Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Today is the 96th anniversary of the first time that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three peasant children named Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia in Fatima, Portugal.  On that day, the Virgin Mary asked the children to return to the same place on the 13th day of every month for the next six months and to say the rosary every day “to bring peace to the world and an end to war.”

This was the first in a series of apparitions that came at a time of great tumult in the world – many of the world’s nations were engaged in the Great War, which would later be named World War I, and in Moscow, Vladimir Lenin was in preparations to set in place the Russian revolution, preparations that would have a very particular impact on the remainder of the 20th century.  In the subsequent apparitions, Our Lady asked the children to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart, make sacrifices for sinners, and to continue to pray the rosary every day for peace in the world.

The apparitions to the three children concluded in October 1917, when the Miracle of the Sun occurred.  Up to 300,000 had gathered near Fatima and according to many of the witnesses, the sun appeared to spin in the sky (click the link for testimonies from eyewitnesses to the event).

This day also marks the 32nd anniversary of the assassination attempt on the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II.  John Paul was greeting crowds in St. Peter’s Square when he was shot at close range by Mehmet Ali Agca.  The Holy Father was hit four times and one of the bullets missed a major artery in his heart by a fraction of an inch.  John Paul credited the Virgin Mary with saving his life, saying, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path.” Later, John Paul presented the bishop of Fatima with the bullet, which to this day remains in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

For more information on the assassination attempt on John Paul II and its connection to Our Lady of Fatima, RomeReports.com has put together a helpful video:

Why not take a moment today to thank Our Lady for her intercession in protecting our Holy Father those many years ago?

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Viva la Madonna! Long live the Mother of God!

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Tony Gentile/Reuters

In the Catholic Church, the month of May has traditionally been a month to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  It is during this month that priests, bishops, and even the Pope himself encourage and highlight the importance of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives and our need of her prayers.

It is clear that Pope Francis has a particular love of the Mother of God and wishes for us to love her too. Just last weekend, he traveled to the largest basilica in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St. Mary Major, to pray the rosary with the faithful.  This is his second visit to this basilica since he was elected pope – the Holy Father came to St. Mary Major the day after his election to ask Our Lady’s intercession for his new pontificate.

More From Catholic News Service:

Mary is a mother who helps Christians grow, face the difficulties of life and use their freedom to make lasting commitments, Pope Francis said. Marking Catholics’ traditional celebration of May as the month of Mary, Pope Francis led the recitation of the rosary May 4 at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. After the service, he went to the steps of the basilica to greet thousands of people who were unable to get inside, and he asked them to say three Hail Marys “for me, because I need it.” He also led the crowd in chanting “Viva la Madonna” (Long live the mother of God). At the beginning and end of the service, Pope Francis venerated the basilica’s famous icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people, in the above photograph). In a reflection after the recitation of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary, Pope Francis said there are three primary ways in which Mary, as a mother with “great and tender love,” promotes the healthy growth of Christians.

On Monday, May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis will consecrate his pontificate to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why not say three Hail Mary’s today, for Pope Francis but also that your love for the Virgin Mary might increase each day?

Our Lady of the Snows, pray for us!

As over a foot of snow is set to blanket the UW-Madison campus and the Madison metro area, closing local schools, businesses, and even most operations at the university, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Our Lady of the Snows, to protect all those who must venture out into the inclement weather today.

Why Our Lady of the Snows? 

According to a legend dating back to the fourth century (352 AD), the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a wealthy, noble Roman couple who were without children and, having no children, had chosen Mary as the heiress to their fortune.  In her appearance in a dream, she expressed her desire to have a church built in Rome in her honor, and that the site for this church would soon find itself covered in snow.  On a day in August, in the hot, stifling summer climate of Mediterranean Rome, the Esquiline Hill, one of the seven historic hills in the city, was blanketed by fresh snow – heralded as a miracle.  In 358 AD, a church was built on the site to honor the Mother of God.  Today, that church is known through the world as the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of only four basilicas in all the world that are known as major basilicas (the others being St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s, and St. Paul Outside the Walls, also all in Rome).  To this day, the Basilica of St. Mary Major remains the largest church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Rome.

SantaMariaMaggiore

Our Lady of the Snows, pray for us!

For more information on the miracle of the snows:

National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois

For more information on St. Mary Major:

Official Website of the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major

Cardinal Dolan…or Bruce Wayne?

From Cardinal Dolan’s twitter page:

Lots of folks have asked me about the cape photo from CUA’s [Catholic University of America] commencement.  I call it my Batman pose: 

Cardinal Dolan Batman 1

The same day as this photograph, Cardinal Dolan delivered an excellent commencement address to the Catholic University of America’s Class of 2012.

Here’s a tidbit of the awesomeness:

Jesus Christ … His Church … this university … truth … love … the words of Pope Benedict … the achievement and hopes of the Class of 2012 …

Let me try to bring all of these together with the coherence I learned at this University.

Might I suggest these all coalesce in what we call the Law of the Gift.

“Greater love than this no one has, than to give one’s life for one’s friends.”  There’s the Law of the Gift as defined by the Son of God Himself.

“For we are at our best, we are most fully alive and human, when we give away freely and sacrificially our very selves in love for one another.” There’s the Law of the Gift as described by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Not long ago I at a dinner I sat next to Admiral Mike Mullen, a Marine, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, himself a Catholic, who asked me, “What percent of the American population is Catholic?”

I replied, “I’m not sure exactly, but I think about 24%.”

“But do you realize,” he went on, “that 40% of the Marine Corps identify themselves as Catholic?”

I did not realize that, but I was not surprised, nor was Admiral Mullen, for at the heart of the Church’s ethos is the Law of the Gift, and it would be tough to be a Marine if you didn’t believe in that.

Or, as the head of the department of pediatric oncology at a leading hospital recently told me, “Cardinal Dolan, I’m not even a religious believer, but, when I hire doctors, nurses, attendants, or staff for this grueling work of trying to heal kids with cancer, the applicants who are alumni of Catholic school have a leg up.”

I didn’t know that either, but, I’m hardly surprised, for, while it’s not listed in any catalogue, the course on the Law of the Gift is part of the DNA of any Catholic school, this sterling one included.

… At this university where every classroom features the most effective audio-visual aid of them all, the crucifix; and where the entire campus is overshadowed by the dome of the shrine devoted to the Jewish woman who whispered, “Be it done unto me according to Your will, not mine,” that I’m looking out at graduates who have majored in this Law of the Gift. 

If you have an opportunity, do read the entire address by Cardinal Dolan – it is fantastic!