There are many things that anger me in a typical Novus Ordo church: the sanctuary resembling the village's main square, the holy water in minimal quantities and at times well-hidden, or the (rare in England, in my experience) tabernacle away from the main altar.
But one thing that angers me especially is… when there is no place for kneeling in front of the Blessed Virgin. I do not mean that you have to kneel on the stone pavement (a very small but very welcome penance, this one). No, I mean when there is literally no place, and you would be kneeling in the middle of a corridor.
Whenever this happens I detect the pungent smell of the faithless, half-protestantised, Sixty-Eighter “innovator”. You know the type, because one of them is Pope.
The message is clear: firstly, kneeling is very much passé. You can sit comfortably in the pew instead of undergoing this minimal motion indicating a mere modicum of humility, and God who loves you so much because you are so cool would never want you to do something like that. Secondly, it is clear FrancisPriest not only does not want you to kneel in general, but he does not want you to kneel in front of the Blessed Virgin in particular. Hey, some passing Proddie might be offended! We don't want to perpetuate these old customs, do we now? No, you are probably supposed to have a chat with the Blessed Virgin on a “You are very ok, I am ok too” basis. God forbid, you should feel that you are a wretched sinner unworthy of even kneeling. We don't do that anymore in the age of mercy.
One of the signs that sanity is coming back will be the reappearance of proper kneeling facilities in front of the statues of the Blessed Virgin. Alas, we will have of get rid of a lot of insane priests first.
For countless generations, Catholics have expressed in words their devotion to the Blessed Virgin; calling her, among other things, Virgin of Virgins, most pure, most chaste, inviolate, undefiled, and most faithful.
On the day following the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I struggle to remember one occasion in which the Unholy Father has encouraged girls and young women to take inspiration and strength from the Blessed Virgin to lead a life of chastity and purity. She who is, and has always been considered, the highest of her sex must, on reflection, stand for everything that the Pope hates.
On countless occasions Francis has shown what he thinks of those who lead an obvious Christian life. He has famously spoken against “excessive doctrinal security”. He has expressed his suspicion that those who are married in church and lead a good Chridtian life are “dead inside”.
One can reach, from all this, only one conclusion: that had Francis lived in the time of the Blessed Virgin he would have considered her a hypocrite, an insufferable bigot and, most probably, an outright fraud.
This without considering the “excessive doctrinal security”, which the Blessed Virgin possessed in the highest measure. How Francis would have hated, if he had lived in the same village, this most angelic woman, this very embodiment of purity and unshakeable Faith! He would have called her “dead inside”, for sure, and he would have thrown at her many of the vast collection of insults this man has directed at good Catholics; only with much more energy, because this particular “good Catholic” was so astonishingly good.
Dirty minds do not get purity. Sanctity is, to them, hypocrisy. The Unholy Father, who evidently has not recited the Litany of Loreto for very long and has long forgotten everything he might have learned about the Blessed Virgin, went so far as to even opine that the Blessed Virgin might have felt betrayed and deceived at the foot of the Cross.
“Virgin most faithful”? Not to Francis, for sure.
This Pope has a dirty mind. He lives in the middle of dirt, under the very roof of a notorious, scandalous homosexual. All his thoughts – and all his praise – go in that direction. The slum is his natural habitat; not, mind, because he wants to elevate the soul out of it; but because he enjoys the way the slum works and thinks. This is why he allows (or instructs) his priests to give communion to unmarried, adulterous slum dwellers, as if it was just bread. This is why he despises so much the orderly, prayerful, quietly Christian life of so many good Catholics.
This is why, make no mistake about that, one like him can only despise the Blessed Virgin, or consider her a hypocrite and a fraud; and also the reason why he tries to knock her down of her heavenly throne by making of her just an angry mother with a rebellious mind. The devil, when confronted with holy water, will instinctively and viscerally hate it, and he will tell you that it contains germs.
Dirty minds don't get sanctity and purity; when confronted with them, their reaction is indifference, slander, or contempt. Francis does not even begin to understand the Blessed Virgin. His dirty mind is of that kind that does not aspire to purity, but rather wants to dirty it.
I wonder if he ever recited once the Litany of Loreto, believing in what he was saying.
‘From the beginning and before all ages God selected and prepared for His only Son the Mother from whom, having taken flesh, He would be born in the blessed fullness of time; He loved her by herself more than all creatures, and with such a love as to find His delight in a singular way in her. That is why, drawing from the treasures of His divinity, He endowed her, more than all the angels and saints, with such an abundance of heavenly gifts that she was always completely free from sin, and that, all beautiful and perfect, she appeared in such a plenitude of innocence and holiness that, except God’s, no greater than hers can be conceived, and that no mind but the mind of God can measure it.’
Pope Pius IX, Bull Ineffabilis Deus, December 1854.
“The Gospel does not tell us anything: if she spoke a word or not… She was silent, but in her heart, how many things told the Lord! ‘You, that day, this and the other that we read, you had told me that he would be great, you had told me that you would have given him the throne of David, his forefather, that he would have reigned forever and now I see him there!’ Our Lady was human! And perhaps she even had the desire to say: ‘Lies! I was deceived!’”
Pope Francis, Daily Morning Blabbering, December 2013
Believe it or not, these words come from a Pope:
The Gospel does not tell us anything: if she spoke a word or not… She was silent, but in her heart, how many things told the Lord! ‘You, that day, this and the other that we read, you had told me that he would be great, you had told me that you would have given him the throne of David, his forefather, that he would have reigned forever and now I see him there!’ Our Lady was human! And perhaps she even had the desire to say: ‘Lies! I was deceived!’
We are being punished with a Pope who does not read the Gospel, does not recite memorised prayers, and does not believe in what has been handed down to him. In fact, one can make a rather convincing case that we have a Pope who does not believe in God; certainly not in your grandmother’s.
The last example of this sad state of things emerged whilst I was on holiday, with my teeth happily sinking in the panettone. Still, I do think I should spend some words on this, lest a bus should knock me down and put an end to this vale of tears and I were to be told, in the other world, that I have remained silent about this episode in this one.
The way I always understood it, the Blessed Virgin is a perfect example of complete trust and utter obedience. In fact, it is this trust and obedience that has been not only extolled during the centuries, but brought as example to, among others, countless girls and young women in their formative years. It should be the most obvious thing on this planet that the Blessed Virgin does not doubt, does not complain, and does not feel betrayed by God. Therefore, the very idea that the Blessed Virgin may ever have had the desire to say “Lies! I was deceived!” strikes me as impious and utterly offensive of the Blessed Virgin.
When the Archangel Gabriel appears to her at the Annunciation she poses one very natural question, a question born of the obvious circumstances but certainly not out of doubt; and upon receiving the answer she promptly and unquestioningly accepts God’s will: a decision, by the way, which clearly puts her reputation on the line, and which requires a courage and – let us say it again – an unquestioning abandonment to God’s will, the like of which is barely imaginable in these times of widespread licence, when even Popes think they should not “judge”. Mary, therefore, accepts without questioning something apt to put her reputation in the gravest danger. She says: “Fiat”, not: “wait a minute”, or “mom told me never to trust what angels say”, or: “wow, just wow”. She also does not react with: “dear angel, at least promise me that there will be no suffering”, or: “I accept only if my son is going to live a splendid life and become the Roman Emperor, or such like”. She is the blessed Virgin, you see. Not a freaking Jesuit.
She simply obeys: she accepts God’s will without “ifs” or “buts”. Wonderful obedience, absolute trust, spotless abandonment to God’s will.
She is also, as Francis might or might not remember, free from original sin; which, linked to her own saintliness, makes it rather illogical to even think she might have had a doubting mind concerning everything God sent her way.
We see this in the Gospels pretty much everytime Mary is mentioned. She is told by Simeon in very plain words that a sword will pierce her heart. This is one of the “seven sorrows of Mary”, of which Francis must also have lost memory; a devotion meant to help the Neopelagian faithful to remember that Mary had the cross constantly in front of her. She is woken up in the middle of the night and must flee her own home in great haste, with a little baby, going towards an uncertain future in a foreign land (yes, this is another one of the seven sorrows). She must undergo a most painful search for her missing son (yet another one). Never do we find in the Gospel even a hint that Mary may have ever entertained a shred of doubt, revolt, disagreement, feelings of anger, disillusionment, or complaint about her own lot.
Mary keeps all in her heart. She does not forget Simeon’s words, and which mother could! She is Love, Obedience, Trust itself. Not only the Gospels, but two thousand years of Catholic Tradition tell us so. Actually, I doubt even Protestants would see things differently, at least if they still have a shred of sound Christian thinking left in them.
Not so for our humble Pope, Francis The Little. Completely oblivious of everything from Catholic dogma to the Gospels to Catholic tradition, he reshapes the Blessed Virgin according to his own fantasies in the same way as he has done it with pretty much everything else.
As I have already stated, Francis probably does not believe in God. If he does, it does not appear to be the God in which Catholics believe, and in fact it appears to be a God perfectly fine with, among other things, Jews not believing in the Divinity of His Son. If Francis does believe in the God of the Catholics, then he simply cannot think, and does not know what he says.
Francis therefore either does not believe, or doubts, or just doesn’t know jack. As a consequence, he proceeds to adapt everything Christian to his own confused way of thinking. As he doubts or does not believe himself, “excessive doctrinal security” is a problem. If he has doubts, everyone must have doubts. Even the Blessed Virgin!
In Francis’ world, unquestioning trust in God and perfect obedience are suspiciously Neopelagian, or Promethean, or whatever stupid adjective he can concoct to describe it. To him, Francis-ness is next to godliness, and it is the measure of humble orthodoxy. Whatever deviates from Francisthought must be corrected and made new; again: not stopping in front of the Blessed Virgin herself.
Francis’ Blessed Virgin is a woman from whom the whole essence of the Blessed Virgin has been removed, in order that both him and the women of the favela may not be challenged with an example too different from themselves. Francis’ fantasy creature feels – “perhaps”, he has the goodness to add, albeit only concerning the most absurd statement; relativism doubts even its own rubbish – betrayed, short changed, even lied to; she feels she was encouraged to undertake her task under false pretences; she thinks she has been advisedly deceived.
Once again, this man boggles the mind. His insolence is breathtaking. His ignorance will become the stuff of legends.
At times I think Francis might have an alcohol problem. This would explain his absurd and confused statements, together with his uncontrolled, confused, rambling way of talking; this would provide not an excuse, but at least a cause for all the unspeakable rubbish the man continues to spit out of his very humble cuff. And in fact, if any normal Catholic in possession of a normal Catholic instruction were to say not one half, but one fifth of what Francis has been saying since March his sobriety and his sanity would be openly questioned by those around him. Most certainly, no sensible Catholic would want to attend Mass in the church of a parish priest like that.
Alas, I do not think the man has an alcohol problem. His problem is his extreme form of Jesuitism, his being so much in love with himself he forgets even the most elementary decency, his strong Peronist ideology clearly shaping his Catholicism in the most minute details, his vast ignorance of even his own vast ignorance, and his boundless arrogance now fueled by a position in which every off-the-cuff statement is saluted as a daring innovation rather than another alarming example of scandalous ignorance.
The entire secular world is telling Francis he should feel free to make Christianity new, and he has the, ahem, humbleness to think he is just the man for the job; he seem to believe he is the man compared to whom even the worst antics of V II will be considered merely an appetizer. I have never heard a public man so persuaded he is just what the doctor ordered for the welfare of humanity; not even Berlusconi in his worst day would think he can tamper with the Blessed Virgin.
Francis is alternative to Catholicism. Almost every week we get new evidence for this. Should we be surprised he has even created a fantasy Blessed Virgin?
Pray for the man, and pray that he may stop being such a disgrace. One way or the other.
Read here on the Vestal Morons a very long post – actually more like an essay – about the parallelisms between Mary Poppins (as seen and loved in the unforgettable Walt Disney movie; above an excerpt in the language of angels) and the Blessed Virgin.
This is a very long post and it seems to me its (brilliant) author went a bit too far in the parallelisms, which become more and more vague and forced as the reading progresses (starting, say, from the Chimneys; with an undeservedly severe treatment of Traditionalists). Still, the first part is extremely enjoyable and, besides being very instructive – and from what I can judge, very accurate – from a theological point of view, is written with wonderful homour and thoroughly enjoyable.
Before anyone should cry “scandal” and lament the irreverence of the comparison, mat I point out that J.R.R. Tolkien himself explicitly aimed at putting in his characters (and speaking of the Blessed Virgin, in Galadriel) those traits he though fitting in order to give the reader a gentle but effective Catholic lookout on things. If one like Tolkien didn’t see anything irreverent in doing this, nor do I see it in finding or theorising traits reminding of the Blessed Virgin in the beloved Mary Poppins.
Enjoy this beautiful post!
Surprisingly, there is no trace on the Catholic blogosphere of the event that has surprised and – as it is always said, though in this case with less reason – shocked Britain on Saturday afternoon: the death of Amy Winehouse.
This is surprising because it is in my eyes not entirely consequential to condemn the perfectly a-religious (in the best of cases), booze-and-drugs lifestyle more or less directly propagated by too much of the modern pop culture, and not stop to reflect – and to admonish – when this culture actually leads to such a death.
Besides being an undoubted talent, a beautiful singing voice and a remarkably free-thinking artist in many respects, Amy Winehouse was in my eyes remarkable in another respect: a rather total lack of orientation in life. She was not one of those focused people who steel their determination in long years of obscurity until success comes to them; success had happened to her, so to speak, very early in life, and in such a casual way that she even maintained not to have a record of her first album at home. This was not a story of dogged determination, for sure.
Her famous “I don’t give a f**k” to Bono seemed rather her life motto, a motto to which she has remained faithful until it has become her undoing; a motto the more remarkable in these times where the talents of the music industry are rather strictly kept under observation, I assume for a sense of humanity besides the obvious “asset protection” reasoning.
They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “No, no, no”
are the opening verses of a – actually, rather beautiful – song of her. In the same song, we hear
I don’t ever wanna drink again
I just, ooh, I just need a friend
In thinking of the tragedy of the late Amy Winehouse, what I think the experts and the rehab clinics and the music industry managers and even the fans couldn’t give her, a sensible prayer life would have given. I do not want to say that if you pray your addiction will automatically disappear, or that you will transform yourself overnight in the embodiment of fighting spirit; but it is fair to say that even a small prayer goes a long way to avoid the worst excesses, and that when one collaborates with grace then more energy is given to tackle one’s problem, and so on.
Amy Winehouse was born in a Jewish family, but it doesn’t seem that faith ever played a role in her life. I wonder whether she ever stopped for a moment to think of the Blessed Virgin, or if she knew Her at all, or if she had any religious life at all. You see, how one can send people to rehabilitation clinics without talking to them about God is beyond me. It’s like trying to produce water without the oxygen.
Talking about Catholic oxygen, one of the most beautiful aspects of Catholicism is to be able to see the Blessed Virgin as our Heavenly Mother. Even if I were hated by my parents, or had a very troubled relationship with them, the love and respect for my Mother in Heaven would certainly encourage me to stop harming myself. This thought has been in the past the guide and consolation for innumerable orphans, or people with difficult parents. I dare to think that what has failed here was not the attention of her agents, or of her production company, but her prayer life. The first prayer leads to the second, and then comes the third. At some point, you have enough self-esteem and self-love to not appear on stage drunk like a lord, because you know that you are loved.
We know that the Blessed Virgin suffered for her every day. We know that she would have been able to intercede for her more effectively, if properly asked for. We know that it is impossible to feel loved and valuable and willingly go forth toward self-destruction; that no matter how hard the trial – and her trial, if undoubtedly self-inflicted, must have been very hard at the end – we can’t blindly abandon ourself to self-harm when we feel embraced by Her tender love. Now, Winehouse being Jewish the recourse to Mary would have been (perhaps) not in the cards; but this shows once again the beauty, wisdom, love and Truth of our wonderful Catholic religion.
Therapists, consultants, more or less loving parents, the usual entourage of officially disinterested friends: was there among them someone who just suggested to Amy Winehouse that she prays, and then prays again, and then prays some more? I haven’t found any mention anywhere. It doesn’t seem to have been part of the picture. But fame, money, an army of consultants cannot do much against one’s own ghosts, unless supernatural help is asked and received. And what are we without prayer, other than little vessels lost in the storm of life…
Therefore, when the official reason for her death is made public, we are not very likely to read what was rather probably an important part of it: lack of proper spiritual life, lack of knowledge of being an infinitely beloved soul, and lack of knowledge of the Blessed Virgin as her Heavenly Mother.
I hope that she has avoided the worst, though frankly who can say… I have prayed for her not because I think that she was more deserving than all those unknown souls who died on saturday afternoon, but because of the sadness of such a waste of life and talent, and the suffering she must have caused to her poor guardian angel, and to Mary in Heaven.
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Please click on this link to send your electronic petition against a blasphemous play, depicting among other things the Blessed Virgin as a lesbian, staged at the University of Oklahoma.
As the petition says, “blasphemy is not a legitimate form of artistic expression”.
Please take a minute of your time to help on this and forward this or the link to everyone you know.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Those who have read me for some times know that whilst my attitude toward salvation is probably – in line with my Mediterranean upbringing – more relaxed than the apocalyptic concept of some, particularly Northern European, hard-liners, I still do not indulge in complacency as far as salvation is concerned.
I obviously do not subscribe to any of the childish heresies of Medjugorje (not recognised by the Church as worthy of belief), but I am not a fan of the devotion of the Divine Mercy (recognised as worthy of belief) either. I love to think that the faciloneria of so much post V-II thinking (= the departed was such a fun chap, therefore God certainly called him to Himself to enjoy the jokes and it is well-known that in Hell Stalin, Hitler and Pol-Pot need Satan if they want to play a hand of poker) has not polluted me.
Still, in order to avoid you thinking me too harsh or tinged with unforgiving puritanism I’d like to spend some words about something that might be of interest for some reader: what I personally see the proper understanding of the Rosary in the economy of salvation in the light of the Marian promises. In doing so, I will remain (as far as I know) within the path of the strictest traditional (that is: pre-VII) understanding of them.
It is well-known that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St Dominic and Blessed Alan de la Roche giving (or confirming) the famous fifteen promises to those who faithfully and devoutly pray the rosary. It is not my intent to examine in detail the circumstances of such revelations, as the fact that they have been traditionally considered perfectly in line with Catholic teaching is sufficient to me. What is important to note here is that the Blessed Virgin clearly wanted to point out to the great advantages that faithful, devout, daily (as we know beyond doubt from the Fatima apparition) recitation of the Rosary carry with them.
I will here examine only those among the promises which I consider most strictly linked to the only real aim we have in life: salvation. I invite the reader to – if they feel so inclined – give their alternative interpretation and explain why they would give a more restrictive (or more lenient) interpretation than the one I give.
a) Promise #5:
The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
This is very strong, and the presence of such a limited number of words in the phrase doesn’t leave much space for alternative interpretations: if you recommend yourself to the Blessed Virgin by your daily effort, you are going to make it. This clearly requires that the rosary is prayed well. This also requires a contrition and consciousness of one’s own sinfulness implicit in the perceived necessity of recommending one’s soul to the Blessed Virgin. Therefore, the promise doesn’t apply to people like:
1) those who pray a distracted, shallow, rushed Rosary, whose main aim is to “get done with it”.
2) those who are not faithful in their recitation (“oh well, I pray the rosary in principle every day, but in the last months I had (fill here excuse) to do and therefore it was perhaps three times a month” would, methinks, not qualify).
3) those who do not see that they are in need of any recommendation because they are so “inclusive”, “modern” and otherwise “tolerant” and “non violent”.
Still, promise #5 is a very powerful promise and I am very glad that it was given, and in such powerful terms.
b) Promise #6:
Whosoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of Eternal Life.
This I interpret in the sense that those who pray the Rosary well (you will notice the insistence on this point) will: 1) not be driven to despair and in the end to the ultimate blasphemy, suicide, by the difficulties and crosses of life, 2) nor will they, as the saying once went, be surprised by death by being caught by the Reaper in the state of mortal sin.
This obviously doesn’t mean that the one who prays the rosary will not sin mortally – as the “if” of the last sentence makes abundantly clear – . This merely means that the sincere intention to obtain a happy death will, in this case, be helped by the Blessed Virgin with such a powerful intercession, that she will obtain for the faithful who perseveres in devoutly praying the Rosary the grace of a happy death.
c) promise #7:
Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
This echoes what has been said before. “Sacraments” here doesn’t mean “Last Rites”, and therefore the meaning is not that, a contrario, if one is knocked by a bus and dies instantly he hasn’t been praying the rosary faithfully. Confession and communion are, I think, rather meant here.
d) Promise #8:
Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary […….] at the moment of death […] shall participate in the Merits of the Saints in Paradise.
Note once again: 1) the Rosary must be recited faithfully, and 2) the promise only applies to the moment of death.
e) Promise #15:
Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
This is a bit complicated.
“Predestination” means, for a Catholic, that whilst every human being is perfectly free to make his own choices, God already knows what choices each and everyone of us will make. This, mind, does not limit our freedom more than the freedom of the football players is limited just because I happen to know, after the fact, how their match ended.
Therefore, God already knows whether each one of us is going to achieve salvation or not; but this doesn’t make us any less free in every decision we make. This promise is therefore there to give the faithful great comfort in the fact that his devotion makes it pretty likely (but not certain!) that he will, in fact, persevere in his faith, obtain a happy death and be among those whose salvation had been foreseen by God from all eternity.
These are the promises. Let us now try to put them into a practical, everyday context.
1) A person prays the rosary without devotion, just as a habit.
The promise of Mary doesn’t apply to him, because the point of praying devotedly, faithfully etc. is stressed on several occasions. Let’s not try to cheat here, as we’ll not get away with it.
2) A person prays the rosary every day, but is manifestly evil or a great sinner.
This is not in contradiction with the promises as they do not refer to saintliness in life, but to salvation at the end of it. Whilst the Rosary will be a great help (if recited properly) to one’s spiritual improvement, the recitation of the rosary is no automatic means to saintly behaviour in life.
Such a person will, therefore: a) stop praying the rosary, or b) stop praying it devoutly, thus losing the protection afforded by the heavenly promises, or c) insist in his devout recitation and in the end – and I am sorry here for you, puritan supporter of the fire and brimstone faction ;) – still manage to get a happy death by the special intercession of Mary.
Notice here that the Blessed virgin doesn’t even promise that those who devoutly pray the rosary will refrain from evil doings. The rosary works slowly, imperceptibly as Pius XII says in his encyclical letter on the matter. It doesn’t create an immediate either/or situation; on the contrary, the either/or only applies at death.
Please also notice that this doesn’t mean that a person can plan on praying the rosary, so to speak, as one pays an insurance premium and think that he can, after paying his dues, willfully go on living an evil life with the certainty of final salvation. It is obvious that such an evil intention is not compatible with the devout and faithful recitation of the rosary.
3) A person prays the rosary every day as devoutly as he can, but he is assailed by recurring doubts as the whether he will be saved, and the fact that God already knows whether he will be saved or not is, to him, not in the least reassuring.
This person can greatly benefit by the recitation of the rosary because he will know that he can have a tangible sign of his working toward his salvation one day at a time. In other words, he knows a) that as long as he perseveres there is no cause for scruples, and b) that he only has to persevere to avoid the scruples assailing him. If you suffer from scrupulosity, I doubt that there is a better cure around than your daily medicine, the Rosary.
In my eyes, this is pretty much the interpretation of the effect of praying the rosary that would have been given to a quisque de populo in – as the Italians love to say – tempi non sospetti. It seems to me that it adheres strictly to the tenor of the promises without indulging in dangerous complacency, but without losing sight of the wonderful weapon that has been put in our hands.
I can’t stress enough (and will regularly insist on this point as long as I blog) how important the Rosary is in the life of the Catholic. So much so, that it seems to me that the faithful who willingly decides not to take the habit of the daily recitation of the rosary is like the stuntman offered helmet and body protection and refusing them on the ground that he believes himself to be professional enough to escape harm.
I have written already about the beautiful site of “The Age of Mary”. Among (many) other things, the site is notable for the best narration of the Fatima events I have been able to find on the Internet up to now. I would like to spend some words about this astonishing series of historical documented facts.
Let us first say very clearly that, no matter how impressive the miracles and apparitions, as a Catholic you are not obliged to believe anything of the entire story. As in every private apparition, no belief is required of the faithful; not even in the cases publicly endorsed by the Church as worthy of belief. I would be the last one to accuse a Catholic of being a lesser one because he doesn’t believe in the Fatima apparitions.
But please allow me to say why I am one of those who do. Some of the arguments can, no doubt, be applied to other apparitions (think of Lourdes).
1) The apparitions involved children. It is apparent how a child tends to change and inflate whatever exciting event has happened to him; nay, whatever event he is requested to repeat time and again. Nothing of the sort has happened here. Infinite times the children have been requested to tell the story; infinite times they have repeated it in exactly the same way. Hundreds of sceptical and atheist enquirers eager to expose the “plot” have never succeeded in finding contradictions, exaggerations, changes of descriptions, discrepancies of whatever sort. This is not normal, and doesn’t happen just because one child (or three) happens to be uncommonly fond of precision.
2) The apparitions involved children who were, without exception, illiterate. They couldn’t have written down a story, or an agreed version, to give coherence to their claims.
3) The apparitions established a clear hierarchy – at least in the eyes of the people – among the children. Only one girl, Lucia, speaks to Mary; the older of the two siblings, Francisco, doesn’t hear her, nor does he ever pretend to do so; but his younger sister, Jacinta, hears Mary’s every word. Come on, this is a recipe for strife, we are talking here of children between seven and ten! Nothing of the sort ever happened. No rivalries, no jealousies, no attempts to make oneself important as their notoriety grows, no fights for leadership, no races to get attention. This is not normal by any adult standard, let alone by a childish one.
4) The apparitions trigger a change in the children’s behaviour. A real, observable and lasting one. They start praying for long periods at a time, when before they used to cheat on their daily rosary obligations; they start to offer all their suffering to God with a zeal and simplicity you would find in a living saint, and only after a long and conscious effort; they start practicing such harsh penances that their relatives are worried. One child can, perhaps, fall in love for a short time with his own pious dispositions; another may indulge, every now and then, in an excess of zeal; but this was three children, out of three claiming to have seen Mary, completely changing their tune and starting to behave in what can only be called an extraordinary way. Try this with your nephews and see how it goes.
5) The plain simplicity of the entire story. A poor village in the middle of Portugal. Simple, illiterate children from simple and rather poor (though not destitute) families. Monotonous conversations of Lucia with Mary; just as monotonous responses of Mary to the children. There is no glitz here, no splendour, no poetry. A planned tale would have been intriguing, the events fascinating, the words spectacularly catching, unforgettable. Nothing of the sort happens here. Plain questions, plain answers, no concessions to the theatrical.
6) Orthodoxy. Several times both the angel and Mary speak to the children; they transmit a quantity of information. None of it is less than absolutely orthodox. Try to invent that as a group of three seven-to-ten-years-old children, and good luck to you. This of the orthodoxy is, to me, actually the first criterium of every claim of apparition. This is why I, like many others, despise the Medjugorje affair so much.
7) Public character. One of the unique features of the Fatima apparition is the utter public character of the entire matter. Never before had Marian apparitions been announced, and punctually delivered, in front of a plurality of people. Granted, not everyone could perceive the various phenomena; but enough of them could as to make the event a truly public display of miraculous activity. We do not know why not all were able to enjoy the extraordinary phenomena more than we know why Francisco was not allowed to hear, or Jacinta to speak. But this is what happened all along, with various people affected in various way, and a multitude of them affected forever.
8 ) Memory. Some of the apparitions contained longish conversations; all of them went above what a child can usually remember. Prayers are repeated to them a couple of times and their content is etched in their memory forever. Never they say that they can’t remember what was said, never they have hesitations. Still, at times they forget the implications (for example, they don’t reflect that Lucia won’t be killed, because Mary forecast a long life to her; but that Mary says so, they never forget), showing to be in normal “child mode” most of the times, in another stunning contrast to their behaviour related to the apparitions. These children are stunningly normal in their being children, and extraordinary in whatever pertains to the apparition.
Fatima is, truly, unique even among the Marian apparitions considered worthy of faith. It richly deserves the central place it has rapidly gained in the heart of Catholics. Not even 100 years after the events, you’ll rarely hear a Rosary recited without the “Fatima prayer”.
I invite you to read the entire story from the beautifully made Internet site (intelligently divided for you in easy-to-digest tidbits) and become aware of the unique nature of the extraordinary events in Fatima. Your belief in Fatima, once acquired, will make it so much easier for you to start what the Blessed Virgin so often recommended to the children: daily recitation of the Rosary.
Has a priest ever told you anything about the rosary? If he has, you can count yourself among a tiny and fortunate minority of the faithful. More likely, your priest has rather preferred to entertain you about so-called anthropogenic global warming, social justice, the necessity of not kicking the cat, and such like. Let us correct this unfortunate situation with some short remarks.
There are some regional variations of the rosary and every faithful can adjust some parts as he likes. In short, a typical rosary would be recited this way:
1) Sign of the Cross. Creed of the Apostles; Pater Noster; three Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima prayer.
2) Five decades each composed of the following: Pater noster; ten Hail Marys; Glory Be; Fatima Prayer. At the beginning of each decade you can introduce a short pause to reflect on the mystery and/or to ask Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin for a particular grace.
3) “Hail, Holy Queen”. Sign of the Cross.
During the three Hail Marys of the introduction you can meditate on the three Theological Virtues (Hope, Faith and Charity). During each of the ten Hail Marys of every decade you can meditate on the traditional mysteries of the day or substitute them with some other meditation you prefer. The traditionally used mysteries are – in this context – 15 episodes of the life of Our Lord or of the Blessed Virgin. They are divided into groups of five, whereas every day you meditate on a different set of five mysteries, one mystery for every decade. The five mysteries added for some reason by John Paul II are not traditional and are therefore not considered here, but again there is no obligation as to what is the object of the meditation.
The way to pray (and the beauty of the rosary) is to allow your lips to regularly go through the Hail Marys whilst keeping your mind fixed on the relevant mystery. The mind being what it is, you’ll discover that you are easily distracted but the fact that you are vocally (much better than mentally) reciting the Hail Marys will help your mind to wander its thoughts on the meaning of the words of the Hail Mary and failing that, the vocal recitation will contribute to your fast recovery from your distraction.
Traditionally, a vocal recitation of the prayers will not require you to be sure that you never, ever lose concentration (and you will!). What will initially happen is a constant bouncing of your mind from the meditation to the words of the Hail Mary to what you want to eat for dinner and back to the words of the Hail Mary or to the meditation, in a constant play of wandering thoughts whilst still remaining more or less anchored in the meditation. In time, you will discover that you become more and more focused on the mysteries and your rosary becomes more spiritual, more relaxed (because you are not constantly “trying to stay focused”) and somewhat more rapid.
When a good practice has been attained, allow some twenty minutes for the rosary in its entirety (meaning here: the daily five decades). You can split the rosary into its components but if you interrupt a decade you’ll have to recite it again from the start. To remain attentive it is a tradition to imagine that every Hail Mary is a rose you are giving to Mary, with the rosary being a beautiful garland. You want your garland to be beautiful and your roses fresh, right?
The rosary is a beautiful way to transform boring times of your day into an uplifting experience: for instance whilst waiting for the train or as an alternative to reading junk newspapers during your commute. A complete decade will take you (with practice) not more than three or four minutes. You’ll see how refreshingly beautiful it is.
Many are the Internet sites dedicated to the Rosary. Therein you will find descriptions of the mysteries and visual helps to aid your meditation efforts. The spiritual meaning of the rosary will also be discussed more in-depth and you will often find interesting historical information about the history and evolution of this beautiful devotion. Two links are given here on the right, under “Devotions”. Please do not neglect to read the Promises of Mary to the Christians who recite the rosary!
Here ends this little introduction. I hope that you will find the Rosary uplifting and that you will one day start his recitation as a daily practice. I have found the practice extremely beneficial and cannot imagine a life without it anymore.
Best wishes to you.