June is, for Catholics, the month highlighting our devotion to the Sacred Heart. Last Friday and Saturday, following our recent Celebration of Our Lord’s loving Gift of Holy Communion (i.e. Corpus Christi), we had two more celebrations of Love, sorely needed to highlight the true meaning of Love in an age when what may be termed ‘love’ can be directly opposed to the Will of our Creator.
Friday was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Seat and Symbol of His Burning Love for us. This Love moved Him to Die for us, in agony, on the Cross on Good Friday and had also moved Him, at the Last Supper, to institute the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Through Holy Orders and Father’s words and gestures, that once-for-all Sacrifice will be made present and offered in our churches until the end of time. Christ, of course, does not suffer any more; He just wishes us to join ourselves, in our own particular time and place, to His Sacrifice, and longs to give Himself to each of us in Communion. On Fridays, Father may offer a Votive (optional) Mass of the Sacred Heart.
Among the revelations Jesus made was what became known as the Great Promise, namely that those, who on the First Friday of nine months in a row, would receive Communion, would be granted all the Graces they needed to finally repent of their sins, and receive the Sacraments, bringing them safely to Heaven. Of course, as we must recognise, this promise does not guarantee that one will get to Heaven, come what may, any more than having a knowledge of road safety will, if it is not practised, keep us from injury or death. Rather it promises that all the spiritual assistance we need to overcome sin and move closer to God are ours for the asking. We are, of course, expected to make our best efforts to use these sources of help! Jesus asked for the establishment of this Feast, to make up for Man’s ingratitude.
It is significant that these visions occurred when they did because, at the time, a heresy, known as Jansenism, presented God not as Loving, Merciful and Forgiving but, rather, negatively as someone to be feared. Free Will, given to each and every one of us, was replaced by predestination to Heaven or to Hell, something totally at variance with the Church’s Teachings which make it very clear that, far from wishing to exclude us from Heaven, God will not cease to call us to Him until our last conscious moment when we are capable of willing to love Him and go to Heaven. Only our knowing and deliberate choice of evil can separate us from our Loving God. We cannot lose the opportunity to enter Heaven by accident!
In an age when the meaning of the word ‘love’ has been so distorted and debased, this Devotion is another priceless asset to us in our journey to Heaven.
Our Blessed Mother, when she appeared to the three little shepherds in Fátima, introduced herself as,
“…the Lady of the Rosary…". She spoke of the need for us to amend our lives and to seek pardon for our sins, which, daily, offend Our Lord. She urged the daily recitation of the Rosary, a powerful weapon against the evils of Satan and, therefore, a bountiful source of Grace for those who love her Son and constantly call on Him for aid. Ever concerned for our spiritual wellbeing, and conscious of our tendency to forget even essentials, Holy Mother Church sets aside two months during which this great Prayer is ‘put in the spotlight’ so to speak, both this month of May and later, October.
The prayers of the Rosary might be compared to the incidental music of a good Family film which serves to heighten awareness of emotions and actions of characters in different scenes. Almost in the background, these prayers serve to aid those praying in focussing upon the most notable scenes from the Lives of Mary and Jesus in particular. Parents are warmly encouraged to teach their children this invaluable Prayer from a very early age. As our youngsters grow in stature and intelligence, their insights into the Mysteries will deepen. Our Blessed Lady will be their constant companion throughout a lifetime in which their Faith will be strongly challenged. It is a prayer which will stand them in good stead from infancy (obviously on a more basic level) to old age, when they will, please God, draw on the fruits of a lifetime’s Rosaries. How about searching this treasure trove together?! If not the internet, then our own Catholic Truth Society is the place to go!
Throughout the centuries, this Prayer has developed and been presented in several forms. For example, the Luminous Mysteries, originally developed by Malta’s Saint Ġorġ Preca, were introduced by Saint Pope John Paul II through his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Other forms have focussed on particular episodes in the lives of Christ and His Mother. One example is the Seven Dolours Rosary in which one concentrates specifically on the seven sorrows of our Lady: - Simeon’s prophecy that Mary would suffer witnessing her Son’s Passion and Death (Lk. 2:34, 35); Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents, which led to the flight of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt (Mt. 2:13, 14); The finding of the 12 year old child Jesus in the temple (Lk. 2:43-45); Jesus meets Mary as he carries His Cross to Calvary (4th Station of the Cross); Jesus’ Body being taken down from the Cross (13th Station); the burial of Jesus in the Tomb (14th Station). There is so much out there!
This coming Tuesday, we shall celebrate, as a Holy Day of Obligation, (i.e. we are obliged to go to Mass as we are on a Sunday) the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, Mary, body and soul into Heaven, at the end of her life on Earth. This Truth, to be believed by the Faithful Worldwide, was officially proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on 1st November 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, although, as research will show, this Privilege of Our Lady had been celebrated by the Faithful in various parts of the world for a long time prior to this.
How does today’s Solemnity relate to this? As we know, God did not abandon our First Parents as they clearly deserved. He promised that, in the fullness of time, He would send his Son, in human form, through a Virgin Mother, to live among us, undo the consequences of man’s sin and so lead us back onto the ‘road’ to Heaven, that destiny which Original Sin had denied us. In order that His Son would ‘take flesh’ the Father chose and prepared a very special Mother. As a member of the Human Race Jesus would, as are all babies, be conceived (in His case through the Power of the Holy Spirit rather than through a human father) and grow in His Mother’s Womb for nine months. As Perfect God-made-man, Our Lord would come to us through a Perfect human Mother. Those of us who are familiar with the history of Mary’s appearances to Saint Bernadette in Lourdes, in 1858, will recall that Our Lady, when asked by Bernadette for her name, replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. This Teaching had, at the time, only recently been formally proclaimed by Pope Pius IX, on 8th December 1854, in the papal bull, Ineffabilis Deus, as an article of Faith, to be believed by us all. Put simply, it means that from the very moment she was conceived through the love of her human Parents, Saints Joachim and Anne, the stain of Original Sin was prevented from touching her soul. God, being Infinite, seeing past, present and future, applied the Saving Merits of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection to Mary’s soul at its creation; she was, from the very start of her existence, ‘Full of Grace’ as Adam and Eve had been in their state of innocence, before they sinned. What Mary never lost, we regain through Baptism. The Church also holds that, in addition to her perfection of soul and freedom from any inclination to sin from conception, Mary, endowed as we all are, with Free Will, never committed any personal sin throughout her life.
We all live, grow old (please God) and die. Our body, through burial or cremation, returns ‘to the dust of the Earth’. Our soul, if we die in the State of Grace, enters Heaven, usually by way of purification in Purgatory (unless we die as Saints!). The Church teaches that, at the end of time, our bodies, then perfect, will be restored to us. As Perfect Mother of God, Mary was not to have to wait for her bodily glorification until the end of time; Through today’s Solemnity, the Church continues to teach that Mary, at the end of her earthly life, however that end actually came, was Assumed (or taken, body and Soul) into Heavenly Glory. This Solemnity of the Church is sometimes referred to as the ‘Dormition’ (or ‘falling asleep’) of Mary.
Mary watches over us, her children, ever calling us to, “Do whatever He tells you”.
“O Mary, Conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recourse to thee!”
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
As we say the Rosary we can unite ourselves with our Brothers and Sisters around the world, both those who, like us, are free to publicly profess their Faith and those who, as the news constantly portrays, are being persecuted, sometimes martyred for their Faith, the tragedy being deepened by the fact that the persecutors appear to believe that they do these things in God's Name! The Rosary has, throughout history, been the undoing of many who have sought to wipe out the Church; a notable example of its Power was at the Battle of Lepanto; why not read of this and other more recent demonstrations of Our Lady's intercessory Power. Read the story of Our Lady of Fátima or download an audio version, very suitable for children, HERE.
Of course the Rosary, although highlighted during May and October, should never be confined to two months of the year! Again, as with so many of the treasures of our Faith, there are ample resources (probably even Apps!) on the Internet as well as numerous books to aid and deepen our meditations. The Rosary knows no bounds! Our Lady has presented it to everyone with the good will to pray it. Another bonus these days, through the communications media, is the facility to join in online via webcams (at Fátima and Lourdes for instance) and, possibly, satellite TV, with the prayers of the faithful children of Mary all round the world. There are probably Apps for smart-phones. Mary is calling her children to come and pray for her Intercession. Are we heeding that call?
In October we find ourselves in the Month of the Most Holy Rosary. Hopefully, for many, this already forms part of their Daily Prayer but, throughout this month our Blessed Mother gives us a timely reminder of this great and powerful Prayer through which we may meditate upon the Lives of Her Son and Herself. The Rosary which, time and again, Mary has, in her many Appearances, called on her children to say, presents us with an overview of the History of Salvation as in the New Testament. Thanks to Saint John Paul II (Read his Rosarium Virginis Mariae) this treasury has been enriched by the Luminous Mysteries, which bring before our eyes the part of Our Lord's Public Ministry from His Baptism in the Jordan to His institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Last Supper.
One of the beauties of the Rosary is that it can be said by anyone, educated / literate or not, at so many different 'levels'. Adults and children alike can gain great Graces from this Prayer. One way of presenting it is to compare it to a movie of the Lives of Christ and His Mother: the 'scenes' of the Mysteries in our mind's eye are accompanied by the 'background music' of the Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Be's; like many a film it begins joyfully then skips a few years and launches into various episodes of the Hero's Life. Events then take what appears to be a down-turn but, of course there then comes the Happy and Triumphant ending, pointing towards even greater things to come!
This Prayer can be said at any time and in any place; maybe as we are travelling to or from work or as we prepare for / give thanks after Mass. It can be said in its entirety or a Mystery at a time. There are probably even Apps for our Smart-phones! In school, children have responded very positively to a Decade at the end of a day. A great apostle of the Rosary was Father Patrick Peyton with his telling slogan that “The Family that Prays together, Stays Together”. The Family Rosary has been, and continues to be, a source of many Graces and Blessings for Parents and Children alike.
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church