This is a very busy time of year for most people. Today I wish to offer some reflections on the activities and insights of this week.
Today Pope Francis celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions in Portugal of our Lady to three young children. During Mass today, he canonized two of them, Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco Marto. Both of these children died within a short period of time after the apparitions, and as of today are the youngest, non-martyr saints of the Church.
You can read the homily of Pope Francis for this occasion here.
Our Blessed Mother during these apparitions asked that people repent of their sins, strive to grow in holiness, and pray the Rosary daily. Though her appearances to the young children at Fatima did reveal scenes of the consequences of sin, her primary message was one of conversion, penance, and prayer. If anything, our Mother at Fatima confirms that her intercession for us, combined with our genuine efforts to grow in holiness can change the world.
Because Mary is the Mother of God, she holds great power, but she desires our own efforts to live holy lives and to advance God’s Kingdom upon the earth.
Her message reminds us that she loves us, and that she invites us not only to pray, but to draw near to her and find shelter in her maternal care. As we know and experience the love of our own mothers and grandmothers, we are loved even more powerfully and perfectly by our Mother, Mary.
This week has also been delightfully taking me to different parishes each evening to either celebrate a Confirmation, or a Baccalaureate Mass for High School graduates. It is delightful to spend time with our young people, and the people of the parishes that gather to pray with and support them.
My opening comments in each Confirmation homily is to tell the young people two things. First, I want them to know how proud I am they took the time and effort to prepare for and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This says a lot about their faith – and, yes, the encouragement of their parents! Second, I also tell them that we as Church need them. We need their gifts, their youth, their energy, their faith, their presence. Then, I remind those present for the celebration, that we as Church have to do a better job of calling each member of the Church to share their gifts.
Many parishes fall into a trap of calling upon the same people year-after-year to do the same things. As a former pastor, I know how important that ‘core’ group of people are to every parish, and we are grateful for each and every one of them! But, there are many more people just waiting to be asked to take a more active role in the parish – in the Church, and we need to do a better job of calling forth their gifts and empowering them to exercise these gifts for the service of others.
I am very grateful to our Deacons and their wives for their important and generous service to the Church. Beyond emphasizing with them that we are collaborators, I drew particular attention to the work we share in being agents of unity in the Church.
It seems that more and more, the broader society is ‘moving to the fringes – the extremes.’ Similarly, it is easy for members of the Church to take up more and more extreme positions – reflecting the dynamic that is crippling our broader society.
All of us as members of Christ’s body are called to keep our eyes fixed on Christ (Hebrews 12:2), for it is Christ who unites us. No matter our unique gifts or our preferred means of worship or devotion, we are called to live in the Body of Christ in a manner that attracts others, not discourage them. We are called to humbly accompany one another.
Alaskans I am learning are fiercely independent, and are quite happy to be free of belonging to organizations. However, that simply flies in the face of who we are – and who we are called to be as Catholics. By Baptism we are members of the Body of Christ the Church, and we are all called to build up the Body of Christ, in truth and love.
Finally, with Mother’s Day tomorrow, a word of thanks to all of our mothers for your faith and tireless, loving service of your families! May you receive a return of our love and gratitude this Mother’s Day, and always.
I wrote a bit of a tribute to my own mom in these pages at the beginning of the month. You can find it here.