Guest Post! Special post written by my husband in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition at Fatima.
I have wanted to write this post ever since I saw a particular Scripture passage this week, in a presentation some of my students did on the Fourth Commandment. I have surely read it before, but in light of current situations, I thought it particularly apropos for this time to reflect on it, and to offer some considerations for myself especially, and for anybody else who might happen upon it. I read this quote, spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, and I immediately feel the need to offer reparation for the many times this commandment of Christ is violated. Here is the quote: “For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.’” This is taken from Matthew 15:4, spoken by Jesus Christ, and in honesty it cuts me to the heart.
I write this on the vigil of the great centenary feast of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, when she appeared 100 years ago to three shepherd children in Portugal: Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco. I also write this two days prior to the great American secular and quasi-religious holiday of Mother’s Day. Here, we have the Mother of God appearing to three lowly shepherds, on the same weekend we ought to be honoring all mothers, especially our own. It is quite beautiful that this year they fall in conjunction with each other, but it causes one to step back and reflect on the consequences of them falling in conjunction. Let us begin this examination.
In the great Council of Ephesus in 431AD, the Church articulated what She has understand implicitly from the Resurrection of Christ, that Jesus, in order to be fully God and fully man and a whole, unified person, must have received His humanity from another human. But at the same time, he is fully God and fully man, not simply half God and half man. We cannot distinguish a merely human part of Jesus and a merely divine part of Jesus. He is fully man, and fully God, and so Mary is the Mother of God. Please bear with me with these theological distinctions. If this is confusing, join the club, and I invite you to read the documents from the Council of Ephesus for more information. This is not the main point of my little writing here. I just wanted to note that the title Mother of God has been in existence as an official title of Mary in the Holy Church for almost 1,600 years, which is a long time.
It may be obvious to some, but probably not to others, but on Mother’s Day we honor our mothers. This includes giving gifts to our moms, spending time with her, taking her to brunch, and hopefully Church before that, and just making it generally a special day for her. I am the first to accuse myself of not being the best with Mother’s Day. I have forgotten, I sometimes give lackluster gifts, and I often can’t do the simple nice thing of waking up with the kids in the morning, which my wife would greatly appreciate.
It is sad though, that in many instances, mom just is not honored by her children. She is neglected, verbally and psychologically abused, her boundaries violated, and children often walk all over her, similar to what they do every other day of the year. We have in society lost respect for the great dignity of motherhood and what it brings to society. It brings care, gentleness, kindness, and we respond with evil, saying with our actions that her dignity is not worth even a day of respect. This is essentially what children, especially grown children, say to their mothers when they ignore and treat them like it is every other day of the year.
Regarding this, we can obviously point to attacks in society on motherhood. This constant assault against the beauty of this vocation has included society’s infatuation for abortion on demand, which cheapens society’s overall respect to mothers. It includes society’s demand on mothers to keep up with the neighbors, to keep house, to take care of kids, all while somehow juggling a full time job. As a man, I know that if I tried to juggle everything, that everything would come crashing down. Kudos to mothers who try their best to make it work on a daily basis!
Not everybody obviously treats their mothers horribly or even bad. Many people love their mamma and do some really nice things for them. And this is fantastic. But for those who ignore, neglect, abuse, and take advantage of their mothers in some way, take heed of the warning of Christ: “He who speaks ill of mother and father will surely be put to death.” No relationship is perfect. Far from it. But in no condition of the relationship between parents and child should the child resort to speaking, or acting, in a manner in direct opposition to the virtue of Charity. Woe to that person, for they are in danger of their soul being lost.
Now, I know this might feel a little fire and brimstone. The order of charity directs all, and one should always tend towards mercy. In fact, one of the spiritual works of mercy is actually to admonish, or correct the sinner. We would be doing an injustice if we become complacent when we see another sinning. We must act for the good of that person and for the good of their soul. Charity is willing the good of the other, and sometimes charity can take the form of tough love.
This ties into Saturday’s feast of Our Lady of Fatima. When Our Lady of Fatima appeared over a six month period, she asked for three things in general from the children, and everybody else, if there is to be peace. Consider the historical perspective: on May 13, 1917, Europe was in the ravages of the Great War, the Soviet Revolution in Russia was in its infancy, and many people around the world were suffering as a result. Our Lady of Fatima predicted an even more terrible war and a destructive 20th century if people did not heed her warning to turn to her Son Jesus Christ, to pray the Rosary for the salvation of souls, and to offer reparation for those in danger of hell as a result of their actions on earth. To support this last claim, the children of Fatima were even given a vision of hell and saw a great many souls there suffering. It is here that our Lady called them to pray even harder for those in spiritual danger the prayer after the decades of the Rosary: “Oh My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of they mercy.” People are in danger of spiritual death as a direct result of their actions that destroy the virtue of charity in their souls. The third request was that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, and if this did not happen, that Russia would spread its lies across the world, that the pope would suffer, and that a great many martyrs would be created. So our Lady asks for three things: reparation, prayer, and consecration.
Our Lady of Fatima told us the way to peace is through these things. And these things did not generally happen after the apparitions of 1917. Russia was not consecrated to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Atheism rose, and while the Rosary was prayed, many simply did not heed the call to pray it. So, what the world got was exactly what Our Lady predicted. Russian Soviets spread heresies around the world, destroying the Catholic Church wherever they went. St. John Paul II, on May 13, 1981, at even the same time as the vision in 1917 (5PM), was shot by a would be assassin and miraculously survived, and the 20th Century saw more martyrdoms than any other century in history. And why is this? Because we did not listen to our mother. We did not heed her warnings.
Like our earthly mother, Mary knows what is best for us. What is best for us is Jesus Christ, and communion with Him on this earth in the Holy Mass, which points the way to the eternal Mass celebrated in Heaven, which is the Christian’s destiny. Mary reiterates the call for every Christian: to seek the heart of Jesus. Mary points the way. She points the way through the Christian’s call to repent of their sins, direct their prayers to Jesus through Mary, and to consecrate the world to her Immaculate Heart, which leads the whole world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Additionally, we can consecrate our own hearts to Jesus through Mary, so that, like Mary, we may bring Christ into our world.
This is what it means to honor your father and your mother, to not speak ill of them. It means to listen to them, learn from them, and hopefully trust them. Our earthly mother is not perfect. Our heavenly mother is, as far as a creature can be perfect. Mary is the model of motherhood, the model of faith in Jesus, and the model for us all striving after the heart of Christ. When we follow this fourth Commandment, we must remember that Mary is our mother as well, and so honor and devotion should rightly be given to her as to our earthly Mother.
But this goes back to my original rebuke of those who violate the 4th Commandment in such a way as to show dishonor to their mother. Generally, people ignore the message of Fatima. They ignore the Mother of Christ. They consider her unimportant. There are many books written on Marian doctrine, so I will leave that aside right now, and if you have questions about Mary and Church teaching, I encourage you to read those. I will just say, however, that I personally believe she is very important. She does not detract from Jesus, but rather adds in my spiritual life a deep richness that allows me to know the heart of her Son in a way that without her I wouldn’t know. It pains me that so many people do not know the model of motherhood, Mary, so perhaps this is a reason we don’t always treat our own physical mothers well.
This centenary, let us heed the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima, preparing our hearts to meet Christ, on a daily basis in those around us and in the Holy Eucharist, and as we prepare for the inevitability of every person reading this: our own death. Pray the Rosary for sinners like me. Offer sacrifices for the salvation of souls, listen to your earthly and heavenly mothers, and prepare your hearts today for that inevitable encounter with Christ, whether it happens now or after death. Do not wait. Amen.