The children have household chores which are organized in rotating lists. Everyone knows what should be done and how to do it. There is no need to challenge the chores. But challenge them they do. The challenges come in different forms. Sometimes the challenge is direct: I HATE washing dishes. Sometimes the challenge is explanatory: “Susie” down the street doesn’t do chores. She just does homework. Sometimes the challenge is indirect:
Mother: “Have you cleaned your room?”
Child: “It sure looks clean to me.”
Mother: “Are the clothes picked up and put away? Does your bed look like something you could actually sleep in? Can you see anything of the surface of your desk?”
Child: “Well……..” [child plods upstairs to bedroom]
[Thirty minutes later, child emerges from bedroom and meanders downstairs.]
Mother: “Are you finished cleaning your room?”
Child: “Oh yes, I am finished.”
A check of the “finished” room by mom reveals socks and shirts stuffed under the bed, clothes draped over dressers and an array of beads, buttons, cards, yarn and markers strewn across the floor.
Parents feed, clothe, care for and pray for their children. They love, hug, protect, guide, nourish, nurture and cry for their children. They cheer for them, support them and discipline them. The entitlement era in which we live can lead children to believe, even if everything is not being handed to them, that everything ought to be handed to them. Often so little is asked of children. Yet, despite the little that is required, at times they balk.
And that is what many of us do to the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Through private revelation, she has asked that we pray the Rosary. It is true we Catholics can ignore private revelations if we so decide. But it is also true that it is useful to understand the role of private revelation in helping us to live our faith more fully. Private revelations never “surpass or correct” the Revelation of Christ (CCC 67). Nor do we interpret private revelations on our own. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church carefully guides us in recognizing which private revelations are authentic (CCC 67). One revelation deemed authentic by Holy Mother Church is the message of Fatima.
Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 1917. She told the children that God wished to “establish a devotion” to her Immaculate Heart. Our Lady showed the children a vision of hell. In response to this vision, Lucia (one of the children who saw the vision) has commented: “… our good Heavenly Mother had promised to take us to Heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fright and horror.” (Letter dated August 31, 1941 from Sr. Lucia to the Bishop of Liberia)
The Fatima message asks that we pray the Rosary on five First Saturdays with the intent of making reparation to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. We are also asked to receive Holy Communion, go to Confession, and meditate on one or more of the mysteries of the Rosary for fifteen minutes. All of these also need to be done with the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and all must be observed on five consecutive First Saturdays. Our Lady promised that in the end “my Immaculate Heart will triumph,” and that honoring her through this devotion of reparation will help to bring that triumph about.
We are warned at Fatima of an inevitable punishment if we continue to offend God through our sins. But if this punishment comes, Lucia tells us, it will come only because we have prepared our own punishment:
And let us not say that it is God who is punishing us in this way; on the contrary it is people themselves who are preparing their own punishment. In his kindness God warns us and calls us to the right path, while respecting the freedom he has given us; hence people are responsible.” [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “The message of Fatima.” Message from Sister Lucia in 1982 to Holy Father.]
Mary is the Mother of God. She is also our Mother in heaven to whom we can turn in all our troubles. She cares for us, prays for us and deserves our love in return. CCC 971 tells us: “From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…” “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it.” (CCC 964)
Heaven is asking us through this devotion to help bring peace to the world. Mary weeps for us. We are her children and we ought to honor her. Honoring the message of Fatima is one way to honor to her. We can trust that our Holy Mother knows what is best for us more than we do ourselves. Mary loves us with her most pure and Immaculate Heart. Are we so very busy or preoccupied that what she asks is simply too much for us? It is good to ponder now and then the simple truth that she asks so little of us.