May 14, 2017
Our Lady of Fatima
The Fourth Sunday after Easter
There are all kinds of stories about good news and bad news. I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the doctor and his diabetic patient? He came to his patient in the hospital and said, “I am awfully sorry, but I shall have to take off your leg. So, he amputated it the next day and then came in and said, “I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news first. I took off the wrong leg. The good news is the other leg is better now.”
Three drunken men came into the hotel New Yorker and they were assigned rooms on the 45th floor. They went out for the night and came back in even a worse state than before and the clerk said, “I’m sorry but the elevator is broken, you will have to walk up.” The drunks said, “We don’t mind.” The clerk said, “No, we will put some cots up on the mezzanine floor.” “No”, said the first drunk, “we’ll walk up.” He said, “For the first 15 floors I will sing.” And the second drunk said, “For the next 15 floors I will tell funny stories.” The third drunk said, “And for the last 15 floors, I will tell sad stories.” And so they started up, and for the first 15 floors – songs. The next 15 floors – funny stories. And they said to the third man, “Alright, begin your sad story.” He said, “I forgot the key.”
Now that I have your attention, I imagine you are wondering how boring this sermon is going to be? Today is Mother’s Day. And what a wonderful day to be taught about the Blessed Mother. Yesterday was Our Lady of Fatima day. And I wanted to remember Ramon’s mother-in-law in prayer today, so today just works out well. A trinity of mother’s if you will. An extra reason for an especially long sermon! So to answer your question, possibly a little boring to some or too long for others.
There is no better day to talk about Mary than on Mother’s day. Our Lady Mary was the first member of the Church. “How do you know that?” you might ask. It’s simple. On the day of the Crucifixion, our Blessed Lord looks down from the Cross and sees His mother and the Disciple named John. He says to His mother, “Woman here is your son.” He says to John, “Here is your mother.” Scriptures say that from that day on, John took Mary into his home. Christ filled out her membership card for her and John. She was the first Christian by virtue of this and by giving birth to her God.
This situation we’ve now witnessed, which when you think about it, tends to imply Mary had no other children. She remained perpetually virgin. It only seems logical that Jesus said this for two reasons. The first, He knew she had no other children to take care of her. Women did work, at least in the traditional sense we have today, so she needed someone to care for her. Additionally, Jesus was out to teach a theological mandate of how His Mother Mary should be viewed by all Christians – as the Mother of us all!)
She becomes the beginning of the Church. However, this is even bigger than anyone could at first imagine, because as she becomes John’s mother, she becomes the mother of all mankind. That was what our Blessed Lord meant, and that is how it has evolved in time.
Most of you know, from our Sunday morning Rosary recitations that I have a bit of a devotion to Our Lady – especially as that of Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady Undoer of Knots. Pope Francis has devotion to her under the title of Undoer of Knots also. I actually believe in what is said to have taken place in Fatima. Historically, there were many people who attested to the miracle of the sun. Reporters put it at roughly 30,000, and since the miracle the number grew, because it was found that many more people saw it that were far away and wasn’t interested in the happing’s in Fatima. So the number has been estimated to actually be 70,000 to 100,000 witnesses. And many, many cures and miracles of people who have made a pilgrimage to Fatima in hope of a miracle from Our Lady. In your bulletin this morning is photo of the actual newspaper recording the happenings and which validates the story as true.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated under this title following apparitions to three shepherd children — Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco — in Portugal in 1917. The message of Fatima included a call to conversion of heart, repentance from sin and a dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially through praying the Rosary.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine. (Just as a bit of useless information, Robert Bellarmine was the saint I chose at my confirmation many years ago.) St. Robert was famous throughout Europe as a theologian, and as a strenuous defender of the Faith in controversy with Protestants. He joined the Society of Jesus, and was later made Cardinal and Archbishop of Capua. He died in 1621, and was canonized and declared Doctor of the Church in 1931. His feast date has been moved to September 17, to make way for the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima who first appeared to the children and May 13, 1917.
The famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the children of Fatima took place during the First World War, in the summer of 1917. The inhabitants of this tiny village were mostly poor people, many of them small farmers who went out by day to tend their fields and animals. Children traditionally were assigned the task of herding the sheep.
The three children who received the apparitions had been brought up in an atmosphere of genuine piety: Lucia dos Santos (10) and her two younger cousins, Francisco (9) and Jacinta (7). Together they tended the sheep and, with Lucia in charge, would often pray the Rosary kneeling in the open. In the summer of 1916 an Angel appeared to them several times and taught them a prayer to the Blessed Trinity.
The Trinity prayer goes like this, “O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.” I have a copy of it on a holy card that I keep here on the altar that I leave beneath the corporal that is under the chalice. I leave there to remind me to say the prayer, because I feel there are indeed sacrileges committed against the Body and Blood of Christ.
On Sunday, May 13, 1917, toward noon, a flash of lightning drew the attention of the children, and they saw a brilliant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. The "Lady" asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and an end to the war, and to come back every month, on the 13th.
Further apparitions took place on June 13 and July 13. On August 13 the children were prevented by local authorities from going to the Cova da Iria, but they saw the apparition on the 19th. The children were treated poorly, mocked and ridiculed – people were downright nasty to them. Church authorities accused them of all sorts of sin and forbidden to continue with the false story. The children, however, were full of faith and knew what they saw to be true and would not recant and continued to go on the designated days. On September 13 the Lady requested recitation of the Rosary for an end to the war. The Lady had promised the children that she would perform a miracle on her next visit so as the people would believe the children.
Finally, on October 13, the "Lady" identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary" and again called for prayer and penitence.
October 13 was a very rainy and horrible weather of a day; however it did not deter the children or the people from going with the children for chance to see if this Lady was real. On that day a celestial phenomenon also took place: the sun seemed to tumble from the sky and crash toward earth. The children had been forewarned of it as early as May 13, during the first apparition. The large crowd (estimated at 30,000 by reporters) that had gathered around the children and were able to see the phenomenon and came away astounded. Additionally, when the phenomenon was over, everyone was dry, the ground was dry – there was no evidence that it had been raining at all.
Official recognition of the "visions" which the children had at the Cova da Iria came on October 13, 1930, when the bishop of the local diocese - after long inquiry - authorized the cult of Our Lady of the Rosary at the site. The two younger children had died: Francisco (who saw the apparition but did not hear the words) on April 4, 1919, and his sister Jacinta on February 20, 1920. Sister Lucia died just shy of her 98thbirthday, on February 13, 2005, at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, after a long illness.
Through the children, Mary urges prayer for sinners, recitation of the Rosary, and works of penance. On October 13 she said: "I have come to exhort the faithful to change their lives, to avoid grieving Our Lord by sin; to pray the Rosary. I desire in this place a chapel in my honor. If people mend their ways, the war will soon be over."
But Mary also confided several "secrets" to the children, some of which Lucia subsequently transmitted. There was prediction of another war in the near future (WW II) and a request for special veneration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The final secret Lucia is thought to have entrusted to Pope John XXIII. (I will not go into the “secrets” today. With the third “secret” there has been a bit of controversy since the assassination attempt on JP II and its revealing.)
Fatima has brought crowds of visitors. Pilgrimages, which began in the summer of 1917, have experienced growing success, not only among the Portuguese themselves but also among people from other countries, including the United States. The national pilgrimage following ecclesiastical recognition of the apparitions (May 13, 1931) is said to have drawn many millions of participants even up to this day.
Popes have shown exceptional favor toward Fatima, Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis just this weekend all making a visit to the shrine. The papal interest and the basilica built at the site of the apparitions have helped to swell the summer pilgrimages to Fatima. In a rustic setting, pilgrims hear the message repeated that Mary spoke to the children: prayer, works of penance, recourse to her Immaculate Heart. It’s on my bucket list, that I suspect will remain so to my death.
And so on Mother’s Day we acknowledge one the most famous women in all of human history. She’s loved, cherished, and adored by millions. Even the Muslims have some devotion to our Lady.
But the real Mary was a lot different from the Mary that we imagine her to be. She was Jewish. And she most likely was never called Mary. Her name would’ve been Miryam. She was born to Anne and Joaquin. What little information we have of this comes from the deuterocanonical gospel of James.
She was named after Miryam of Egypt; the sister of Moses, the one who was most critical act was to keep watch over her baby brother as he drifted down the Nile River. Her mission was to protect his life. Moses would grow up to become the deliverer to set his people free from bondage. But it was Miryam who ensured that he would survive as a baby in order to do that. Her calling was to usher the life of the Redeemer into the land of Egypt where he would bring salvation. Over thousand years later, another Hebrew child would be given the same name, Miryam …. and the same calling.
Miryam’s calling was to usher in the life of the Deliverer, the Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus, into a fallen world. We do well to remember that Yeshua’s name means salvation. And so it is through another Miryam that ushers in salvation.
In Egyptian, Miryam means love. So Yeshua is born of Miryam, born of God’s love. In Hebrew, Miryam means something very different. It means bitterness and rebellion. And although that doesn’t sound good it actually is.
God causes Miryam to give birth to Yeshua. So too God causes a world of bitterness and rebellion to give birth to salvation. He causes Yeshua to be born in us … The other miracle. He even takes lives of rebellion and causes them to bring forth blessing and new life. And when does that life come? When does that miracle happen? Mostly it comes in times of trouble, crisis, fear, or sorrow … In bitterness. So through Miryam is born Yeshua.
And so through bitterness is born salvation. Even through us. And if salvation, Yeshua, is born of us, then we are all Miryam.
There is a story that made its way down from heaven that Venerable Archbishop Sheen used to tell: One day the Lord was walking around the golden gates of Heaven and He saw some souls that got into heaven very easily. And He went to St. Peter and said, “Peter I have given you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. You are to exercise that power wisely and judiciously. Tell me Peter, how do these souls gain entry into My Kingdom?"
"Don't blame me Lord," St. Peter says, "Every time I close a door, Your Mother opens a window!"
Don’t we all want a mother just like that? So, on this Mother’s day, and following what we know of Our Lady of Fatima, let’s take the message out into the world and honor our mother’s while so doing.
Let us pray.
Dear Lady of Fatima, we come on bended knee, to beg your intercession,
for peace and unity. Dear Mary, won't you show us, the right and shining way, we pledge our love and offer you, a Rosary more frequently than we currently do.
You promised at Fatima, each time that you appeared, to help us if we pray to you, to banish war and fear. Dear Lady, we ask your guiding hand, for grace and guidance here on earth and protection for our land. We ask you, Dear Lady Mary, help our mothers to be attentive and loving with their children and to teach them how to pray, how to love your Son Jesus, and to grow up to be good Christians and stewards of this creation. Ask your Son for a blessing on all mothers this day and all your children who desperately need to hear the message you so long to give.
Lord Jesus, the miracles, prophecies and prayers that Your Mother brought to us at Fatima amazed the whole world. We are certain of her closeness to You. We ask through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima that you graciously hear and answer our prayers. We ask all this, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.