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


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.


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


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)


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)


"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)


"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)

From “At the Cross Her Station Keeping” to “Queen of Heaven, Rejoice, Alleluia”: Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 (The Centenary of Fatima)

J.M.J. During his seventy Marian discourses given as his Wednesday General Audience addresses from 1995 to 1997, Saint John Paul II, among many other matters, touched upon “the Blessed Virgin’s association with Christ’s mission (that) reached its culmination in Jerusalem, at the time of the Redeemer’s Passion and Death.” (April 2, 1997)

His Holiness continued: “In the Fourth Gospel, Saint John says that ‘standing by the Cross of Jesus were His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene’ (19:25). By using the verb ‘to stand’, which literally means ‘to be on one’s feet’, ‘to stand erect’, perhaps the Evangelist intends to present the dignity and strength shown in their sorrow by Mary and the other women. The Blessed Virgin’s ‘standing erect’ at the foot of the Cross recalls her unfailing constancy and extraordinary courage in facing suffering. In the tragic events of Calvary, Mary is sustained by faith, strengthened during the events of her life and especially during Jesus’ public life. The Council recalls that ‘the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross’ (Lumen gentium, n.58).”

We can only marvel at Our Sorrowful Mother’s complete and consistent devotion to Jesus. “Sharing his deepest feelings, she counters the arrogant insults addressed to the crucified Messiah with forbearance and pardon, associating herself with his prayer to the Father: ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Lk 23:34). By sharing in the feeling of abandonment to the Father’s will expressed in Jesus’ last words on the Cross: ‘Father into Your hands I commend My Spirit!’ (ibid., 23:46), she thus offers, as the Council notes, loving consent ‘to the immolation of this Victim which was born of her’ (Lumen gentium, n. 58).”

In the final analysis, death and fear do not overcome, but rather life and trust. After the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday concludes, and for the duration of the Eastertide, the Church replaces the Angelus with the Regina Caeli, “inviting the faithful to join in the spiritual joy of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. The Blessed Virgin’s gladness at Christ’s Resurrection is even greater if one considers her intimate participation in Jesus’ entire life.”