May 12, 2023

Christ the Cornerstone

Mary and the rosary: the path to peace in our lives, our world

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

Immaculate Mary, we stand before you to entrust to your maternal care ourselves, the Church, the entire world. Plead for us with your beloved Son that he may give us in abundance the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, which is the fountain of life. (Pope St. John Paul II, Consecration to Mary).

The liturgy for Saturday, May 13, proposes to us the optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. The accounts of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s apparitions beginning in the spring of 1916 to three shepherd children in Portugal are fascinating. Seen from the perspective of religious history, the Fatima story is full of apparently contradictory elements.

First, the children’s parents were doubtful about the truth of the apparitions; then, local authorities went so far as to put the children in jail for fear of the political implications in the officially secular first Portuguese Republic; next, large crowds flocked to the sites where the Blessed Mother (or “an angel dressed in blue”) was said to have appeared; and, finally, Church officials were cautious and painstaking in their investigations of the veracity of the children’s claims.

In fact, it was not until 1930 that the local bishop declared that the Blessed Mother’s appearances were “worthy of belief,” and in October 1942, Pope Pius XII in a radio address to the people of Portugal discussed the apparitions of Fatima and consecrated the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin, with specific mention of “peoples of Russia.”

Consecration of Russia to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception is a major feature of the Fatima story. So are the “three secrets” that Sister Lucia dos Santos, the surviving member of the three children (Francisco and Jacinta Marto died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918) wrote about in 1941 in her third memoir.

Perhaps the most important revelation of Our Lady’s appearances to the three Portuguese children is her promise that if we pray the rosary daily, the world will be at peace.

The rosary is a Scripture-based prayer which centers on the events of Christ’s life, summarizing the great mysteries of our Catholic faith. There are four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and the Luminous (added by St. John Paul II in 2002). The repetition in the rosary is meant to lead us into restful and contemplative prayer related to each mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit of peace dwells.

The rosary, which can be said privately or with a group, is intended to bring peace and calm to troubled hearts. It is a source of hope for those who are anxious or despairing. And praying the rosary is an excellent way to enter into the life of Christ along with Mary, Mother of the Church and our mother.

Recent popes have all affirmed the Blessed Mother’s message about the importance of the rosary as an instrument of peace. They have also taken seriously the act of consecration to the Immaculately Heart of Mary.

In March 1984, Pope St. John Paul II consecrated “the world” to the Immaculate Heart in a public ceremony at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. This consecration was carried out in union with Catholic bishops throughout the world. The Holy Father further credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Then on May 12, 1987, the pope expressed his gratitude to the Virgin Mary for saving his life. The following day, he renewed the consecration of Pope Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin.

In May 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and strongly stated his acceptance of the supernatural origin of the Fatima apparitions. The pope also recalled the “invisible hand” that saved St. John Paul II, and he referred to the Fatima prophecy about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the Catholic bishops in Ukraine asked Pope Francis to “publicly perform the act of consecration to the Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary of Ukraine and Russia, as requested by the Blessed Virgin in Fatima.” The Holy Father invited dioceses in all regions of the world to join him in consecrating both Ukraine and Russia to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As we remember this holy day dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, let’s pray for peace in our hearts and in our world in the words of Pope Francis: May the Mother of God, Queen of Peace, accept our prayer: Regina pacis, ora pro nobis (Queen of Peace, pray for us).†

Local site Links: