By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
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This Christmas brought many gifts to our portion of the worldwide Church family: a new automatic organ, a beautiful larger St. Joseph statue replacing one in use for many years but significantly smaller in proportion to our Lady’s statue in her niche flanking the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, as well as a new vigil candle stand. We now offer amber candles for Joseph, blue for our Lady, and red for the Sacred Heart.
As our devotional life grows, so does our faith. There is no task more important for our people or munus more important for our priests than to strengthen faith and encourage hope for eternal life.
Our “automatic” Allen organ frees us to offer instrumental accompaniment to our singing whether or not we are able to obtain an organist for Masses. Parishioners were overjoyed to be able to sing Christmas carols at all of our Masses on this year’s natal anniversary of the Lord. Our smiles were contagious as we rejoiced together in the gift of our Savior and in His goodness so evident among all who donated to make a wish into reality.
Christmas also brought blessings for our suffering brothers and sisters in the Middle East as Syrians gathered in their ruined churches to liturgically celebrate the birth of the Lord. We thank the Lord with them that they have the freedom made possible by the respite from war, enabling them to exercise their faith and find consolation in the Lord, who suffers with them and also always offers hope.
The Church continues to be roiled internally by the case of the four cardinals and the dubia that so far has been met with silence by Pope Francis. As we have read, other bishops, such as the orthodox and gentle Bishop Athanasius Schneider, have joined them in seeking clarity from the Holy Father for the benefit of the peace of the Church and the serenity of the faithful.
One of the grave duties of the Popes is to serve the peace of the Church by offering clear teaching in order to feed the flock of the Lord as commanded by Christ. Let us pray ardently for the Pope that he may follow a properly formed conscience as he obeys Christ to lead the flock of God.
On another topic: This year will mark a number of anniversaries but few will match in importance the 100th anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima.
My priesthood class of 1992 will celebrate our 25th anniversary of Ordination. As we do so we will renew our priestly commitment under the patronage and protection of our Lady whose prophecies at Fatima have provided a key to interpret the times and understand events from a true spiritual perspective.
As the EWTN pages dedicated to the apparition anniversary make clear, it was not the events at Fatima, remarkable in their own right, that were most significant, but rather the message of our Lady entrusted to the three shepherd children that remain of greatest value to us. We must know and treasure our Lady’s words, perhaps second in importance only to Sacred Scripture and the words and works of her Son Jesus Christ. The persevering and heroic sanctity resulting in the lives of the children from their encounter with our Lady is also a most important sign of the apparition’s authenticity and authority.
EWTN says: “The most important dimension of the Fatima event was not the supernatural and preternatural phenomena but the content and the meaning of the message communicated to the children. By following this message their spiritual lives were elevated to the heights of sanctity, to which the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco testifies, and the hope and possibility of the conversion of the world from its ruinous course was offered to mankind.”
Our study of the message of Fatima is of greatest benefit to each of us who seek sanctity as the only path in this world to salvation in the next. The writer at EWTN recommends that we consider our Lady’s message at Fatima as having two elements, the first being Mary’s unique or irreplaceable role in our salvation and the second being the practical ways in which we seek her motherly help for salvation through her Son alone.
“This message can be seen as comprising two essential elements, to which all others can be related in some way. The first of these elements is the singular role of the Immaculate One in the economy of salvation, a dogmatic fact. God does not have whims, and so the request of the Almighty that devotion to the Immaculate Heart be established in the world must be founded on reality and presumes that such devotion is justly given to the Mother of God.
“The second of these elements involves the practical order, the value of devotion to the Immaculate Heart for the individual life and for the future of the human race. To this element are connected the various spiritual practices encouraged by the Angel and by the Lady, as well as the prophetic content of the message, upon which the fate of the world depends. Without the first element, the dogmatic, the practical dimension of the message of Fatima would be entirely arbitrary.”
The truth of who Mary is, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, grounds her role at Fatima and in our daily lives as we seek like her to live in total devotion to Jesus Christ. Devotion to and love of Mary is not something added to Christian identity, but an integral part of it: believing in and worshiping Jesus Christ.
As commentary offered by L’Osservatore Romano reminds us, we must always distinguish between public revelation, such as Scripture and Tradition which is binding on all who seek to have true faith in Christ, and private revelation, such as the message of Fatima.
Private revelation in this case means that the content of the message was revealed to individuals, privately. As such, it must be approved by the teaching authority of the Church, but even after that it is not binding upon believers in the same way that public revelation is.
This distinction does not mean that such messages and prophecies are to be ignored. It behooves us to seek all the helps of Heaven to get there. Mary’s role and devotion to her Immaculate Heart are part of the Deposit of Faith. The means by which we seek her help through devotion and prayer can be expressed through a variety of ways. Fatima is one of these. (Source: ewtn.com.)