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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“The Art of Prayer” from Blessed John Paul II

The staff at St. Paul’s returned on Wednesday afternoon from a two-day planning retreat; an opportunity before each semester begins to reflect, pray, and make good resolutions for the apostolate at St. Paul’s.  In a particular way, Fr. Eric Nielsen exhorted the staff about the importance of prayer and personal piety, both for them and for the students (and young professionals!) served at St. Paul’s.  As a fodder for meditation, he provided the staff with several selections from Blessed John Paul II’s famous Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, which he wrote at the close of the year 2000.

Here are a couple excellent points from John Paul (emphasis added):

“We cannot come come to the fullness of contemplation of the Lord’s face by our own efforts alone, but by allowing grace to take us by the hand.  Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery which finds its culminating expression in the solemn proclamation by the Evangelist St. John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14).

It is not therefore a matter of inventing a “new program”.  The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever.  Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved, and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.  … We have to learn to pray … Prayer develops that conversation with Christ which makes us his intimate friends: “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:4).  This reciprocity is the very substance and soul of the Christian life….

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine “schools” of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly “falls in love”.

It is prayer which roots us in the truth.  It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness.

ImageBlessed John Paul II, pray for us, that we might always seek to grow in friendship with Christ through prayer!

The complete document Novo Millennio Ineunte is available on the Vatican’s website.

“The Hour Has Come”: Guest post!

Here’s a reflection from a graduate student about life, the future, and what God’s asking of us as young Catholics in today’s society.  They wished only to be recognized as “P”:

All my life has been preparation.  I look back on the years of schooling and turn again and strain my eyes to see past the horizon, to when this “preparation” shall end and I will begin the battle that is My Life.  The same dilemma is not unrecognized by the world, with its constant reminder to live life to the fullest, a fullness that requires you to stuff your life with the things of this world, its experiences, its pleasures and its riches.  Yet, gazing at the future, we often fail to see where it truly lies.

We are at a remarkable age in our lives.  There comes a realization that we are no longer young, but that we still have our youth.  “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things,” St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11.  We are no longer children.  Many of us have started our transition into society and in turn, society now recognizes us as men, as women, and as adults.

Yet I find myself still gazing into the horizon, with a hope that when I complete that transition into society, it will somehow be better.  That somebody (i.e. the Catholics of today) will make a difference, that God will once again be present in society and in place of the riches and pleasures of this world there will be purity, chastity . . . beauty.  And as I picture this somebody, it is always a generation removed: those before me or those after me.

I recently had a teacher make a comment that applies to many graduate level students.  Graduate students and teachers tend to talk about the future in terms of what “they” will do.  “They” will build this, “they” will discover this, “they” will cure this disease, but what this teacher so rightfully pointed out is that this “they” is us.  We are the future.

What is the point I’m trying to make?  As the Gospels so aptly put it, “The hour has come.” That is not to say that the time of preparation is over – as Catholics we will always be preparing for the challenges of tomorrow; we must never stop preparing for the challenges of tomorrow, but that preparation must be put into use today.  As Blessed JP2 said to the youth of the Church in Denver many years ago: “You are the future of the world, you are the hope of the Church, you are my hope.”

We must take a stand.  It is up to us to hold our generation to a higher standard than our parents have held us.  We must expect more from each other and more from ourselves.  Society believes that chastity and purity are impossible, so much so that drunkenness and debauchery are expected among our youth.  Not only must we show them otherwise in our own actions, but we must hold them to demand more from the rest of our generation.

Come to this realization: to the world, you are a fanatic.  You dedicate your life to Someone, Something, that you cannot see.  You spend precious hours of your weekend with the same old ritual that was used in medieval days, a bygone era.  Where others live through the happiness of pleasure, you live without, devoid of its bittersweetness.  In the eyes of society, we will always be fanatics.  “To what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ (Matthew 11:16-17).”  Therefore, we must be fanatics.  The Holy Spirit is a fire that must burn within us.  We must be in the world, but not of the world.  Our greatest fear should be to become lukewarm, to lose that fire that should consume us.  For as it is often said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Want to write a guest post?  Submit it to Liz: lfrias@uwcatholic.org!