Friday, May 12, 2017

On Fatima's 100th, The Shepherd's Message: "Honor Your Mother"

Even as the 19th overseas visit of this pontificate makes for yet another formidable (news-)hill to climb, it bears recalling that the Pope has a harder time still going down steps.

In that light, as Francis embarks on a weekend pilgrimage to Fatima to lead the centenary of the celebrated Portuguese apparitions – whose young seers he will canonize on but a few weeks' notice – lest anyone forgot, here's an encore of Papa Bergoglio's first encounter with the Madonna of the Cova da Iria, which came to pass at the Vatican within months of his election....

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13 October 2013 – As previously noted, whenever the Theotokos comes around, the 266th Bishop of Rome simply loses himself and is spiritually transported to another place.

Yet again, it was visible last night in the Square, as a clearly overcome Pope spontaneously bolted down the Sagrato – the steps of St Peter's – to receive the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima, refusing to take up his designated place until she had reached hers....

To be sure, a very simple explanation underpins all this.

For those who grasp it, no words are necessary... for those who can't, nothing will ever suffice.

In sum, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is possessed of a Marian devotion as traditional and intense as that of the famously "Totus Tuus" John Paul II – a zeal much of Francis' horizontally-focused fan-base only begins to acknowledge in their condescension to it.

At the same time, the Pope's passion for the Madonna isn't something he sees as meaningful merely for his own spirituality, nor as part of a push to "turn the clock back" – his term, of course – but instead as an emphatic endorsement of the life-giving, ever-potent popular piety which remains a cornerstone of his desired "poor church for the poor": the essence of being Catholic for those who rely on and endure in the faith amid life's gravest tests... a practice which the church's shepherds are called to embrace and integrate into the very heart of their ministries if they genuinely seek to attain the now-omniquoted "smell of the sheep."

Indeed, as the Son himself has now expressed the thought on several occasions....
"If you want to know who Mary is, go to the theologian and he will tell you. But if you want to know how to love Mary, go to the People of God who teach it better....

"[The people] are always asking for something closer to Jesus, they are sometimes a bit insistent in this. But it is the insistence of those who believe."
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Returning to May 2017, at least when one's got the signals right, this weekend has been anticipated for just shy of four years.... Because, to repeat, if you don't see the moment with the eyes of faith, you miss everything.

At that time of his first meeting with the original Fatima image, the Pope composed and delivered an Act of Entrustment to her – the second he had done to a Madonna (after beginning the practice in tears at Aparecida), but in this case a prayer set to be be expanded upon this weekend.

With a good many centennial celebrations long booked in the local churches and set to occur over the coming days, Francis' original text is their best place to start....
Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima,
with renewed gratitude for your motherly presence
we join in the voice of all generations that call you blessed.

We celebrate in you the great works of God,
who never tires of lowering himself in mercy over humanity,
afflicted by evil and wounded by sin,
to heal and to save it.

Accept with the benevolence of a Mother
this act of entrustment that we make in faith today,
before this your image, beloved to us.

We are certain that each one of us is precious in your eyes
and that nothing in our hearts has estranged you.

May that we allow your sweet gaze
to reach us and the perpetual warmth of your smile.

Guard our life with your embrace:
bless and strengthen every desire for good;
give new life and nourishment to faith;
sustain and enlighten hope;
awaken and animate charity;
guide us all on the path to holiness.

Teach us your own special love for the little and the poor,
for the excluded and the suffering,
for sinners and the wounded of heart:
gather all people under you protection
and give us all to your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus.