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Jesus and the Fulfillment of the Jewish Fall Feasts – October 18, 2016

Order Prescription Phentermine Online “Spiritually we are all Semites.” Thus spoke Pope Pius XI on the eve of World War II, as Nazi Germany was about to launch its fateful war and Final Solution against the Jewish people. His words of solidarity are, of course, manifestly true. Christianity grew directly out of Judaism. Jesus was an observant Jew. The scriptures, the beliefs, and the rituals are all intertwined and interconnected between old and new. It is for this reason that St. Augustine can say, “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” (CCC 129) Christian theologians refer to this biblical prefiguring and foreshadowing as typology. There is a unity in the divine plan linking the progressive stages of salvation history. The Old Testament, in its symbols and rituals, point to the Messiah, while the New Testament fulfills all of these in the person of Jesus Christ. In speaking of the law and the prophets, Jesus Himself said plainly, “I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt. 5:17)

Buy Lorazepam Online With Mastercard This typology is evident in the Jewish memorial feast days. They are generally broken up into two seasons, the spring feasts and the fall feasts. They anticipated and foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the Last Supper, the Eucharist, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The feasts prepared Israel for the Incarnation. God obligated centuries of faithful observance of these feasts to place the seeds of understanding in the minds of Israel to prepare them to accept the Son of God when He finally was born into the world. While we as Christians no longer celebrate these Jewish feasts, they are still part of our common Judeo-Christian lineage. Jesus chose these major Jewish feasts to fulfill the central parts of His mission. As the catechism teaches, “His public ministry itself was patterned by His pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.” (CCC 583) Jesus was formed by the feasts, and in fact, the central events of His life gave ultimate meaning to the feasts. (CCC 592)

The primary focus of the Jewish feasts was to prefigure the coming of Jesus. This is true of the fall feasts of Yom Kippur and Sukkot (Oct. 16-23rd this year). Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is primarily a prefiguring of Calvary. One of the most important aspects of Yom Kippur is the idea of the scapegoat. This is the one and only time of the year when the high priest would go behind the veil in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, dare to utter the name of God, the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, and offer the sacrifice of two goats. Upon one goat, the high priest placed his hands while confessing all the sins of Israel, symbolically conferring the sin to the goat. It was then sent off into the wilderness to die. The other goat was sacrificed, and the high priest sprinkled its blood upon the mercy seat in the Holy Holies. The high priest then came out and announced, “It is done.” This has clear similarities with the paschal lamb, and again, a foreshadowing of Christ and His last words from the Cross “It is finished.” (Jn. 19:30)

http://kurtlancaster.com/ Calvary, of course, was sacramentalized in the Last Supper. The Mass became the feast of the new and eternal covenant. Just as the high priest entered the Temple and offered the sacrifice of goats, so too, does Christ enter the heavenly sanctuary and offer the sacrifice of Himself to the Father on behalf of our sins. The high priest of Yom Kippur is a ‘type’ of the true and eternal high priest of Christ in heaven. Christ Himself is both the high priest and the sacrifice. As the letter to the Hebrews states, “He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9:12) If God accepted Israel’s sacrifice of goats, as mere symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, how much more efficacious is the actual sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood? The Day of Atonement finds its ultimate meaning in Calvary, and each Mass is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.

In this regard, Jewish tradition documents a miraculous event pertaining to Yom Kippur. In both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, they record that there was a scarlet cloth or strap tied to the scapegoat on Yom Kippur, as part of the sin offering. A thread from the crimson cloth was later tied to the Temple door. According to the Talmudic anecdote, every year when the goat was sacrificed, the thread would miraculously turn white, in recognition of God accepting their sin offering. One is reminded of Isaiah’s scripture “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Is. 1:18) Yet, as recorded in both Talmuds, this stopped happening some forty years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. This would have been about the time of Jesus’ crucifixion in 30 A.D. The scapegoat was no longer accepted in atonement for sin, but was superseded now by the sacrifice of Christ.

Buy Ambien In Europe In contrast to Yom Kippur, the last fall feast is a little bit different. It is the joyous feast of Tabernacles, also known as the feast of Booths, or simply, Sukkot. Sukkot is the road map for the Church. It is ironic to call Sukkot a road map because it commemorates when the Israelites wandered seemingly aimlessly through the desert for forty years! But, their wanderings are representative of our wanderings as pilgrims on this earth. Just as the Israelites crossed the waters of the Red Sea and the evil Pharaoh was killed, so too, do we pass into new life through the waters of Baptism and sin is removed. Yet, the Israelites did not immediately make it to the Promised Land. Rather, they traveled in the desert wilderness for forty years with God leading them, who as “the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Ex. 13:22) For forty years, God sustained them in the desert. Sukkot is a roadmap because it reveals God’s plan to sustain us.

It is in this intermediary period that we find ourselves today, as travelers in the desert wilderness of life. Sukkot reveals that we must stay close to God, and be fed with the supernatural manna from heaven, and the water of the rock. The Israelites ate manna from heaven each day. As Moses said of the manna on the morning dew, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.” (Ex. 16:15) This immediately reminds us of Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life. The Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus, citing the miraculous manna from heaven story, but He answered them saying, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35) Jesus reveals that He is the new manna from heaven, the Eucharist, which sustains us until we reach the eternal Promised Land.

God also quenched the thirst of the Israelites with the water from the rock. Sukkot commemorates Moses striking the rock in the desert and water coming out for the Israelites to drink. St. Paul tells us this rock and water was Christ. He says, “For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4) In the time of the Temple, the priests would make a procession to the Pool of Siloam and draw water out with a golden pitcher. The high priest would then pour the water out on the altar in the Temple while reciting the verse from Isaiah, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Is. 12:3) This was to celebrate the days of the Messiah when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all of Israel.

Buy Xanax Hong Kong It was at the climax of the feast of Booths, on the eighth day, Shemini Atzeret, that scripture declares, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (Jn. 7:37-38) Jesus is telling them that He is the living water that is symbolized in this Temple ceremony. The living water is the Holy Spirit, and the sanctifying grace in faith and the sacraments, particularly the waters of Baptism. This is also reminiscent of Jesus’ discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her, “the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:14) The Holy Spirit and the sacraments are the fulfillment of the water ceremony in the feast of Booths. This is our spiritual water from the rock, to sustain us in this age of the Church, from Christ’s first coming to His second coming.

http://bethhamiltonphoto.com/engagements Sukkot also has a deeper eschatological meaning to it. During the exodus, the Israelites had no permanent abodes. So, during Sukkot, the Jews commemorated this by building temporary “booths” or “huts” outside their house, and covering them with leafy branches or palms. The roofs were not supposed to be perfect but have openings, so they could view the stars at night. This again is allegory to us. Our lives are also imperfect, but in much the same way, we can look up to heaven and yearn for our permanent home with God. Scripture reminds us that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth… seeking a homeland.” (Heb. 11:13-14) It is perhaps fitting, then, that Jesus likely chose the feast of Booths to reveal His glory to the Apostles in His Transfiguration. (see Mt. 17:4) The Transfiguration gives us a glimpse and hope of the glory of God to come.

Buy Xanax In Las Vegas Thus, the Jewish feasts were a foreshadowing of Christ, and Christ fulfilled them with His life. They point to eternal truths of God and the Incarnation. The signs and symbols of the feasts were fulfilled in reality with the coming of Jesus the Messiah and the foundation of His Church. We no longer anticipate the coming of the final sacrifice in the paschal lamb or the scapegoat or the pouring out of water in the Temple. The Temple itself is no longer necessary, because we ourselves have become the temple of God. The Jewish feasts have been superseded by the sacramental reality. However, the feasts are still metaphorical roadmaps for us. We are to survive on the food God provides in the Eucharist and the water God provides with the Holy Spirit and the sacraments. We continue to learn the faith now through the celebration of the Catholic liturgical calendar, with its sets of feasts, and festivals and fasts. The primordial feast remains the Sabbath, or to Christians, the Lord’s Day, Sunday. It is the day set aside each week for rest and worship offered to God. The Mass is the foundational liturgical celebration of the Church. It anticipates the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb. This is our manna from heaven and our life giving water. Indeed, if but we believe, the sacramental life of the Church will sustain us, through our temporary wandering in this desert wilderness, to eternal life.

 

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St. Irenaeus and the Gnostics – June 28, 2016

Cheap Generic Adipex How common is it today to hear someone say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” A very Gnostic-esque statement. One need only to glance at your local bookstore’s religion shelves to see that Gnosticism, that ancient heresy and foe of Christianity, is alive and well in the modern world. There you would find a smorgasbord of spirituality, with topics on “New Age,” transcendentalism, astrology, reincarnation, and ways of attaining a “secret knowledge.” Cults and belief systems for attaining secret knowledge, or gnosis, were all the rage back in the second century as well. Gnostic sects were in direct competition with the nascent Christian Church. It was amidst the threat of Gnosticism that perhaps the greatest Church Father of the second century emerged, Saint Irenaeus.

http://kokannews.org/?p=1243 Irenaeus was born in 130 A.D. in Smyrna (modern day Turkey), and died in 202 A.D. in Lyons, France, where he had become the bishop. In his youth Irenaeus was a disciple of Saint Polycarp, who was martyred in 155 A.D, but who had himself been a disciple of the Apostle Saint John the Evangelist. Thus, Irenaeus’ close historical connection to John lends a distinct apostolic credence and weight to all his writings. His greatest work is the massive five-volume set of books Adversus Haereses, or Against Heresies, a refutation of the doctrines of Gnosticism. In addition to his close proximity to John and the Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus’ writings are all thoroughly Catholic. It is as if we are reading the modern Catechism (on such topics as the Real Presence of the Jesus in the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Mass, Apostolic succession, and Mariology) inserted within the second century.

The heretical Gnostic movements led Irenaeus to develop Church sacramental theology and Christology, or an understanding of exactly who Christ is. Irenaeus developed the idea of the necessity of a bodily atonement and redemption through Jesus’ sacred humanity. This is simply the “Recapitulation theory of Atonement.” In order to understand this better, we should first look at the false teachings of Gnosticism.

The Gnostic sects emphasized a secret, pseudo-mystical knowledge that had to be gained for salvation, and generally reserved only for the few who were deemed spiritually worthy. As such, Gnosticism became associated with elitism. Most Gnostic myths, relying heavily upon Greek pagan philosophy, taught that worldly things were created by a wicked demi-god, Demiurge, and thus, evil. The evil material universe is then at odds with the goodness of the Supreme Creator and the spiritual world. Gnosticism descended into a form of Dualism, where the body and all matter are evil, and all that is spiritual is good. The world, and all that is in it, is to be rejected. Man is seen as a spark from the spiritual God, but entrapped in the evil material world and imprisoned in the body.

This is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christianity. Man is not simply a spiritual being, who discards the body at death. Man is a composite being of body and soul. In the Book of Genesis, God calls all creation “good,” and later, on the sixth day, when God creates Man, He calls him “very good.” (Gen. 1:31) Orthodox Christianity’s major objection to Gnosticism focused around its denial of the goodness of the material world. St. Irenaeus fought such heresies vigorously, including the denial of the physical atonement of Jesus as well as the rejection of the material sacraments.

Order Diazepam India Before long, the Gnostics had devolved into a form of Docetism that denied the corporeal incarnation of God into the world. To them, Jesus only “appeared” to be human, and wore a body like a mask or shell. By their beliefs, it made no sense that God would enter into an evil material universe.

Irenaeus, in response, seized upon the teachings of St. Paul that Christ did unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph. 1:10) St. Irenaeus taught that Christ had to enter into the world, and into humanity, in order to atone for the sins of the world and redeem humanity. In his theory of Atonement by Recapitulation, Irenaeus says, “The Word, becoming man, recapitulates all things in Himself, so that just as the Word is foremost in things super-celestial, spiritual, and invisible, so also in things visible and corporeal He might have the primacy.” Jesus lived a life in the body like one of us, redeeming our humanity through His divine-humanity. Irenaeus goes further in saying that Jesus lived through all the stages of man, from birth, to infancy and childhood, maturity, old age and even unto death, thereby sanctifying all the stages of a man’s life. Here the Catechism concurs stating, “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption… and a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation.” (CCC 517-518)

Buy Xanax Prescription Online Just as the Gnostics professed that God as Spirit would not incarnate into the evil world, so too, according to their belief, would His Spirit neither enter into the material sacraments of the Church. According to their teachings, God would not enter into bread and wine, or water, oil or chrism. St. Irenaeus fought vociferously against this heresy with an explicit defense of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He writes, “For as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist . . . so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection into eternity.”

When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we are reminded of the early Church’s constant spiritual battle with Gnosticism. We say God is the creator of heaven “and earth.” Jesus was physically born into the world, physically suffered and died. We believe in the “resurrection of the body.” The Creed reveals a constant push back against those who denied the goodness of the material world, the body, and the corporeal redemption by Jesus. As one of the earliest and greatest defenders of the faith, St. Irenaeus counteracted the polymorphic pagan influences of Gnosticism, dispelling their dualism and wishy-washy spirituality, which St. Paul refers to as the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.” (1 Tim. 6:20) And so, as we remember St. Irenaeus on his Feast day, June 28th, we should retain the true faith, clinging to the doctrines of our Apostolic religion, believing in the sacred humanity of Jesus, crucified on the Cross, and whose Real Presence is in the Eucharist. May He resurrect us bodily to eternal life.

 

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The Blood and Water of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – June 2, 2016

It was at the Last Supper that John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” reclined on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (Jn. 13:23) Just hours later, at the foot of the Cross, it was John again who witnessed Jesus’ Sacred Heart being pierced by a lance. He noted that one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (Jn. 19:34) The early Church Fathers interpret the blood and water sacramentally, as symbols of the blood of the Eucharist and the waters of Baptism. The sacraments and the Church sprung from the wound of Christ’s Heart. St. Augustine makes the connection that just as Eve was drawn from the side of Adam during his “deep sleep” (Gen. 2:21), so too, was the Church, the bride of Christ, drawn from the side of Jesus in His death. It is in the waters of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist that the Church is born and sustained. The Church appropriately venerates the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which “He allowed to be pierced by our sins,” as the definitive symbol of divine love towards humanity. (CCC 2669)

http://bethhamiltonphoto.com/category/weddings The 1956 encyclical Haurietis Aquas, on the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, opens by quoting the prophet Isaiah, who writes about the life-giving waters of the suffering Messiah. Isaiah declares, “You shall draw waters with joy out of the savior’s fountains,” (Is. 12:3) and “every one who thirsts, come to the waters.” (Is. 55:1) The other prophets too, Joel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, speak of these life-giving waters of the Savior. Jesus Himself quotes the prophets saying that whoever believes in Him “rivers of living water will flow from within him.” (Jn. 7:38) What is this life-giving water? The early Church Fathers recognized the water that flowed from His Sacred Heart as the grace from the sacraments. It is a symbol of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The living water is the sacramental water of Baptism, in which the Holy Spirit cleanses us of sin and comes to dwell within us. Jesus tells Nicodemus we must be born again of “water and spirit,” just as He tells the Samaritan woman at the well, “the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:14)

Buy Soma Drugs Online It is not a coincidence that the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus comes in the liturgical calendar just after Pentecost, commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the depths of Jesus’ Heart. The feast of the Sacred Heart is also the first Friday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, celebrating the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist. This is fitting, as the Sacred Heart of Jesus is part of His physical body. In that sense, when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (H.A. 122) The blood that pours forth from His pierced heart at Calvary symbolizes the “blood of the new covenant” that Jesus offers up at the Last Supper, in which we partake at every Mass.

By the 17th century, the Faith was in tumult, particularly in France, dealing exteriorly with the Protestant Revolution and interiorly with the Jansenist heresy. Jansenism denied the free will of man, advocating that only those predestined by God would receive sanctifying grace. These teachers purported a moral rigorism, resulting in many people being denied Holy Communion due to their faults and sins. It was against the backdrop of this narrow worldview, constricting the sacraments of grace to only a few, that Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and said, “Behold this Heart, which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love.” Jesus shows that He offers Himself up, not for a few, but for the love of all people, and desires them to receive Holy Communion frequently. He requested that a feast day be established in honor of His Sacred Heart, and that people should go to Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month, as well as regularly keeping Holy Hour adoration. Jesus did, in fact, renew the life of the Church, enlivening the hearts of believers, with this devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Jesus also made a number of famous promises (more than the generally assumed twelve promises) to St. Margaret Mary regarding those who would have a devotion to His Sacred Heart. These included, among others, bringing peace to their families, consoling them in their troubles, granting them all the necessary graces in their lives, helping them become more fervent and perfect in their faith, and inscribing their names on His Heart forever. In a letter from May 1688, St. Margaret Mary wrote about “the Great Promise” that Jesus told to her. He said, I promise you that My all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance.” As wonderful as this promise is, we should remember this is not an automatic guarantee to heaven. We should discern away any superstition involved with this. As Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, writes this is “not magic but the natural consequence of a life lived in union with the Heart of Jesus.” We are not called to superstition, but to devotion.

Our devotion to the Sacred Heart is most fully expressed in our devotion to the Church. The blood and water of the Eucharist and Baptism make us anew. His Spirit dwells within us giving us eternal life. This is the fulfillment of the great prophecy of Ezekiel. The scripture says, “And I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 11:19-20) And so it is with us. Our hearts are conformed, and remade, in the sacraments to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As Jesus hung on the Cross, He cried out “I thirst.” In the lens of Christianity, Jesus’ thirst is to save souls. We can in a very real way console the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His thirst to save souls, through our reparation and devotion to His Sacred Heart. (Miserentissimus Redemptor, 13) Properly understood, Baptism and Eucharist transform us, who partake in them, into the Body of Christ. Through the life-giving waters of Jesus we are made clean, and through His body and blood we are transformed. In this, the beloved disciple, St. John, is our example; resting our heads on the breast of Jesus, listening closely to the sublime beats of His Heart, He makes us new creations.

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The Blood and Water of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (long version)

It was at the Last Supper that John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” reclined on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (Jn. 13:23) Just hours later, at the foot of the Cross, it was John again who witnessed Jesus’ Sacred Heart being pierced by a lance. As he recorded, But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (Jn. 19:34) Modern medicine suggests that Jesus had likely suffered from hemorrhagic shock from the severe scourging and blood loss, which probably caused pericardial fluid to build around His heart. Thus, it is not surprising that when His heart is pierced that blood and water gushed forth. The early Church Fathers interpret this sacramentally, as symbols of the blood of the Eucharist and the waters of Baptism. The sacraments and the Church sprung from the wound of Christ’s Heart. St. Augustine made the connection that just as Eve was drawn from the side of Adam during his “deep sleep” (Gen. 2:21), so too, was the Church, the bride of Christ, drawn from the side of Jesus in His death. It is in the waters of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist that the Church is born and sustained. The Church appropriately venerates the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which “He allowed to be pierced by our sins,” as the definitive symbol of divine love. (CCC 2669)

The 1956 encyclical Haurietis Aquas, on the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, opens by quoting the prophet Isaiah, who writes about the life-giving waters of the suffering Messiah. Isaiah declares, “You shall draw waters with joy out of the savior’s fountains,” (Is. 12:3) and “every one who thirsts, come to the waters.” (Is. 55:1) The other prophets too, Joel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, speak of these life-giving waters of the Savior. Jesus Himself quotes the prophets saying that whoever believes in Him “rivers of living water will flow from within him.” (Jn. 7:38) What is this life-giving water? The early Church Fathers recognized the water that flows from His Sacred Heart as the sanctifying grace giving eternal life. It is a symbol of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The living water is the sacramental water of Baptism, in which the Holy Spirit cleanses us of sin and comes to dwell within us. Jesus tells Nicodemus we must be born again of “water and spirit,” just as He tells the Samaritan woman at the well, “..the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:14)

It is not a coincidence that the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus comes in the liturgical calendar just after Pentecost, commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the depths of Jesus’ Heart. The feast of the Sacred Heart is also the first Friday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, celebrating the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist. This is fitting, as the Sacred Heart of Jesus is part of His physical body. In that sense, when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (H.A. 122) The blood that pours forth from His pierced heart at Calvary symbolizes the “blood of the new covenant” that Jesus offers up at the Last Supper, and which we partake in at every Mass.

One of the great Eucharistic miracles in the history of the Church is the miracle of Lanciano. This happened in the 700’s in Lanciano, Italy at a monastery, interestingly enough, under the patronage of St. Longinus, who is traditionally believed to be the Roman centurion that pierced Jesus’ side with his lance. In the miracle, a doubting monk was offering up the Sacrifice of the Mass, and at the consecration, the bread and wine turned visibly into real flesh and blood. Although centuries old, and never hermetically sealed or stored with preservatives, the specimens never deteriorated. In 1981, with the permission of the pope, a major scientific examination was done on the relics to determine their true nature. The results came back that the samples are real human blood and flesh. Moreover, the flesh was determined to be myocardium of a heart wall and endocardium tissue of a heart cavity. The Eucharistic miracle revealed true flesh and blood of a human heart.

Yet, in the 17th century Church, particularly in France, human hearts had grown cold and become stony hearts. The faith was in tumult, dealing exteriorly with the Protestant Revolution and interiorly with the Jansenist heresy. Jansenism denied the free will of man, advocating that only those predestined by God would receive sanctifying grace. They taught a moral rigorism, resulting in few people receiving Holy Communion due to their faults and sins. It was in this narrow worldview, constricting the sacraments of grace to only the few, that Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque revealing, for all, His Sacred Heart, saying, “Behold this Heart, which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love.” Jesus shows that He offers Himself up for the love of all people, and desires them to receive Holy Communion frequently. He requested that a feast day be established in honor of His Sacred Heart, and that people should go to Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month, as well as regularly keeping Holy Hour adoration. Jesus did, in fact, renew the life of the Church, enlivening the hearts of believers, with this devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Jesus also made a number of famous promises (more than the generally assumed twelve promises) to St. Margaret Mary regarding those who would have a devotion to His Sacred Heart. These included, among others, bringing peace to their families, consoling them in their troubles, granting them all the necessary graces in their lives, helping them become more fervent and perfect in their faith, and inscribing their names on His Heart forever. In a letter from May 1688, St. Margaret Mary wrote about “the Great Promise” that Jesus had spoken to her. He said, I promise you that My all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance.” As wonderful as this promise is, we should remember this is not an automatic guarantee to heaven. We should discern away any superstition involved with this. As Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, writes this is “not magic but the natural consequence of a life lived in union with the Heart of Jesus.” We are not called to superstition, but to devotion.

We are called to devotion, and reparation, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As Jesus hung on the Cross, He cried out the first line from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He singles out this psalm specifically because it prophesied about His Crucifixion. Later in the psalm, David writes about Jesus’ heart saying, “I am poured out like water… my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast.” (Ps. 22:14) Yet, as Psalm 22 opens with the affliction of the Messiah, it ends with His victory saying, “May your hearts live for ever!” Jesus also cried out from the Cross “I thirst.” In the context of Christianity, Jesus’ thirst is to save souls. We can in a very real way console the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His thirst to save souls, through our reparation and devotion to His Sacred Heart. (Miserentissimus Redemptor, 13)

This devotion is also related to the Divine Mercy devotion. The Divine Mercy image shows red and white light emanating from Jesus’ Heart. Many have linked this, again, to the blood and water from the piercing of Jesus’ Heart, and the grace from the blood of the Eucharist and the waters of Baptism. The Divine Mercy prayer makes this link explicit to Jesus’ Heart: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary, 84) The devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Divine Mercy are very much related and similar, with difference only in emphasis.   

The blood and water that flowed out of Jesus’ Sacred Heart at the Crucifixion remind us of the sacramental and sanctifying grace of the Church. With the blood of the Eucharist for redeeming and the water of Baptism for cleansing, we are brought into supernatural life through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Sacred Heart is the chief symbol of this divine love of the incarnated God and His Sacred Humanity. (H.A. 54) Properly understood, Baptism and Eucharist transform us, who partake in them, into the Body of Christ. This is a fulfillment of the great prophecy of Ezekiel. The scripture says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses… A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you..” (Ez. 36:25-27) Again, Ezekiel says, “And I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.. and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (Ez. 11:19-20) Through the life-giving waters of Jesus we are made clean, and through His body and blood we are transformed. God gives us a new heart, and a new spirit. Our hearts of stone are transformed through the divine love of His Sacred Heart. The beloved disciple, St. John, is our example; we can rest our heads on the breast of Jesus, listening closely to the sublime beats of His Heart, making us anew.

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One in the Eucharist – April 27, 2016

Sacraments are rituals instituted by Christ, woven together with signs and symbols, (CCC 1145) that “make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.” (CCC 1084) St. Augustine described them as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” They are not just symbolic, but are “real symbols,” which actually make present that which they signify. Sign and reality are one. Initiation into the sacraments initiates us into the mystery, or mystagogy, of Christ. (CCC 1075) They draw us ever deeper into Himself.

One such “real symbol” is the Eucharist. It is the real presence of Jesus Christ: body and blood, soul and divinity. The whole liturgical life of the Church is oriented towards the Eucharist. It is communion with the sacred flesh and blood of Christ into our bodies, and the sanctifying grace of His soul and divinity into our souls.

It is Jesus Himself who first speaks about His real presence in the Eucharist: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn. 6:53-54) The word John uses for “to eat” is the Greek word “trogein,” which literally means “to gnaw”; you gnaw on real meat, not a symbol or an idea. Many of Jesus’ disciples and non-disciples alike are aghast at this, believing He is speaking of cannibalism. Roman pagan historians would later record false rumors of Christians participating in cannibalistic rituals – a clear misunderstanding of the Mass and the real presence. Jesus knows, of course, that this is difficult for them to believe, and says, “Does this shock you?” (Jn. 6:61) We know it did, because, as John records, many of His disciples abandon Him at this point. (Jn. 6:66)

After they leave, Jesus reassures His skeptical Apostles, telling them, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn. 6:63) They cannot understand this with their fleshy, materialistic minds, but rather, by trusting in God’s supernatural power. This is not a cannibalistic ritual but a heavenly sacrament. Directly before Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse, John relates two other miracles, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and Jesus walking on water. Both miracles reveal that physical matter, nature itself, is subject to Jesus. Immediately before we see the bread and wine becoming His flesh and blood, John demonstrates with these miracles that material boundaries are no constraint upon Jesus.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, His appearances to His disciples further establish the importance of the sacraments. When Jesus first approaches the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” (Lk. 24:16) After He took bread and broke it, Luke says, “then their eyes were opened,.” (Lk. 24:31) Jesus illustrates that He is no longer with them as He once was, but will now remain with them sacramentally in the form of the Eucharist. He has demonstrated the Eucharistic formula for the disciples starting with the Last Supper. Now, the disciples continued this going forward as the beginnings of the Mass and Eucharist, devoting themselves “to the breaking of bread.” (Acts 2:42)

A millennium and a half later, at the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the doctrine of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist was reaffirmed in precise language. Transubstantiation is ultimately the term they arrived at to define what happens in the mystical sacrament of the Eucharist. Under the veiled appearance of bread and wine, “the whole of Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC 1374; Trent 1551) Jesus becomes our spiritual food, and our “medicine of immortality.” (St.Ignatius, 110 AD) Receiving Holy Communion brings us into intimate union with Christ. Just as material food nourishes our bodies, so Holy Communion nourishes our spiritual soul. (CCC 1392)

Moreover, it also transforms us as a whole community of believers, the Church, into the Mystical Body of Christ. In the Mass, after the priest invokes the Holy Spirit, an epiclesis prayer, to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, he again, invokes the Holy Spirit, a second epiclesis, that those who eat the body and blood of Christ may be “one body, one Spirit in Christ.” He says, “Grant that we, who are nourished by His body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.” This is, in effect, a second transubstantiation: the transformation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, of those who eat the Eucharist into the one Mystical Body of Christ. This recalls Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane to the Father that His followers “may be one, as We are one.” (Jn. 17:11) The Eucharist unites us mystically together in Him as living sacramental realities.

As such, the Church comes together to offer “praise, sufferings, prayer, and work” in union with the sacrifice of Christ. (CCC 1368) We, by virtue of our common priesthood, can unite all that we are and do with the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass.  Jesus put an end to the millennia-old, ritualistic and violent bloodletting of the pagan ancient world.  Alas, He is the pure offering. For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.” (Mal.1:11). Christ in the Eucharist transforms us into His image, so that His presence enters into the world again, and in us, continues His pure offering to the Father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday – March 25, 2016

Easter Sunday is not the end of our Easter celebration. After forty days of preparation with Lent, and the Easter Triduum, from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, it is easy to miss looking ahead on the Church’s liturgical calendar. This is, after all, the climax of the Christian year with the celebration of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Catechism calls Easter the “Feast of feasts” and the “Solemnity of solemnities.” Yet, Easter Sunday is actually just the first day of the Easter Octave, the eight-day festal period, in which we continue to celebrate the momentous conclusion to the Paschal mystery and the economy of salvation played out in liturgical time. The eight days of the Easter Octave are a special time to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection and more deeply contemplate its mysteries. The Church punctuates the special importance of this feast by assigning it the highest liturgical ranking, that is, as a Privileged Octave of the First Order. This means each of the eight days is counted as a solemnity, the highest-ranking feast day, in which no other feast can be celebrated. It begins the fifty days of the Easter celebration to the feast of Pentecost, but these first eight days of the Easter Octave culminate with the second Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday.

It is entirely fitting that Divine Mercy Sunday is the culmination of the Easter Octave, for as St. Pope John Paul II stated in his Divine Mercy Sunday homily in 2001, “Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity..” Divine mercy is the grace and merit won by Christ on our behalf in His Passion and Resurrection. The grace of Easter naturally flows into Mercy Sunday. Even before the official designation, the Church has historically designated these eight days of Easter to celebrate the Paschal mysteries of divine mercy. The early Church celebrated the Sunday after Easter as the feast day, Dominica in Albis depositis, “the Sunday dressed in white linen.” St. Augustine is attributed to have called it “the compendium of the days of mercy.” Indeed, in his Regina Caeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 26, 1995, Pope John Paul II said “The whole Octave of Easter is like a single day,” and that Octave is “thanksgiving for the goodness God has shown man in the whole Easter mystery.” In these eight feast days, we offer thanksgiving for the divine mercy and salvation wrought for us on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

The modern Divine Mercy devotions began with the Polish mystic, St. Faustina Kowalska, who dutifully recorded in her well-known diary, everything that Christ commissioned to her regarding His Divine Mercy. These devotions included the spiritual practices of venerating the image of Divine Mercy, with its simple prayer “Jesus, I trust in You!,” praying the Chaplet and Novena of Divine Mercy, and establishing Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Pope John Paul II said he had felt spiritually “very near” Saint Faustina, and he had “been thinking about her for a long time,” when he began his second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, “Rich in Mercy,” in which he calls mercy “love’s second name.” It is not surprising then that he later, on April 30 2000, at the canonization ceremony of St. Faustina, designated the Easter Octave, Divine Mercy Sunday.

It is fitting that Divine Mercy is a continuation of Easter because of its inherently Paschal and Eucharistic imagery. In the Divine Mercy image, Jesus is pictured with two rays of light coming from His heart, one red and one white. These depict the blood and water, which flowed forth from His heart after He was pierced by a lance on the Cross. The red ray of light reminds us of the blood of the Cross, and the blood of the Eucharist; whereas, the white ray of light reminds us of the waters that flowed from His pierced-side, and the waters of Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The image embodies the Paschal and Eucharistic mysteries.

In the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novena there are similar Paschal and Eucharistic overtones. In the Divine Mercy prayers we offer up to the Father, the “Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity” of Our Lord Jesus Christ, “in atonement for our sins and for those of the whole world.” This hearkens us back to Holy Thursday, when Jesus instituted the first Mass, offering up His Body and Blood in the Eucharist; and then, on Good Friday, He suffered Bodily and Spiritually in His Passion and Crucifixion. The Divine Mercy prayers walk us through this same prayer language in Paschal and Eucharistic imagery. This is why we pray “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy upon us and the whole world,” for through His suffering, we have gained mercy. The Divine Mercy prayers encapsulate the Paschal mystery and the Eucharistic offering.

Therefore, we continue to celebrate the Paschal and Eucharistic mysteries in these eight days of Easter, culminating with the Easter Octave of Divine Mercy Sunday. Christ has promised us great mercies if we observe the Feast of Divine Mercy. As Jesus told St. Faustina, “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the feast of My mercy.” This is a particularly great indulgence promised by Jesus for the complete remission of our sins and punishment. So, as we celebrate Easter, let us recall the spark that came from Poland with Sts. Faustina and Pope John Paul II, and put mercy into action by dedicating ourselves to the devotions associated with its message: the image of Divine Mercy, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Novena of Divine Mercy, and the Sunday of Divine Mercy. Easter Sunday is not the end of the Church’s celebration. It is the beginning of the full Octave of Easter. Let us celebrate all eight days of this feast, all the way to Divine Mercy Sunday. How fitting it is, especially this Jubilee year, the Holy Year of Mercy.

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The Lord of the Rings and the Eucharist

As J.R.R. Tolkien declared, “The Lord of the Rings is, of course, a fundamentally religious and Catholic work… the religion is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.” This is possibly no more obvious than in Tolkien’s description of lembas. As Tolkien introduced them into The Lord of the Rings, “The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of a meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream. Gimli took up one of the cakes and looked at it with a doubtful eye.” It was a special, almost supernatural, bread-like food given by the Elves of Lothlorien to the hobbit members of the fellowship on their journey. The elves describe the lembas to them saying, “..we call it lembas or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men, and it is more pleasant then cram, by all accounts. … Eat little at a time and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails.” Lembas, or the “waybread,” is meant to sustain them in their deepest and darkest trials.

The Eucharistic tones and parallels are undeniable. The Eucharist has been called the “food of angels,” or as in Tolkien terms, the food of Elves. Gimli, the dwarf, initially even looked at it with a “doubtful eye” thinking it was just ordinary bread made by men, harkening the disbelief in the Eucharist among many, especially in the modern world. He quickly realizes this is not any ordinary bread. The unique and special qualities of lembas are depicted throughout the tale. As Merry and Pippin talk of it at one particularly stressful moment in the journey while trying to escape Orcs, “The cakes were broken, but good, still in their leaf wrappings. The hobbits each ate two or three pieces. The tasted brought back to them the memory of fair faces, and laughter, and wholesome food in quiet days, heedless of the cries and sounds of battle nearby.” They continue saying, “Lembas does put heart into you! A more wholesome sort of feeling, too, than the heat of that orc-draught. I wonder what it was made of.”

As the hobbits journey deeper into danger and to the very epicenter of evil, Mount Doom, the lembas play an increasingly significant role. Sam and Frodo are following their path of self-sacrifice, even to the possible end of laying down their lives for the love of their friends, for which, in Christian terms, “there is no greater love.” They are analogously on their way of the Cross. On the contrary, the evil characters find the lembas repulsive. Tolkien describes the Orcs’ reactions saying, “But I guess they disliked the very look and smell of the lembas, worse than Gollum did. It’s scattered about and some of it is trampled and broken, but I’ve gathered it together.” When the two hobbits reached the point when there was “no hope anymore” came Tolkien’s most poignant description of the lembas: “The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread and meats. And yet this waybread of the Elves had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.” The lembas sustained the two hobbit sojourners in their darkest hour, not by feeding them necessarily physically but by feeding their will. The waybread also evokes the viaticum, “a provision for the journey,” that is, the Communion given to people on their deathbed. It is the Eucharist for the journey, or the “waybread,” home towards one’s death. There are differences however. For one, lembas are not described as having any divine qualities, whereas the Eucharist is the divine sacrament of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Additionally, the Eucharist is not just meant for times when all else fails, as lembas are described, but rather for our daily journeys. The two hobbits on their way fraught with death and destruction relied completely upon this waybread.

We too are all on our journeys to our inevitable deaths. Christ has left us His Body and Blood in the heavenly sacrament of the Eucharist.  It is our sustenance in this life. It is our waybread. Like the humble and seemingly weak hobbits, we must take our waybread in order to heroically, and against all odds, ascend the Mount Dooms in all our lives and complete our missions. As Tolkien confessed, he at first unconsciously, and later consciously, wove Catholic ideas and themes into the story. Tolkien was not out to re-create a Christian world or myth. Rather, he tried to create a literary myth to point towards the truths of the real world. The primary thrust of the story, as Tolkien said in one of his letters, is “about death and the desire for deathlessness,” two notions central to mythology and Christianity. As G.K. Chesterton spoke of Christianity as the fulfillment of myth, “The Catholic faith is the reconciliation because it is the realization both of mythology and philosophy. It is a story and in that sense one of a hundred stories; only it is a true story.”

We are the real-life Sam’s and Frodo’s. They are metaphors of us, as Christians, taking up our crosses, amidst our tribulations, while being sustained by the Eucharist. Though we are “weak” and “ordinary” people (hobbits if you will), we can achieve great and heroic ends by staying on the narrow paths of our simple faith journeys. Our lembas, the Eucharist, strengthens our wills and spirits, and presses us up the mountain, even when we would rather turn back and give up. But, it is up to us to choose: to give up or to not give up; to follow Christ or to not follow Christ. Tolkien’s literary myth spells out the lucid choice each one of us is to make of our own freewill between life and death, and good and evil. As Frodo laments the fact that the evil ring has come into his possession and the apparent hopelessness of the situation, Gandalf says to him: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” And so it is with each one of us to decide. Yet, as Tolkien slowly reveals Aragorn, the Christ-King archetype, he repeatedly declares to Sam and Frodo, “be not afraid.” In the end, even if, as Frodo, after our long journeys into the darkness, we remain faithful, but seemingly fall short in our mission, God’s grace can still save us.

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The 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima

This spring will mark 100 years since the Fatima apparitions, and an opportunity to reflect deeply again upon their message. The Angel of Peace appeared three times to the shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, beginning in the spring of 1916 in Fatima, Portugal. These visitations prepared the way for the six apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima the following year. The message of Fatima may be lost sometimes in the mysterious and the spectacular: the apparitions; the “three secrets;” the “dancing of the sun.” Yet, the main entreaties from Heaven concerned our day-to-day earthly activities and how these will forge our eternal destiny. The everlasting consequence of unrepented mortal sin is Hell; knowing this, we should live our lives according to the laws of God, in obedience, purity and virtue. The central message of Fatima was an urgent plea to stay on the narrow path to Heaven.

Fatima calls us to conversion, and a daily turning away from sin. In order to convert the unrepentant, the Angel first taught the children the great value of intercessory prayer. Underscoring the importance of our intercession, the only thing the Virgin Mary requested at all six appearances was for us to pray the Rosary, every day. She told them that our prayers can help save souls, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.” It is not only intercessory prayer, but also our intercessory sacrifices and sufferings that are efficacious. By virtue of our Baptisms, we are all brought into the Body of Christ and partake in His priesthood, as part of the common priesthood of the faithful. Acting in our priestly role, we can offer ourselves up as “spiritual sacrifices” acceptable to God and in atonement for sins. (CCC 1141)

Further linking us to the Body of Christ, the Angel and the Virgin Mary said we should seek to console God through worthy reception and adoration of the Eucharist. While the idea of consoling an all-powerful God may seem counterintuitive, we are reminded by Pope Pius XI that “we can and ought to console that Most Sacred Heart,” which is continually wounded by our sins (Miserentissimus Redemptor, 13). In a similar way, the Angel offered the children holy Eucharist to make reparation for sins and to “console your God.” This was later echoed in Our Lady’s Eucharistic prayer: “O Most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!” The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC 1324), and the Fatima apparitions remind us that worthily receiving Jesus in Communion has the grace to save our souls and console our God.

The Virgin Mary also asked us to make reparation through the “First Five Saturdays” devotion. Our Lady promised Sister Lucia, “to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation” those who will practice this devotion of Confession, Eucharist, recitation of the Rosary, and meditation upon its mysteries. The Church rightly honors the Mother of God, because it was through her, and in consent of her freewill, let it be done to me, that the Savior was born into the world. (Lumen Gentium, VIII) This is what we proclaim in the words of the Rosary: the moment of the Incarnation of God. As Pope Paul VI issued in his 1967 Apostolic Exhortation, Signum Magnum, on the 50th anniversary of Fatima, it is fitting that we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as the spiritual Mother of the Church, for her mediatory role in the salvation of the world.

Now, on this 100th anniversary of Fatima, we are reminded again to contemplate its message and embrace its devotions. Although the Angel of Peace and Our Lady of Fatima appeared during the carnage of World War I, the divine messages are perhaps even more relevant today, in an age of nuclear weapons and renewed militancy across the globe, rampant atheism, materialism and loss of faith, a diminishing Church in the West, and a rapidly growing permissive society. As faithful disciples, we are called to be holy, and intercessors for each other. Fatima was a wake-up call. In it, Jesus’ last words from the Cross come alive “Behold, your mother.” (Jn. 19:27) In the midst of a passing world, we need to get right with eternal things: by penance, Confession, the Eucharist, prayer, especially the Rosary. Our Lady of Fatima renews this call again, to stay on the narrow path to Heaven.

 

 

 

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The 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima (long version) – February 24, 2016

“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rev. 12:1)   

The Angel / 1916:

This spring 2016 is the one hundred year anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. It is true that Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, did not begin to appear to the three shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco dos Santos, in Fatima, Portugal until May 13, 1917. However, in the spring of 1916 they were first visited by the “Angel of Peace,” who prepared the way for the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima the following year. The angel appeared to them “whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it and of great beauty.” He spoke to them, “Do not be afraid. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.” The angel returned to three shepherd children again in the summer of 1916, and then again, lastly, in late September-early October 1916. The angel imparted heavenly entreaties to them for prayer, conversion and intercession; sacrifice and reparation; while imploring them to adoration and devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

The Virgin Mary later told Jacinta that war is a punishment for sin. In the spring of 1916, when the angel first appeared, Europe and the world were already embroiled in the “Great War,” World War I. It began on July 28, 1914, with an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia, and an invasion soon after. Eventually, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria had joined forces to form the “Central Powers” in a war of aggression against the main Allied countries of Britain and the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia, and later on, the United States. There were many more countries obviously involved too, making it the first truly global conflict. It was “the war to end all wars,” and by the end of it, on November 11, 1918, over 17 million people had died. Portugal, for its part, had, at least initially, remained neutral, yet they ended up losing over 7,000 Allied combatants, and over 80,000 civilians as well due to disease, hunger, and the worldwide Influenza pandemic.

By the spring of 1916, Germany and the Allies were locked into their positions, along trench lines, in a grueling battle of attrition, and poison gas attacks, on the Western Front across northern France. Along the Eastern Front, Russian and Romanian forces continued to fight bitterly against German, Austro-Hungarian, Turkish and Bulgarian troops. During the time of the angelic apparitions in Fatima in 1916, one of the largest battles of World War I was raging at the Battle of Verdun, along the Meuse River in France. Here, during the ten month long campaign, French and German forces suffered cumulative losses of over 300,000 dead and over 700,000 casualties. During the same time period from July to November 1916, the British and French, backed by the first ever use of tanks (British) on the battlefield, engaged the Germans at the Battle of the Somme River. The five month long assault resulted in over 1,000,000 men being killed or injured, including the shrapnel wounds of a German soldier, Adolf Hitler.

It was in this context of savage war that the Angel of Peace first appeared to the innocent children Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. He invited them to pray with him, as he bowed down touching his forehead to the ground, similar to as Muslim men pray five times a day. [It is interesting to note that God chose the small village, Fatima, in Portugal for these occurrences, as it is named after Muhammad’s favorite daughter, Fatima, from the time of Moorish Muslim occupation. Bishop Fulton Sheen attributed this to God’s attempt to reach out to and convert Muslims, who, in fact, do hold Mary, as the mother of Jesus, in high respect within Islamic tradition and the Quran. Perhaps, they will one day be converted, in part, as the Aztec Indians were through the intervention of Our Lady of Guadalupe.] At this first appearance, the angel taught them the “Pardon Prayer.” He prayed, “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.” This is the heavenly entreaty for us to pray intercessory prayer for others, especially for those who do not worship God. This is one of the central messages of Fatima: to pray for the salvation of souls. Upon departing, the angel told them, “Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”  

In the summer of 1916, the angel appeared again to the three children. One day during the siesta hours the children were relaxing and playing games, when the angel appeared, gently admonishing them, “What are you doing?” Then, he entreated them, “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.” The angel was exhorting them to live a strong prayer life, to pray constantly and to offer sacrifices to God. The children continued to pray the Pardon Prayer he had previously taught them. Upon questioning the angel of how they should make sacrifices, he said, “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission, the suffering which the Lord will send you.” With that, the angel made known to them that they should offer sacrifices to God as reparation and intercession for the conversion of sinners. They should also humbly bear any sufferings that God sends into their lives, as a form of intercession on behalf of sinners.

In late September or early October 1916 (Lucia did not recall the exact date), the angel returned again one last time. This time he came to teach them to pray and adore the Holy Eucharist and to receive Communion. He came with the chalice in his left hand with the Eucharistic host suspended over it, with drops of the precious blooded falling into the chalice. Bowing down, again touching his forehead to the ground, he taught them another prayer, “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly, and I offer You 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 You the conversion of poor sinners.” With that, the angel then offered the Eucharist as Holy Communion to the children. The angel said to them, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” This underscored the importance of the Mass and the Eucharist; in it, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ to dwell within us. God wants us to receive Him and adore Him in the Eucharist. The angel also tells us to “console your God.” God has made Himself vulnerable for us, and because of us. He is hurt by our sins, especially our mortal sins, and the thought of the eternal loss of His children. God’s main goal in the Christian faith and the Catholic Church is to save our souls, as we are all sinners in need of His forgiveness, mercy and grace. Thus, by our intercession and sacrifices on behalf of others, we can atone for their lack of prayer, lack of faith and lack of sacrifice. We can be co-redeemers with Christ, by uniting our sacrifices to His one eternal sacrifice and infinite merits, for the salvation of souls. By virtue of our Baptisms, we are baptized into the priesthood of Christ, and so, we can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God in atonement for sin. In this way, we can, in fact, console God by renouncing ourselves for the good of others.

For the next seven months or so, the three little shepherd children contemplated and practiced these spiritual things the angel had taught them. Yet, in early 1917, Europe and the world were still engulfed in total war, unspeakable carnage, genocides and revolutions. Of note, the Ottoman Turks were in the process of exterminating 1.5 million Armenian Christians, along with Greeks and Assyrians, in the ethnic and religious genocide of their territory. Along the Western Front, the Germans had established a second defensive position called the Hindenburg Line. The first-ever aerial warfare was well underway as the Allies and German planes, including the German ace Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron,” clashed in the skies over Europe, fighting for air superiority. Naval and submarine warfare continued around the North Sea, as Germany tried to cut-off the British Isles and sink American ships. On April 6, after repeated German U-boat attacks, the U.S. finally declared war on Germany. To the East, British and Indian troops were fighting the Turks in Mesopotamia. Then, in March and April 1917, Russia, faltering and in the midst of revolution, overthrew the Czar, Nicholas II, and established a new provisional Russian Democratic government. Consequently, on April 16, a political agitator, Vladimir Lenin, returned from years in exile in Switzerland, and went back to Russia with his radical Bolshevik Party.

Our Lady / 1917:

It was amidst these years of swirling, manmade evil, and chaos, and devastation, that on May 13, 1917, the first apparition of Our Lady appeared to the same three shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, seven months or so after they had last seen the Angel of Peace. Mary appeared to the children as they tended to their flock of sheep in a field, Cova da Iria. Shining “more brilliant than the sun,” Mary said to them, just as the angel had, “Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm.” When Lucia asked her where she was from, she replied, “I am from Heaven.” Mary focused her message along the same lines as the angel had done: on prayer, reparation and the Eucharist. She asked the children if they would be willing to accept the suffering God sends them as an act of reparation for sins and the conversion of sinners. Again, this gives insight into how heaven views our roles as intercessors and priests who can offer sacrifice on behalf of others. We are called to stand in the breach! Then, the children, led by an interior impulse, fell on their knees and recited this prayer, “O Most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God, I love You in the most Blessed Sacrament!” As the Catechism teaches us, the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, is the source and summit of the Christian life. Before departing Mary made one more request of them, “Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war.” Just as she indicated that sin is the cause of war, so too Mary shows them that by prayer, and specifically praying the Rosary, we can bring about peace. Sin brings conflict, suffering and war, whereas prayer brings resolution and peace. Interestingly, her request to pray the Rosary every day is the same and only request she repeated at all six apparitions. This is one of the central spokes of Fatima, to pray the Rosary everyday.

Mary appeared again to the three children on June 13, 1917. She repeated her request of them to return there on the 13th of each month, and of course, to pray the Rosary daily. Mary told them that Jesus wished to establish a worldwide devotion to her Immaculate Heart, which “will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” This is another central component to the apparitions, that is, to offer devotion and reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. To honor her along with her Son, Jesus Christ, and the devotion to His Sacred Heart, given previously to the world through revelations to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Mary was kept immaculate, without sin, at her conception. She became a suitable dwelling place for the Word of God. Yet, God did not force her to accept becoming Theotokos, the God bearer, but asked her assent, through her own freewill, to bear the Son of God. It is in Mary’s fiat, her yes to the archangel Gabriel, saying “Let it be done to me according to your word,” (Lk 1:38) that Jesus came into the world. Our salvation was contingent upon Mary’s obedience and compliance with the divine plan. Thus, Jesus asks us to honor her, as our spiritual mother, through which, grace, mercy and redemption entered the world.

The Secrets

The following month, on July 13, 1917, Mary imparted a secret message in three parts to the children. By now many people were following the happenings at Fatima and making requests, such as healings, of the children to ask Mary. It is interesting that Mary’s response to Lucia is that it would be necessary for such people to “pray the Rosary in order to obtain the graces” they were requesting. Now, the first secret was a terrifying vision of hell, shown to them for a brief instant. She wished to show them that eternal damnation is real, and that is the place where sinners go upon death if they do not amend their lives. She taught them to plead to God on behalf of sinners living in mortal sin and in danger of being eternally lost. She said, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make any sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Again, her focus is on prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners and reparation to her Immaculate Heart. This is a stark reminder of how vitally important it is to live a holy life, close to the Church, and avoiding sin, because our eternal destiny hinges upon it. As horrible as it is that millions of people had lost their lives during World War I, losing your soul is far worse. God is much more concerned about the soul than the body. It is because of this that Mary requested a special prayer to be said at the end of each decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” Fatima is an urgent plea to stay on the narrow path to heaven.

In the second part of the secret message, Mary conveyed to the children a warning that if mankind did not stop offending God, another war would happen, far worse than the current war (ie, WWI). She said, “If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father.” Of course, as we now know, that this all came to pass. Hitler and the National Socialists, Nazis, came to power in 1933. During the reign of Pope Pius XI, Germany annexed Austria and invaded the Sudetenland in 1938, marking the beginnings of aggression by Nazi Germany and World War II. This was heralded on January 25-26, 1938 by an extraordinary aurora borealis that illuminated the skies over Europe. Newspapers across Europe and America recorded the event. The January 26th edition of the NY Times has an article describing how Europe was “startled” by the brilliant display of lights. They were “pulsating beams like searchlights in dark red, greenish-blue and purple.” One person described it as a “shimmering curtain of fire.” Indeed, people from all over Europe, fearful and panicked that war had begun, called police stations and fire departments asking, “Where is the fire?” The true fire was soon set ablaze across the world, as it plunged into a second global conflagration.

Continuing in this third apparition in July, Mary also warned them, “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will scatter her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecution of the Church.” In this, Mary focuses attention not upon the Central Powers, but upon Russia. This might have seemed odd at the time. At this point in 1917, Russia was still part of the Allies, and was busy trying to establish a democratic government after the overthrow of the Czar, which put an end to the 300 years Romanov dynasty rule. Mary knew, however, the brutal atheistic Marxist regime that was emerging from the rubble of Russia’s Christian past. For the rest of the 20th century, atheistic Communism did run rampant from Russia and Eastern Europe to Red China and countries around the world, enslaving and killing tens of millions of people, and persecuting the Church.

First Five Saturdays Devotion

Mary did, in fact, come back again appearing to Lucia on December 10, 1925, while she was a postulant for the Congregation of Saint Dorothy Sisters in Pontevedra, Spain. The holy Virgin mystically showed her Heart covered and pierced by thorns from “ungrateful man” with their “blasphemies and ingratitude.” It was here that the Virgin Mary asked us to “console” her and make reparation to her Immaculate Heart. She said, “..I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess [their sins], receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.” This is the wonderful promise of graces necessary for our salvation, which the Virgin Mary makes to us, if we fulfill the first Five Saturdays devotion. This notion, for a holy, grace-filled death, is in the Hail Mary prayer itself, when we pray “..pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” The devotion is not difficult. As she outlined, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months we must (1) go to Confession; (2) receive Holy Communion in a state of grace; (3) recite five decades of the Rosary; (4) meditate on the fifteen (now twenty) mysteries of the Rosary, all with the intention of offering reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Lucia believed that peace and war, and the salvation of souls were dependent upon spreading and fulfilling the First Five Saturdays devotion.   

The third Secret of Fatima also was given to the children that day on July 13, 1917. Whereas the first Secret was a vision of hell, and the second Secret concerned warnings about World War II and the spread of Communism, the third Secret was more enigmatic. It was a symbolic prophecy concerning the future sufferings of the Church, if the warnings of the other secrets were not heeded. In the vision, the children saw an angel with a flaming sword about to set the world on fire, crying out “Penance, Penance, Penance!” The flames from the sword, however, died out before they reached the earth, when they met the “splendor that Our Lady radiated..” The intercession of Mary on behalf of the world staved off divine chastisement. People, however, have to embrace a constant state of conversion; a metanoia, a constant turning away from one’s sins. The rest of the symbolic vision showed the Church, including the Bishops and Pope, climbing a large mountain, where they were attacked, killed and martyred. Although some have disputed the official interpretation, the Church has said this vision is a representation of the martyrdoms of the saints and Church through the 20th century, especially under the atheist, Communist regimes, and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.

In the next apparitions in August and September 1917, Mary again reiterated the need for prayer, in particular the Rosary, and conversion, especially to save sinners. In August, Mary said, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.” Christians, by virtue of our Baptism into the priesthood of Christ, can offer our prayers and sacrifices on behalf of other souls. As Christ suffered for our sins and redeemed humanity, so too, can Christians, as mini-Christs, offer suffering and prayer for others. Indeed, many prayers and intercessions were needed for others, for as these apparitions were happening, the war lingered onwards. On the Western Front, the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium was raging, and resulting in approximately half a million casualties by the Allies and the Germans. Russia continued to battle the Central Powers along the Eastern Front, in which, by the end of the war, both sides had suffered over 5,000,000 casualties in total. By October, in the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia,” a British officer and diplomat, was leading an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks in the Sinai and Palestine. Carnage, death, uprisings and revolutions continued to rule the day.

The Miracle of the Sun

This set the stage for the sixth and dramatic final apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three small shepherd children on October 13, 1917.   She had also promised a sign, a miracle to show all present that she was really appearing in Fatima. In anticipation of this promise, an estimated 70,000 people came out in October in the driving rain to witness the final apparition. They were not disappointed. Mary spoke to the children again saying, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” She implored them to continue to pray the Rosary every day and not to offend God anymore with our sins. Then, as she ascended back up to heaven, she reflected light from her hand onto the sun. This is when the great crowd there witnessed the “dancing of the sun” as it seemed to spin, and zigzag and shoot off multicolored beams of light. It grew larger in size, and brightness, although the light did not hurt their eyes. The sun looked like a spinning wheel of fire that seemed to detach itself from its place in the sky and fall downwards close to the earth, frightening and terrifying the crowd. Many people began to pray and confess their sins out loud, thinking it was the end of the world. After the miracle was over with and the sun returned to its normal place and brightness, people realized that their clothes and the ground, which had been soaked in the rain, were now completely dry.

Yet, at the same time that many people witnessed the dancing of the sun, the seers, and some of the people, witnessed something different. Lucia described seeing at first, “..St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, besides the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they had traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands.” Next, Lucia described seeing “..Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolours [Sorrows]. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done.” Then, finally Lucia and the seers saw Mary one last time “..resembling Our Lady of Carmel.” The first apparition they saw was that of the holy family. God was showing the world the need to strengthen the bonds of marriage and the Christian family unit, as represented by the perfect model of St. Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus. Jesus lived most of His life as part of a family. By His life in a family, Jesus sanctified all families, raising them up by His sanctified humanity. God blessed the family, as our model, because He knew the unrelenting attacks on the family that would come for the rest of the century and into the 21st century. We know now the scourge modernity has had on the family unit, from divorce, broken-marriages, single parent homes, adultery, abortions, sexual abuse, same sex marriages, and negative forces of every kind. The tragic breakdown of the family has been the single most interiorly corrosive development to the fracturing of modern culture and society. It is also interesting that in the first vision, St. Joseph, as the father figure, is the one to bless the world. Again, stressing the importance of fathers and fatherhood in the family and society. In the second apparition, Jesus and Mary appear and bless the world. Lucia said Jesus appeared as “the Perfect Man” and Mary appeared as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” She attributed the meaning of this as a call to perfection in the Christian life, following the examples of Jesus and Mary in all things, especially in sacrifice and suffering. In the last apparition, the children saw Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in a religious habit, which Lucia attributed as a call of our total consecration to God, a call to holiness and to our intimate union with Him.

Russia

Immediately following the last apparition in Fatima in October 1917, more cataclysmic events befell the world, particularly with Russia, as Our Lady had placed so much emphasis upon. On November 6-7, 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, overthrew the provisional democratic government in Russia, in the “October Revolution,” (by the Russian calendar).  Soon thereafter, in March 1918, the new Bolshevik Russian regime signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, effectively withdrawing from WWI and abandoning their alliance with the Allies. The Bolsheviks instituted a Soviet, non-democratic government based upon Marxism, without private enterprise or land ownership, repression of political rivals and ideas, and massacring their opponents, especially priests and the Church. They nationalized all of the Russian Orthodox Church property, sought to destroy all Christian practices, such as religious instruction, Sunday masses and holy days. The Bolshevik Communists sought to wipeout Christianity completely from Russia, and replace it entirely with atheistic materialism. Over the next couple of years, the Communist “Red Terror” campaign swept the country as the Communists and their secret police engaged in imprisonment, mass killings and gruesome torture of anyone, especially the Church, not seen as loyal to the new State. The era of Communist Russia had begun, and, as Our Lady had warned, to spread their errors around the world. From the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to China, Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea to Africa, Cuba, and Latin America, it is estimated that Communists killed approximately 94,000,000 people in the 20th century; the largest collective massacre of peoples driven by a single ideology in the history of the world.  Systematic mass killings and genocides became state run programs. For seventy years, Communism metastasized from one country to the next, and fought a Cold War with the United States and the West, but as Mary had predicted in the July 1917 apparition, “..in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” And so it happened, with the eventual consecration of Russia and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Mary did come back again to ask for the consecration of Russia. This time it was on June 13, 1929, twelve years later, while Lucia was a postulant with the Sisters of Saint Dorothy in Tuy, Spain. Lucia had a vision of the Trinity, and then, Mary came to announce, “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.” We know, unfortunately, now through the long gaze of history, that the full consecration of Russia, with all the Bishops and the Pope, was delayed for various reasons and not fulfilled until 55 years later, when Pope John Paul II completed the consecration in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on March 25, 1984. That same month, in which, in March 1984, Mikhail Gorbachev became the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Soviet Union. A year later, in March 1985, hardline Communist leader Konstantin Chernenko died, and Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He soon began to initiate his program of Perestroika (“restructuring”) and Glasnost (“openness”), which altered the whole trajectory that the Communist country had embraced for seventy years. Gorbachev reached out to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics, and began pushing for religious freedom and liberty again. As a sign of the great conversion happening in the East, the Berlin Wall, a symbol of Iron Curtain repression, was torn down in November 1989. Finally, on Christmas night, December 25, 1991, President Gorbachev announced his resignation and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. The Evil Empire was no more. The fifteen countries of the Soviet Republic were now free to become independent countries, and miraculously all happening virtually without war and bloodshed. In fulfillment of Mary’s promise, when the consecration happened, Russia was converted, and “a period of peace” has been granted to the world. One has to wonder now, some years later, in 2016, with a world in percolating turmoil, if that period of peace is coming to an end?

Consequential events continued in the next month, in December 1917, when the British captured Jerusalem, and then, Palestine and Syria, ending four centuries of control by Muslim Ottoman Turks. It was in this year that British foreign diplomat, Lord Balfour, sent a letter, the “Balfour Declaration,” to Jewish leaders indicating that the British government’s “..view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This led to the years of the British Mandate (1920-1948), when Britain controlled Palestine. It paved the way for the fulfillment of Jewish Zionist aspirations to return to their ancient homeland and reconstitute the state of Israel. This was propelled in the 1930’s and 1940’s with anti-Jewish pogroms in Europe, and of course, the Holocaust of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Eventually, on May 14, 1948, the Jewish people in Palestine won their war of independence and declared the new state of Israel. This opened the way for the Jews to return to Israel with an ingathering of their diaspora from around the world, which many saw as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies of Ezekiel and Isaiah. The Jewish Israeli and Arab Muslim conflict remains to this day a central dispute in international geopolitical affairs.

On October 4, 1918, nearly a year after the last apparition of Fatima, Germany requested an armistice, and on November 11, 1918, it officially surrendered, ending World War I. In the midst of that, however, in 1918 and 1919, a worldwide Flu pandemic killed around 50 million people, including two of the child seers, Jacinta and Francisco Santos, while Lucia ended up living much longer (until February 13, 2005), as Mary had predicted. Yet, the groundwork was laid for a second worldwide conflagration in World War II, in which over 60 million were killed. In the June 13, 1929 apparition in Tuy, Spain, Lucia had a final vision, of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; with a supernaturally illumined Cross, and Eucharistic imagery of a chalice and a large host with drops of blood issuing from the side of Jesus, with the words “Grace and Mercy.” She also saw Our Lady below the right arm of the Cross, with her Immaculate Heart in her hand. Mary was again at the foot of the Cross, just as she had been at the original crucifixion of Jesus. This is the same place we go to every Mass, to receive in Holy Communion, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, into our lives. God was imploring us again to turn away from sin, to embrace the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. The message of Fatima is just as relevant today, 100 years later, as it was in 1916-1917. We receive the grace and mercy of God through the sacrificial offering of Christ in the Eucharist. We see Mary, our spiritual mother, there too, leading us to God, just as Jesus from the Cross had beckoned the beloved disciple, St. John, and us, to embrace His mother as our own, “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (Jn. 19:26-27)

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The Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles – 25 January 2016

Wouldn’t it be great to have a snapshot into the life of the early Church to see what they believed and taught and practiced on a day-to-day basis? Of course, we have the New Testament, which is divinely-inspired, and tells us about the life of Jesus Christ and the faith of the first Christian communities. Its 27 books, and eight (possibly nine, depending on if you think St.Paul, or a disciple of St.Paul, wrote the letter to the Hebrews.) authors – including the Apostles St.Matthew, St.John, St.James, St.Peter, St.Jude, and disciples St.Mark, St.Luke, and St.Paul – is the scriptural foundation of all Christian canonical beliefs. All of the books were written in the first century by eye-witnesses to Jesus, or by the first disciples of the Apostles. Aside from being the Word of God, these are incredibly reliable historical documents, reflecting direct contact with the person of Jesus and written relatively soon after. Yet, there are also many extra-biblical sources and letters, from the first century and early second century, that describe the life, belief and practices of the early Church. These are the writings of the early Church Fathers, in particular, the Apostolic Church Fathers, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna. They are considered “Apostolic” because they had direct contact with the Apostles themselves, thus making their work fascinating and of utmost importance (even though they were not ultimately included within the canon of Church Scripture).

One such document is called “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” or known simply as “The Didache.” It is one of the earliest known Christian writings, even possibly predating some of the New Testament books. It is generally agreed to have been written between 50-120 AD, well within the lifetime of some of the Apostles and first disciples. Some of the early Christians even considered it an inspired book, although again it was ultimately not included in the canon. The Didache is generally divided into four different sections concerning: (1) a moral catechesis (ie, “The Way of Life” vs. “The Way of Death”), (2) liturgical instruction, (3) a Church manual for various ecclesiastical and community norms, (4) and a brief eschatology of the parousia (ie, the second coming of Christ). One of the most profound aspects of the early Church Fathers’ writings is that they are thoroughly sacramental in nature, that is, they speak explicitly of the sacraments of the Church. Simply, from an apologetics point of view, they demonstrate that the sacraments and doctrines of the Catholic Church are not something contrived or incrementally slipped into Christianity over the centuries. They are not paganism, or a so-called Roman mystery religion. Christianity holds all of that in contempt as idolatry and blasphemy. Rather, the sacraments, the prayers, the Church, they were all there from the beginning. This is also true in The Didache. The tracts of the Didache, as are all the early Church Fathers’ writings, are decisively Catholic. [of note: The Way of Life specifically mentions not to commit “abortion, or infanticide,” which is probably the earliest known Christian writing explicitly condemning abortion and infanticide. Later, it references The Way of Death, in which they “murder their infants, and deface the image of God.”]

The Didache speaks matter-of-factly about Baptism, going to Church on Sundays, receiving the Eucharist, and making a general confession of sins. For example, as part of “The Way of Life,” the author says “In church, make confession of your faults, and do not come to your prayers with a bad conscience.” Later, he instructs:

“Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until they have been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations.”

In the Church manual section, he similarly states, “No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord’s own saying applies here, ‘Give not that which is holy unto dogs.’” The manual gives in-depth instruction of the eucharistic prayers to say over the chalice and over the broken bread, offering us a glimpse into the first century Mass. They are to pray, “Thou, O Almighty Lord, hast created all things for thine own Name’s sake; to all men thou hast given meat and drink to enjoy, that they may give thanks to thee, but to us thou hast graciously given spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal, through thy Servant. Especially, and above all, do we give thanks to thee for the mightiness of thy power.” The manual similarly gives precise details about how to go about baptizing people saying, “..immerse in running water ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’” It offers a similar prescription for standing water, or simply pouring water over the person’s head. The manual delves also into fasting, instructing people to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, much like the modern tradition, and to pray the Our Father three times every day.

And, how should this affect us? These brief snippets offer us glimpses, from outside the New Testament (i.e., accepted Scripture), into the hearts and minds of the first Christians. They lived a sacramental life in toto. Their daily lives were rooted in Baptism, Confession, the Eucharist, Sunday worship, fasting, and prayer. This is what they called The Way of Life. The Way of Life involves modeling our lives after Christ, that is, among many other things, loving our enemies, living a moral life, being meek and compassionate. Moreover, it instructs us, “Accept as good whatever experience comes your way, in the knowledge that nothing can happen without God.” We are to live out our Christian vocations within our ordinary circumstances and trials of each day, with Christ as our “spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal.” As some have argued, The Didache could be a form of vade mecum, a small handbook that Christians would have carried about with themselves. It spoke to them of how they should live their lives, conduct themselves and embrace the sacramental life. And so it remains with us!

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