Friday, August 3, 2018

Prayer and Presence

Pontifical High Mass for the First Saturday
4 August 2018, Salem, SD

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Saint Dominic!

I am confident that the great Saint Dominic does not mind at all that today, on this his feast, we are giving first place to the Mother of God and to the First Saturday Devotion.

I trust that you are all aware that the First Saturday Devotion comes to us by way of Fatima. Our Lady gave the details about the devotion to Sister Lucia some years after the original apparitions and in these words: “See, my daughter, my Heart encircled by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you, at least, strive to console me. Tell them that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, in order to make reparation to me, on the First Saturday of five successive months, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, say five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary.”

Last year’s  Fatima Jubilee celebrations did much and continue to serve to bring faithful Catholics to a deeper awareness of God’s love for us mediated through His Most Blessed Mother. Know that you are doing something truly great when you share the riches of true devotion to Mary at home with your children, first of all, and with family and friends, to the extent that you are able. Be it the Holy Rosary, the First Saturdays or the Scapular, or all of them and more, there is no more enlightened path to accomplishing the Church’s mission of saving our world from sin and leading souls to Christ. Simply stated: to Jesus through Mary!

In today’s Epistle we read:

“I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.” (Ecclesiasticus)

The Votive Mass for the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Common of the Blessed Virgin bind our understanding of who Mary is to this beautiful passage from the Old Testament Wisdom literature and to its teaching about Holy Wisdom. There is an essential lesson, a very important teaching for us here. Catholics generally are in great need of this teaching today. It is a teaching about the nature of the Church which too often goes right over the heads of all too many people, some of them practicing Catholics, lots of them priests and even bishops in the Church. Too many people today cannot seem to grasp the supernatural character of Church life, centered as it is on the sacraments, but oriented above all toward family life. For too many Church is a social structure open to manipulation or adaptation to achieve certain ends, quantifiable ends that you won’t find cross referenced anywhere in the index to the catechism.

Let us look again briefly at this powerful teaching about the greatness of God’s humble servant, Mary ever Virgin! “I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.”

The Gospel message mediated for us through our Mother Mary is a message to be lived out day by day. It is an essential message; let’s call it an existential message which, at its very heart, is lived out at home. While it certainly is a moral message about doing good and avoiding evil, it is first and foremost a call to a life of living in God’s presence and of prayer.

Not that long ago, I was at some function in Bern and speaking to a lady ambassador colleague, an upright woman with a good Catholic sense. Somehow our conversation turned to matters of church life and I mentioned to her that in Switzerland and throughout many countries in the Western World we are already seeing the third generation in once staunchly Catholic families who have not been catechized. If the children have been baptized and have learned the Sign of the Cross, they certainly don’t know either the Our Father or the Hail Mary and are totally oblivious to their obligations to assist at Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation, to confess their sins and more. They don’t pray before meals or at bedtime, nor do they make even a simple morning offering on rising. I told her that for me and not just me, that needed catechizing can’t happen in religious class at school alone. If a child is to be nurtured in the faith, this cannot happen, except by some miracle of God’s grace, but at home. The Council taught that parents are the first and best teachers of children in the ways of faith. Parents are the ones who give their children a sense of the presence of God in their lives, of the love of the Lord for each one of us whom He, the Lord knows by our name.

I saw my ambassador friend again the next day and she told me that she was so shocked by my words and filled with remorse wondering if she had not failed her children before God. She phoned an adult daughter when she got home to tell her of our conversation and to ask the daughter whether she had indeed failed her in matters of faith when it came to praying with her and speaking to her about Jesus, about His death on the Cross for us, and about the love of Mother Mary. Her daughter reassured her that in terms of her Christian duties she had been a good mother, but I could see that for both mother and daughter the point was well taken by my friend. It is the little Church, the family, which counts and it is Mary especially who enlightens us here. Nobody quite like the Mother of God can lead us to Christ and to what is essential in the life of a Catholic.

As on this first Saturday of the month of August, we make reparation yes for horrible sins committed and thus tormenting the Heart of Mary, let us also resolve day by day to bring joy to Her Heart by making Her Beloved Son Jesus central to our every breathing moment. When I come home to Sioux Falls each summer I try to get in a long walk each morning, which can take me past the two houses where my family lived over 50 years ago. I remember the friends who lived next door or elsewhere in the neighborhood and marvel to myself at how out of touch we become with people our age who were once our best of childhood friends. That happens naturally when for any reason we cannot spend time with them. At Fatima, Mary asked us for just 15 minutes on the first Saturdays. By way of relationship we owe her and her Son much more. Presence and personal prayer are at the very essence of what it means to be a faithful Catholic. Mary’s terms communicated to Sister Lucia for gladdening her Immaculate Heart are minimal. In truth, we owe her and her Son much more.

Praised be Jesus Christ!
Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Saint Dominic!

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