The Virgin Mary keeps alive the spirit that combats the economic crisis and the lack of values in the world, said Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras and head of Caritas Internationalis, during a Mass he celebrated with some 20 bishops and 360 priests. Hundreds of thousands of faithful also attended the ceremonies at the shrine of Fatima, in Portugal, on May 13, 2009, as the Church marked 92 years since the first apparition. Here is a translation of his homily, as posted on the official website of the shrine (www.santuario-fatima.pt):
"On the 13th of May, at ‘Cova da Iria’, there appeared the Virgin Mary…" With much joy and happiness Fatima and the entire world have rejoiced for the past ninety-two years, at this unmerited great gift of the loving presence of Our Lady!
I am thankful for the honor accorded to me by His Excellency Bishop António Augusto dos Santos Marto, of presiding over this solemn celebration, and wish first of all, to deliver to you the greetings and love of the people of God that peregrinates in the Honduras, my country of origin. It is a little country of only 112,000 square kilometers and seven million people, but these people love the Virgin Mary intensely, under the name and patronage of Our Lady of Suyapa, precisely because Mary walks among our people.
The figure of Mary, venerated as Mother of Jesus of the Church, stands out in the life of the Church. Since the dawn of evangelization one cannot count the communities which found in Her the closest model for discovering how to be true disciples and missionaries of Jesus.
It is with great joy that we recognize that She has joined with each of our people in their pilgrimage, delving deeply into the fabric of their history and receiving their noblest and most significant attitudes. The various invocations and shrines throughout the world witness to the close presence of Mary and reveal the faith and confidence that we feel in Her.
The Virgin belongs to us and we think of Her as our Mother and Sister. The history of most shrines throughout the world gives testimony to Mary’s special love for the insignificant ones of this world. Marian devotion, with its multiple cultural expressions, tells us that the Gospel has taken in White, Indian, Creole, Black and Mestizo features, as shown by Mary’s apparitions, thus revealing the compassionate and maternal face of God towards His people.
John Paul II called Her "Mother and Evangelizer of the world, Star of the New Evangelization" and invited us to implore Her for "the strength to announce with courage the Word while working in the new evangelization, in order to strengthen hope in the world".
When Our Lady first appeared at Fatima, it looked like all hope was lost. Terrible events threatened the world. But She came to bring us the hope that springs from the Divine Providence of a God Who is love and Who doesn’t abandon the work of His hands: the hope that Pope Benedict XVI spoke so much about in his encyclical letter "Spe Salvi", when he says:
"Human life is a road. Where to? How to find the direction? Life is like a sea voyage through the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage during which we look for the stars which can indicate the way to us. The real stars of our life are the people who knew how to live righteously. They are lights of hope. Jesus Christ is certainly the light par excellence, the Sun that shines on all the darkness of history. But, in order to come to Him, we also need lights closer to us, people who give light by reflecting the light of Christ, thus offering guidance for our voyage. Now, who better than Mary could be the star of hope for us, She Who with Her ‘yes’, opened the door of our world to God Himself, She who became the living Ark of the Covenant, in which God was made flesh, made one of us and staked His tent in our midst (cf. Jn 1, 14)? (Spe Salvi, 49)".
Now our world finds itself sunken in deep crises of Faith, ethics and humanity, and seems to have lost the sense of morality. One does not know where the border between good and evil lies anymore. It could very well be that one possesses a rich purse of valuables, but does not have values. The financial crisis we are living right now is simply a symptom of this. The invisible hand which supposedly should guide the market has become a hand that is dishonest and full of greed.
Also today, with the example and help of the Virgin, Christian communities continue the mission of bringing people to meet Christ and, therefore, we invoke Her again as Star of the new evangelization.
To the eyes and hearts of believers, Mary appears as a:
a) Woman of faith: She accepts and makes the project of God the Father Her own. With Her ‘yes’, She invites us to open our hearts to trust in God and to confidently abandon ourselves to His providential guidance.
In Her we have learned how to discover the maternal face of God, rich in compassion and mercy, and to trust in His fatherly love.
As Mother of Jesus, She shows us the "blessed Fruit of Her womb", "Way, Truth and Life", of Whom we want to be disciples, and being full of the Holy Spirit, She teaches how to turn the different moments of human life into history of Salvation.
b) Woman of charity: With Her eyes fixed on Her children and their needs, as at Cana in Galilee, Mary helps us to keep alive the attitudes of attention, service, commitment and generosity, which ought to distinguish the disciples of Her Son. She also points out the proper pedagogy, making it possible that the poor in every Christian community feel at home" (NMI 50).
c) Woman of Hope: Next to the Cross of Jesus, where She begot us anew as Her children, She keeps following the sorrows of our suffering people, inviting the disciples of Her Son to travel with coherence, and daring the road to a closer proximity with others, in order to build more justice and solidarity and to show a new "imagination in charity".
d) Mother and Educator of communities of missionary disciples: She encourages communion and teaches a style of shared living in fraternity, in attention to and acceptance of our neighbor, especially the poor and needy. In our communities, Her strong presence has enriched and will keep enriching the maternal dimension of the Church and her welcoming attitude, which turns the Church into "home and school of communion" (NMI 43) and into a spiritual space that prepares people for their mission.
Mary, mother of missionary disciples, also walks with us. She does this as a disciple, because She firmly believed that all that was announced by the Lord would come to be. She does this as missionary Herself because, unlike the apostles who proclaim the Word, She begot Jesus, the Word of God, the content of the apostolic proclamation. She walks with us as a charitable woman, because She offers Her own being, Her intercession and Her shrine so that our needs may be met. She walks as the new Ark of the Covenant inhabited by the living Word of God; and also as handmaid of the Lord, because, by Her listening and obedience She has experienced the great things the Almighty has done in Her and with Her. She is, above all, a model of the missionary disciple who opens his life to the Trinitarian salvific event.
Mary, Mother of the Church, joins the apostles and the disciples in Pentecost. Together with them, She awaits for the full light of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14, 25; 16, 13). Like them, She accomplishes the characteristic process of a faith which grows in the understanding and the practice of the salvific project of the Father (cf. Lk 8, 15-21).
But there is another very important aspect which I can’t fail to mention: the Virgin of Fatima brought us the message of the Holy Rosary which has not become obsolete, as some would argue.
|Procession of the statue of Our Lady at the shrine of Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 2009, in front of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.|
The Rosary is a short summary of the Gospel and it flows deep into our souls, so that we may feel the echo of God’s Good News. It is like a seed which, once placed in the ground, germinates, grows and ripens, giving fruits of life: the fruits of the Kingdom.
The Rosary is a prayer which is not limited to simple repetition, as if one lacked creativity, but it is rather like a watermill wheel, from which every move brings something new.
The Rosary is like a sea shell which echoes every sound of the sea. We don’t tire of listening to it when we place it close to our ears.
The Rosary is like a crown of flowers which princes placed on the heads of their beloved ones. Each rose and gesture forms a beautiful love poem. This is how we take into our hands this Rosary – or crown of roses – in order to come and be with Jesus and Mary, in the love of the Most Holy Trinity.
That is why Paul VI said that "if the Rosary is not a contemplative prayer, then it is a body without a soul, a corpse" (Marialis Cultus, 47).
Therefore, to pray the Rosary is much more than it seems. The important thing about the Rosary is that, by limiting prayer to a few words and repeating them slowly, the heart keeps on absorbing interiorly the light of God which shined on Mary and thus we are led to serving the world, which is what characterized Her.
The Rosary, to sum up, is centered on the contemplation of the Gospel, in union with the One Who treasured all these things and reflected on them in Her heart (Lk 2, 19).
In each decade of the Rosary we rest lovingly on the agitation of our breathing, until in our praying hearts we see emerge an interior dynamic which will remove from our lives all inertia so that we may fly high into the depths of God.
Finally: in the recent Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life of the Church, we were urged to give more and more importance to the prayerful reading of the Word of God. Here we also find the biblical prayer of the Hail Mary as a school of prayer which accompanies the spiritual exercise of the Lectio Divina (Divine Lesson).
The ‘Hail Mary’ is a school of biblical prayer.
If we become aware of the value of each of its words, our prayer will grow more in the Holy Spirit.
We don’t need a word that will give us the initial ‘push’, because this was already given to us in the ‘Our Father’, with the cry of ‘Abba’, which remains on the horizon of every Christian prayer.
With the ‘Hail Mary’ we deepen our prayer.
Like the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, the ‘Hail Mary’ has the movements that reproduce the heart’s palpitations, doubly prayerful movements of praise and supplication.
The first movement is of praise and begins with ‘Hail Mary’. The second is of supplication and begins with ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God’.
The beautiful thing is that while we address Mary with praise and supplication, we, at the same time, join Her in addressing Jesus, Who is the motive of our praise and the basis of every invocation. We relive with Mary the salvific mysteries of Her Son and with Her we contemplate them in our hearts.
At the same time, with Her, we may together ask for the intervention of the Lord in our personal needs.
The Rosary is interesting and always new: it is a tremendous spiritual exercise. With this privileged method of prayer, our hearts live in close proximity to Mary, to Jesus and to the current needs of everyone. That is why it is something opportune that will never cease.
May Our Lady of Fatima, Who first conceived Jesus Christ in Her Heart and in Her womb, continue to be the mother and model of fruitful missionary disciples in the Church of Portugal and in all churches throughout the world. May She guide us to the new pastoral and spiritual way so that all of us who venerate the Blessed Mother, may have life in Jesus Christ. Amen.