Fatima Pilgrimage 2011

The following are sermons given at Fatima during our recent Diocesan Pilgrimage in September.

True and false sympathy

Did you ever complain of an illness only to have someone try to outdo you?

There are a number of things not to say to someone who is suffering:

1. I know someone who died of that
2. Worse happened to me
3. You’ll get over it
4. I was ages with that!
5. I am not sure if I trust your doctor
6. I was given different medication
7. It could be worse

Do we really listen or are we waiting for the other person to finish in order to get our word in, or to have the last word? We may even want to do one better.
True sympathy, on the other hand, means ‘shared feeling’. It means having to button up and swallow our tongue. It is wonderful to find people who do really care, who are not easily distracted when we speak, who provide time and a sympathetic ear, who allow us to say what’s on our minds, who don’t rush in to comment, who wait for us to get it all off our chest. If you know someone like that you are truly blessed. It is when we have ‘emptied ourselves’ that we can then be filled with the wisdom from another. To journey with someone without attempting fast solutions, or indeed any solution. Allowing you to hear yourself speak, so that they can look and listen and even in that space you might even come up with a way of coping, if not a solution.
Compassion means to ‘suffer with’. Our Lady offered Lucia compassion to Lucia when she was told that her friends would die soon and that she would be left on earth some time longer. This compassion is, if you like, a winning formula that we can refer to again and again:

‘Do you suffer? My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God’

The Most Holy Name of Mary, September 12th

In every 5 decades of the rosary we recite the name of Mary our Mother 100 times! In our group of 34 people, this week we will recite Our Lady’s name 3400 times. Multiply that by 7 days and you get 23800 times this week alone. Then look at the crowds at Fatima in their tens of thousands and Our Lady’s name is uttered in intercessory prayer millions of times over each day!
Think of all the times we have called on Mary to be with us ‘now and at the hour of our death’.
Just last week I was called out to a man who had just died. It was 4 am. The family were gathered. The man’s wife called me on the phone and, after I arrived and gave the last rites of the Church, including absolution and the Apostolic Pardon for remission of temporal punishment due to sin, the doctor and family and I recited the decade of the Rosary and the Memorare. The wife turned to me afterwards and said: ‘you do not know how much comfort your recitation of the Memorare is giving me. For the last 10 weeks I have been here at my husband’s bedside, and I commended and entrusted him to Our Lady and recited the Memorare for him every day that he would have a happy death.’ It then dawned on me to remind myself and her that it was the early hours of the morning of September 8th, Our Lady’s Birthday!

I am sure we can replicate stories like this attributing wonders and signs to Our Lady’s intercession and stories attesting to Our Lady’s comforting presence.
Here at Fatima and at the Loca da Cabeco where the angel appeared is significant. It was here that many children would gather and play games, because there was a good echo in the valley. Jacinta in particular would call out ‘Maria!’ – Lucia tells us that Jacinta found that this name echoed best. The children would also sing hymns to Our Lady and the angels, including the hymn, ‘Angels, sing with me’. When the angel appeared to the children, he said, I am the Angel of Peace, pray with me.’ And of course little did young Jacinta realise that for the many times she called out ‘Maria’ that Our Lady would indeed respond and come in person to the use of her name!

Of course intercession of Mary points us to Christ, whose name under heaven by which every man is saved. The Apostle Peter declared in Acts 3, “There is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved than the name of Jesus.”

But Mary as always points away from herself, as at Cana to‘do whatever He tells you’.

Triumph of the Cross – September 14th

We might ask why we need to celebrate a day devoted to the Holy Cross of Our Saviour when there is rightly a great emphasis on the centrality of the Cross in Holy week in the liturgical life of the Church. After all, ‘Come let us worship’ are the words of the refrain we sing during the procession on Good Friday.

The date for this commemoration is not a random one as it is the anniversary of the date on which the Christian Empress Helena discovered the remains or relics of the true ‘cross on which hung the Saviour of the world’. It was her son Constantine who had a vision of the cross in the sky, and was told that it was ‘in this sign, you will conquer’. Having the cross emblazoned n the shields of his soldiers, the Romans triumphed. Shortly after Christianity was legalised and persecutions in the Roman Empire came to an end.
Jesus admonishes us that ‘if anyone wants to be a disciple of mine, let him deny himself, take up his cross every day and follow me’.

Jesus makes it quite clear that is an absolute requirement and not a hidden extra. We are called to fidelity and perseverance in our daily duty according to our state in life.

The cross is not an end in itself. There is no glorification on suffering, but rather it can serve as a means to an end when chosen and accepted as such. Suffering is unavoidable and uniquely experienced by each individual. Some suffering is appalling, especially a tragic bereavement.

It is for others in the Body of Christ. In the blood circulatory and immune systems in our body there are what are known as repair cells and helper cells. These help fight infection as it arises and help ward off further harm to the body’s defences especially in blood clotting and fighting viruses and other disease agents. Without them the body would suffer internal or external haemorrhaging.

In a sense we are called to be healers of the wounds caused by sins – ours and those of others. The reality of the horror of sin has been brought to us anew in the recent scandals. The repair required is immense. The damage caused by sin in Christ’s Body, the Church is quite extensive and apparent to us the moment. The long lasting consequences of the sins of a few on the whole church is devastating. The repair work and preventative work involved is consuming a lot of time and effort and is draining of resources. But these are the visible wounds that require repair and are palpable. The damage done to some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, carried out by other brothers and sisters, is truly damaging to them as well as to the image, and mission of the Church as a whole.

Our Lord and Our Lady too suffer by the betrayals and sins of clergy and religious – by the damage done to victims as well as by the wounds the perpetrators have inflicted on themselves. Truly Christ is reliving His Passion by the betrayal of so many.

Through the Cross, freely accepted, we triumph. This cross – the symbol that brought fear and horror in the contemporaries of the Gospel writers – required little elaboration. It was final, it was brutal, it cause people to shudder at the thought of this cruel violent style of execution.

The call of Blessed Jacinta, Blessed Francisco and Lucia was to a life of voluntary penance. Our Lady asked their consent, but assured them of God’s grace.

There are no earthly reasons or satisfactory human explanations for the devastation causes by natural disasters. Neither are there any words to explain the ‘whys’ of the awfulness of a cancer ward, a suicide, a crime scene, or child neglect – all of which I have seen in the course of my ministry.

Here at Fatima we are given a formula for peace as well as a value to suffering. As the Body of Christ was to be wounded grievously by the ‘errors of Russia’ from 1917 onwards, in order to save the world, Our Lady came to another part of the Church, the Body of Christ to apply the remedy, consecration to Her Immaculate Heart, Prayer, especially the daily rosary, penances, reparation.
Just as we have a share in Christ's many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God's great help. (St Paul: 2 Cor 1:5).

Our Lady of Sorrows September 15th

Today, one day after commemorating the Triumph of the Cross we commemorate the seven sorrows of Mary. These are as follows
1. The presentation on the Temple
2. The flight into Egypt
3. The three days loss in the Temple
4. The meeting on the way of the Cross
5. The death of Jesus
6. Jesus is taken down from the cross
7. Jesus is laid in the tomb

They are also known as the dolours of Mary. There is a connection between these sorrows and the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Fatima. At an apparition in 1925 at Pontevedra, Spain, Our Lord appeared as a child in front of His Mother Mary who held in her hand her heart surrounded by thorns. The words of Jesus to Lucia then are meant for us too. The following is Sr Lucia’s account:

On December 10, 1925, the Most Holy Virgin Herself appeared, and beside Her, borne by a luminous cloud, the Child Jesus. The Most Holy Virgin put Her hand on her shoulder and showed her, at the same time, a Heart surrounded by thorns which She held in the other hand. At that same moment, the Child said to her:

"Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Her at every moment, without there being anyone to make an act of reparation in order to take them away."

Then the Most Holy Virgin said to her:

"See, My daughter, My Heart surrounded by thorns which ungrateful men pierce at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console Me and say to all those who, for five months, on the first Saturday, confess, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary, and keep Me company during fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, in a spirit of reparation, I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls."

What are the thorns that penetrate the heart of our mother and cause her pain?
It is sometimes asked why Our Lady asked for Communions of reparation on five first Saturdays, instead of some other number. Our Blessed Lord answered that question when He appeared to Sr. Lucia May 29, 1930. He explained that it was because of five kinds of offenses and blasphemies against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, namely: blasphemies against her Immaculate Conception, against her perpetual virginity, against the divine and spiritual maternity of Mary, blasphemies involving the rejection and dishonouring of her images, and the neglect of implanting in the hearts of children a knowledge and love of this Immaculate Mother.

See: http://www.rosary-center.org/firstsat.htm

At Rwanda, an approved series of apparitions that took place in the 1980s, Our Lady asked that people once more take up the recitation of the Rosary of Dolours on Tuesdays and Fridays. By our mediations on the Passion we console our Lord and Our Lady and we begin in a small way to understand God’s love for us in sending us His only Son to take away our sins. It may serve in no small measure to instil in us a desire to make reparation for sin and to avoid all future occasions of sin.

These are the words of Nathalie, one of the visionaries:

"The Holy Virgin insisted on the need for prayer. She said that the world is bad. It is necessary to pray, to pray, to pray a lot for this world that is bad, to pray for sinners, to pray for their conversion. She insisted a lot on the need for conversion: Convert to God! Convert to God! Convert to God! While saying that people don't respect God's commands, that people have a hard heart, she also asked us to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary and to recite it every day. She also taught us the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. She asked us to pray it every Tuesday and Friday. She asked us to obey the Church, to love God in truth, and to love our neighbour in humility and simplicity. She spoke of the need for mortification, a spirit of penitence and sacrifice. She also spoke of the need for suffering, to bear our sufferings every day. She said that no one enters heaven without suffering. She also told us that acts of charity for the poor make us beautiful flowers that God likes. She wanted a chapel to be constructed here in Kibeho, so everyone would remember her visit and pray for the Church and religious. Holy Mary spoke to us in Kinyarwanda [the language of Rwanda] with her very soft voice."

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows reminds us that Mary plays a key role in our Redemption and that she suffered along with her Son Jesus to save us. It is prayed using a special rosary comprised of seven "decades" containing seven beads each.Here is how the Chaplet of Seven Sorrows is prayed:

Each group of seven is begun with an Our Father, as in the regular Rosary. Some people start with an Act of Contrition, since the devotion has a penitential aspect. Also like the regular Rosary, the groups of seven Hail Marys are an occasion for meditation on "Mysteries" — in this case, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, as listed above.
See Kibeho: http://www.marian.org/mary/prayers/sorrows.php

September 16th, 2011: The memorial of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian

Have you ever noticed how many feats in the Church’s calendar are paired saints? Think of Ss Peter and Paul, Simon and Jude, Cosmas and Damien, Perpetua and Felicity and so on. Think of the many martyr saints commemorated in large groups, e.g., Korean Martyrs, Irish Martyrs and so on. Finally, think of those Blessed, or Beati, Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin the parents of St Therese, and of course our friends in Fatima, Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto.
It is a curious fact that in the life of every saint, there are others. Maybe canonised, maybe not. St Monica and St Augustine, who was baptised by St Ambrose; St Francis and St Clare of Assisi; St Ignatius of Loyola and St Francis Xavier, St Patrick and St Brigid, and so many Irish saints who were contemporaries and influenced each other. Think of the influences in the life of Blessed John Paul II, his spiritual mentors, his devout father, Jan Tyrranowski and others, the courageous Archbishop Sapieha, and Cardinal Wysinski. Think of St Therese’s family, described as ‘a nest of saints’; or St Faustina and her saintly confessor, Blessed Father Sopocko.
None of us lives for himself alone...the life and death of each one of us has its influence on others. (Romans 14:7).

None of us gets to heaven without the intercession or help from others. We too are called to be intercessors as well as an example through our prayer and conduct and outreach. Our mutual support, strength and sanctification will get us there. The Lord sent out His apostles in pairs, a journey shared, like a problem shared, is halved. And so in our lives there out to be a spiritual director, a confessor, a confidant, a companion, a friend. No man is an island.

The International Eucharistic Congress to take place in Dublin in 2012 has its theme: ‘Communion with Christ, Communion with one another.’ The word ‘companion’ is derived from the phrase ‘to eat bread with’. We journey together in faith as a Eucharistic people. The two disciples together on the road to Emmaus recognised the Lord Jesus at the breaking of bread.

May we be strength to each other in the one Body of Christ.

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