima.
When our own nation sees the decline of respect for human life and family values, and the rapid increase of secularism and materialism, we need the message of Fatima.
When our culture is debased by so much obscenity and vulgarity in the media, public discourse and entertainment, we need the message of Fatima.
When so many Catholics, especially young Catholics, have fallen away from the Church and the reception of the sacraments, we need the message of Fatima.
Think of what Mary said: “I have come to warn the people to amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins.”
The question is, almost 100 years after Mary’s appearances at Fatima, why don’t we listen to her message? Why don’t we heed her warning?
The answer is, I think, because we don’t have the same disposition of the children who saw and believed her. The children were simple, humble and trusting. They had the faith that predisposed them to see the Virgin and hear the message. They had courage in telling of their experience with Mary even when they were ridiculed and opposed.
Do the children provide an example for us, in our time and place? Do the children show us how to reform our lives and create a better world? You bet they do.
Like the children of Fatima we need simplicity in our lives if God is to work in us. Our lives are so busy; they are so cluttered and filled with self that there’s no room for God. Most often God comes to us in silence. But our lives are so noisy it’s impossible for us to hear him and to know his will.
Like the children of Fatima we need to live our faith every day, consistently, if we are to recognize God. Because of their faith and trust the children were prepared to see Mary and accept her words. The Virgin Mary and St. Joseph taught us the same lesson in their own lives and encounter with God. If God isn’t part of our lives every day, when he does come to us and speak to us, sadly we don’t recognize him, because he’s a stranger at our door.
Finally, like the children of Fatima we need courage to tell others about our encounter with God and how our faith has saved us. Increasingly, as Christians with traditional moral values, we will find ourselves in the minority; we will find ourselves marginalized and ridiculed because of our commitment. We will need courage to stand strong, to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” (Phil 2: 15)
In 1982 Pope John Paul II made an historic pilgrimage to Fatima in thanksgiving for Mary’s protection after the assassination attempt on his life. Recall that John Paul was shot on May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. On the occasion of his pilgrimage our Holy Father said: “I have come on pilgrimage to Fatima, like most of you, dear pilgrims, with the rosary beads in my hand, the name of Mary on my lips and the song of God’s mercy in my heart. To me, too, he has done great things . . . His mercy is from age to age.”
Dear friends, I hope that someday you will have the blessed opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the holy place of Fatima. Perhaps you already have. But in any event, you can easily make a spiritual pilgrimage, traveling in prayer to spend time with our Blessed Mother and to hear her words. Like Pope John Paul you too can have the Rosary beads in your hand, the name of Mary on your lips, and the song of God’s mercy in your heart.