Saturday, May 13, 2017

"My One Hope of Glory Is This" – In Fatima, The Lady of "Light" Meets "The Bishop in White"

As every and any lodging anywhere near Fatima had already been booked solid with pilgrimages well before the headliner was announced for this weekend's centennial of the first apparition there, its eve saw that rarest of things – The Pope not as Main Event, but merely the icing on the cake.

Still, as his presence tends to swell crowds – all the more given this first trek to the Iberian peninsula – the turnout estimates for the days were almost doubled, from 600,000 to over a million expected to be on hand. As for its makeup, given the milestone for the Lady of the Cova – one of the Catholic world's three principal Marian meccas, alongside Lourdes and Guadalupe (now the most-visited Christian shrine of all) – this weekend has a considerably more global crop of attendees than the usual PopeTrip throng.

Keeping the practice he began before another Madonna of Portuguese-speakers – Brazil's patroness of Aparecida – upon his arrival at the small chapel outside the shrine's Basilica on the site of the apparitions themselves, "at the feet of our Virgin Mother," Francis delivered a self-penned prayer of dedication to Our Lady, joined by the people in a refrain he writes into the text.

The moment only came, however, after another extraordinary instance of the Pope drawing a massive crowd into the silence of prayer – in this case, one which lasted over five minutes.

Significant, even emotional, as each of his Marian moments are on a deeply personal level – arguably providing the clearest glimpse into Jorge Mario Bergoglio's childlike faith at its very core – one aspect here raises this edition to a different plane: in referring to himself at Fatima as "a bishop robed in white," Francis connected himself to perhaps the most harrowing piece of the apparitions' message, a part only revealed 17 years ago this weekend, when the "Third Secret" was finally made public at the beatification of the seers on 13 May 2000....
And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father'. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him....
Kept under seal by the Vatican for decades, that final message has principally been viewed as a prophecy of John Paul II given the assassination attempt that took place on 13 May 1981 – the very anniversary of the first Fatima apparition – with the now-saint having credited the Madonna with saving his life.

Precisely a year later, as the Polish pontiff went to the shrine to give thanks, he famously brought one of the bullets which had struck him, which was placed in the crown of Fatima's Virgin and has remained there ever since. Even so, while the reigning Pope's move to resurrect the image could say one of any number of things, rushing to interpretations is best avoided; if history's any guide, he'll explain it soon enough.

All that said, here's the English text of Francis' prayer to the Madonna on her century at Fatima with the video of its delivery, and the memorable pause which preceded it...

Hail Holy Queen,
Blessed Virgin of Fatima,
Lady of Immaculate Heart,
our refuge and our way to God!

As a pilgrim of the Light that comes to us from your hands,
I give thanks to God the Father, who in every time and place
is at work in human history;
As a pilgrim of the Peace that, in this place, you proclaim,
I give praise to Christ, our peace, and I implore for the world
concord among all peoples;
As a pilgrim of the Hope that the Spirit awakens,
I come as a prophet and messenger to wash the feet of all,
at the same table that unites us.

Ave O Clemens, Ave O pia!
Salve Regina Rosarii Fatimae.
Ave O clemens, Ave O pia!
Ave O dulcis Virgo Maria!

[Hail, O Clement; Hail, O Loving
Hail Fatima, Holy Queen of the Rosary!
Hail O Clement, Hail O Loving!
Hail O Sweet Virgin Mary!]

Hail, Mother of Mercy,
Lady robed in white!
In this place where, a hundred years ago
you made known to all the purposes of God’s mercy,
I gaze at your robe of light
and, as a bishop robed in white,
I call to mind all those who,
robed in the splendour of their baptism,
desire to live in God
and tell the mysteries of Christ in order to obtain peace.


Hail, life and sweetness,
Hail, our hope,
O Pilgrim Virgin, O Universal Queen!

In the depths of your being,
in your Immaculate Heart,
you keep the joys of men and women
as they journey to the Heavenly Homeland.
In the depths of your being,
in your Immaculate Heart,
you keep the sorrows of the human family,
as they mourn and weep in this valley of tears.
In the depths of your being,
in your Immaculate Heart,
adorn us with the radiance of the jewels of your crown
and make us pilgrims, even as you were a pilgrim.

With your virginal smile,
enliven the joy of Christ’s Church.
With your gaze of sweetness,
strengthen the hope of God’s children.
With your hands lifted in prayer to the Lord,
draw all people together into one human family.


O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary,
Queen of the Rosary of Fatima!
Grant that we may follow the example of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta,
and of all who devote themselves to proclaiming the Gospel.
Thus we will follow all paths
and everywhere make our pilgrim way;
we will tear down all walls
and cross every frontier,
as we go out to every periphery,
to make known God’s justice and peace.

In the joy of the Gospel, we will be the Church robed in white,
the whiteness washed in the blood of the Lamb,
blood that today too is shed in the wars tearing our world apart.
And so we will be, like you, an image of the column of light
that illumines the ways of the world,
making God known to all,
making known to all that God exists,
that God dwells in the midst of his people,
yesterday, today and for all eternity.


[Pope and people together:]

Hail, Mother of the Lord,
Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary of Fatima!
Blessed among all women,
you are the image of the Church robed in Easter light,
you are the honour of our people,
you are the victory over every assault of evil.

Prophecy of the merciful love of the Father,
Teacher of the Message of Good News of the Son,
Sign of the burning Fire of the Holy Spirit,
teach us, in this valley of joys and sorrows,
the eternal truths that the Father reveals to the little ones.

Show us the strength of your protective mantle.
In your Immaculate Heart,
be the refuge of sinners
and the way that leads to God.

In union with my brothers and sisters,
in faith, in hope and in love,
I entrust myself to you.
In union with my brothers and sisters, through you,
I consecrate myself to God,
O Virgin of the Rosary of Fatima.

And at last, enveloped in the Light that comes from your hands,
I will give glory to the Lord for ever and ever.

*   *   *
Together with his act of consecration, Francis brought another centenary gift to the Cova – the Golden Rose (above), the centuries-old honor once bestowed by the Popes on Catholic queens, but now solely conferred as an exceptional homage to precious few Marian shrines.

As the Rose can be given to a Madonna by successive pontiffs as a mark of their respective affection, Francis' is the third accorded Fatima, following ones from now-Blessed Paul VI and Benedict XVI. For his own part, Fatima's third Rose is just the second granted by Papa Bergoglio; within a year of his election, he sent his first to Guadalupe – a historic gift from the first-ever American Pope to the Mother of the American continent – then bringing her a crown on his visit in February 2016.

In any case, the daytime rites were just the half of it. Returning to the shrine after dusk to lead the Rosary and join the nightly candlelit procession (fullvid), the Pope engaged in a rare form of sharing on his own depth of Marian devotion: a love born from the faith and example of the Italian immigrants who raised him.

Normally, whenever Francis has focused on the Theotokos, the words have either come in the form of a solemn written prayer or a homily at a public Mass – the one and only time when he puts his more animated style of delivery aside and dourly sticks to the script.

At the Fatima vigil, however, looking to greet the "oceanic" crowd outside of the context of prayer, his fervor for Our Lady and a forum to express it in full color finally came together....
Dear Pilgrims to Mary and with Mary!

Thank you for your welcome and for joining me on this pilgrimage of hope and peace. Even now, I want to assure all of you who are united with me, here or elsewhere, that you have a special place in my heart. I feel that Jesus has entrusted you to me (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and I embrace all of you and commend you to Jesus, “especially those most in need” – as Our Lady taught us to pray (Apparition of July, 1917). May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord’s blessing! On each of the destitute and outcast robbed of the present, on each of the excluded and abandoned denied a future, on each of the orphans and victims of injustice refused a past, may there descend the blessing of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).

This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary. With Christ and Mary, we abide in God. Indeed, “if we want to be Christian, we must be Marian; in a word, we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to him” (PAUL VI, Address at the Shine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Cagliari, 24 April 1970). Each time we recite the rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world.

Pilgrims with Mary... But which Mary? A teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the “narrow way” of the cross by giving us an example, or a Lady “unapproachable” and impossible to imitate? A woman “blessed because she believed” always and everywhere in God’s words (cf. Lk 1:42.45), or a “plaster statue” from whom we beg favours at little cost? The Virgin Mary of the Gospel, venerated by the Church at prayer, or a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge; one more merciful than the Lamb slain for us?

Great injustice is done to God’s grace whenever we say that sins are punished by his judgment, without first saying – as the Gospel clearly does – that they are forgiven by his mercy! Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy. Obviously, God’s mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment. He did not deny sin, but redeemed it on the cross. Hence, in the faith that unites us to the cross of Christ, we are freed of our sins; we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). “Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her, we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves… This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization” (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, 288). With Mary, may each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything.

Hand in hand with the Virgin Mother, and under her watchful gaze, may we come to sing with joy the mercies of the Lord, and cry out: “My soul sings to you, Lord!” The mercy you have shown to all your saints and all your faithful people, you have also shown to me. Out of the pride of my heart, I went astray, following my own ambitions and interests, without gaining any crown of glory! My one hope of glory, Lord, is this: that your Mother will take me in her arms, shelter me beneath her mantle, and set me close to your heart. Amen.