Category Archives: National News

From the Pope: “Vigilant Expectation” General Audience 10.11.17

from Vatican Information Services

Today I would like to focus on that dimension of hope that is vigilant expectation. The theme of vigilance is recurrent in the New Testament. Jesus preaches to his disciples, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-36).

In this time that follows the resurrection of Jesus, in which serene and distressing moments alternate continually, Christians never give up. The gospel recommends being like servants who never go to sleep until their master has returned. This world demands our responsibility, and we assume all of it, and with love. Jesus wants our existence to be laborious, for us never to let down our guard, to welcome with gratitude and wonder every new day given to us by God. Every morning is a clean page on which the Christian begins to write with good works. We are already saved by Jesus’ redemption, but now we await the full manifestation of his lordship: when finally God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15: 28). Nothing is more certain, in the faith of Christians, than this “appointment,” this appointment with the Lord, when He will come. And when this day arrives, we Christians will want to be like those servants who have spent the night dressed for action and with their lamps burning: we need to be ready for salvation when it arrives, ready for the encounter. Have you thought about how this encounter with Jesus will be, when he comes? But, it will be an embrace, an enormous joy, a great joy! We must live in expectation of this encounter!

The Christian is not made for boredom, but rather for patience. He or she knows that even in the monotony of certain days that are always the same, the mystery of grace is hidden. There are people who with the perseverance of their love become like wells that irrigate the desert. Nothing happens in vain, and no situation in which a Christian finds himself immersed is entirely refractory to love. No night is so long that it makes us forget the joy of the dawn. And the darker the night is, the closer we are to the dawn. If we remain united to Jesus, the cold or difficult moments do not paralyze us; and if even the whole world were to preach against hope, if it said that the future will bring only dark clouds, the Christian knows that in that same future there is the return of Christ. When this will happen, no-one knows, but the thought that at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus is enough to have confidence and not to curse life. Everything will be saved. Everything. We will suffer, there will be moments that cause anger and indignation, but the gentle and potent memory of Christ will eliminate the temptation to think that this life is a mistake.

After knowing Christ, we cannot do other than scrutinize history with trust and hope. Jesus is like a house, and we are inside, and from the windows of this house we look upon the world. Therefore, let us not be wrapped up in ourselves, let us not regret with melancholy a past that we assume to be golden, but let us always look ahead, to a future that is not only the work of our own hands, but first of all a constant concern of God’s providence. Everything that is opaque will one day become light.

And let us think that God does not contradict Himself. Never. God never disappoints. His will with regard to us is not nebulous, but rather a well-defined project of salvation. “God the Savior … desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2: 4). Therefore, let us not abandon ourselves to the flow of events with pessimism, as if history were a runaway train. Resignation is not a Christian virtue. Just as it is not for Christians to shrug their shoulders or hang their head in the face of a destiny that appears ineluctable.

Those who give hope to the world are never submissive. Jesus tells us to wait for him without standing idly: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Lk 12: 37). There is no builder of peace who in the final analysis has not compromised his personal peace, taking on the problems of others. The submissive person is not a builder of peace, but lazy, one who wants to be comfortable. Whereas the Christian is a builder of peace when he risks, when he has the courage to risk to bring good, the good that Jesus gave to us, that he gave to us like a treasure.
Every day of our life, let us repeat that invocation that the first disciples, in their Aramaic language, expressed with the words Marana tha, and which we find in the last verse of the Bible: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22: 20).

National Vocations Awareness Week Set for November 5-11

WASHINGTON—The Catholic Church in the U.S. will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week, November 5-11. This annual event is a special time for parishes to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, reminds us that each of us in the Church has a key role to play in the witness of our vocation in ordinary circumstances, “As we go about our everyday life and most especially this week, we must keep vocations in our prayers, while, at the same time, being a mindful witness with our own vocation. We may never know how our lives may have an impact on someone else’s story. Simply living out our call as disciples of Jesus Christ fully and joyfully in the world bears witness to the love of Christ as He generously bestows on each of us our own personal call.”

National Vocations Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: “To what vocation in life is God calling me?” Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first full week in November, prayer and special activities that focus on vocation awareness.

Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.

More information and resources for National Vocations Awareness Week, including a prayer card, homily aids, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm.

Bishops Call for Prayer for Those Impacted by Wildfires

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, FL, asked for prayers for favorable weather and assistance for those impacted by devastating fires raging through Northern California.

Bishop Dewane’s full statement follows: “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Today we ask for the intercession of Almighty God as wildfires rage in Northern California. Already, these blazes have killed over 20 people, destroyed hundreds of houses and other buildings, and forced thousands of individuals to leave their homes and livelihoods behind in uncertainty. High winds and dry conditions have greatly increased the danger for the people in this region.

As brave men and women respond to these disasters, battling the fires and helping people to safety, we call upon God for improved weather, for the blessing of rain and favorable winds, to assist them. We pray that those who are missing or are still in harm’s way will be found and protected. May God grant eternal rest to those who have died, and bring them into glory with him forever.

We pray, too, for generosity, care, and concern from neighbors and surrounding communities for those who are grieving and displaced. Though we may be weary from all that has taken place around the country in recent days, we know that God cannot be outdone in generosity and charity. May he provide us with new wellsprings of love to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters who are hurting so deeply today.

Angelus Prayer at the Church of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena and Visit to the Shrine of St. Peter Claver

from Vatican Information Services

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Shortly before I entered this church where the relics of St. Peter Claver are kept, I blessed the first stones of two institutions that will minister to the those most in need, and I visited the house of Mrs. Lorenza, who daily welcomes many of our brothers and sisters, offering them food and affection. These visits have done me much good because they demonstrate how the love of God is made visible each day.

As we pray the Angelus, recalling the incarnation of the Word, we also reflect on Mary who conceived Jesus and brought him into the world. We look to her this morning under the title of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá. As you well know, over a long period of time this image was abandoned, discolored, torn and full of holes. It was treated like an old piece of cloth, shown no respect, and finally discarded.

It was then that, a humble woman, who traditions tells us was called Maria Ramos, and the first devotee of the Blessed Virgin of Chiquinquirá, saw something different in that piece of cloth. She had the courage and faith to put this blurred and torn fabric in a special place, restoring its lost dignity. She encountered and honored Mary who held her Son in her arms, doing precisely what was despicable and useless in the eyes of others.

And so, this woman became a model for all those who, in different ways, seek to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters lost through the pain of life’s wounds, to restore the dignity of those who are excluded. She is a model for all those who make efforts to provide dignified accommodation and care for those most in need. She is, above all, a model for all those who pray perseveringly so that the men and women who are suffering may regain the splendor of the children of God which they have been robbed of.

The Lord teaches us through the example of the humble and those who are not valued. While he gave María Ramos, an ordinary woman, the grace to receive the image of the Blessed Virgin in its poor and torn state, He also granted to the indigenous Isabel and her son Miguel the grace of being the first to see the transformed and renewed fabric of the Blessed Virgin. They were the first to look humbly upon this completely renewed piece of fabric and recognize there the radiance of divine light which transforms and renews all things. They are the poor, humble ones, who contemplate the presence of God, and to whom the mystery of God’s love is revealed most clearly. They, the poor and simple of heart, were the first to see the Blessed Virgin of Chinquinquirá and they became missionaries and heralds of her beauty and holiness.

In this church we will pray to Mary, who referred to herself as “the handmaid of the Lord,” and to St. Peter Claver, the “slave of the blacks forever,” as he wanted others to know him from the day of his solemn profession. He waited for the ships from Africa to arrive at the New World’s main center of commerce in slavery. Given the impossibility of verbal communication due to the language difference, he often ministered to these slaves simply through evangelizing gestures. For a caress surpasses all languages. He knew that the language of charity and mercy was understood by all. Indeed, charity helps us to know the truth and truth calls for acts of love. These two go together, they cannot be separated. Whenever he felt revulsion towards the slaves – they came in a repulsive state – Peter Claver kissed the wounds.

St. Peter Claver was austere and charitable to the point of heroism. After consoling hundreds of thousands of people in their loneliness, he died without honors and was not remembered, having spent the last four years of his life in sickness and confined to his cell which was in a terrible state of neglect. This how the world paid him, yet God paid him in another way.

St. Peter Claver witnessed in a formidable way to the responsibility and care that we should have for one another. Furthermore, this saint was unjustly accused of being indiscreet in his zealousness and he faced strong criticism and persistent opposition from those who feared that his ministry would undermine the lucrative slave trade.

Here in Colombia and in the world millions of people are still being sold as slaves; they either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights.

María de Chiquinquirá and Peter Claver invite us to work to promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants, and those who suffer violence and human trafficking. They all have human dignity because they are living images of God. We all are created in the image and likeness of God, and the Blessed Virgin holds each one of us in her arms as her beloved children.

Let us now turn to Our Blessed Virgin Mother in prayer, so that she may help us recognize the face of God in every man and woman of our time.

Angelus Domini…

Bishops Act to Address the Sin of Racism and Seek Solutions

WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Initiated by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the USCCB, the committee will focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.

“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to inflict our nation.  The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the Church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters,” says Cardinal DiNardo.

Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, OH has been appointed as Chairman of the committee.

“I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” says Bishop Murry.  “Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation.  Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

The new ad hoc committee has been formed upon the unanimous recommendation of the U.S. Bishops Conference Executive Committee and in consultation with members of the USCCB’s Committee on Priorities and Plans.  The establishment of the committee will also welcome and support the implementation of the pastoral letter on racism anticipated for release in 2018.  The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The Task Force was formed in July 2016 by then USCCB President, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, in response to racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.

President of USCCB Calls for Calm Amid Violent Protests in Charlottesville

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, VA that has left three dead and at least 19 injured.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm.
The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action. The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St. Peter Claver as we approach his feast day. We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities.

Last year a Task Force of our Bishops Conference under Archbishop Wilton Gregory proposed prayers and resources to work for unity and harmony in our country and in our Church. I am encouraging the bishops to continue that work especially as the Feast of St. Peter Claver approaches.

From the Pope: Divine Forgiveness: Motor of Hope

from Vatican Information Services

We have heard the reaction of the companions of Simon the Pharisee: “Who is this, who even forgives sins? (Lk 7: 49).” Jesus has just performed a scandalous gesture. A woman of the city, known to all as a sinner, entered Simon’s house, bowed down at Jesus’ feet, and anointed his feet with perfumed oil. All those who were there at the table murmured: if Jesus is a prophet, he should not accept gestures of this type from a woman such as her. Those poor women, who served only to be seen in secret, even by the heads, or to be stoned. According to the mentality of the time, between the saint and the sinner, the pure and the impure, the separation should have been clear.

But Jesus’ attitude is different. Since the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, he approached the lepers, the possessed, all the sick and the marginalized. Behavior of this type was not at all usual, and indeed this sympathy of Jesus for the excluded, the “untouchables,” will be one of the things that most disturb His peers. Where there is a person who suffers, Jesus takes him on board, and that suffering becomes his. Jesus does not preach that the condition of suffering must be borne with heroism, in the way of the stoic philosophers. Jesus shares human pain, and when he encounters it, there flows from within him that attitude that characterizes Christianity: mercy. Jesus, faced with human pain, feels mercy; Jesus’ heart is merciful. Jesus feels compassion. Literally: Jesus feels a tremor within. How often in the Gospels we encounter reactions of this type! Jesus’ heart incarnates and reveals the heart of God, that wherever there is a man or a woman who suffers, wants healing, liberation and full life.

And this is why Jesus opens his arms to sinners. How many people continue, even today, in an erroneous life because they do not find anyone willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes, or better, with the heart of God, that is, looking at them with hope. Jesus instead sees the possibility of resurrection also in those who have accumulated many mistaken choices. Jesus is always there, with an open heart; he throws open that mercy he has in his heart; he forgives, embraces, understands, approaches: this is how Jesus is!

At times we forget that for Jesus this is not an easy love, that came cheaply. The Gospels record the first negative reactions towards Jesus, precisely when he forgives a man’s sins (cf. Mk 2: 1-12). He was a man whose suffering was twofold: because he was unable to walk and because he felt “in error”. And Jesus understood that the second pain was greater than the first, so he welcomed him immediately with the announcement of his liberation: “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5). He is freed of that sense of oppression, of feeling in the wrong. It is then that some of the scribes – those who think they are perfect … I think of many Catholics who believe themselves perfect and look down on others, this is sad – some of the scribes present are scandalized by Jesus’ words, which sound to them like blasphemy, because only God can forgive sins.

We, who are accustomed to experiencing the forgiveness of sins, perhaps at too easy a price, should at times remember how much we have cost to God’s love. Each one of us cost a lot: Jesus’ life! He would have given it even for just one of us. Jesus does not go to the cross because he heals the sick, because he preaches charity, because he proclaims the beatitudes. The Son of God goes to the cross above all because he forgives sins, because he wants the total and definitive liberation of man’s heart. Because he does not accept that the human being spends all his existence with this indelible stamp, with the thought of not being able to be received by God’s merciful heart. And with these sentiments Jesus goes towards sinners, which all of us are.

So sinners are forgiven. They are not only reassured at a psychological level, since they are freed of a sense of guilt. Jesus does much more: he offers those who have erred the hope of a new life. “But, Lord, I am a wretch” – “Look ahead and I will give you a new heart.” This is the hope that Jesus gives us. A life marked by love. Matthew the publican becomes an apostle of Christ: Matthew, who is a traitor of the homeland, an exploiter of the people. Zacchaeus, a corrupt rich man of Jericho – he must surely have had a degree in taking bribes – is transformed into a benefactor of the poor. The woman of Samaria, who had five husbands and now lives with another, feels she is promised a “living water” that will always flow inside her (cf. Jn 4: 14). This is how Jesus changes the heart; He does this with all of us.

It is good for us to think that God has not chosen as the first clay to form His Church those people who have never made a mistake. The Church is a people of sinners who experience God’s mercy and forgiveness. Peter understood more truth about himself at the cockcrow than from his efforts of generosity that swelled his chest and made him feel superior to others.

Brothers and sisters, we are all poor sinners, in need of the mercy of God Who has the strength to transform us and to restore our hope, every day. And He does this! And to those who have understood this basic truth, God gives the most beautiful mission in the world, that is, love for brothers and sisters, and the proclamation of a mercy He denies to no one. And this is our hope. Let us go ahead with this trust in forgiveness, in Jesus’ merciful love.

USCCB Chairman Expresses Ongoing Support for DACA

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Over 750,000 youth have received protection from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. While DACA provides no legal status, it does provide recipients with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization for legal work opportunities in the United States.

In response to the recent petition to the U.S. Department of Justice to terminate DACA, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of the Migration Committee and Bishop of Austin, TX, expressed support for DACA:

“The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

I urge the Administration to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.
However, DACA is not a permanent solution; for this reason, I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible. My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth. Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.

Lastly, to DACA youth and their families, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you. We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God. We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country. We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

From the Pope: Christian Hope as the Strength of Martyrs

from Vatican Information Services

Today we reflect on Christian hope as the strength of martyrs. When, in the gospel, Jesus sends His disciples on their mission, he does not delude them with mirages of easy success; on the contrary, he warns them clearly that announcing the Kingdom of God will always face opposition. And he even uses an extreme expression: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Mt 10: 22). Christians love, but they are not always loved. From the very beginning Jesus places this reality before us: to a greater or lesser degree, the confession of faith takes place in a hostile environment.

Christians are therefore “counter-current.” It is normal: since the world is marked by sin, which manifests itself in various forms of selfishness and injustice, he who follows Christ walks against the current. Not out of a polemic spirit, but out of faithfulness to the logic of the Kingdom of God, which is a logic of hope, and translates into a style of life based on Jesus’ indications.

And the first indication is poverty. When Jesus sends His disciples on the mission, it seems as though he takes greater care to “denude” them than to “dress” them! Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from the wealth of power and above all detached from the self, does not resemble Jesus. The Christian walks his path in this world with the essentials for the journey, but with the heart full of love. The true defeat for him or for her is to give in to the temptation of revenge and violence, responding to evil with evil. Jesus tells us: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt 10: 16). So, without teeth, without claws, without weapons. The Christian must instead be prudent, at times shrewd: these are virtues accepted by the evangelical logic. But violence, never. To defeat evil, one cannot share the methods of evil.

The only force for the Christian is the gospel. In times of difficulty, one must believe that Jesus stands before us, and that he never ceases to accompany His disciples. Persecution is not a contradiction of the Gospel, but forms part of it: if they persecuted our Master, how can we hope to be spared this struggle? However, in the midst of the whirlwind, the Christian must not lose hope, thinking he has been abandoned. Jesus reassures his own by saying, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Mt 10: 30). As if to say that none of the man’s sufferings, even the most minute and hidden, are invisible to the eyes of God. God sees, and surely protects; and will give His redemption. There is indeed in our midst Someone who is stronger than evil, stronger than mafias, than obscure networks of those who profit from the skins of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance … Someone who has always listened to the voice of the blood of Abel shouting from the earth.

Christians must therefore always place themselves on the “other side” of the world, the one chosen by God; not persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not peddlers of smoke, but submissive to the truth; not imposters, but honest people.

This faithfulness to the style of Jesus – which is a style of hope – unto death, was given a beautiful name by the first Christians: “martyrdom,” which means “witness.” There were many other possibilities offered by the dictionary: it could have been called heroism, or abnegation, or self-sacrifice. And instead the Christians of the earliest times gave it a name with the perfume of discipleship. Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to assert their own ideas,  and they accept the duty to die only through faithfulness to the gospel. Martyrdom is not even the supreme ideal of Christian life, because above it there is charity, understood as love of God and of one’s neighbor. The Apostle Paul says so clearly in his hymn to charity: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not loved, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13: 3). Christians are repelled by the idea that suicide bombers can be called “martyrs”: there is nothing in their aim that can be considered close to the attitude of children of God.

At times, reading the stories of the many martyrs of yesterday and of today – who are more numerous than those of the earliest times – we are astonished by the fortitude with which they faced the test. This fortitude is a sign of the great hope that inspired them: the certain hope that nothing and no-one could separate them from the love of God given to us in Jesus Christ (cf Rm 8: 38-39).

May God always give us the strength to be His witnesses. May He let us live Christian hope especially in the hidden martyrdom of carrying out our everyday duties well and with love.

Thank you.

Pope Francis Celebrated Mass and Canonization at Fatima Shrine

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At 10:00 a.m. on May 13, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fátima, on the plaza of the Shrine, the Holy Father Francis celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions, during which the Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto were canonized. The Eucharistic Celebration was attended by the Presidents of the Republic of Portugal, of Paraguay and of São Tomé e Príncipe, whom the pope greeted at the end of the rite.

During the Mass, after the rite of canonization and the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced the following homily:

“[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun.” So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son. Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27). We have a Mother! “So beautiful a Lady,” as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of May 13, a hundred years ago. That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady.” They had seen the Mother of Heaven. Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her. The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in His creatures. Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5). In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady. She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her. According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth. We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus.”

Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. We have a Mother! Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus. As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which He assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake. Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father. May this hope guide our lives! It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years. All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope. We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore Him. That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering. God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

In her Memoirs, Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?” Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life. In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfilment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia. We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The Lord, Who always goes before us, said this and did this. Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us. We do not mount the cross to find Jesus. Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love. •