Your Excellency, Bishop Pivarunas, Very Reverend Father General, Reverend Fathers, clerics and Brothers, Reverend Mother, dear Sisters and dear friends: Praised be Jesus and Mary!
What a singular grace is ours as we gather here tonight in order to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima. Why is this a singular grace? Because it provides us with an opportunity to focus our attention on the only plan — God’s Peace Plan — that will bring peace of soul to men and a true lasting peace for a chaotic and sin-laden world.
Most of you are very familiar with Fatima. While nothing new may be said in this talk, I hope and pray that it will convince you more than ever of the vital importance of Our Lady’s message. We are talking about life and death — not in a physical sense, but eternal life and eternal death.
We have come here together in order to honor our Blessed Mother and to sing her praises. We have come together as a spiritual family to pray together and to enjoy one another’s company. We have come together in order to be spiritually recharged and to leave here with an attitude of firm hope after having been reminded of our purpose in life, convinced of the need for a plan of action to work out our salvation. This plan must be solid, stable, and lasting. In a day when so much emphasis is placed on “positive thinking” and motivation, there seems to be so little concern when it comes to truth, God’s Will, and a total dedication to developing a deep and strong interior life. Many of you, I am sure, have heard speakers who promote positive thinking in order to help people make better livings or become better persons. While many of these speakers consider the spiritual aspect at least in general, their main efforts seem focused on the here and now. What we need today is individuals who are capable and willing to motivate people in a spiritual way, to motivate people to do those things that are difficult, but very, very necessary to obtain eternal life.
Our Lady of Fatima’s concern was two-fold: 1) that God was being offended; 2) that souls were being lost to hell for all eternity. The solution she gave us was spiritual, not political. And that, my dear friends, must be fully understood. We must be careful not to become involved in politics or other activities at the expense of the spiritual life. This does not mean that we must never get involved in activities to achieve good causes. But the devil is very, very clever. There is a passage in the Imitation of Christ that warns us how the devil inspires people to do good things in order to prevent them from doing that which is better.
Let us begin by considering three different periods of time: before Fatima, Fatima and the years up to 1960, 1960 up to the present, and what can be expected in the future. In order to do this we will start at the beginning. When Almighty God created the world, He had a plan in mind. When He created the angels, He gave them grace, knowledge, and certain powers, including a free will. He gave them the opportunity to merit eternal life by testing their obedience. They could either conform their will to His, or to rebel and disobey. We know the story of Lucifer and those who followed him in disobedience. Remember — they were the authors of their own damnation — not God. Through disobedience, they brought upon themselves the punishment of being cast into hell.
The same thing took place with Adam and Eve. They had been given all that was necessary to be happy on earth and to eventually enjoy eternal happiness in heaven. But they, too, became the authors of their own misery as a result of their sin. God, our Creator, certainly has a right to be obeyed. Neither the angels nor men had the right to oppose God or His will. They had the ability to disobey, but not the right. There is a difference. When they chose to disobey, they chose to suffer the consequences. This is very important for us to remember. The Old Testament relates the history of the Chosen People, and how as long as they did God’s will, He blessed them, and saw to it that they were provided with the necessaries of life. They vanquished their enemies and lived in relative peace. On the other hand, when enough of them chose to ignore God’s laws and to live sinful lives, they chose to be punished by God and to lose the peace that they once enjoyed. You know the stories of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha, the times the Israelites were taken into captivity by Egypt and by the Babylonians, and the great flood that was survived by only Noah and his family — only eight people. Then when Our Lord came and taught His people the truth, they rejected Him, crucified Him, and chose by their actions to suffer the consequences of becoming blind spiritually and eventually seeing Jerusalem destroyed. When Our Divine Lord founded His Church and His Apostles to teach us how we must live and what we must believe, again it was obedience to God which He put forth as requisite to gain eternal life.
The followers of Christ, the Christians, became known as the new Chosen People. The Church to which they belong explains all the truths our Divine Lord taught. The sacraments that they receive make it possible for them to overcome their fallen nature and the enticements of the world and the temptations of the devil. The early Christians suffered great persecutions — they were followers of our Divine Lord at the risk of their lives. St. Alphonsus Liguori tells us that between 7 and 11 million Christians were martyred during the Roman persecutions. Finally, Christians were allowed to practice their Faith openly, and to build beautiful and magnificent churches. But in time, many became lax and began to live lives of sin. In Church history we see this pattern over and over: first, an initial fervor on the part of the majority of the Christians; then, a gradual laxity and eventual falling away of large numbers; next, a warning of a saint, Our Lady, or our Divine Lord Himself; and then, either amendment of life in response to the warning, or chastisement due to a lack of amendment. One would think that man would learn from the mistakes of others, but all too often, that is not the case.
Let us reflect upon a few events which took place in recent centuries as a direct consequence of laxity on the part of Catholics. There was the Protestant Revolution during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a result, millions of people, and in some cases, entire nations, were eventually led away from the Catholic Faith. Large numbers of Protestants migrated to other countries, and began to proselytize their errors in areas that had not yet been exposed to Christianity. It suffices to say that the Protestant Revolt was the beginning of the spiritual disaster unknown up to that time. When one reflects upon the fact that Christ founded His Church in order to lead souls to eternal life through His teachings and life-giving sacraments, we can see how this was one of the worst spiritual disasters in history. I once heard a saying that the best path to lead people astray is ignorance. Catholics who are not well instructed in their Faith are easily deceived and led astray.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Freemasonic Revolution took place in Europe. Catholic clergy and religious were tortured and slaughtered; Catholic rulers, kings and queens, were executed. The rights of God were dethroned while the almighty rights of man were enshrined.
Then came the twentieth century. In 1917, the year Our Lady appeared at Fatima, the Bolshevik Revolution took place in Russia, an event which would eventually cost the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Once again the true Faith was outlawed. Religion was considered to be an enemy of the people. The only thing to be considered was the Communist state.
Again, let us keep in mind that sin is the primary cause for any punishment that has been meted out by God on man. It is easy to point the finger at others. I recall something Zig Ziegler said in one of his talks, “Remember — when we point at that person with one finger, there are three other fingers pointing back at us.” We should do some soul-searching in our own lives before we begin to accuse others of being responsible for the evil in the world. What comes to mind when we reflect upon the Fatima message? One speaks about the Rosary, another of a call to sacrifice and penance. Some emphasize devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Others warn about the many souls that will be lost to hell due to sins of impurity, and the immodest styles and fashions Our Lady predicted. These and other things were mentioned by Our Lady, but we must remember especially her plea, “I have come to ask men to amend their lives. Men must cease offending God, Who is already too much offended.” Our Lady’s chief concerns were that God was being offended and that souls were being lost to hell. The Rosary, the Brown Scapular, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, modesty and purity, sacrifice and penance — all these things are means of drawing down God’s grace, which will strengthen men spiritually and motivate them to amend their lives.
I would like to refer to an interview of Sister Lucia by a priest, Father Fuentes, in 1957, to again emphasize the importance of the Rosary. Remember, the Rosary is a means to an end. The end that we are seeking is to do God’s will, to sanctify ourselves, to oppose the world and the devil and the flesh, to live as Christians rather than worldlings. The Rosary is a very powerful weapon. Remember how Pope Pius XII said that one who prays the Rosary can be compared to David, who with his sling, slew Goliath. There are people who ridicule and laugh at the Rosary, just as Goliath laughed at David. But again, it is a powerful spiritual weapon.
Listen to what Lucia said in this interview:
“Father, the Most Holy Virgin did not tell me that we are in the last times of the world, but she made me understand this. The first reason is because she told me that the devil is at the moment engaging in a decisive battle against the Virgin, and the decisive battle is the FINAL battle where one side will be victorious and the other side will suffer defeat. Hence, from now on we must choose sides — either we are for God or we are for the devil. There is no other possibility. The second reason is that she said to my cousin as well as myself that God is giving two last remedies to the world: these are the Holy Rosary and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These am the last two remedies which signify that there will be no other.”
Regarding the Rosary, Sister Lucia said,
“Look Father, the Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal, or above all, spintual, in the personal lives of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of religious communities, or even in the lives of peoples and nations that cannot be resolved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayers of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves. We will sanctify ourselves, and we will console our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
What consoling words these are when we think of all the problems we may have as individuals, the difficulties we face, the political problems in the world. What a beautiful message of hope!
No matter how bad things get, pray the Rosary. Because we are so familiar with the Rosary, we must constantly remind ourselves to pray it well. Read The Secret of the Rosary. St. Louis Marie de Montfort says that one of the most difficult habits to overcome is that of racing through the Rosary. People who do this can get to the point that they say it mechanically. St. Louis went so far as to indicate the pauses in the prayers in order to keep people from racing through it. The heart and soul of the Rosary is meditating on the life of Our Lord, on His sufferings and death, His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the Coronation of our Blessed Mother... The more we meditate on the life of our Divine Lord and what He suffered for us, the more we imitate Him and love Him. If you have read the book, The Secret of the Rosary, re-read it. Professional people go to seminars, year in and year out. We too need to refresh our memories and revitalize our goals.
Next, let us reflect on the importance of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Personally, I believe that if this is not THE most important part of Our Lady’s plea for amendment of life, it is at least a close second. This would be best explained by the book, True Devotion to Mary. What was written therein by St. Louis Marie de Montfort is pretty much what Our Lady revealed at Fatima: the role of Mary, how she is called the New Eve, her definite role in God’s plan. We also read in True Devotion that the persecutions will be worse than ever before in the latter times. At least for us this hasn’t happened yet — spiritual persecution, yes, but not physical persecution. In order to persevere when things get worse, we must use the means given to us by our Blessed Mother and her Divine Son. St. Dominic said that one day through the Rosary and the Brown Scapular the world would be saved. Perhaps he foresaw the times when the Mass and sacraments would not be available, at least on a regular basis, and that these sacramentals would become all the more important.
What some people say, especially busy people (and, no doubt, we live in the busiest age ever), is: “I don’t have time.” If an individual is too busy to pray, he is simply too busy. St. Alphonsus Liguori says the only reasons there are people in hell are because they did not pray, or because they did not persevere in prayer.
If we take to heart the requests of Our Lady, and remember that doing these things will draw down the graces we need to amend our lives, we will be able to oppose the world, the flesh and the devil, the spirit of our age. In order to get to heaven, only one thing is necessary — to die in the state of sanctifying grace. Simple, isn’t it? We come into this world with the stain of original sin on our souls, and when we are baptized it is removed and replaced with sanctifying grace. But once we attain the age of reason, we become engaged in a constant life-and-death struggle between our fallen nature and that which we know to be the law and the will of God.
While these things are basic and simple enough to understand, why is it that throughout history so many have chosen the path that leads to the fires of hell? The answer to that question is also very simple: too many have chosen to ignore the absolute need to develop an interior life, and to do so with nothing less than an all-out effort in order to not be ruled by the senses and the enticements of the spirit of the world. You will not save your soul by accident — it takes work. If a person wants to become an expert in sports, think of what he has to go through — years and years of training. Some start at 3- and 4-years old, and continue through grade school, high school, university, and even twenty years later in the field of professional sports. I heard about a women’s volleyball team that went to the Olympics. They trained for eight hours a day, six days a week, for four years — and lost. Athletes will discipline themselves, eat certain foods, get a certain amount of sleep, leave families and friends, practice day in and day out — and for what? In the interior life, we must have eternal life in mind. That is why I am doing this or that action — because I want to save my soul.
I recommend to all of you a book that is magnificent in explaining the interior life — The Soul of the Apostolate. I am sure that the author of this book was inspired by the grace of almighty God. He did such a wonderful job that reading this book makes you want to do even those things in the spiritual life that you usually don’t want to do, humanly speaking. It gives you a desire to pray even when you are tired, believe it or not — or at least to try to pray. Here is what is given as an explanation or definition of the interior life:
“The interior life is the state of activity of a soul who strives against its natural inclinations in order to regulate them and endeavors to acquire the habit of judging and directing its movements in an things according to the light of the Gospel and the example of Our Lord: ‘Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.’”
It is hard to develop a deep spiritual life. A person may come for advice and be asked, “Do you have a prayer schedule?” “Well, I get up and have four kids to send to school and when they’re gone I have the dishes to do....” All these excuses! Men make them too, not just women. If we make excuses as to why we don’t have time to pray or to develop an interior life, how are we going to save our souls? Is our Divine Lord going to reward us if, when we stand before Him on Judgment Day, all we have is excuses? Yes, it is hard to develop a deep interior life — but do not use that as an excuse. Simply plan what you are going to do in order to eventually have a deep spiritual life.
To illustrate this point, here is a passage from The Soul of the Apostolate describing the different types of labor we become involved in as we live here in this vale of tears:
“Dom Sebastian was familiar with the labors of the ascetic as well as with the trials of Army life, the cares of the students and the responsibilities inseparable from the office of the superior, and he used to say that there were three kinds of work:
“1) The almost exclusively physical work of those who live by manual labor, by a craft, or in the Army. And he claims that, no matter what one may think about it, this kind of work is the easiest of the three.
“2) The intellectual toil of the scholar, the thinker, in his often arduous pursuit of truth; that of the writer, the professor, etc. This labor in itself is, he said, far more difficult than the first, for there is a saying that ‘the blade wears out its sheath.’
“3) Finally, there is the labor of the interior life, and he did not hesitate to declare that of the three, this kind, when it is taken seriously, is by far the most exacting. But at the same time, it is this kind that offers us the most satisfaction here on earth. It is likewise the most important” (Chautard, 1946, p. 29).
The reason that the work of the interior life is harder is is because it is all done by faith. You don’t see Jesus there in the tabernacle — you believe He is there because you believe His words. But read the lives of the saints: how happy they were! In order to achieve that spirituality, they had to work at it. “Ask and ye shall receive. Seek and ye shall find.” “Come to Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” Again, I wish to emphasize the importance of making that choice. Are you willing to go through the difflculties involved in growing spiritually so that you will become strong enough to persevere and eventually save your soul? If you are not, you are choosing to suffer the consequences when you stand before God on Judgment Day.
Almighty God chose to send His Mother to Fatima and through her to remind men in an extraordinary way of the simple truths that Christ taught while on earth. Human beings love the spectacular, and Our Lady’s coming to Fatima was a spectacular happening. But what did she say? “Obey my Son. Live your Faith. Do the will of God.” Suppose our Divine Lord were to appear here tonight: what would He say? We know almost exactly what He would say: “Stop committing sin!” What is so spectacular about that message? Fatima was an extraordinary way of drawing men’s attention to the simple truths that Christ taught while He was on earth: prayer, sacrifice, the will of God. If it were not for the intercession of Our Lady, who is our Mother, God in strict justice would have destroyed the earth and its sin-laden inhabitants long ago. If mothers can be so concerned for their children that they do anything to help them, so Mary has done and continues to do for us. On the other hand, she made it known at La Salette that if people choose not to respond to God, there will come a point where, in strict justice, sinners must be punished for their crimes.
After Our Lady’s appearance and the miracle of the sun at Fatima, why did the world not take her message seriously? Newspapers reported that even the non-believers who were present that day saw the miracle. To answer that question, I will read a passage from the book, Our Lady of Fatima, by William Thomas Walsh:
“At Fatima, Portugal, on October 13th, 1917, seventy thousand people witnessed one of the greatest mirades of all times. The sun had turned pale, emitted brilliant rays of multi-colored light, spun three times on its axis, and then, to the horror of the assembled multitude, power-dived dizzily toward the earth. A terrifying cry rose from the crowd as thousands fell to their knees, thinking the end of the world was at hand. Among those present was a correspondent with one of the major news services in this country, America. The next day from Lisbon he cabled a long and impressive story about the miracle of the sun, but it was never published. Chicago and New York were in the middle of the World’s Series, and the long dispatch became a one-inch item relegated to page 24, literally snowed under with details of the singles, errors and batting averages and home runs. This incident has been advanced as one of the explanations for the great conspiracy of silence concernmg one of the most momentous happenings of our generation. The fact is that almost a quarter of a century went by before whisperings of the Fatima story began to make itself heard around the United States. In the early 40’s it was featured in a few pamphlets, and occasional articles in religious magazines.”
This particular man, William Walsh, wrote a book which made Fatima very well known in America. So what happened after the apparition? In the States, nothing, or very little, for twenty-five years. In the meantime, as Our Lady warned, we had a Second World War, the war in Korea, the war in Vietnam, and a host of other wars throughout the world. We also saw the formation of the United Nations and the World Council of Churches. Then, as people began to hear of the Fatima message, many began to focus on the Third Secret of Fatima. As 1960 drew near, everyone wondered what was in the Secret. But after 1960 came and went, many people gave up Fatima entirely! Again, the curiosity of man seeks out the sensational. It’s like the people who prophesy the end of the world. Supposing we knew? When we stand before God, we are going to be asked how we spent our time on earth, how we lived, not about secrets and prophecies.
In the 1960’s we saw a “new age,” a so-called “new morality” come into being. It seemed that since the world did not respond between the years 1917 and 1960, things became progressively worse. They were already getting worse from 1917 to 1960, but around 1960, it was unbelievable what was taking place — students rioting in the colleges, the acid rock, the drug culture — and at the same time, Vatican II. Not only were things happening in society, but even within the Church — the Novus Ordo, the new sacraments, the new catechisms, and, of course, the “new morality.” Pope Pius XII referred to his time in the 50’s as the “age of sin.” What would he say of today? What does the future hold for us? It really doesn’t take anything other than common sense to know the answer to that. If men continue to sin, there will continue to be unrest, there will continue to be war and other various things that God uses when He chastises disobedient men.
What about us? That depends on how we live. It’s our choice. Many people spend most of their time, or at least a great deal of time, complaining — but spend very little time trying to amend their lives. It isn’t enough to avoid evil — we must do good.
Let me suggest some simple reminders for you. By all means, pray the Rosary daily as Lady asked at Fatima. And as I said earlier, pray it well — don’t rush through it, don’t pray it mechanically, don’t look upon it as a burden to get in. Quality rather than quantity. If you are legitimately exhausted on occasion, God understands. But for the most part, plan your day in such a way that your prayer life comes first.
Wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel — your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If you wear it faithfully, you will obtain the graces you need at the hour of death to save your soul.
Practice and promote devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Remember the words of Our Lady at Fatima, “My Son wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart... If you do this, many souls will be saved from going to hell.” Our Lady said, referring to those who promote devotion to her Immaculate Heart, it will be as if she herself personally took them like flowers and presented them to God.
Read and study True Devotion to Mary. Meditate on it; make it a way of life. Learn to depend upon our Blessed Mother like a little child depends upon its mother. We must immerse ourselves in Mary as a fish in water; our devotion to her must become almost second nature. If we live like this, we will begin to imitate our Blessed Mother.
Above all, please realize that the bottom line is that you must LIVE as Christians. Some people have unfortunately reduced their religion to attending the Latin Mass. Certainly we are not in any way against the Latin Mass, the heart of our Faith. But remember, when we die, God is not just going to ask us if we went to a Latin Mass. In fact, those of us who have the Latin Mass will be judged more severely because of the unique graces available to us in Holy Communion. How many people sit around talking about these things, but unfortunately, do not do enough insofar as living the Faith! You must avoid sin and the occasions of sin. Review your daily routine as an individual and as a family. Do you do anything that you would be ashamed of if others knew about it? Our Divine Lord sees everything we do. Sometimes we forget that. That is one of the beauties of having the Sacred Heart enthroned in the home; giving the Sacred Heart a place of honor in the home is a visible reminder that God sees all.
Consider things such as television. How many children are being ruined by television! There is very little today on television that is uplifting, and certainly, at least, it must be CAREFULLY controlled. When I hear children talk about some of the things they see on TV, I wonder what their parents are doing. Do you pray the daily Rosary and let the children watch immoral movies? What a contradiction! What about reading matter in the home? What about recreation? We do not have to enumerate everything — read what the Popes have said! Read the catechism! Avoid the occasions of sin.
As adults it’s easy to say, “Boy, is it tough today!” But imagine a child of 7 or 8 being exposed all day long to all this new morality, the rights of children, etc. Instead of being taught how to love God, children are being told, “do what you want to do,” “no one has the right to tell you what to do,” “if you don’t like it at home go see a social worker.” We’ve just witnessed a boy here in the States who divorced his parents. Things that we were taught are sinful when we were growing up are now being called normal. No doubt some of these children will be the instruments used by God to destroy the society which brought them up that way. What a tragedy!
Remember, you only have one soul to save — or to lose. Our Lady came to Fatima to plead that we live as followers of Christ. So many have chosen to ignore her message that not only have we seen wars and natural disasters that God allowed as punishments, but for the past thirty years, we have seen the destruction of the Catholic Church except for a remnant. Remember what Fr. Fahey said, “When truth is looked upon as error, and error is accepted as truth, that is the time of times.” Certainly all is ripe for the enthronement of the man of sin, the Antichrist.
Lastly, we must energetically strive to follow a daily spiritual program of prayer, meditation and spiritual reading. Get some good books for spiritual reading and spend time reading every single day. Have your children do it too. There is very little in today’s society to inspire. These things will help you to develop an interior life of such magnitude that, in spite of the evil that surrounds you, you will not only survive, but will be what you must be in this age of sin: the light of the world. That is our vocation today.
Let me conclude with the following words from The Soul of the Apostolate. The author is making reference to St. Bernard and his devotion to Our Lady:
“St. Bernard was the holy abbot of Clairvaux who attributed to Mary all his progress in union with Jesus, all success of the apostolate. Everybody knows what tremendous effects were produced by the apostolate of this saint who remained the most illustrious of the sons of St. Benedict, an apostolate that embraced nations and kings, councils and even Popes. On all sides, we hear the praises of the sanctity, the genius and the deep knowledge of Holy Scripture and the penetrating unction of the writings of this last of the Fathers of the Church.”
Brilliant man! He is referred to as the Harpist of Mary. Here is what he says about Our Lady:
“See, my brethren, with what sentiments God has desired us to honor Mary, He who has placed in her the fullness of all good. if there is in us any hope, any grace, any pledge of salvation, let us admit that all this overflowed upon us from her who is flowing with delights. Suppose you were to take away the sun which enlightens the world — what would become of the day? Take away Mary, that Star of the Sea, of our huge vast sea, what is left but deep obscurity, the shadow of death, pitchy blackness. Therefore it is from the depths of our hearts, from the vitals of our being and with all our mind and will that we must honor the Virgin Mary. For such is the will of Him who willed us to have all through Mary” (Ibid, p. 282).
Dom Chautard goes on to say that he runs the risk of finding that he has built on sand whose activity does not rest on a very special devotion to Our Lady. Truly, then, if we listen to Mary, if her words are burned into our hearts so that we live as Christians, Our Lady of Fatima will be for us a Diamond of Hope.