The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde October 13 during Mass for the biennial Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
The diocesan church of Arlington is on pilgrimage. Yes, today, we have come on pilgrimage to Mary's house, to this Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We have come on pilgrimage on October 13, the 90th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.
Our pilgrimage today is our response, rooted in God's grace, to Mary's pilgrimage to us. Her pilgrimage began on May 31, on that day when we recall in the sacred liturgy Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Yes, on May 31, Mary began to visit us. The International Pilgrim Statute of Our Lady of Fatima has visited parishes and schools of our diocese, including our young people at Work Camp this past June. Today, Mary accompanies us on this pilgrimage to her house, she who is the patroness of these United States under the title of her Immaculate Conception.
What is the advice that Mary has been giving us on her pilgrimage to our diocese? The message of Fatima: prayer, especially the prayer of the rosary, penance, and conversion of heart. Yes, Mary has invited us ever more deeply to pray daily the rosary so that we might be in touch with the principle events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, so that we could relive those mysteries — the Joyful, the Luminous, the Sorrowful, the Glorious — in the events and circumstances of our lives.
Last Sunday in his Angelus message, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, said, "Presenting herself as Our Lady of the Rosary, she insistently recommended the daily recitation of the rosary to the three little shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, in order to obtain the end of the war. Let us also accept the Virgin's motherly request, pledging to recite the rosary with faith for peace in families, nations and throughout the world."
Our Lady, in her visit to us, also urged us to do penance, to repair the damage resulting from our own individual sins and from the sins of others in our society, especially sins of sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament, and sins against life and the dignity of the human person. Mary also reminded us to be converted, to turn back to Jesus, to His infinite mercy that we might be strengthened and healed. And the clearest way we do that is through the celebration of the sacrament of penance. That sacrament is our return home! So many of you today have experienced the rich mercy of our God in this sacrament.
Our Lady of the Fatima, the Lady in White, promises us that, "at the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph." Yes, sisters and brothers, her message has been to each one of us in our individual vocations: the episcopate, the priesthood, the consecrated life, the faithful life of the laity. Her message has also been to each one of us with our distinctive cultural background, for our diocesan church of Arlington is so enriched by the multi-cultured ethnicity and expressions of faith of so many of you.
During his flight to Brazil last May, our Holy Father commented on this richness of faith and the devotion of Our Lady that stems from that faith when he said, "Thus we see that she herself, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, and our Mother, is present on the various continents and on different continents she reveals herself as Mother always in the same way, showing her special closeness to every people."
"I find this very beautiful," he continued. "She is always Mother of God, she is always Mary, yet she is, so to speak, ‘inculturated:' She has her face, her own special countenance, in Guadalupe, Aparecida, Fatima, Lourdes, in all countries of the earth."
As we listened to the message of Our Lady of Fatima during her pilgrimage among us, our unceasing prayer has been, "Our Lady of Fatima, open our hearts to Christ." Why have we prayed that way, unceasingly? If our hearts are open to Christ, we can indeed welcome Him to come and to dwell within us, allowing the Holy Spirit to refashion us in Christ's image. If our hearts are open to Christ, we can more readily listen to Mary's advice at Cana, "Do whatever he tells you." And what does Jesus tell us? "Repent, be converted and believe in the Gospel." If our hearts are open to Christ, we can indeed obey Mary's message, her motherly counsel at Fatima, her counsel echoing the advice of her Son, "pray, do penance and be converted." If our hearts are open to Christ, we can see everyone through His eyes; seeing therefore the infinite worth of every human being, from conception to natural death.
Within that vision, our understanding of and involvement are expanded and strengthened as we deal with so many issues in our day: the acts of injustice against life, beginning with abortion; the denial of the human dignity that occurs within pornography; violence, domestic and otherwise; and the immigration issue which must always be rooted in the twin principles of respect for every human being and, yes, of the right of every nation to secure its borders.
Yes, we have been praying, "Our Lady of Fatima, open our hearts to Christ." But what is the kind of heart that will be opened to Christ? Is it not a heart like Mary's? In today's Preface you will hear a beautiful description, a summary of her heart: wise and obedient, new and gentle, undivided and pure, steadfast and watchful.
Our Lady of Fatima came on pilgrimage to us, and so today, with grateful hearts, we have come on pilgrimage with her to her house. We praise her in the words of our first reading: "You are the glory of Jerusalem, the surpassing joy of Israel; you are the splendid boast of our people." You are the hope of Arlington! And, like her, we ask that we may consider over and over again in our hearts, as she did, the Word of the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, this day of pilgrimage is coming to an end and soon we will return to our diocese, renewed, refreshed, to live with hearts open to Christ every day, so that, like Mary, we may allow Christ to take flesh in us and through us be present in a world hungry for truth, hope, love and life. Once again, we lift up our prayer, "Our Lady of Fatima, open our hearts to Christ." Amen.