Post-Lent: Rest, Catch-Up, and More. Lent and Easter are a very busy time for all of us, but especially for priests. Unfortunately, with all the attention given to the special activities of Lent and the Triduum, some things of ordinary “business” get postponed or overlooked by the priest and parish staff. That is especially the case this year, with the reshuffling of our offices at the beginning of Lent, and then Cardinal Burke’s visit in March.
Because of this, I, for one, am playing catch up, going back and discovering all the things I didn’t do during Lent. At the same time, I find it necessary to take some time to rest a bit. So, for example, last week I took off to Williamsburg for a few days of golf with some priest-friends, and in a couple of weeks Fr. Smith will be gone on retreat. In between, this coming week, the Bishop calls all the priests of the diocese to come together for our annual convocation: half the priests will go the first 2 ½ days this week, and half the second.
So, once again, I ask you for your patience with us, especially with me. If I owe you a phone call or email from Lent, please remind me. And thanks for your continuing patient kindness.
Month of May. The thing is, there are a lot of other special activities in May in the parish. One very important event is next Saturday, May 6: First Holy Communion for the 2nd graders. Please keep these little ones in your prayers, as this is a huge day in their lives. Pray that they may prepare worthily and understand what they are doing and Who they are receiving. Pray that it will be a truly happy, holy and memorable day for them, and that it will lead them and their families to a long life of intimacy and fidelity with Jesus.
Later in May, on Thursday the 25th, about 60 of our 8th graders will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. I ask you to keep them in your prayers also, as they prepare to be strengthened (“confirmed”) in their baptismal graces and receive the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Surely they will need these graces as they enter a world that is more and more hostile to Christians. So, pray for them, and encourage them, that they may receive this sacrament worthily and efficaciously.
Mary’s Month. Now, of course, the entire month of May is “Mary’s Month,” dedicated to honoring and renewing our filial devotion to and love for the Mother of Jesus. Some are confused by the way Catholics honor the Blessed Mother. The simplest, clearest response to this is: shouldn’t we all try to love Jesus’s Mother as much as Jesus loves her? After all, on the Cross He gave her to us to be our Mother also: “son, behold your mother.”
So we will mark this month of Marian piety next Sunday, May 7, with the “May Crowning” after the 12:15 Mass. Many of (all?) the First Communion children will be there in their white dresses and veils and coats and ties to thank Our Lord for their First Communion by paying homage to His Blessed Mother. I encourage you to join us for this short but moving celebration. As the Congregation for Divine Worship wrote of this pious custom in 1987:
“The queen symbol was attributed to Mary because she was a perfect follower of Christ, who is the absolute ‘crown’ of creation. She is the Mother of the Son of God, who is the messianic King. Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Word Incarnate … ‘He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Elizabeth greeted the Blessed Virgin, pregnant with Jesus, as ‘the mother of my Lord.’ Mary is the perfect follower of Christ. The maid of Nazareth consented to God’s plan; she journeyed on the pilgrimage of faith; she listened to God’s Word and kept it in her heart; she remained steadfastly in close union with her Son, all the way to the foot of the Cross; she persevered in prayer with the Church. Thus, in an eminent way, she won the ‘crown of righteousness,’ ‘the crown of life,’ ‘the crown of glory’ that is promised to those who follow Christ.”
I also encourage all of you to keep this Marian month by praying the Rosary—even every day in May. I especially encourage all families to pray the Rosary together at least once a week. As St. John Paul II once wrote: “The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 41).
This May is a very special time to honor Mary, in that May 13 marks the 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Fatima. As you probably know, the Virgin Mary appeared six times to three little shepherd children (Lucia dos Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto) near the town of Fatima, Portugal, between May 13 and October 13, 1917. The Blessed Mother told them to pray the Rosary daily, to wear the Brown Scapular and perform acts of reparation for sins. She also requested prayers for the conversion of Russia (then undergoing the Communist/Bolshevik revolution) and requested the solemn public Consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart by the Pope. She also introduced a new devotion of reparation on the first Saturday of five consecutive months (“The Five First Saturdays”). She also revealed to the children what has come to be called the “Secret” of Fatima, which has three parts, including a frightening vision of hell, encouragement of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a prophesy of the Second World War, the prediction of the immense damage that Russia and Communism would do to humanity, and the great suffering that would come to the Church (via Russia) if her warnings were not heeded. The final apparition on October 13 concluded with the “Miracle of the Sun” as tens of thousands of witnesses maintain that the Sun seemed to dance in the sky and then, for a few moments, to be falling to earth.
The apparitions of Fatima are private revelations, and need not be believed by the faithful, although after lengthy and thorough investigation they have been held by the Church to be worthy of belief—we can believe if we chose to. While they may differ on interpreting the events and prophecies surrounding the apparitions, most pious Catholics have come to accept and embrace the overall message of Fatima: to pray the rosary, do acts of reparation, and pray for sinners.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles