Today, the Saturday after Corpus Christi, 16 Jun 2012, is the feast day of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. In recent weeks I have been reading through ‘Fatima in Lucia’s own words’ (1976) and one of the things Our Lady said during the apparition of 13 Jun 1917 has been capturing my attention. ‘My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.’ Obviously what Our Lady said was important, so I’m going to do my best – with God’s grace – to try and understand it.
The longer version goes like this, and deserves pondering. “Are you suffering a great deal? Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”
So what might Our Lady have meant by ‘refuge’? As a Jewess she would have been very familiar with the concept of a city of refuge as explained in the Book of Numbers 35:9-33. If person A murdered person B, then the appointed ‘avenger of blood’, probably a family member of Person B, could take the life of Person A if they came across him or her. In the case of an accidental death, or in a case that wasn’t clear cut, the person who killed could flee to the city of refuge. He or she would have to explain their situation at the city gates before being admitted. Once inside they were safe from the avenger of blood as long as they stayed inside the city walls. To return home safely one of two things had to happen, either a community enquiry that found them not guilty or the death of the high priest.
Through our sins each of us is guilty of the death of Jesus. He knows that most of us had no idea of the enormity of what we were doing when we sinned. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. (Luke 23:34) Thus to Our Lady we can go, and pour out the misery of our sins, gaining access to her Immaculate Heart through an act of consecration to that lovable Heart. Once inside, she pleads for forgiveness for us before the just Judge, winning us time to change our lives and obtain mercy.
What does Our Lady mean by saying she is the ‘way that leads to God’? To answer this, let’s look at the simple requests she made at Fatima and see what capacity they have to lead souls to God.
The first thing Our Lady asked of Bl Francisco, Bl Jacinta and Lucia was to be faithful to a monthly meeting with her, in their case the 13th of the month. We need to allow her regular space in our lives for her to be able to mold us and lead us closer to God.
The second thing Our Lady asked these children was whether they were willing to endure suffering as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners. It is really interesting that when Lucia was later questioned whether Our Lady had asked her to pray for sinners that she was able to say ‘no’, because Our Lady asked for sacrifices for sinners. We could conclude that prayer alone is insufficient, and that to win the grace of a conversion for someone it is the sacrifices offered that are important.
The third thing Our Lady asked was to pray the Rosary every day. Without prayer we have no hope of developing a relationship with God and coming closer to Him. We’d have to conclude that the vast majority haven’t been very good at developing a regular prayer life, otherwise Our Lady would not have had to repeat her requests for prayer each and every time the good Lord permits her to appear to souls. And what is the Rosary but a 15 minute prayer time where in company with Mary we contemplate the face of Jesus in the important events of His life. The Rosary leads is directly to Jesus.
The next things Our Lady asked for were conversion and particular reparation for sins committed against her Heart. By conversion she meant turning away from all the sins in our lives and seeking forgiveness from God and the power to change in the Sacrament of Penance. Often she promised that if someone converted, then they would be healed during the year. By asking for reparation to her Immaculate Heart she revealed that offences against her Heart were a major cause of people never getting into heaven. It only takes a few moments to ponder what Our Lady went through on Calvary, and the depths of the love of Jesus towards her, to begin to comprehend how much we owe her and how offended Jesus is if we don’t treasure her love.
All of these things come together very neatly in Our Lady’s request for the five First Saturdays :
Message given to Lucia (Fatima visionary) on 10th December 1925
Christ Child: Have compassion on the Heart of your most Holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.
Virgin Mary: Look, my daughter, at my heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me, and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess (may be done during the period eight days before or after), receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.
In the five First Saturdays are contained the monthly meeting, the Rosary, a sacrifice of time, conversion via the Sacrament of Penance, the intention of reparation and the meeting of meetings with Jesus in Holy Communion. Each part leads us closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
If these things are not regular parts of your life, ask Our Lady, especially on this feast day, for the grace to make them regular parts of your life ; where you can find refuge and the secure way that leads directly to God. What a wise and loving Mother in heaven we have who provides us with this simple plan to help her children return to God!
Prayer of Reparation to Our Lady (appropriate for First Saturdays and the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
O most holy Virgin and our Mother, we listen with grief to the complaints of your Immaculate Heart, surrounded with the thorns which ungrateful souls place therein at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. Moved by the ardent desire of loving you as our Mother, and of promoting a true devotion to your Immaculate Heart, we prostrate ourselves at your feet to prove the sorrow we feel for the grievances that souls cause you, and to atone, by means of our prayers and sacrifices, for the offences with which souls return your tender love. Obtain for them, and for us, the pardon of so many sins. A word from you will obtain grace and amendment for us all. Hasten, O Lady, the conversion of sinners, that they may love Jesus and cease to offend the Lord, already so much offended, and so that they will not fall into hell. Turn your eyes of mercy toward us, that henceforth we may love God with all our heart while on earth, and enjoy Him forever in heaven. Amen.
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly. I offer you the most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, truly present in all the Tabernacles of the world, in reparation for all the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners. Amen.
Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who seek refuge in you.