Fatima, the Church and
Msgr. Joseph Cirrincione
This is a little extract culled from Father Cirrincione's booklet, FATIMA'S MESSAGE FOR OUR TIMES, published by TAN Books, the part that concerns the Church: to show that priests, bishops and all other consecrated souls-----particularly and most especially------need a powerful prayer life------to live their particular Christian vocations most effectively, but also, though perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree, that lay people too are under exactly the same moral imperative. Officially the traditional Catholic prayers and devotional practices have not been abandoned, but they actually have been abandoned by many in the Church, a fact too palpable to require illustration, and this very abandonment of our prayer and devotional traditions he claims is the fundamental cause of much of the malaise in the Church and in the world.
In addition to the traditional devotions of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, the Fatima reparation plan, and the Rosary, Father Cirrincione calls for a return to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
From the pen of Fr. Cirrincione:
A day or so after Our Lord's Baptism by St. John the Baptist, as Jesus walked by, John said to two of His disciples: "Behold the Lamb of God." The two disciples were Andrew and John the Evangelist, the latter of whom tells the story in the Fourth Gospel. They decided to follow Jesus. When the Master sensed they were following Him, He turned and said to them, "What is it you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day: John adds, "It was about the tenth hour [i.e., 4 PM]. . . At His invitation they spent some hours with Him where He was dwelling, and when they left Him, they were changed men. They could not wait to tell others about Him. Among those Andrew sought out was his brother Simon. "We have found the Messiah," he told him, and led him to Jesus.
Were we to ask Jesus today, "Where dwellest Thou?" what would He answer but, "Come and see." And where would He lead us but to where He dwells in our midst, day in and day out, namely, the Tabernacle! Where else could we spend unlimited time in His company? Where else could we be converted to Him so thoroughly that our first impulse would be to tell others about Him? Where else are vocations discovered, discipleship established, and missionary zeal fired up?
The spiritual benefits of intimate association with the Master present in the Tabernacle are such a proven fact that one wonders how any consecrated soul could be unaware of it. Yet, here too, the Gospels throw light on the subject, for the failure to watch and pray is not without precedent in Our Lord's lifetime.
discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus spoke to the Apostles of His
departure. At one point He said: "And where I go you know, and the way
Then Philip spoke up and said: "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us." To which Jesus replied: "Have I been so long a time with you and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also the Father." It was obviously a source of sorrow to Jesus that after three years these men, whom He had just ordained priests, saw Him but did not see the Father in Him-----as it must also be a source of sorrow for Him today that there are priests who see and handle the Sacred Host that they place and that reposes in the Tabernacle, but do not see Him.
How carefully the Master had sought to prepare them for the events to take place that very night. "I am the bread of life," He had said in the synagogue at Capharnaum, the day after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, "If anyone eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world . . . He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood, abides in me and I in him."
The Twelve had all heard these words spoken, for they could never forget the crisis they had caused among His followers. That was the day when many of His followers, finding His words a "hard saying," left Him and no longer walked with Him. [John 6: 61, 67]-----the same day that Peter, speaking for all Twelve, had pledged their loyalty when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go. Thou hast the words of eternal life." Now, at the Last Supper their faith had been vindicated, as Jesus had changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood and had given Himself to them in this form as spiritual food and drink. In the hush of the spell that gripped them in the ensuing moments, Jesus pleaded for their abiding union with Him, saying, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
As the Master spoke on, it seemed at one point that they had begun to understand what He wanted them to see, for they said: "Behold, now Thou speakest plainly, and utterest no parable. Now we know that Thou knowest all things, and dost not need anyone should question Thee. For this reason we believe that Thou comest forth from God."
But Jesus was not lulled by these words into false optimism, for He replied: "Do you now believe? Behold the hour is coming, and has already come for you to be scattered, each one to his own house, and to leave Me alone."
The Apostles meant well, but like Peter, who earlier in the evening had pledged to lay down his life for the Master, they were all too sure of themselves, too confident in their ability to cope with and handle any problem.
Not surprisingly, then, when later in Gethsemani Jesus warned them to "pray," that they might not enter into temptation, they took His advice lightly and soon were fast asleep. Not even when He returned to them and reproached them, saying, "Could you not then watch one hour with Me? Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation . . ." not even then did they "watch and pray." They awoke and became alert only when they heard a commotion and Jesus, with unmistakable sadness in His voice, spoke His last words to them before His death: "Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners." [Matt. 26: 45]
The events that took place on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday-----the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus-----are not just historical events. Through the institution of the Holy Eucharist, they have been renewed and made present on Catholic altars daily at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for almost two thousand years. For the Mass is none other than the unbloody, though completely real, re-enactment or re-presentation of the actual death of Jesus Christ. This is the Catholic theology of the Mass. And the Mass is the central worship of our Faith. Therefore, it is eminently true that the Holy Eucharist is at the heart of Catholic doctrine and practice.
But it seems that in our day, esteem for the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament has gone into something of a decline, which brings us back to Sister Lucy of Fatima who, in a letter to her nephew, Fr. Valinho, a Salesian priest, lamented a lack of appreciation of prayer in general by consecrated souls and of prayer in particular before the Blessed Sacrament.
It is not uncommon for Catholics that Mass and Communion sometimes become a rather routine affair. However, it is through prayer that we come to discover and appreciate and love Jesus, Who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life," present in the Eucharist. And it is in daily prayer before "the Way," present in the Tabernacle, that we really come to know Jesus as the supernatural "Truth and the Life." Sister Lucy says the same thing when she says, "What I recommend to you above all is that you draw close to the Tabernacle and pray. In fervent prayer you receive the light, strength and grace that you need to sustain you."
In the language of the Church, as in the Gospels, "truth" and "light" are interchangeable. To see the "light" is to see the "truth." And once again we have recourse to the Gospels to understand better what Sister Lucy meant in saying that by fervent prayer we receive the light.
In Mark 10: 46-52, we read of the experience of a blind man, Bartimeus, whose sight was restored by Jesus. At the time of this incident, Our Lord was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a very large crowd. Bartimeus was siting by the wayside, begging. Hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to cry out: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" People in the crowd tried to silence him, but he cried out all the louder: "Son of David, have mercy on me." Jesus heard the plea, stopped and asked that he be brought to Him. At this news, Bartimeus sprang to his feet and was soon before the Master. Jesus knew very well what the blind man wanted, but He required that his desire be put into words: "What wilt thou that I should do to thee?" And the blind man said to Him: "Rabboni, that I may see." And Jesus said to him: "Go thy way, thy faith has made thee whole." And immediately he saw, and followed Him in the way. [Mark 10: 51-52]
With the recovery of his sight, the blind man now saw the world that had always been there . . . the road, the people, the houses, the trees, the sky. But in seeing them for the first time, it seemed to him almost as though they had just come into existence. What he had hitherto imagined things to be like now he began to see in reality. He not only saw objects, but saw them in relation to each other. All in all, it was a thrilling and exciting experience as he became for a few moments the center of attention of the crowd. But according to the Gospel account, he did not tarry to receive the congratulations being heaped upon him. Perhaps the most significant words in the account are the last ones: "And immediately he saw, and followed Him in the the way." The "light" given to his physical senses led to the "light" of Faith given to his soul, and thence to love, and finally to following "Him in the way." He became a disciple.
By analogy, and on a different plane, that is what Sister Lucy says one experiences who prays fervently before the Blessed Sacrament: It is the experience of receiving the light, the understanding of truths already known but now seen in relationship to each other, which yields insights never perceived before. This is what she means when she says: "In prayer, you will find more knowledge, more light, more strength and virtue, than you would ever achieve by reading many books or by great studies."
What is implied here, of course, is that the one who prays comes to Jesus because he wants to see-----and he asks for this "sight." As in the case of Bartimeus, Jesus considers this asking for sight, for spiritual understanding, to be an essential condition to receiving it! But also, as in the case of Bartimeus, the greatest blessing of this restored spiritual sight is "seeing" Jesus Himself. As Sister Lucy says: "We all need to intensify our life of intimate union with God, and this we can only attain through prayer." Prayer leads to light, light leads to love, and love leads to following-----following as Our Lord would have us to follow Him, with all our heart and soul.
What we have described so far are the good effects of praying. Now we will consider the bad effects of not praying.
We turn to Luke 8: 8 where Jesus has just ended the Parable of the Sower with the words: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" But His disciples then began to ask Him what this parable meant. He said to them: "To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand." He then went on to explain the meaning of the parable.
Jesus made an important distinction here between His disciples who followed Him, shared His company and were eager to have the parable explained to them, and the others-----Scribes, Pharisees and others-----who came to hear Him speak, but only out of curiosity. These others heard Him speak, then walked away, soon forgetting what they had heard. They "had ears to hear but did not hear." Seeing they did not see, and hearing they did not understand.
The spiritual blindness which Jesus describes as "seeing and not seeing, hearing but not understanding" is a common affliction today among those for whom Mass and Communion have become a matter of routine, because they do not spend much time in prayer, especially in prayer before the Tabernacle. That this weighs heavily on Sister Lucy's mind is evident from the opening words of the letter to her priest nephew, where she says: "It is sad that so many are allowing themselves to be dominated by the diabolical wave that is sweeping the world and they are so blind that they cannot see their error."
To appreciate why this should trouble her, we should recall that, in addition to the mystical experiences the three children underwent in the May and June apparitions,  they had already undergone profound mystical experiences in the course of three visions of an Angel in 1916. These visions are described by Sister Lucy in her "Fourth Memoir." [Fatima in Lucia's Own Words]
In the first apparition, which took place about the Spring of that year, the Angel said to the three children: "Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me." "Kneeling on the ground," Sister continues, "he bowed down until his forehead touched the earth. Led by a supernatural impulse, we did the same, and repeated the words which we heard him say: "My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I ask pardon of Thee for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee."
repeated these words three times, he rose and said: "Pray thus. The
of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications."
The second apparition of the Angel took place the following Summer, when the children were spending the siesta hours around the well in the shade of Lucy's yard. "Suddenly," she says, "we saw the Angel right beside us.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "Pray, pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High."
In the Fall of the same year, the third apparition of the Angel took place at the same location as the first. Sister Lucy writes: "While we were there, the Angel appeared to us for the third time, holding a chalice in his hands, with a Host above it from which some drops of blood were falling into the sacred vessel. Leaving the chalice and the Host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated on the ground and repeated this prayer three times:
"Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly, and I offer Thee 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 indifference with which He Himself is offended. And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners:
"Then, rising, he once more took the chalice and the Host in his hands. He gave the Host to me, and to Jacinta arid Francisco he gave the contents of the chalice to drink, saying as he did so: 'Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God: Once again, he prostrated on the ground and repeated with us three times more, the same prayer, 'Most Holy Trinity': and then disappeared."
In explaining the lasting impression these apparitions and those of Our Lady made on Sister Lucy, the late Father Joaquin M. Alonso, C.M.F., an eminent authority on the subject of Fatima, wrote in the Foreword to Fatima in Lucia's Own Words: "Everything connected with the apparitions of the Lady was seen no longer as a simple recollection but as a presence impressed upon her [Lucy's] soul as though by fire. She herself points out to us that these things remain impressed upon her soul in such a way that she could not possibly forget them."
To complete the picture of the mystical experiences that Sister Lucy experienced and that went into the formation of her mind and heart, we should add the last vision she had, which took place in the chapel of her convent in Tuy, Spain on June 13, 1929. She writes: "I had sought and obtained permission from my superior and confessor to make a Holy Hour from eleven o'clock until midnight, every Thursday to Friday night. Being alone one night, I knelt near the altar rails in the middle of the chapel and, prostrate, I prayed the prayers of the Angel. Feeling tired, I then stood up and continued to say the prayers with my arms in the form of a cross. The only light was that of the sanctuary lamp. Suddenly the whole chapel was illumined by a supernatural light, and above the altar appeared a cross of light, reaching to the ceiling. In a brighter light, on the upper part of the cross, could be seen the face of a man and his body as far as the waist; upon his breast was a dove of light; nailed to the cross was the body of another man. A little below the waist I could see a chalice and a large Host suspended in the air, onto which drops of blood were falling from the face of Jesus Crucified and from the wound on His side. These drops ran down onto the Host and fell into the chalice. Beneath the right arm of the cross was Our Lady, and in her hand was her Immaculate Heart. [It was Our Lady of Fatima, with her Immaculate Heart in her left hand, without sword or roses, but with a crown of thorns and flames.] Under the left arm of the cross, large letters as if of crystal clear water which ran down upon the altar, formed these words, 'Grace and Mercy.'
"I understood that it was the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which was shown to me, and I received lights about this mystery which I am not permitted to reveal.
"Our Lady then said to me:
"The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means. There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray."
In view of the extraordinary mystical experiences, with their Eucharistic overtones, that Sister Lucy had during her life, together with the revelations that accompanied them, is it any wonder that the neglect of prayer on the part of many; especially among consecrated souls, conveys an ominous message to her and causes her to lament the reigning spiritual blindness? In speaking of "the diabolical wave that is sweeping the world," she is using strong language, and it should be for us a frightening judgment passed by one who sees the world, in some respects, as God sees it . . .
"We all need to intensify our life of intimate union with God, and this we can only attain through prayer," writes Sister Lucy. It goes without saying that she is referring to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. "For it is in fervent prayer that you receive the light, strength and grace that you need to sustain you."
This life of intimate union with God brings a great revelation: That God is Life and Love. In Jesus, Who is God Incarnate, this translates into an irresistible desire to share His life with us. In fact, His desire to share His life with us is greater than our desire to receive it. This wondrous truth is the logical consequence of the union of life and love in God. To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear and understand, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the union of life and love in God Incarnate. And the characteristic of this union is to give of itself. There is a Latin expression which sums up perfectly this idea: "Bonum est diffusivum sui," which means, "Goodness tends to give of itself."
When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He said: "I am Who am," which in effect means, "I am Existence Itself." Or, to state it another way, "I am True Life." St. John, in his first epistle says, "God is love." [1 John 4: 8]
Now, God is a pure spirit-----simple, without parts. Therefore, His Being, His Life, His action are all one. Thus, for God "to live" is "to love." And for God "to love" is "to give." And what He "gives" is Himself, a share in His life. This we call Sanctifying Grace, which properly defined, is "the Supernatural Life of God in our souls."
lies the motive and meaning of creation: Creation "represents" or is
statement of" God's love, which love has moved Him to share His
with His creatures. This sharing of existence varies in degrees of
from the inanimate "life" of a boulder to the transcendental life He
with man, who is created to His Own image and likeness. Of all God's
man shares in God's creative
When Original Sin placed an obstacle to that union by "closing the Gates of Heaven," the Father's love moved Him to share His only-begotten Son with mankind. But when the Son became man, a new element was added to Divine life and love, viz., suffering. The Father cannot suffer in His Divine nature, nor can the Son. But the Son can suffer in His human nature. Thus, the Father, as the Son reveals Him to us, is Divine Love sharing Divine Life with us to an unlimited degree-----not counting the cost. To both the Father and the Son, to live is to love, and to love is to give, "not counting the cost."
This principle has been implanted in nature itself. Jesus drew attention to it when He said: "Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." [John 12: 24-25]
And because the supernatural is based upon and is an extension of the natural, He led men to raise their minds to the same truth on a spiritual level, saying: "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal. If any man minister to Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also shall My minister be. If any man minister to Me, him will My Father honor." [John 12: 25-26]
By these words, Jesus is not only instructing us as to how we should live and conduct ourselves, but He is also leading up to giving us the supreme example of life and love and giving-----not counting the cost-----by His Passion and Death on the Cross. He speaks of His servants or followers in terms of His sheep. He goes on to proclaim Himself the Good Shepherd Who lays down His life for His sheep, adding: "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." [John 10: 10]
These allusions to His impending Death were made by Jesus in Jerusalem shortly before Holy Thursday. On Holy Thursday night, in the privacy of the Cenacle, as He and the Twelve observed the Passover by eating the Pascal meal together, He brought all these instructions about "life equals love equals giving" into focus by instituting the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and ordaining the Apostles priests. The time had come to express His love for them [and, by extension, for us also] by sharing His life with them. "This is My Body, Which is given for you . . . This is the chalice, the new testament in My Blood, which shall be shed for you." [Luke 22: 19-20]
By these words, Jesus was anticipating His Death. For in giving the Apostles His Body to eat and His Blood to drink, He was giving them His life. He was giving His life to them and for them. He was giving of Himself, "not counting the cost." He was also anticipating His Resurrection. For the Body of which they and future generations would partake would be a living Body, not a corpse!
By His express will-----"Do this in memory of Me"-----they were to make His Death and Resurrection, enshrined in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, present for all ages as a perpetual sacrifice of praise and glory to the Father and as a source of "LIFE" for mankind. They must always remember the love that made Him share and sacrifice His life so that they might, like Him, share and sacrifice their lives as well. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." [John 15: 13] "Love one another as I have loved you. By this shall all men know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
On the day that Jesus had chosen the Twelve, He had sent them on a short mission to the neighboring towns and villages. And He had summed up His instructions to them by saying: "Freely you have received, freely give."
Now these words were to sum up the spirit of their mission world-wide after His death and Resurrection. The infallible sign that they and their successors possessed the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, would be the love of God moving them to share their lives, "not counting the cost." And that is the infallible sign even today that we possess Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit: That we love God and our neighbor enough to share our lives with others, whether we are priests or lay people. Because we realize we have received freely from God, we freely will to give to others of what we have received from Him-----not only ourselves on the natural plane [our life, our love, our goods, our talents, etc.]-----but also, and more importantly, on the supernatural plane, the truths and reality of our Holy Religion which we possess as free gifts from God, the essence of which is the supernatural life of God, Sanctifying Grace, imparted to our souls through the Sacrament of Baptism, restored [when lost] through the Sacrament of Penance and increased through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
But without prayer, as Sister Lucy reminds us in her letter, we run the risk of either losing sight of this Christian ideal or of not having the spiritual strength to put it into practice. Sister Lucy writes: "You will discover that in prayer, God communicates to you the light, strength and grace you need to do all He expects of you . . . If we are not careful and attentive in obtaining the strength from God, we will fall because our times are very bad and we are weak. Only God's strength can sustain us."
This applies particularly to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
"The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers the cult of latria [adoration] to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not only during Mass, but also outside it, reserving consecrated Hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to solemn veneration, and carrying them processionally to the joy of great crowds of the faithful. In the ancient documents of the Church, we have many testimonials of this veneration . . .
"In the course of the day, the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which according to the liturgical laws, must be kept in the churches with great reverence in a most honorable location. Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and an acknowledgment of the Lord's presence . . . Not only while the sacrifice is offered and the Sacrament is received, but as long as the Eucharist is kept in our churches and oratories, Christ is truly the Emmanuel, that is, God with us. Day and night He is in our midst, He dwells with us, full of grace and truth [John 1: 14] He restores morality, nourishes virtues, consoles the afflicted and strengthens the weak. He proposes His Own example to those who come to Him, that all may learn to be, like Himself, meek and humble of heart and seek not their own interests, but those of God.
who approaches this august Sacrament with special devotion and
to return generous love for Christ's Own infinite love, will experience
and fully understand . . . how precious
is the life hidden with Christ to God and how great is the value of
with Christ; for there is nothing more consoling on earth, nothing more
efficacious for advancement along the road to salvation."