“Yes! The Lord, our great hope, is with us. In his merciful love, he offers a future to his people: a future of communion with himself.”
“Stunning” describes some of the words from the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, whenever I go back and read them. The way he talked about Mary. The way he talked about the great women saints and doctors of the Church. And the way he would be transformed by his time focused on these and in the presence of the Lord and the people of God.
The 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to the shepherd children in Fatima brought me back to these words from Pope Benedict in Fatima, because we need to hear them as much now as then. And because I happened to be there that day with him, in 2010.
About two weeks out, I had no idea I was going to be in Lisbon for two days with time to spare. Or that I would be in the neighborhood, relatively speaking, of the shrine built around the spots where Our Lady appeared to the little children in Fatima, not only on the feast day, but during the year when Pope Benedict XVI happened to be headed there. No sooner was it May 12, and I was somehow negotiating a seat on a press bus for the early morning the next day.
Hours before the sun would come out, I seemed to be in the middle of nowhere in an empty parking lot in Portugal waiting, in the rain, uncertain what would come of the day, wondering what on earth I might have gotten myself into. Fast-forward to the crowd and the beautiful symphony of people praying the Rosary in just about every language, it seemed. The sun didn’t dance that morning, but it came out just in time to welcome the Holy Father.
It had been a painful spring, where rot in the Church, in the form of new revelations of the sexual abuse of children by clergy, dominated the headlines in Europe, in particular. Before we thought this was an option, media were calling for the pope’s resignation. As he entered Our Lady’s shrine, his heart seemed exposed, he looked fatigued, yes, and heartbroken. And something happened there to him. His heart seemed touched and renewed through the celebration of the Mass at this spot dedicated to our Mother.
He recalled how Jacinta would cry out: “How much I delight in telling Jesus that I love him! When I tell him this often, I feel as if I have a fire in my breast, yet it does not burn me.” And Francisco would say: “What I liked most of all was seeing Our Lord in that light which Our Mother put into our hearts. I love God so much!”
Pope Benedict was so very clearly saying the same.
“Who finds time to hear God’s word and to let themselves be attracted by his love?” he asked, continuing: “Who keeps watch, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a heart vigilant in prayer? Who awaits the dawn of the new day, fanning the flame of faith? Faith in God opens before us the horizon of a sure hope, one which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base one’s life without fear; it demands a faith-filled surrender into the hands of the Love which sustains the world.”
Find the time. That day in Portugal I saw the miracle of the transformation Jesus continues to work in the lives of people who go to him in the arms of his mother, lived out in a man who continues to intercede for his beloved Church and world in his final years. That’s the work of hope, that’s the work of joy, that’s what the world needs from us. That’s what God wants for us: “a future of communion with himself.” It begins in every moment.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).