Our Newest Saints: Saturday, May 13, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


J.M.J.


Our Newest Saints



The announcement that this year’s Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima would include the Canonization of Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto on May 13th by Pope Francis has intrigued and uplifted the Catholic faithful.

One saw the visible interest on the faces of so many as they heard the long-awaited news: the Bishop of Rome would travel to the Cova da Iria to raise this venerable duo to the glories of the Altar on the very Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

The exemplary charity, patience and perseverance of Francisco and Jacinta along with their older cousin Lucia continue to awaken deep within the friends of Jesus the desire to love God more and to serve Him better as Mary pleaded one hundred years ago.

These children are holy. And they remain a template for our own efforts to be good before Our Lord.

From the ample testimony given by their contemporaries, Francisco and Jacinta frequently received the Sacraments, particularly Confession and Holy Communion, with profound fervor, daily recited the Holy Rosary with sincere devotion and routinely commended the sick, the suffering and the wayward to Almighty God with remarkable trust.

Although privileged with three appearances of the Angel of Peace in 1916 and six visits from Our Lady during 1917, Francisco and Jacinta did not haughtily exempt themselves from obedience to their parents and their local pastor. They humbly submitted themselves even to misguided civil authority but without retreating an inch from their divinely-inspired convictions.

Mary’s summons to make reparation for sin found a permanent home in these children. As they fasted from their lunch and gave it instead to the sheep they were tending, tied a coarse rope around their tiny waists to mirror the sacrifice of their Savior, bore without complaint the scorching Portugal sun and endured the angry glances and snide remarks from querulous relatives and strangers alike, Francisco and Jacinta embraced mortification not as a means to attract attention but rather to invoke the abiding mercy of God upon themselves and sinners everywhere.

The children acknowledged their nothingness in the sight of their Creator while simultaneously they treasured His tender love. They were well aware of what He required of them, and they sought to perform their daily duty with exactitude and promptness.

In her gentle, forthright manner, Our Lady presented difficult and frightening realities to the children—the horror of sin, the annihilation of nations, the promotion of error, the deliberate attempt to thwart the plan of God, the awfulness of Hell. Far from refusing to accept all that she shared, Francisco and Jacinta recognized Divine Providence. They confided in this kind Mother and welcomed her care for them. Had she not promised that they and Lucia would one day go to Heaven and that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph?

The parlous state of our era induces us to look again to those who preceded us, certain that we can learn something about how to navigate our treacherous age. Unlettered, poor children from a backwater village as mentors for us and our advanced society? We should take the opportunity to learn from the virtuous Francisco and Jacinta. Their proximity to Jesus and Mary transcends time and place and provides us with a salutary influence as we confront the perennial hazards lurking around us.

These earnest youth experienced what Pope Francis, just hours before he left for Fatima, prayed that Our Lady would do for all Portuguese believers: to “whisper into the ears of each one of them, and assure them that her Immaculate Heart is a refuge and a path leading them to God.”

Conveyed by the Ever-Virgin, the Fatima message of prayer, reparation and the fulfillment of one’s daily duty was observed to an extraordinary degree in the lives of the little shepherds. What great things are accomplished when the counsel of the Mother of God, which, of course, is identical to that of her Divine Son, resonates and is enthroned in the hearts of her sons and daughters!

 Saints Francisco and Jacinta are proof that lasting conversion and purity of soul are both possible and necessary. No matter where we have been or who we have been, Our Lady is here for us.

We rejoice with these children—indeed, the entire Mystical Body of Christ—who once were physically small but for a century have been veritable spiritual giants, these whose names are now enrolled in the catalog of the canonized.


We thank Your Holiness!: Monday, April 24, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)

J.M.J.

A Happy Announcement

On Thursday, April 20th during an ordinary public consistory, Pope Francis disclosed that he will canonize Blesseds Francisco Marto (+1919) and Jacinta Marto (+1920) who, along with Lucia dos Santos (+2005), experienced the six apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Cova da Iria near Fatima, Portugal during 1917.

The Holy Father will celebrate the Canonization Mass in the enormous Square in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on Saturday, May 13th, which will be the one hundredth anniversary of Mary’s first appearance there.

Pope Francis will be the fourth Bishop of Rome to visit Fatima: Blessed Paul VI (1967); Saint John Paul II (1982, 1991, 2000); Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (2010). During 1977, Albino Cardinal Luciano (+1978), the Patriarch of Venice and the future Pope John Paul I, visited the Monastery of Saint Teresa in Coimbra, Portugal where Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart lived as a Discalced Carmelite. He celebrated Mass in the Carmel’s Chapel and spoke with Sister Lucia.



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Our Lady Spoke at Fatima: Divine Mercy Sunday, April 23, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


J.M.J.




During the last couple of months, I have been reading The Priest’s Way to God by Fr. M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.S.O. This book intrigued me because I was familiar with the author, an Irish Trappist Abbot, and the copy I borrowed was owned by the late Msgr. John J. McEneaney.

Fr. Boylan pays much attention to the virtue of humility. He writes that it “means of course a life of ever-increasing dependence on God, but it also means a life of ever-increasing strength, confidence and joy” (pgs. 115-116).

I think of those who are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation throughout our Diocese this spring, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will give humility in abundance to them so that they will rejoice in their dependence on God and enjoy fresh strength, confidence and joy.

The year 2017 is the Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. One hundred years ago, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta near the village of Fatima, Portugal. Humility is woven through the message of Our Lady and the acceptance shown by the three little shepherds.

Our world is vastly different now than in 1917. But human nature is the same. And so is our need for Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Humility lives in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She answered God’s summons, this time, to go to Fatima, but previously to Guadalupe, Mexico and Lourdes, Frances and a host of places. Our Lady celebrates her dependence on God. She shared with her cousin Elizabeth, “for He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (St. Luke 1:49).

Humility lives in the hearts of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Never for a moment did they consider themselves suitable for a visit from Heaven. Yet, that is what happened. And they delighted in Christ and His Virgin Mother, adhering to all that Mary requested of them.

Our Lady’s message at Fatima, I recently mentioned to some Catholic school teachers during their in-service, offers several important realities for our reflection. Here are a few.

1. Daily prayer is crucial. Receiving the Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion, worthily and often is the best prayer “form” that I choose. Reciting the Holy Rosary as Mary asked at Fatima, reading Sacred Scripture and the lives of the Saints, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, making the Stations of the Cross . . . the possibilities for public and private prayer are nearly endless.

2. Reverence for God bespeaks of our love for Him. Do I live in awareness of my Creator? Do I seek to understand His will for me? Do I recognize the real, true and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle and on the Altar during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration? Often, my best response to His majestic, gentle presence is silence. Last year, Pope Francis canonized Discalced Carmelite Elizabeth of the Trinity, who once said, referring to God, “Silence is Your greatest praise.”

3. Doing penance for our sins and those of others is a service that we can perform. To repair for my sins and those of my neighbor is charity to a high degree. My penances, whether voluntary or involuntary, afford me the gift of consoling the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which are offended by sin.

4. Fulfilling our “daily duty” is fidelity to our individual vocations. If I am a priest, then may I be the holiest priest that I can be. My faithfulness to my vocation pleases God and gives good example to those who encounter me. Doing my daily duty—doing the ordinary in an extraordinary way—is the warp and woof of sanctity.

Humility lives in each of these realities. Without this virtue, we will never obtain what God has planned for us in the Father’s House in the next life. But with humility, we grasp what the Angel Gabriel communicated to Mary: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (St. Luke 1:37). Imagine the ever-increasing dependence on God and the strength, confidence and joy that await us.

May humility live in my heart and yours as we commemorate the six appearances of Mary to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta 100 years ago. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.



God's Mercy Has Been Poured Out through the Sinless, Ever-Virgin Mary: Saturday within the Octave of Easter, April 22, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


J.M.J. I was privileged to serve as a “Missionary of Mercy” during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Thanks to Pope Francis and Bishop Swain, and thanks to those pastors who invited me to their parishes for Masses, Confessions, Holy Hours, Missions and presentations. I gave the Fall Lecture at Mount Marty College and spoke to various groups (Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters of America, etc.) throughout our Diocese. I also traveled as requested to five other Dioceses for Holy Year of Mercy activities. Honoraria of approximately $2,000 were received, which were submitted to the Diocesan Finance Office.

The Mother of the Redeemer: Wednesday during the Octave of Easter, April 19, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


J.M.J. 


An Anniversary

Saint John Paul II wrote one encyclical specifically about Our Lady, Redemptoris Mater, dated March 25, 1987.

On this the thirtieth anniversary of its publication, we especially recall The Mother of the Redeemer for its connection to the Marian Year of 1987.

Another important aspect of this encyclical is its explanation of Marian mediation. The Pontiff wrote: “In effect, Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures who in various and always subordinate ways share in the one mediation of Christ, although her own mediation is also a shared mediation. In fact, while it is true that ‘no creature could ever be classed with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer,’ at the same time ‘the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise among creatures to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this unique source.’ And thus ‘the one goodness of God is in reality communicated diversely to his creatures.’” (38)

Being aware of Our Lady’s motherhood and meditation allows us to understand better our need to entrust ourselves to the Virgin-Mother. Again, the Bishop of Rome: “The Marian dimension of the life of a disciple of Christ is expressed in a special way precisely through this filial entrusting to the Mother of Christ, which began with the testament of the Redeemer on Golgotha. Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, ‘welcomes’ the Mother of Christ ‘into his own home’ and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to say into his human and Christian ‘I’: he ‘took her to his own home.’ Thus the Christian seeks to be taken into that ‘maternal charity’ with which the Redeemer’s Mother ‘cares for the brethren of her Son,’ ‘in whose birth and development she cooperates’ in the measure of the gift proper to each one through the power of Christ’s Spirit. Thus also is exercised that motherhood in the Spirit which became Mary’s role at the foot of the Cross and in the Upper Room.” (45)

Continuously, we ask Mary to pray for us and for those entrusted to us. She is our Mother. She is our Mediatrix. She is spes nostra—our hope and that of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Mary, Exemplar of Obedience: Tuesday within the Octave of Easter, April 18, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)



J.M.J.




"Being obedient, Mary became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."


--Saint Irenaeus (+circa 202)

Kindly Mother, Please Help Me: Monday during the Octave of Easter, April 17, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)


J.M.J.



"Mary, assist me in my needs. Intercede for me with God in life and death. Show your maternal kindness. Present your children’s prayers to God Who chose you for His Mother."


 --Childhood Prayer of St. John Neumann (1811-1860)