My dear people of St. Mary’s,
This weekend we come to a dual celebration of motherhood: in the United States we celebrate Mother’s Day; and in the Universal Church we celebrate the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima, along with the canonization of the two youngest visionaries.
I have always thought it most appropriate that we give thanks to God for our earthly mothers in the same month dedicated to our Heavenly Mother. We remember that, at the foot of the Holy Cross on Good Friday, Our Lord looked down upon his own Mother Mary and the Apostle John and said: “Woman behold your son; son behold your mother.” As Catholics, we understand that St. John the Apostle in that moment represented all of us. So that, from that moment, all disciples of the Lord Jesus for all time in the future were told by the Lord to look upon His mother, Mary, as our true mother as well. In return, He asked His Mother to become the “New Eve”, that is the “Mother of all the Living”.
God knew that, as important as it was in our Faith to have a Father in Heaven, it was also necessary that we have a Mother who could be a bridge for us between heaven and earth. She would be a creature like us, yet sinless like Him. And she continues that “motherly ministry” from her place now in heaven, watching over and interceding for her children, in the way that our beloved earthly mothers do for us as well.
This weekend, at a special Mass in Portugal, Pope Francis will not only give thanks for the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima one-hundred years ago, but will also canonize the brother and sister visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. They were only 9 and 7 years old at the time of the apparitions of Our Lady. The visits and message of Mary transformed them, and from then on their lives were that of constant prayer and sacrifice. They both died within three years of the apparitions, succumbing to the worldwide epidemic of the Spanish Influenza which broke out upon the conclusion of the First World War. Aged 10 and 9 respectively at their deaths, they will now be the two youngest canonized saints in the history of the Church who are not martyrs. This is an official recognition by the Church that even children as young as they are capable of living lives of heroic virtue, and so are examples of holiness worthy of emulation by all the faithful.
This anniversary is also a reminder that Our Blessed Mother’s message at Fatima is as timely as ever: to return to the devout practice of our Faith; and to have recourse to the daily recitation of the Rosary, prayed for peace in our world and for the conversion of sinners.
And so, on this day let us thank God for the great gift of our Blessed Mother, and for all our earthly mothers, both living and deceased. May their example of selfless love and sacrifice for us, their children, inspire us to follow their example with all our brothers and sisters in Christ.