The Message of Fatima and the Priesthood
One hundred years ago, Our Lady spoke to three shepherd children at Fatima, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to pray and sacrifice for them.” In our Crusade for Priests, we are dedicated to praying for priests, for good and holy priests, as well as for the tempted and falling. Many Crusaders offer their daily Rosary, their daily Crusade prayer, their Holy Mass and Holy Communion for priests. This is of great benefit to the Church! But do we realize that this is only half the battle?
At Fatima, Our Lady came to teach mankind once again the way to peace and salvation. Hers was a message of faith, conversion and prayer, but also of sacrifice. It was directed towards those in need of conversion, but also towards those who were already living the faith, that they might learn to do more, to bring also their brothers home to the Father’s house. The Church and the world are in need of such souls who are willing and able to “seek and save those who are lost”, to bear the burden of others. At present, our little Crusade is 6000 strong. What a powerhouse of strength we can become in the Church for the good of the priesthood, if together we strive to become even more generous, sacrificial souls who stand in fidelity and love behind our priests, praying, sacrificing and making reparation.
Sr. Lucia always had great respect for priests, even though along the way she had met many who were not faithful. Throughout her Memoirs, she recounts her experience with different priests and Bishops who came to question her regarding the apparitions. Some who did not believe were a great trial for her, but others were kind and helpful, teaching her how to correspond to the extraordinary graces she was receiving and leading her in the paths of the spiritual life with great wisdom. Sr. Lucia writes, “If we should happen to see some priests who seem to have lost their way and have gone astray, let us not be surprised! They, too, are human, subject to frailty like ourselves. In the course of time, we have met many who have lost their way and been unfaithful to God and to the mission entrusted to them by the Lord” (Calls from the Message of Fatima, p. 147). These priests are a thorn in the crown of Our Lord. How we could console Him if, through prayer and sacrifice, we would bring back even one of these chosen, privileged sons of His!
Even good and holy priests are in need of our prayers in order to increase the fruits of their labors and to help them to remain faithful. Their vital mission in the Church makes them a target of the infernal enemy. Sr. Lucia writes further, “The fact that some priests fall away must not mean that our respect, our esteem and our veneration for those who persevere should be any less; rather, the weakness of some should heighten the merit of the rest. Therefore, we should always listen with faith to the priest, because he is a light for our path, a guide for our life and a source of strength for our weakness” (Calls, p. 147). In order to remain faithful, every priest needs the prayers and spiritual support of the faithful. Our Lady and the Angel at Fatima lead us on this way of generous self-giving and reparation.
The Angel of Portugal and the Little Way of Reparation
In preparation for the apparitions of Our Lady, the Angel of Portugal first appeared to the three children in 1916 to teach them the foundations of the spiritual life. He taught them prayer and sacrifice in order to make reparation. “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” Later, appearing to the children busy at play, the Angel exhorted them, “What are you doing?! Pray, pray very much! ...Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.... Make of everything you can a sacrifice to God in reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for sinners. In this way, you will bring peace to our country, for I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, bear and accept with patience the sufferings God will send you.”
Here the Angel teaches the children to make use of all the circumstances of daily life for the salvation of souls: “make of everything a sacrifice”! We can offer up the little inconveniences, the moments when we are tempted to lose our patience, the difficult personalities we need to deal with – all these can be converted into gold! As Our Lady later taught the children, with a sincere act of the will we can consciously offer all these things, small and large, with the prayer, “O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” In our Crusade, we want to add, of course, “and for our priests”! This voluntary acceptance of small trials will win great merit for the sanctification of priests and, like St. Jacinta and St. Francisco, we ourselves will grow daily in our strength of will to sacrifice out of love. Hence, we will grow rapidly in charity, as “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for our friends” (Jn 15:13). The Angel says to offer “everything” as a sacrifice. We can, then, offer even our joys to God with thanksgiving for priests!
Another means of reparation taught by the Angel is Eucharistic Adoration and Communions of reparation. Before the Precious Body and Blood suspended in the air, the Angel instructed the shepherd children to pray:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
He then gave the Host to Lucia and the Precious Blood to Francisco and Jacinta saying, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” We, too, can offer our Holy Communions and our Adoration hour for priests, for good and faithful priests, but even more importantly, for those who are straying and leading others astray.
Willingly Sacrificing for Souls, for Priests: A Promise to Our Lady!
Following the Angel’s instructions, the children grew rapidly in their practice of penance and sacrifice, and prayed almost continuously the prayers the Angel had taught them. They began by giving up their lunch and wearing a tight cord about the waist. They were well prepared when, at her first apparition, Our Lady asked them, “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the sufferings He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners?” And in the name of all, Sr. Lucia makes the solemn promise, “Yes, we are willing!” This same question Our Lady asks us today. Do we want to offer up our trials and sacrifices for priests, to atone for their sins and to strengthen them in their mission? Do we want to deny ourselves in little things, in order to give our priests and Bishops the strength to be faithful in great matters? Do we want to yield to others in irrelevant matters for the sake of peace, in order to strengthen the Church in unity?
Later, the shepherd children realized that the more difficult way was to offer up what the Lord Himself allowed them to suffer: misunderstanding, disbelief and false accusations. In all trials of illness, humiliations and reproaches, they faithfully made the offering as Our Lady had taught, “O Jesus, for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary...” We, too, need not look for extraordinary penances or fasts. If we are gener- ous with the Lord and faithful in our daily trials, He will lead us step by step to accept with peace and submission all the hardships, sorrows and separations which He, in His divine wisdom and loved, has planned for our lives. This conformity with His holy will, will bring us peace and joy, even in the Cross. For we will grow ever more in the confidence and experience that He works all things for the good of those who love Him (cf. Rom 8:28).
A Model of Sacrificial Self-giving: Blessed Alexandrina da Costa
The fame of the apparitions of Our Lady spread quickly throughout the world. One soul particularly touched with love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary was Blessed Alexandrina da Costa of northern Portugal (1904 – 1955). In 1918, just one year after the apparitions, she had jumped from a 2nd story window of her home to escape being molested. From the injuries sustained, she eventually became completely paralyzed. Gradually, with the help of Our Lady, she learned to accept and offer up her sufferings in a spirit of reparation. “Our Lady has given me an even greater grace [than a cure]” she writes. “First abandonment; then, complete conformity to God’s will; finally, the thirst for suffering.” Once she had accepted her vocation to victim- hood for souls, she had many mystical experiences and lived the last 13 years of her life solely on the Holy Eucharist. The Congregation for the Clergy relates her offering for priests:
In 1941, Alexandrina wrote to her spiritual director, Fr. Mariano Pinho, telling him that Jesus told her, “My daughter, a priest living in Lisbon is close to being lost forever; he offends Me terribly. Call your spiritual director and ask his permission that I may have you suffer in a special way for this soul.” Once Alexandrina had received permission from her spiritual director, she suffered greatly. She felt the severity of the priest’s errors, how he wanted to know nothing about God and was close to self-damnation. She even heard the priest’s full name. Poor Alexandrina experienced the hellish state of this priest’s soul and prayed urgently, “Not to hell, no! I offer myself as a sacrifice for him, as long as you want.”
Fr. Pinho inquired of the Cardinal of Lisbon whether one of the priests of his dio- cese was of particular concern. The Cardinal openly confirmed that he was, in fact, very worried about one of his priests, and when he mentioned the name of the priest, it was the same one that Jesus had spoken to Alexandrina.
Some months later, a friend of Fr. Pinho, Fr. David Novais, recounted to him an unusual incident. Fr. David had just held a retreat in Fatima, which was attended by a modest gentleman whose exemplary behavior made him pleasantly attractive to all the participants. On the last night of the retreat, this man suddenly had a heart attack. He asked to see a priest, to whom he confessed and received Holy Communion. Shortly thereafter he died, fully reconciled with God. It turned out that this man was actually a priest—the very priest for whom Alexandrina had suffered so greatly.
Although we may not be called to suffer in the way this chosen soul was called, still let us take her as an example of generous self-offering for priests. Our Mother Gabriele encourages on this little way:
Let us not be apprehensive: Every emptiness becomes in GOD a fullness, every renunciation becomes a gift, every giving becomes a receiving, every suffering becomes a joy, every dying becomes a rising. The Cross and the Cross alone thrusts Heaven open and then there is... joy! (Easter, 1960)
We want, therefore, to accept every trial and make every sacrifice, forgetting our- selves, and supporting the priests! And Jesus will be grateful!
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