Pope St. John Paul II, patron of party planners.
No, that’s not any sort of official title, but it certainly fits. And it’s a good one to keep in mind in 2017 as the world marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s visit to three young children in Fatima, Portugal.
In fact, following St. John Paul’s example is a great way to prepare for the celebration that starts on May 13.
Twenty years ago — in the 1990s — the turn of the century and beginning of a new millennium were on the horizon, but it seemed the only blip on the public’s consciousness was a song by Prince that advised partying “like it’s 1999.”
Enter Pope John Paul. In 1994 he announced a Great Jubilee to usher in the historic date — 2,000 years since the birth of Christ — and a way to get ready for it.
In 1997, a deeper look at the person of Jesus.
In 1998, a meditation on the person of the Holy Spirit.
And in 1999, a focusing on the person of God the Father.
Coupled with each year was a special prayer of entrustment to the Blessed Mother.
How to use that model, to apply that template, for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima?
Consider what Pope John Paul said about each of the visionaries and then think about how to imitate these youngsters in your own life.
In his homily at the May 13, 2000, beatification of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Pope John Paul II noted:
“What most impressed and entirely absorbed Blessed Francisco was God in that immense light which penetrated the inmost depths of the three children. But God told only Francisco ‘how sad’ he was, as he said. One night his father heard him sobbing and asked him why he was crying; his son answered: ‘I was thinking of Jesus who is so sad because of the sins that are committed against him.’ He was motivated by one desire — so expressive of how children think — ‘to console Jesus and make him happy.’
“A transformation takes place in his life, one we could call radical: a transformation certainly uncommon for children of his age. He devotes himself to an intense spiritual life, expressed in assiduous and fervent prayer, and attains a true form of mystical union with the Lord. This spurs him to a progressive purification of the spirit through the renunciation of his own pleasures and even of innocent childhood games.”
Throughout this year, we can: Give up small pleasures in our own lives as a sacrificial prayer for others, as a way of intensifying our own spiritual life.
At that same beatification, the pontiff said this about Francisco’s younger sister, Jacinta:
“Little Jacinta felt and personally experienced Our Lady’s anguish, offering herself heroically as a victim for sinners. One day, when she and Francisco had already contracted the illness that forced them to bed, the Virgin Mary came to visit them at home, as the little one recounts: ‘Our Lady came to see us and said that soon she would come and take Francisco to heaven. And she asked me if I still wanted to convert more sinners. I told her yes.’ And when the time came for Francisco to leave, the little girl tells him: ‘Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners.’ Jacinta had been so deeply moved by the vision of hell during the apparition of July 13 that no mortification or penance seemed too great to save sinners.”
Throughout this year, we can: Accept hardships and heartaches, illnesses and frailty, as a way to further the conversion of sinners. And we can better realize and admit that as sinners ourselves, we, too, need ongoing conversion.
Lucia dos Santos
The Holy Father wrote a letter the day after Sister Lucia’s death on Feb. 13, 2005, less than two months before his own death on April 2. In it, he shared:
“I learned with deep emotion that Sister Maria Lucia de Jesús of the Immaculate Heart, at the age of 97, has been called by the Heavenly Father to the eternal dwelling place in heaven. Thus, she has reached the goal to which she always aspired in prayer and in the silence of her convent.
“The liturgy of these days has reminded us that death is the common legacy of the sons and daughters of Adam but at the same time assures us that Jesus, with the sacrifice of the Cross, has opened the doors of immortal life to us. Let us remember these certainties of faith at the moment when we say our last farewell to this humble and devout Carmelite who consecrated her life to Christ, Savior of the world.
“The visit of the Virgin Mary which Lucia, as a little girl, received at Fatima in 1917 together with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, was the beginning of a unique mission to which she remained faithful to the end of her days. Sister Lucia bequeaths to us an example of great fidelity to the Lord and joyous attachment to his divine will.
“I recall with emotion my several meetings with her and the bonds of our spiritual friendship that grew stronger with time. I have always felt supported by the daily gift of her prayers, especially during the most difficult moments of trial and suffering. May the Lord reward her abundantly for her great and hidden service to the Church.
“I like to think that it was the Blessed Virgin, the same one whom Sister Lucia saw at Fatima so many years ago, who welcomed her on her pious departure from earth to heaven. May the Blessed Virgin now accompany the soul of her devout daughter to the beatific encounter with the divine Bridegroom.”
Throughout this year, we can: Give others the “daily gift of prayer” as part of the unique mission to which we are called. And we can more deliberately and joyfully do the Lord’s divine will for us, especially when — like Lucia — it can seem that God has welcomed to heaven those whom we love most dearly and left us here on earth without them.
Three young shepherds so long ago, who show us there are simple, profound and soul-changing actions that even a child can do.
A child of God who wants to grow closer to his or her Heavenly Father.
Bill Dodds writes from Washington.
|Renew Devotion to Mary
God’s promise in Genesis that a woman’s offspring would strike the head of the serpent.
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of Mary.
The wedding at Cana.
Mary at the cross.
The woman and the dragon in Revelation.
“Mary — Virgin, Mother, and Queen” is perfect for a six-week parish Bible study or for individual learning. Each chapter includes background and study exercises, as well as questions for reflection and discussion.
Father Pacwa enlightens, clarifies and challenges Catholics to have a renewed devotion to the Blessed Mother, through whom we are drawn nearer to Christ.
Father Pacwa is a host on EWTN Catholic television network and founder and president of Ignatius Productions. He also wrote “The Year of Faith: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics” (Our Sunday Visitor, $9.95). His website is www.fathermitchpacwa.org