Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
As we honor Our Lady of Fatima today, the 96th anniversary of her first appearance to the three children in Portugal, one new and one little-known-but-major fact should give us a real boost to listen to her.
The new fact: Pope Francis requested that Cardinal José Policarpo, the archbishop of Lisbon, consecrate his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima, which the cardinal was going to do at the shrine, along with the Portuguese bishops, at the end of the Mass of the International Anniversary Pilgrimage.
This act of Pope Francis should make us take notice because he’s showing us how important to him the significance of Our Lady of Fatima and her message is in these dire times for peace in the world.
The little-known-but-major fact: The first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima on May 13 took place on a day celebrated liturgically back then as the feast of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
That title was given to Our Lady by St. Peter Julian Eymard, known as "The Priest of the Eucharist," who founded the Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament on May 13, 1856.
What does Franciscan Father Andrew Apostoli of the Friars of the Renewal have to say about this?
In his book Fatima for Today (Ignatius, 2010), Father Apostoli tells us: “Since heaven’s choices are never made randomly, we must assume that Jesus was sending his Mother with a message of his love and peace on a feast day that reminds us of the awesome gift he had already given us: his precious body and blood in the Eucharist.”
At that same first apparition on May 13, Our Lady stressed to the children: Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.
It is the request — the directive — she gave to us through them in each of her six apparitions at Fatima. She even went on to identify herself, saying, I am the Lady of the Rosary.
Put Our Lady’s two titles together at Fatima, and she puts together for us the Eucharist and Marian devotion as the answer to all the world’s woes.
“The Mother of God herself came from heaven with a message of hope and a plan for victory,” says Father Apostoli.
He reminds us that, even before Our Lady appeared, she sent a powerful lesson in Eucharistic devotion given by the Angel of Peace’s third apparition to the children to prepare them for Our Lady and her messages.
“This apparition would instill in the young children a very ardent devotion to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament,” says Father Apostoli.
So what happened?
The angel held a chalice with a Host suspended in the air over it. Drops of blood fell from the Host into the chalice. The angel left the chalice and Host suspended in the air, knelt, and repeated three times:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer you 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 himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of his most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you the conversion of poor sinners.
Then the angel rose and gave the Host to Lucia and the Precious Blood to Jacinta and Francisco as he said, "Eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ terribly outraged by the ingratitude of men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God."
Father Apostoli explains that from this apparition we learn the importance of Catholic Eucharistic devotion. The angel was teaching the children how Eucharist adoration, receiving Jesus in holy Communion and attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass “are the essential elements of our Catholic devotion to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
Then, at Our Lady’s May 13 apparition, she opened her hands, bathing the children in a heavenly light that the children knew was the light of God, and Lucia described that, “by an interior impulse of grace, we fell to our knees, repeating in our hearts: ‘Oh, Holy Trinity, we adore You. My God, my God, I love you in the Blessed Sacrament.’”
After that, Our Lady gave the first of the repeated directives: Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war.
Then, in her July 13 apparition, Our Lady put both together by telling the children of the Communion of Reparation, which, as Father Apostoli explains, is “an essential part of her request for the Five First Saturdays devotion. Our Lady wants us to stay close to her divine Son in the Eucharist.”
And look what Blessed John Paul II had to say in his encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church): “Mary is a ‘woman of the Eucharist’ in her whole life.”
He also oberserved, “If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist.”
And we know also how much John Paul II urged us to pray the Rosary and how he credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life from the assassin’s bullet.
It seems like what John Paul said and what Benedict would also sa, and what Pope Francis is now doing at Fatima on May 13, 2013, is a fulfillment of St. John Bosco’s famous dream of the turbulent waters being calmed by the Holy Father firmly anchoring the ship of the Church to the pillars of the Eucharist and Marian devotion.
So, beginning on this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, also once celebrated liturgically as Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, we need to heed her message to have a profound reverence for her Son in the Blessed Sacrament to make reparation for the outages and sacrileges committed against the Eucharist and to pray the Rosary daily to bring that peace she promised.
As Father Apostoli affirms, “We, too, need to put into practice Our Lady’s requests to pray the Rosary daily for peace in our times and an end to the culture of death so prevalent today.”
By the way, Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro said he intends, during this pilgrimage, to consecrate to Our Lady of Fatima the work of World Youth Day, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro July 23-28.
Here is the prayer of “Consecration to
Our Lady of Fatima of the Ministry of Pope Francis”
Prayed at Fatima, May 13, by José Policarpo Cardinal-Patriarch
President of the Bishops Conference of Portugal
Most Holy Virgin,
1. We, the Bishops of Portugal and this multitude of pilgrims, are at Your feet in this Cova da Iria, on this 96th anniversary of Your first apparition to the Little Shepherds, in order to fulfill the desire of Pope Francis, clearly expressed, to consecrate to You, Virgin of Fatima, his Ministry of Bishop of Roma and Universal Pastor. Thus, we consecrate to You, Our Lady, You Who are the Mother of the Church, the Ministry of the new Pope; please fill his heart with the tenderness of God, which like no one else You Yourself experienced, so that he may embrace all men and women of our time with the love of Your Son Jesus Christ. Today’s mankind needs to feel loved by God and by the Church. Only feeling loved she will overcome the temptation of violence, of materialism, of forgetting God, of losing the direction towards a new world, where love will reign. Please grant Pope Francis the gift of discernment in order to be able to identify the ways to renew the Church; give him courage to follow, without hesitation, the ways suggested by the Holy Spirit; support him during the difficult hours of suffering; help him overcome, in charity, the trials he’ll encounter while renewing the Church. Please always be at his side, whispering to his ear those words well known to You: “I am the Handmaid of the Lord; be it done onto Me according to Thy Word!”
2. The ways of renewing the Church lead us to the rediscovery of the timeliness of the Message You left with the Little Shepherds: the demand that we convert to God, Who has been so much offended, because we have forgotten Him. Conversion is always a return to the Love of God. God forgives because He loves us. That is why His love is called mercy. The Church, protected by Your maternal solicitude and guided by this Pastor, ought to stand up evermore as a place of conversion and pardon, because in her the truth is always expressed in charity.
You have pointed out prayer as the decisive way towards conversion. Please teach the Church, of which You are a member and the model, to be, more and more, a people praying in union with the Holy Father - the first of this people to pray – and also in union with the former Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, who chose the way of silent prayer, challenging the Church to embrace the ways of prayer.
3. In Your Message to the Little Shepherds here at Cova da Iria, You highlighted the Ministry of the Pope, the “Bishop dressed in white”. Three of the last Popes came as pilgrims to Your Shrine. Only You, Our Lady, in Your maternal love for the entire Church, can put into the heart of Pope Francis the desire to come to this Shrine as a pilgrim. This is not something one can ask for other reasons; only the silent complicity between You and him will make him feel attracted to this pilgrimage, being certain that he will be in the company of millions of believers willing to hear once again Your Message.
Here, on this Altar of the world, he will be able to bless all mankind and make today’s world feel that God loves all the men and women of out time, that the Church also loves them and that You, Mother of the Redeemer, lead them with tenderness through the ways of Salvation.