Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2017.
The centennial anniversary for any historical event is impressive. Reaching one hundred years is a relatively rare thing in the animal kingdom: humans, tortoises, bowhead whales, and jellyfish to name a few centenarians. May 13, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of Mary’s appearances to three young shepherd children in the city of Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima’s message is always applicable. Here are three reasons why.
Mary is Always God’s Mother
Icon portraying Mary as Theotokos
The Catholic Church has always believed that Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus entrusted Mary as Mother of the Church in John 19:26-27. The evangelist writes, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
To combat a false teaching that tried to deny Mary’s role as the Mother of God, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. formally declared Mary as Theotokos—God-bearer. It’s also fitting the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima fell on the Eve of Mother’s Day! This is another reminder Mary is a spiritual mother to all.
The Fatima Prayer and Divine Mercy
One of the most popular Catholic prayers that we learned from this Marian Apparitation in Portugal is simply known as the Fatima Prayer. It is a simple yet powerful prayer:
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
The most important message Mary brought to those three shepherd children to share with the rest of the world is— Divine Mercy. Mary desires to bring all people closer to her Son. God desires Christians to pray for the the salvation of EVERYONE!
Our Lady of Fatima as Bridge to Islam
The single greatest book I have ever read about Mary is The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. He begins chapter 17 of this book title Mary and the Moslems by mentioning the references Mary has in the Koran and the honor she has in the religion of Islam.
Fulton Sheen on Our Lady of Fatima
One of the best book on Mary I’ve ever read!
The passage I found most fascinating is when Sheen explains why Mary appeared to the small village of Fatima,
“Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: “Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.”In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”… Since nothing ever happens out of heaven except with a finesse of all details,
I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fatima” as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too” ( The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God p. 141).
I agree with Sheen; the selection of Mary’s 1917 Apparition seems too fitting to be a mere coincidence. Let us continue to ask Mary to work in the hearts of non-Christians to draw them to Christ!
Today is also the completion of my wife and I’s Marian Retreat which culminates with a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Through drawing ourselves closer to the person who is closest to Jesus we ourselves are drawing ourselves closer to Jesus Himself. Thank you God for the gift of Our Lady of Fatima and we pray that all of humanity is able to more deeply grow in love!
“The Rosary is the Bible on a string” —Fr. Ronan Murphy
By design, to participate in praying the Rosary is a spiritual journey through the life of Christ, accompanied by his Blessed Mother in a multi-sensory experience. I have heard several stories of fallen away Catholics who even refused to let go of their rosary for the great peace it brings them.
For as much as the Rosary is a favored devotion of most practicing Catholics, there are a lot of funny ideas going around about it. Over the years people have shared some quirky stories about this “necklace” of beads. Each anecdote taught me a little something for my own rosary embrace each day. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said,
“The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual…”
Rushing the Rosary
A group of men and women friends had a conversation about how long it took them to “say” their rosary. “How long does it take you, Meg?” they asked me.
Honestly, I had never timed myself, but I knew with the way my brain works the answer was going to astound. “Um, maybe 35 min?” Some of the “competitors” were saying “I can get mine down to 5 minutes and 30 seconds!” It was a silly conversation, but it got me wondering…what is the amount of time it should take say a proper rosary?
Soon after, I listened to different rosary podcasts. I noticed that they varied in recitation time. Some rosaries only took 18 minutes–without any bells or whistles—to between 30-45 minutes if you added music, scriptures or prayed in Latin. Which one is right for me?
In the end, the amount of time really does not matter. Whatever pace you take, let it be one of a rhythm that lulls you into the spiritual state. The rosary can be like music. Whether your tempo is adagio (slowly with great expression) or allegro (fast, quickly an`d bright), you need to find the count that allows your heart and mind unite to the heart of Christ.
Praying it in a group or as a family
Once during a homily, our pastor told us the story of his family rosary growing up. One uncle, who usually lead the prayer, was always messing up the order of the Apostles’ Creed.
Because he spoke the prayers with lightning speed, the whole family would crack up every time one of the aunts would stop him in the middle of the first minute to ask if he was sure he got the order right. “Jesus ascended into Heaven and then descended into hell…” and then the argument ensued.
Since there was no Google at the time, it became part of the weekly family rosary to stop and discuss this finer point. Once the giggles stopped and the concentration was reeled back in, the family rosary commenced again. St. John Paul II proclaimed, “How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening!”
Praying it all
“Just pray your rosary as you fall asleep. The angels will finish it for you”.
While struggling to “check” my rosary off for the day like an errand, I had to run when someone once gave me the advice above. Just let the angels finish saying it for me as I fell asleep. Later, the same person told me she later mentioned this in confession and the priest responded with, “Yes. And the ANGELS get the credit, too.”
Falling asleep to the rosary at times is easy to do. As stated above, there is a certain rhythm to the prayers which is meditative and comforting. Conversely, people I know have said they keep their rosary by the bed because they sense when their eyes pop open at 3:00 am, they are supposed to pray for a soul in trouble. This is the stuff of saints! A friend in our prayer group reminded us that being on your knees is a much better way of keeping alert during prayer when possible and much more reverent.
Start small and be consistent in prayer
When I first started spiritual direction, I was told to make sure to say at least one decade a day for my husband. As a starting point, I felt my assignment was realistic.
Later, I knew I could do better. I started to add more decades, attempting to keep up with a few friends who were more diligent with their devotion to the rosary. Before I knew it, however, I was rattling off decades and getting to the “Hail Holy Queen” prayer at the end before looking behind me like “Did I actually pray those decades?” In the end, if I didn’t remember praying them, I knew it wasn’t really prayer. I had reduced this beautiful prayer to a habit.
It has been recognized by many saints that just saying one Hail Mary with your whole heart is worth more than thousands said with our mouths alone. St. Louis de Montfort plainly stated, “Recite your Rosary with faith, with humility, with confidence, and with perseverance.”
We cannot even begin to understand the graces behind this powerful weapon, as named by the great Saints, Padre Pio, Louis de Montfort, and Dominic. With the power of such a devotion, you would think we should “wield” it intentionally, but so many Catholics I know couldn’t explain the rosary to non-Catholics. Still yet they aren’t even sure the purpose behind the prayers.
I remember one couple we knew who were married . The husband he was Catholic and the wife wasn’t. She was very strong in her non-Catholic Christian faith. As the wife brought up one thing after another that she did not understand about Catholicism, the rosary at the top of her list, I looked at him and asked why he didn’t tell her? He answered, “I don’t know.” And by that, he meant he didn’t know the answers, but he still identified himself as Catholic.
Solving the Mystery of the Mysteries of the Rosary
What we need to know above all, is that the rosary is a set of five mysteries. Each decade of beads that is entwined in our fingers—not just with wooden, plastic or glass beads—but also entangled with the extending fingers of our Divine Mother—Mary.
As we speak the Hail Mary from the words of Luke’s gospel, she directly leads us through Jesus’s most precious life moments. We see him incarnate into his mother’s womb, meet John the Baptist in utero, hear about Christ’s birth, witness Jesus enter into the temple for dedication, and ponder Joseph and Mary’s joy after finding Jesus in the temple.
Our hearts wrench with pain as we see him sweat blood with our sins bringing a painful crucifixion commencement: whipped, stabbed in the head with thorns, walking the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows), and his death on the cross.
We continue to ponder the Glorious mysteries of his resurrection as well as miraculous encounters with his mother and the apostles with the remaining Glorious and Luminous mysteries. The Rosary retells Jesus’ entire life!
The best part of all, is that you not only hold his beautiful mother’s hand throughout this journey, but you grab the hands of all of those you know who need protection and prayer. Behind you comes a long line of souls—as many as you can imagine—along on the spiritual pilgrimage that is the rosary.
Wisdom from the saints on the Rosary
“You must know that when you ‘hail’ Mary, she immediately greets you! Don’t think that she is one of those rude women of whom there are so many—on the contrary, she is utterly courteous and pleasant. If you greet her, she will answer you right away and converse with you!”
Saint Bernardine of Siena
“When the Holy Rosary is said well, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious than any other prayer.”–Saint Louis de Montfort
The Rosary is the Weapon.~St. Pio
The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin…If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.~Pope Pius XI
Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog.
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I have learned that the more a person learns about a particular subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple appellations for my children as well.
Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her too. After I taught a lesson on Mary, I learned that she has over 2,000 titles! I will barely scratch the surface of this topic by reflecting on 3 specific titles of Mary that provide me hope on a daily basis.
Undoer of Knots
This is a relatively new devotion toward Mary. I became aware of this unique title through my reading of a biography of Pope Francis- shortly after his election to the papacy. Mary as Undoer of Knots is his personal favorite Marian devotion. Below is the prayer associated with this nascent devotional practice:
Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.
There is something tangible and raw and this prayer. Life is messy. Sometimes due to my own fallen nature, and occasionally because of the sinfulness of others, my life becomes knotted. My personal struggles develop into a Mobius strip of suffering. Reciting the prayer and asking for Mary as Undoer of Knots to help straighten me out is both a peaceful and confident feeling.
Star of the Sea
Along with Undoer of Knots, Mary as Star of the Sea is new title I am now assigning personally to our Blessed Mother. Historically speaking though, this title is as ancient as the sea. Early Christians associated Mary with this appellation. Throughout the Holy Scriptures the sea and oceans viewed as dangerous waters to transverse.
During the night, stars helped to guide sailors to safety. In an analogous way, Mary acts as a guide, not our source of salvation [that is reserved for God alone!] toward salvation. Mary as our Mother is a protector of us, her children, against the tumultuous waters of life. According to the great Early Church Father, St. Ephraim, Mary is “the safe harbor of all sailing on the sea the world.” Centuries later, Pope Leo XIII uses similar language to describe Mary. He called her “safe harbor of travelers.”
Traveling is a universal experience among mankind. Mary as Star of the Sea reminds of the importance of reliance on others, to guide in times of strive and tumult.
Refuge of Sinners
Because the first woman, Eve, is associated as the bringer of suffering into the world through her fall in the Garden of Eden, Mary is traditionally seem as the New Eve. Together with being Star of the Sea and Undoer of Knots, the third Marian designation that fills me with hope is Mary as Refuge of Sinners. The word refuge originates from a French word meaning “to flee”. It makes sense for us to connect this title to the person of the Mother of God. Moms are people who their children flock or flee to in times of suffering or distress. As the most perfect and universal mother, Mary is a sure person to seek refuge from against the prowess of Satan and temptation.
According to St. Louis de Montfort, [Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” The beauty of the Catholic Church is the great diversity that exists within its universal walls. Marian devotion is a gift to help bring us closer to God. I hope that I have shed some light on the significance of these three titles of Mary. Through the intercession of Our Spiritual Mother we grow closer to the Light of the Son!