Question: In the Fatima devotions, we are told to make the five First Saturdays in reparation to Mary. But, though I am devoted to Mary, I wonder how I can make reparation to Mary for my sin when the sins I have committed have been against God and those around me? Is it not to God that reparation needs to be made?
— Margaret Mantia, St. Louis
Answer: The word “reparation” means to repair damages that we or others have inflicted. Even in secular language the word is used when one nation or group is asked or expected to “make reparations” — for example, pay damages or restore a nation or group whom they have unjustly harmed.
At Fatima itself, Our Lady said: “I shall come to ask ... that on the first Saturday of every month, Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world.” Yet it wasn’t until Dec. 10, 1925, that she made her formal request to Sister Lucia. In particular, she asked that the faithful go to confession, attend Mass, stay 15 minutes after and pray the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months.
Many later asked Sister Lucia why five Saturdays were asked, since other devotions emphasize nine days. It was our Lord Jesus himself who answered that question when he appeared to Sister Lucia on May 29, 1930. He said it was because of five offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, namely: speaking against or ridiculing her Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity, her divine and spiritual maternity, the rejection and dishonoring of her images and the neglect of implanting in the hearts of children a knowledge and love of his Immaculate Mother.
In this sense, by our devotion, we make reparation; that is, we seek to repair by our devotion the effects of the sins of irreverence, omission and unbelief. Since it is Our Lady who is dishonored, we make these reparations to her in the strict sense. But in a wider sense we also make reparation to the Lord who is offended by irreverence to his mother.
Question: The Bible calls sex outside of marriage the sin of fornication. When a man and woman marry, does the dynamic between them change metaphysically so that sexual relations between them are now legitimate?
— Mark Abell, Location withheld
Answer: Yes, there is a real change effected (made) by the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Jesus speaks to this change in the following words: “So, they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt 19:6). Prior to the change effected by the sacrament, the two are not one flesh. Therefore, sexual relations, which are an outward sign of this deep and fruitful oneness, are a lie. Once God effects this union by joining the couple through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, they become one not just in meaning. Now their sexual relations speak to a truth about who and what they are.
Your use of the word “metaphysical,” while accurate, must be clarified. Metaphysical refers to realities which are beyond (“meta”) the physical. Thus, justice is something real, but you don’t go over and tap it on the shoulder as if it were a physical thing. However, some today use the term “metaphysical” to indicate a mere change in meaning, rather than a change in reality. To be clear, the change in a couple through holy matrimony is more than a change in meaning; it is a change that is real and true by God’s own words.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.