Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mom's Remedy for the Mess

There’s nothing like orders to clean up a really messy room to make a kid feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
            Unfortunately, the experience doesn’t disappear in adulthood; it just changes shape. It might be a tall stack of papers to sort and file or an arduous, complicated project at work. Relationships and spiritual lives get messy and problematic too.
            I tell my kids not to focus on the whole mess, but just to take one step at a time. First, accept that it’s going to take a while. Then start by finding one thing that they know what to do with, and put it away. Then go on to something else.  Whenever I do that, I find that after a while, I look up and a lot more has been done than I would have expected. Eventually, the job is done, and I’m amazed that I did it.
            We can do big things—bigger than we’d think—if we break them down into smaller steps and work persistently.
            No real news here—every self-help book will tell you that. But it’s true for the spiritual life too.

Our culture, our world is a real mess right now, and the idea of any one of us getting it in order is too ridiculous to be overwhelming; it is hopeless.
          Some skeptics question why God doesn’t do something to help our ailing world. God asks us in turn why we don’t do something, indeed do the things we’ve been asked to do. We all know our own lives need some work, and that’s a great place to start. Asking Him, in prayer, for His help is also key. He doesn’t impose Himself upon us; He waits to be asked. 
            What many don’t know is that He has asked us to do more, has sent a “peace plan”—a strategy for cleaning up the world’s mess. The Lord sent it a while ago, and it’s been partly heeded, but not sufficiently. His messenger: His own Mother; the setting: Fatima, 1917.
            Now don’t stop reading because of queasy connotations you may have due to the little you know about Fatima. Unfortunately, the artwork usually associated with the Fatima message has a narrow appeal, and can be a turn-off to many others. But don’t judge the message by its “cover”.
            Don’t stop reading because anything Marian seems idolatrous. Christmas, after all, is Marian. That is, there wouldn’t be a Christmas without Mary. The Bible testifies not only that she was the one through whom we have a Savior born to us, not only did she give God the glory in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56), but also that she was a faithful disciple throughout His life, and present at His death, when most of His followers had abandoned Him.  She didn’t bother going to His tomb with the other women because she knew His body didn’t need any spices; she believed He would rise. But she was there with the disciples when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. If, as the Bible says, Jesus could appear to Saul and Ananias some years after His Ascension (Acts 9:1-19), if God could send Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch and then bodily “catch him up” and spirit him away to another district (Acts 8:26-40), why couldn’t He send someone to us in our day?
1917 Portuguese Masonic newspaper
            And don’t stop reading because you don’t believe in miracles period. The miracles at Fatima were not only stupendous, but well-documented. Some 70,000 people showed up on October 13, 1917, the day that Mary promised a big miracle. Many of them didn’t believe it. Some were journalists, prepared to scoff and publish to the world that the Fatima messages were a hoax. They ended up groveling on the ground when the sun appeared to dance in the sky and then fall toward the earth.  When the sun went back to its place, everyone found their clothes and the ground—which had been sopping wet from much rain—to be perfectly dry. The articles the journalists ended up printing were very different than what they expected. They testified to the miracle witnessed by tens of thousands.
             In addition to the testimony of thousands, including skeptics astounded to witness a miracle, there is the fulfilled prophecy. In July 1913, the three shepherd children to whom Mary appeared said that she warned that Russia would “spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church.” How could three Portuguese peasant children know about the upcoming “Red October” in faraway Russia, when Communism would erupt in the Bolshevik Revolution, three months before it happened?
by Fr. Andrew Apostoli
The Fatima story is too big to cover adequately here. There are many, many resources out there. For starters, see Ignatius Press site: Fatima for Today

The point is that at Fatima, Mary made it very clear that the individual does indeed make a difference. First, she asked for individuals to obey the Church’s teachings and live in God’s grace, to pray the Rosary daily (see my earlier blog post defending this Christ-centered prayer), and perform penitential acts for love of God and to save souls.
            There’s a big controversy among Fatima followers as to whether or not Mary’s request for consecration has been fulfilled or not. I think the focus is misplaced. It’s easier to blame officials than to recognize one’s own responsibility. There’s a pretty good case for the consecration being fulfilled. That means the missing piece is us. And there's more to it than the Rosary. Many Fatima believers (like myself until recently) may be oblivious to another related request: the Five First Saturdays.
            It can be hard to believe that something as simple as a Rosary can make a difference.  But each of those 50+ little prayers making up each Rosary, day after day, have the effect of drops of water. Even stone gives way to water droplets—if there are enough of them. The Iron Curtain rusted from being sprinkled with countless daily Rosaries and crumbled under the wrecking ball of John Paul II's consecration.
          And so, each of us can make a difference. One person praying one prayer, can lead to more prayers and more pray-ers, and thus exponentially more prayers.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Mary’s Feast today—the Solemnity of the Mother of God—than by making a New Year’s resolution to heed her requests.