I hope you had a fruitful Lenten Season and are having a blessed Easter season. Christ did what He promised He would do – He offered His life for us and, by suffering and dying, He redeemed us so that we can share our lives with Him eternally. Alleluia! This is, indeed, good news!
In this coming month of May, I wanted to look at Fatima and the things that occurred there a century ago. On May 13 of this year, we celebrate 105 years since the first apparition of Our Lady to the three visionaries in a remote Portuguese village.
The message Our Lady gave to the three peasant children – Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta – in 1917 was about repentance, prayer, and sacrifice. She visited the children six separate times, usually on the 13th of the month, and told them the world needed to repent and not offend God anymore. “He has already been so much offended,” she said in her last appearance at Fatima on Oct. 13, 1917.
To honour the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima and the messages she gave, I thought I would suggest three things to you to encourage you to turn to Our Lady this year, making her an integral part of your Spiritual Life and to help make reparation for the many sins committed by man.
1. Make a Consecration to Our Lady
Even if you have already consecrated yourself to Our Lady, it’s always a good idea to do this again. Especially this year, as we remember her appearances at Fatima.
You all probably know about the great book by my fellow Marian Fr. Michael Gaitley, 33 Days to Morning Glory. In this book, Fr. Michael provides such an accessible way to enter into the spirituality of some of the great Marian saints – St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul II, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Each of these saints made Mary central to their lives and their mission of holiness. The book is broken up into days, and only 15 minutes of reading and prayer are necessary every day to make this self-guided retreat in preparation for Marian consecration. And then, after 33 days of prayer and study, you can consecrate (or re-consecrate) yourself to Our Lady – entrusting your entire life to her.
One of the things I would suggest is to invite someone to do this retreat and consecration with you. Ask your spouse. Or your sibling. Or a friend. You can even ask permission from your pastor if your parish can make this consecration together.
Marian consecration is more powerful when it’s done in community. As many of you know, when you invite Our Lady in, things will start to move in a better direction because she is guiding us. Spouses who do the consecration together will see a difference in their marriage. Families who consecrate together will have more peace. And parishes and dioceses who make the consecration as a group will work better together and bear more fruit in their mission of discipleship and in living Christian lives.
Our Lady is the one who illuminates our path to God. By entrusting ourselves to Mary, she shines a light into our interior lives and helps us to discern God’s will for us. That’s the most important thing – seeking God’s will for our lives. Only then can we do the work God has planned for each of us. Our Lady always sought God’s will and stayed close to Him in prayer, so when He asked her to be the mother of Jesus, she was receptive to His will. Their wills were already united, so she was open to the mystery of God working in and through her in a way that opened up the path to salvation for all of us.
If you can do three things during the year ahead – consecrate yourself to Mary, pray the Rosary daily, and begin the practice of the Five First Saturdays – you will be honouring Our Lady, and you will discover a closeness to our Heavenly Mother that you may not have experienced before.
2. Pray the Holy Rosary Daily
Remember, at Fatima, Our Lady told the children to pray the Rosary every day for peace. At that time, World War I was raging, and the Bolsheviks were starting to emerge as a political reality that would reshape Russia and beyond.
But Our Lady gave the three shepherd children a weapon to battle the war and unrest in the world. And our world needs this same sort of means to peace today. While we are not in a world war, war is raging in Ukraine and many parts of the world, and we are drawn into many of those conflicts. And there is political, racial, and economic unrest in our own country.
When we commit to the daily praying of the Rosary, we are changed. We are more peaceful. And the world around us is more peaceful. So, try to pray the Rosary every day for peace in our world and peace in our hearts. We can change history if we do.
3. Take up the Five First Saturdays Devotion.
At Fatima, Mary spoke about the necessity of making reparation to her Immaculate Heart – and she showed us the way to do this. Nine years after she first appeared to the three visionaries in 1917, she appeared again to Sr. Lucia in 1925. (Francisco and Jacinta Marto had died by then, but Lucia had entered the convent and became a religious sister.) When Our Lady appeared to her this time, she asked Sis. Lucia to behold her heart, which was encircled by thorns “with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude.”
She then asked Lucia to console her and even promised that she will assist anyone who consoles the Immaculate Heart at the time of their death “with the graces necessary for salvation.” That’s pretty incredible! And we are promised salvation if we do the following four things on the first Saturday for five successive months: Go to Confession; receive Holy Communion; say five decades of the Rosary; and meditate on any of the mysteries of the Rosary for 15 minutes.
That’s a pretty simple thing to do actually, but the Five First Saturdays is almost forgotten. Many people have never even heard of it. And they certainly don’t know the power that this devotion has. Wouldn’t this be a great year to take up this devotion again, or for the first time, and to spread this devotion to others? Think about how many souls will be saved!
A few years later, Sr. Lucia asked Our Lady what the Five First Saturdays signify. Mary told her that there were five kinds of offenses against her. First, many blaspheme against her Immaculate Conception. Second, there are blasphemies against her virginity. Third, many refuse to see her as the Mother of mankind. Fourth, many seek to sow indifference, and sometimes hate, in the hearts of children against her. And, finally, the fifth offense concerns those who blaspheme and revile her sacred images. So, the Five First Saturdays is a way to make reparations for these five kinds of offenses.
We certainly see many of these offenses today. I think that after the Second Vatican Council, we saw a noticeable attitude of indifference toward the Blessed Mother. So many Catholics who grew up after Vatican II have no relationship to Our Lady, and many times, it’s because they were never properly introduced to her. They don’t understand Our Lady’s role in the redemption of the world. Nor do they understand that Our Lady is our Mother. She cares for us like only a mother can and intercedes for us.
More importantly, Mary’s heart is the closest heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And being close to her heart will lead us to the Heart of her Son.
So, if you can do these three things during the year ahead – consecrate yourself to Mary, pray the Rosary daily, and begin the practice of the Five First Saturdays – you will be honouring Our Lady, and you will discover a closeness to our Heavenly Mother that you may not have experienced before.
Our Lady did promise that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph. Let’s do our part to help that reality take place.