One hundred years ago, the sun danced. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, appeared to three shepherd children to share a deep and profound message: pray.
It was an uncomplicated and simple instruction, but a strong invitation, “Pray, pray, pray very much.” She added a question for the children, “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 of supplication for the conversion of sinners?”
Our Lady was very concerned that many of the faithful had fallen away from the church and turned their backs on God. In later life, Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote: “The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Do not be afraid … because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue … nonetheless, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”
Am I willing?
One hundred years later, the same is true. I have heard from many parents about the concern, heartfelt distress and hopelessness they experience as they see their siblings, children and grandchildren succumb to this battle of the family.
Cohabitation and premarital sex have become the norm and even considered a good; “Fifty Shades of Grey” and gender theory are even taught in our schools; there is also the epidemic of pornography, influencing our 8- and 9-year-olds through cellphones we buy to keep them “safe.”
Mary saw the breakdown of the family and asked the children to pray the rosary daily and make sacrifices. The children at Fatima, with great enthusiasm, said, “Yes, we are willing.”
I ask myself, how do I respond to Mary’s call to pray and sacrifice? Do I accept willingly? Joyfully? Wholeheartedly?
What do I expect when I pray and make sacrifices? Do I expect Mary’s response to my “yes” to be, “Way to go, great, thanks”?
Even for the young children at Fatima, Mary didn’t sugarcoat what they would endure for loving and following Christ, for she told the children that their “yes” meant they would “have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort.”
My husband’s family uses the term “offer it up” all the time. Not being raised a Catholic, I didn’t understand that term, and it seemed rather foolish to me: What good what that do? In fact when Rich said the phrase to me when I was in labor with our oldest daughter, I almost threw something at him. Now, however, I can see the wisdom. We do small things all the time for those who can’t or won’t. Isn’t that the definition of a mom or a dad?
So why would we think that reparation for our adult children isn’t part of our parenting? Our Blessed Mother understands a mother’s love for her child. She knows what it feels like to have her heart pierced. She can help us when we feel the agony that our children are feeling. She knows and points the way to the only one who can take away the pain, her beloved Son.
Mary did not guarantee that our prayers would be answered at the time and in the way we want them.
Remember the Canaanite woman from the Gospel of Matthew who told Jesus, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” Jesus first ignored her, and the disciples wanted to “get rid of her.” Why? Was he teaching her perseverance? Was he testing to see if she was seeking God’s will?
Yet, her perseverance was selfless, for love of her child. She remained. As she shows her patience and trust and pleas for her daughter, Jesus replies, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Matthew 15:28).
Not giving up
Do we want to win the lives of our precious children and grandchildren for Christ? Are we willing to stand up and say, “I will do whatever you tell me to do,” as Mary said to the servants at Cana? Are we willing to face the ridicule and opposition even from our own family as Lucia did?
We should not give up on our prayers for our loved ones, those who have fallen away from the church. Christ wants us to learn how to love and trust him, even when it is hard. I think so often of St. Monica, how patient she was to pray for her husband and her son’s conversion — 17 years. In the end, Christ could say, ‘Great is your faith, to trust God even when the answer seems to be no.’”
As she did 100 years ago when she appeared to the shepherd children at Fatima, Mary asks for our prayers. At the beginning of each apparition with Our Blessed Mother, Lucia asked “What do you want of me?” Let us make that our question, every day when we go to our knees in prayer.
“Lord, what do you want of me? I am here to do whatever you tell me.”
Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.