Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pope Francis's SOS to the Blessed Mother

When we’ve messed up, we should run to our mother. Scripture makes it clear.  At the wedding at Cana, either the wine list or the guest list was miscalculated.  Someone messed up. Mary told Jesus about it, and he  saved the day by turning water into wine. But why would the Savior of the World begin his public life over someone’s empty wine cellar?

 Because his mother asked for his help. Ultimately, it was God’s plan, for Mary always asks, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). We’d be fools not to follow this example in Scripture.

Pope Francis is no fool. He knows our world has messed up and he is running to our Blessed Mother for help.  Pope Francis made an urgent plea to all Catholics for pray and fast for the violence in Syria, and the Middle East region. He chose September 7, the Vigil of the Blessed Mother’s birthday, and appealed to everyone to invoke the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace. Next month, Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13, the anniversary of the final appearance of the Blessed Mother at Fatima in 1917.  The original statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be brought from the shrine in Portugal to the Vatican for the consecration ceremony. The pope will also speak on Marian devotion, preside at Eucharistic adoration, and lead the Rosary.

        It is significant that the Pope has chosen the anniversary of Fatima given the threat of terrorism and violence among Muslims.  The name Fatima has a divine ring to both Catholics and Muslims through the Blessed Mother.  Fatima, Portugal draws millions of Muslim and Catholic pilgrims every year. Our Lady of Fatima’s message is to pray for peace.

Ven. Bishop Fulton Sheen
Mary and the Muslims

        The town of Fatima is in central Portugal. The Apostle James evangelized Portugal in the early centuries.  Historical records show that at least since 656 A.D., the nation has had a devotion to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception.  It was invaded by the Moors (Muslims) in 711.  Under King Alfonso Henriques (1128-1185) Portugal gained her independence.

        It is told that the village of Fatima was given the Islamic name of the well-loved Muslim Princess from the nearby Castle of Ourem who stayed behind and converted to Catholicism. She was named Fatima, like many other Muslim girls in honor of Mohammad’s daughter. She was baptized in 1158 but died at an early age after marrying the Count of Ourem. 

        Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote of Our Lady of Fatima as the bridge between Christians and Muslims. In his 1952 book, The World’s First Love, Archbishop (then Bishop) Sheen included a chapter on “Our Lady and the Muslims.” He wrote:

        “It is our belief that this [conversion] will happen not through the direct teachings of Christianity, but through a summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God.
“The Significance of Our Blessed Mother Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary. In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say, “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”

 This brings us to our second point: namely, why the Blessed Mother, in the 20th century, should have revealed herself in the significant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she would be known as Our Lady of Fatima. Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as Our Lady 
of Fatima as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son too.

        “Evidence to support these views is found in the historical fact that the Moslems occupied Portugal for centuries. At the time when they were finally driven out, the last Moslem chief had a beautiful daughter by the name of Fatima. A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and for him she not only stayed behind when the Moslems left, but even embraced the Faith.  The young husband was so much in love with her that he changed the name of the town where he lived to Fatima. Thus, the very place where our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed. 

“Mary is the advent of Christ, bringing Christ to the people before Christ Himself is born. In an apologetic endeavor, it is always best to start with that which people already accept. Because the Moslems have a devotion to Mary, our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and to develop that devotion, with the full realization that Our Blessed Lady will carry the Moslems the rest of the way to her divine Son. She is forever a traitor, in the sense that she will not accept any devotion for herself, but will always bring anyone who is devoted to her to her divine Son.”

The Fatima Story

        It was the event on May 13, 1917, that eventually brought Fatima to the attention of the world. At that time, World War I was taking place. On this day, three young children were tending a flock of sheep in a field called the Cova da Iria, in the outskirts of Fatima. The children were Lucia of Jesus, 10, Francisco Marto, 9, and his sister Jacinta, 7.
Jacinta, Francisco, Lucia
        Around midday, they prayed the Rosary, as was their habit after lunch.  Suddenly, a flash of light in the sky made them think lightening was warning of an impending storm.  Instead of a storm there was another flash and then a beautiful Lady, brighter than the sun and holding a rosary, stood over the top of a small Holm Oak tree.  She explained to the children: “I am the Lady of the Rosary” and told them to pray, do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners.   She invited the children to return to the Cove of Iria during the next five consecutive months on the 13th at the very same hour. 

        As word of the children’s visions spread, thousands began to flock to Fatima. In the last apparition on October 13, Our Lady had promised a miracle so that all would believe. A crowd estimated at 70,000—including many newspaper reporters and skeptics--came from all over in the pouring rain to the Cova da Iria. What took place became known as "Miracle of the Sun". The steady rain suddenly ceased. The sun swirled in the sky and great shafts of color flooded the entire plateau of Fatima.  At this same time, the children of Fatima saw the following vision as described by Sr. Lucia:  “When our Lady disappeared in the immense distance of the sky, next to the sun, we saw St. Joseph holding the child Jesus and Our Lady dressed in white with a blue mantle.  St. Joseph and the child seemed to be blessing the world, making the sign of the cross. (Letter from Sr. Lucia to her Bishop, December 8, 1941, Tuy, Spain).

        The amazing spectacle of “The Miracle of the Sun” was witnessed for miles away. Many feared the sun was going to fall from the sky and that the end of the world had arrived. After several minutes, the sun returned to its place in the sky.  At that point, people were astonished to realize that their soaked clothing and everything around them had completely dried in spite of being soaked just moments earlier. Many secular newspapers testified to these events with eyewitness reports and photographs of the great crowd.
Miracle of the Sun, Fatima, Portugal
        Columnist Avelino de Almeida of O Século (Portugal's most influential newspaper, which was pro-government and anti-religious) reported the following: "Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people."
The Blessed Mother indicated that World War I, which was ongoing at the time, would soon end. It did the following year. However, she predicted that a worse war would break out if people did not cease offending God.
        “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the communion of reparation on the first Saturdays.  If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace, if not, she will spread her errors through the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church.  The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.  In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.  The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world…but in Portugal, the Dogma of the faith will always be preserved.” (*Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima Portugal 2001)
It has been interpreted that Pope John Paul II’s 1984 consecration of Russia fulfilled the prophecy, and paved the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union, which happened early the very next year.
As predicted by Mary to the children, Francisco died just eighteen months after the apparitions ended and Jacinta died shortly thereafter. Lucia left her village on June 16, 1921 to join a convent. Sr. Lucia of the Immaculate Heart remained on this earth until Sunday, February 13, 2005, when she died at the age of 97.

Pope JPII Protected

       Jacinta and Francisco Jacinta were beatified as “blessed” in 2000 at Fatima in the presence of Lucia before a crowd of over a million. Pope John Paul II surprised the world at that time, by announcing the third secret of Fatima, which had never been revealed.   It is believed to have been a prophecy on the assassination attempt on his own life on May 13, 1981—the same day and at the same hour of the first apparition at Fatima. Before a crowd of 20,000 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, a Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ali Agca, fired four bullets at the pope from about 15 feet away.  The one that hit him narrowly missed his vital organs. 

        John Paul II reflected: "Agca knew how to shoot, and he certainly shot to kill. Yet it was as if someone was guiding and deflecting that bullet." That "someone," John Paul believed, was the Woman of Fatima. "Could I forget that the event in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ ... has been remembered ... at Fatima in Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet" (Memory and Identity pp. 159, 163). Four days later, from his hospital room, the pope asked all the faithful:  “Pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven.”
JPII visits Mehmet Ali Agca in prison
        On December 27, 1983 JP II went to the prison and forgave his would-be assassin.  The pope held the hand of the gunman who shot to kill him and said, “Brother I forgive you.” They talked quietly for 21 minutes. It was reported that the gunman who, revealed he was a hired professional, (there’s speculation but it’s not official who he was working for) could not understand how he failed in his attempt. 

         Many people know that the Pope credited the Blessed Mother with guiding the bullet’s path allowing him to escape death on the very feast of Fatima. What most don’t realize, however, is that the Pope was planning to announce the establishment of his Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family on that fateful afternoon. This was to be his main arm for disseminating his teaching on man, woman, marriage, and sexual love around the globe.
The following year, on October 7, 1982, (the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary) John Paul did establish the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He entrusted it to the care and protection of Our Lady of Fatima.

Our Lady of Fatima’s “Peace Plan” 

Pope John Paul II
        When Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children she made it clear that sin offends God and sin affects what happens worldwide. Our Lady taught us that in order to bring peace and save souls we must pray.

Pope Francis
        The prayer of the holy Rosary is the prayer of the holy Gospel; the prayer of the Good News of Jesus Christ who promised not to leave us orphans.  Pope John Paul II said: “The Rosary is by nature a prayer for peace…focusing our eyes on Christ. The Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world.  Pray the Rosary daily! The Rosary can end wars! The Rosary can bring world peace.”

        The rosary does not only bring peace to nations but also to families and relationships. David Calvillo, founder of Real Men Pray the Rosary is an attorney whose marriage was repaired when he and his wife became devoted to the rosary. His website offers support and encouragement to anyone wanting to learn how to pray the rosary or to learn more about consecrating their lives to Jesus through Mary.

“Mary joins us, she fights at our side. She supports Christians in the fight against the forces of evil. Especially through prayer, through the rosary.” --Pope Francis, August 16, 2013 during Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 
For more inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning big spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious. 

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