On the night of last Monday, 22nd May 2017, many innocent people, including several young ones, were victims of a brutal attack by a terrorist who would, doubtlessly, had he not died in the suicide attack, have claimed to have carried out these murders ‘in the name of God’! The children of Fátima, two of whom have been recently declared Saints, were warned by Our Lady that evils perpetrated around the world were going to lead to war. Indeed, the First and Second World Wars followed in the ensuing decades, being sure signs of what happens when God is denied and free will is abused. God calls us to live holy lives and, thereby, attain Heaven, but the end of our earthly life’s journey depends on our choice:– to do God’s Will or fundamentally, and knowingly, to oppose Him in grave sin.
Frequently, in the news, we hear of outrages committed against fellow humans and, quite rightly, we unite, even with those with whom we might have been at odds, to aid the victims and condemn the murders. We need to pray that these terrible acts may serve as alarm calls to wake up a world which, although claiming to be ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ and frequently and loudly proclaiming human rights, is very selective in the application of those rights. Through wars and terrorist outrages it is being driven home just how deeply the human race is affected by Original Sin. Because of one’s fallen nature, it can, as has been consistently demonstrated, be very difficult not to espouse the ‘causes’ of those who either deny God altogether or, certainly, deny His absolute right to decree how we live our lives. Through God’s grace, lovingly and freely accepted, however challenged we may feel in doing so, we can turn the tide of evil.
So, what do we do? We start at the very roots, in our families, where new life and formation for life begins; ensure that our families are, indeed, seed beds of truth and love. We must strenuously oppose what is often described as the Culture of Death. Sadly, although very rightly expressing our disgust and horror at the carnage perpetrated against human beings around the world, many can overlook the daily denial of life to the most vulnerable humans, the unborn and, increasingly, the denial of the right to life, at the other end of the scale, to the old and terminally ill. These lives are being placed in jeopardy, partly because contraception and abortion have denied God His prerogative to create, through the love of husband and wife, new generations of children who would have grown, generated new demands for goods and services, reached adulthood and, in time, have further contributed to the economy, maybe become carers and perhaps married and had their own children. One risks unpopularity and mockery for opposing the culture of death.
If we buy a household appliance, we might read the manual, then decide to follow only those instructions we happen to agree with, while ignoring others, assuming that we know better than the maker. Then, when it breaks down, and we expect the manufacturer to replace or repair it, we should not be surprised to find our request refused, since we committed a breach of contract by knowingly failing to use the appliance ‘in accordance with the maker’s instructions’. Applying this scenario to life, we wish to get to Heaven, but we place our eternal happiness in jeopardy if we subscribe to what has been called ‘cafeteria Catholicism’, in which one selectively and knowingly obeys or rejects God’s laws, presuming that God will, in the end, ‘overlook’ our errors, or that we will, anyway, repent before we die. If we are to be ‘salt and Light’ in this world, all of us need to start by taking a long hard look at our own lives.
These children showed very clearly what it is to truly love God and offered sacrifices in atonement for those who, sadly, had deserted Him. They were, in spite of their tender years, persecuted for their faith, even being put in prison and threatened with death if they did not reveal certain secrets told to them by Mary; to read of these secrets, see www.catholicexchange.com/three-secrets-fatima-revealed, among many other websites. Through their steadfast love for, and trust in God and His Mother, who told them that they would, indeed, go to Heaven, they refused to be coerced into revealing anything. God would do this in His own Good Time. As a result of this courage they are, among other things, Patrons of people made fun of for showing their piety, i.e. loving reverence, towards the Faith. Today, as we know, around the world, there are many literally still giving their lives for their faith. However, even if one is not called upon to die (and most of us will probably not), one must be prepared, these days, to encounter anything from misunderstanding to concerted opposition for publicly upholding the teachings of the Church, particularly in the area of Morality; some of our Brothers and Sisters round the world have been known to risk their livelihoods because they have ‘dared’ to stand firmly with God. Saints Francisco and Jacinta are to be heartily recommended as Patrons for adults and children alike! God grant us Courage to live Holy lives! Mother Mary, protect us! Saints Francisco and Jacinta, pray for us!
If you cannot, physically, visit Fátima, you can, via the internet, join in with the Pilgrims; there is a live feed from the Capelinha (Chapel of the Apparitions) www.fatima.pt/en/pages/online-transmissions. Mass, is often offered there, in languages from around the world; The Rosary is said at 6:30pm every day except Sunday, when it is at 4pm. Very often, particularly on the 13th of the Month, the ‘major’ liturgies are televised; see them online or via satellite on EWTN. It is heartening, too, in an increasingly Godless age, to see often extensive coverage of these liturgies on the Portuguese National Channel, RTP1, also available via internet and satellite. Mind you, Our Lady did tell the children that the Faith would always be kept in Portugal
On Good Friday, we recalled Our Lord’s being nailed to the Cross, hanging there for three hours then being laid, dead, in Mary’s arms; He was buried in the Tomb, in the eyes of many, gone for good! As we are hearing at the moment in the Gospels, in particular, Christ definitively proved that He is, indeed, God; He Rose from the dead, having atoned to the Father for the sin of Adam and Eve. As we recite, weekly, in the Creed, He soon confirmed the precarious Faith of the Apostles by sending the Holy Spirit; gone was the fear of reprisals for proclaiming the Truth. We are already hearing, not only of the bold proclamations of the Truth, but of the resistance to that truth, in the forms of beatings, imprisonment and death. Did the Church curl up and die? Not a bit of it! Energised by the Grace of God and by His Presence in Holy Communion, the Church has gone from strength to strength as, indeed, Christ promised it would. He promised, before ascending into Heaven, that He would be with us, “...until the end of time…”. Saint Paul, another of the fruits of the conquest of Good over evil, recalls us to this fact: If we live, faithfully, God’s Way, nothing can keep us from attaining Heaven.
Our Brothers and Sisters, in certain places in the world, are still suffering attacks, privation and death for living out the Faith which, in the ‘free’ world, so many treat so casually. Please God we will not fail our young people, the precious Church of the future. May they grow up in families where the Faith is an integral and growing part of life; may it never be allowed to come to be regarded like so many of the fashions and interests which they may well discard as they grow older.
Actions, as the Apostles demonstrated, speak louder than words. Enriched by regular reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, may our lives, ever more, be the examples which stimulate the growth of the Church!
Saint Josemaria underlined the fact as did the Fathers of Vatican II, later, that we are all called to Holiness; from the most to the least prominent in the Human Race, all are created by God who Wills that, however long, short or ‘unnoticed’ their life is, they do their best to respond to the Grace of God.
The Little Flower, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, is another prime example; the sanctity of her life and the profundity of her writing on the ‘Little Way’ reinforce the breadth and the depth of the Call to Holiness. Saint Martin dePorres’ life is also well worth reading; illegitimate, of mixed-race and, so, at that time, looked down on, his life of Charity would certainly put many of us to shame in our attitudes to those whom the world (and we?) consider ‘beneath us’; Saint Gianna Molla, an Italian paediatrician, denied herself cancer treatment and, subsequently, died in order that her unborn Daughter could live; the Venerable Matt Talbot, an obscure working-man, conquered alcoholism. The list goes on and on.
If the great multitude of Witnesses to God seems a bit daunting and you are seeking inspiration for yourself and your Children, maybe the Saints named above might provide an ‘entry’ to an inspiring gallery of role-models. If not then how about researching your name-Saints; is there a particular Saint named as Patron of the Country in which you or your ancestors have roots? Those in various professions can usually find a Saint who worked in the same line. There are countless examples of Saints who, quietly, got on with being Husbands, Wives and Parents, the often ‘unsung heroes’ without whom other Saints would not have later come to exist.
Finally, don’t omit to read the lives of Saintly Priests, such as Saint John Mary Vianney or our own Saint Pope John Paul II; our Pope and Priests are in the ‘front-line’ of the battle against Satan. They, as well as we, need the assistance of the Saints.
The image depicts St. Josemaria Escrivá, Founder of Opus Dei (canonised in 2002)
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church